Aunt Ola was the family saint, the one who kept a suitcase packed in readiness to go the aid of relatives in distress. Lying was not in her DNA. So, when she prepared a rudimentary family tree back in the 1950s, we were assured that my great-great-grandmother Boone was both related to ol’ Dan’l and part Choctaw, through her mother’s Taylor side of the family.
With some free time at the first of this century, I started my own investigations into my ancestry. I found no link between our Boones and the frontiersman through Granny Boone settling Jack County, Texas, while it was still in the Comancheria was pretty nervy. I found no Taylors in her family line. And, I found no Choctaws nor gaps in traceable ancestors where anyone with Choctaw lineage might be posited.
I read my ancestors’ application to the Dawes Commission for allotment acreage and saw what is best described as a mutual respect between an ancestor and visiting tribesmen. (The reference to him as “Uncle” was probably an honorific.) I understood why the petitions were rejected.
And, then the mail-order DNA test revealed what had become obvious: no Native American ancestry. At the most, I was looking at being 1/128th Indian. Having grown up with the idea that something was there; it was a bit disappointing.
But, I took solace in the finding of three percent Greek/Italian heritage. For a Grecophile – they created our world – that distant whiff was more exciting than the greater representation of berserker Viking blood that terrorized my other ancestors in northern England and Scotland.
Which brings us to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a former Oklahoman. She, too, grew up with stories of her Native American heritage.
Family lore can be tricky. But, after our Racist-in-Chief (and leading “birther” liar whose father was NOT born in Germany) began denying her claims (with no evidence, of course) and calling her “Pocahontas,” as if that should be anything but a compliment, Sen. Warren tested her own DNA.
Her family story was true. She tested to being from 1/32nd to 1/512th Native American.
She’s not on any tribal rolls – and has never applied for membership. Yet, some tribes acted as if her factual results were an affront.
Why can’t she be as proud of that part of her heritage as I am of my limited Greekness? Opa!
On Feb. 12, the Huffington Post reported on Warren’s “surprise appearance” before the National Conference of American Indians.
“Warren called for Congress to take more action on Native issues, including ‘the alarming number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls,’ suicide rates among Native people, housing, health care and addiction,’” Bendery reported.
She was introduced at the meeting by New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, who noted, “Indian Country needs strong allies like Elizabeth Warren, who’s unwavering commitment to Native communities and Native American women and children is needed in this political era.”
Why is such support needed at these times? Last November, Acee Agoyo reported for indianz.com that:
“Hate crimes against Native Americans increased a whopping 63 percent in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to new data released by the FBI. Law enforcement agencies across the nation reported 251 hate crime incidents against American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2017. That represents a significant jump from the 154 incidents seen as the Barack Obama era came to a close.”
That is to be expected with Trump (“They don’t look very Indian to me”) spouting hatred against non-whites on a daily basis.
The border wall – that our Mexican cousins will never pay for – would divide the Tohono O’odham nation that exists on both sides of the border.
That Chickasaw Tom Cole supports this boondoggle gives new meaning to the term “cognitive dissonance” – as with Trump signs in yards where the cars in the driveways sported First Nation plates.
My political position, such as it is, forbids me from endorsing any candidates until after our party primaries. That’s a long way off, and I have a lot of people check out, seemingly a couple more every day. But, I will cast my vote on the issues. What the candidates stand for.
Recently, the Native defenders at indianz.com began an article: “The Trump administration’s dealings with Indian Country have been characterized as one disaster after another.”
The main issue addressed was the Interior Department’s stalling on Indian casino requests, which, of course, was what Trump was opposing when he made the remark about who might or might not look like an Indian.
To inject family heritage into the mix exemplifies the ugly racism that we’ve come to expect from our Racist-in-Chief, who greeted Warren’s official presidential announcement with his typical slur and mocking references to the Massacre at Wounded Knee and The Trail of Tears – so named because it was a Trail of Death.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/)