Ghost Dancer

Dear Allies, Enemies, and Missionaries;

I wanted to thank you for your support, but I’m still waiting to receive it. The color of my skin does not accurately reflect the spirit dancer inside me. Did you know that I was born this color because the Ancestors chose me to be their Ghost Dancer. And, I will no longer dance underground so that you can feel more comfortable.

The years pass me by as teachers turn into professors and the one that looks like me is still absent. Roll call shamed, as my NDN name is always butchered, until one day I finally just stopped using it. Why does the one drop rule apply to my indigenous African kin, but somehow you decided that my blood is tainted if I am not pure. I will not apologize, you don’t get to decide that for me. Those seven days in 4th grade fail to teach those around me about my heritage…so all the following years that I’m asked if I sleep in a Tipi might not seem like aggression to you, but when was the last time I asked you where your Pilgrim Shoes are? Or if you always eat tiger meat?

My culture has been commodified in every way that least reflects the beliefs of my people. The cultural beliefs we once held were silenced in the night, one by one, as our children were abducted from their families and their beds and shipped off to boarding schools, and “nice, deserving” barren European-descended parents. My language systematically stripped and beaten out of the mouths of my uncles and aunties until they also fell silent. Did not pass on the words of empowerment, and those same words no longer seem important to the youth. They attempt to reclaim their heritage by wearing Navajo printed leggings from Urban Outfitters, Desert Sky eyeliner, and hand-drawn eyebrows… while ignoring the problems on the reservation like they were taught to do.

Assimilation is no joke, and you joined in the cacophony of noise that drowns us out on this beautiful land. Believe that you own the land or that some is owed to you. Trust, none of this land nor mountain tops nor water belongs to you. It belongs to the days that come and go, to the trees that ache and the animals we’ve scared away with our big metal boxes flying down the road at 70 miles per hour. We were the caretakers, the believers, we honored the Earth. We would live with you in harmony but you somehow find the knife to stick in our sides and backs no matter which way we turn.

No, we reject your Sunday sermons. Every day is sacred. All life is sacred. The words in the books you read all your life are lies. America is not the land of the free and the brave. It is the land of stolen promises, the land watered and made rich by the blood of my ancestors, the land of swindlers and plunderers… the land of oppression, greed, and genocide.

What does it mean to be an ally or an enemy? I can’t tell the difference between them anymore.

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Paper Genocide

Blood quantum laws, DNA testing, boilerplate tribal constitutions, tribal enrollment committees/ordinances and tribal disenrollment are bound together as a gift from our colonizers. Tribal systems encouraged and embraced extended family, adoptions, civil unions, etc. The closest we have now is lineal descent, but even this is a mockery of our old ways because it allows for a committee or tribal council to have the final say, and often things get held up for years when someone doesn’t like that person or their family. These laws were put in place to oppress both Native Americans and African Americans just after the Emancipation proclamation, so that NAs with African blood were denied freedom and so that AAs with Native blood were denied tribal status. It continues today with tribal disenrollments, a most egregious act of having our own people deny us our legal ethnicity. Damn the claim that this would entitle you to money, the amount of individual tribal members receiving any type of reparations or worthwhile assistance is so small it’s not worth mentioning… No it’s a way to get tribes to continue the colonization and assimilation from within until we are as erased in real life as we are in the American history books.

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Adorn Myself in Native

White-passing Native
Adorned with Turquoise
And a History of
Trauma and Genocide

White-passing Native
Born into a Colonized Life
Taught to Hate My Own Skin
Too Light, Too Political

White-passing Native
Born on the Reservation
Born into the Fire
Land Stolen, Stories Stolen

White-passing Native
Dancing with My People
Ancestors Watching
Freedom Still Denied

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