‘A Tale of Woe’. There. Got the gist of this tirade out in the open from the get-go in order to help those who may be wondering what this angst-ridden tome is all about.
Venting is a healthy thing; keeping frustration and anger wrapped up inside has been proven to have a deleterious effect on one’s physical well-being and given the state of health at this end of the internet, that sort of internalizing is about the last thing that’s useful.
‘The Feathered WASP: Life Adventures of a Cross-Culturally Adopted Native or Let’s Dress Him Up Like He’s a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant’.
Cue the griping:
Health issues. I have ‘an evolutionary retarded body’ which is to say, my physiology is one of an Indigenous Mohawk circa mid-1700’s. It’s still playing catch-up to the diet of European intruders and your refined sugar, bleached and bromated flour and practice of frying just about anything that’ll fit in the Fry Daddy or Gotham City Ti-Cerama fry pan.
My body is still expecting rabbit, venison, corn, beans, squash, fish and other low fat and unprocessed food. DiGiorgno’s Rising Crust Supreme pizza and Perry’s French Vanilla ice cream aren’t on my body’s list of Good Things To Eat.
Diabetes killed both my adopted- and birthmothers, but that horror skipped my generation. We ‘kids’ ended up with gastro issues such as GERD, chronic esophagitis and pummeling our gall bladders to the point that they need to be ripped out. Does that stop us from turning to the tasty trio of salt, fat and starch? Not on your Crisco.
So we cheerfully scarf down Indin’ Steak (fried bologna), scones (fried dough) and chips and gravy (french fries smothered in some sort of brown gravy). Then wonder why we feel so crappy and need to add an extra ‘X’ to the new wardrobe size each year.
I’m fortunate (or cursed). Since my sludged gall bladder was yanked out some 20 years ago, high fat and fried foods will slide through my body at a disturbing pace when eaten. The consequences are often almost immediate and fairly socially unacceptable.
Combine that with a stomach that’s been surgically reduced due to a procedure known as an Open Nissen Fundoplication to alleviate GERD (wrapped stomach around lower esophagus – think: hot dog in a bun), my stomach was essentially ‘stomach stapled’ as in the case of morbidly obese patients. Unfortunately, with the same results.
Not retaining food long enough to gain optimal nutritional value, my body became susceptible to a host of issues: severe osteoporosis, active TB and chronic anemia to name a few. Today, I resemble a walking stick covered in skin.
Enough. I could go on and on, but you’d get bored with the list and I get really bored reciting it. Healthwise, I’m in horrific shape. That’s all you need to remember at this point.
Two countries, two societies, three nations. Each with its own set of rules, social priorities and philosophical vantage. First and foremost is my Mohawk Nation. I can change the other two if I feel like it; but I am what I was born into this world. Mohawk.
Maybe you Caucasians don’t give your ethnicity a second thought or consideration as maybe, you don’t need to. No matter what the census data says, the ‘Caucasian’ column will always have the greatest percentage attached to it in both Canada and the States.
Oh sure, some Caucasians will shriek in panic if their percentage sinks by a few points – just look at White Supremacist movement – but nevertheless, the Caucasian majority is here to stay for at least several more generations.
And after that, why would you care? You’ll have been dead for so long you’ll be just another mineral in the soil anyway.
Next, although I was born in the Land of the Free and the Brave – in a hospital so old and in such a decayed part of the city it was bulldozed decades ago – I was born a Canadian citizen. It’s called ‘jus sanguinis‘ or ‘right of the blood‘ due to my birthmother having Canadian citizenship (if she so claimed, which she didn’t). She was Mohawk. Period, thankyouverymuch.
So that little confused bundle of reddish brown was born and would be henceforth known as a Mohawk, Canadian and American… with the last being a factor of ‘jus soli‘ or ‘right of the soil‘. The first two I’m inordinately proud of; the last, I’m profoundly embarrassed by and it’s humiliating to admit.
Born out of mob rule, insurrection and violence some 241 years ago, one would think (hope) that a nation would have matured by now. Or at least be capable of showing some self-respect.
Instead, it elects the equivalent of a rude and self-absorbed spoiled brat who pushes and shoves his way in order to get in the spotlight on the world stage. How – in any way – does that inspire a sense of pride?
Raised amid the 1960’s suburban dream of big lawns, upper-middle class affluence and for the most part, a diversity desert. Out of my high school graduating class of 580, there were TWO African American students and ONE Asian who was a Korean adoptee.
So armed with those facts, no one can claim the community I grew up in didn’t have its ethnic inclusiveness cards in order. Two Blacks and one Korean constitutes integration no matter who’s doing the counting.
It might not be reflective of the general population but then, ‘we’ moved away from *that* unsavory scenario and pay big property taxes for the privilege to live in our own concocted world of wonder.
So imagine my Age of Epiphany when after a ten year search I was able to finally reunite with my birthmother and birthheritage at the age of 37. And discover that all those years of being called ‘crazy’, ‘different’ (not in a good way), ‘antisocial’ or any number of other self-loathing affectations were simply the pronouncements of people who were far too ignorant and self-absorbed to recognize that maybe… just MAYBE… there might be something to this ‘Indian’ business that set those Native people apart from the mainstream.
No. No, that’s just a load of bullshyte. There’s nothing different about an ‘Indian’ except for the colour of their skin. How do we know? What sort of facts and details do we have to support that finding?
Our opinion, that’s how ‘we’ know. That’s all the facts and details ‘we’ ever need to bolster any argument according to ‘our’ view of the world. ‘White privilege’ isn’t named as such because ‘we’re’ given the same consideration as the rest of the non-Caucasian world.
‘Privilege’ means permission and permission gives us all the credibility ‘we’ need to overrule anything that can’t be explained using conventional logic or empirical proof.
So despite a Mohawk in 1960’s suburbia being as rare as a country club debutante from the ghetto and armed with close to no knowledge of the Native experience or culture, these paragons of ‘Life As It Should Be’ passed broad sweeping generalizations on and about some lone Native kid whose primary role model was a TV caricature named Tonto.
And so it went. Nurture declaring war on nature. Assimilation by the mantra of the ages: Kill the Indian, Save the Child. With no other reference point to gauge sense and sensibility, the kid flounders in inner turmoil between doing what comes naturally and doing what he was told. The view I saw – versus – the view I was supposed to see. “This is the way we see things”. “Why can’t you see things our way?”
Years later, Traditionalists would claim I’d been effectively kidnapped by the U.S. government and the dominant society. Possible hyperbole aside, there’s a grain of truth in that.
The Angry Indian Syndrome. Hit an Native kid out of anger or as a means of discipline and you’ve just earned yourself a lifelong streak of resentment that no amount of “we didn’t know” or “you didn’t come with instructions” could ever erase. Now you know. Far too late, but now you know.
The Famous Dotted Line. Try as I might, I’ve never seen this fabled line whenever I’ve crossed the Niagara or St. Lawrence Rivers but they tell me it’s there and it makes a huge difference on anyone who passes over it.
To the Mohawk eye, it’s just a river. It’s always been ‘just a river’ for centuries until some non-Natives show up and declared “this is ours and that’s yours”.
Sez who? Even with all the muzzleloaders and cannons that have been fired over hundreds of years, it’s still not possible to see any line, dotted or otherwise.
‘Banded as a Mohawk in Canada’ means ‘not banded in a federally-recognized tribe in the States’. Which means, ‘no health care for you’. Fifteen years of the best medical care I’ve ever had is summarily stripped away when the U.S. side decides to kick out non-Federally recognized Natives from a non-profit medical facility located on a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) community in New York State.
U.S.: “You’re a Canadian Indian. Let Canada take care of you.”
Canada: “You live in the States. Let the States take care of you.”
Nevermind that a Mohawk is a Mohawk is a Mohawk regardless of which side of the dotted line they happen to be on. That dotted line makes a potent distinction, even though (a) no Mohawk governing body ever set the dotted line up and (b) no Mohawk governing body ever asked to be made citizens of either country.
That’s called ‘colonialism’ and much like its twisted cousin ‘assimilation’, it’s just another of those things that become assumed without ever having any shred of validation.
The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 (or Snyder Act) magnanimously conferred U.S. citizenship on Indigenous people born in the United States… whether they wanted it or not
It’s hard to imagine any Native being tossed out of the country if they renounced that citizenship (although that’s the fate waiting non-Natives doing the same thing) but given the sheer lack of knowledge of tribalism and the notion of ‘sovereign Native Nations’, it wouldn’t surprise me if some gung-ho ‘patriot’ pushed the issue and tried to kick an Indigenous person out of his or her ancestral and traditional homelands.
In the States, ‘nationalism’ equates to ‘patriotism’ despite the two concepts having dramatically different intentions.
Patriotism: “My country is great and I love it. Your country might be great as well and you have every right to love it.”
Nationalism: “My country is the greatest and everybody should love it. Your country might try to be great but it’s my country that you’re really envious of.”
As a dual/tri-citizen, that’s a position I find myself struggling to come to terms with almost on a daily basis. It’s exacerbated whenever I cross back into the States from my frequent and routine trips to Canada.
It’s accentuated whenever I watch the news on TV and all but alleviated whenever I’ve spent more than 24 hours in Canada.
That pretty much sums up where the solution for me lies, doesn’t it? When health and finances allow, I know where I belong and will make trip across the dotted line with a more permanent resolve.
I guess this is as good a place to end as any.
For now anyway.