A while ago someone on Xanga was blogging about the Prime Minister of Canada and what he is doing. He’s violating treaties, trying to do things to take away the rights of the First Nations people in Canada. And actually, what he is doing won’t only affect the First Nations people, but everyone there. The person who blogged about this is First Nations.
When the person was blogging about the rights of First Nations people being taken, they said “If my identity gets taken away, then who I am?”
I understand how the person feels and it got me to thinking about us Natives who aren’t registered, or were raised on a reservation/near Native culture. I can’t speak for every non-registered Native, but I know my experiences. It can be hard to fit in and proof is another issue. If you don’t have paper documents, well either you or your family must be lying. Being light complected doesn’t help you either.
Being a non-registered Native that didn’t grow up around your culture can be tough. My family lost who they were long ago, they lost their identity and in those times, I guess they didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t grow up on a reservation, or near Cherokee culture. Nothing was passed down to my grandmother. It seems when my great-grandfather and his sister moved to Pennsylvania, they lost everything that they were behind. My identity was gone before I was born. At least that is how it felt for a very long time.
I went through an identity crisis in my teens. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know much about my family. I knew I was Cherokee, but I didn’t look like it. Back then, I felt like it didn’t count since I didn’t look Native. I was just a white girl. White trash. Cracker. And many other, worse names that I was called. I grew to hate having white skin because I learned early on that being white was bad. White was evil.
But I got through my identity crisis. I’ve learned about my family, my Cherokee heritage. I am proud to say I am a Cherokee of a mixed heritage. I strongly identify with my Native roots, but Welsh (from my dad’s side), German as well as Cherokee and a Pennsylvania Indian tribe (from my mom’s side) also make up who I am.
I am not a registered Cherokee though. My family changed their name after leaving the reservation and it seems they’ve left no trace of who they were. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find out, if I’ll ever be able to register in my tribe, but I’ll keep trying.
For a while though, I thought that I would never be Indian if I can’t find the document proof. If I can’t register, I can never be who I really am. I thought my identity would forever to lost. I’ve learned that my identity was never lost, it was just waiting for me to find it.
And I just want to say I don’t agree with Canada’s Prime Minister taking away First Nations peoples rights. It’s wrong. It should never happen. But the point I do want to make is, my friend on Xanga wouldn’t lose her identity. She knows what she is and the Prime Minister can’t take that away.
I think identity is more than paper documents, an Indian card or being registered. If you know what you are, who you are, there is your identity. And no matter what happens, that can’t be taken away from you. There were/are times when it has to be hidden, but it is still a part of you and nothing changes that.
For anyone going through an identity crisis, find what you are and through that, you will find out who you are. You’ll learn so much about yourself. Don’t let anyone discourage you and if anyone doesn’t approve of you because you have no proof, still be you. Proof or not, it is still your identity and you have a right to be who you are.