Letters / On “When Settler Becomes Native”

As someone who is both Jewish and Native (Quechua), I greatly appreciated “When Settler Becomes Native” in your Fall issue. It’s a concise but thorough resource that I will definitely be recommending. Unfortunately, the piece also engages in Indigenous erasure and anti-Native language.

Firstly, the piece suffers from an overall failure to mention Native/Indigenous Jews. Jewish Natives are already invisibilized in the Jewish community, yet our voices and experiences are of critical relevance to this conversation. Our omission here is not only notable, but also counterproductive. The single Native Jew mentioned is a Zionist, even though Jewish Natives (like non-Jewish Natives) lean anti-Zionist.

When the piece does cite specific Native people, it uses language that implicitly questions their legitimacy. It refers to Métis and Tewa individuals as being "of [Native] descent" and puts "Indigenous advocate" in scare quotes. By contrast, the Mizrahi Jews quoted are not referred to as "of Mizrahi descent."

The language of “descent” plays into the idea that true Nativeness is defined by so-called pure blood, rather than by belonging to a living Native community—a dynamic the author references in the comic, but still replicates. It reinforces the anti-Indigenous trope that due to racial mixing and cultural adaptation, there are no “real” Natives left. It would have been better, in this case, to refer to these individuals simply as being “Métis” and “Tewa,” clearly stating the nations they belong to.

Daniel Delgado
Chuk’shon, O’odham Jewed (Tucson, AZ)