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#1 Jan-26-2011 08:48:pm

bls926
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Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

The National Museum of the American Indian


January 26, 2011

Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

My answer? There are many definitions of who is an Indian. As a starting point, “Indian” is a misguided label that spread through Europe after 1492. Native people have always associated themselves with their tribe(s) and referenced their tribal names in their tribal languages. Explorers and colonists from Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, and Russia, among other countries, began naming tribes they encountered in North America in European languages. As English became the primary language in the United States, American Indian (to distinguish us from Indians native to India) became the collective term used.

American Indians generally belong to or are descendents of tribes indigenous to what is now the United States.

In modern times the federal government, states, tribes and individuals have formed their own definitions of who is Indian. Three important criteria to consider when answering this question are federal legal definitions, ethnological Indian ancestry, and tribal membership. The federal government lists 565 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaskan Native Communities. Twenty-two states also have criteria for recognizing tribes within their boundaries. The majority of state-recognized tribes, however, are not federally recognized. For United States Census purposes, an individual simply needs to self identify themselves as American Indian and Alaskan Native to be counted in the final summary.

The question of who is an Indian is often debated among Indian people. Does carrying a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) make you Indian? Does being raised away from a reservation and not having traditional knowledge make a person less Indian? Does knowing your language make you more Indian? These are some of the complex questions that have been debated on determining Indian identity. The response depends on who is answering the question.

Skin color does not make you Indian. In our museum I have heard non-Indians comment they have seen an Indian simply if the person they saw has the long black hair, brown skin, and high cheek bones associated with the classic Indian image. In reality, there are proud Indians with blonde hair and blue eyes or black skin. Through intermarriage, their Indian descent comes from one or both Indian parents.

Each tribe has the sovereign authority to define who its members are and who is eligible to be enrolled. Some tribes have blood quantum requirements—a requirement that to be enrolled, a person must have at least a certain degree of tribal ancestry, such as one-fourth—while other tribes’ laws state that a person is eligible for enrollment if one of his or her ancestors appears on a particular historical list of tribal members. Ultimately the question, “Who is an Indian?” is determined by tribal law.

http://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2011/01/wh … ndian.html

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#2 Jan-26-2011 09:33:pm

sschkaak
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Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

"Explorers and colonists from Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, and Russia, among other countries, began naming tribes they encountered in North America in European languages."

No.  Europeans generally called tribes by either the tribes' own names for themselves or by the names they were called by other tribes.


"I have heard non-Indians comment they have seen an Indian simply if the person they saw has the long black hair, brown skin, and high cheek bones associated with the classic Indian image."

No.  That's not a "classic Indian image."  It's the actual biological phenotype of a full-blood American Indian.


"'Who is an Indian?' is determined by tribal law."

No.  Tribal law determines who is a tribal member.  Ancestral background determines who is an American Indian.

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#3 Apr-29-2011 05:24:am

Atehequa
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From: Tsenacommacah
Registered: Apr-27-2011
Posts: 33

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

I'd rather be called by my name first, but Indian suits me fine instead of Native American. Everyone born in this country is a Native American.


True poets know justice is a lie

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#4 Apr-30-2011 08:00:am

Atehequa
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From: Tsenacommacah
Registered: Apr-27-2011
Posts: 33

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

What does strike me as odd is the people of different woodland tribes that portray themselves in a Plains Indian manner which adds to the over all misleading stereotyping. A Pamunkey I know calls this - The Dancing with Wolves syndrome. It's how White America wants to see us and so many Eastern Woodland Indians are so happy to oblige.

It would be great going to an Eastern Woodland Pow Wow or function and not seeing feather Warbonnets, bustles and an overwhelming amount of Plains trappings.


True poets know justice is a lie

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#5 May-01-2011 08:24:pm

followtheredroad
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Registered: May-01-2011
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Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

sschkaak wrote:

"'Who is an Indian?' is determined by tribal law."

No.  Tribal law determines who is a tribal member.  Ancestral background determines who is an American Indian.

so what if someone knows threw family stories they have native ancestors but no legal documents.....are they not american indians?
what if they are not 100% or 50% blood...are they less of a  amrican indians?

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#6 May-01-2011 08:53:pm

sschkaak
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Registered: Sep-17-2007
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Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

As I wrote on another thread, here:

"Personally, I hold a double standard, regarding this subject of "Who is an Indian?".   My personal, preferred standard is 1/4 American Indian BQ (whether enrolled or not).  HOWEVER, so long as federally-recognized Indian tribes with lineage-based enrollment policies exist, I see no reason why anyone with any fraction of American Indian ancestry (enrolled or not) should be denied the prerogative of calling himself or herself American Indian."

Vine Deloria, Jr. and Jim Revey both endorsed the 1/4 American Indian BQ--and I prefer it, as stated.

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#7 May-01-2011 09:30:pm

sschkaak
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Registered: Sep-17-2007
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Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

followtheredroad wrote:

"so what if someone knows threw family stories they have native ancestors but no legal documents.....are they not american indians?"

Maybe, yes.  Maybe, no.

"what if they are not 100% or 50% blood...are they less of a  amrican indians?"

Maybe, yes.  Maybe, no.

Last edited by sschkaak (May-01-2011 09:33:pm)

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#8 May-19-2011 03:21:pm

followtheredroad
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Registered: May-01-2011
Posts: 3

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

sschkaak wrote:

followtheredroad wrote:

"so what if someone knows threw family stories they have native ancestors but no legal documents.....are they not american indians?"

Maybe, yes.  Maybe, no.


so what makes the difference in your eyes?

"what if they are not 100% or 50% blood...are they less of a  amrican indians?"

Maybe, yes.  Maybe, no.

same as the first what makes the difference

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#9 May-19-2011 11:36:pm

Suckachsinheet
Member
Registered: Sep-11-2007
Posts: 966

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

Without documentation, it is all very relative. Through your association with the UELN you have come to feel Native; your spirit resonates with the Native lifeways. But it is still just a warm fuzzy feeling; it doesn't prove anything. DNA, genealogy, these all prove something, and even then you may find those who say it is not enough. Without a CDIB card or some equivalent proof, you will have to get by with "I believe I am an Indian, so I am one" and see how many people will accept that.

Been there, doing that; get ready for forty miles of rough road. wink


It's in the blood; I can't let go. - Robbie Robertson

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#10 Nov-03-2013 11:37:am

NeoPaleo
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Registered: Oct-07-2013
Posts: 132

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

I think skin color is subjective.


What color corn do you grow?

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#11 Oct-23-2016 06:39:pm

NeoPaleo
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Registered: Oct-07-2013
Posts: 132

Re: Who is Indian, and what makes a person an Indian?

If a Non Member Indian commits a federal crime on Indian Land he's going to jail as an Indian .

Non-Member Indians who want to make art, they need the tribes permission.

Funny how they have these terms and they don't tell us about them so we're locked out of the party.


Look at your teeth there is a story if you haven't had work done.

Epicanthic fold not found in American Indians without admixture.

The equal protection clause swings both ways.

Doesn't matter if you're adopted and don't know your tribe,
If you have Indian blood you are Indian to some degree.
Just as much as any other "minority" who could have had the similar life experience.


What color corn do you grow?

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