Letters, December 14, 2006
Please quit fucking with Phillip: Esther Easley's letter hits home with issues brought up in Chad Garrison's November 2 piece, "Going Native," and the whole "I'm Indian, too" dilemma. The ignorance of the Native American diaspora to most Americans living today has impacted anyone who is either physically or culturally not Native American but has Native American blood and is knowledgeable about their past. Like Ms. Easley, I have Native American and African-American blood. In reality I am black and Native American. I am biracial. Period.
I have firm knowledge of both cultures, and most people who claim Native American blood are telling the truth. Who in their right mind would willingly put themselves through the bullshit that is literally heaped on you when you make this claim? The responses I've received all my life (almost always negative) have resulted in me putting up a Web site (www.stlouisblackindians.com) that promotes information about this entire subculture! When I put up the first incarnation of my present site in 1998, I got flamed so bad (by both blacks and whites) that I had to put up pictures of black Indians. I felt like I had put up a site on fucking Sasquatch! So please, people, really, stop fucking with people who make this claim!
Phillip Seahorn, St. Louis
Mr. Dickerson, we presume: Husband of Kathy Dickerson here. Having read some of the responses to Chad Garrison's story, I see that many wannabes have something to say. The Thunderbird Society uses the term "support" to get recognized for something they aren't, in my opinion. Anybody can claim to be American Indian, but how many have been raised in the ways of their tribes? It takes a whole tribe for this, not just Grandma stories.
As for motives, I know many card-carrying Indians with the same motive: to preserve what's left of tribal culture. To allow people to pretend to be native and let them teach culture they learned from a book or another non-Indian who learned it from a book is just wrong. If I want to purchase an American-Indian craft, I would certainly hope it's made by an American Indian. Kathy is a full-time Kiowa artist a dying occupation due to mass production overseas and fake Indians selling their crafts as Indian-made. She works to preserve the ways of traditional craftwork for future Kiowas, and she also works closely with the American Indian Arts and Crafts board in Washington D.C., and with the American Indian Heritage Support Center. As for sitting down with her elders, Kathy does this most every day.
A note to Esther Easley: With that kind of ancestry, you should be eligible for a card. I know a person who, as an adult, went to the Choctaw and got their card with 3/64ths blood. Many who want to claim American Indian heritage for their own personal gain make it very difficult for those who truly have ancestry but are below BQ (blood quotient) or who were left off registries.
I finish with a quote I find appropriate: "Definition is crucial in this day and age. People who support a free-for-all with respect to Indian identity might consider how they usher in the Trojan horse that seeks the destruction of all American Indian freedoms." (From "Being Conscious of Origins in Indian Affairs," by the editors of Indian Country Today.)
Marvin Dickerson, St. Louis
From the reporter's mouth: I am the reporter who originally uncovered the truths about Dolores Santha's claims to be a Native American. All the information I gathered in my research is public information.
I don't have firsthand knowledge of the Indian scene in St. Louis, but I can say this in general: A person doesn't have to go to a protest in D.C. or raise clothing donations to "do something." Fighting to have the Indian Arts and Crafts bill a federal law protecting native artists enforced is "doing something." Educating people about fakes and frauds is "doing something." I find it interesting that a support group that claims to want to educate and share overlooks a very basic premise of Indian culture: that one who gives a gift or does something for another person does so for the right reasons and not to publicize it nor say, "Look what we've done."
Yes, the Thunderbird Society raises donations; that's their function as a nonprofit. Kathy Dickerson is not a nonprofit organization, nor does she claim to be. She is a working, acclaimed artist who gives demonstrations and sells her art. And like many of us in the Indian world, she cares about our futures and our culture and art being preserved properly and not diluted or corrupted by culture vultures or pan-Indianism.
Regarding "sacred fires" and New Age talk like that: Legit Indians don't talk like that, and it's a red flag of a wannabe.
If Dolores Santha wishes to respond to anything raised here, please let her do so here in this forum. I would welcome it.
Jamie Warhurst, Seattle, Washington