Warren Petoskey in Native Condition. Discussion »
A long time ago I quit allowing other people or foreign influences define who I am. This morning I was told I was an "American" because I was born in America. I was reminded that I was forgetting half of who my relatives are being Europeans, but I can say with conviction that I have never been identified as Scot or Irish.
Warren Petoskey - Odawa
So I wonder why when I attempt to affirm my personal convictions regarding who I am why there are those influences foreign and domesticated, who decide for me regardless of my continuing affirmation, calling me "American."
I share with all my blood bought relatives that if you have one drop of Indian blood you have a right to be called "Indian."
I share that in 1924 my grandfather was made a US citizen without his permission. He was forty years of age and a survivor of Carlisle Industrial School. He is Waganakising Odawa and my great grandmother on my mother's side is Lakotah.
I am American in the sense that I have to pay taxes to exist in my occupied country where once my people roamed free. I am forced to carry identification in the event I am challenged by a police officer and have to prove my existence. I have to carry a special identity to cross over into the Grandmother Country and return and pay for that. It is called freedom by Americans, but I do not call it that.
I am identified or misidentified by blood quantum. Do I have a right to declare my loyalty to my people and determine my nation and racial consciousness?
Once again, I adamantly declare, "I am not American! I am Waganakising Odawa and Minneconjou Lakotah!"
My sense of nationality does not come from the fact I was born in America. America was created on the land of my ancestors.
Because I declare I am Native to this continent we call "Turtle Island" and not Native American or American Indian, and carry some of the knowledge of what it means to be Indigenous, does that make me and my people novelties to be displayed on college banners and used to sell t-shirts? Am I still to be identified as a "red, bloodthirsty, godless, pagan savage?" Is my life story as sacred as any other and to be respected?
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Warren Petoskey is a tribal citizen of the Little Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, based in Harbor Springs, Michigan. He authored "Dancing My Dream," an autobiographic book that depicts overcoming challenges he faced in modern society. He and his wife, Barb, reside in Gaylord, Michigan.
posted May 26, 2012 7:00 am edt