Light-skinned Mixed-Blood harassed on IHS clinic staff

But a dense Federal Appeals Court ruling doesn’t seem to get it!

What if it was the NAACP discriminating against a light-skinned Black employee?  In recent years they had one in charge, so maybe they don’t, but one other member of the Court panel might have been swayed by substituting Black for Indian ISTM.  Indians’ and Mixed-Bloods’ issues aren’t taken seriously in America; actually they’re only starting to be taken more seriously in Canada.

Even in the pages of Indian Country Today it seems open season on Mixed-Bloods.  In America you always must be either/or … maybe, like Fr. Andrew Greeley and David Tracy say, it’s that [sectarian] Protestant “dialectical imagination” rather than the Catholic “analogical imagination” for both/and.  The constant questioning and attacking and innuendoes and doubts are a real plague for us, and divide an Indigenous community that really can’t afford it.  U.S. Mixed-Bloods need a place where they can safely be who they are and know themselves to be and faithful to what’s been handed down to them by their forebears.  Yes, I know I look like the oppressor, but I am not, I never have been, and neither have any of my ancestors, and in fact once you go back about a thousand years if not sooner, we all have the same number of individual Indian ancestors, so the (unconstitutional, racist) “Blood Quantum” is a wash, if you really want to go that way!

I note the dissenting Appellate Judge was a woman, the majority two men.  (One with the CV of an Irish Catholic, which only goes to show you that’s not always a guarantee of social justice!  She’s a Clinton appointee; the men were appointed by Bush I and II respectively.)  Is it possible a woman brings necessary extra “experiences,” sensitivities, “biases,” to questions of “hostile workplaces”?  [You GO, Justice Sotomayor!!!]

This isn’t to say “Get over it,” at all.  (This is personal now, obviously.)  I grew up lower-working-class, without much known Irish OR Native culture or connections.  I would like more now, especially the Native because it’s HERE, in North America, where I have spent every moment of my life, and to which I have a special attachment since I’ve been learning more about my Native background.  If I ever am able-bodied again, I’d like to do more, too, even help.  But folks like me, “the 7th generation” perhaps?, need your help, humbly seek your help.  Why can’t it be a mutual give-and-take?  I didn’t grow up “On The Rez;” I grew up urban Poor Overextended “White” Trash, OK?  Sure, I won’t get called lazy by White South Dakota farmer-settlers at first glance, and I’m not proud for not speaking up when I heard that; but they were hosting me for the night, free of charge, and I had no other options at that time in my life … and it was July … you know what I’m talking about there, July in Dakota….  Anyway, WANNABE” STANDS FOR WHITE AND NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN BY EXOGAMY!  (I wanna claim the rights to that expression, but I don’t want to restrict its dissemination, so if you ever meet me, keep that in mind, ’cause I could really use the money….)

In any case, was that poor woman counseling at that clinic because it pays so well?!!  That’s not what I hear.  Probably she could’ve gotten much better pay and benefits elsewhere, even Passing For White, or not: Some Whites have more regard for someone being “part-Indian” than some Indians it seems.  But she stayed there 11 years, helping kids, the next generation, while enduring that racist crap from her own people.  She herself seems to be an elder — Worse yet!  This is the Appeals verdict, including Dissent (PDF).  I wish her lawyers had demanded proof/testimony of the faxing of a copy of her original EEOC complaint by and from the EEOC to the Clinic, supposedly within minutes of her filing it; then if the Clinic couldn’t produce it, nor reasonable cause why not, there might’ve been a question of withheld or destroyed evidence in discovery — very nasty for them, and helpful for her case.  One would wish Ms. Nettle had taken notes of the harrassment she received — names, dates, verbiage used; but good-faith employees aren’t always looking to build a case against someone until it’s too late — management has the built-in advantage: they can fire you, you can’t fire them.  But the male judges don’t see that in questioning her very Indianness they were directly attacking her employment there, because of the legal preference for “Indian” hires; these aren’t run-of-the-mill skin-color disparagement insults, so to speak.  They DO “alter her conditions of employment,” in a very technical sense of the term: presumably her skin color didn’t change much between 1993 and 2004!  It was OK enough to hire her, but not OK to make her feel welcome when she first arrived at least, and for her last 5 years there.  Because her employment was under what I must refer to as a racio/legal preference system, these insults struck directly at her continuing employment there, as well as any future employment anywhere else where they’d ask, What happened at the Clinic?  Maybe their job descriptions should state clearly, Must look like a Hollywood Injun!  “Hostile work environment”?: How about one where you might be fired because of how you look?  Isn’t that what EEOC and civil rights laws are all about?!!!  If not, My God, what!  Even “jokes” pile up after 11 years, especially “race” jokes!  And I’m not even a lawyer, though I was a Shop Steward.  The male judges, Republican appointees, just don’t get it, and as usual, analyze a complaint to pieces unjustly.  (What the Dissent goes on to call disparagingly, “divide-and-conquer analysis”!)

It is interesting to see “light-skinned Native Americans … in a protected legal class” though, even from the GOP!  Though only they would consider loss of some pay or benefits NOT “an adverse action”: She wasn’t a volunteer!!!  What I really wish is that she had a union in there, with a Shop Steward and a collective bargaining agreement — They’re present in many nonprofit workplaces.  When I was a Steward (in admittedly very different circumstances), I spent most of my time having complaints from my members bounced off me; most of the time management was allowed to do what was complained of (I inherited a lousy contract), but we at least cultivated a Shop where these things were talked up, evidence gathered for when Grievances were eventually filed in other cases. 

I have to question the competence of her counsel also, though her only appeal from here, within the U.S. system, would be to the still-GOP-dominated Supreme Court; although it’s possible even they would feel the need to send the case back to District Court for a full trial (This was only “summary judgment”), since there are so many holes in the Appellate Majority’s reasoning (if it can even be called that).

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Saving endangered Native American languages

There’s a fair bit about this online, but I’ll just highlight the following:

Canada’s National Post newspaper recently did a multimedia series including the Delaware Indian language Munsee, called Lunaape (ie, Lenape)* at the Moraviantown Reserve in southern Ontario.  Behind the scenes of that story is that First Nation’s Bruce Stonefish, profiled in the Newark Star-Ledger a few years agoHe’s behind a weeklong Language Immersion summer camp at Moraviantown (PDF) that at least went on as late as 2007, maybe last summer too, I’m not sure.  Various ‘official’ and other Lenape and other groups got together with Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania a year ago to rap Indigenous Language preservation.  “Unofficial” is that article’s “Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania,” but they seem to be kicking butt in promoting the language at least!  (See here, and this curriculum intended for parents to catch on to and share with children.  I’m not sure if their Lenape language is Munsee or Unami [see “Language Links” below the lessons on that page].)

As you may have seen, Stonefish has taught some lessons to some of my kin, the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape in New Jersey, and visited the State of Delaware, where my Nanticoke ancestors lived after 1742 or so.  But the Nanticoke Indian Association a couple years ago started to resurrect the Nanticoke language with the help of an Anishnabay (or Ojibwe or Chippewa) dialect from Manitoba, since it’s a sister Algonquian language.  Maybe you heard how Hollywood did something similar for a Virginia tribe descended from Jamestown’s neighbors (WaPo link may break).

Why?  In my reading, the folks at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada, say Native Language Immersion is the best if not the only way to treat some of Natives’ social problems both on the Reservation and in larger Settler society, from problems with school grades and academic learning in general, to cultural preservation, to self-destructive behavior, a/k/a internalized oppression/repression/genocide.  Bicultural competence is something many people in Canada know something about.  We’re literally talking about saving lives in many cases.  As Stonefish’s Immersion Camp brochure states: “In order for the Lunaape Language to survive, it needs to once again become an instrumental part of our lives, our everyday conversations and everyday view of the world. Within our language we will find our original Lunaape worldview. It is within our language where we will find the concepts of how we related to all that is around us. It is within our language where the Lunaape people will find keys to understanding our true original identities, gifts and responsibilities to ourselves as well as those around us.”

(*–Both words are correctly pronounced “luh-NAH-pay,” more or less.  The vowel in the first syllable is closest to an American English schwa, that upside down ‘e’ thingie, or more technically, a vowel in an unaccented syllable.)

Biggest defeat of U.S. forces ever

…was at the hands of an American Indian confederation in the Midwest, the (original) Battle of the Wabash (River), near present Ft. Wayne, Indiana(!).  Seems the Revolutionary War didn’t end there with the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which amounted to little more than a ‘separate peace’ between His Majesty King George III on the one hand, and the United States of America on the other.  Hostilities continued between Old Northwest Natives and their Native allies on the one hand, former allies of The Crown, and illegally encroaching U.S. settlers on the other, unrestrained by the U.S. government (as usual).  What the Wikipedia article leaves out is that British forces took a few years to evacuate the Midwest, leading the Indians to believe they might rejoin the struggle – and to feel betrayed and abandoned by their Britannic ally when they didn’t.  In addition, the Lenape of this war were the first Native Nation the new U.S. had signed a Treaty with (ceding it most of central Pennsylvania), and had been promised a seat in the Continental Congress as well as a Lenape-led Indian state in what became instead the Settler state of Ohio.  (Cf. Delaware County, Ohio.)

Long story short, although the Paris Treaty transferred Britain’s claims over the Old Northwest to the U.S., the US still had to “treat with” the Native Nation-occupants before exploiting any part of the territory itself or on behalf of its Settler-people.  This the US failed to do.  In fact, President George Washington, other “Founding Fathers,” and many other settlers had long improperly speculated on land in the Ohio Country, back to the French and Indian War as a result of which its claims transferred from France to Britain … and Washington’s home-colony of Virginia (then including West Virginia) even long claimed Ohio as part of its territory.  King George had tried to put a stop to all this illegality with his Proclamation of 1763,* setting colonial boundaries at the top of the Appalachian Mountains and restricting settlement to the West, but was unable to police it in such a remote area against his own settlers.  Many Native Nations were acquainted with Britain’s Sovereigns and their ostensible rule over their settlers and colonies, and again, felt betrayed when the settlers got other ideas, with impunity.  Thus the colonists, especially their Planter elites (the future Founding Fathers), sowed the seeds of continuing conflict with Sovereign Indian Nations west of the Eastern Seaboard – just as many of their encroachments on the coast were also at first illegal, only justified by Treaty after the fact.  Is it any wonder that they were (are!) said to “speak with a forked tongue”?

(*–I can’t find a comprehensive online treatment of the Proc. of 1763, ie, that isn’t narrowly-focused on U.S. or Canadian interests.  However, there were and are many more Indian Reserves in eastern and central Canada — Ontario and eastward — than in the U.S. east of the Mississippi, in part because the British Crown continued to ‘honour’ this Proclamation somewhat, whereas the U.S. assimilated, denied, or “removed” west the overwhelming majority of its eastern Indians.  OTOH, Founder speculation and Settler western ambitions, along with Crown resistance to them and attempts to protect the legal rights and territories of the Natives sort-of under his protection, were a significant cause of the U.S. Revolution in the first place — a cause little-emphasized in standard U.S. histories and school systems.)

New Nanticoke Indian chief, powwow plug, Recognition?

This is the tribe I’m related to – though it seems I don’t qualify for formal membership because my particular ancestors weren’t in the right place at the right time.  But if you’re in or near Delaware next Saturday or Sunday, do check out the powwow, one of the biggest east of the Mississippi (and every year, the weekend after Labor Day).  It’s along State Route 24 between Millsboro and Lewes, Delaware, on the north side of the road … you can’t miss it.  Sunday morning even includes an on-site outdoor Christian Indian worship service – they’re big Methodists (hence Chief Jackson’s comments against casinos, I presume).

I was surprised to read he’s ‘visualizing’ Federal Recognition … but the late Ned Heite (pronounced like Hyatt) believed he’d scientifically confirmed what we’ve always known, our continuous communal history and Native identity, considered difficult for many Eastern communities at one time categorized as “tri-racial isolates.”  The following I’ve gleaned from Mitsawokett.com:

…From 1994 to the end of 1998, a group of archaeologists excavated and researched a small house site (called Bloomsbury) in Duck Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, that was occupied at the end of the eighteenth century. In the course of this research, it became necessary to understand the community context in which the site existed. The community study led to some conclusions, some of which are detailed in a report posted at Heite Consulting’s Web Page. (See Related Web Sites)

Essentially, the group headed by Ned Heite, a historian and archaeologist working on the project for the Delaware Department Of Transportation, documented the continuous existence of a Native American remnant community throughout the past 300 years. The group believes that it has conclusively shown that the community defended its existence as a distinct lineage group, even when there were no “Indians” on the official record. Moreover, Heite and his co-workers show it is obvious that the families recognized their Indian origins, and that their non-Indian associates accepted this.

…Ned Heite says, “There is, clearly, a need for in-depth revisionist histories of the Native American remnants. A few steps have been taken along this path by genealogists, by tribal organizations and by a few academic historians whose points of view are neither afro-centric nor eurocentric.
“There is a large and growing body of literature on the isolate communities, written from both inside and outside.

“Virginia Easley DeMarce published two articles on the “isolate” communities, both of which are extremely useful. Dr. DeMarce brings the professional historian’s techniques to a genealogical problem. Essentially, she showed that the Melungeons and other groups with exotic origin legends were actually Indian remnants. The articles were published in 1992 and 1993 in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly:

  • “‘Very Slitly Mixt:” tri-racial isolate families of the Upper South – a genealogical study.’ Vol, 80, No. 1 (March 1992), pp. 36-56.
  • “‘Looking at legends – Lumbee and Melungeon: Applied genealogy and the origins of tri-racial isolate settlements.’ Vol. 81, No. 1 (March 1993), pp. 24-45.

“There has been a burst of scholarship concerning isolate communities, but much of it must be taken with several very large pinches of salt. Brent Kennedy’s book on his own people, the Melungeons, is an example. While Kennedy’s research and activism are massive and admirable, the book contains some leaps of faith that are, in my opinion, unacceptable. Dr. DeMarce has pointed out that the most logical explanation for Melungeon origins is that they are an Indian remnant group who migrated from Central Virginia.

…”Communities went under a variety of names, of which Melungeon is one of the more common. In {northern and maybe central Kent County,} Delaware, the Indian community were called moors. I have heard that this kind of evasive nomenclature was adopted to avoid being called black, mulatto, Negro, or Indian, during the ante-bellum period. If they were identified as Negro or mulatto, they would be subject to discriminatory laws. People identified as “Indians not taxed” lost their civil rights and got shipped west.

“There is good evidence that large numbers of Indians stayed behind during each “removal” episode. To this day, there are remnant communities in each of the steps along the westward migration from which Indian tribes were ‘removed.'”

…”What are you?”

A correspondent wrote, “…I am one of these Delaware ‘Moors.’ …as a growing adolescent, life posed many questions to my siblings and myself. Removed from Cheswold and living in south Jersey many of our friends would often ask “what are you?” and although often we would ask our parents and grandparents (living in Cheswold) we never got much more than “our people.” Within the last four years I have lost my mother …and my maternal grandparents, all of whom were dearer than life to me. I would very much appreciate anything you could forward me so that I may let my children know whom and what a wonderful lineage they came from.”

Another, living in the deep South, says, “Folks ask me all the time, ‘just what are you?'”

And a third wrote, “I also remember being told as a child that the direct family…were mostly a mixture of Anglo/Indian and Spanish blood which didn’t make it easier for my sister and I to answer the question “what are you?” that was so frequently asked by classmates in the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that the term “other” was provided on the national test papers we were given in elementary school. Before that you had to list yourself as white, black or asian, those were the only choices. In short, I’ve learned much about our roots through this group and would like to offer my assistance in anyway that I can to help uncover and document the truth of our family history for ourselves and for future generations.”

 

“I Never Knew”

My people never told me about my real ancestral home
Those that came before me sought to protect their own.
I never knew the old ones and who my ancestors were
I never knew what they sacrificed or what they had to endure.
I never knew about the family secret and why my mother cried
I never knew until all of the old folks had died.
I never knew until I found out for myself, without any shame
That what I am inside is to be loved and that no one is to blame.
I never knew who I truly was; hidden way down deep inside
I do know now that I must tell it to all with great pride.
I never knew that I, son of my mother, was of mixed race
Delaware Moor; the Yellow People; this is my true human face.
I never knew that I was white, black, and Indian
I never knew because others considered it to be an ultimate sin.
I never knew what my grandmother taught me came from Indian ways
But loving memories of the touch of grandma’s hands stays and stays.
I doesn’t matter that I never knew.
It only matters that now I do.

–{Mr.} Loren Kelly
August 27, 2006

Our forebears have left us many orally transmitted records telling us we are descended from one or the other or both of the Lenni-Lenape and Nanticoke peoples of the Delmarva area; as we have learned more of the connections between our contemporaries across North America we have broadened the scope of this web site from being initially a record of Lenni-Lenape descendants to one which is inclusive of the Nanticokes.

…Native American research in southern New Jersey and Delaware presents often unsoluble problems to their living descendants and to historians. The greatest problem: the Indians living in these areas in the 1600’s and 1700’s were either forcibly removed or fled or avoided brutalities by dissolving into the European-descended community–and by so doing lost their identity and, to genealogists, research is all about individual identity.

It is easy to imagine that the removals of those of the original inhabitants who insisted on retaining their native identity was a powerful influence on the many who remained in Delaware to blend in and not attract attention. Proclaiming their Indian roots would attract unwanted attention.

Many Native Americans accepted baptism, the act of which, in the view of Christian society, converted the participants from ‘heathens’ or ‘savages’ to Christians. The simple act of baptism kept them from being swept up in Jacksonian purges, permitting them to live on the margins of transplanted European-derived society. The implications for the historical record were ominous. In effect, baptism brought about a change of status, from persons with Native American heritage to an officially recorded racial class of ‘colored’ or ‘mulatto’ or ‘black’. The resultant of this process of virtual “pleckerization” was a population of Native-descended people in Delaware whose recorded history became inseparable from colored persons of other ethnic derivations.

Institutionalized poverty and segregated, inferior schools, as well as indifference on the part of officials and citizens reporting to the recordkeepers, affected the sources available to us. Illiteracy compounded this problem, severely hindering family recordkeeping in Bibles and journals. Poor folks then, and today, did not and could not create records reflective of wealth and learning, i.e., land transactions, wills and probatable estates. Ministers of their churches, many minimally literate, kept few records. Where a circuit rider visited both white and colored churches, the recording of births and marriages of members of colored congregations were, by comparison, not nearly as complete. Readers may judge for themselves by viewing surviving records at the Delaware Archives. As would be expected based on economic and educational factors, more is found in jailhouse, almshouse and illegitimacy records than in church birth, marriage and death records and records dependant on family wealth.

A teacher, Anne Pemberton, has written, “Oral history must be preserved – otherwise history falls to the wayside as the province of the privileged – ignoring the history and stories of those who were not gifted with the opportunity to read and write.”

The archaeologist, Lyle Browning, adds, “Oral history definitely has a place and rightfully so. But there are oral histories that are not valid. What it does is provide a challenge to go to work on and push the interpretation of evidence as far as the evidence allows. The trick is to extract the nugget of truth from the whole.”

Library of Congress research specialist, Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, states, “Oral history is not inherently more or less truthful or accurate than written history: accounts of both types must be carefully evaluated for their sources, circumstances of production, biases, probable effects of knowledge or ignorance, degree of correlation with established fact, and other human filters before their veracity can be assessed for its factual utility in any given instance.”

The Mitsawokett web site takes from governmental, church, family and other records and, where these are not available, oral tradition and history to enable our cousins around North America to learn of each other’s existence, to share family lore and genealogical data, to give them a handle on “what they are and where they came from” and to give them a base from which to begin personal research.

These pages signal the respect we have for the original inhabitants of these lands and are a link to the past for their descendants.