I don’t need a DNA test to tell me who my mother is; I know who she was. –A.D.
I tell you that what you know is wrong;
we are not natives, we are whites
more British than the British, in fact
I tell you that your mother
registered white on the census;
she was never half Indian
I tell you that the memories of her chewing
a black gum tree twig, dancing
in circles with my father, laughing
while fry bread sizzles
in an iron skillet
are just country
I tell you that the only record remotely
supporting this identity
is the marriage record saying
It never occurs to me to consider
race was a perception
not an identity
and perception lies
It never occurs to me
that one culture
can completely erase
Yet there it is on paper:
colored = powerless, vulnerable
White = Entitled To Own
There it is on paper:
my native antecedents slipping
off their indian skins, a thin layer
of vanilla ice cream melting
from their chins
In the mid-1800s following the Emancipation Proclamation and during reconstruction in the South, white plantation owners feared a loss of land to freed slaves and Native Americans. As a result, in North Carolina, the State Constitution made changes to label all non-whites as “colored” and designate that “colored” people could neither own land nor marry. Native Americans were encouraged to assimilate. If they could look white and pass for white, they claimed they were whites. It was the only way they could have a chance for a fair life in the new world, but it was also the way that many Native American tribes disappeared from history….including my own.
2 thoughts on “A Thimble-Full of Native American Blood”
The amount of culture lost as a result of this is terrible, its sad. Labeling people colored, just removes color from the world.
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Insightful take away. Thank you.
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