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Hispanic? Native American? Both?

HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,917 Senior Member
edited September 2010 in Hispanic Students
A friend asked me how her adopted son should (or could) categorize himself on college applications. He comes from an Indian tribe in Central America. His adoptive parents are neither Hispanic nor Native American. They do speak Spanish at home. As far as I know, he is not registered with the tribe, and has no contact with it.

It seems to me that he is, at least, Hispanic--but is he also Native American? Anybody have experience with this? Thanks.
Post edited by Hunt on
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Replies to: Hispanic? Native American? Both?

  • entomomentomom Registered User Posts: 23,662 Senior Member
    Hi Hunt,
    Yes, ths has come up before (mostly for students with a background from Mexico) and here's my take:

    On being Hispanic: Definitely yes. When the Hispanic box is marked yes on the CA, it will ask for background and countries/geographic regions will come up, including "Central America".

    On being NA: I think it's valid to mark NA for someone who comes from a country where a very large proportion of the people have ancestors who are Original Peoples, even though these countries don't necessarily document tribes as we do here in the US. The CA states, "American Indian or Alaska Native (including all Original Peoples of the Americas)", which I interpret as including Latin American Original Peoples. The applicant is again asked for background and the CA lists several tribes, "Other" and asks whether or not the applicant is enrolled; if the Other box is checked, the applicant is then asked to "please specify". So, your friend's son could mark NA, Other, Country (and tribe if he knows it), and not enrolled; and IMO that would be an accurate description that adcoms at different schools could then use to decide how they want to view him.

    I have heard that some schools, like Y, ask students who claim NA status for further validation of status. But I think that the information asked for on the CA gives a clear description of his background that would hold up under scrutiny. Also, if he wanted to, he could clarify his status in the Additional Information section or write about his background in an essay.
  • HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,917 Senior Member
    Thanks--I think this young man would be able to document that he came from an indigenous tribe, because I think it may be documented in his adoption records.
  • nycnyc Registered User Posts: 1,355 Senior Member
    Even if he qualifies as NA )coming from an indigenous CA tribe), the diff b/w "enrolled" and "not enrolled' may be signif. Your friend can contact schools to find out who is eligible and what docs satisfy the enrollment requirement, as well as any admissions diff b/w enrolled and not. Maybe call Dartmouth, which has program for NA students.
  • azcpamomazcpamom Registered User Posts: 292 Junior Member
    Hunt, I believe that Entomom, as usual, is right on in her response. My S is similarly an adoptee from CA, namely Guatemala. His adoption records document his birthmother's name and region as typical Mayan. In this country, most people describe him as Hispanic, but when we visited Guatemala, people there said he was clearly Mayan, not even Mestizo. We did a DNA test that indicates 98% Mayan so I guess they are right!
  • RioRio Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    In our case we have I have my Argentine grandmother who was Araucano Indian. I have two possible towns of birth but have not been able to track down paperwork to verify. My D1 did not identify on her apps with the Native designation. I am considering having D2 do so. She already is 50% Latina from my side ( I am "immigrant" as they say in West Side Story). I have had "mysterious issues" with someone in her prior district (K-8) changing her ethnic/cultural status to white from Hispanic. I have asked D2 to confirm her status at the high school when she next has that rare chance to visit with her counselor - but she is not enthusiastic about checking, likely won't. She is my "albino" child and around these parts (northern Rocky Mountains) I am guessing people don't understand the variations in melanin possible. I wonder if her new counselor would verify her Hispanic and/or Native status if a phone call from a college came in.
  • entomomentomom Registered User Posts: 23,662 Senior Member
    I wonder if her new counselor would verify her Hispanic and/or Native status if a phone call from a college came in.

    Yes, HS GCs are often not as informed about ethnic and racial status as they should be. I do think that college adcoms have a better understanding of the myriad of combinations possible these days. Our HS changed this year from just letting kids mark one 'race' which included Hispanic. I always designated my kids as Hispanic (from their father) even though they are also Asian (me) due to this limitation. This year they have the 2 questions like on the CA and for some mysterious reason the default was to put my D2 as White. I corrected it on her registration forms this fall, but I hope there won't be any misunderstanding.

    I totally understand about your 'albino' child and how people don't understand that 'looks' are no indicative of ethnic & racial background. My D1 looks 'something', she's been taken as many things including Pakistani, D2 on the other hand looks 100% Asian, it should be interesting if she goes on Diversity weekends that are directed at URMs.
  • RioRio Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    E-Mom,

    Thank you for confirming the "must only be us" feeling that can be there at times. Human nature being what it is, most of us find ourselves at some point being too much of something or not enough of the same thing. It happens within groups as well as between groups.

    My D1 attended one of the top universities-2010 graduate. She spent all 4 years swimming against the current in the Hispanic Academic community who consciously or subconsciously didn't seem to be accepting of her "medium brown" attributes. As a parent, let alone a Latina - who was literally punished for speaking Spanish in school as a kid- it was difficult to witness. Here I was hoping my offspring would be part of a welcoming community and she wasn't typical of the majority of the minority (funny if it wasn't painful).

    I frankly expected better of that school, but we are all human after all.

    So, your reference to the two questions and your correction...is that the common application for this year you are speaking of, or some supplement? Did you handwrite an additional choice?
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 28,668 Senior Member
    Census 2000 definition: "American Indian and Alaska Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment." (I believe "attachment" can be broadly interpreted; I know of no official specific criteria. The main thing is how the child identifies himself and that he pursues some interest in his heritage.) Princeton WordNet-"Amerindian, Native American (any member of the peoples living in North or South America before the Europeans arrived)" IMO, you are good to answer as you wish. Yes, more schools now ask for enrollment or registration numbers (last time I checked this was more rigorousy reviewed at colleges in the US mid-west.) My 2D are part NA, adopted. They have no registration numbers. They checked white, NA. They could have checked AA, as well. They are socially viewed as white. It helps to make the hs aware of the heritage- in our case, we just spoke with the GC a few years ago.
  • nycnyc Registered User Posts: 1,355 Senior Member
    But is the census definition really what's at issue here? I don't think anyone would deny that those of Mayan ancestory (including those who ordinarily identify as Mexican or Chicano/a) are Native American. Likewise those who identify as Puerto Rican who are Taino/a.

    But for US college admissions, the NA option is listed to identify AmerIndians (soverign NA nations w/i US borders) for whom some LACs/unis have special programs - - and hence the secondary questions regarding enrollment/registration. Isn't OP's friend considering NA in addition to Latino/HIspanic, at least in part, for the potential admissions boost?
  • RioRio Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Understood. If my kids remain being acknowledged for their hispanic background I will be satisfied.

    At this point, the indigenous people aspect of the heritage is an interesting historical note. Worth tracking down just for family interest. My cultural background remains latino. That is what I relate to, and what I have brought into the lives of my children (and spouse, of course). Exploring the indigenous connection is a fun exercise, but the chances of being involved in some fashion from this distance in time and space is remote. My personal comfort level remains in the Latino heritage.

    Also to be fair:

    D1's school, over time, did an exceptional job in opening their arms wider to the diversity within the latino community. I spoke too strongly and incompletely earlier. The "better" that I expected, was ultimately received. They deserve great credit for that.
  • RioRio Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    I have seen some applications (it was enough of a surprise to catch my attention) received in the mail recently that noted Native peoples throughout the Americas. That was part of my interest in checking out this thread. I don't know if that is something new in the college process or not. I don't recall seeing that before.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 28,668 Senior Member
    NYC, my point was that the govt accepts non-USA heritages in the definition of "Native American." So, though the student is not from a tribe located in the 50 states, he is qualified to use it. Some colleges require a reg or enrollment number to confirm it. Others do not.
  • entomomentomom Registered User Posts: 23,662 Senior Member
    So, your reference to the two questions and your correction...is that the common application for this year you are speaking of, or some supplement? Did you handwrite an additional choice?

    My comment was in reference to how our HS recognizes and records race and ethnicity. This year they are asking the questions like the CA does for college admissions, but in the past they had a very poor system that combined ethnic and racial categories and did not give people to ability to represent mixed backgrounds.
    But for US college admissions, the NA option is listed to identify AmerIndians (soverign NA nations w/i US borders) for whom some LACs/unis have special programs - - and hence the secondary questions regarding enrollment/registration.

    While the CA asks about enrollment it also goes to the effort to state, "(including all Original Peoples of the Americas)" in their definition of NA. While enrolled members of US tribes may be the most desired in the NA category, they are not necessarily the only group within that category that is considered when a college is seeking diversity (see more below).
    Isn't OP's friend considering NA in addition to Latino/HIspanic, at least in part, for the potential admissions boost?

    Perhaps, or perhaps they want to be able to give a factual description of their background. Does a legacy always mark that box to get an edge or could it just be considered a factual description of their family's history at the college? Seems to me it could be either or both.

    IMO applicants have every right to present the facts about themselves, it is then up to college adcoms to determine who they are interested in. All Hispanics or just MA & PR? All NA or only those enrolled in US tribes? This will most likely vary from school to school. While some selective schools may get enough qualified applicants to use a relatively narrow definition of who they believe fit in these categories, other colleges that due to various factors (eg. location) have a more difficult time getting a diverse student body may utilize a broader definition. Even a school as selective as Amherst includes Asians in their diversity weekends, so I don't think that broad generalizations work, and that's why applicants should state the facts about who they are and how they identify and leave it up to colleges to put a value on those qualities.
  • entomomentomom Registered User Posts: 23,662 Senior Member
    I'll add one more comparison. College apps don't ask a question about being first gen. Rather, they ask the applicant to describe where their parents attended college, when and what degree (if any) they earned. Then it is up to the college to determine if the applicant fits into their definition of first gen (eg. neither parent has attended college, neither parent has earned a college degree, etc.).

    I don't see it being any different with ethnicity and race. The applicant puts down a factual description and each college determines what that means in the context of their individual admissions process.

    Personally, I don't care about the applicants 'intent' as long as they are being factual. Because I think that many other factors are involved in URM status beyond just checking the box.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 28,668 Senior Member
    Love it, Entomom. Let's remember the student is an American citizen, not a foreign national seeking a way around the system.
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