Sen. Warren’s DNA means nothing to #ICWA #NativeTruth #WeAreStillHere

When I heard the drum at this powwow in Wisconsin, when I was 12, the sky opened up and my heart fell in. I was adopted out to strangers but I would find my family, no matter what. (My memoir is now retired. I will be rewriting soon.)

BY LT

What? Back so soon with breaking news?

Yep.  First, I want to thank my friend and blogger KC for asking me to think about and share my thoughts on what it means to have Indigenous ancestry and the recent headlines about Elizabeth Warren.  Next, I defend Sen. Warren’s right to claim her ancestry.  It’s hers! Heck, many Americans do have some American Indian ancestry, too. But what you do with it is what truly matters.

We are all mixed, one way or the other.  American, so heavily colonized, is very populated with mixed people.  We have (hi)storians to blame for not explaining much about this stark truth and reality.

For me personally I was not raised in a tribal community setting, though I had many Native people around me when I was growing up.  Being adopted out, I struggled until my 30s with identity and isolation, but no longer. I met my birth father and did a paternity DNA test with him when I was 38. The history he shared with me, that was what I needed, at that time. But words and blood tests DO NOT make me who I am or the direction of my life’s work.  My Oglala Lakota relatives made sure of that. They were in my life years prior to my finding my father who is mixed Shawnee-Cherokee-Delaware-Euro).

What is required of us:

Once you attend ceremony, once you pray in your language, once you show humility to elders, and once you work for them, and when you learn it’s not “me” but “we” – it is then you are made a relative and accepted as family.  Then you are in tribal community (which is American Indian tradition on Turtle Island). It may take many years, because it should.

As the following story by says, “Half a century ago, the Standing Rock Dakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr. wrote, “Whites claiming Indian blood tend to reinforce mythical beliefs about Indians.”

Falsely claiming Native American identity is a white American tradition, with a deeply racist past.  – Nick Estes

Warren is not living her life as a member of any tribal community, yet like so many, she seems to romanticize the idea of her blood being Indian.  She was raised with her family in Oklahoma, with her history, but she was not enrolled with the Cherokee Nation, who determines their citizenship based on Dawes Rolls, not DNA.  If the Cherokee tribe wishes to change that, and enroll her, it’s completely up to them. (She’ll have years of unlearning and good history lessons ahead.)

To my knowledge, what Warren did with her “ancestry” all these years, was she helped herself.  To my knowledge, she did not assist any tribal nation or community, and in fact, she has not even helped the tribes struggling right here in Massachusetts!  What we are fighting for in this century, like Standing Rock, federal recognition, sovereignty, treaty rights, water rights, protecting Bear’s Ears, ending destruction by mining, pipelines, poverty, all of that – where is she?

This is a new hashtag campaign: #NativeTruth  #WeAreStillHere

If Elizabeth was in her community, she’d know this: Blood quantum is an invention of the governments to widdle us down to “not enough Indian.” (Wiping us out on paper. Gone, erased.)

I actually know many lost Native adoptees who use the DNA test to get their family name, and slowly worked their way back to their tribal families. Some are back on the rez, while others join their urban Indian communities. (I do not recommend or trust the DNA testings or the data they collect and sell. Those TV ads are false and misleading. Very few Indians will submit to giving DNA though some scientists took it without their consent.)

When is a DNA test useful? My adoptee friend Rhonda did a DNA test with an uncle (her birth father’s brother) to determine if she was a family member, and she was – then she was enrolled in her tribal nation. DNA can connect you with a living tribal member, if you were adopted out, or fostered. That is very very helpful.

So, Sen. Warren, it’s not the amount of blood.  DNA doesn’t make you Indian. If you belong to a community (urban or reservation), that makes you a member of that tribal community.

BIG READ:  How Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test hurt our struggle (and took away the news coverage of what matters): READ

Intercept podcast: the last two segments are so good – please do listen!

If you do have Indigenous blood, if it is loud, it won’t leave you alone.  If this speaks to you, then find and join an urban or reservation community and work for them and work with them, and think a new way: “we” not me.

And ask them what you can do and please do what they ask respectfully.

Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related!

xoxox

A new address for my blog: American Indian Adoptees

THIS REALLY MATTERS: Native perspective: Sherry Treppa: Why #ICWA is critical to the health of native children and tribal communities

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This lost Native language of Massachusetts is waking up again | What is Bermuda’s Connection to the Pequot

This lost Native language of Massachusetts is waking up again

READ: This lost Native language of Massachusetts is waking up again PRI´s The World | First Nations Blog – FIRST NATIONS

AND THIS:

By Lara Trace Hentz  (She Covers the Trail)

AQUAY!  Hello, greetings to you in Pequot!  BERMUDA Greeting :: Yo Ace Boy! (Hello good friend!)

This blog still has the theme:  “What you’re not supposed to know” (regarding cracking open Indian history, especially here in New England.)

I have also used this headline:

I don’t know why we don’t know this stuff

It’s heinous how the historic narrative calls American Indians/Native Americans “disappeared, the vanished, relics of the past,” but you will see in these stories, tribes do manage to survive every attempt to erase them and their culture, language and history right here in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

(above video) Jessie Little Doe’s work has helped revitalize and resurrect the Wampanoag language.  I interviewed her many years ago.  What was almost lost forever has been re-claimed, thanks to Jessie.

I blogged here in 2011 about Brinky Tucker who is a historian and descendant of the New England Indians who were sold into slavery into Bermuda.  He authored “St. David’s Island, Bermuda, Its People, History and Culture” – published in 2009, (not on Amazon – but it should be!)  The history of Bermuda involves slavery of Indigenous people… [Book cover, top photo: Tall Oak Weeden (Wampanoag-Pequot) and Brinky Tucker (Bermuda Indian)]. See: Brinky Tucker on Bermuda Indian History

BACK STORY: …relative isolation lasted until the 1930s, when a bridge was constructed connecting St. David’s Island with the rest of Bermuda.  Although there was intermarriage and cohabitation with African slaves, European colonists, and imported Carib Indians, these descendants of New England tribes passed on “origin stories” that connect five St. David’s families, stories about an Indian slave woman named Susannah who claimed to be the granddaughter of King Phillip and traditions of chanting and drumming at a hillside location called Dark Bottom.  After the 1834 emancipation, most former slaves stayed on St. David’s and continued to intermarry with each other.

“Most of the St. David’s Islanders today are of mixed blood,” says St. Clair Tucker, or Brinky, as he prefers to be called, one of the founding members of the St. David’s Island Indian Committee. “The first Indian slave arrived on our shores in 1616, and for the next 200 years the English developed a very profitable slave trade with Africans and Native Americans. Documents prepared by the English indicate that Pequots, Wampanoags, Narragensetts, Cherokees, Mohegans, Carib, Arowacks and Indians from Central and South America were sold here.  The only trading port was in St. George’s, about 150 yards from St. David’s….”

In 2002, the Mashantucket Pequot had ceremony to reconnect with their enslaved ancestors, their brothers and sisters found in Bermuda.  Brinky and family members came to Connecticut to meet their Pequot cousins (that’s when I met him) and the next year the Pequot traveled to Bermuda.  Making this connection made new history and friendships that continue to this day.

For decades, tribal culture is its own power and lives in the blood, and shows itself in song, dance and language.

When I spoke with Brinky, he’d met with Pequot tribal council who asked simply, “What do you want?” You might guess the world’s richest tribe was skeptical at first of this history connection.  That is the worrisome part.  Tribes themselves are often unaware of the slavery and mixing that happened in prior centuries, even in Bermuda.

Then-Chairman Michael J. Thomas, a Mashantucket tribal leader, went to St. David’s Island in Bermuda to reconnect with Brinky and other Bermuda Indians.

Brinky told the Bermuda newspaper:

“The Native American involvement in Bermuda over the years has been very significant,” he said. “They weren’t always well treated. Some of the stories aren’t pleasant, but it’s better that we know our history.”

He added that the English colonists who originally enslaved the Pequot Indians might well be surprised that their descendants are now celebrating their links to a troubled time. “The English kept great records,” he said. “Little did they know that we’d read them.”

 THEY LOOKED LIKE US
from MANY HOOPS

St. David’s was completely isolated in those early days; in fact, it remained accessible only by boat until as late as 1934.

Beginning around 1616 Wampanoag, Pequots, Narragansetts, Cherokees, Mohegans, Carib, Arowacks and Indians from Central and South America were sold in Bermuda.

“Tall Oak” Weeden and a delegation of Wampanoag Indians and Mashantucket Pequots went in search of their people from the slavery era.

They traveled to St. David’s Island in Bermuda.  There they met a small clan claiming to be descended from New England Indian slaves shipped to the island centuries ago.  Weeden’s group was convinced it was true when they saw the faces, dances and ceremonies of the St. David’s Indians.

“I was struck by how much they looked like us,” said Michael J. Thomas, a Mashantucket tribal leader.

According to local legend, the wife and son of King Philip might have been among those on St. David’s.  After the king’s death, his wife, Wootonekanuske, is said to have married an African.  This kept alive the genealogical line with Indians in New England. The Pequots plan to dig even further into slavery’s hidden history, Thomas said.  “What’s to be learned is a more accurate perception of Colonial-era history,” he said. “It helps people to understand our insecurities of today.”

If you are into history, here is a link to a short paper about Bermuda’s Native American DNA ancestry. HERE

From Restless Natives, from the Bermuda newspaper THE BERMUDIAN here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pequot War of 1634 to 1638 saw the English colonists of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay join forces with the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes in an attempt to unseat the Pequot, who enjoyed economic and political power in what is now southeastern Connecticut.

“The colonists has guns,” Tucker said.  “The Indians had bow and arrows.”

Captain Anthony White, the largest landowner in Bermuda at the time, purchased these 80 Native Americans. They were sent to live on St. David’s Island and put to work as farmers, boat builders, labourers and fishermen. From that point, the connection between Native Americans and St. David’s was established- and aided, over the following years, by the island’s close proximity to the local slave market.

“When they were brought here, the trading port was St. George’s,” Tucker explained. “Slaves were sold in the square, and masters from St. George’s and St. David’s got the first pick.”

*** Virtual: St David

On the island of St David, a cultural mishmash represents the diversity of Bermudian culture.  The Carter House is a testament to the varied groups of people who settled here, exploring the history of the English, black West Indians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Native Americans and even Scottish and Irish prisoners of war (carterhousemuseum.org).

 

P.S. I left the Pequot Times in 2004.  (I quit and moved to Massachusetts).  The monthly newspaper continued barely another year and then folded.  Massive layoffs by the Pequot Tribal Government shut it down.  That was a huge loss for the tribe and for Connecticut…. and for history.

Melissa, Medicine Woman for the Mohegan tribe, named me “She Covers the Trail.”  My Native friend English professor poet Ron Welburn keeps in close contact with Brinky and has visited him.  Brinky and I exchange Christmas cards.

ojibwe_style_moccasi_cover_for_kindleP.S.S.– If you have any interest in Native authors (and you should), go visit www.bluehandbooks.org – we just published Ojibwe Style Moccasin Game, a handbook by Charles Grolla on how to play the oldest Ojibwe game, given to man by makwa (bear.)

***VERY IMPORTANT

“Who Belongs?” in Indian Country Conference Convenes March 9–10, 2017  TUCSON, ARIZONA – The “Who Belongs? From Tribal Kinship to Native Nation Citizenship to Disenrollment…

READ: A First: Tribal Leaders, Academics to Convene to Discuss Tribal Disenrollment – Native News Online

Did you know about The Mashpee Nine?

My friend Paula Peters and I met at the Native American Journalists Association years ago

Paula Peters is an active member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe based in Mashpee, Massachusetts and owner of SmokeSygnals, a media and communications consulting firm.

She is currently producing a documentary on nine Mashpee Wampanoag men jailed in 1976 for drumming and singing their traditional music. The Mashpee Nine were later acquitted and law enforcement held accountable for their actions. Mashpee Nine: The Beat Goes On will premier at the 2016 Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow in July, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the raid on the men.

An independent scholar of Wampanoag history Paula is also the Executive Producer of  “Our”Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag Survival,” a traveling multi-media exhibit telling the back story of the colonization of Plymouth from the indigenous perspective.

A graduate of Bridgewater State College she was formerly a writer at the Cape Cod Times where she won numerous national awards for her journalism.

She lives in Mashpee with her husband, two daughters and elder mother.

About the FILM

During the summer of 1976 the revival of cultural and traditional values of the Mashpee Wampanoag was occurring at the same time tribal leaders and town government were clashing over land entitlement. An incident involving an over zealous tactical police force disrupting a group of traditional drummers and singers evolved into a high profile trial of nine young men arrested, eight Wampanoag and one non-native friend. Defended by one of the American Indian Movement’s most skilled and dogged attorneys the Nine won in a rare case of a court ruling against law enforcement. Court documents shredded, news accounts buried in microfilm, the case has faded into distant memory but the stories of the surviving Nine and those who rallied to their defense. What does survive is the tradition the Nine sacrificed their freedom for, even for a night, and fought vigorously to defend, the drum, the songs and the night. This documentary will resurrect that legendary incident and preserve the memory of those who experienced it for the generation now sitting at the drum, and those to come.

INDIGENOUS FILM FEST in New Hampshire: Nov. 6 and 7, 2015 READ MORE