In observance of National American Indian Heritage Month, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) held a proclamation ceremony and heritage celebration in Herrmann Hall, Nov 20. The ceremony featured guest speaker Dr. George Baldwin, a professor from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), who focused a significant portion of his presentation on identity.
“I’m an American Indian,” said Baldwin. “People think to correct me and say, ‘Aren’t you Native American?’ I say, ‘No, I’m an American Indian.’
“There's a generation of us that have a legal, rational relationship with the federal government,” Baldwin continued. “There are 576 tribes that have that relationship, and we call ourselves American Indians.”
Baldwin challenged the audience to think critically about their understanding of what determines an American Indian, and the role of both bloodline and respect of culture that drive it.
“Every American Indian tribe has the right to determine who their members are,” he said, referencing a 1972 Supreme Court ruling. “In fact, the Cherokee Tribe does not have a specific blood quantum requirement.”
But, he added, identity as an American Indian requires a deeper understanding of history. “Identity politics in Indian country is really important ...There’s a community, history and culture you have to join.”
Each November, recognized across the nation as Native American Indian Heritage Month, the Navy and Marine Corps take an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Native Americans to the services, and the nation. Appropriate to the theme for 2019, “Honoring Our Nations: Building Strength Through Understanding,” Baldwin’s thoughtful presentation provided the audience with a deeper recognition of what it means to be American Indian.