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White Passing Native Tag

Susie Haida Life is an Indigenous YouTuber who is attempting to create a community on YouTube for Indigenous people. Although I am not on YouTube (for now) I did want to support her efforts by responding to the Tag she created here!

Before I get started I just wanted to point out I have been uploading all my work on this site in my portfolio. So check it out if you have not already!

White Passing Native Tag

1. What is your heritage? Where are they from?

My Aboriginal ancestry is Cree and Metis. However, I also have Irish, British and Scandinavian ancestors. I also have an Ojibwe ancestor but I would never call myself Ojibwe as I have no real connection to that culture/community as of yet.

2. How do you celebrate your culture?

I am not sure if celebrate is really the right word. However, I honour my cultural heritage by attending Indigenous events around the city, attempting to integrate my cultural beliefs into the way I work and ultimately studying social work so that I can someday support Indigenous families in reunification.

3. If your culture has clans, what is your clan? If not how is your cultureʼs social structure set up?

I do not know my clan. However I do know that Cree people in general use a clan system to identify/organize themselves. As far as I know, the Metis people did not use clans and instead relied on family names, as is European style.

4. What is your journey to learning your language? What do you want to journey to be if you havenʼt started learning yet?

The Cree people, naturally, spoke Cree while the Metis people spoke Michif which is a combination of French and Cree. Cree is one of the most widely spoken Indigenous langauges in Canada and there are lots of resources online to help people learn. I believe some universities even offer Cree language classes. However, I personally have not done much learning besides picking up a few words here and there. I hope that in the future I will be able to learn more.

5. Show us your favorite Native made piece of Jewelry, Regalia, or Clothing.

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This is a necklace from the company called Her Braids, and that is also where I retrieved the image because I was lazy to take a picture of the one I own. I got it for Christmas this year from my mom. If you buy a necklace from this company all the profits go towards supporting clean water on reserves! It’s amazing to me that so many reserves across Canada have some level of water contamination. This is a 1st world country for goodness sake!

6. Most hurtful experience resulting from passing as another ethnicity/culture/race.

It’s hard to say what exactly is the most hurtful experience so I will just speak generally. I think the hardest part of being white-passing or mixed heritage is that you often get racism from both sides. Going to Indigenous events I often come across people who do not believe that the Metis should be considered an Indigenous group or who are outright critical of my pale skin.

However, I also get to be a witness to a lot of racism because people do not assume that I am Indigenous and might be offended. This includes racist remarks or comments from my non-Native friends that slip out when they forget. However, the thing that causes me the most anxiety is when teachers bring up Indigenous people or Indigenous issues in classes where I am the only Indigenous person. Sometimes what they say is totally acceptable but still I hear my heartbeat in my ears when this stuff comes up.

7. What helps you stay strong with your culture?

What helps me the most is spending time with other Indigenous people. This could be people that have a shared background or a different one. Of course I do not want to contribute to pan-indianism here, but I still find that getting to know other Indigenous people has really helped me to feel more confidence in my own culture.

8. What advice do you have for younger Natives?

I would advise younger natives (and especially white passing natives) to remember that their identity/ethnicity does not fit into some little box and probably never will. And that is a beautiful thing. Be whoever you wanna be regardless of what people in other sides might think.

9. What you want non-Natives to know about being Native but pass looking like another ethnicity/race/culture.

&

10. What do you want to let Natives know about passing as another ethnicity/race/culture?

The answer for both groups is the same so I’m grouping these together. I wish members of both of these groups would take a second to consider what it would feel like if someone told you you aren’t a “real” member of your ethnicity/culture. I think Natives and non-Natives can get carried away with ‘othering’ other people. Which is sometimes useful but sometimes harmful.

Thanks for reading! I’m posting less and less often but I have lots of art up on my Portfolio!

New Year + New Classes + New Directions

Welcome to the new year! Hopefully, 2018 is kind to all of us and is especially kind to those of us who had a difficult year in 2017. Overall, I am optimistic about what 2018 has to offer in all areas of my life. However, these changes are forcing me to take a step back from this blog. You can keep reading for all of the details or just scroll all the way to the bottom for the TL;DR.

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