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On Indigenous Topics

Is there any resources you can recommend for learning about Native American Tribes?

Vibe Song:

So it’s been a minute since I wrote something for this blog. I’ve actually started and stopped a few posts. One about how I view my depression and another about what I call perception deception. Both of those posts felt like I was writing for an audience rather processing something I’ve been dealing with. Which is the original intention of this blog.

Lately, I’ve been asked by a few people for recommended resources about Native Americans. As a person who is going through a reconnection journey, I often feel ill equipped to recommend anything. Have I deconstructed enough of my colonial mindset to really understand the resources I’m reading? Have I learned enough to see the dog whistles in the literature I’m reading? Am I actually seeing my heritage realistically and not putting it on a pedestal of unrealistic expectations? I don’t know if I can answer these questions honestly.

I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not an imposter, I am like a child learning their culture. It’s helpful to view myself as a child in this regard because I am able to give myself patience when I trip. I’ve done quite a bit of research since I started my journey just over 2 years ago, which does not feel like a lot of time. And in that time I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp of quite a few topics that warrant further research.

A list of those topics, in no particular order, include:

  • The Land Trust System
  • History of the Reservation System
  • Boarding/Residential Schools
  • Treaties and how tribal nations were manipulated to sign them
  • Land Back
  • Blood Quantum vs Lineal Descent
  • Indian vs Native American vs Native vs Indigenous
  • Border Towns
  • The Homestead Act and how it affected reservations
  • Mixed Indigenous Identities and their erasure
  • Reverse One Drop Rule
  • The History of Sign Language
  • How Tribal Nations got their names and why they are different from what they call themselves

A few of these topics are US centric but have analogs in other countries. A few of these topics I have many opinions on. But nearly all of them I would struggle to feel confident to speak with any authority other than my personal perspective. Which makes sense. How could I speak from any other perspective other than my own? I’m not a scholar on these topics. I researched these for my personal satisfaction to understand my place in the world.

However, there have been a few times when I mention that I have indigenous heritage and I’m on a path of reconnection and I’m immediately tokenized. These have all been workplace situations and the response is basically asking me to tell what they should do to support. Or someone is speaking on an indigenous topic and I have to step in to correct misinformation and I’m put in a place of being a teacher. This is not a comfortable place for me to be in because there is an expectation that my information is accurate and well researched.

I don’t honestly know what the correct path forward is on this. My response is to downplay my knowledge and to ask them to do research themselves. Or have them look into their local tribal nations and see if they have a land tax and pay it. It’s possible that is a good enough response but I feel like I should be a PHD level scholar on indigenous topics before I open my mouth. I must be prepared to do conversational battle with uninformed people and lead them to the promised land of Truth™.

For anyone who knows me and has asked similar questions, I don’t view those interactions the same as I just described. Friends and acquaintances that I’ve interacted with and have discussed indigenous topics have been much more realistic in expectations. I’m able to be clear that I’m still reconnecting and have not deep dived on any specific topic because there are so many and they are all interconnected. And I feel that clarification is heard, understood, and colors the information and perspective I give. I am a 3rd grader telling a kindergartner the rules of English. Yes I may have more information, but it pales in comparison to what I have left to learn.

Honestly, learning about indigenous topics is fucking difficult. You have to understand the possible motives of the author could be to dissect how accurate the information is. Unfortunately, some people with the best information on a specific topic aren’t indigenous authors. There is no simple criteria for determining the authenticity of the information being provided. It feels like every resource requires scrutiny, which feels valid.

That scrutiny is the main reason why it is hard to recommend resources to anyone that asks. If I recommend a book, I don’t know what kind of mindset you’re going to approach the book with. Will you become defensive when the book talks about the horrors of white settlers and the US Government? Will you blindly believe what is written? Will you read between the lines and understand the subtext of what is being talked about? How will you approach me after reading through the material? So many questions that I, again, don’t have the answers to.

I’m happy you want to learn, especially since the information taught in schools woefully misrepresents Indigenous cultures. But I’d rather have a conversation about these topics to prep you mentally before diving into these topics by yourself. I think it is helpful to retrain the historical lens we’re used to using and to see history from a different perspective.


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