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.