I am from the Navajo and Jicarilla Apaches tribes who are both located in northern New Mexico. I feel like I’ve been trying to assimilate my whole life. I think I feel this way because I have always lived in an environment without Native people. I am 19 years old and have lived away from my people most of my life.
I don’t think that I look Navajo or Apache, but people have told me that I look Native. I have analyzed the way I look and have compared it to my parents. I can see their features in my face every time I look in a mirror. People either think I am Asian or Hispanic.
People don’t necessarily expect things of me as a native person. More often they assume ridiculous stereotypes. I have been asked if we still live in Tipis, if we smoke peace pipes, and have been told jokes about us talking to animals.
I do not openly present myself as Native because I don’t want to have to explain to them a culture that I myself do not fully identify with.