Indian Enough

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“You know you look white though right?”

She says to me

a serious look on her face,

as if she’s telling me the sun is divorcing the moon

and will no longer lend it’s light.

I remain silent.

Unsure of how to continue the conversation

that questions my identity.

“I mean your skin is light like mine,” she continues.

“You don’t look Native like…” she inserts our coworkers name.

No. I. don’t. look. like. her.

I    look     like    me.

I lose my voice.

Sound is swallowed by canyons created by two decades of struggling with identity.

“I..I.. have high cheekbones,..” I say feebly.

I feel like a teenager again.

“Yeah I guess,” she says as she moves on to another subject.

Sloughing off the spearheaded syllables that stabbed me.

I have been having this conversation my whole life.

13/16ths is how my father eloquently put it.

A little more than a half breed

but not enough to buy me legitimacy.

My little brother is the only one blessed with brown skin

that he would argue sometimes is a curse.

I secretly envy his rich brown pigment that mirrors our Asu’s.

Being brown brands your skin

with less question marks.

I can sometimes feel their blue eyes

searing into me

trying to figure out,

just how Indian I am.

I’m Indian enough

when some redneck wants to call me Squaw

Indian enough

to have experienced race based violence

Indian enough

to have a Kohkum who went to residential school

Indian enough

to have felt the impacts of colonization in my childhood home

Indian enough

to hear my mothers stories of having to fight white boys and white girls

that tried to put an Indian in their place

Indian enough

to have felt the sting of separation in my grade 8 history class

when racists comments ran rampant

Indian enough

to have experienced so much God damn Indian that I tried to pretend I was white as a teenager.


I’m only Indian enough

when oppression finds it convenient

God forbid

I’m Indian enough

to know I’m not an Indian but Dane Zaa and Nehiyaw

I’m Indigenous enough

to have read my Treaty

I’m Indigenous enough

to be learning my Asu’s language

I’m Indigenous enough

to be able to speak out against

the violation of Indigenous lands

violation of Indigenous women’s bodies

God forbid

I try to be an Indian

when it’s inconvenient.

Maybe I should have told her

my Indian wasn’t up for question

I know who I am

without your eyes confirming it

I do not exist

for your convenience


  1. One of the strategies of colonialism is to make us either White or NDN. Of course, many/most of us are more complex than that, so they make all of us with any European ancestry “White”. A highly effective strategy.

  2. Hi! Was this poem written some time in 2000/2001? I took a Cdn Women’s Writing course in 2001/2002 and read a poem called Indian Enough and have not found it since then, until I found this. I don’t remember it exactly but recall the feelings. This is excellent.

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