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?