I always declare on forms that I’m American Indian or Alaskan Native
Now I realize, better than others, that I’m only half Mohawk. Only.
I don’t know if I do this to increase my chances of getting hired or to warn
I know I don’t look like your stereotypical idea of what an “Indian” should look like
This white guy you see, who can hold a tan through winter, is accessible with his wavy hair
The collector of the forms gets the best of both worlds…white-looking and diversity
A straight of the Rez, long-haired, stoic, traditional Native told me I was an apple
I am a product of the government’s relocation policy. Get them off the Rez.
That’ll assimilate them
So I don’t speak Mohawk, just as my mother doesn’t, but my grandparents did
No ceremony to get a traditional name, like most of my cousins have
I’ve never been to a sweat-lodge
So his remark was meant to hurt me. There are layers. On the surface it stung
It stung because I thought we were friends. So why would he intentionally hurt me?
I knew I didn’t choose where I was borne…off the reservation. Not my fault
However, I was in my mid-twenties, so I could’ve regained what was never given to me. I could’ve returned home again
But remember…the camera might add weight, but the mirror doesn’t lie
Try to fit in
Next layer…I’m ecstatic that he thinks I even look Native, as being an apple implies
I always wished I looked more Native
He tells me a couple weeks later that the guy behind the counter at the campus gym was racist towards him
He called him, “Chief.” He looked at him with disgust. Told him there are townie gyms he would be better off at and told him TO MAKE SURE he wiped his sweat off the machines
Did this make me feel better that I pass as Caucasian? That I somehow dodged a bullet? No.
I was a rage filled apple. I wanted to cave this ignorant lunk’s head in with a dumbbell
I was his brother, even if he didn’t think so
You see, generational pain exists in your DNA, right down to your marrow
These sublimated rivers of tears, that hollow out the ground beneath us, thrum beneath our feet
Like elephants and house pets, we feel the earthquake coming days in advance
The caverns created beneath us are filled with the stalactites and stalagmites made of our ancestor’s calcium. They’re bones.
Every step is precarious if the ground is hollow beneath you. For native Americans all ground is hollowed and hallowed
I look at my son and wonder if I should raise him to check that box, or not
Only a quarter. Try to fit in. Only.
Step carefully my son.