Pretend Indians = Pretendians
A breaking Canadian Broadcasting Channel news report has revealed that “Buffy Sainte-Marie’s claims to Indigenous ancestry are being contradicted by members of the iconic singer-songwriter’s own family and an extensive CBC investigation.”
Here’s the link to the CBC story.
Yes, based on the evidence, it appears that Sainte-Marie is a pretend Indian—a pretendian. It’s been a common problem for us Indians for centuries.
James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, features Hawk-eye, perhaps the first fictional pretendian.
Iron Eyes Cody might be the most famous pretendian. You’ll remember the 1970s public service ads that had him weeping a single tear because of all the damn litter.
In reality, Cody was an Italian American whose birth name was Espera Oscar de Corti.
Another famous pretendian is Forrest Carter, author of The Education of Little Tree.
I’m sure that a few of you have read and loved this book and you’ll probably remember that Carter claimed to be Cherokee. That was false. And it’s going to pain you to learn that Forrest Carter’s real name was Asa Earl Carter. He was a Ku Klux Klan organizer, staunch segregationist, and a speechwriter for George Wallace, the infamously racist Alabama politician.
Asa Earl Carter is the man who wrote Wallace’s war cry, “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever."
And it’ll greatly disturb you to know that Asa Earl Carter’s pen name, Forrest Carter, is an homage to N. Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
Some of you might believe that pretendianism isn’t a serious issue but it’s another form of colonialism. There are currently dozens of pretendians thriving in academia, music, literature, and film. There are pretendians currently cast as Indians in movies and TV shows that you might watch and enjoy.
Pretend Indians are replacing real Indians when it comes to jobs, opportunities, awards, and acclaim.
I can’t begin to explain the psychology of pretendians. It’s certainly about the pursuit of power. And I also know that pretendians rely on white liberals and leftists to maintain their illusions.
Yes, pretendians rely on the white liberal and leftist belief in inclusion. But I’m here to tell you that Native American tribes are exclusive. Native American tribes are absolutely undemocratic when it comes to questions of Indian identity.
Most simply stated, you ain’t an Indian unless your claimed tribe claims you.
I’ve been involved in the unmasking of other pretendians. Here’s the link to a story about a particularly egregious case.
And I’ll end this essay with my 1996 poem about pretend Indians:
How to Write the Great American Indian Novel All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms. Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food. The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory. If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture. If the Indian woman loves a white man, then he has to be so white that we can see the blue veins running through his skin like rivers. When the Indian woman steps out of her dress, the white man gasps at the endless beauty of her brown skin. She should be compared to nature: brown hills, mountains, fertile valleys, dewy grass, wind, and clear water. If she is compared to murky water, however, then she must have a secret. Indians always have secrets, which are carefully and slowly revealed. Yet Indian secrets can be disclosed suddenly, like a storm. Indian men, of course, are storms. They should destroy the lives of any white women who choose to love them. All white women love Indian men. That is always the case. White women feign disgust at the savage in blue jeans and T-shirt, but secretly lust after him. White women dream about half-breed Indian men from horse cultures. Indian men are horses, smelling wild and gamey. When the Indian man unbuttons his pants, the white woman should think of topsoil. There must be one murder and one suicide. Alcohol should be consumed. Cars must be driven at high speeds. Indians must see visions. White people can have the same visions if they are in love with Indians. If a white person loves an Indian then the white person is Indian by proximity. White people must carry an Indian deep inside themselves. Those interior Indians are half-breed and obviously from horse cultures. If the interior Indian is male then he must be a warrior, especially if he is inside a white man. If the interior Indian is female, then she must be a healer, especially if she insde a white woman. Sometimes there are complications. An Indian man can be hidden inside a white woman. An Indian woman can be hidden inside a white man. In these rare instances, everybody is a half-breed struggling to learn more about his or her horse culture. There must be redemption, of course, and sins must be forgiven. For this, we need children. A white child and an Indian child, gender not important, should express deep affection in a childlike way. In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts.