Source: instagram.com/vanillaiceofficial
Spot the Indian: David Spade, Vanilla Ice, Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider on the set of 'The Ridiculous Six.' Source: instagram.com/vanillaiceofficial

Fact Check: Is Vanilla Ice Really Native? Choctaw Researchers Investigate

Erin Spiceland and Rachel Byington
4/28/15

On April 23, ICMTN reported that several Native actors walked off the set of the Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six. 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.

RELATED: Adam Sandler's Best Native American Friend Is—Vanilla Ice? That's Weird

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.

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chell694's picture
chell694
Submitted by chell694 on
A DNA test will be more specific if there are Native American ancestors in his family or not. Much to my dismay after hearing the same "grandmother stories" in my family I learned the truth and will never claim that I have Native ancestors again. Many were married into other branches of our family but no direct lines to me. Very disappointed but I will stand for the truth.

shethebear
Submitted by shethebear on
DNA test will not get you enrolled any just about any tribe. However, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma's enrollment is descendancy based - as another person said else where - both Vanilla Ice AND Johnny Depp (who's at one point also claimed choctaw ancestry) are both more than rich enough to hire folks to look up their genealogy. Both only need to prove that they are direct descendants of folks listed on the Choctaw portion of the Dawes Rolls. They both have the money to make the process much easier than it would be for the average person needing to track down the paper work required to get their CDIB and genealogy all together.

Fawna Bluefeather
Fawna Bluefeather
Submitted by Fawna Bluefeather on
Well said, Thank you for clearing , That subject

rosebud's picture
rosebud
Submitted by rosebud on
chell694, You could still be. Do not rely solely on DNA. DNA only gives results for an unbroken gender line. So do the paperwork. I grew up being told I was part Cherokee, and I was always proud of that. I didn't have the physical paper trail though until a family member did the genealogy work. I know I also have Cherokee through my father's blood line, but I don't know the details as well as I do for my maternal side. I decided against having my BC changed though, although I was invited to.

T.Hayes70's picture
T.Hayes70
Submitted by T.Hayes70 on
I was raised believing that I had Native ancestry, and after my Mom passed away I wanted to do the research to find out the truth for myself. The Dawes rolls are a great place to start if your looking for information on any of the five tribes covered in it. But there are many who for whatever reason, never made the rolls so I don't believe that they are the final word in the matter. To complicate matters further you had places where being Native was virtually outlawed, as in Virginia where it was easier to say there were no Natives there than to honor treaties. People who were mixed with less than 1/16th blood were classified as white, and everyone else was classified as black. It can make tracing your ancestry very tricky. In my case I have an ancestor who fought in the Revolution and is going to be included in the Washington DC memorial for Black American Revolutionary soldiers, which is a great cause that I fully support, but at the same time I have to wonder how accurate their research was and how many Native Americans will be misidentified as black and included on it, as is the case of my ancestor. In the end I would recommend a DNA test. It won't tell you tribe, but if you are really unsure and you want a more pin point answer on what makes you and your family up genetically, then that is the way to go.

CJKlepper's picture
CJKlepper
Submitted by CJKlepper on
LOL!!! Another Tiger Woods, who claimed to have to Native American in him through his father; definitely not his mother. My own daughter can claim she's one-half Native American, still people would be suspicious of her claim. She is one-half Native American and doesn't look it.

CJKlepper's picture
CJKlepper
Submitted by CJKlepper on
Blood quantum and DNA should be more specific in determining Native American heritage. There are way too many "pale eyes" running around claiming to have Native American heritage. Some even claim to be members of now extinct tribes or non-existent tribes of which they are members. Going back to the three-greats- grand doesn't necessary make one Native American.
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