Invisible Indian (excerpt)
It’s strange to me how people always want me to be an “authentic Indian” when I say I’m Kanyen’keha:ka.
They want me to look a certain way, act a certain way. They’re disappointed when what they get is ... just me. White-faced, light-haired. They spent hundreds of years trying to assimilate my ancestors, trying to create Indians like me, who could blend in, but now they don’t want me, either. They can’t make up their minds.
They want buckskin and face paint, drumming, songs in languages they can’t understand recorded for them but with English subtitles, of course. They want educated, wellspoken, but not too smart. Christian, well-behaved, never question. They want to learn the history of the people, but not the ones that are here now, waving signs in their faces, asking them for clean drinking water, asking them why their women are going missing, asking them why their land is being ruined.
They want fantastical stories of Indians that used to roam this land.
They want my culture behind glass in a museum.
But they don’t want me.
I’m not Indian enough.
They say I’m fake, but they don’t realize that every time I have to write and speak to them in English, the language of the colonizer, I am painfully aware of what I’ve lost.
So, I sneak around quietly, gathering pieces — beads here, a word there, a dance, a song — until I’m strong enough to stand tall and tell them who I am ….