• The Tree: “Cowboys and Indians” — Genealogy and Objectification

    Most Native people have from the very beginning, a sense of where their grandparents came from, who they descended from. It’s not only the oral tradition – it’s the United States government. We have to have a very detailed description of our background in order to be enrolled in our own tribe. It’s very different for minority peoples. We have to know where we come from down to the last degree. …. A very strong component of Native Life is to know who you are. My mother made us very proud of who we are.

    — Louise Erdrich, Faces of America interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

    “Cross Addressing”, David Garneau.

    “Cross Addressing”, David Garneau.

    I was brought up in a big family in Northern Lower Michigan, the youngest of eight. That alone set us apart at a time when big families tended to max out at four children. By the 1970s, the day of broods numbering into the double digits was largely over for the French Canadian Catholic. Mine was, perhaps, one of the last of its kind, stretching toward ten.

    Early on, I took a strong interest in our family history, asking many questions, lucky to be surrounded by multiple generations. One of the questions I innocently asked my Dad was: Are we Indian? I don’t remember why. I don’t remember what brought that particular question to the surface so early in my research. I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 12 years old. Perhaps because I was a boy and that’s what boys were interested in.

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