My Native Roots

I grew up reading the romantic accounts La Niña, La Pinta, and the Santa María crossing the ocean blue in good old fourteen hundred and ninety-two. As such, I looked forward to Columbus Day more than just as a day off from school, but as a day to glory in America and its history.

Frank "Mountain Chief"

The older I get, however, the less Columbus Day seems to be about the man and his journey. For me, at least, this day became more about my connection to the indigenous peoples already living in the Americas upon the discoverer’s arrival.

Statue of Massasoit

My family has always been proud of our American Indian heritage. My ancestor Massasoit was instrumental in the survival of the Plymouth Colony. When one of my ancestors, a French Gypsy, was kicked out of New Amsterdam he was taken in by one of the surrounding Indian tribes.

Amasa and Big Chief White Horse Eagle
My great-grandfather, a cattle rancher in Canada, had a wonderful relationship with and a deep reverence for the Blackfoot and Sioux tribes which he recorded in his journals. Due to his many kindnesses shown to them he was given the honorary title “Chief Tu-cu-sa”. Years after he relocated to Southern California, they would make the effort to come down and visit him.

Amasa, Fanny and Big Chief White Horse Eagle

While the percentage of Indian blood flowing through my veins might not make me eligible for academic scholarships, mineral royalties, or let me run a casino, it is a part of my identity. I’m offended when I fill out a form that asks for my race and then does so in terms of an “exclusive or”. As if I can only be either Caucasian or Native American (or any other combination of racial backgrounds). Why can’t I be both if that’s how I identify myself?

What are your thoughts with regards to Columbus Day? Do you have Native American heritage? If so, what tribe(s)? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

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3 thoughts on “My Native Roots

  1. AustinDM

    I enjoyed the meme “Celebrate Columbus Day this year by going in to someone’s home and tell them you live there now.”

    Columbus day growing up was a day to make hand turkeys or other things before we did them again for thanksgiving.

    I know I also have a modicum of Indian blood running through these veins (among other things) but never felt much of a connection with that part of my heritage, and I felt it even more distant from my time in Minnesota, where anyone who wants to can be a Native American, you just gotta simplify, and smoke peyote.

    Still, more power to those who want to embrace their roots, whether native American, something else, or embrace their by smoking them.

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