J.D. Colbert: What does it mean to be Indian in 2008?
"Does "Being Indian" mean a state of mind? Does it mean a cultural/historic tribal awareness? An ability to speak one's tribal language? Or does "Being Indian" mean possessing the requisite amount of blood quantum so as to qualify for a tribal pedigree? Does it have to do with appearance? With conforming to a Hollywood depiction of an Indian? Does it mean qualifying for tribal social services, a per cap, driving an Indian car or powwow van and never having a fixed address but migrating from Rez house to Rez house among friends and family? Perhaps it may also mean being recognized as a member of a community or nation of Indians?'

In answering these questions, it is illuminating to ask: "Even amongst today's most 'Indian of Indians' (viz., our recognized "traditional people") would their tribal ancestors of 600 years ago recognize them as Indians? Would the Indians of 600 years ago recognize and invite even contemporary "traditional" Indians to be full- fledged members of their tribal/Indian Community as it existed 600 years ago"? Or would our Native forebears reject even our contemporary traditional Indians as being, well, "non-Indian" because these modern traditional Indians had become "too different."

The vast changes wrought by the coming of the White Man has fostered wrenching changes among the indigenous peoples of North America since the first boat peoples washed ashore over 500 years ago. Indigenous peoples have had to adapt and change in response to the cataclysmic impacts of White Civilization upon the millennia old ways of Native peoples.

Perhaps one of our tribal ancestors from 600 years ago who may be "beemed up" or "fast forwarded" 600 years into our present day America, may recognize in our contemporary traditional people essentially the same words and language as was spoken so many years ago. Perhaps this long dead ancestor may recognize and feel kinship with the dark skin, the dark brown eyes, the black hair and the facial features of a contemporary Native American (assuming, of course, that the contemporary Native American has dark skin, dark brown eyes or black hair)."

Get the Story:
J.D. Colbert: What is an Indian? (The Native American Times 8/2008)