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




HUICHOLES | The Last Peyote Guardians

But, they still cut animals open while still alive.

Native American Language Revitalization Legislation in the 113th Congress

Read the full article here | LSA

The LSA is currently engaged in a campaign to educate and inform members of the U.S. Congress about the benefits of Native American language revitalization. There are two bills currently pending in both houses of Congress which seek to enhance efforts to revitalize Native American languages:

More Beautiful Photographs from “Moses on the Mesa” | First Nations

Running Face |E-Sta-Poo-Sta |Son of Red Cow | A Mandan man – 1874

Cherokee girl | Undated | Source: National Anthropological Archives

Chief Iron Tail | Oglala Lakota | ca 1900

Zuni pueblo girl – New Mexico | 1903 | Photo by Edward S. Curtis

Chief Bitter Man | Chippewa | Minnesota | Photo from 1862-1875 | Source: New York Public Library

Navajo young man | 1907 | Photo by Carl Moon | Source: New York Public Library.



Chief Wolf Robe | Southern Cheyenne | 1898


Stimathlee (aka Ruby Tigertail, aka Ruby Tigertail-Billie) |Chokoloskee Island – southwestern Florida | Seminole | 1907

The most-storied warrior tribe in Ecuador prepares to fight as the government sells gold-laden land to China

The most-storied warrior tribe in Ecuador prepares to fight as the government sells gold-laden land to China

The Salon

Of the thousands of “Avatar” screenings held during the film’s record global release wave, none tethered the animated allegory to reality like a rainy day matinee in Quito, Ecuador.

It was late January 2010 when a non-governmental organization bused Indian chiefs from the Ecuadorean Amazon to a multiplex in the capital. The surprise decampment of the tribal congress triggered a smattering of cheers, but mostly drew stares of apprehension from urban Ecuadoreans who attribute a legendary savagery to their indigenous compatriots, whose violent land disputes in the jungle are as alien as events on “Avatar’s” Pandora.


Ecuador About to Sell Millions of Acres in the Amazon, land of the Achuar People, for Oil Drilling

Jaime Vargas, President of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador, asks people worldwide to help save the Achuar’s rainforest home. Hear directly from President Vargas, speaking from his remote rainforest home deep in the Amazon, about what’s at stake and how you can help.

April 1 in US History: The Wampanoag – Pilgrim Treaty of 1621

I read the coverage on the course of events that led to, and the treaty itself on two websites. Firstly came History.com ( The Pilgrim-Wampanoag Peace Treaty of 1621 | History.com ) Then I read the story at the Mashpee Wampanoag website ( Mashpee-Wampanoag Timeline | Wampanoag-Pilgrim Treaty of 1621 )

It was, once again, an experience to remember. And a rewarding lesson on rhetoric.