Opinion: Overnight Indians and wannabes in Tennessee

"On a popular messageboard, Indianz.com, if you tell people you are Cherokee and from TN they will basically dismiss you as an "overnight Indian" or more likely "wannabe" without a second thought. Why is this? In my opinion there are many in TN who could be considered "wannabes" but also many who are genuine.

Too many people "discover" their Native heritage (or alleged Native heritage) as adults after living as white/black/other during the early years of their lives. They learn of the heritage (genuine or not) and decide they want to identify with it. Here is where they mess up.

If you want to honestly honor your heritage you need to learn about it and take the time to learn from people who truly know it. Do NOT just make things up as you go along. Do Not "wing it" so to speak. When you name yourself "Chief Sitting Grey Rain Bear" or "Princess Pretty Blue Dancing Flower" and try to form your own "tribe" seeking recognition after knowing about your alleged Cherokee ancestry for 2 weeks, you do yourself and all TN Indians a great disservice.

Many of these people don't know enough about their heritage to do these things and don't make any attempt to truly learn. They give themselves "Indian names" (not a Cherokee tradition by the way, names were given, not picked out on your own) and wear ridiculous "regalia" without knowing enough to do so."

Get the Story:
Mike Pensmoke: The Reputation of Tennessee Indians (The Tanasi Journal 12/1)

$rl Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs, Official site - http://www.state.tn.us/environment/boards/tcia.shtml
Advisory Council on Tennessee Indian Affairs - http://www.actia.org
A hitchhiker's guide to the TN Commission of Indian Affairs - http://www.tncia.org