Whenever I think about being biracial the line from Selena always pops up in my head, "We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!" My father is Muscogee Creek and Yuchi. My mother is English Canadian. I, however, never grew up in the Muscogee Creek Nation with my Dad's family nor in Canada with my Mom's family. Family, community and society all shape who we are but I never experienced in my early years those familial relations on a consistent basis and yet in my blood I am tied to each. Therefore, who am I?
I grew up in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg and in my neighborhood were children of all kinds of backgrounds: Loas, Vietnamese, and Thai. Looking back most of these children were from immigrant families coming to America to take advantage of the American Dream. They left war torn countries seeking an opportunity in a new country and most importantly peace. I never identified with them culturally because I always knew who I was, Native and Canadian. But I must have identified with them on other levels, such as being in a land so far away from one's central identity.
In middle school and high school I was a two sport athlete playing both baseball and basketball. I was stronger at baseball but I felt basketball was great at conditioning me for the baseball season. There I became part of two more social groups: the Whites and Blacks. As you can imagine, Whites dominated the baseball team and Blacks dominated the basketball team. I developed some strong bonds with my teammates and those relationships still last to this day. And yet I was still not sure who I was at the time. Whenever I was given a survey I always marked down "American Indian or Alaskan Native," but I knew there was more to my identity than a fill in the bubble response form.
In and after college I took my identity a little more serious. I began working for my tribes in the area of cultural revitalization. I learned a lot about Indian ceremonial ways, customs, and languages. I enjoyed being around the Elders and being taught the "old ways" because to me those ways were not only extremely imaginative but also immensely powerful. I finally learned what it meant to be "Indian" and that is when I realized what identity truly is for me: Identity is based on any number of meaningful connections you make with people throughout your life; it is based on a history and a location; and there is no starting point or ending point but knowing who came before you and who comes after you is of extreme importance.
Therefore, who am I? I am a Saint Petersburgian, that is where I was born and raised; I am Muscogee Creek, Yuchi, Canadian, English, and Irish, that is my blood; My family on my Dad's side is from Oklahoma and on my Mom's side is from Toronto, those are who came before me; My little cousins, nephews, and nieces live either in Oklahoma or Toronto as well, those are who came after me; My friends, figuratively speaking, are a school picture of the multicultural club, those are the meaningful connections I have made. All of that is who I am defined. Now on to being more [cultural group name] than the [same cultural group name but plural]. I hope it's not too exhausting.