Every situation with Indigenous heritage is unique
This is my personal story and how I relate to it. It is not a blueprint to measure others.
There are fake tribes and phony Indians out there, but there are also legitimate tribes and legitimately connected members that haven’t fared well so far under colonizer control or other issues. That is why I say every situation is unique. There could be a number of mitigating factors; refusal to cooperate with colonizers, missed a census, infighting, disenrollments, competing economically with non-natives and many other possibilities… With hundreds, even possibly thousands of tribes, and even more personal relationships to tribes, there is no way I could rationally speak authoritatively about every situation.
Fortunately for my family and I, our Indigenous nation is well known, large, and our connection to it is a straight line and well documented for quite some time. I will say this much, if you meet the criteria for citizenship in an indigenous nation you have heritage with and the only thing standing in your way is your own inaction, in my opinion you need to become a citizen before claiming indigeneity publicly.
I am 100% Native. I am connected. Connected by DNA, blood quantum, descent, relationship, citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, education, participation and growth. I was born Native. It’s a gift of inestimable value that the Creator, my mother Mona Smith Rothschild and many other ancestors gave to me. No one could validate it except them. No one can invalidate it or take it away except me, and that won’t happen.
FYI, I feel the same about being 100% Jewish, with a few changes. I’m a multi-layered person. I’m not one layer fractured into pieces. My Native layer and my Jewish layer are both full and complete. I will write about this more later, but for now this is about being Native.
Most personal things I write on this website are for my descendants; hopefully these writings will outlive me somehow and prove useful to others who read my writings as well.
As I have discussed before in previous posts here and here, DNA is not the end all for me or most Natives. Still, it is definitely a bonus and can corroborate other information. I was aware of the heritage of my 4 grandparents – Native, Jewish, Dutch and English. I was not aware that the Native included not only North American Indigenous, but Andean Indigenous, Colombian/Venezuelan Indigenous, and Mexican Indigenous as well as African (Nigerian and Senegalese) DNA. By itself, DNA can pinpoint geographic regions, but not specific tribal identities. Some Indigenous nations have citizens with no Indigenous DNA as well.
My great-grandmother Jeanetta Grayson Berryhill was full blooded Mvskoke, so her blood quantum was 1/1. My great-grandfather Pleasant Luther ‘Duke’ Berryhill‘s blood quantum was 1/8. This of course made my grandmother’s blood quantum 9/16, my mother’s blood quantum 9/32 and my blood quantum 9/64 or about 14%. Roughly three-fourths of my Indigenous nation has a blood quantum of less than 1/4. I believe my blood quantum is above the average and above the median.
You might have noticed my great-grandfather’s blood quantum of 1/8 is less than my blood quantum of 9/64. He was born and lived on the reservation, was a Captain of the Lighthorse, and was very active in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Government. A picture hung in the Creek Nation Council House in Okmulgee, Oklahoma of him and my great-grandmother and outside the Council House, a monument honors him. Me, I’m trying. This is an example of why blood quantum is essentially meaningless.
Blood quantum is a colonizer construct. The United States Federal Government designed it to steal land and erase Indigenous culture. Every Mvskoke is 100% Indigenous in my opinion. Blood quantum is by design arbitrary and inaccurate, a corrupt conspiracy from over 100 years ago. Sometimes it is subject to fraud and/or ineptitude, including people that shouldn’t be, and not including people that should be.
Blood quantum also only counts the blood of 1 tribal heritage in an individual, even when there are multiple tribal heritages involved. Blood quantum is a meaningless classification forced upon the Indigenous and no others, but it has its legal and citizenship ramifications today, so it is important in a practical sense ultimately. Some Indigenous nations have even significant numbers of citizens with no blood quantum as well.
Starting in the early 1700s, before the United States was a country, through today, there are 10 generations of my Indigenous ancestors and descendants that I know of so far, by name, as well as their birth/death dates. This is an unbroken line of descent. Often there are photos, drawings, writings and other documentation of their lives.
My grandmother and her parents were born on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation in Indian Territory before Oklahoma was a state. Ancestors before them traveled to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears from the Old Creek Nation. Others lived and died in the Old Creek Nation, in what is now Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, where they lived with their ancestors for who knows how many millennia, perhaps time immemorial.
Obviously my mother and grandmother were not strangers to me or obscure relatives discovered through research or testing. I was raised, nurtured and loved by them. It doesn’t get bigger than this to me. As a common and understandable sign of their times, they were not exactly standing on street corners with megaphones broadcasting their indigeneity. Hopefully this ends with me. I am broadcasting it, literally around the world.
I am Native. I am Indigenous. I am Indian. I am Mvskoke and proud of it.
Citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
This is super important to me. Anyone that is a direct descendant of someone on the Dawes Rolls or the relevant census for other tribes, would be crazy not to become a citizen of their Indigenous Nation. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation criteria for Citizenship is that you must be Creek by Blood and trace back to a direct ancestor listed on the 1906 Dawes Roll by issuance of birth and/or death certificates’. This and the forms you need to fill out may seem overwhelming at first, but with hindsight I can tell you it is not that complex.
I don’t need to tell you, historical and ongoing colonizer genocide against Indigenous peoples has been devastating to populations. If you are Indigenous, join your Nation! Your people need you and you need them. Fortunately many Nations are rebounding. My Nation has over 90,000 citizens now.
Education, Participation and Growth
To me being Native is not a static thing. I’m deeply immersed in learning about my culture and tribe, and have been for some time. There is quite a bit of written and video material out there. Realistically, I’m probably too old to gain fluency in our language, but for those who can, I highly recommend it. I hope to incorporate some of our ceremonial and music legacies into my experimental music recordings. When I do I will post the recordings on this website.
As an at-large citizen, I do what I can to participate. I vote in tribal elections and US elections as pro-Indigenous as I can. Sovereignty and provision for my Nation is always foremost on my mind and in my vote. I influence who I can. I hope to be blessed enough to visit my reservation with family someday.
I strongly support #Landback. Nothing short of the restoration of tribal lands, full sovereignty, reparations and the complete removal of the US Government from Indigenous Nations will satisfy me permanently.
Every month that you talk to me or read my writings, I will have grown. I do my best to pass down knowledge to my descendants, and light their fire, which is the best growth card in my deck.
And that’s it for now, stay tuned for more.
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