Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief died. perhaps the best-known American dancer in the field of ballet.  I confess to not following that particular art-form, though I’ve seen a few ballets and was quite impressed with them.  I want to honor Maria Tallchief here because she was a fellow Northern Oklahoman, born in Fairfax in the Osage Nation.  I drive through the Osage countryside virtually every time I go back home, and in my opinion it’s among the most beautiful landscapes in Oklahoma.

The story of how a young girl from an Indian reservation in the 1930′s went from dancing at rodeos to the New York City Ballet is quite a tale. [Read more...]

Harvard’s Cherokee professor

George Will sums up how Elizabeth Warren and her Ivy League universities played the diversity game:

Blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren, the Senate candidate in Massachusetts and Harvard professor who cites “family lore” that she is 1/32nd Cherokee, was inducted into Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame last year. Her biography on OklahomaHeritage.com says that she “can track both sides of her family in Oklahoma long before statehood” (1907) and “she proudly tells everyone she encounters that she is ‘an Okie to my toes.’ ” It does not mention any Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother. A DVD of the induction ceremony shows that neither Warren nor anyone else mentioned this.

The kerfuffle that has earned Warren such sobriquets as “Spouting Bull” and “Fauxcahontas” began with reports that Harvard Law School, in routine academic preening about diversity (in everything but thought), listed her as a minority faculty member, as did the University of Pennsylvania when she taught there. She said that some in her family had “high cheekbones like all of the Indians do.” The New England Historic Genealogical Society said that a document confirmed the family lore of Warren’s Cherokee ancestry, but it later backtracked. She has said that she did not know Harvard was listing her as a minority in the 1990s, but Harvard was echoing her: From 1986 through 1995, starting before she came to Harvard, a directory published by the Association of American Law Schools listed her as a minority and says its listings are based on professors claiming minority status.

So, although no evidence has been found that Warren is part Indian, for years two universities listed her as such. She has identified herself as a minority, as when, signing her name “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee,” she submitted a crab recipe (Oklahoma crabs?) to a supposedly Indian cookbook. This is a political problem.

A poll taken before this controversy found her Republican opponent Scott Brown trouncing her on “likability,” 57 percent to 23 percent. Even Democrats broke for Brown 40 to 38. Now she is a comic figure associated with laughable racial preferences. She who wants Wall Street “held accountable” is accountable for two elite law schools advertising her minority status. She who accuses Wall Street of gaming the financial system at least collaborated with, and perhaps benefited from, the often absurd obsession with “diversity.”

How absurd? Warren says that for almost a decade she listed herself in the AALS directory as a Native American because she hoped to “meet others like me.” This well-educated, highly paid, much-honored (she was a consumer protection adviser to President Obama) member of America’s upper 1 percent went looking for people “who are like I am” among Native Americans?

This makes perfect sense to a liberal subscriber to the central superstition of the diversity industry, which is the premise of identity politics: Personhood is distilled not to the content of character but only to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

This controversy has discombobulated liberalism’s crusade to restore Democratic possession of the Senate seat the party won in 1952 with John Kennedy and held until 2010, when Brown captured it after Ted Kennedy’s death. Lofty thinkers and exasperated liberals consider the focus on Warren’s fanciful ancestry a distraction from serious stuff. (Such as The Post’s nearly 5,500-word wallow in teenage Mitt Romney’s prep school comportment?) But Warren’s adult dabbling in identity politics is pertinent because it is, in all its silliness, applied liberalism.

via Elizabeth Warren’s identity politics – The Washington Post.

As an Oklahoman and an academic, I have something to say on the matter.  First, in Oklahoma, home of the Five “civilized”–that is, fully assimilated to white culture–there are lots of blonde blue-eyed “Indians.”  When white people moved into Indian Territory, they could marry into the tribes.  After the civil war, the freed slaves of the tribes from the South were also entered into tribal rolls, so there are also lots of black Indians.  It only takes 1/32 Indian heritage to get listed.

It’s also true that quite a few Oklahomans have gamed the system designed for unassimilated tribes on reservations.  I once taught at a school in Oklahoma that took a survey of racial identity to qualify for federal benefits to institutions that served minority populations.  Our school cashed in because of all of the red-haired Cherokees, even though we had few black people or other minorities.  Then there are the things you can do on “Indian lands,” such as running casinos, selling tax-free cigarettes, getting free health care, and other benefits.  (I hasten to say that there are also “real Indians” in Oklahoma with various levels of poverty and other problems.  I’m just saying that some who don’t need these programs have taken advantage of them at the expense of those who do.)

It’s also true that academics got on the diversity bandwagon, especially a few years ago, and that the claim to be a “minority” was a priceless commodity.  This encouraged bogus claims.

Prof. Warren might have qualified to get into a tribe, if she could prove even that small amount of Indian blood she is claiming, but she never shows up on the Cherokee tribal rolls, so her claim is bogus by any standards.  And it’s just embarrassing to see how the Ivy League institutions, supposedly so enlightened, were hyping Prof. Warren as a demonstration of their diversity, as if she were a member of an oppressed people-group.

Unless Okies are members of an oppressed people group.  One could make that case.  If so, I claim my identity and demand justice!

Black Cherokees

I grew up in northeast Oklahoma: Cherokee country.  Many of my African-American friends growing up were also members of the Cherokee tribe.  The “Five Civilized Tribes,” which include the Cherokees, assimilated quite a bit into the white man’s ways–which is why the white men called them “civilized”–and that included, since they mostly lived down south, owning slaves.  On the Trail of Tears, they took their slaves with them to Oklahoma.  After the Civil War, in which conflict most of the Cherokees sided with their fellow slave holders in the Confederacy, the slaves, of course, were freed.  In 1866, the tribe signed a treaty that included the provision that all of the Freedmen, the ex-slaves and their descendants, would be granted full membership in the Cherokee tribe.  I always thought that was a noble gesture, accepting the former slaves as equals.  And the Cherokees in the past have not been particularly insistent on “Indian blood,” since tribal rules also allows for white Cherokees, who are as little as 1/16 Native American.

But now the Cherokees have voted to kick the Freedmen out of the tribe.  That was a few years ago, but now the tribal court has ruled on the matter, saying the black Cherokees can be kicked off the tribal rolls, which also means that they will be cut out of the health care and other benefits the federal government gives to Native Americans.  A federal court, though, has stepped in, forbidding the racial discrimination and insisting that the 1866 treaty is still valid.   So now the tribe is up in arms (not literally, not like the old days), insisting that a nation has the right to determine who its citizens can be.  (I suspect that another dynamic here is a bitter election for tribal chief.  A recent vote was nearly a tie, and it was contested to the point that a new election is in the works.  I suspect that disenfranchising a block of voters might be to one of the candidates’ advantage, though I don’t know who.  And there may well be other issues.  I’m pretty much out of touch these days.  I’d be glad to hear from any Cherokees of any color who might be reading this.  Feel free to correct me.)

Cherokee Indians: We are free to oust blacks – US news – Life – msnbc.com.


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