Fractions of Little Theories  

tommy orange

Like a Slide Where my Relatives are Falling

Yesterday I wrote about Little Theories about the Mass Media, and how urban legends live long after the real stories emerge.

Seems we just can’t let go of a good story, even when untrue.

Native American writers took the stage this weekend in Portland to share their stories.

One question emerged from interviewers more than once:

How do you represent yourself? As a writer, or as a Native American writer?

Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho), whose 2018 book There There is being greeted with hearty applause, said “I always get two questions about being Native American.”

  • How much is your government check?
  • What percent Indian are you?

Indians don’t receive checks from their tribal governments, although some tribes do share gaming funds with enrolled members, sometimes called a “per capita” payment.

If they have gaming (the majority of tribes do not), resources are typically ploughed back into the community for education and infrastructure.

The U.S. government does not issue checks to individual Indians, according to the Partnership with Native Americans.

As for percentage, or blood quantum, Orange said he sees the question as a fraction.

Orange doesn’t want to be thought of as a fraction, and he avoids answering the question.

Instead he asks you to look at a fraction, like 1 over 32 or 1/32.

“When I see the slash, it looks like a slide where relatives are falling off.”

orange photo elena siebert

Tommy Orange [Photo by Elena Siebert, copyrighted]


TOMORROW: American Indian writers take the stage in Portland

Day 13: Native American Heritage Month

13 November 2018





















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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