The Native Elite includes:
- Natives who attend and graduate from Ivy Leagues – not limited to undergrad. Includes legacies and non-first generational Natives.
- Natives who have a Ph.D.
- Natives whose combined income is above 60,000.
- Natives who make jokes at the expense of other Natives. For example, jokes about life on the Rez, Spirituality, at the expense of women, trans folx, etc.
- Natives who are non-threatening to the Non-Native Elite. These are the types who play upon tropes in a matter that does not displease or offend White Non-Natives.
- Natives who believe they are ’empowering’ their communities and create savior complexes (a state of mind which a person holds the belief that they are destined to become a savior/assist or help others, this can manifest in oppressive ways, that are paternalistic).
- Cis-Native men & women, emphasis on native men. Much of Western society emphasizes and privileges masculinity.
The list could go on. It is not exhaustive or exclusive.
The Native Elite are in influential positions. They affect the trajectory of Native Nations. They lead the conversations about Native issues. Above all, they decide who is Indigenous and who is not.
Any defiance against the Native Elite is subject to retaliatory actions.
Devon Abbott Miheusah (Choctaw) provides a critique against what they call the ‘Academic Gatekeepers’ in the book; Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Schools and Empowering Communities. Mieusah (p. 37) states, and I quote:
“Other professors are not racist, arrogant, or especially ignorant. But they are jealous, which may be the worst kind of gatekeeper, and they are well-known across all spectrums of academia. Jealous Gatekeepers are determined to keep power out of the hands of scholars of all races and cultures, especially those who are highly published, awarded, and secure in their stature outside the university. The gatekeepers [cause] harm because their behavior is calculated and purposefully; they routinely rumor-monger, and lie about their object of jealousy.” p. 37.
“Scholars who challenge these gatekeeping strategies, especially those with few or no allies, will be subject to retaliatory action because often they are the only ones who will speak up.” p. 44
Within the education system, similar to Miheusah, the Native Elite are those who use their positions to influence both Native and Non-Native thought(s) and knowledge(s).
Identifying the Native Elite provides a sense of recognition for many of us, who struggle with the power relations.
It challenges those who tell us to: “Keep your eyes down, your mouth shut, and listen to me. You don’t know anything.”