I worry I’m like Peter Pan when he saves Tiger Lilly and returns her to the Native tribe. The chief gives him a headdress, and Peter progresses to don the clothing and dance of social appropriation as the Natives sing “What Makes the Red Man Red.”
Peter is not actually Native but pretends to be one.
I purposefully have not shared my blood percentage yet because I am embarrassed by it.
I am 9/512 Choctaw. Percentage wise, that’s 1.8%.
Yet I’m an official member of the tribe. I am a Choctaw.
Drew, who didn’t pursue tribal affiliation until I was applying to college. Drew, who cannot claim to be a minority when I have all the privileges of being white in America. Drew, who seeks a reconciliation for the split heritage I’ve never owned.
Am I too split to be a Choctaw? And, with a history tied to slavery and the Confederacy, am I willing to own that as well as the victimization of my ancestors? My Choctaw heritage cannot be an escape for my white guilt to hide in, for there is guilt hiding in history there, too. How do I own it all and walk forward in the name of justice?
Can I be Choctaw?
High Points in the Life of
Son of William Halsted and Eliza Wright
Soon after the cyclone I bought a residence property on East 8th Street, one block from the main business street and three blocks from the store and moved in from the farm. Business interests were such that I could not spare the time it took to live so far from the store. So wife and I with the two boys, Albert and Carl, moved to town in our new three room home. I was told by friends and neighbors, when they saw a pile of lumber on our lot, “The Wright’s [sic] are going to have another kid; see, they are building another room on.” This happened several times, for we have had seven births and the deaths of two baby girls in this house. The names of the children born in this house are as follows: Fred McGuire, Nellie Opal, Hattie Marie who died at the age of eleven months, Charles Thomas, Mary Blanche, and baby girl who died and infancy, and John Cecil.
I lost my wife September 29, 1929 and no one can realize the great loss of a faithful, loving wife and mother until they have passed through such an ordeal.
Our youngest child, John, was fifteen years of age when his mother passed away. How thankful I was that she was spared until the children were nearly grown.
After my wife’s death, my daughter, Mary, and her husband, Ross Conley came to live with me. They had a baby girl seven months old and at this writing (1947) also have two boys 16 and 13 years of age. It has been a great comfort and help to me for Mary and family to be with me here in the old home and I appreciate it very much.
I don’t know what to do with A.D. Wright, either. He contributed in taking the lands from the Choctaw peoples and seemingly remained ignorant of the injustice he caused. He belongs to a long line of white men believing in American exceptionalism and conquest.
However, from his life’s account, he lived good and true by what he believed. He did not own slaves (so far as I can tell), and worked hard for everything her earned. There is ample evidence in his account of privileges earned because he was a white male, but I do not believe that nullifies his work ethic.
He produced a family which upheld an honest faith and esteems the “ideal” Oklahoma stereotypes: hard work, humility, honesty, simplicity.
Can I still look up to him and the life he led despite committing the crime of land allotment?
Can I be proud of this heritage without falling into any form of exceptionalism or cheap-pardoning of the past?
Can I be white?
My family is both the cold front from the north and the warm front from the south. We are the inhabitants and the allotters, the victimizers and the victimized.
We produced the tornado which leveled everything that once existed.
I am a mound of racial and ethnic debris, a mess of contradictions I don’t know how to untangle.
Can redemption come from this mess?