Defined out of existence

From “The Land is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery” by Sarah Augustine

Those who belonged to tribes denied federal recognition were defined out of existence, since “real Indians” are issued a card and assigned a number. Outside their history, language, and relationship to a homeland, Indigenous People who have not been assigned a number are not recognized by the dominant culture. Nostalgia for “Indians” is held in the collective North American consciousness, at least for the ones who come from a bygone era defined by rebellion, horses, and Hollywood mysticism. But “real Indians,” our collective mythology holds, are long gone. The assimilated Native Americans of the present day are simply in the crowd of brown faces on the margins of the mainstream, assumed to be recent immigrants from foreign shores.

I am one of those brown faces, which is all I can ever claim to be. Like many Indigenous People who dwell in North America, I am the product of a diaspora: the history, language, tradition, and genetics of my people were wrenched from a place and thrown to the wind, divided for all time. In the language of the arrow of time, where progress moves in one direction, I am an assimilated person.