Monday, October 15, 2018

Pocahontas: Blood quantum rant


Elizabeth Warren has apparently had her DNA tested to “prove” she has “Indian blood.” Which has naught to do with being representative of any actual First Nations people, culture, or experience.


Awhile back, my maternal first cousin had one of those DNA tests done, and it showed we had markers not just for First Nations, but more specifically people now called Salt River Pima Maricopa, neighbors of the Apaches. Arizona Indians.

This was a surprise, because our Great Grandma, Minervia Isom, had become Cherokee-maybe-Choctaw in the family’s informal oral history. She’d married my Great Grandpa, a white man, in Mississippi . . . and it probably wasn’t talked about a great deal. Which may be how Grandma Minervia got switched from being one of those Mexico Indians into being one of those Black Belt Indians. There were Cherokee and Choctaw down that way . . . but as the story goes, Minervia was a res-jumper who had been in Oklahoma before she stole a team of horses and ran off to Mississippi and her future family.

I’d not known it until after Cousin Anne decided it was time to get nekkid with the family DNA, but Arizona Indians were shipped off to Oklahoma, too. So, there you have it. I’m sure the real story is different. I might be 1/8 Salt River Pima Maricopa.

But I’m not saddling up to attend powwows or appropriate my Great Gran by sitting with other white dudes in mythopoetic sweat lodges because I have a “blood quantum” of 1/8 or whatever that is—Minervia may not have been “full blood.”

First Nations are a history and a people constituted by a specific experience, an experience in relation to other peoples, and to power. DNA has jackshit to do with that if the bearer of that DNA—mwa mem—has lived his entire life as an Anglophone white guy.

I know the “real story” of the sly Elizabeth Warren—whose devotion to her First Nations “heritage” hasn’t compelled her to stand up for Palestinians, whose treatment is so similar to that we meted out to effect our Westward expansion. The "real story" making the rounds is the Bad Orange President (the real story every damn day, Lord have mercy!) derided her claim to “Indian blood” (I wonder if Great-Gran had A-negative like me) by calling her Pocahontas and challenging her to take a DNA test. Cool, she did it, there was something, Agent Orange owes $1 million, but the asshole never pays his debts and lies about it. So . . . back to DNA.

I find DNA testing to be exceptionally creepy in many respects, so it triggered me to rant about the thing concealed in our great and justified desire to be rid of Trump, which is how DNA can get conflated with some kind of “authenticity.” Lived experience. Full stop.

Rant over.

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