303 Comments

Great post. A prominent Canadian politician also used his "pretendian" status for political gain but has never apologized for it.

https://www.rejeanvenne.ca/p/canadas-biggest-pretendian

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I remember Michael Moore having Buffy St. Marie on his RUMBLE podcast to discuss the Pope's apology for the Doctrine of Discovery but not rescinding it

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I was adopted at age 4 by my mom's husband. My birth certificate shows him as my dad and his age on my birth certificate is his age when I was born. I'm hoping Buffy gets a DNA test.

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I still love this poem, it resonatedwith me before I knew what pretendn was. You hear about Buffy and people will say “but what about all the good she's done for the Indigenous community.” I have also heard the interview from Buffy herself, talking about the places she has gone that no one elso would go to, advocating for the issues no one else even heard about… she's stands on a higher Hill looking down at us “poor Indians”. What about the stealing of our voices, our stories, our experiences. No wonder we are up to our eyeballs in generational trauma and social issues, even our voice is erased and too often replaced by a narrative that has been interpreted by and through the pretendns to be more easily recognizable or easier to digest. Words shoved down our throats, images of who we are washed out like those old before and after pictures from the bording school era. This is why I love your writing, you lived the experience, you are the experience just like so many other Native writers and artists. Our beauty is in the survival, the humor and the beauty of existence. I'm so done with the Buffys of the world. Rant over, sorry about the rant too I could have stopped at I love this poem. Anyway Happy Turkey Day 🫶🏽

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

Wow. Wow. WOW!!

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Hi Sherman. A discussion about Buffy Sainte Marie has popped up in one of my fave followings. She removed the link to the TV special, and apologize for posting some thing that created such discord in the comments. Hey, it’s Facebook! That’s a given anyway, I would love to share your pretend Indians equal pretend ends post, but it’s in the subscriber part of your Substack. Is there any way that I can get a link that you would not mind me posting on that site I just feel that conversations that are shut down are more damaging then discussions with opposing views.

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

From University DEI website earlier this month: The Anthropology Club will be co-sponsoring an event with Dr. John Smelcer [a well-known pretendian]. John is the last native speaker of the Ahna tribe in Alaska and he will be visiting the Planetarium to share his favorite tribal myths.

[Then in larger bold font] Don't miss out on this amazing opportunity to hear from one of the last native speakers of the Ahna tribe in Alaska!

In all charity, I should add that Smelcer is ill (cancer iirc) and locals are well aware he is a fabulist.

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It's a weird thing... taking the perceived 'positive' side without having experienced the 'negative' either directly or indirectly (through family experience).

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

Looking back at this brief essay & the poem (among my favs) reminds me of My Life as an Indian, which happened in Boy Scouts (most notably in Order of the Arrow). I did manage to outgrow that fantasy & did not try to trade on it. I'm also reminded of dinner once at a table full of lawyers, and for whatever reason one said he was Cherokee. I think I snarked off to the effect that "everyone claims to be Cherokee" (very common in the South, where I grew up). Hope I didn't say something like "Funny, you don't LOOK Cherokee!" Ouch. The guy had his tribal card--he was/is a registered member. White man eats crow. I did. Not tasty.

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Nov 1, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

I think one of the more famous pretendians , was Archibald Bellaney , Who became famous under the name Grey Owl , and I believe was the inspiration for Buffy to abandon her Italian family and try to attach yourself to three different indigenous tribes before finally finding acceptance with the Cree .

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Both essay and poem excellent and thought provoking. Why pretend? I've always thought it was an appropriation of the perceived mana and spirituality attributed to Indians....and a desire for physical attractiveness and adornment.

We don't have many pretend Māori. It's too hard in a small population. There are admirers who walk along side us and learn our traditional technology and language. Aotearoa has about 5 million people and your genealogy identifies you, no blood quantum. One ancestor and you can identify as Māori if that's where your heart is. Some do, others have no connection. We have many lost souls who don't know their fathers, tribe, marae, mountain or river. Many children got adopted out , or taken by the state and put in borstal for stealing food. Dreadful abuse. What you said about a quiet quest is true. Feeling their way into belonging through learning the language, joining one of the pan-tribal urban marae. Learning how to welcome and feed people. Or joining a motorcycle club and gaining a tribe that way.

Our tattoos get stolen. Photos of European men wearing a chin tattoo, kauae moko, the exclusive preserve of Māori women.

Or the tattooing of a white woman with such a tattoo.

Because of our lower life expectancy, there are places reserved in the medical schools for Māori and Pasifika. A quota. Some of the white kids think the brown ones are given the answers to the tests because we are ' entitled ' and dumb.

If someone steals an indigenous identity, they don't acquire the authenticity of the pain.

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Nov 1, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

Pretendian I don't think so. What the hell else could she be but Native? I mean, look at her! There are no other people on Earth but North American Indigenous who look like that woman.

P.S. Cool poem.

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Aww man not Buffy Saint Marie - my last record purchase was a Buffy Album I found in a shop in Palm Springs :(

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Yup, you pinned this one down. Thanks for sharing the piece from the LA Weekly. Somehow missed that. As someone who bought Buffy St. Marie's first album as a 15-year-old white girl in Wisconsin, I recognize I pretended she was Indian as much as she did. Looking to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, and other music icons of my day, she fit my (and millions of other white people's) image of what an Indian girl folk singer should be. Says a lot about all us white folks with no critical self-awareness of our Manifest Destiny mentality.

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.. things aren’t always what they seem ..

have lived it.. still do.. Cui Bono ..

& why ? 🦎🏴‍☠️

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Oct 30, 2023Liked by Sherman Alexie

I've been very curious about Iron Eyes Cody since watching "Reel Injun" by Neil Diamond. It seems that he assimilated into Lakota culture completely. Although not indigenous by birth, he did learn the language, married into the culture, and raised his children within the culture also. Is it possible that the character he created originally to "get his foot in the door" with Hollywood, ended up becoming so important to him that he "became" the Indian he claimed to be? I think this might be different from an honorary adoption (which I equate to honorary degrees).

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