Daniel Yates / by Michael Falco

Who is Daniel Yates? 

Daniel Yates was born in Lafayette, Indiana. His family moved to Battle Creek when he was nine years old. Daniel is in his early 20s and attends Western Michigan University. He has mixed European, Cherokee and Seneca-Tuscarora ancestry. He is currently a history major, however he has worked previously in politics. He identifies as a Democrat, but has worked for both Republicans and Democrats. He has a long-term girlfriend who is of Burmese descent. 

Excerpt from interview with Daniel Yates by Whitney Dow, 2017

Q: Does it bother you or do you wish that people when they saw you at conservative functions or this, that others could see that you’re not just a—how do I phrase this? Do you feel like you’re seen completely when you’re outside of the world; that you’re seen for who you are?

Daniel Yates: [14:27:25] I don’t feel I’m seen completely when I’m out there kind of in the grind of the hustle, whatever you want to call it. I was recently at a young Republican’s movie night, and at the movie night, they watched a documentary about the myths about America. And one of the myths was that the land that we’re standing on wasn’t really stolen from the Native Americans. It was just like a typo in history, and I said, “You know, probably not a great time to say, ‘Hey, Cherokee, I’m proud.’” And so that was a tough one for me and in situations like that.

During the campaign, I worked for Dr. John Bizon, who was running for State Representative, and we were in the same office as the folks who were handing out Trump signs. And so a lot of the time, we were having hundreds of people coming in for Trump signs, and I would get somebody that came in and say, “Hey, would you also like a Bizon sign?” And I got in conversation with these folks, and almost every single one of them I would think that they were white, their appearance. And some of the conversations, it just didn’t feel like conversations where I would say, “Hey, I’m Indian, by the way.”

And one of the conversations that sticks out to me was a conversation I had with a gentleman. And one of the things that I’ve kind of been proud of is being able to open up to other cultures, and as a kid growing up in a very isolated house, I didn’t have a lot of other influences. And growing up, I was one of the many Americans who thought if you’re not white, if you’re not Indian as far as I knew, you all kind of look the same. If you were maybe Hispanic, like I couldn’t tell whether you were from Venezuela or Brazil. It was ignorance, and I call it kind of an American ignorance that we have.

And a fellow came in, and he said, “You know, I want a huge Trump sign, got to have the Trump huge.” And I said, “Well, where do you live?” He said, “Well, I live in the city of Battle Creek.” I said, “Well, the city has some ordinances in place. They don’t like folks that are just living in a regular neighborhood to put a massive sign in their front yard. It’s a little bit frowned upon.” I said, “But just of curiosity, why do you want it?” And he said, “I’ve got a bunch of third-world types in my neighborhood, and I want to let them know where I stand.” And I looked down, and I got a ding on my phone, and the wallpaper on my phone is of my girlfriend, Lal. Lal is Burmese, and I said to myself, “You know, I know a little bit about the makeup of Battle Creek, and I know that many of our Burmese community members congregate towards Columbia Avenue, which is where our Meijer is and some of that area. It’s in a nicer area of town.” And I said, “Due to this where gentleman’s address was,” I said, “He’s talking about Burmese people,” and that got me.

And he left with a couple signs, and I was just more or less done after that. I did what I had to do. I was being paid to be there. "Here’s a sign. Bizon signs? we’re out of those." And it hit because me in that situation, that wasn’t somewhere where I was going to come out and say, “Hey, I’m Cherokee, by the way, and I’ve got a Burmese girlfriend.” That wasn’t a situation like that. And most people that came in were not like that, but there were conversations that happened like that one that just it would not have been good for me to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m Daniel. I’m Cherokee. I’m Miami. I’m also white, so what do you think about that?” It probably wouldn’t have ended well.