A Conversation With Native Americans on Race | Op-Docs

A Conversation With Native Americans on Race | Op-Docs


I’m Apache, but really
that’s the government’s name, because they can’t say “Dził Łigai N’dee.” They will tell me
how awesome they think it is that I’ve decided
to be a part of my culture. And it’s funny to me. It hits me really weird,
and I don’t like it. And I didn’t know why
at first, but it’s because I haven’t decided
to be a part of my culture. I live it every day. I’m more comfortable with
the term “native,” divorced from “Native American.” I know there are people
who use “indigenous.” If there is one term I
do not like to be called, it is “American Indian.” And for me, to be
indigenous is to have an intimate and interconnected
relationship to a homeland. And so that’s really important,
because land is, you know, tied to every aspect
of who we are. Being native in a city is
almost a daily reminder of your people’s
erasure. Of the fact that people don’t even
remember that you’re here and that you exist. But what I did encounter was
just this preconceived notion that all Native
Americans are dead. I’ve had older white
men come up to me and say, “Oh, man, if
this was 40 years ago, I could just do whatever
I wanted to you.” You know, the
cattle outside doing the work and the dog inside
the house, those are property. Those are the black
folks in America. They are property to white men. Then the exotic antelope
on the wall or the exotic — that’s how natives are
perceived in America. We’re treated like animals. They monitor our blood quantum. I mean, besides
dogs and horses, I don’t know of any other animal that they monitor
the blood quantum. The way I explain
it to people is, imagine a pizza with
different slices, and let’s say 32 slices. Of the 32 slices, I’m 28 Apache. That’s my particular
blood quantum. And Native Americans in the
U.S. are the only minority group who have to prove their
nativeness on an Indian card. It’s used to divide native
people against each other, because it can be
used as a way to say, I am more native than you. And I was a part of that, too. I used my 4 fourths to kind of
make myself feel better against other people. The one drop rule, meaning
that one drop of black blood makes you black, that was to
keep as many people oppressed or legitimize their
oppression as possible. But on the other side,
one drop of anything else completely dilutes you
as a native person. So if you’re a
native person, you have the one drop
of something else, then suddenly
you’re less native. So it’s the opposite. Traditionally, within the Apache
society, you go by the mother. And if the mother is recognized
as Apache, she has her clan, the children are
unquestionably Apache. Not in the American
context, not when patriarchy trumps matriarchy. So what does that mean? My sisters are short
1/16 of a degree. What does that mean? Does it mean their
pinkies aren’t Apache? What does that mean? You know, being a
mixed race person is a whole other side
of it, but that’s a very common
experience in our tribe. So it’s not as if we’re
unusual in that way. What is unusual is the
admixture of black. My grandfather actually
doesn’t want people — if he hears that somebody
from the tribe is coming over, he won’t come out of his room. Because he doesn’t want them to
know that he’s that complexion, that he doesn’t — I guess he doesn’t want me
to be affiliated with having African-American blood. But I mean, I say it. It’s not going to
change anything. If it were up to the
American government, natives wouldn’t be around. Because after a certain
time, that blood will dilute. It will go out. And so if there’s no native
peoples to provide benefits, then we’re not obligated to
meet these treaty rights. And if we’re not obligated to
meet these treaty contracts, then the land is available,
the resources are available. And I think that
that essential point about our claim to
sovereignty, our claim to land, our claim to a culture,
our claim to resources is one that gets lost if we
don’t insist upon the fact that we are nations. And we have taken huge
steps to decolonizing, and that proof comes
from people being able to have the opportunities
to speak their language, to be on their ancestral land. But the thing with
decolonization is that it’s an ongoing process,
just like grieving, just like any loss. As much as possible now,
I try to tell people that I have a Native
American name, and maybe it doesn’t
mean anything to you, but it means everything to me. My name, maybe, doesn’t have a
romanticized, Hollywood Indian name, but my name has
more meaning than that. My name means that
my family survived. My family survived disease. My family survived Catholicism. My family survived settler
colonialism, and my family, they survived. I survived. My existence is resistance. Me saying my name
is Skiumtalx, that is resistance in and of itself.

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