Friday, November 12, 2010


The woman at the Native American Cultural Center wears her Indian proudly. The earrings are turquoise but she is Creek, a member of the Cherokee Nation. You are harder to recognize. One grandfather who headed west two years before the state of disposessed Chippewa formed their own federally recognized tribe. He left everything of his heritage behind. You came later, at a time without tribe, family ties, a Native tongue. You withstand the genealogy exercise, smile, tell what you know, apologize for what you do not. She is kind, she will embrace you, but she wants to know what kind of Indian you are first. This is both old and new. Lineage is important; blood lines define clans, relationships within tribal communities. But blood quantum is new. It was established by the government in 1934, one of many gifts of the Indian Reorganization Act. Its purpose is to define membership, restrict recognition, effect the eventual termination of Federally recognized tribes. It is how you end up being a fraction of. The rules not withstanding, the Creek woman introduces you to the others as if you are one of them. But when you leave the center, by virtue of blood law, you are already disappeared.