Posted by Native Hope on Feb 16, 2017
Living in two worlds
American Indians often discuss the struggle of trying to live and thrive in two worlds: the world of their culture and ancestors and the one of a modern day civilization that is a melting pot of ideals, customs, and beliefs. When Indigenous people embrace their physical beauty and inner uniqueness, the conflict between these two worlds becomes even more apparent.
In a recent article titled "She's So Pale" that was posted on Native Appropriations, Adrienne Keene, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, discusses the stereotypes that so often bombard Native Americans. She explains how so many people “think that Native identity is tied to looking like something off the side of a football helmet...they want to be able to categorize and move on. But Native identity isn’t just a racialized identity. Native identity is political. We are citizens of tribal nations. So we can’t just talk about our identities purely in racial terminology. There’s also a deep power issue here—who has the 'right,' especially as an outsider, to determine someone’s identity for them?”
Adrienne’s pale complexion has caused many to cast judgment and challenge her Native heritage. This fact alone exemplifies the danger of trusting our eyes to be the only valid source of truth. She is determined to make a difference and expose these obvious misconceptions, stating “instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee)....fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.”