Indigeneity – It Isn’t (and Never Was) a Choice

It isn’t (and never was) a choice …

I hear it all the time, how I don’t “look indigenous”. The doubters can’t find the “polite” words to explain to me what they mean but I get it. I don’t fit their stereotype and that is on purpose.

Because the elders saw this happening, they told us that bridges would be built by the fair-skinned. That we, who could so easily hide, wouldn’t. They knew we would be white enough for the comfort of the non-Indigenous, getting into rooms that our darker family cannot yet enter. And there, we would deliver hard truths, so that soon our brothers and sisters will be able to.

But even if it is destiny, it is not a choice. I repeat, being indigenous is not a choice.

Holding my mother’s hand as store clerks rolled eyes, as other customers whispered behind her back, left me no choice except to choose to hang on tighter to the hand of the women who was everything to me.

I shook my head in awe and sheer frustration as she maintained her politeness in the face of rudeness and yes, I understood her fear when I chose to dance pow wow, announcing LOUDLY to the world who we were.

It was never a choice but my pride in my heritage, in my mom and the great-aunt who was my gramma, IS a choice.

So, to those out there who think they can now claim indigeneity thanks to the heritage of some distant relative, sit down and be quiet. You have a lot to learn before you speak, humility being one of those things. You will meet and must find many teachers before you can make your claims and they will all have lessons for you, even the fair ones.

And to the non-indigenous who have chosen to walk with us, please … get better at believing when we say who we are. If you doubt, ask the indigenous you know. They will know what to ask, what to say, what they need to see from the one who proclaims indigeneity.

And if you don’t know any indigenous, well then, now you know what you must do first.

The journey continues …

I love you!