Opinion: Indian identity doesn't always come as an easy answer

"Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senate candidate, is both criticized and supported for claiming to be one thirty-second Native American, based on family lore. This got me thinking about how contentious not only non-Native Americans can be toward folks with claims, but with each other.

Like many Indian issues, identity is rather subjective. There's no agreement among Native people on whether to use American Indian or Native American. Those with legal tribal names prefer they be identified by that name, for example, Nez Perce Tribe. "Indian Country Today" uses both Indian and Native as nonspecific identifiers, and I'm going to mix it up here. We should be respectful of individual self-identity choice.

There are 312 million Americans. Out of that number, 4.5 million people identify as American Indians or Alaska Natives, but only 2 million are members of one of 566 different federally recognized tribes. Each has its own membership rules, which helps explain why some people who seem to think they should belong are denied, while others who seem less likely to belong are accepted."

Get the Story:
George Mason: What defines an American Indian? (The Del Marva Daily Times 6/17)

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Opinion: Elizabeth Warren sticks to Indian background claims (6/12)

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