In the wake of that act of resistance to racism in Hollywood,Ridiculous Six actor and ’80s rap star Vanilla Ice began dropping references to the Choctaw heritage he believes he has. He mentioned his Choctaw-ness in an interview, on Instagram, and on Twitter.
Vanilla Ice’s tweet (since deleted) in support of Sandler and the movie’s script stated that he is “Chactaw”:
Upon hearing this claim, Rachel Byington, a Choctaw Nation citizen, hit the internet to see if it was legit. This same claim was repeated in a 2013 interview for the website Another Tattoo?.
Asked if he was going to get any more tattoos, Van Winkle responded:
“Yes! I want to get the Choctaw Indian crest—to represent my Native American heritage. My grandmother would always ask why I would do this to my body (getting tattoos) and maybe a year before she passed she told me I had some beautiful tattoos. So I want to get that tattoo so I never forget her or the importance of remembering my Indian heritage In fact my daughters Dusti Rain and KeeLee Breeze middle names are two elements very important to the Choctaw Indians.”
Fellow Choctaw Erin Pinder Spiceland went to work on his genealogy in an attempt to prove or disprove his claim. The analysis that follows is backed up by Robert van Winkle’s page at geni.com.
Since he claimed his Choctaw heritage through his mother’s mother, let’s concentrate on that area of his family tree. Mr. Ice’s maternal grandmother Nina Roth Dickerson was born in Kansas. Nina’s parents are William J. and Ida Eberline Roth (Ice’s great-grandparents). William was born in Iowa on February 13th, 1887 to parents Jacob and Edith Howe Roth. Jacob was born in August of 1854 in Pennsylvania in an area flooded with German immigrants. Edith was born in 1868 in Germany. You can see clearly in the 1900 federal census record below that Jacob and Edith both reported all four of their parents were also born in Germany.
Ida Clara Eberline was born in Kansas in 1884 to parents Ferdinand Robert and Nancy C. Reynolds Eberline. Ferdinand Eberline was born in the city of ?Meiningen in the state of Thuringen in Germany.
Ida’s mother Nancy was not German, but she also could not have been Choctaw. She was born in Iowa in 1860, and her parents John James and Elizabeth Hatfield Reynolds were both born in Ohio in 1821 and 1836, respectively. This is suspiciously close to the time Choctaw leaders were signing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830) and Choctaws were enduring the Choctaw removal (1831). Spiceland says, “It’s pretty clear from these records that Nina Roth Dickerson was at the very least 75% German, and the other 25% was probably also Western European.”
We would encourage Rob and others like him to think carefully when using any real or believed Native ancestry to justify an action or idea. “There’s a vast difference in self-identifying as a Native American person and being a member of a federally recognized Tribe,” said Alicia Seyler, a Choctaw lawyer from Oklahoma. Even most tribal members and leaders do not feel comfortable speaking for their entire tribe or for all Native Americans, as Rob tried to do in justifying the inexcusable jokes in The Ridiculous Six. Claiming Native ancestry where none exists leads to the dilution of our culture and visibility, and using any connection to Native people to justify such unacceptable use of Native culture is an affront to all indigenous peoples.
It is not difficult to identify these types of untruths with the vast availability of genealogical records on the Internet. We think that Mr. Ice needs to study his family tree a little more, because we didn’t find a “Chactaw Grandma” anywhere in it. For someone whose stage name literally means “white people dance moves,” his family tree was no surprise. However, if he wants to honor his true heritage, we know where he can buy a nice pair of lederhosen.
Editor’s note: This is a slightly edited version of an article that initially appeared on Facebook and the Idle No More Wisconsin Tumblr page.