When I walk onto a Reservation I do not have to drop my pedigree, some how they just know that I belong. I am a biracial girl growing up in a one color world. History has taught us that the “n word” isn’t cool yet its still ok to shout out “RED SKINS” on game day. No one bats an eye when Native American imagery is used in a harmful light, they scoff when we ask them to stop, and they they just don’t change. The American Indian is the personal punching bag of the American people and it will remain socially acceptable until we say NO MORE!
NO MORE! The time is now to rise up and fight for ourselves. Tomorrow thousands of full bloods, half breeds, friends, and supporters will unite as one. As one in a never ending battle to protect our heritage. I am and will always be more than the color of my skin. I am more than my blood quantum. I have three hundred years of history running through my veins, the blood of warriors, chiefs, and adventures. The past it carries me and it drives me to make a difference. I owe it to my 4X great grandparents to continue their fight and to carry out their dream of a better day.
Chief Sky Woman and Bazile rest on Madeline Island. I am lucky, I can visit the graves of my 4X great grandparents. I lay tobacco down and thank them for engraving the unwavering desire for change into our family tree. For daring those that came before me to follow their hearts and to make it in this world. My heart it always leads me to the Reservation where fry bread, coffee and stories are at the ready. I love hearing the stories of my elders, watching the ladies bead, and the sound of the drums bring me to tears.
Red Skin is a term tied to assimilation, elimination and re-organization of the American Indian. My family was doing all right until the assimilation period. Geneva Grace refused to sell her land in the name of progress. She wanted to raise her children where she was raised and to remain on her lake front property. The church they had a different idea and while she was away the scooped up my Grandfather and his siblings. The officials told Geneva that they would give her $10 and a ticket to Minneapolis if she signed over the deed. She took it and when she arrived in the city she was told ‘your children died in transport.”
Geneva never gave up hope, she didn’t believe the lies they told her. Out of survival she remarried a soldier and made do. Her daughter June was sent to Arizona, Walter to California, and Clifford to Lake City. Clifford is where my story starts, he is the reason I am on this earth. He was “adopted” by a German couple, they gave him everything and raised him as their child instead of a servant. When he was 18 his “adopted” father confessed and told him that he was bought, that he was an Indian and told him his real last name. That name was his ticket to the past, his tan skin lead him to Prairie Island. Bit by bit his story came together. He took solitude in the bottle, comfort in the bar, and became a broken Indian with a past to hard to bare.
When my Grandfather was an old man a letter came from one Geneva Cox. The letter simply said “I am your mother.” Geneva never gave up hope that her children were alive, Clifford was the only one she ever got to see again. Shortly after the reunion she died. Assimilation tore my family apart, but we refused to be beat down and the postal service brought us back together again with one letter. Geneva is and will always be apart of my families story. My Great Grandmother has been apart of me since the day I was born, Geneva is my middle name. This was my Dad’s way of honoring the past and bringing our family full circle.
Full Circle is when fate brought me to college in the north land. My last name gave me away and the director of the First Nations Studies program took me under his wing. He told me stories of the past, taught me my culture, and mostly he helped me figure out who I am. With professor Johnson’s help I claimed my heritage and came into my own as a biracial woman. I am not one color, but many colors and for that I will always be grateful. College is where I took up the fight to propel Indian Education and Cultural issues forward. I have been fighting to end the use of Native American Mascots and to end Columbus Day for a very long time. The issues at hand are near and dear to my heart.
An Eagle feather is the highest honor an Indian can receive, Professor Johnson gave me my first and since then I have been given one more. Charlie’s family gave me the second one on the day of his funeral. Charlie was honored with the Eagle Feather because he fought tooth and nail to better the lives of his people. In the eyes of his tribe he was a warrior and they honored his death by celebrating his life. Charlie was Mohican and Ojibway, he loved his heritage and the “Red Skin” name made his blood boil. He believed in a day where he would no longer be judged by the color of his skin, but by his legal wit. Tomorrow I will march in honor of my ancestors, Geneva, Clifford and for Charlie’s dream. I will carry out his dream of living in a better day where the color of ones skin no longer matters. Because I am more than White, I am more than a Red Skin, I am more than an Indian, I am more than a half breed, I am AmandaJean and I am not your mascot!