Tuesday, October 16, 2018

For the Record: Warren

I was a little perplexed and saddened by this, from the Cherokee Nation to the world, on the subject of Senator Warren's response to the Trumpian challenge ("If a DNA test shows you're an Indian I'll give a million dollars to the charity of your choice), but I figured it couldn't be helped.

Though not everyone agreed, and that made me kind of sad for a while:

I figure she didn't say she believes in "blood quanta" (the "blood quantum laws" were those designed by whites to determine who counted as an Indian in the 18th and 19th centuries, as measured in invidious fractions by family history, since DNA testing didn't exist), and what is particularly important didn't claim Cherokee citizenship, which is socially constructed, merely ancestry, which is not—which isn't to say that it's any more or less real, only that it's easier to measure, thanks to DNA technology. Of course everybody, particularly on the right, is eager to translate the results into blood quanta from "1/64" to "1/1024", because that's what they do.

As has been pointed out, the results don't say that the ancestor was Cherokee, that's impossible not because the technique isn't good enough but because Cherokee-ness isn't a property of cell nuclei. They merely say that a reasonably recent ancestor of hers was an indigen of the Americas, North or South. Which corresponds to the family legend, which doesn't hold that one of their ancestors was a Mapuche or Micmac or Totono O'odham.

Or let's say that the stories her mom passed on to her that one of her foremothers was an indigenous person herself, which turned out to be true even if the Cherokee detail could be inaccurate, as the DNA test has conclusively shown, and Trump owes her a million dollars, which he won't, following his usual practice, pay. Then came some information from valued Tweep Great Horned Owl that made me see it a little differently:

Really, nobody's very nice in this business, are they? The Nation itself uses these notions of "proof" and "blood" to discriminate against the less prosperous, and just as black Americans have been purged from the cowboy side of the history of the west, they're evidently being purged from the Indian side as well.

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