You’re Native American? Well, how much?

senior-photo1Kaitlin Reed,
Poughkeepsie, NY.

I am a Yurok Indian. We are the salmon people and my ancestors have lived by the Klamath River in northern California since time began. But after centuries of continual sexual conquest against Native American women, I am not the color of Pocahontas. That’s right, I’m white-skinned and Indian. This hasn’t always been easy to come to terms with. The words of classmates in the public school district still buzz in my head:
“But you look white.” “Well, how much?” “Yeah, but you’re not, like, a real Indian.”

I remember feeling angry. I didn’t know who I was angry with or why. Now I know that I just wanted validation. My people have historically been marginalized by Euro-American institutions; our land stolen; our people murdered and raped. But I am continually told I am white and that I benefit from these institutions. I feel as if I look like the other team, and when I say different I am not taken seriously. The words of Kim Anderson, an indigenous scholar who has also struggled with a multiracial Native American and white identity, have helped me; she writes, “part of being Native is feeling like we aren’t!” (27).

To me, racism is a systemic interchange of power relationships predicated on a socially constructed racial hierarchy, but it is far more complicated than ‘white’ versus ‘black’ or even ‘everybody else’ for that matter. A deeper understanding of racism must incorporate how hierarchies play out within and between disenfranchised groups of people and those who opt to identify as people of color. Denying someone their identity is racism; invalidating and identity is racism. There is importance in the concept of race regardless of whether it is ‘real’ or not because within our racially stratified society it is a major factor in one’s self-identification and how people come to make sense of the world.

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3 Responses to "You’re Native American? Well, how much?"
  1. Dencal26 says:

    You are probably European with some native American blood. That’s why people question you

  2. HolletaBlu says:

    When I was young I dealt with the same crap. I got a lot of “is your dad the milk man?” “Are you Jewish?” I understand not really feeling like you fit in because you aren’t light enough for a lot of white people but black people think you are white. I never found my answer either. I finally just spent bucks on a DNA test just so I can find out.

  3. MI33O3 says:

    “My people”? You’re part white. Do you blame yourself? What a conflict. Instead of just being yourself,…

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