The answer would depend on who you ask, and whether you wished a technical/genetic/geographic reply or one based on personal knowledge, belief or history. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes they do not. Sometimes it’s just a feeling or so I’ve been told, and I’ve not disagreed with those who feel they are native in spirit, but may not be so by birth or ancestry, but yes, their actions or lifestyle etc. would show me their heart.
I am mixed Native American, as many natives are these days, in that you are not just from one native but a couple, or a few. My ancestry is Chiricahua Apache and Cherokee, and there’s a splash of Welsh and African in there also, as my great-grandparents were wanderers, and I’ve cousins that are other mixes besides.
If we have a family get-together, the main relatives tend towards a uniformity in that they have dark eyes and hair, light tan skin to medium, but we’ve also some green, blue and grey eyes, blonde hair, and in my case, red. Recessive genes aren’t so recessive in us, though as you can see in the photo, this is my son and he has a “classic” look. Then some go into the gender differential, in which Natives do not have such a wide divide generally as Caucasian or others. My son has lamented at times he looks too feminine, but I ask according to who? He looks like us, his parents, his ancestors. If someone who has issues with gender and sexuality, or they try to superimpose their ethnicity on ours they try to make fun because you don’t grow a beard a certain way, or your voice is not as deep. I simply don’t understand such propensity to judge and try to shame or belittle others because of differences.
So what do natives look like? Sure, many people saw “Dances With Wolves”, for example, and think all “real” natives look like that, when those Indians were supposed one tribe primarily. The actors portraying them were from various. There are very many different tribes today, and some have distinct looks. Some look more “classically” native (to the non-native eye) and to those who say they are native but don’t know the varieties either. Some have darker skin, some have wavy hair. Some are shorter, wiry, while others are taller with the large ribcage and bow-legged. There is no one “perfect” look, though some may be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, or have a more stereotypically native look…..
Full post at Songs of the Universal Vagabond.