Monday, November 2, 2009

Not Native Enough

So when I became pregnant I mentioned the expense to a co-worker. All the hospital bills, doctor fees, etc. She told me that all her medical expenses would be covered. I was stunned. What kind of deal was she getting on medical insurance? She told me that because one of her grandparents was Native American she got complete medical coverage. Additionally her child would receive medical coverage until age 16. I felt the wind get knocked out of me.

I'm Native too. Actually I'm 1/16 Native. Because my ancestor is so far removed, I don't get any privileges. I'm not even considered Native by the tribe that my ancestor is from. In other words, I'm not Native enough for anyone. My mother is 1/8 Native the descended equivalent of my co-workers children. As far as I understand it neither she nor her brothers have ever taken advantage of the federal government's coverage of medical expenses or loan privileges etc. She would be considered part of the tribe. My mother's father is 1/4 Native (just like my co-worker), and he's never gotten compensation for his Native status either. Before he died he was able to get disability because he was a retired employee of the US Military. My family has never used their Native status and probably for good reason.

As far as I understand it, before the federal government started giving Natives free health insurance and other compensations, they disregarded Native peoples. They took over our lands and shipped our ancestors to reservations. If a Native person could blend in or marry someone who was not Native, they had a better life. This is most likely what my ancestor was thinking when she married a white man. My family for several generations ignored their heritage trading it for status. We've never asked the government for any special privileges; we only wanted to be treated equally.

My biggest problem, as you probably noticed, is why does the government give special privileges to those who are "more" Native than others? And why does the government also terminate privileges to someone who has multiple Native American heritages but no particular tribe adds up to it's 1/8 rule? I just don't understand. My ancestor was discriminated against as much as my co-worker's ancestor was. Is it just cooler to be more of the minority? Even President Obama is described as being "black" when in reality he's bi-racial.

I want equality. I think if the government wants to give money to Native American peoples then fine. They should start handing out free health care to all those descendants including my husband whose Native ancestor is even further removed from him. It shouldn't be based on how much is how much. Does Obama have to prove that he's "black?"

Or likewise they should eliminate health care coverage to Native peoples. No one is currently being discriminated against as a people to warrant compensation. If you want to use that route of "let's compensate because we treated them unfairly," then the federal government should give compensation to all descendants of former slaves. I'm sorry. Fair is fair. You can't compensate one group without compensating another.

It all seems like reverse discrimination to me.

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