It Doesn't Work Like That

Having a great grandparent, or even a grandparent who was Native does NOT make you Native “NDN”. It makes you 1/8 or 1/4 NDN.

If you are less than 1/4 Native “NDN” then you most likely have very little knowledge of the culture. There are exceptions to this, I will admit. This 1/4 or less category does contain people raised in the culture OR who have reconnected with the culture and do speak the language, but it is rare.

No, having one grandparent, or a further removed ancestor who was “NDN” does not entitle you to enrollment or tribal benefits in any way. Your “NDN” ancestor made a decision, for whatever reason, to marry outside the ethnicity and not keep the culture. There are many intricacies of our cultural customs that you cannot fully understand unless you are raised in a Native “NDN” family.

Be proud of this Native heritage, but do not claim yourself a specific tribe like Cherokee or some crazy nonexistent tribe like Blackfoot without having valid proof.... Also it doesn't give you a free pass to learn our Pow Wow dances because your great grandmother may have been Native.

I love when people come to me, and this has occurred several times, and say they have a parent, or a side of their family that is NDN, but for some circumstances they were never brought up with the culture; death of a parent, hiding the ethnicity, divorce, etc.. Lot of times they ask me about Govt benefits...I will write more on that particular subject later on.

I appreciate when people take the time to ask me, or any other Native person, how to best go about re-connecting with this heritage. It is wonderful and I always go out of my way to help in any way I can. My heart is glad that one more NDN person has not been lost to this big white continent.

What I cannot stand are those individuals who have never really looked into this heritage, never tried to contact a Native Nation or other Natives for insight, and quite frankly, know next to nothing about the culture, but attempt to make this 1/4 or 1/8 “NDN” blood sound reasoning for claiming our culture and directing non-NDNs false information.

No! It does not work like that!

If you have less than 25% NDN heritage and were raised outside the culture, you are NOT Native. You more than fall into the white, black or what have you mixed racial background category OR simply just a generic American of mixed European heritage. I have about 10% or less French blood. I am not telling French they should not be offended any when people place claim to their ethnicity. I am in no way qualified to tell people about French culture, even though my family carries some of the surnames. It is not my place. I was not raised in a French household and do not speak the French language. To French or Caucasian people I am a non-white.

I have my own culture and you have your own culture, too. Please stop justifying your claims into Native “NDN” culture because great granny said she was a “Cherokee” or "Blackfoot". You are non-Native.

P.S. If your parents or other family members refer to the common crazy NDN myth to claim Native American ancestry you are far less “NDN” than you think you are. More probable you are NONE at all.
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2 Responses Sep 22, 2012

I am not completely sure about my "percentage" when it comes to my native american heritage but I have come to love and understand it, yes I wish I could have learned the language but just because i'm only a "percentage" doesn't mean i'm any less of a person who deserves the right to be just as proud of it! And same goes for my mexican side aswell. I am not one of those who go after benefits because others are in more need if i'm not entitled like you said so many aren't out there why try. I rather claim my native heritage because it makes me proud of who I am, oh and btw I have danced in the denver pow wow when I was younger, don't deny people the right to be proud of who they are or your just as bad as "the whites" were.

i get what your saying totally. i'm not very much percentage, but one of my ancestors was a cheif who signed a treaty. me and my mom have some of the physical traits but most just say we're white. & i get that. i kinda didn't want to find out totally about my ancestor because my uncle would find out. he's a druggy deadbeat woman beater, and he just wants to know so he could get benefits, which i hate about him. i don't want benefits at all because i see it as a little bit of an extra slap in the face after the us government took all the land away (as in trying to make them dependant on the government) but i personally claim the heritage because as a kid, thats all i ever had to be proud about, and from a young age i was taught of evils perpetrated by the white race over history in general, and that most of the world harbors a hatred towards the white race. i kinda do myself (just i don't consider myself a racist because i know so many actual racists that make me sick to my stomach to be around) but i am learning the language of my group, and i am thinking that their religion may be the right one for me. great article man :)