My grandmother was an Indian.
My mother told me this years ago, while I was growing up. I never doubted her and the thought that there was this alternate bloodline coursing through my veins, made me curious as anything. You can imagine how frustrating it was to learn that the very thing supposedly unique about my ancestry, happened and still happens to be a joke of sorts amongst the black community.
Aw, everybody says that they have Indian in the family, mock the disdainful. Even worse is the thought of some that being inclusive of admixture in our gene pool, means excluding blackness. To be African-American or black in this country is to be a myriad of colors and bloodlines. I didn’t realize this fact as a child; I sincerely thought that having an Indian or Native American grandparent was a rare trait, indeed.
The things we think we know as children…
The fact is that only recently have we been able to make great strides in verifying or dismissing oral traditions via Internet goldmines such as FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, Cyndi’s List, etc. This leads me to my point. Even after concrete evidence of Indian or Native American ancestry has been found, does that make us over?
Overwhelming appreciation is extended to cousin Lisa H., who placed me on the right path of finding my forebears. She had been looking for particular descendants, and I fit the bill. Lisa gifted me with the gift of knowing my ancestry. So many of us have benefitted as a result and the words- thank you- seem far too trife to convey our foremost gratitude.
About two years ago, I posted a query on the Afrigeneas African-Native American Forum asking about tribal enrollment practices. There may have been one response, and that was pretty vague. Yesterday, I received notification that someone replied to my query. Just to let you know, when I first discovered my actual connection to the Coharie Tribe, I merely wanted to learn about them. Several different factors caused me to pursue enrollment with the Tribe. Perhaps not surprising, my attempts at enrollment were ignored. At that time, I believed that I had to be validated by this Tribal Council, receive a Tribal card, then and only then would I be considered Coharie.
The things we think we know as adults…
I haven’t given up on enrollment, but these days I certainly do not feel the need to have any organization, Tribe, or anyone define me.
My blood is my birthright.
Back to the reply I received on Afrigeneas. Gale replied that she’s fully aware of her direct descendancy from the Coharie also. She passionately exclaimed that it’s not right that those with more European admixture are allowed enrollment into the Tribe, while applicants with more African are not. She further stated that tax-funded programs should not be discriminatory. (The Coharie Tribe are recognized by the state of North Carolina and are actively seeking federal recognition.)
As I read Gale’s reply, I remembered that we’d exchanged e-mails previously and that also we’d spoken on the phone. This was when I’d first learned of my Coharie ancestry. Since then, I’ve been able to temper my temper, if you will-and think about the bigger picture. My response to Gale’s recent reply was as follows:
Thanks for responding.
Well, it’s 2010 and unfortunately with respect to this issue, not much has changed.
While to an extent I’d agree on what your stating, I think that we need to weigh the issues:
Does having Coharie Tribe enrollment make us more Indian/Native American?
Does official enrollment equal social acceptance?
How do your immediate family members identify racially? Do they share your interest to become enrolled?
Does the Great Spirit of Indian/Native American culture, line up with your professed Faith?
These are just a few things that I’ve taken into consideration since I’ve first learned of my descendancy.
Honestly, I can say that being accepted by the Coharie Tribe does not rank as important to me as it did a couple of years ago.
My blood is my birthright.
There’s not one thing in this world that can add or subtract from that, not even our beloved Coharie Intra-Tribal Council.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t decline an offer of enrollment. I just will not live in hopes of it.
Even still, I remain in the belief that not only I, but my mother, aunt and uncles, siblings, and cousins are entitled to this recognition. Until it’s received, if it’s never received, even after it’s received, we live.
We live and we’re thankful for ALL who came before us.
Respectfully-this is Jones, My Opinion