Monday, December 1, 2008

Meet an American Indian: Radmilla Cody

She might look like your cousin Denise, but singer Radmilla Cody is actually a proud Navajo. Matter fact, she was chosen “Miss Navajo Nation” in 1997.

Therein lies a tale.

The daughter of a Navajo mother and an African-American father, Radmilla was raised in Navajo country, herding sheep and spinning wool and learning the Diné language from her grandmother.

Cody’s sheep-butchering skills and other traditional talents came in useful when she competed against six other women for the title of Miss Navajo Nation.

“I really wanted to run for Miss Navajo to make a statement,” she has said. “And that statement is that biracial people such as I really want to be taken seriously.”

When Radmilla was growing up, other Indian kids taunted her with “Zhinni Zhinni Cocoa Puff.” (Zhinni means black.)

After she won Miss Navajo, someone wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Journal and said: “Miss Cody’s appearance and physical characteristics are clearly black, and are thus representative of another race of people. ... Miss Cody should focus on her African American heritage and stay out of Navajo affairs.”

Now, Radmilla Cody is a noted recording artist... primarily singing Navajo lyrics. Click here to hear her “Corn Grinding Song.”

Cody hit a rough patch in 2001 when federal authorities indicted her as part of a major drug case. Turns out Cody’s boyfriend, Darrell Dwight Bellamy (a Negro), was the boss of a narcotics ring.

Cody publicly attributed her downfall to an “abusive relationship” with Bellamy.

In a plea bargain, she received a 21-month prison sentence.

This news rocked the Native American community. Rumors spread that the Navajo Nation Council might strip Cody of her status as a Miss Navajo Nation.

That didn’t happen. Radmilla Cody is still featured on the Miss Navajo Council website, along with the 51 other Miss Navajos. And she is now an activist against domestic violence.

Below is a brief clip of Cody in performance.

(NOTE: I know American Indian Heritage Month is over... but I thought November had 31 days in it. I really did.)


bklyn6 said...

She might look like your cousin Denise.

LOL. Or Chilli of TLC.

If I had a dollar for everytime I heard a "Negro" claim a to be part Chickasaw or Cherokee I'd be rich. I guess it's true in some cases, but how often to you hear them speak the native language or sing songs? Props to Ms. Cody for keeping that part of her heritage intact.

odocoileus said...

someone wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Journal and said: “Miss Cody’s appearance and physical characteristics are clearly black, and are thus representative of another race of people. ... Miss Cody should focus on her African American heritage and stay out of Navajo affairs.”

Sounds like this guy:

Jerry Yeagley, Race Police

Now you know you can't do Native American history month and leave out Crazy Jerry!

Anonymous said...

Hi UBM! Speaking one last time of indian/negro connections. Check the movie 'Lone Star', directed/written by John Sayles. There is this big C-Plot of a teenager trying to reconnect to his Grandpa (played by Ron Canada) who also collects historical artifacts of the trackers who were of Cherokee-Black descent. Very interesting stuff and a great movie to boot. (The best Matthew McConaughy has ever done)

abe said...

I only know of one other half-black/half-native American person: The character of Elisa Maza in Disney's "Gargoyles."

90s represent.

SolShine7 said...

Interesting blog!

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Welcome, SolShine7.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I stumbled over here and I am glad you posted about her! Thanks!

Sol del Soul::::::{incite} {take flight} said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


It is clear that this young lady looks Native American as well as black. Black people trip me out claiming other ethicity but other don't care to claim us....unless thy want something from the black community.

Anonymous said...

Miss Cody is a "person", a child, one with a heart beat that was born half Navajo and African American. I am appalled by the ignorance of all who have nothing respectful to say about another person with such charisma, talent, beauty, sophistication, education, determination. A person that is blessed to be part of two cultures. Two cultures that have to defend themselves against people that are full of hate and jealousy. Please take a look at yourself (those that share hurtful words), and ask yourself. " who am i to be judging others ?"

liz said...

I'm half Black and half Navajo. I love radmilla, if only because she reminds me that other women like me exist (besides my cousins, who are also half Black and half Navajo).

ms. bliss honeycomb said...

@ odocoileus: whoever wrote that letter needs to get a grip.

one of my best friends has a full-blooded native american father/black mother.

my current sig other's grandfather was a full blooded native american who married a blk american woman.

an ex of mine is a descendant of the blk/seminole families of florida. his features are pretty much a mix of native/african, just like radmilla.

...there are PLENTY of folks with this heritage, some direct and others more distant. but at one time blk folk & native americans understood that we had a common oppressor and worked together against that oppressor.

blk folks often know about most or even ALL the other cultures that run through our bloodlines, but we're also removed from those other communities. how many of us could truly be accepted by our native american/irish/italian relatives? would we even want to try?

in the u.s., it's easier to just be blk and leave it at that.

it's a shame the divide & conquer tactics worked so well, both within the blk community and with those who used to be our allies.


Anonymous said...

Clearly most posting do not comprehend First Nations cultures at all. And please do not think that most Natives speak and understand their Native tongues. Many do not. And regarding racism, Blacks and Natives are just as, if not more, racist than Whites. It's just a fact. But one cannot let hatred and ignorance keep them from their heritage. Black Indians are all over the place, proudly Native people. I am one of them. I am not at all surprised by the negative comments of some African Americans.

Anonymous said...

Native Americans are "brown man" just like millions of other "brown people" all over the planet, including people from India proper, Asia and other parts of the Americas. The influence of white "race" concepts has people confused. There were black Natives in America before Europeans even got here. Native Americans came in all complexions from very dark to light and they were called Indians because they had features similar to people from India and Asia. Right now today you can go to parts of Asia between India and China and see similar patterns of dress and custom among various populations, who also have similar features to the Native Americans.