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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

"Five-fingered humans"

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I'm a white boy who grew up on the Blackfeet rez in north-central Montana. I have distant Cherokee cousins, but my blood quantum is less than 1/16th, so I never thought it worthwhile to seek out the potential benefits, if tribal membership of an ancestor could have been proven (HCN, 1/19/09).

I consider myself a spiritual brother of the Oglala Lakota people. With the exception of my mother's father's people, all of my "people" have been here on Turtle Island for seven generations or more. My point? If there are so many ways for a white boy raised on a rez to identify in some fashion with Indian/First Nations/aboriginal cultural and spiritual values, how is it that Indian tribes and nations must be limited to either one or the other of two available means to identify and quantify their "Indian-ness"?

Seems to me that this is an outgrowth of values of those who thought they had a "manifest destiny," wished to impose those values on a host of others, and did a pretty good job of getting many of them to buy into a classification system that was flawed from its conception. The Navajo are known to say that "We are all five-fingered humans." For most tribal peoples, their strength is in their culture. From a certain perspective, those who are in their ways doing what they can to preserve that culture are the real Indians, regardless of what their DNA might say about a quantifiable "amount" of "Indian-ness."

Andrew MacConnachie

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