American Heritage

Many Euro-Americans have a Native American ancestor, some anecdotal, some documented. This doesn’t make them Indians or tribal members, but it does express a connection that some value as an American heritage.

Some try to capitalize on this for commercial or prestigious reasons, but many are genuinely seeking spiritual sustenance unavailable in consumer societies. Wanting to become Indian may be misguided, but it is a lesser fraud than pretending to be Indian.

My Irish immigrant ancestors had a close working relationship with the Cherokee in southern Appalachia, as I was blessed two centuries later to have with the Salish of the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous blood as a result of the pre-American contact between my clan and the inhabitants of the Smoky Mountains would not make me an Indian, but it would enhance an already interesting and treasured story of my family’s experience on this continent. Red-haired Indians probably feel the same way.

—Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal)

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~ by Jay Taber on April 18, 2007.

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