There was a time, long ago, when the grass was green and deep, the water clear as a winter sky, and the air so sweet you could taste it. Life was healthy and robust, advancing itself across the planet in its many forms, all competing, all working in harmony, an exquisitely choreographed ballet that overlay a violent and chaotic street rumble. The Earth was transformed from a molten mass into a cool blue ball of water in just a few hundred million years. Wave after wave of plant and animal experimented, learning what worked and what didn’t. Some survive to this day, many are so lost in time there is no trace of their ever having been here. Time, a concept man struggles to understand, so elusive, so unrelenting. Time, a non-physical element of the universe man tries to quantify and measure, to link to space with theories so convoluted he gets lost inside of them, assuming he can deconstruct the eternal, understand the ineffable. He insists time is linear and progressive, forgetting all he really has is the present moment. Human, the new kid on the block arriving a mere 315,000 years ago (so we’re told,) has duped himself into believing he has preemptive rights over the entirety of what he calls nature. Where once he moved about as he chose, or found his place in the beauty and power of the land, he now seeks to engineer and reshape what was already perfect. Man took only what he needed, gave back to the Spirits what they asked of him, and often. He understood those sentient beings some call “animal,” talked with them as easily as he spoke to his children, and they to him. The rivers and the mountains spoke to him and he understood. He was part of the natural world, a world formed out of the spirit world to which he was intimately connected. A world his progeny call mythological, claiming his ancient rituals were the products of fear and ignorance. But those ancient rituals and the wisdom they discovered served him well for more than 20,000 years, a point lost by his present-day descendants. Man survived because his rituals were guided by the spirit world, perfectly synchronized to the material world. Some of those ancient rituals and ceremonies have survived into the present. Many years ago, somewhere in my thirties, I began a journey toward much-needed emotional healing. A journey that segued into an investigation of Eastern religions, various other spiritual practices and philosophies that hovered around nonreligious spirituality. As I methodically worked through my list, looking for that one tradition to guide my recovery, I found myself sitting inside a “sweat lodge” run by an Apache-Mayan man named Peter Bear Walks. Sweat-lodge, or initi, is one of those ancient ceremonies that survived, even after it was outlawed by the US government in 1880, the practice of which brought the participants jail time. Or worse. I eventually crawled out of that first initi, but when I did, I knew I’d be back. I burned the list. In my upbringing I was exposed to an eclectic, but benign assortment of churches, all clanging the Christian bell. Wherever we were stationed my parents would find an upscale church with the right kinds of cars in the parking lot, where no demands were made of the congregants, save a few timidly squeaked hymns smothered by an apparently deaf organ player, and that weekly check. My parents sought to associate with respectable, morally upstanding people. At the age of about 14, I stopped going to church and by my late twenties I had rejected Christianity completely as I developed a deeper understanding of its irrational premise and a greater appreciation of its stunningly morbid history. From where I stand today, all corporate religions are irrational, sharing an unholy fondness for violence, their formative years soaked with the blood of their followers and infidel pagan enemies, but rarely of their own clergy or benefactors. Fortunately, I did consider there may be differences between religion and nonreligious spirituality to the extent I could at least examine spiritual philosophies that existed outside of religion. And so I did. After experiencing that first Indian ceremony, those early years of my childhood, when all I wanted was to know about Indians, to hunt for arrowheads, to know about the woods and animals the way these Indian people did, all fell into place. I sweat every week with Peter and I no longer had interest in the other paths I was considering. I had come home. But at the time, I didn’t know it was my hereditary home. All I knew was that it worked for me; it was honest, unpretentious, not dogmatic, and the people accepted those who showed up in a good way and couldn’t care less about what you drove or where you’d been. I found out about my own Ani’yunwi’ya (Tsalagi, or Cherokee) heritage some six years later. One might think making the discovery of my Ani’yunwi’ya heritage would be a happy occasion, and in some deeply personal ways, it was. Certainly, it helped me make sense of my passionate, though seemingly unfounded interest in things Indian. I knew my father for seventeen years before he died. In that entire time he never once talked to me about his childhood, the three siblings who died, or life on the farm, much less anything about his full-blood Ani’yunwi’ya grandmother and her Scottish husband, the original owners of that 80 acre dirt farm in Greene County, Arkansas. The farm he grew up on. Greene County, that area where the four major trails funneled into the final leg of the westward Indian Removal into Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. My Ani’yunwi’ya ancestors are thought to be trail jumpers, illegal aliens in their own land. As my knowledge and involvement in the ways grew, I became acutely aware that my mixedblood heritage was not always respected in Indian Country. Mine is such a common story it has become a cliche, discounted, sometimes ridiculed by full-bloods and common culture alike. There may be as many as twenty million mixedblood people coloring the U.S. today, an estimate most forensic demographers seem to agree on, but a statistic that is virtually impossible to confirm. Mixedbloods are the bastard children of two opposing cultures, historically rejected by both. They are people who find it difficult to prove on paper where they came from, people unsure of where they fit, born in the crucible of two alienated cultures, crushing into one another, producing offspring—both physical and cultural—that neither one have embraced. Still today there are full-bloods who reject outright culturally active mixedbloods as just another iteration of white thievery. White academics are all too willing to assert their Euro-centric, book-informed expertise on what is Indian, who is Indian, and who is not. Add to this federal and state government policies, the Victor Frankensteins of racist social engineering. The federal government taking the lead by executing illegitimate land contracts disguised as “treaties,” all made righteous by self-serving legal theory imposed on a people who had neer been exposed to such trickery and dishonesty. Policies that fomented violence along with the invention of arbitrary blood quantum differentials, have created a schizophrenic landscape at best. And generational trauma that persists yet today. What is happening now is that many of these institutions want to focus on today as if there is no history behind the phenomenon that created the modern mixedblood. None of them are willing to seriously acknowledge the realities that created mixedbloods in the first place, and they all want to pretend every Indian person was accurately accounted for back when many native people were doing their best to hide completely from, or blend in with the larger Anglo mob as a way of staying on or near their traditional homelands. And as a way of avoiding deportation to those lifeless concentration camps the federal government called “reservation.” The destabilization of indigenous lifeways has been far more malignant than most people in common culture realize, or necessarily care about. Some two hundred years of colonial assault followed by two more centuries of genocidal treatment have succeeded, and in grand fashion. Imagine for a moment, though, what might have been created. Espeically as “being Indian” has gained some degree of popularity as some in mainstream society have begun to uncover the truth of history and the differences in cultures. By 1500, much of Europe was already environmentally damaged by countless wars, the budding industrial age, farming techniques resulting in the loss of forests and topsoil, and other reckless occupations. But, suppose those coming into the “New World” would have stopped and taken a breath for a moment. What if they would have truly walked the words of their Savior and humbled themselves to the more knowledgable and long- established residents of Turtle Island, internalizing first an understanding and living relationship with the land and all its many children, two-legged and otherwise? Suppose in that moment, long lost to a bloody history instead, they could have understood the Earth the same way those “savages” did, as a vibrant, responsive living being, capable of giving so much more than what was destroyed in the following centuries. Not only in support of life, but in the quality and enjoyment of it. Mixedblood history is discounted, ignored, even scoffed at by some in Indian country and many Euro-Americans. Mixedbloods are largely ignored by history, judged as “half-breed,” or now days as “wannabe.” Artificial boundaries have been imposed on Indian nations among which are the federal government’s blood quantum test for defining who is and who is not Indian. Blood quantum was (and still is) a prominent factor imposed first in colonial times then more formally in federal strategy to take even more land from Indian nations through “legal” means such as the Allotment Act of 1887. The underlying purpose of blood quantum was to eventually eliminate tribes altogether, anticipating some day there would be none left with sufficient “blood” to qualify as Indian. All this to be accomplished through interracial marriage, the very phenomenon that created so many mixedbloods. For me, the late Wilma Mankiller, past Chief of the Cherokee nation, went to the heart of the issue and to the truth of it when she said, “An Indian is an Indian regardless of the degree of Indian blood or which little government card they do or do not possess.” Uninformed mixedbloods curious about their heritage end up getting “educated” by common cluture’s version of history, a rich mythology studded with misinformation spun by the historian’s own bias. When the typical mixedblood finally shows up at some ceremony, he or she can come across as somewhat obnoxious in the eyes of those who are more knowledgeable of true history and have more experience in the ways. This tends to further alienate the parties. That old adage “divide and conquer” comes to mind here. There was a time when the young sat at grandma’s knee, when they tagged along with grandpa down to the creek. These were good times - not naive times - but balanced times where young and old walked as one, giving life to each other. Back then, grandma and grandpa played an important role in rearing the children. By the time they entered adulthood they were far and away more mature than the average child of today. I call this “generational hopping.” Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a time that saw the full implementation of the reserve system and the acute poverty it created, there was what amounted to a competition between whites that would have been quite happy to see the last Native American expunged from the planet, and those who felt the only way to save the Indian was to bleach him white through assimilation, thereby civilizing the Indian by “killing the Indian within.” Is it possible that common culture might still wake up and begin truly connecting to the Earth Mother such that people voluntarily change their life-style demands? Or is it too late? Neither governments, or corporations, or money, or science, or dogmatic religions are going to save the planet and all her children. The best-intentioned governments are ever-hampered by ineptitude and corruption, science–all science–becomes just another corporate asset, and mega-money uses religion like a puppeteer manipulates his marionette. Culturally and ceremonially active mixedbloods are made to feel like frauds when their family histories are called into question or when they speak of these ways. They are often discounted and rejected out of hand by so-called full-bloods or disrespected by mainstream Euro-Americans as fantasy stricken anti-establishment New Agers. Most mixedblood people find it impossible to document their histories to the degree modern tribes and federal and state governments require, which is to be expected. It is, after all, the end result of genocidal federal policies put in place long ago. The feds did all they could to break or obfuscate family ties to steadily reduce the number of treaty claimants it already was, or might become obligated to. Yet nobody is willing to acknowledge the large numbers of legitimate mixedblood people that came into existence over decades, even centuries of racial intermingling, a population well established by the time the States United. What could this world become if we all came to value and practice respect as much as we value and practice the accumulation of money and power? Respect is simply an expression of humility. And it was always extended to others by indigenous people worldwide just because they existed, that we all come from Creator. To sit on high and demand others must earn our respect is condescending, even narcisistic: The demanding party assumes he or she is superior. I like Gandhi. After all, he was an Indian, too. He taught us to be the change we want in the world. Doing good is contagious, just like smiling or laughing. Treating others with respect, no matter their station in life, skin color, age, sexual preferences, or gender is the natural way. Disrespect, discounting, and stereotyping betray us all. If you would overcome the social forces in this world that keep you in fear, that cause your ego to veer out of balance, that keep you struggling with self-acceptance, start by respecting all people, all of the time. In Canada, mixedblood people call themselves Metis (may-tee) and consider themselves a unique class, neither Indian or European. I think that’s smart as it seems to cut off the self-given right of Anglo or Indian to criticize them. They are not trying to validate who they are by either Anglo or Indian. It may be time for mixedbloods in the U.S. to do the same and forego attempts to gain federal, state, or tribal recognition of their Indian side and to develop their own unique culture. After all, if the Cherokee and Seminole (just two examples) can appropriate Christianity as their primary religious identity these days, how is that any different from mixedblood people tapping into their own Indian heritage, whether specific or in general? At least mixedbloods have a hereditary basis for doing so as opposed to abandoning their traditional spiritual wisdom in succumbing to ecclesiastical assault. Both white and Indian country apply a kind of selective cognisance on the whole question of mixedblood history. They seem to gloss over the unqualified success of the federal government in producing the results we see today: The muddied and muddled, the broken family trails, mixedblood people pushed deeper into the dark recesses of history by white academia’s growing revisionist mythology, the goal of which is to sanitize and make holy events of the last five hundred years of European and Euro-American history in North America. I am tired of the invective and I am not enamored of either culture, Anglo or Indian. I see good in both as well as the ridiculous. To be fair, I have been well-received in both more often than not. What I have written here and in the pages that follow are personal notes to myself as a way of clarifying my thinking. I’ve included some personal occurances you might enjoy as well, all with the idea of breaking down a few walls installed by common cluture, The views expressed here evolved out of my own life experiences and include a self-directed education in Euro-American-Indian history (which has made me acutely aware of the revisionism industry,) my own experiences in direct contact with Spirit (which have the greatest influence,) in ceremony and, most commonly, interacting with Spirit in my every day life. As a result, you will find very few footnotes; my interpretation of history is deeply influenced by my personl path and the people I’ve associated with and learned from, and anything beyond that is common knowledge. I consider my experiences with, and insights from Spirit also shined a light into the blind spots where I attempted to find the truth of history, but either failed for lack of credible information or was trapped inside the revisionist’s web.
DRAFT: INTRODUCTION Mixedblood (working title) ©RIck McBride