Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Evil Rising »« [Lounge #466]

Because Indians are magic!

So you wish you were an Indian, because they’re so spiritual and noble and one with nature — they’re so magical that having a name like Manny Two Feathers or Vicki Ghost Horse means the crap you sell on e-bay has extra cred and is worth more money.

Now you can be! It’s easy. There are plastic tribes popping up all over the place, and all it takes to become one is money.

The "United Cherokee Nation," which did not respond to Phoenix inquiries, charges a $35 application fee, while the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" has a $60 application fee and a $10 annual roll fee. The "Cherokee of Lawrence County" don’t charge for membership but instead asks its members to "make it a priority to send $10 a month to help with the tribe" and $12 to subscribe to its newsletter.

Membership fees and dues are just two signs a "Cherokee" group isn’t legitimate, task force members said. Other signs include members using Indian-sounding names such as "Two Feathers" and "Wind Caller," acting and dressing like Hollywood-stereotyped Indians or Plains Indians, asking for money to perform DNA tests or genealogical research, requirements to wear regalia to meetings and requirements to go through an Indian-naming ceremony.

Once admitted into the groups, members usually get membership cards, bogus "Certified Degree of Indian Blood" cards and genealogy certificates "proving" they are eligible for membership.

You might notice the Cherokee mystique: most of the fake tribes seem to be some branch of the Cherokee nation. Apparently nobody wants to be a long lost member of the Humptulips tribe, or a Stillaguamish — although you’d think Lakota, with their history as the stereotypical Plains Indian, would be more popular.

They usually dress it up more, of course. The Red Nation of the Cherokee (totally fake) thinks that if you really feel like an Indian in your heart, then you ought to join the tribe.

We do not need to follow the standards of the antiquated BIA regulations/policies of the late 1700’s or after any longer! Which, dices people up into fractions and percentages, we are true human beings and a whole person.

Our beliefs are, if an individual is of multi-Nations, then they should be allowed to honor each of them in their own way, not being forced to choose one over the other.

We of the Red Clay People of all Nations believe, we should not have to prove our heritage’s on the talking leaves paper, but be allowed to prove in the older way, what is truth in our hearts.

The Creator has heard the prayers of the people, and gave vision to start RedNation of the Cherokee. To make a place, for all the people to have a home and family, to come to and to be finally called brother or sister and to be recognized as blood.

The “talking leaves paper”? Jebus. I know a lot of local Indians (UMM offers free tuition to people of real Indian descent, verified by membership on a real tribal roll), and not a one talks like that. They also don’t wear fringed buckskin clothes with feathers in their hair. You will occasionally see them in traditional costume — which is usually jeans and a plaid work shirt, with maybe a decorative bit of bead jewelry, or a feather in their cowboy hat — when artists and cultural representatives show up on campus for our yearly powwow of native music and dancing. But get real, these are human beings who are part of a changing culture — they are not the TV Indians who never left the 18th century.

I did find this fake tribe’s rationale amusing.

Another group asking for federal recognition is the Cherokee of Lawrence County, Tenn. The tribe’s principal chief, Joe "Sitting Owl" White, said he eventually expects his tribe to be federally recognized because he and his 800 fellow members are Cherokee, and he cites photography as proof.

We’ve been called every name in the book, but we are Cherokee, he said. We can take photos of our members and hold them up and see the Cherokee in us.

He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidence that the Cherokee people are Jewish.

You know, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if some members of the Cherokee of Lawrence County were certifiably and demonstrably of Jewish descent, so he might not be wrong about that. I should apply and join — they could test me and prove that Indians were also Celts who drifted over on a coracle, and Vikings who colonized the entire continent.

Comments

  1. Moggie says

    He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidence that the Cherokee people are Jewish.

    I believe this was conclusively demonstrated forty years ago in the documentary film Blazing Saddles.

  2. otrame says

    Ah, yes. The Wannabe Tribe. Very familiar with them. Also very familiar with the attitude that real tribal members have towards them.

  3. cartomancer says

    Is “Indians” considered an acceptable term in the USA for these people then? I was rather under the impression that the preferred nom-du-jour was “native Americans” or “first nations” or just their own tribal names for themselves. I certainly know that among many British Indian communities (actual Indians, from India) it is considered insulting to both groups to call the native Americans “Indians”, as if all brown people were interchangeable.

    But I know that which terms are considered polite and which demeaning goes in and out of fashion over time and from place to place. Apparently oriental people in America don’t like that term, because it was mostly used with insulting intent in American history, but it’s always been fine over here as a simple indicator of eastern origins. And, of course, “black”, “coloured” and “negro” have all cycled through preferred, acceptable, insulting and back to acceptable throughout the 20th century, and continue to do so.

  4. says

    carto:
    I’ve always thought that using the term “Indian” for groups in the Americas was more insulting to the Europeans who apparently thought ‘Wheeee! We’ve reached Japan, or possibly China, so the natives must be Indians…’

  5. carlie says

    Names are complicated.

    More on that.

    Moreover, a large number of Indians actually strongly object to the term Native American for political reasons. In his 1998 essay “I Am An American Indian, Not a Native American!”, Russell Means, a Lakota activist and a founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), stated unequivocally, “I abhor the term ‘Native American.’” He continues:

    It is a generic government term used to describe all the indigenous prisoners of the United States. These are the American Samoans, the Micronesians, the Aleuts, the original Hawaiians, and the erroneously termed Eskimos, who are actually Upiks and Inupiaqs. And, of course, the American Indian.

    I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins. … As an added distinction the American Indian is the only ethnic group in the United States with the American before our ethnicity.

    At an international conference of Indians from the Americas held in Geneva, Switzerland, at the United Nations in 1977 we unanimously decided we would go under the term American Indian. “We were enslaved as American Indians, we were colonized as American Indians, and we will gain our freedom as American Indians and then we can call ourselves anything we damn please.”

  6. carlie says

    Also see here

    The reasons are diverse and personal, but there are two popular reasons. The first reason is habit. Many Indians have been Indians all their lives. The Native people of this continent have been called Indian throughout all of post-Columbian history. Why change now? The second reason is far more political. While the new politically correct terms were intended to help ethnic groups by giving them a name that did not carry the emotional baggage of American history, it also enabled America to ease its conscience. The term Native American is so recent that it does not have all the negative history attached. Native Americans did not suffer through countless trails of tears, disease, wars, and cultural annihilation — Indians did. The Native people today are Native Americans not Indians, therefore we do not need to feel guilty for the horrors of the past. Many Indians feel that this is what the term Native American essentially does — it white-washes history. It cleans the slate.

    I’m more than pissed off that the first set of results I found is about people rather than by them, but that gives a brief overview to the issue.

  7. upsidedawn says

    From what I understand, some prefer to identify as Native Americans, others abhor that and prefer “American Indian.” It seems to be individual taste. I think that most would actually prefer to be identified by their tribes rather than one large category like either of the above.

  8. carlie says

    (And I am an entirely white person, so this is just stuff I’ve read that’s easy to link to. I’m not speaking for anyone.)

  9. Moggie says

    I must say that the Cherokee Nation officials quoted in that Cherokee Phoenix article are more sympathetic to the wannabes than I would have expected.

  10. cartomancer says

    I see. I thought there would be a complicated web of historical and cultural nuances at work here.

    I suppose there’s a sort of parallel in the case of the ancient Greeks, who were generally fine with being called Greeks by their Roman conquerors, even though “Graeci” simply means “people of Graia”, and wherever this Graia place was (we don’t know, best guess is somewhere in Illyria) it was where the Romans first encountered Greeks, not where any of them lived. They called themselves Hellenes in their own language, but didn’t insist on changing Graeci when they spoke Latin.

    Ironically the Romans were even keener to claim spurious Greek heritage than many Americans are to claim Cherokee heritage. They went so far as to formulate the myth of Aeneas, and immortalise it in the Aeneid, so that their nation could benefit from an impeccable Trojan War pedigree.

  11. twas brillig (stevem) says

    oh I see what’s going on ^_^ some are trying to profit from their guilty conscience by projecting Murrican values onto the people they conquered. I.E. selling that American Indians as accepting immigration. Like, countering the history of when the original Euro-peaons tried to immigrate to America and the American Residents rejected them forcefully. The Euroes occasionally tried to bribe their way in (didn’t they buy Manhattan from a local tribe?), but that didn’t work out too good. So now, wracked with guilt, some try to assuage it by scamming the immigrants with the illusion that they can just buy their way into immigrating into the tribes they so pummeled in the past. It’s the “melting pot” delusion writ too big. “We all must accept immigrants, even the original residents of this land will accept immigrants. See, they can’t kick us out, so they must want to accept immigrants as new members (with documents for proof, and all … … )”

  12. chigau (違う) says

    In Canada, using “Indian” to refer to *the descendants of the people who were here before the Europeans arrived* is no longer common.

  13. says

    I wonder if the reason so many are Cherokee branches is that so many white people do have Cherokee blood (from the trail of tears; I’m part Cherokee from both of my parents, with my mom having enough to have tribal affiliation). Although I’m probably giving them too much credit for thinking those “DNA tests” are legit. And it’s not like you can establish genealogy with DNA anyway.

  14. says

    Oh great, the Plastic Shamans are back in business.

    although you’d think Lakota, with their history as the stereotypical Plains Indian, would be more popular.

    They are, believe me.

  15. says

    In Canada, we (both Aboriginal people and non) use the term Aboriginal people(s) to refer to all descended from those who were here before European colonisation.When describing groups more specifically, we use First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Ideally, when speaking about individuals or local groups, we aim to use even more specific national/tribal names as provided by the people themselves (e.g. when raising the Pride flag at Queen’s Park, Kathleen Wynne acknowledged that Toronto stands on the traditional territory of the Mississauga of the Credit River). There have been occasions when I’ve heard “Native American” as a self-descriptor, but as far as I know, the only common use of “Indian” comes from the government’s Indian Act and its offspring in officialdom. [/another white person]

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    cartomancer @ # 4: Apparently oriental people in America don’t like that term…

    My irony meter pinged at that one: last I heard, Asians don’t like the term “oriental”.

  17. says

    Cartomancer @ 4:

    Is “Indians” considered an acceptable term in the USA for these people then?

    Yes, it is acceptable for Indigenous Peoples (not these people). I’m half Oglala Lakota, living in North Dakota. Native is fine, a lot of Indians don’t much care for the ‘American’ bit, not only because we were here before ‘America’, but all Indians aren’t American. The media site is Indian Country, the paper Indian Country Today. On online spaces, you’ll often see the abbreviation NDN. While NA is still used, it’s being used less and less. First Nation[s] is used increasingly, especially in Canada.

    The majority of Indians prefer to be referred to by tribal name/affiliation. This doesn’t happen much, because most non-Indians can’t be arsed to lean anything at all about Indians. If someone wants to know if something is considered an insult to Indians, the best recourse is to ask an Indian.

  18. says

    Yes, the best thing to do is refer to them by tribe: Lakota, Navajo, whatever. But you can’t exactly do that with the plastic shamans, now can you?

  19. cartomancer says

    In Britain “Asian” generally means from India or Pakistan. “Oriental” means China and Japan. We get this one quite a lot from Americans, who think that because “oriental” is not well regarded in their country that therefore it shouldn’t be regarded well anywhere else. As an English person, I choose to use the English language in my own national idiom, rather than that of people half a world away.

  20. Derek Vandivere says

    I wonder: do any of the (for lack of a better word) authentic Indian nations have immigration and naturalization processes?

  21. says

    PZ:

    But you can’t exactly do that with the plastic shamans, now can you?

    They’re the Plastic tribe.

    Cartomancer:

    As an English person, I choose to use the English language in my own national idiom, rather than that of people half a world away.

    Do you ever ask the ‘Asian’ or ‘Oriental’ people what they think of that? Or what name they prefer?

  22. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    “Indian” is certainly preferable to the term that a certain NFL team’s owner stubbornly refuses to change in the face of growing controversy. And there is still one major league baseball team using the name Indians, with a garishly racist logo to boot (called “Chief Wahoo,” no less).

  23. Derek Vandivere says

    Hey Giliell, is there a name for the Internet law that every post mocking bad grammar or spelling must have at least one error in it? (;

  24. neverjaunty says

    I thought “nation” was preferred rather than “tribe”, given all the Noble Savage association with the latter.

    Inaji @24: given the JAQing tone of cartomancer’s first post, I suspect we’re just seeing a slow roll of a rant about political correctness destroying the language, Regretful Intellectual Flavor.

  25. says

    In Saskatchewan the term Indian remains in use for some official organisations. The 74 First Nations are represented as a group by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. First Nations run casinos are part of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. There are others. I assume the persistence of these names is because of the persistence of the federal Indian Act, which governs various aspects of “status Indians” in Canada.

  26. says

    neverjaunty:

    I thought “nation” was preferred rather than “tribe”, given all the Noble Savage association with the latter.

    Tribe is more of an thing in the U.S. than Canada. There’s a lot of resistance against the use of Nation by non-Indians in the States. Most tribes/nations word for those is simply people. In Lakota, oyate.

  27. garnetstar says

    Wow! Although my entire family were Italian peasants back for centuries, does this mean I can be a Mohican now? I adore James Fennimore Cooper’s books, and that movie wasn’t half bad either.

  28. neverjaunty says

    Inaji, thanks for the clarification; may I impose on you further? My understanding was that it’s not wildly clueless to ask what nation, as opposed to what tribe, someone is a member of; is that incorrect? (I’m assuming here a context where it would be appropriate at all to inquire into someone’s heritage.) Certainly it makes a lot more sense to refer to, say, the Cherokee people.

    garnetstar, no, you cannot. They would have to change the title of the book to The Penultimate Mohican.

  29. rossthompson says

    Do you ever ask the ‘Asian’ or ‘Oriental’ people what they think of that? Or what name they prefer?

    In Britain, people of Chinese or Japanese descent will generally identify as “oriental”. I don’t think I’ve ever explictly asked if they find that term accectable, but I’ve certainly never seen any reason to think that they don’t.

    Hey Giliell, is there a name for the Internet law that every post mocking bad grammar or spelling must have at least one error in it? (;

    Muphry’s Law. And, yes, I did misspell that as “Murphy’s” at first.

  30. georgemartin says

    He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidence that the Cherokee people are Jewish.

    Does that mean that they’re descended from the Lamanites of the Mormons?

    George

  31. magistramarla says

    I think that my mother registered as a member of the Cherokee tribe.
    The tradition in her family was that her father was 100% Cherokee and that his parents came to Illinois after escaping from the Trail of Tears.
    My Dad told me that when I was a baby, my mother and her sister went to some location where she could register and that she came home with a check. She refused to share any information about it with him.
    My husband, my children and I have tried to find out more about my grandfather when we researched our family history, but we always hit a brick wall when it comes to my paternal grandfather.
    For those who are knowledgeable about this, are there any records about Cherokees who managed to slip away during the Trail of Tears? Is it possible that they managed to integrate so well into the communities that they became a part of that there are no records of them prior to that?

  32. Marius says

    In Britain, people of Chinese or Japanese descent will generally identify as “oriental”. I don’t think I’ve ever explictly asked if they find that term accectable, but I’ve certainly never seen any reason to think that they don’t.

    Really? I’m British and I haven’t come across this. I would consider “oriental” an outdated term like “coloured”. On the UK census people with Chinese or Korean descent are listed under “asian – other”.

  33. says

    Yes, more than one of these plastic tribes have connections to mormonism. Mormons have twisted DNA research so hard that it bleeds lies for them, including the lie that jews immigrated via an improbable boat-like vehicle and are the ancestors of current American Indian tribes.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/848921/posts

    http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=173.0

    http://utahcountyskeptics.blogspot.com/2013/07/cherokee-nation.html

    http://ldscherokeefamily.homestead.com (Warning: horrible, loud sound effects launch automatically)

    There are also some connections between mormon-run multi-level marketing schemes and plastic tribes. Utah already has super-lax regulations that allow multi-level marketing schemes to flourish, but that’s not enough for some mormons. They want to be members of an American Indian tribe so they can make use of some allowances for “religion” or tribal traditions that result in even more unethical marketing schemes.

  34. says

    http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon440.htm

    Word salad from mormon apologist, Daniel Peterson:

    In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites, say less than thirty, entered such a massive native population, it would be very hard to detect their genes today. However, such a scenario does not square with what the Book of Mormon plainly states and with what the prophets have taught for 175 years. The Book of Mormon records that soon after their arrival in the Americas, the descendants of Lehi ‘multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land’ (Jarom 1:8). By about 46 BC, after which time they had joined with the Mulekites, they had multiplied until they ‘covered the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east (Hel. 3:8). By the time of the final conflagrations around 400 AD, the Israelite populations numbered in the many hundreds of thousands if not millions. There is not a single mention in the text of groups of people living in ancient America, other than the Jaredites, Lehites and Mulekites. All three population groups had very large populations. It is hardly surprising then that Joseph Smith and all other church leaders have regarded Native Americans to be the descendants of the Lamanites. The God speaking to Joseph Smith in 1830-31 referred to the ‘borders of the Lamanites’ when talking about missionaries being sent to teach Native Americans who had been relocated to Missouri (D&C 28: 9; 54: 8)

    Mormons have historically believed that Lamanites, term used in the Book of Mormon, are the Native Americans in both North and South America who are descendents of Jews who came to the Americas around 600 BC. Current Mormon apologetic statements claim that only a small fraction of Native Americans were descended from Jews and that their DNA has been lost. This is a radical departure from 170 years of Mormon scriptures and teachings.

  35. brianwestley says

    If they claim to be Cherokee, ask them what “ᏣᎳᎩ” says, or who Sequoyah was.

  36. says

    neverjaunty @ 32:

    My understanding was that it’s not wildly clueless to ask what nation, as opposed to what tribe, someone is a member of; is that incorrect?

    No, it’s not incorrect, you got that right! What nation or what people generally works.

    rossthompson @ 33:

    I don’t think I’ve ever explictly asked if they find that term accectable, but I’ve certainly never seen any reason to think that they don’t.

    Please tell me you typed that without thinking. Please. You’ve never asked, but you’re sure it’s just okey dokey, because what? Privilege? Couldn’t fucking care less? Eh, it’s a label, who gives a shit?

  37. lindsay says

    There’s an entry for ‘Cherokee grandmother syndrome’ on Urban Dictionary:

    “Claiming one has some distant Native American ancestor in order to sound more exotic or interesting when in fact no such Native American ancestor exists.”

    Then they had to ruin it with a slam at Elizabeth Warren.

  38. says

    lindsay:

    There’s an entry for ‘Cherokee grandmother syndrome’

    Cherokee grandma was almost always a Cherokee princess, too.
     
    :eyeroll:

  39. Sastra says

    So you wish you were an Indian, because they’re so spiritual and noble and one with nature — they’re so magical …

    I keep running into this Noble Savage crap in the Spiritual crowd and they’re usually surprised when I tell them I think it’s racist. No no no — racism is what happened when the Western White Empire-Building Conquerors failed to recognize that all aborigine peoples have inherited special gifts of sensitivity and awareness which gives them all sorts of spiritual wisdom, from knowing which plants cure what to knowing that all life is a harmonized whole and never dies! Honoring nonwestern noneuropean peoples can’t be racist!

    There’s also the magical, mystical Orient with its ancient wisdom, Other Ways of Knowing, and special attunement to our Spiritual nature and rejection of the Illusion of Reality. Perhaps this quality or capacity resides deep within the Blood of a Peoples.

    Theosophical gibberish — not racist at all. Those who try to deny or inhibit it, we’re the racists. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

  40. Sastra says

    Inaji $41 wrote:

    My understanding was that it’s not wildly clueless to ask what nation, as opposed to what tribe, someone is a member of; is that incorrect?

    No, it’s not incorrect, you got that right! What nation or what people generally works.

    Really? That’s good to know. I would have thought that asking a Native American/ American Indian what “nation” they belonged to would insult them because it seems to imply that they’re not American citizens — not “real” ones, that is. Goes to show that my ‘instincts’ shouldn’t be my authority in areas in which I know very little.

  41. Trebuchet says

    <blockquote cite=""….who Sequoyah was.</blockquote cite=""
    I know! I know! He lives in California, and is made of wood!

  42. says

    Sastra:

    I would have thought that asking a Native American/ American Indian what “nation” they belonged to would insult them because it seems to imply that they’re not American citizens — not “real” ones, that is.

    No. U.S. Tribes are moving more and more into using Nation. It was used long ago, when Americans were busy trying to kill all the Indians. The issue of sovereignty is complex, and still debated, but the idea is that an Indian Nation should be sovereign, allowed to govern themselves.

  43. says

    You know, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if some members of the Cherokee of Lawrence County were certifiably and demonstrably of Jewish descent, so he might not be wrong about that.

    According to Joseph Smith’s weirdo book *all* the Indians are descendants of the 12 tribes.

  44. says

    Humptulips and Stillaguamish! Tribal names close to my pacific-northwest heart. The Stillaguamish river is running high and fast right now; I crossed it four times yesterday.

  45. The Mellow Monkey says

    Sastra @ 45

    I would have thought that asking a Native American/ American Indian what “nation” they belonged to would insult them because it seems to imply that they’re not American citizens — not “real” ones, that is.

    When there’s a long history of attempts to erase your Nation from the world–through genocide, cultural destruction, and just simply legal bullshit–getting it acknowledged is important. There are a lot of colonial issues at play here. It’s a very different situation from, say, asking someone, “No, where are you really from?” because of the racist assumption they’re an immigrant/not a “real” citizen.

  46. jimthefrog says

    My impression of the “oriental” business on this side of the pond (UK) is that it’s not considered particularly offensive, it isn’t used a great deal these days and would likely be seen as somewhat old-fashioned. Where it is used, it’s usually to distinguish East Asian from South Asian and it’s almost always used adjectivally (I would certainly feel rather squeamish if I heard someone refer to a group of people as “Orientals”, while I wouldn’t if someone were to refer to “Oriental people”).
    Mind you, that’s not uncommon, given that the adjective/noun split is a fairly common feature of progessive/sensitive language.

    The complement to that is that “Asian” is typically used to refer specifically to South Asian people.

  47. jimthefrog says

    That should read “it’s not considered particularly offensive, but it isn’t used a great deal these days”

  48. Pen says

    In Britain, people of Chinese or Japanese descent will generally identify as “oriental”. I don’t think I’ve ever explictly asked if they find that term acceptable, but I’ve certainly never seen any reason to think that they don’t.

    My feeling is that they are quite likely to self-identify by specific country of origin. But since we all accept the term Asian for people from the Indian sub-continent (in the UK, I mean), we’re left with a bit of a gap when we want to talk about other Asians collectively. As far as I know, none of the work around solutions cause offense.

    On the American Indian thing – if you have to make up a tribe to belong to, I think you’ve got a problem. Can you imagine someone telling you about their European ancestry and when you ask where their ancestors are from they say ‘Justfortitupstadt in Imagistavia. Have you heard of it, it’s in the Eastern Bloc?’

  49. says

    My understanding of the common source of Cherokee Grandmother syndrome is that this was grandmother’s explanation for skin a shade or two too dark for a typical WASP. Grandmother was perfectly aware that her ancestry was Black, but the next generation didn’t, often. I have some sympathy for those stories.

  50. says

    Pen:

    On the American Indian thing – if you have to make up a tribe to belong to, I think you’ve got a problem.

    It’s not an Indian thing. It’s a non-Indians pretending to be Cherokee thing, and the Cherokee Nation is comprised of actual people – Indian people.

  51. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    Yeah, that’s kinda the rub. There are actual Cherokee people running around. They aren’t some ancient long-gone people.

    But then, a lot of Americans have this idea that they – along with all the others – disappeared into the mist ca. 1890.

  52. A. Noyd says

    Sastra (#44)

    I keep running into this Noble Savage crap in the Spiritual crowd and they’re usually surprised when I tell them I think it’s racist.

    Oh, oh, but it’s so beautiful and enviable, how could it be racist!? I mean, if we dehumanize people in a superficially positive way, that’s a good thing, right? *retch*

    Sadly, I grew up around a lot of those same types. My mother took us to a retreat center several times a year that did workshops on finding your “totem animal” and had a teepee you could stay in and did drumming circles and stuck dream catchers everywhere. It wasn’t all pseudo-Indian themed, though. There were cabins with names like “Bag End” and pagan holiday celebrations, like Lammas and May Day, and Wiccan workshops and all sorts of stuff. But the pseudo-Indian crap heavily figured into it exactly because of all the one-with-nature stereotypes you mentioned.

  53. says

    Chiming in on the “Asian” derail, as an Australian I’m always surprised when someone described as Asian turns out to be Indian. We use “Indian” for the subcontinent (sorry Pakistan, Bangladesh, you’re rolled in). Asian is the generic term for the “oriental” peoples, but we don’t use “oriental”. It’s quaintly archaic AFAIK. And “south east Asian” are the peoples close to the north west of us.

  54. cicely says

    Then they had to ruin it with a slam at Elizabeth Warren.

    Elizabeth Warren has many good qualities.
     
    However.
    Unless I have misunderstood, or misremember—and I rely on others (Inaji?) to correct me, if so—the problem is that she attempted to make political capital with her anecdotal Indian ancestry; when called on—by, among others, actual Cherokees—to substantiate it, she has refused to 1) admit possible error (or even excess of enthusiasm), 2) suggest that she regrets any doing emotional injury to the people whose cultural identity she usurped, or 3) substantiate the claim.
     
    From here:
    “Senator Elizabeth Warren, the congresswoman from Massachusetts, has been frequently grilled about her alleged Cherokee heritage. In a TV interview, she was asked about the photos of a great, great, great grandmother Warren claims to be a descendant of. “I have plenty of pictures,” she said to the reporter. “They’re not for you.” Warren has frequently refused to unearth the alleged photos, which she says is evidence of her indigenous lineage.”
     
    …which looks suspiciously like Acting In Bad Faith.
    -

  55. says

    Anyone else getting an Apache Tracker vibe?

    Well, I had never heard of that before, but it does seem to have some similarities. “ancient Indian magics” seems to be the kind of thing groups would be interested in.

    Also, thanks for linking to that wiki, I had not heard of Welcome to Night Vale before and it seems to be rather interesting. As my as I enjoy history podcasts I have really, really been stuck in a history rut as of late and need to get out of it.

  56. RobertL says

    Alethea – exactly. Even to the point where some of us Aussies are surprised at people from the Indian subcontinent being referred to as Asian. For us, “Asian” overwhelmingly means East Asian. Chinese and Vietnamese, because that’s where our Asian immigrants come from and Chinese (again) and Japanese, because that’s where our Asian tourists come from.

  57. Derek Vandivere says

    @62 / Cicily: I suspect it was more refusing to play along with the standard Fox ploy of repeating a story often enough that a candidate is sucked into an energy-depleting sideshow. My perception is that it’s a family story that she’s mentioned, not that she’s using it to seem more ‘authentic’ or to gain political capital.

    @55 / Inaji: Although to be a member of the Cherokee nation does require that you have at least one ancestor listed on a specific census taken in Oklahoma around the beginning of the 20th century. There was already quite a bit of mixing in the Southeast before the Trail of Tears, and I’d be very surprised if a census that took ten years to complete was even 90% accurate. So, I expect that there’s quite a lot of people who are authentically descended from Cherokees who aren’t eligible for membership in the Cherokee nation.

    Of course, there’s also apocryphal stories in almost every family, including mine – although I think that was mainly my ancestors just teasing my 4 x great grandma in Utah. And of course there are lots of people making fake claims. But it’s not nearly as black and white (heh) as ‘fake Cherokee, real Cherokee,’ I think.

  58. dorkness says

    @54, berylmaclachlan
    There are whole communities that have done that:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon#Similar_groups
    Some unrecognized groups might even be legitimately descended from Native people.
    In Canada the Métis are recognized as an Aboriginal people. But AFAIK they’re not claiming to be members of an Indian nation, or to be an Indian nation.

  59. Pen says

    Inaji:

    It’s not an Indian thing. It’s a non-Indians pretending to be Cherokee thing, and the Cherokee Nation is comprised of actual people – Indian people.

    I don’t know how you managed to misunderstand me, but here, I’ve fixed it:

    On the American Indian thing Regarding the subject of the post – if you have to make up a tribe to belong to, I think you’ve got a problem.

  60. dianne says

    Full disclosure: I do have verifiable Northern Mexican American Indian ancestry. Thanks to at least two cultural genocides, I don’t know tribe or have any cultural connection at all. What I do know is that that part of the family is extraordinarily poor, had their possessions confiscated, and came damn near to being deported (to Mexico due to intermarriage with Hispanics–another long story and another successful act of cultural genocide). So here’s my question: Why is everyone so keen on claiming connection with a group of people with no influence, no money, and continued active prejudice against them? If I were going to invent a claim, I’d want to be Seminole. At least there you’ve got a chance of getting some money out of the Hard Rock Cafe chain. What can you get for claiming to be Cherokee except the right to live in Oklahoma? And are the wannabe Cherokees doing anything to help the actual Cherokees? You know, the people living in a wasteland, mostly in poverty?

  61. birgerjohansson says

    All of this has been treated in The Simpsons. And in Family Guy.

    I especially loved The Fonz as Peter’s spirit guide.

    “Jospeh Smith was called a prophet, Dum dum dum dum dum”

  62. birgerjohansson says

    If I am descended from the Nephilim*, does that qualify as a tribe?

    *their family owned a yatch, so they did not have to suck up to Utnapishtim/Noah.

  63. dianne says

    If I am descended from the Nephilim*

    I’m picturing the race known as the Nephilim in the RPG Avernum and blinking madly at the thought that you might be related.

  64. chigau (違う) says

    I have an ad right now
    Native American DNA Test
    dnatribes.com
    Mayan? Navajo? Salish? Discover Your Genetic Heritage $140

    I didn’t click it.

  65. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    “I am going to claim membership of an oppressed ethnicity, despite having no actual connection to them”. It’s all very confusing. I wonder if it’s tied up in guilt about what European Immigrants did to American Indians? I’ve heard statements before from liberal-minded “spiritual” White people to the effect of “I hate what my people did to yours; I wish I was one of you instead”. It’s always struck me as vaguely insulting, not to mention futile.

    I remember discussing the horrible things European immigrants did to American Indians in pursuit of their “Manifest Destiny”, and the ongoing racism thereafter, with a woman I met in a pub at Uni. She declared that all White Americans should be “made into Indians, so they can see how it feels”. She didn’t seem to understand that turning all of the oppressing group into the oppressed group would remove the oppressing group, therefore nullifying the point of the lesson.

  66. Sili says

    Hey Giliell, is there a name for the Internet law that every post mocking bad grammar or spelling must have at least one error in it? (;

    The Bierce-Hartman-Skitt-McKean Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation. Sorta.

  67. Sili says

    Why is everyone so keen on claiming connection with a group of people with no influence, no money, and continued active prejudice against them? If I were going to invent a claim, I’d want to be Seminole. At least there you’ve got a chance of getting some money out of the Hard Rock Cafe chain. What can you get for claiming to be Cherokee except the right to live in Oklahoma? And are the wannabe Cherokees doing anything to help the actual Cherokees? You know, the people living in a wasteland, mostly in poverty?

    You’re missing the point. Noöne is trying to claim affiliation with real Indians. The aim to is to connect with the magical, fairytale people who live in harmony with nature and history.

  68. dianne says

    The aim to is to connect with the magical, fairytale people who live in harmony with nature and history.

    Fine. I’ll stop trying to make any sense out of it. I thought maybe they were trying for something relatively sensible like, say, getting scholarships or being able to run casinos legally.

    I can understand how people could want a mythical past full of good people who lived in harmony with nature, before the Evil Ones came. What I can’t understand is how they can persist in believing in its reality.

  69. cicely says

    What I can’t understand is how they can persist in believing in its reality.

    But, hey, isn’t that religion all over?
    -

  70. dianne says

    I wonder if it’s tied up in guilt about what European Immigrants did to American Indians?

    I think it is, but it’s not a direct relationship. I think people may at least sometimes prefer to make a connection to the victims of someone else’s genocide, i.e. Americans love Australian natives and Holocaust survivors but aren’t terribly interested in dealing with their collective guilt over slavery or even, really, over the Indian genocides. Sure, everyone wants to discover a Cherokee great grandmother, but does anyone want to increase funding to the BIA or Indian Health Service? Much less reparations or even a truth and reconciliation committee. Perhaps the ideal Indian tribe for a white US-American is one that has been completely eliminated: that allows us to feel a gentle guilt without actually having to consider dealing with the survivors’ needs.

  71. says

    Dianne:

    I can understand how people could want a mythical past full of good people who lived in harmony with nature, before the Evil Ones came. What I can’t understand is how they can persist in believing in its reality.

    I wonder if even one of these Plastic Shamans know about Cherokee Freedmen, or that Cherokees owned slaves for a considerable period of time.

  72. dianne says

    I doubt it, Inaji. They probably also don’t realize that the Mayan civilization collapsed due to over farming either. Or that the NaDene/Navajo are relatively recent migrants to what is now the southwestern part of the US (i.e. that they could be described as “invaders” as well) or any one of a number of facts about the pre-European migrants to the Americas that don’t fit their stereotype.

  73. says

    Dianne:

    They probably also don’t realize that the Mayan civilization collapsed due to over farming either. Or that the NaDene/Navajo are relatively recent migrants to what is now the southwestern part of the US (i.e. that they could be described as “invaders” as well) or any one of a number of facts about the pre-European migrants to the Americas that don’t fit their stereotype.

    Yep. Which makes the whole “oooh, so spiritual and harmony filled noble savages!” even stupider, because it’s stuffing one nation after another into a tiny box which bears no resemblance to reality, past or present.

  74. tyroneslothrop says

    There are a couple of nice scholarly books on the Cherokee/wannabe issue and on Native American DNA.
    Sturm, Circe.
    2011. Becoming Indian: The Stuggle over the Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century.
    Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research Press.
    TallBear, Kim.
    2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science.
    Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    On the “relatively recent” (whatever that means) migration of the Navajo, the current state of that research can be found in:
    Seymour, Deni J. (ed.)
    2012. From the Land of Ever Winter to the American Southwest: Athapaskan Migrations,
    Mobility, and Ethnogenesis. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
    Needless to say, it’s not nearly as simple as stating that the Navajo or other Southern Athabaskans are “relatively recent” immigrants into the Southwest and certainly problematic to claim they were “invaders.”

    As for the Mayan civilization collapsing, stop reading the trash of Jared Diamond. The following edited volume pokes a number of holes in Diamond’s just-so-stories. Next you’ll be citing the pseudo-scholar Steven Pinker on the decline of violence. Sigh.
    Patricia McAnany and Norman Yoffee. (ed.)
    2010. Questioning Collapse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    The classic work on the stereotypes about “Indians” is, in many ways, still:

    Berkhofer, Robert.
    1979. The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present. New York: Vintage.

  75. dianne says

    Ok. The classic period ended, there was serious depopulation, and a number of cities disappeared. But that doesn’t constitute a “collapse”. Interestingly, the paper you reference does not appear to agree with your blanket statement: “Like many others, I am becoming
    persuaded that drought was a major factor in the collapse in some areas (e.g.,
    southern Campeche and Quintana Roo; see Gunn et al. 1995; Siemens et al. 2002;
    Vargas Pacheco 2002), but I doubt that the effects of drought should be generalized
    to the entire Maya lowlands (e.g., the Pasion and Petexbatun regions).” (page 348, para 2). So the authors really are saying that there may be other factors involved, but they do not deny that there was a major change in lifestyle and loss of cities and cultural cohesiveness.

  76. tyroneslothrop says

    Also, Na-Dene was the name of a large language family. The Na was from Haida. Since the work of Edward Vajda on the Dené–Yeniseian connection as well as other work on the language family it seems likely that Haida is not a part of the Dene language family (this is true regardless of what becomes of the Dené–Yeniseian hypothesis) and hence many have dropped the Na. Navajo or Diné bizaad is a Southern Athabaskan language (or an Apachean language). Keren Rice, in From the Land of the Ever Winter, outlines the basic contours of the Athabaskan language family.

    I think too that many Navajos would find offensive the implication that they are “invaders.” They would not be surprised about its use, since their supposed status as “invaders” was often given as a reason for the expropriation of their lands. But then the use of such sloppy terminology as “invaders” and “collapse” is often indicative of other things going on.

    For a useful introduction to Navajo historiography see:
    Denetdale, Jennifer Nez.
    2007. Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita. Tucson:
    Arizona UP.

  77. says

    I’ll just leave this here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnetou

    And he has blue eyes
    I plead guilty to loving the books and the movies as a child. Actually, my totally liberal and unbiased family presented the stories as “respectful”. Sure, the Indians aren’t the brute savages who have to be shot in masses at first sight, and yes, the books are very sympathetic to the Indians, the injustices and crimes commited against them and the destruction and expropriation of their lands, but hell there’s a noble savage image if there ever was one

  78. dianne says

    Giliell, Karl May wrote during the 19th century when there was an active genocide against American Indians going on and being justified by the claim that they were brute savages. The phrase “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” was meant literally and it was meant as an enticement to commit genocide. Against that background, yeah, May’s books were pretty darned liberal and respectful.

  79. says

    dianne
    No argument there. But I didn’t grow up during the 19th century (although certain mornings I feel like it). Towards the end of the 20th century the books (and especially the movies) should have been seen for what they are: Noble savage tropes, played by white actors.
    Don’t get me even started on the Middle East series with Hadshi Halef Omar bin Hadshi Abdul Abbas bin Hadschi I’ve forgotten the rest.
    Although the stereotypical English explorer was great fun…

  80. Louis says

    On the Asians/Orientals UK-speak derail:

    “Asian” is very often used in my experience to mean “with recognisable Asian heritage” and it’s vague enough it could be anywhere in Asia. Although, because of the various uses of the word by people with heritage from India/Bangladesh/Pakistan/Sri Lanka etc in the UK, it’s almost (but not quite) synonymous with people who have heritage from those areas. “Oriental” is a bit archaic and borders on the iffy. I’d avoid it like the plague. Context won’t modify it much. It’s just….old. A little bit redolent of Opium Wars and days of Yore. It’s not a (pretty much) full on racial slur like it is in the USA, but it’s likely to get you an odd look or a sigh unlike other words I could mention (which would result in a thoroughly deserved slap). Other people’s mileage my vary, but, well see below.

    Asking friends with Asian heritage* if they like to be referred to as “Asian” might get you a positive answer or a kicking. The term “British Asian” and/or “Asian” has some serious respect and pride within the communities of people with Asian heritage in the UK, so people may well identify using those monikers. I’d just not bother using them for the simple reason that communities with various Asian heritages are so well established in the UK it seems positively UKIPish to even bother to use those identifiers unless directed to. The national cuisine is (practically) curry for fuck’s sake!

    It’s one of those slightly subtle situations in which it matters quite a lot how, to who, and in what context, the words are being used. Using the “Asian”/”British Asian” moniker about my 23 year old sister in law would result in her giving you a funny look. Of course she’s Asian/British Asian! The area of London she grew up in had, during her school years, lots of people of Asian heritage. Her friends are almost exclusively of one tiny subset of people with Asian heritage.

    The same area when my wife lived there and went to school was almost entirely without people of Asian heritage. Use the term “Asian”/”British Asian” about my wife and you’ll get an entirely different funny look. One probably followed by “And just what the fuck has that got to do with anything?”. Not that my wife is any less or more “Asian” or grew up in a different family than my sister in law, just that the majority of my wife’s childhood was spent with people that didn’t have Asian heritage, and my sister in law’s was spent with people who did.

    It’s an area where my advice would be “Be Careful, White Man!”! You’re not likely to cause offence or make someone feel discriminated against (unless you’re a thudding clod), but equally, you’re probably going to be dealing with someone who, if a little older than their 20s, will simply not understand why it’s a distinction you think needs making at all. And if you’re using it in a sentence that runs roughly “You Asians…” then you’re clearly a UKIP voter and the only cure for being that fucking stupid is death.

    Louis

    *I’ve got family (and in laws) with various types of Asian heritage and calling them “Asian” would be….weird. My parents in law (the generation on that side of the family that emigrated to the UK) would definitely identify as both Asian and British (and would, most importantly, cheer India in the cricket), but I think the distinction is a bit invidious. Failing to recognise their heritage would be daft, overemphasising it as if it makes them “Less British” would be discriminatory.

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