Measuring our Indian-ness has become a past time that I choose not to participate in. It's steeped in internalized racism and we create different class systems to assign people to. It's done socially and has manifested itself in the political arena. If you are not familiar with it then you must not be Indian.
We separate ourselves according to who practices our traditional ways. Yes, there are those who are living this way.
We separate ourselves according to enrollment. If you are an enrolled member then you are Indian.
We separate ourselves according to blood quantum. This practice of taking 50% from both your biological parents lineage to determine yours gives you a sense of your Native-ness. If you are more then you are better. If you are full blood then you are given a free pass to discriminate against everyone else and look down upon them.
We separate ourselves according to language. If you sound too white then you've given up your right to claim being Indian. You've left the pack. You've turned your back on your culture. Traditional speakers are highly valued and look down upon those who don't.
We separate ourselves according to where we live. If you live in the city then you are an Urban Indian. If you live the reservation then your just, Indian. We don't talk about those who move back and forth cause we're still trying to sort out where they belong. Until then, you claim where you're from and we'll honor that. My goodness, if you are an Urban Indian then you are not Indian enough. Give your enrollment card back.
We separate ourselves according to education. If you left the reservation to get an education. You've essential become one of them. I'm not sure yet, who “them” is but from the sounds of it, it's not very good.
We separate ourselves according to the pain we've experienced as a result of being an Indian. If you've lived a traditional life and experienced the depths of poverty as a result of it then your more Indian. If you've grown up poor then your just poor.
We separate ourselves according to how we dress and look. If you've got long hair and braid them accordingly then that's it....Your Indian. If you wear a ribbon shirt on a daily basis, your a wanna be. If you were traditional clothing, your weird. Those clothes are only brought out for a special occasion, funerals, usually.
We separate ourselves according to our attendance to Pow-wow's. If you go to pow-wows regularly then you must be Indian. If you know the songs you've gone up in your rankings.
We separate ourselves according to your work in the community. If you work in the Indian community and for the community then you're Indian. You are living out one of our values.
We separate ourselves according to our political philosophy and ideology. You've got to believe in the sovereignty of Native communities to be Indian. You better not talk outside of it nor understand that reservations survive because of Government hand outs. You better play stupid when you talk about working collaboratively or in coalition to alleviate poverty. Don't talk about Tribal governments don't work because they are not how leadership was traditionally determined cause you will be chased out of town. You heathen wanna be...
There are many other ways that we separate ourselves as being Indian. I use Native American and Indian interchangeable because they are used commonly as such. What I know is this...I'm an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I'm Sicangu Oyate (Burnt Thigh People). I'll let you figure out where I fit cause I know where I belong and who I am. Do you cause I'm gonna do me everyday! ...XOXO, Nick