Finding a Modern American Indigenous Female Identity
We can't know where we're going without knowing where we've been. And right now, the “where we've been” is a fantasy. It's very detrimental to us. How can we be mentally healthy when we don't have a clue of where we came from? It's all fantasy. And I can't really blame our people. Everybody's always so busy saying, “The white man did this to us, ” “The white man did that to us, ” but we are living in the here and now. And we need to look at what can we do now to be healthy. — Joyzelle Gingway Godfrey, Teton/Yankton Dakota/Ottawa professor of Lakota Studies at Lower Brule Reservation Community College
Some of the greatest stressors that Indigenous women face have to do with their appearances and with not knowing their tribe's history and culture and, therefore, their identities as Natives. Identity conflicts among Native females are critical and ongoing psychological problems, especially for multi-heritage women.
Shortly after tribes' contact with Euro-Americans, a generation of mixed-race Indians emerged. Some of these individuals still appeared phenotypically Native and retained their cultural values. Others may have adopted the ways of their non-Native parent (almost always their father, initially) but appeared to be Native. Continued intermarriage with Euro-Americans and other mixed-bloods resulted in multi-heritage women whose appearances and cultural adherences were and are often indistinct.
Even if she is racially “full-blood, ” a Native woman still may face cultural confusion and have several identities (individual, occupational, religious, social, etc.) that correspond to her allegiances (family, tribe, community, state, country), and her identity constantly develops in response to her social, political, and economic environments. Some mixed-heritage Native women believe that meshing Native and non-Native social and cultural values is key to tribal and personal survival and happiness. Other Natives with bifurcated back