Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Queen Chief Warhorse, Tchufuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe"

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]
_____________________________________


I registered for the Healing for Democracy conference yesterday, found a place to sit, and pulled out the conference program. Among the speakers for the Welcome was "Queen Chief Warhorse, Tchefuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe."

"Queen" gave me pause right away and its use cast doubt on the rest of the information provided. "Tchefuncta" and "Chahta" are not nations or tribes I have heard of before, but there are over 500 federally recognized tribal nations and I don't pretend to know about all, or even most, of them. Still, "Queen" made me uneasy.

That unease was confirmed when "Queen Chief Warhorse" took the stage and began delivering her remarks. She was wearing a necklace that was supposed to suggest Pueblo Indian or Navajo turquoise and silver. To most, it probably looked like the real thing. To me, it screamed imitation. I wondered where she got it.

Right away, she had most of the audience eating out of her hand. Working with the theme of "healing," her opening remarks began with calling out the limits of a black/white paradigm. That was fine, but then--for me--her train went off a cliff.

She started using "we" in ways that demonstrate she doesn't know much about tribal nations and our reservations. One statement after another was problematic. It was a "poor Indians" narrative, living on our "prison camp" and "the projects" reservations.

Her remarks were, in short, a mess for lot of reasons.

Her use of "we" was wrong. Using "we" as a keynote speaker to an audience who, I hazard to say, is fairly lacking in knowledge of American Indians, only added to the already-too-big body of misinformation about American Indians.

I did a quick bit of research and found photos of her in a Plains style headdress. Why was she wearing that?! When I have more time, I'll do some research on her and the "Tchunfuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe." Will I learn that the "Chahta Tribe" or the "Tchunfuncta Nation" are Plains people?

For now, I'll say this:

Healing requires accurate information, not sensational remarks that generate a righteous anger and create or affirm a body of misinformation.



6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chahta are the Choctaw

Jody said...

They're not Plains people, anyway:

http://bit.ly/shjKjY

Sarah said...

She has started a group, called it a tribe, and appointed herself chief.

http://www.nola.com/community/st-tammany/index.ssf/2011/05/chahta_tribes_work_for_2010_ce.html

Some of her look has to do with "Mardi Gras Indians" from carnival.

She talks in this video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1962382774297432798

Sarah said...

"Chahta Tribe" is not a federally recognized tribe. They aren't part of the federally recognized Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, or Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

I think Ms. Gillum could start a heritage interest/community group. Folks could research their genealogy & history without making any false claims.

I don't think calling herself a Queen Chief of an invented "tribe" is the right way to go, I think it is disrespectful.

Delux said...

*sighs heavily*

Unknown said...

Halito and Sawubona. Halito is greetings in Chata, Sawubona is I see you in Zulu. Those of us whose heritage is both from Alkebulan (Africa), and Turtle Island, often find that identifying as Native is a political and problematic choice. Particularly as in with my family, we're dark enough to "pass" for black, in all Black towns in the segregated South, where the "red' Chata, were having a trail of tears. The choice was clear...Klan or Cavalry. Certainly Dawes made his choice clear in the Darky Tent...if you're too dark, the white man decides you go on the freedmen rolls where a century later...blond haired blue eyed members of the "5 Civilized Tribes" decide you're no longer part of the tribe, you fought, bled, and served. To be sure, an oversimplification. Nonetheless the memes of White Supremacy are as powerful as the small pox infected blankets.
It can be demonstrated that White Supremacy did not exist before Contact here on Turtle Island. But once the borrowed meme from African Warhorse breeding Full / half / quarter horses, became applied to slaves, First Nations, and Hawaiians, the greatest resistance to it could come from those most familiar with its origins. Really 1/64th and you're still Black. But you're not Native after an 1/8th, or 1/16th, or not Hawaiian after 1/4th..is Black blood stronger than everybody else, or less pure, than everybody else? Or is there something else going on. Federal recognition while having benefits, is a political game in itself.
While you're playing it you should be aware of what's at stake. I can never pass for white, nor would I want to. I'm targeted as if I'm Black, and as an African-American, I will always ally with those capable of interrogating White Supremacy, and acting to return to the traditions that preceded it, and creating new ones to promote unity. I've seen interviews of Queen Chief Warhorse. Natives didn't have Kings and Queens. Africans had both. Particularly Women who led both combat troops and nations into battle with Europeans, and won. The more famous African-Native mixes include, Crispus, Frederick, Edmonia, Langston, Malcolm,Alice Walker...and those are a partial list of my favorite famous. A white founding father of the state of Oregon wrote in an address to the Oregon Legislature urging the prohibition of free African-Americans from the Oregon Territory, in which he said:
"[It] is a question of life or death to us in Oregon. The negroes associate with the Indians and intermarry, and, if their free ingress is encouraged or allowed, there would a relationship spring up between them and the different tribes, and a mixed race would ensure inimical to the whites; and the Indians being led on by the negro who is better acquainted with the customs, language, and manners of the whites, than the Indian, these savages would become much more formidable than they otherwise would, and long bloody wars would be the fruits of the comingling of the races. It is the principle of self preservation that justifies the actions of the Oregon legislature.”
There are people who criticize us for claiming or utilizing any connection to indigeneity, implying we're denying being Black, or trying to be faux Natives like hippie white people or something.
Cherokee Citizens have encouraged me to get the "card" CDIB, but I'm not sure I want to buy into that system anymore than I have. I'm already accepted by most Natives in my community, for the work I've done on behalf of communities of color and Natives in particular. What does a card do, that activism doesn't?