Sep 16, 2015 - Speaking Out Against Ethnic Frauds and Wannabes, By Michelle Shining Elk

I’m fascinated by the people who tell me that “I think I’m the Indian police always pointing my finger in judgement at people who I don’t think are Indian, that I have a black heart and am not a kind person.”

There’s a group out here who think and say that; that’s fine. After all, they’re entitled. 

These people talk, I hear about it. And they also get so bold as to write to tell me they’re (gasp) talking about me and what is being said – I guess for good measure…? I hear all about how I’m a “hater,” “black-hearted finger pointer” who thinks I “get to decide who is Indian and who isn’t.” “Who do I think I am standing in such judgment of others?” You get the gist. Clearly, I have authorities I didn’t know about. Not hardly. But, this fascinates me because um as I’m hearing this, I’m thinking “Hi Pot, meet Kettle.” Because, how are you going to stand there and  point your finger at me in judgement – telling me I’m a black heart hater who judges people – when you are doing the very thing you stand there and accuse me of doing, as you judge me. 

Don’t be mad, because I’m not naive and just buy what people are selling because they put a price tag sticker on it/themselves.  

I question someone when there are signs that what they are saying doesn’t add up. They said they are Indian, but by all accounts nothing about their story makes sense then they say something like “So what if you don’t like that a white woman was wearing a war bonnett, it’s just art get over yourself, I’m full-blood and I’m okay with it, you should be too.” 

Yeah. No. 

So I ask questions about tribe, family, parents…you know the usual questions we ask each other. 

The answers are always in the pissed off indignant non-answers. 

Then as one looks further into who they are, you usually see someone who wants to be an author, professor, actor, musician, etc. — that they claim Indian identity for work, money, attention, or fame. 

Those are the people I deem and who are commonly known as ethnic frauds. Ethnic frauds are dangerous to who we are as a people because they have created their persona and exist on tropes and superficial stereotypes. 

Ethnic frauds and wannabes misrepresent us. People who do not know what we are truly about, take the ethnic frauds and wannabes’ wholly inaccurate representations of us — as the way things really are. It’s why mainstream thinks we (American Indians) all walk around in leather, fringe, decked out in turquoise, with a jewelry trove full of chokers and buffalo nickel or eagle feather earrings, which all, of course. are located in our tipis that we live in.

It’s just not accurate and not cool. 

We aren’t relics and crystals aren’t our thing. The crystal lickers, love and light people hate me the most. So much for love and light eh. I calls’em like I sees’em. People who are new age wannabes who are trying to be Indian because it’ll get them some shaman spirituality are misguided and misguide. 

First, we don’t have shamans; and, again crystals and fairy dust aren’t our thing. Creating yourself to be a spiritual shaman, drum group leader, healer is more of the same. Frauds trying to get a job, some money, attention and/or fame. They are so insignificant in their own lives they have to make up a new one. It’s all a facade. So I’m never surprised when they get pissed off at me…when I point out the B.S. because, the truth hurts. 

Stay in your own lane and we won’t have a problem. In other words, be who you were born to be. It is that simple. 

I was born an Okanogan and Lakes Indian, Colville Tribes, from the Colville Indian Reservation. I was Indian when it wasn’t cool to be Indian, I’ve been laughed at and ridiculed because I’m Indian, but I remained an Indian. I’ll be Indian until I die. I’m a Colville Indian 24/7. 

Our lives, our stories, our pain, struggles, survival and knack for adapting using our intrinsic strengths – none of that is for you to take free willy nilly because the mood strikes you, or you caught a whiff of sage burning and caught the “fever.”  We are not a costume you put on because you don’t like the skin you were born in. It doesn’t work that way. 

So if you want to call me a black heart because I call you out on your B.S. so be it. If you think i’m hateful because I call a spade a spade and I see that you think flute music is your cue to take on our identity, fraudulently or in a way that is misleading, So be it. 

It’s like I tell productions who want to hire me for casting or consulting – I tell them “I’m not in the business of exploiting our people so if that’s what you have, I’m not your girl” and I walk away. 

Nor am I interested in watching people engage in cultural appropriation and misappropriation because this is America and it’s a free country. Get some integrity and dignity people and be who you were born to be. Lying about being American Indian, won’t end well for you, trust that. That act is tired and we tired of it. 

It’s called ethnic fraud, and because of our unique relationship with the U.S. Government as tribal nations, taking on the identity of being Indian isn’t like saying “Oh I’m Irish, or Italian.” It’s more complicated than that. 

The first problem with the wannabes and frauds is that that’s a fundamental issue they are clueless about – our unique relationship with the U.S. Government – it is also always an initial tell-tale sign. Hell, most probably can’t even spell sovereignty, let alone define it, describe it, or have an intelligent conversation about how the frauds and wannabes threaten it.

The reality of the matter is — there is nothing that would make the wannabes and frauds drop their facade faster than telling them “You want to be Indian? Then we are going to go back in time and you are going to start over, on the rez as an Indian.” How quickly the fantasies would die. Even if we didn’t rewind time and just told them, you are going to go live out in the middle of nowhere on the rez with the people…people who don’t give two horse turds who you think you are.” Facade gone! Bye, bye. 

Remove the attention and/or so call “fame” factors from these people, strip them of all their mythical fantasized notions with the truth and reality, and they’ll pick a different ethnicity and culture to hi-jack, I guarantee it. 

What are warm fuzzies to us – what is home and what we know, honor and love, would be pure hell for the wannabes and frauds – they couldn’t handle truly being Indian. They just couldn’t – not tough enough. 


Black Heart Michelle the Finger Pointer Hater

Last Real Indians