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On Being an Indian
Danny Lee Bates
 
I have met many people on my journey down the Red Path. It makes me feel good when I can help someone understand the difference between having a grandparent who was Native American and their own Native heritage. Recently someone asked me what being an "Indian" means to me. I have given much thought to that. Here is my answer.

1. Being an Indian means being taught lies about my people in school and knowing that those lies are being taught to my grandchildren today.

2. Being an Indian means smiling while the 500th person tells me that their grandfather was a Cherokee Chief and their grandmother was a Princess! Actually, being an Indian was not something most Native Americans dared admit to. But most people admired the Cherokee so many Native Americans from other Nations claimed Cherokee blood.

3. Being an Indian means watching John Wayne kill 12 of my kinfolk with a 6 shooter without reloading and cheering him on as a child.

4. Being an Indian is knowing that genocide is still going on in my own country while the US government points its fingers at other nations.

5. Being an Indian means watching Apache helicopters (nick - named Apache after people who were victims of genocide in this country), fly missions to help the people of Kosovo who are themselves victim of genocide.

6. Being an Indian is knowing that my ancestors were murdered and their land stolen by people who told them how much God loved them.

7. Being an Indian means watching my people drink to forget and paying the white man for his own genocide.

8. Being an Indian means knowing my grandparents were ashamed of who they were and tried to make me forget.

9. And most importantly, being an Indian means hearing my Ancestor's voices like rolling thunder on the wind crying "Wake up! Wake up! The time has come. We will live again."

 
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Danny Lee Bates is the husband of Susan Bates, he wrote this column before his death at 50 from lung disease. This article is run periodically in the Hill and Holler newspaper. It is reproduced here with the permission of Susan Bates.
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