Ellie Bryan and Jeanne Croud
DescriptionEllie Bryan (21) talks to her friend Jeanne Boutang Croud (59) about her upbringing in Minneapolis and her racial identity - her mother is white, her father is biracial. Ellie is usually assumed to be white by people.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Ellie Bryan
- Jeanne Croud
Recording LocationEdina Library
Venue / Recording Kit
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:02 My name is Jean crowd. And Tom today is the 6th of June 2011 and we're at the Edina library in Minnesota and I'm here to talk to my friend Ellie who is actually for my 20 year old daughter's they've been friends for quite a few years.
00:21 My name is Ellie Ryan and I'm 21 years old. I'm going to be 22 in a couple of weeks. Today is June 6th. We are at the Edina library, and I'm here with my friend Josie's mother teen.
00:36 So Ellie, we've known each other through Facebook and I followed your art since you were in high school on and your jewelry making and you've always amazed me as being a really really fast any interesting person, but we didn't actually meet until I think it was the spring at a powwow. I'm Native American and you're not but you have a real interest in other cultures. So it was really nice to meet you in a few weeks. After that. I was looking on Facebook and there was this really cool picture of you and your dad in front of a Chinese Bakery. And of course my first thought was and then it was a little girl in the windows and I looked over and then I went well I was surprised because you don't look back and
01:27 All of a sudden a lot of things have kind of fell into place for everybody create a lot of questions about what that was like for you and then since it looks almost identical to you but has much darker skin, so
01:44 The first where was that Chinese bakery that was in Chicago? We went as a family trip. I was probably 7 or 8 years old.
01:55 But yeah, that's a question. I definitely definitely get a lot from people usually for me is kind of like, you know, when
02:05 When is it going to come up? When will they realize or should I bring it up? When will they ask me? But ever since I've been a small child in school? It's always been confusion about me cuz I appear white. I have light skin I have I don't have curly hair is not textured anything like that. But my dad is black. He's actually my dad's biracial. He's half-black half-white but he identifies as black and I'm a mom is white and my sister is quite a bit darker than being so it's never really been any question with her about her race or anything. But with me that's always kind of been just something that's kind of cop people off guard or been kind of out of the ordinary. So what are the things that fell into place for me? When I realize that your dad was black was that you had a few months before that started collecting photograph senior photographer, but clicking historical photographs of quadrant of women, and I thought it was fast any but I just was kind of curious about why you would do that.
03:05 Fresno that makes total sense. And so I guess what I'm most interested in this house that search for culture that search for who you are the Detroit today affect you as an artist because I know you're interested in other cultures besides. I know you're made of American culture had one of your dear Frances tamale in here and Smiley Culture. So what how has that affected you as an artist and that's a person well,
03:34 Growing up, I guess race was never really something that was.
03:40 That present in my life like for me growing up. My dad is Back At. Mama's white was never anything strange or unusual for me. And then as I get older, I mean as a kid, I would have kids ask me questions that sort of thing. But as I got older I definitely started to realize that it's definitely you have something that's really present and really important for everyone cuz race is something that you know, you see a person you can't see person without seeing their race is something we discussed in one of my college courses this year, but I really started becoming a bigger part of my life this year when I took a course on black women writers and we had this ring is about the eyes are watching God in the main character in the book. She has the same racial background as me. She has a white grandfather and a white father. I have a black grandfather in a black father, but
04:34 It was interesting for me because in the class, you know, we had to discuss one day about the character in a lot of the kids in the class were curious about, you know, a lot of the black girls Mama Cass really wanted to figure that out. Like what race is character. You know why she light-skinned is she dark skin, like that was really important. We spent a little segment of the class talking about it and then I just got a raise my hand said, you know, well if she has a white grandfather and my father that you know, then she has the same racial background is miso soup. Theoretically she could look like I do and
05:09 Kind of threw the teacher off guard a little bit and then because I just moved on and continue talking about it like it wasn't that big of a deal or anything. But in that moment, I kind of realized you know, how
05:21 Important races to me I guess because before that I had never really been able to identify with a black woman, but after reading this book is about a black woman and you know, her struggles living in the 1920s. I kind of realized, you know, that is, you know, same kind of person as me and so I started working on this project have a Blog it's called quadroon girl and quadroon is
05:46 Word that was used during slavery times and it isn't most people don't even like they say the word today. Nobody knows what it means. But basically it's from Spanish Origins adjustment the quarter black. And so and that's what my background is. So I told you in this black guy just trying to collect images and just enjoy the information that pertains to like quadroon women or another phrase people use his past like pass for whites. So any sweat imagery that sort of relates to that and then also mulatto is a word that comes up that some people find offensive today, but I just tried to find a lot of image images from the past, so she ate with those sort of words and everything. So that's interesting. So when you were growing up,
06:34 Will freak out of the black women in the class that you took how did they seem to react to you after they discovered that your back because no clearly none of them knew that before. I talked about this after reading this book really it wasn't I didn't seem to feel any different. I wasn't treated any differently. I don't think I think you know, people off guard for sure but a lot of
07:01 Black women Black Culture, there's a lot of everyone's different colors, you know, and so it's always
07:08 Kind of strange to you don't have someone who?
07:12 Like my sister, for example, she is obviously biracial and she lot of Irish people consider themselves black and so she could pass for Black, but I certainly couldn't but we're at the exact same background. So I think it's like a fine line that it's hard to sort of cross where it comes to that sort of thing because my sister is black, but I don't know if people are willing to accept me is black and then at the same time during my research with historical aspects of
07:43 You know quadroons and people passing. It's like back then with people have been willing to accept me as white. I don't know and so that's kind of some answer slowly trying to kind of figure out right now cuz right now as I walk down the street, I'm a fully accepted as why I mean, there's no like like I've experienced has some advantages of that, you know, and
08:06 So it's like no question at all that I'm white and then it throws people off when I say that I'm part black but then we know a Mite does that mean I'm black, you know, that's one thing that kind of I'm just sort of trying to figure out right now cuz I don't know it's a lot of people I don't think that's what it means if some people I think that's what it means but it's a lot of people I'm not sure. So how do you self-identify as biracial when I was younger? I would and I'm actually has this funny story about she
08:37 Like having me and my sister, you know a little white baby in a little black baby. You know, she wasn't sure exactly, you know how to teach us things. And I think she told me that she asked us when we were last call be like for 5 and she said Elliott. What are you are you why are you black? Are you mixed? You know, she's asked me to know what I said. She said that I said I was white at the time and so I think being that age I was just, you know, kind of looking at my skin tone next to my mom's skin tone and just saying, you know, I'm looking man like, you know, that's what I was saying at the time and then my sister would say, I think that she was mix
09:16 But I'll right now if someone were to ask me what's your ethnic background? I would say probably to avoid confusion.
09:24 I'm not sure like I'd like to say I'm bi-racial but then sometimes it still isn't even it's still confusing for people. They're lying Rhino biracial and I have to say while I'm 1/4 black and doing okay, and then there's still a little bit confused and then it sometimes like, you know, I'll get into the hole, you know genetics like in Brazil like this happens all the time cuz they're so me a racially mixed down there that people have fraternal twins and one's white and one's by you know, and so have to talk to you about that. But
09:57 But yeah, I would say if someone ask me you know, what are you I would say I'm bi-racial. I'm a quarter to Macon and I'm have to remain in a quarter Irish. That's what I would say Native American woman and that's a difficult Journey because it's hard to to fit into your own culture. I identify as Native American and it's kind of hard sometimes to fit in with that. I usually just decide that other people's problems, but for you it's you know, that it would be a really difficult. Is there any more difficulty with African-American people accepting you or white people accepting you as flag?
10:37 With white people, it's usually kind of like this go out. Okay, and then kind of just be like that's interesting that sort of thing. It's kind of the reaction. I'll get it and then no maybe ask me like a couple more questions. Tell your dad is black, but with black people at me as a child, I would get a lot of you know,
11:00 You're lying quit playing a lot of that kind of stuff, you know from little little kids. They be like no, I don't believe you. You know, your mom must have cheated on your dad. I don't believe you that's not right and then I would because you look just like your mom but you look just like your dad and just like your family if my mom doesn't look like my dad but having me and my sister there we all look exactly the same, you know, so as a child, I would get a lot of Neo disbelief like, you know, you're lying by the black as an adult.
11:32 People don't you know as openly just say those sorts of things that I don't necessarily feel like not believe me. I'm sure they've questions and I'm sure they thought like well, maybe she thinks she is or maybe she's being dramatic, you know, maybe she's really why but she's a great great great grandpa was black. I mean, she's black, you know besides it's more than that for me, you know, cuz I mean if you walk down the street with my dad, my dad is black in them people looking like that. They don't say oh that's a bi-racial man. They say that's a black man and he said he can he learn that at a very young age that people ask him once you know.
12:14 That what do you consider yourself? And he said I'm black and I said you don't never said hi. I'm Freddy meant and I mix you never said that and he said no cuz people didn't think he was that they just always thought he was like his sister and his brother a little bit lighter skin than him and so I'm not sure about their stories, but he just said I was never a question for you. I was black, you know until I'm sure it definitely do people off when he had a white mother in but probably experienced the exact same things that I'm experiencing now with having a black dad. You don't have any white mother so I could I just have to tell you the story when I was had a visiting nurse and once and she came from and she looked at me she said and what race are you and I said, oh thank you for asking because nobody ever asked this to my might but I'm Native American and she looked at me and do you think you're a full-blood then and I thought
13:07 6 * like psychotic. No, I think I can document that. I'm a quarter.
13:16 The iconic but it doesn't come for me as often as it would work for you as such because your sister is actually my sister. My sister is darker than me yet right now. I'm really tan. And is it the first time in our entire lives actually this summer she was, you know finishing up College to see what's inside doing homework and I don't got out of school early about side, you know, but I'm bike rides having a great time and at her graduation in the pictures, I'm darker than my sister right now. However, I still look white. I think she still dark and so it's just it's really funny. The first time it's ever happened in our entire lives and my dad is kind of reaction to it and kind of a funny way. I mentioned something I was like look at them darker than my sister right now.
14:16 You just in kind of like disappointed in her. Did you think that that search right in it? Because I know that you have looked into other cultures. He didn't have learned a lot about the Native American culture in a very respectful way in. Do you think that that's part of that search for who you are and how does that affect you as an artist I think
14:46 For me, I've been kind of trying to sort of figured that out cuz yeah I've ever since I've been really little like, you know, my mom is told me stories. I've always been really interested in just like animals and nature and that sort of thing and now as an adult is kind of coming back to that and for me that you know just brings me right to Native American culture cuz it's so deeply rooted in, you know, spirituality animals made sure that sort of thing and the right now I'm at a lot of my art is inspired by the American culture and actually get asked a lot in my art classes you argue Native American which I can totally understand. My daughter that has a lot of beadwork with it bear claws and stuff like that. I've been kind of just like me I just want to do it any question that I was just like I like this is beautiful. I want to I want to do this, you know, when did people start asking, you know, like why you did Americans like no and then some people are kind of like you have to be
15:46 Careful with that because you don't want to sell art to people thinking it's made by a Native American if it's not, you know, and then I start really questioning. You know, like is it? Okay that I'm doing this? You know, how do Native Americans feel about you know me practicing some of their arts and that sort of thing and for me, I've been really just kind of thinking about you know, where that's where that's coming from and
16:10 Thinking about like you to my Heritage and my parents are from that's worth and I don't necessarily feel a connection to Germany or Ireland or even to Jamaica like for me. I feel a real deep connection to like where we are here in America in Minnesota. That's really you know, and so I feel like a lot of people, you know, they want to go, you know, we discover the roots back home and you're up you don't like it that people and I'm just not really that interested in Europe. I'm really interested in just learning more about where I am right now cuz I honestly feel like you know me my grandparents like my great-grandfather was born in Jamaica, but other than that most of my great-grandparents are were born in America, you know we go back.
16:57 A little ways and I just really feel like I'm from here and you know, and I don't feel like I'm from anywhere else. So for me, I think that definitely has something to do with with that for sure.
17:15 No. How did you start doing the arrangement a pervert High School of the Arts High School. So do you identify yourself primarily as an artist do the jewelry making and you do the photography or so, are you a photographer painter? Right now? I'm kind of trying to trying to figure that out. I went to school for photography for a couple years. I have a degree in photography. But now I'm going to school for art and I'm just not sure for a while. I thought I really wanted to be a photographer. But now I'm just really not sure like going up to I did a lot of this where I would paint for a while and then I would you know take photos and then I went to Clay and talking to like focusing and all these things really intently. I did you were making feel like a whole year, you know, and right now I'm kind of like stepping away from that a little bit and so I'm just I'm just not sure yet. I'm just glad that I still have some time to sort of figured that out in college right now. Like I would say, I'm an artist. I'm a painter. I'm a photographer.
18:14 I'm a ceramicist with jewelry maker, you know, I'm a printmaker and you know, I don't do all those things all the time, but I do them from time to time something instead of a Renaissance person. Perhaps one could say when you do have children someday children of your own race. I guess it depends on who I have children with two cuz I've been thinking about the point, you know, I've been trying to sort of
18:48 Figure out I mean obviously, you know love is blind or whatever so you can't really you know, she's that's what things I've been thinking about. You know, if I had told him with a black man, I would have black puppies, you know, and maybe being having black Heritage, you know, they would be much darker than biracial babies like you don't know or if I met a man who had the same background is me, you know, 3/4 white quarter black we could have black children like it's possible, but we could both appear white, you know, and so it's just things is really really depends. I guess we have thought about and if I have took him with a white man, then I'll have oxygen babies and I'll just look at why ain't you know, but don't have a black grandpa. I mean no matter what they look like, you know, I'll definitely just teach them then.
19:40 Everybody's different, you know race is important to people but it doesn't have to be
19:48 You know what you base your life on you know, what your race is doesn't have to be you know, who you are. Like you can figure out who you want to be. That's probably what I was exactly what I did. You know, I thought I was one thing but I was the other thing not sure didn't think it was a big deal but not realizing it is a big deal for a lot of people, you know, and so I'll definitely teach him for sure that it may not be very important to you but it is important to people out in the world what you love her like. Yeah what you look like it's going to be really important to both. My kids are much darker than I am and we'll go places and people will be surprised that they're my kid. You know, how do you say I don't go into a store and have somebody follow me around and when my kids when they were young and they go to the store and then be with me that nobody followed us around both. They would go into a store with their dad that would happen and
20:48 It's can be very confusing for kids. I imagine that you experienced some of that confusion. Definitely there's kind of this funny story. I don't know if this is true or not, but my mom likes to tell it cuz he thinks it's kind of funny that apparently when I was little actually had blond hair when I was a baby face picture believe it or not the world, you know, I had blond hair until I was about three or four and I have blue eyes when I was really little you know, so they're very Brown know my hair is very dark brown now and my eyes are very brown, but my mom likes to tell the story that people used to take my dad kidnapped me because he's carrying around a little white blonde baby round Supermarket, you know, I don't know if there's any accusation but she just likes to tell a story cuz he thinks it's funny and my dad is kind of rolls his eyes when she tells his story but
21:44 Send a text to my dad now. I mean I look just as much like my dad as I do my mom. So sitting next to both of them, you know, it's quite clear. But you know, I really inherited a lot of pictures definitely. So yeah, I'm definitely my dad's child for sure but there's actually this other story to wear my so my mom's sister. She has two little sons and they're very Irish and French and German the very pale to get burned very easily in the Sun and they grew up with me and my sister babysitting them, you know, there's like seven and ten now but real little least to babysit them all the time and
22:26 Look for a lot of my family. Like I'm always going to wonder for my mom's side of the family that the small kids. Where are the older cousins? There's a lot of cousins that are under the age of like 13 and where the older ones and so we always used to babysit them. And that's our thing. I was wondering when was there any confusion, you know, like Uncle Fred is black but always white, you know, like I was always wondered what they thought about that until my mom sister told me that she actually her son did ask her one day. How come Ellie is Wyatt? And Addie's black, you know when she's just like didn't know what to say. She's like, how do I explain genetics 2 to 5 year olds? Do you know like how do I even begin with this? And so the answer to come up with was some people look like their mommies and some people look like my daddy that made perfect sense for him. And so
23:18 That's definitely something I would talk to my kids to about for sure. You know, like some people look some way some people look the other way. You know, when we first came in here you're talkin about your hair not much texture in and not being curly but your hair is Curly right now. It is too early for sure. So yeah, that's natural you didn't it is actually could I get that a lot from white women especially is your hair naturally just look like you have a great perm real honestly assumed that I have a little offended by you perm your hair. I was like, what kind of question is that and for your information never but yeah, I get a lot of compliments from white women older white women is so your hair is really beautiful, and I really like, thank you. Thank you.
24:13 I don't get too many comments from black women actually saying your hair is beautiful, but
24:20 Now that I think of it, but yeah, I got a lot of comments on it YouTube. So in your life cuz I know it in my life and made some native people just know I made of him though. They'll come bring it up to me. So did black older black people sometimes come to you and say that's never happened. No, but sometimes I see other people like me that I know are part black, but they look white like I see that was really excited to when I see one and I'll just kind of like, I really want to go up to them and say something, you know, like I know your secret, you know, something like that. I don't know I could be wrong though, so I don't want to assume but I see a lot of really pale people. I'll see I'll see.
25:03 Just in the something about the skin tone that I'll catch on too or just the curly hair or the facial features or there's just something I'll just seeing people that just I'll just know I'd actually I was at work and I saw this girl and she was a customer and ask her about her hair if it was naturally curly, but what I really wanted to ask her is are you according black cuz she's looking just like me and then she had to offend, you know, but I didn't ask because I would have been done for those you're really difficult question to ask exactly so I mean, I I pick up on that a lot but I have never actually had someone come up to me and say and stranger, you know, I can tell that you're part black, you know, cuz I always something kind of awkward but I bet people ask you. Are you Greek? Are you Jewish? Sometimes I get people just asked me what my ethnic background is and they're always kind of uncomfortable I can tell when a cilantro Leaf climate answer my question because you know, frankly if you can see something in me. That's a little too.
26:03 Friend, you know, I'm I'm happy about the time.
26:08 So I will have people just ask me. Do you mind if I ask what your racial background is? And then I tell them that was like a really interesting, you know, so but to my aunt told me the story of the day she went into the grocery store and there's a good working man that kind of that had bright red hair and it was really curly and she's pale and think she'd like green eyes or something and my aunt has come to you like while your hair is really beautiful in the girl was super just ready to Justina. Let her know that I am part black, you know, if she was really like just waiting for somebody to ask her that just so she could let them know cuz you know and then like so she's kind of the same position I am but she was talking my aunt about it and my aunt the saying that she said that she was half black but she funny face uses Pig mentally challenged. She said it was really really cool that she was so happy that someone asked her so she could just say something cuz she said nobody.
27:08 Looks you know Irish red hair in like freckles practically. So I don't know if I'm that excited to get out there and you know sound of the mountain tops or whatever, but I just thought that was cool. But she was really excited about them and of my kids are asking because there were there's a lot of mixed race native and black people in northern Minnesota. There was a firm in the early days of free trade there were the bunker brothers who kind of left children all from the Montana all the way across from Michigan. So there are a lot of rain are we part black mom is one of their cousins are cousins are black to know. I always say but honey, it doesn't really matter if the scientists are right. We're all from Tanzania. Anyway, exactly.
28:00 1 things you that kind of interested me was about Native American culture was the whole blood Quantum thing is that actually interesting is 25% you know, if you are less if you can't prove that you are at least 25% native then according to the government, you're not native, you know, and so when I heard that it was just like just threw me off cuz I mean, I'm not native but if that same law applied to you know, black people I had a child with a white man, you know, like that would mean that my kids weren't something, you know, it means that they weren't you know, who what their background and yet throughout most of American History until like very recently in in historical.
28:49 If you just had one to Ron drop exactly and that's something that's really really interesting to me a slavery times, you know, one drop black legally, you know, you could be as life, you know, and so that's some something that I've had a lot to think about 2 because back then so kind of funny story to like back then I would have legally ban the slave, you know, and I feel kind of silly sometimes saying that cuz I feel like it's kind of dramatic, you know, whatever. I was talking to a friend who honey or Smalley friend and she
29:26 I was just talking to her about it. I just said, you know, like why would have been slaves back then too, and she just kind of looked at me your eyes and she said you would have been a house look like she's absolutely right. She's absolutely right that was kind of funny, but I don't know if you know this man in the fridge right to there were as the French came in and they married native people in need a family since they were very successful in the British came in they were a little less relaxed about that. And and so they came class of quadratic factoring native women that were the preferential country wives for a lot of the European refrigerators. Still think it's very interesting for you to look at that as in comparison to that quadroon octoroon culture say Viking in
30:17 Louisiana exactly, there's a lot of Louisiana Creole culture, which
30:27 I would definitely be more interested in learning about because a lot of the people down. There are just very racially mixed just with the natives and black people and white people and stuff like that until I used to have my mom told me once about these have what they called quadroon balls down in the South where
30:49 They would youngest got all the light skin women you don't have these like, you know, if Vents and stuff like that, so I don't know very much about Creole culture, but I'm definitely interested in learning about it. You know, when you're talking about blood clots and then proving who you are. My daughter is a Gates Millennium scholar and in order to get her scholarship. She had to send in a lot of proof from her and her tribe and her enrollment status and everything and the scholarship is available to Pacific Islander Asians to Native Americans to African Americans and Hispanic and I'm one of those other three categories prove who they are. You know security is Santa coming with a German last name say how do you prove that? They just proved to be a me already have the paperwork and parents had the paperwork. But like if I had to prove I mean when you bring my dad
31:49 But I guess that is really that is really interesting.
31:54 Soaring eagle from here
32:02 I don't know. I think I'm just going to keep working on my projects and it really helps me definitely to sort of identify or figure out what my identity is by Looking Back in the history and finding these photographs of these women. Like there's this photograph of this really beautiful woman that I found. I can't remember her name right now, but she looks like a white woman. She had dark hair dark eyes and she's was the first quote unquote black graduate of this college whose name. I can't remember right now, but it seems like a white woman. I just saw that picture and it was like a whole big Scandal about it too because she enrolled in the college is in like the early nineteen hundreds or something like that and they just they assumed she was white cuz I called is when segregated at this point and she enrolled in the college and then as soon as they found out like there was some Scandal about her roommate, you know some family pictures.
33:02 Is there a I don't know what it was and they like we're going to like kick her out of the school or something and then but she did end up graduating I guess but just seeing stuff like that really puts things into perspective for me knowing that you know, this woman is like just like me and she had all these issues in the past, you know, like my dad for example, he grew up in Minneapolis. You know, Minneapolis isn't really very racially charged environment or anything like that. So he didn't have too many issues. But we were watching this TV show the other day about these racially-charged murders in the South happen in 1961. And that was the year. My dad was born I asked my look at is it freak you out when you see, you know stuff about black people getting hanged the year you were born. He was like, yeah that really really freaks me out. You know, it really puts things in perspective Dakine just look in the history and see you know where you came from. So
33:58 I'm probably just going to keep you know doing what I've been doing. I guess since kind of see where it leads me to see a day when you identify yourself primarily as black or
34:09 I'm not sure there's so multifaceted that faster than that. I can't imagine you and I don't know if I would necessarily I'm a black woman. That's who I am. You know, how dare you question me? I don't know if I would do that, but I definitely identify with my black Heritage. You know, where I came from. It's always going to bring me some ham in the hide from everybody. It's almost kind of just something that I am so they're waiting like when should I reveal the secret? You know when I meet new people I actually have hope I post a lot of stuff on my Facebook page about like plus my dad's picture, you know, this is my dad just everyone knows it so we don't have to have this discussion at a later date. You know that this is my dad. This is who I am, but I mean it always is something that is kind of in the back of my mind. Like when should I bring it up? Is it going to matter, you know, and it shouldn't asses it shouldn't matter, but it's always just
35:03 It's more just you know, it sounds kind of uncomfortable when people are confused as to something that I like to kind of get out of the way ahead of time. But I'm definitely the rest of my life. I'm going to be biracial not can be white and I can be black my be biracial. And now you have that option on most for him. Exactly. Yeah, that's what I was young. We didn't have sometimes I do still run into that where you know, you have to check check one only and then there's the other option. I'll check other before I check with just white or just black, you know, but I was kind of a little satisfying to just check biracial on the little farm, you know, so
35:44 Well, I just have to say that it's been a joy Noe Valley. I think you're just wonderful human being in. My daughter has has collected a huge group of size of a group of really amazing friends who aren't very interesting people and y'all call yourselves. The pool is like I'm not sure where that came from joining. Look forward to following your development as an artist and a person.