Last year on Xanga I wrote a post called “I am Tsalagi”, which was about my Cherokee heritage. I signed online today and found that I had received a comment on it and it is a post I wrote almost a year ago. This is the comment I received:
“Is your family on the Dawes roll? Are you a registered with the Nation? If you aren’t you are what we call a wannabe.”
The username is one I’ve never seen before. It seems they just registered today and the only purpose of them registering was to leave that comment on my post.
I do know how some Natives feel about people who claim to be Native, but have no proof. To them, those who claim to be Native, but have no proof are wannabes. No matter what they person may say, they are wannabes. Your stories, the family history you know means nothing unless you have the papers to back it up.
My family wouldn’t be on the Dawes rolls. My family is from North Carolina and they lived on the Cherokee reservation there. They have a whole different set of rolls for the Eastern band of Cherokee. So far, I haven’t found my family’s last name on the rolls for the Eastern band. But they didn’t have that last name on the reservation. When they left the reservation is when they took Walstrum as their last name. My grandmother lived on the reservation until she was 5 and then they moved to Pennsylvania.
My great-grandfather doesn’t even show up on the US census until 1930, which would have been about 4 years after they left the reservation and moved to Pennsylvania. The same goes for his sister that left the reservation too.
I don’t have any papers proving what I am. But it is something that is out of my control. My family, for whatever reason, chose to leave the reservation and apparently chose to leave their Cherokee heritage behind as well. In doing this, they apparently either left or maybe even destroyed whatever papers they had proving that they were Cherokee.
I know of a woman who is Native and is a registered member of her tribe. She has cousins that live in Pennsylvania, but who will never be able to register as members of their tribe. Why? Because their father destroyed his papers proving he was Indian.
It has always been my belief that there are a lot more Native Americans than people think. It’s just for whatever reason, a lot of these people don’t have the papers proving what they are and most likely it is due to decisions their family made.
I read once a Cherokee man say that if your family decided to leave the reservation and pretend to be white, then you’re no longer Indian. You’re family gave it up and that is no longer part of you. People can pretend to be something they are not, but being Indian, Irish, Jewish, whatever they may be, will always be part of them. No matter how they try to hide it, it will always be part of who they are.
Due to decisions my family made, I will be considered a wannabe unless I find proof. I am not mad at my family for this, as I am sure they had good reasons for leaving and doing what they did. I am sure they never thought “Well, if we do this, future generations of our family will never be able to register as Cherokee. If we left all of our proof behind, they will be outcasts and wannabes.” I’m sure the only thoughts that were on their mind was what was best for their family and how they can protect them and make sure they had a good life.
What I am mad about is that people put so much importance in what papers say, they put so much importance in proving what you are instead of being what you are. Like I said before, I know there are people who pretend to be Indian. It’s not right. It’s wrong pretending to be something you’re not. But not everyone is pretending. Just because they don’t have proof doesn’t make them a wannabe.
Whether I can find proof or not, I will always be Cherokee. It’s part of who I am and nothing can change that.