What it means to be “of Native Heritage but not Enrolled”, to be an “Ally” and why you will find references to Native American culture on this site
This could be a massively long post, because it’s a complicated subject, but I want to make it short.
As a person who identifies as a Druid, which is a North-Western European Celtic tradition, I am also an American, and thus not just one thing.
This is something I have struggled with for a long time-something many Americans struggle with-Identity.
As someone who has over 40% North Atlantic ancestry, and very pale skin, most people would classify me as “white”. But I don’t identify as white-or rather, not completely. If had to draw myself, I would not use the “flesh” colored crayon, but rather a light brown one. I do not see myself as white. Because I grew up with stories of ancestors with Native blood I have always identified as part “Cherokee”, and growing up STRONGLY identified with Native Americans who were in the news as Activists at the time (Alcatraz and Wounded Knee-a topic for another day), although I now have a much deeper understanding of what that word “Cherokee” was hiding.
In a word-“Melungeon”, and if you’ve never heard that word it means “It’s Complicated” and very much an American sort of thing. Suffice it to say that specifically it refers to a group of people that lived in a small area of TN and later fanned further out into Native territory but were historically, roughly, tri-racial.
What started out somewhere as a black man from Angola marrying a white lower class (probably Scottish or Irish woman) and intermarrying with people of Turkish, Moroccan/Algerian, Bulgarian, Italian, Kazakh, Romani, Ashkenazic Jew, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and other lines, and progressive generations of white or Native women, through the areas inhabited by Tuscarora, Lumbee, Cherokee and Shawnee, my family finally hid out in the backwoods of Missouri and became white. In the last two generations my Melungeons melted into a long line of white farmers from Yorkshire, EN which further back with DNA prove to be Viking. This put my Grandfather and father on the track of the Average White Man. For my Grandfather, not well off, but well off enough to feed his family and survive. My father achieved college, a career in the Military, a 2nd career in management, and a beautiful home. Privilege. White Privilege. But that one drop is still there.
To me, this is the utter definition of what it means to be American. I am white, and I am not white. I am Native, properly named “Cherokee by Heritage” but not enrolled, so therefore not Native. I have a massive love for all things North African, yet I have never been there. I am a child of multiple diasporas.
Now that I more deeply understand that the close ancestors I identify with are not white but Melungeon, and how much that made them pariahs, not only of white communities but also black (because even during slavery blacks had worth where Melungeons did not), and the target of eugenics experiments and even attempts at genocide, I understand why I don’t feel white, and why I never feel like I fit in. We know from Epigenetic research that I likely still carry those traumas in my DNA. It makes so much sense now. Above all else, I am, and Am not. Always.
But identifying as someone of a particular culture does not mean I grew up in it. Sadly the last 2 generations made sure the only culture we had was American Consumerism. I can’t even identify with Melungeons.
So while I “feel” Cherokee, or identify with Mediterranean cultures, I can NOT speak for any of those groups. I can not speak to their feelings, their needs, their experiences or what they “should” do. As someone said, “My god, that sounds like an eggshell-walking nightmare!” Yeah, kinda like that.
All I can do is stand ready as an ally. As an ally, I have had to learn the hard way not to speak. I certainly do not speak FOR Native peoples.
So while you will find me posting videos or writings of people who are Native, anything I post here is done as an Ally, as a child of the Rainbow who got the roll of the pale-skin DNA dice, and someone who will ALWAYS side with Native people.
As a Druid, I need to be very careful to keep a line firmly drawn between being “Of Cherokee and Lumbee Heritage” and speaking from a Druid perspective. I do not wish to be seen as a person standing in a European tradition appropriating Native American culture. I am, properly, an Ally of Mixed American heritage speaking from a North Atlantic Druid perspective.
Even now, I feel that I am and am not all of these things…
Personally, I would strongly suggest that for people who do NOT have Native Heritage, who are either Americans or Europeans NOT get too far into the “Native” thing, and to not post about it. It is difficult enough for a person who is perceived as white with Native heritage to walk that line…Cultural appropriation is a very tricky thing and yes, a massive subject.