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The New Indian

The Newest Indians

THE NEWEST INDIANS [continued] by Jack Hitt, The New York Time Magazine, August 21, 2005. More and more people are claiming to have discovered their indigenous ancestries. But what, exactly, makes someone a Native American?

A lot of Indians haven't looked "Indian" for quite a while, especially in the eastern half of the country, where there is a longer history of contact with Europeans. That fact might not have been the source of much anxiety in the past, but in the post-Civil Rights era, the connotations of the word "white" began to shift at the same time that the cultural conversation progressed from the plight of "Negroes" to the civil rights of "blacks." Suddenly "white" acquired a whiff of racism. This association may well account for the rise of more respectable ethnic descriptions like "Irish-American" or "Norwegian-American," terms that neatly leapfrog your identity from Old World to New without any hint of the Civil War in between. According to the work of Ruth Frankenberg and other scholars, some white people associate whiteness with "mayonnaise" and "paleness" and "spiritual emptiness." So whatever is happening in Indian Country is being aggravated by an unexpected ethnic pressure next door: people who could be considered white but who can legitimately (or illegitimately) find an Indian ancestor now prefer to fashion their claim of identity around a different description of self. And in a nation defined by ethnic anxiety, what greater salve is there than to become a member of the one people who have been here all along?

The reaction from lifelong Indians runs the gamut. It is easy to find Native Americans who denounce many of these new Indians as members of the wannabe tribe. But it is also easy to find Indians like Clem Iron Wing, an elder among the Sioux, who sees this flood of new ethnic claims as magnificent, a surge of Indians "trying to come home." Those Indians who ridicule Iron Wing's lax sense of tribal membership have retrofitted the old genocidal system of blood quantum -- measuring racial purity by blood -- into the new standard for real Indianness, a choice rich with paradox. The Native American scholar C. Matthew Snipp has written that the relationship between Native Americans and the agency that issues the C.D.I.B. [Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood] card is "not too different than the relationship that exists for championship collies and the American Kennel Club."

Check out further debate below:

Blood Quantum Does Not Determine Identify: MS WORD DOC

The Newest Indians: MS WORD DOC

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