I have peach-colored skin, dark blond hair, and blue eyes, like my mother. But my father and grandfather told me they were Cherokee Indians. I’ve seen my grandfather’s card, so I know it isn’t some weird idea they thought up to get money from the government (believe me, neither of them received a dime from anyone- they farmed for a living).

Here’s my issue. The most important figure in my childhood, my grandfather, told me stories of Cherokee lore, taught me how to fish and hunt, and all sorts of Native traditions. I always heard about Kanati and other mythic figures, and the white buffalo, from when I was child. My grandfather practiced both pentecostal Christianity and believed (although he would try to hide it) in shamanism. Considering he was born in the 1920’s I very much doubt new age airs played a role in his thought. When he died, my uncle performed the rite (we also had the seven days of mourning mentioned- but since I didn’t believe in anything at the time- I didn’t pay much attention and I was distraught enough as it was).

Here’s my issue. I was born in the South, and my mother’s family (Scotch-Irish) were, like a lot of older people in that region, staunch segregationists. I felt as though I was being forced to play up to two groups that were battling for my identity. They would put down my father’s family as “white trash,” and my father’s family would make comments about “whites” in general. I know I have problems for even caring, but lately it has been on my mind. I have two questions:

1. Is it possible that I was just adopted? My dad and his siblings resembled medium-skinned Mexicans, my grandfather looked like a white guy with Indian features, and my mother was nordic looking. Is it possible for my father to have produced a son that was blond? Aren’t those traits recessive?

2. I’ve thought about trying to learn the language, read up on the myths, visit the reservation, etc, but I’ve noticed a lot of people online talking about “Pretendians,” and “Wannabes.” I don’t want any formal membership/benefits/etc., but I would like to go to pow wows and give money to charities that help real natives. I’d also like to teach my daughter, who phenotypically resembles me, about one side of her origins (if in fact I was not adopted after all.) Does all that make me a “Pretendian?” I want to avoid that. I’m a Roman Catholic and not interested in new age mess. I would like to watch ceremonies though. I’ve been watching them online and they take me back to better days.

Should I get some kind of dna test or do you think Native American people would want to get to know me without one? I don’t ever want to be seen as fake, but it is true that Native American culture played a big part in my youth, even if it was just some hoax played on me. Am I “mixed European/Indian?” Does being a descendant of a Cherokee make me an Indian period? Am I just a confused honkey? Help?

81 Comments

  • Blue eyes are a recessive trait, meaning it has to be a trait present somewhere in the genetics of both parents for the child to have a chance of having blue eyes, though it needn’t appear in any blood relative you know to still be there. And I don’t believe you need to be full-blooded to be a member of the tribe, so the point of origin for that trait on your Dad/Grandad’s side could be anywhere from your dad’s mother all the way back to the first Caucasians to arrive here.

  • I’d like to say something about the whole “pretendians” thing: you’re genetics doesn’t make who you are, it only tells you about your relatives.the whole life of being Native American is believing, if you believe that you are native american, believe in their secrets, ect. you are native american. even if you don’t believe in their lore’s, or legends, it doesn’t mean you aren’t one of them. i also wondering’s about my genetics, history, ancestors, ect. but i also have to say genetics rarely has anything to do with being native american. for example: you can become native american by practice. (another example): both of my parents are cherokee ( by pure blood), ( i have proof i wasn’t adopted……) but i have blonde curly hair, blue eyes, different shaped eyes, and multiple other features, but the only features that i have that are similar to theirs are, my nose shape, my skin color, hands and feet, but i know i am native american by pure blood without practice, and know i am native american by DNA. let me just say you don’t have to prove yourself to other people, but if you want proof or just a sign of relief, but its completely up to you! don’t let others downgrade you from who you truly are!

  • Best bet is to get a DNA test and find out. But no it’s not weird if you don’t look 100% Native, or even not at all. With mixed children, it’s like a mixed bag of genetics. You never know what you’ll get! Some are a perfect mix of the 2 races, others take more after one or the other. For Example… I’ve even seen mixed fraternal twins, where one took after their white father having Porcelain white skin, red hair, and freckles. While the other took after their African mother with Ebony skin, dark curly hair, and so on. Similar situations with Native/Caucasian mixed siblings too. That’s the beauty of genetics, you can get anything.

  • I think some people confuse color with genetics. They are not the same thing, at all. DNA has been combining since humans came out of the trees and every possible combination of colors can be found in each person’s genetic history. The important thing for me is our culture. I am 4/16 Irish, 4/16 French 4/16 Cherokee and 4’16 Ashkenazi Jew. But all My life I have known in my spirit I was Cherokee. My culture and spirituality is what matters to me most and that is 100% native. Only my DNA can identify what my genetics are but it cant tell me what tribe. I urge to get tested. If it is inconclusive study the spirituality of different tribes. I think you will find what resonates for you.

    • quick question for marlys: is there a reason you used the fraction ‘4/16’ instead of 1/4 or 25% or the phrase ‘one ‘quarter’? and fyi, this ISN’T me ‘picking’ at you or trolling..I legitimately want to know because I also am a wide mixture of both american and mexican indian on my mother’s side, and norwegian, english and danish on my fathers, AND i am in the process of building a genetic family’tree’/’map’, so if using this 4/16 fraction in lieu of the more commonly used others, id love to know why!

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