In the time since I discovered my one drop
, I have been involved in some conversations with people where the subject of tribal registration
has come up. Registering, for me, will be a complex process, because of my atypical family history
. An unknown father and a mother who was, herself, adopted
, adopted back in a time where records were less formal, is going to make proving my Cherokee
blood difficult at best, especially since there are no records, and, well, Mom isn't available to answer questions.
But the part that gets me, that part that makes me want to rip people's heads off and shit down their necks, is when they say, "well, yeah, you better grab that free money!"
Grab that free money, you, that's the whole motive. Forget pride in having ancestry here that didn't commit genocide or rape the land, forget the aching void in my life that I want to fill. Forget my roots. Just grab that free money, the pittance offered by a government that made treaties, broke them as fast, put my new-found people in concentration camps and a forced march cross-country to land that was offered because no one else wanted it, land that was often taken away as soon as any economic value appeared.
Forget my search for roots. In large part, the people who make these asinine remarks are people who have never lived more than 50 miles from where they were born, people who can't talk about a person they know without identifying what family they belong to. I grew up in a family that loved me, but it was not my family. I was taken in, but there will always be, underneath, that twinge of rejection -- probably one of the reasons why I have found in myself an almost irritating need to be accepted without strings. The people who think I'm in it for the money have a home, a place where, in the words of Robert Frost, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
I've never had a home like that. Now that I have, at last, begun to find out where I belong and who I really am, to have that quest denigrated as an attempt to get something for nothing is an insult, a cut to the heart that these people are so ignorant of they don't comprehend my sudden anger.
Cash payments to Indians is not something for nothing, to begin with. It is a dime on the C-note for the lands that were claimed, for the treaties that were broken, for the racial and cultural genocide that was committed. The Trail of Tears was a death march comparable to Bataan, but perpetrated on civilians. The people who think I want cash are the same people who deride the Indian casinos that dot the Minnesota landscape. They chuckle whan they find a tiny legal irregularity in the deed for one of the larger ones. "Serves them right. We aughta get some of that too."
I am primarily of European ancestry. I have no idea, as I have said, who my father is, so one-half of my family history will be an eternal mystery to me. People who proudly trace their ancestry to Ellis Island should understand what it means to belong to a people, a tribe, a clan. "I'm half German, 1/8 Norwegian, 1/4 Swedish, 1/16 Portugese, 1/32 Swiss, and 1/32 Lichtensteinian," they say. They should be able to have some understanding when I say, "I'm a bastard of mixed ancestry. I am Cherokee."