I love being Native American. I love sharing my tribal history and culture with absolutely anyone that will listen. I love educating those that are willing to learn about my people. And I love love love going into elementary schools and sharing our dances with younguns who not only enjoy it but soak in all the knowledge like a sponge.
I adore these things. Now, there are some things I do NOT adore.
As a Native American, as a Lumbee growing up in Hoke County, I was never questioned about my race or culture. It was an automatic idea. People immediately knew what I was whether it was based on my physical appearance, my speech or even my last name. I was never asked about my race until college. In college, at institutions of higher learning, you are faced with a plethora of ignorance at times. Cowboys vs. Indian parties. Girls that dress up as Pocahontas. The whole shebang.
My conversations typically go as such:
“Hi, I’m Leslie.”
“What are you?”
“Well, I’m Native American.”
“Oh really. Wow. How much?”
As Native people we are constantly forced to quantify our blood as proof of our ancestry. I am so torn on these terms. On one side this quantification ensures that the resources that are rightfully ours are rightfully given on the other side we are forced to prove our ancestry and our culture based on a number.
Do you ask white people how white they are?
Do you ask black people how black they are?
Do you ask Asian people how Asian they are?
I think not. Or at least to my knowledge as conversation has never gone as such. But I challenge you to have a conversation with your peers when they ask you this question. Ask them why they immediately asked you that. Ask them how their impression of you would change had you given them a true percentage. Ask them do they question the blood quantum of their white and black questions.
If we do not begin to have these questions we will continue to be a quantified race. While this is a double edged sword, and I see both the pros and cons to this question, I simply question how this makes others unconsciously view my ethnicity.
Am I less Native American if I say that I am only 75%? Do you question my legitimacy when I am less than 100%? Do you believe that one can be ‘full-blooded’?
Oh geez, I can’t wait for the next person to casually say, “Oh wow, how much?”