Honest Injuns*: Policing Native Identity in the Wake of Rachel Dolezal

[One of the most common questions I receive from readers is how to check their lineage for Native American ancestry.

There are a few companies now that – for a pretty penny – will search your DNA for ethnic markers and give you a sort of roadmap of percentages. I’ve had friends use these companies and haven’t heard anything negative from them, so I imagine the information they provide is legit.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to figure out your genetic heritage. I fully support that.

But I wonder: For those who find they are some percent “Native American” (and let’s not forget we’re talking thousands of unique tribal nations in that vague descriptor), what will they do with that information?

In discussing Rachel Dolezal, the national conversation centers on her claim to Black identity, what she calls “the Black experience” (as if being Black, or any race, can be packaged into a singular experience). I am in full support of these discussions.


But no one outside of Native thinkers bats an eye at her assertion that she was born in a tipi and her family hunted with bows and arrows. In fact, Dolezal’s parents, who swore up and down that Dolezal is Caucasian without a hint of Black, noted that, in fact, one or two great-grandparents were Native.

Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo) addressed this on her (fabulously educational) blog,American Indians in Children’s Literature:

“The lack of questioning of that born-in-a-tipi story, however, points to the need for children’s books and media that accurately portray our lives in the past and the present so that people don’t put forth stories like the one Dolezar did, and so that that those who hear that kind of thing question such stories.

“Dolezal’s story about living in a tipi is plausible but not probable. The power of stereotyping is in her story, and in those who accepted it, too. That is not ok. Look at the images of Native people you are giving to children in your home, in your school, and in your library. Do some weeding. Make some better choices. Contribute to a more educated citizenry.”]    Read the full article here | Righting Red


Photograph found in author’s post in Righting Red




There is a Country Having His Name | The Celebration on October 13

Read the full article here | 13 October is Columbus Day | The Oatmeal

Meet Bartolome’ de la Casas, friar and historian who wrote down one version of what really happened in the Americas.

Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484-1566) was a Spanish Dominican friar who became famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for his defense of the rights of the native people of the Americas. His brave stand against the horrors of the conquest and the colonization of the New World earned him the title “Defender of the Indians.”


In the Meantime… |The Kurdish-Speaking Yazidis are Massively Fleeing Violence in Northern Iraq

See the photo-essay here | REUTERS

Islamic State militants have killed 500 people – burying some women and children alive in a mass grave – the Iraqi human rights minister has claimed.

Reuters reported that the remains of hundreds of Yazidis – a Kurdish-speaking ethnic minority – were discovered in the north of Iraq where the Islamic State fighters staged a major offensive.

Iraq’s human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has told Reuters that there is evidence that  the Sunni militants had thrown the dead Yazidi dead into mass graves. But they had also buried some women and children alive.

“We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Sudani said. “Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar.” He added that about 300 women have also been forced into slavery by the Islamic State forces. “They executed and buried 500 Yazidis” | IBT





First Nations in Canada and Israel | Genocide and Rhetoric

Read the full article here | Global Research

[Why would Canadian Jewish leaders suddenly take such an interest in Natives and support their struggle for reparations from the Canadian government? Is it altruism, because of the Jewish tradition of being ‘a light unto peoples’? This is what CIJA (Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs) would have us believe, with its claims to “profound cultural and historical similarities”, “striving for acceptance, equal rights, rights to their own land”.

There is another, very different explanation. The Native resistance movement has continued to grow in the past half century. As Natives become more aware of their common struggle with other aboriginal peoples around the world, they are bound to identify with the Palestinians and their struggle against the colonial settlers.]

Collective Punishment in Gaza | The New Yorker

Read the full article | The New Yorker

[… Punishing Palestinians for existing has a long history. It was Israel’s policy before Hamas and its rudimentary rockets were Israel’s boogeyman of the moment, and before Israel turned Gaza into an open-air prison, punching bag, and weapons laboratory. In 1948, Israel killed thousands of innocents, and terrorized and displaced hundreds of thousands more, in the name of creating a Jewish-majority state in a land that was then sixty-five per cent Arab. In 1967, it displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians again, occupying territory that it still largely controls, forty-seven years later.

In 1982, in a quest to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization and extinguish Palestinian nationalism, Israel invaded Lebanon, killing seventeen thousand people, mostly civilians. Since the late nineteen-eighties, when Palestinians under occupation rose up, mostly by throwing stones and staging general strikes, Israel has arrested tens of thousands of Palestinians: over seven hundred and fifty thousand people have spent time in Israeli prisons since 1967, a number that amounts to forty per cent of the adult male population today…]

Stories Shared as Communion | … or, the Irrelevance of Truth in Healing | Fambul Tok

People of the African nation of Sierra Leone practice an ancient ritual of family talk called Fambul Tok in this documentary. Citizens whose lives were horrifically changed by civil war, where family members became killers of their own families, where torture and cruelty were every day occurrences, demonstrate a remarkable amount of tolerance and forgiveness as they gather to heal the emotional scars of war.
Even though the fighting was over, rapists and murderers would walk among the victims and victims’ families with impunity. But instead of imprisonment, the perpetrators would be reconciled with the citizenry through Fambul Tok.

Sierra Leone, we learn, has a saying that sums it up best. “There is no place to throw away a bad child.”—Tim Basham

Deconstruction as Pretext | Paul de Man and Academia | Simulacra

Read the full article | The Weekly Standard Book Review
When de Man died in 1983, he was at the height of his influence…. Deconstruction was an academic orthodoxy, and its high priests—Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, and Harold Bloom (since then something of an apostate)—were the well-remunerated guardians of its sacred truths. After de Man’s death, appreciations appeared in prominent literary weeklies, and new volumes gathered together his unpublished and uncollected work. His memorial service in New Haven, where he had been Sterling professor of humanities and head of the comparative literature department at Yale, was the equivalent of a state funeral.

Then, in 1988, a graduate student made an astonishing discovery. Between 1940 and 1942, unbeknownst to any of his academic peers, Paul de Man had written nearly 200 articles, most of them on ostensibly literary themes, for two collaborationist newspapers. These articles, which were soon translated and published in the United States, saw de Man praising generic “Western” writers for their ability to shake off the cultural baggage of Jewish mediocrity and endorsing the idea that all of Europe’s Jews should be deported en masse, through Franz Rademacher’s so-called Madagascar Plan.