Project MUSE – Indigenous Identity: What Is It and Who Really Has It? – The topic of indigenous identity opens a Pandora’s box of possibilities, and to try to address them all would mean doing justice to none. This article provides background information on three facets of identity—self-identification, community identification, and external identification—followed by a brief overview of measurement issues and my reflections on how internalized oppression/colonization is related to identity. The terms Native and indigenous are used interchangeably to refer to the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. These are not, per se, the “right” terms or the only terms that could have been used. They reflect my preferences.
Cultural identity, as reflected in the values, beliefs, and worldviews of indigenous people, is the focus of the article. Those who belong to the same culture share a broadly similar conceptual map and way of interpreting language.1 People can identify themselves in many ways other than by their cultures.2 In fact, identity may actually be a composite of many things such as race, class, education, region, religion, and gender.3 The influence of these aspects of identity on who someone is as an indigenous person is likely to change over time. Identities are always fragmented, multiply constructed, and intersected in a constantly changing, sometimes conflicting array.4 Although in reality the various facets of identity are inextricably linked, for the purposes of this essay I will focus on culture as a facet of identity. [End Page 240]