Preserving Native American Heritage

December 26, 1999

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On December 26, 1999, The Indianapolis Star published an article on Native American youths and the preservation of their Native American identity. According to the U.S Census, as of October 1999 there are 2,031,000 people reporting American Indian descent, which is less than 1 percent of the population. Allison Codynah, a 13-year-old Indian from Indianapolis, stated: "Staying in our own race is basically the only way you can keep it alive...My grandma and grandpa always said, 'Marry your own race, especially if you have kids. That's the only way you'll keep it alive.'" Allison explained that Native Americans are so concerned with maintaining their lineage that they carry cards which show the tribes they come from as well as the percentage of Indian blood that they possess. Native American youths have also been the target of prejudice and stereotyping. Tracey Brettnacher, a 13-year-old from West Lafayette, IN, stated: "When I was in like first or second grade, we had this day called 'You're a Native American.' I wore my (native) dress that day, and nobody believed me." Amber Tave, a 22-year-old from Indianapolis, remembers her early years: "It was dealing with people saying, 'Well, you don't look Native American.'" Amber continued by discussing her 16-year-old sister: "My little sister has long black hair. She's got brown skin. She looks Native American...She's in high school, and she is the only dark person in the whole school...Our house has been vandalized...I think we've gone through a lot of discrimination." Despite discrimination and tribal differences, many Native American youths can look toward their tradition's reverence for nature. Amber Tave stated: "To me, this is my church, the outside - the earth is my church."