The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 32

I remember being Brown and in my senior year of high school, on summer vacation with a then boyfriend’s family. We were at the beach; there were no worries and time was irrelevant.

My boyfriend’s mother called out to me from under her umbrella. She looked at me with concern and, with caring in her voice, she asked, “Is your mother going to be mad you’re so dark?”

I looked at her with shock, with an inability to form words. I felt the heat of the sun on my face, the sand burning the soles of my feet as I shifted side-to-side.

I remember that vacation through a photo of my then boyfriend and I, dressed in pastel colors, my face pressed close to his, arms draped around his shoulders, painfully aware of my Brownness, of my complexion pressed against his Irish skin.

My mother was born in Iowa, raised on potato soup and goods from the day-old bread store. My mother was adopted. She was taken in by a White family in the early 1960’s, a family who also adopted another Native boy and a Polish boy too. They were good people. They were hardworking and earnest and as blue collar as blue collar can be. They loved their children fiercely, connected them with their cultures, and even sent my mother back to her Reservation to spend her summers with cousins related to her by blood.

But it doesn’t change the facts. The facts of Indian removal carried over by the Indian Adoption Act, placing Indian children with White families. Severing their ties.

Race is a topic I think on often, if not daily. It is constantly at the back of my mind. Most months, I pass for White. I do not have to worry about my safety based on the color of my skin; I am afforded that privilege.

I also, however, spend many days worrying that I’ll be found out, that I will be exposed as not Indian enough to claim my heritage. There are days when I’m asked about my blood quantum.