When I was growing up, whenever my mom referred to a mixed breed of anything she would call them a Heinz 57. Usually this was in reference to a bush dog.
I always thought that was weird and embarrassing. What is a Heinz 57 and why does a bush dog have anything to do with my ketchup? Oh, the innocence of youth! My adolescent mind brushed it off as an annoying adult joke and moved on.
Looking for a bit of quick insight on the truth behind this I did what most people my age do nowadays; ‘Google’ it. Within seconds Wikipedia told me Heinz 57 means something blended from many origins.
Kind of like me I suppose. My mother is of British and Irish descent. Looking back far enough into my maternal lineage you will find what my sister and I now refer to as a ‘long line of nail-makers’. My grandmothers came from England’s Black Country. Most of them were literally nailmakers living amongst the soot and grime in the town that inspired Tolkien’s mountain of Mordor. Pretty hardcore.
Lesser minds tried to make me feel shame about my grandmothers, implying somehow I am only a percentage of ‘Indian Blood’ because I am mixed. For a long time this bothered me until eventually I heard someone say that Ongwehowe best translates into English as “entire person”. A whole cannot be half of anything, therefore I maintain that I am 200%; Fully Ongwehowe and Fully British-Irish and to heck with anyone else who tries to tell me otherwise.
— Two Row Times (@TwoRowTimes) November 21, 2013
The practise of quantifying the blood percentages of a whole person are quite disturbing if you sit down and think about it. Where does this come from? More importantly why does it even matter unless you are trying to establish someone as an “other”? Seems to me the only time it ever mattered in my life was when someone was trying to exclude me from something. It would be brought up and used against me if I was trying to participate in ceremonies like they are a special right reserved only for ‘full-blooded’ Ongwehowe. As if somehow my spirit was tainted because of my grandmothers. I reject that.
On the other hand our blood quantum is another measurement government can still try to use today to eliminate the indigenous line. Well, that’s one way of destroying the connection between a treaty and its people. First, define them, then measure them and then manufacture a way where they meet the criteria anymore.
Why do we hang onto these things? Daily we work so hard towards the Mecca of self-determination, yet we hang onto these old infected social constructs which only work against us. Have we become comfortable with being defined as “an Indian under the Indian Act”? Or are we afraid of becoming an entire person?
In the same respect, who insists being Ongwehowe be always tied to the past? Thank God pop culture has matured past Cowboys and Indians. In 2013, bearing an indigenous identity and being immersed daily in pop culture is not a contradiction. We are that seventh generation. We burn that eighth fire and are breaking new ground in the spiritual part of each whole person. We carry wisdom from teachings of the past and take the best lessons of today to create strong and complete Ongwehowe people. What if we got rid of external definitions of our identity like blood quantum? How would we then be measured? Who could define us? To borrow from the words of Yoda, ‘you must unlearn what you have learned”.