We are in a time where we have to be cautious of the people who claim an Indigenous identity. Sometimes we have to questions ourselves when we claim an Indigenous identity. Why? Well there are benefits associated with certain groups, such as federally recognized Indians, which through treatise are promised healthcare, grants for education, and the incentives of living on reservations. If one is able to comprehend, these “benefits” continue to ensure genocide and “kill the Indian and save the man” methods of destroying the ideologies of traditional Indigenous societies.
These benefits, provided by institutions, continue to damage Indian people. Doctors at Indian Health Service would do cesarean section on women because they would get paid more for these operations. Indian Health Service would also sterilize Indian women without their consent (http://cbhd.org/content/forced-sterilization-native-americans-late-twentieth-century-physician-cooperation-national-). Indian Education is no better, this agency rather spend money forcing an ineffective method of teaching over finding innovative methods to meet children’s needs.
No matter what these incentives do not tell the story of survival Indigenous people deal with in their day to day interaction with society. Growing up as an Indian one realizes that this world was not made for us. It was made by and for white-straight-Christian-males.
However, there are new incentives of identifying as Indigenous, Native, Indian, First Nations, Aboriginal and it serves the idea of settler-colonialism. Settler-colonialism has not received much attention until recently and it discusses the idea of colonialist identifying as native because they develop stories of a certain space over time.
Being in the American Indian Studies field for six years I myself have to question what is an Indigenous identity? It changes across location and now it even changes among individuals. There are legal, biological, cultural, self-identification definitions of an Indigenous person; no wonder why we are so confused as to who and what we are. I say to hell with all those definitions.
There is nothing wrong with all Indigenous nations coming together and developing a space of discussing common goals, cues, and guidelines of what it means to be Indigenous. We must reclaim our histories, identities, lives, and space so future generations can start to live. I read a quote in a book, which I cannot remember but always sticks with me, and it states “We (Indigenous people) are not living we are merely surviving.” I guess a good place to find the answer of your identity as Indigenous is whether or not you agree with the quote.