When I was in kindergarten, my school had a ‘Native American Day’. It was a 'pow wow’ where the kids dressed up as stereotypical NDNs.
My parents were both half-NDN, but the sicker white family members had done their best to erase our ancestry, decades ago and even today. But my mother (who is half-Choctaw, which we didn’t know until we tracked down her father before his death) saw this as an opportunity to teach me about what little she did know about her family. She took a skirt and shirt I already owned and helped me sew beads into it, and told me that while it wasn’t the same as an actual Native American dress, a lot of tribes who had actualpow wows would design their own outfits and she wanted this one to mean something to me. That night she told me about her older sister who ran away when she was little, and how a lot of their older family members refused to accept her as legitimate daughter because she was too dark skinned, while my mom took after my German grandmother. I’ve only met my aunt once, and I was too little to remember it. She’s still estranged from some of her family.
The next day my dad braided my hair like he always did and we went up to the school together. My (fully-white) teacher was confused as to why I wore a nice dress and handed me a shitty paper poncho-type thing and a dollar store feather glued to a construction paper headband. My parents were upset that some crappy outfit was the whole purpose of the 'pow wow’, and I cried until the teacher threatened to put me in the cornerfor the rest of the day. My parents were so disappointed in the school for having a day to 'celebrate Native culture’ by wearing crappy costumes and dancing in a circle while making ridiculous noises, but other than complain to the same people who approved it they didn’t know what to do.
This happened well over a decade and a half ago, and it taught me (and my parents) that our past, our FAMILY that we were trying so hard to reclaim was just a joke to the majority of our world, and that it didn’t matter that we had TRIED to compromise–there wasn’t a happy medium that the white people in charge of my school would be happy with. It was give up or go home.