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Man calls out coworker, 'you aren't really Native American,' she gets offended. UPDATED 2X.

Man calls out coworker, 'you aren't really Native American,' she gets offended. UPDATED 2X.


Gatekeeping someone else's lineage isn't usually going to go over well, whether you're right or not.

In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a guy asked if he was wrong for telling his coworker she's not Native American. He wrote:

"AITA for telling a coworker she isn't Native American?"

I was speaking with coworkers and the topic of a nearby town came up. The town has a difficult to pronounce name and my coworker made a comment about what kind of idiot came up with the name. I pointed out that it was a word is from a Native American language. My coworker replied with "well, I'm allowed to make fun of it then. I'm part Indian, Native American."

My coworker appears very white. From what she has told me, her family has lived in the same rural area for years and this is the first time she has mentioned anything about this. Curious, I asked her what nation she was from and she said she had a Cherokee ancestor. I ask if she is registered with a Cherokee tribe and she says no.

I ask who the ancestor was and she said her great-great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess. Here's where I might be the AH. I am white and know very little about Native Americans but I DO know that white people love to claim to be Cherokee without any evidence to back it up. And that the Cherokee nation doesn't have princesses.

I know this because my estranged aunt used to say the same thing while everyone else in my family said they had literally NEVER been told about Indigenous ancestry. A DNA test of another aunt proved this later on. We're just white. So (and this is where I might have been rude) I tell her that the Cherokee don't have princesses and she's probably wrong. She got really defensive and insisted it was true.

I told her that lots of white people claim to be Native and aren't, and that with DNA tests there isn't really an excuse not to look into it. Needless to say, the vibe became awkward quickly and this coworker has been ignoring me since and seemed pissed at me. Another coworker said I should have just let it go and not said anything.

My reasoning is if she's going to say "I'm Native American so I can make fun of them" she better be damn sure she's ACTUALLY Native American. And if she is Cherokee, I feel like she still can't make fun of a DIFFERENT tribe's language anyway! So AITA?

People weighed in with their thoughts.

saucisse wrote:

NTA, man that "Cherokee princess" thing just doesn't die, does it? How many princesses did the Cherokee have, to have to many people descended from them? The answer is zero, of course, but man that does not stop *anyone.*

The real reason the "Cherokee" ancestor keeps getting handed down is that it's a way to explain why this or that kid comes out a liiiiiiitle bit darker than everyone else, gosh it must be that Cherokee princess that great-great-great-grandma was descended from.

Out of curiosity do any men ever claim Cherokee princess ancestry, or is this strictly a female thing? Also, your coworker is definitely an obnoxious AH for this alone:

"my coworker made a comment about what kind of idiot came up with the name."

PickleKitty2022 wrote:

While I do know a lot of white/white-passing people with Native ancestry, they are always proud of their heritage and never refer to themselves as “Indian” (at least this is what I’ve seen, I know there’s not one right way to be indigenous). Your coworker shouldn’t be making fun of Indigenous language whether she’s Indigenous or not. She just seems embarrassed someone called her on her BS. NTA.

lostalldoubt86 wrote:

NTA- Being 1/16th Native American or whatever percentage she is claiming doesn’t give her the right to make fun of someone she don’t have any actual history with. I’m 50% Irish, but I’m pretty sure anyone from Ireland would be pissed if I insulted their culture.

sketchthrowaway999 wrote:

NTA, but I would avoid that angle in the future. You can't prove it, and the other person gets to double down and play the victim even though they're probably full of crap. Better to stick with what you know for sure, which is that it's sh&*ty to make fun of other languages. Side-note: DNA tests aren't reliable when it comes to testing Native American ancestry.

veriria wrote:

NTA but I personally would have just let it go, and try not to bring things up about race or politics in the future with said coworker. No need to get into arguments for no reason with people who aren't even your friends. Having said that my husband's grandfather on his mom's side WAS full Cherokee and it always boggles my mind that he (my husband) doesn't want to learn more about his ancestry.

Sure that only makes him 25% or whatever but still, that's close enough to be realizing you literally have family out there with an actual heritage. Meanwhile, my DNA just traces back to England, Ireland, and a small part of Norway, lol.

After receiving lots of feedback, OP jumped on with a few updates.

EDIT for clarification: I do understand that there are a lot of white passing Indigenous people, which is what I originally assumed and why I asked for more details because I thought she might like to share.

I thought she was going to say she was from the tribe whose land we are on/she was making fun of (we do not live anywhere near the Cherokee people's original land or the current Cherokee nation). I did not expect her to use the Cherokee Princess line and by then was mad at her for being insensitive about the language thing.

holy sh#t. Thank you to everyone who is adding their perspective. I appreciate it. And to anybody who is saying I should worry about HR; I don't plan to bring this up again and I'll report any disrespectful comments in the future.

This is probably my fault for how I wrote it, but I promise the conversation was very casual until the princess part. I was genuinely curious and she seemed happy to share her answers. We aren't near the Cherokee nation. I live in New England. I know there are white passing people with Indigenous heritage. And to clarify she was not insulting a Cherokee name.

I think I might be stupid and I don't know what DNA tests are? I thought you submitted them, got some results, and started building a family tree from there/look up records/fact check. Apparently, this is genealogy and is similar but different. So I'm dumb. After reading your comments I realize saying DNA test came across very disrespectful.

That was not my intention but I recognize that many of you interpreted it that way and I apologize. I also did not realize there was an underrepresentation of Native American DNA in the big-name DNA testing companies. Also, a lot of people think I'm a white woman. Truly, I'm flattered but I'm just gay.

In this case, OP is NTA - but in the future, he can just let the coworker dig her own hole.

Sources: Reddit
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