"Real" Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood

By Bonita Lawrence | Go to book overview

Preface

This study grew from the awareness, as I looked around me, that many individuals in the Toronto Native community were visibly mixedblood. While everybody simply professed a Native identity, some of us, it seemed, purely on the basis of appearance, were “more Indian” than others. Occasionally, I would be aware of tensions that were manifested around appearance, between dark-skinned Native people who denied the Nativeness of white-looking people and light-skinned people who maintained silence about the subject of their visible difference. Focusing on this issue seemed an effective way of addressing what lay behind the silence and tensions within the Toronto Native community about differences in appearance and what it signified. That this subject is close to my own heart, as an individual who has wrestled with her own ambiguity about her Native identity, only made this project all the more compelling to undertake. By way of explanation, I offer my own story.

I grew up in a family that identified itself, for the first few years of my life, as expatriate British. “We” (my father’s story) were one of a handful of working-class British families who settled on the South Shore of Montreal at the end of World War II. In the tiny community I was born into, our family existed uneasily, nurtured on my father’s tales of the Royal family, and anticipating the day when “we” would be returning to England. Silent in this version of who we were was my

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