Growing Up As A White Indian

We have recently been talking about what it’s like on reservations, and the struggles and challenges those who live there must endure. But if you’re like me, who essentially grew up white, and basically have no problems in navigating today’s society – where do we fit in? Our native brothers call successful Indians “apples” (red on the outside, white on the inside) and put them down. For those who also appear Indian on the outside (something I myself have never had to deal with, since I am Caucasian by all appearances as well) the general white populace treats you differently, and in some cases even discriminates against you based upon appearance alone.

Although I have never experienced discrimination in the white world, and thus everything in my life has come relatively easily, my native heritage is still a bit of a mystery. I have mentioned on the radio show several times that I have never yet visited the reservation or the tribe in which I hold membership – honestly, a lot of that is because I’m not sure what to expect. Because I don’t look Indian, how will I be received? Will anyone look at me strangely? Will I be made to feel like I don’t belong on the reservation, like I’m somehow not as good as the other members who have a darker complexion? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know, but I guess I was always more comfortable not finding out. Can’t be discriminated against if you don’t go up there. There’s a reason people stay well inside their comfort zones – it makes life a lot easier.

Not everyone takes the easy path, however. Robert Bennett grew up in South Dakota, pushed by his grandmother into assimilating and being accepted into the white world, although he was full blooded Lakota, and very much looked the part. However, his grandmother’s wishes were realized, and he never had any issues in getting along with people in his white school, dating white women, and playing white sports. In fact, he made an early career in minor league baseball, and today works for the FBI. He finished his degree at Dartmouth University, and in his senior year wrote an essay all about his struggles at finding his identity while stuck between two worlds. His article appeared in the book “First Person, First Peoples” It is really a fantastic read, and his essay from that book can be downloaded right here.

Not coincidentally, that article is what we discuss on this weeks audio podcast. So, download our show, and then download the article. You won’t be disappointed. Please feel free to leave comments, and we will read your opinions on next weeks show as well!

Cliff is a registered member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and hosts a Tribal Podcast with his brother Brandon with a variety of episodes available online. They talk about native issues in the news and anything of interest to Native Americans! Join us for a new episode each week.

Thanks for listening!

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