Invisible Indians: Mixed-Blood Native Americans Who Are Not Enrolled in Federally Recognized Tribes
By David Arv Bragi
Illustrated with photos and artwork
Published June, 2005
Now FREE TO DOWNLOAD in e-book (.pdf file) format!
“Mvto (thanks) for the fine writing and more importantly the truth. I do believe your book will enlighten many people and help those who have been disenfranchised.” – Eli Grayson, President, California Muscogee (Creek) Association
Are you or a loved one a mixed-blood (multiracial) Native American Indian who lacks sufficient documentation to join the tribe of your ancestors? Are you tired of being labeled a “wannabe” just because you don’t have the right birth certificate on file? Is your tribal heritage more important than a piece of government paper? If so, then the book Invisible Indians was written with you in mind.
Children of Tradition – Children of Silence – Walking the Red Road – Traditional Artisans – Wannabe – Incarcerated Indians – Red Blood – African American Indians – Latin American Indians – Tribes – Parents and Youth Today – Visible Indians – Poems
Invisible Indians is based on original interviews and correspondence, primarily during the years 2001 through 2003, with over forty individuals who, collectively, are descended from over twenty-five North American tribes. None were formally enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, except for three individuals who are so noted in the text.
Although it includes basic background information and some definite opinions about enrollment and blood issues, Invisible Indians is not a formal discussion of those issues. It is about people whose lives have been touched by those issues. Their voices need to be heard and I freely admit that this book is biased in favor of those voices. Hopefully, they will demonstrate that one does not need to carry official papers in one’s pocket in order to be a “real Indian”.
At the same time, it should be recognized that Native Americans have a legitimate need to protect their culture from a dominant society that has a long history of robbing other societies of their wealth, culture and pride. Invisible Indians is not about silk-feathered New Agers shopping for the latest fashion in spiritual enlightenment. Nor is it about opportunists whose only interest in their Native ancestry – if they have one at all – is a casino check from a tribe whose cultural traditions they have no intention of learning. It is about people of indigenous descent who respect their heritage.
Today, as always, that heritage is under threat. Indigenous people in the United States and throughout the world face the loss of land, culture and sovereignty to a global power structure that considers everything, even grandmother’s bones, to be for sale. If we continue to fight among ourselves over enrollment, blood, recognition, casinos, or whatever, then we have already defeated ourselves. To survive the powerful forces that would own us body and soul, we of the First Nations must remain united, sharing all of our voices with all of our relations in a single song of freedom.
Back when the dominant society considered Indians too ignorant to vote, control their own property, or write books about Indians, many unenrolled families thought it prudent to keep quiet about being of mixed blood. Now that tribal membership offers the modern citizen a ticket to social and cultural legitimacy as an authentic Native American, at least one family still thinks it prudent to keep quiet, but for a very different reason.
“I do not wish to be quoted as an unenrolled Indian,” said Tanya (not her real name), who is culturally and socially active in her local area’s Native community. “Most of my friends, Indian and non-Indian, believe I am enrolled because I have the physical characteristics associated with Indian blood. No one questions me. I would not enjoy being looked at differently if others discovered my status. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my standing, or that of my children for that matter.”
Tanya is approximately half Indian from a well-known tribe in the eastern United States. Her indigenous and European ancestors intermarried long before white American concepts of law and race changed tribal membership from a family tradition into a bureaucratic decision. “My cultural identity has, for my entire life, been native. I have always lived as native, my children are raised as native. I am native through and through and a card is not going to change that.
“There are lots of jokes about the white people who dance in their odd outfits. Plus I am friends with some very conservative elders who believe that the traditional dances are just for Indians. While it makes me feel bad when I hear ‘wannabe’ and other such words, I realize my friends don’t understand that because of governmental policies they are, in reality, talking about me.”
David Arv Bragi is the editor of the grail multicultural blog. He has worked as a freelance journalist, copywriter and video producer, and has published articles for SF Gate, San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal, Portable Computing Magazine, Strong Medicine, SafeBee, Coreopsis and other publications. He is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Invisible Indians is his first book.
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Copyright © by David Arv Bragi. All rights reserved.