Indian Bones

I can’t officially claim to be Native American. I have no tribal membership and people see “white” when they look at me. Yet I grew up believing that I had “indian bones” under my white skin. Looking at my father you can see his Native American blood, but he doesn’t have the official proof for tribal membership and perhaps he is too mixed…. both Cherokee and Catawba… My white skin represents my nordic and celtic heritages. In my chestnut hair I see the blending of my mother’s fiery red and my father’s jet black. I was born with jet black hair but it fell out. Perhaps my mother’s genes wouldn’t be ignored which resulted in the compromise.

So “indian bones” was the way my child mind formed my identity from my multi-ethnic background. It represents the invisible nature of my Native American identity but also the depth of my connection to it. It sounds strange coming from someone raised very suburban white. But I was always an outsider in my world. When I was first taken to the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina and began to learn about that culture and history, I felt an immediate connection to it. I found myself thinking that white people were bad and I vowed to learn the old ways of living in harmony with nature. As I grew up my heartfelt pledge became just the fantasy of a child. Whenever I hear the drums of the pow-wow, tears gather in my eyes and strangle my throat as I try to hide them. I think who am I to have such strong feelings for cultures I hardly know.

Although it caused me a great deal of pain as I grew up, I now understand that my outsider nature… never truly fitting in anywhere… is a gift that allows me to see beyond the accepted views… the paradigms that most people live in. In fact I tend to seek out experiences that transform my worldview and free me from the limitations of culture and language.

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  1. I will be in your country this coming year, as consulting minister and then interim at Pasadena’s Universalist Church.

    Maybe we can talk. Texas Cherokee and Irish myself.

    Cherokee’s had blonds when the Spanish first saw them, and most Cherokee have various Irish last names, and Irish features and African features as well. Cherokee aren’t a tribe they are a Nation in Oklahoma, and bands in Carolina, Arkansas, California, Texas, Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia, and even a little band in Florida.

    Don’t know the Catawba…

  2. Sounds like you are what is called a “lost blood seeking home.”

    I will be in your country off and on this year as consulting minister and then interim at Troop in Pasadena. Maybe we can talk, I am Texas Cherokee.

  3. My father was born in the Appalachain mountains in Tennessee… Scotch-Irish/Native American blend… I’ve been to the house which is still in the family and met family still living in the mountains… (Actually my grandfather’s family was one of the inspirations for the based-on-a-true-story-novel (and TV series) “Christy”… they were of course made to seem far more backward than they actually were… my great-grandfather was a business man, owning a mill, the general store and the post office… Little Burl was the character named after my grandfather.) So anyway, it was the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina that I visited as a child.

    I am familiar with the use of tribe vs. nation. In this case I was referring to the artificial tribal membership process created and recognized by the Federal government. (The effects of recognition by the Federal Government on Native American nations… encouraging the loss of culture and language… is another conversation.)

    Looking foward to seeing you at Throop, Clyde. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to attend a service on a Sunday – if I’m not working!

  4. I love this piece about Indian bones. I’m part choctaw and the rest a mish mash of Euro-American…but I too feel the draw of my soul to the land and the culture. 🙂

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