Not all Native Americans are leftist political activists.
As is typical of the so-called progressives, people are categories, not individuals. Just the same as White people can span the range from die-hard Redneck gun-owning Trumpers to citified man-bun wearing Marxists, so can Indians, Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Gays and Lesbians. In my world view it is racist and bigoted to expect all people of any one race or religion to feel, act and vote exactly the same.
I prefer to treat and accept people as individuals in their own right, not try to peg them with some sort of group identity.
This just in: Navajos in New Mexico are pissed off with Biden's plan to put a 20 year ban on oil and gas drilling near their lands, from which they would economically benefit.
"It has created a national and international illusion that the only proper way to be an Indian, or to be an Indian at all, is to be an Indian who is a leftist political activist."
I think that project is, if not exactly intentional, at the very least useful. Your typical progressive *wants* to pretend that all "*true* <fill in minority here>" would be on their side, and that any such minority who is not has been somehow bamboozled.
My most conservative relatives (Canadian) are all either First Nations or married into First Nations families. They’d be Trump fans if they lived in the US. I keep trying to tell my very liberal friends this, but I don’t think they can wrap their heads around it.
When I reached, "the periodic obsession with indigenous culture and politics largely depends on the capricious attention and affection of white leftists," I knew I had to read on. This essay made me smile, frown, laugh and come away hoping that Alexie's words reach a large audience.
Such an important perspective! Thank you. Just today, The Seattle Times has three articles relating to local tribes (a woke person recently said we shouldn’t use the word “tribe” anymore, but I can’t remember the preferred alternative, and don’t really care anyway). Anyway, the three articles: front page news about a deteriorating jetty that imperils salmon migration in the Skagit watershed; on page 9, the governor is irked with tribes complaining about the state’s new carbon cap system; and an editorial suggesting that the state and federal governments should intervene in a Nooksack tribal membership dispute that could result in several evictions.
All of these issues involve treaty rights and laws pertaining to tribal governance. I’ll confess that even though I’ve read some actual treaties, and I’ve tried to learn how tribes as “sovereign nations” can fit into our American scheme of things, I truly don’t understand it all. I agree with Alexie that Indians are, “ya know, human.” And therefore they are not one giant Indian mind with just one Indian opinion. But it seems we need to be told that by an actual Indian, and many of us still won’t grasp that important concept. Tribal issues are just plain complex. I’d love to look back on all of this with a few hundred years of hindsight.
The word tribe has multiple definitions as given by time and circumstance. The effort to limit its meaning is doomed, of course, because language doesn't obey us.
"There are people who identify as primarily or only indigenous even though they’ve never lived in a tribal community, don’t have a formal connection with their tribe, and only have one Indian grandparent or even just one Indian great-grandparent. "
In general, I think the standard that you can only claim the people who claim you, or however it is phrased, makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, I wonder what people are supposed to do in situations where they didn't grow up with any tribal connection but are also very obviously not white.
I cannot even get myself to use the BIPOC acronym. What you described as non-monolithic politics and more amongst Indians is also true of the other folks lumped into BIPOC. I have a question unrelated to your essay if you can entertain it. That is, what do you make of the effect of tribal members not being able to own land on the reservations because it's "held in trust" by BLM? Some argue that it's the reason for so much poverty and addiction. Just curious what you think. Thanks.
"We are, ya know, human."
We know. They know too... but apparently do not care that you are anything but a vote for them.
I now remember that the person who said we shouldn’t use tribe for Indians said we should say “nation” instead. That might be OK in some instances, perhaps for federally recognized tribes, but I’m not sure if it would work for other tribes. In any event, I think Indian law is the most complicated aspect of law there is.
Mr Alexie, I’m curious what you think of land acknowledgment statements. In my ear they ring as insulting. Something more meaningful to the non-Indian speaker as a way of trying to cleanse one’s sense of guilt while simultaneously insulting the people you feel guilty about by essentially saying “we took your land, we know we should admire you, but you’re not getting your land back.” It feels like a passive aggressive way of rubbing it in. It rings insincere and pointless if not, as I said, downright insulting. Anyone else have thoughts?