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Is Facebook Not Friendly to Natives?

Lincoln, Neb.Facebook is not friends with Robin Kills The Enemy.

The social networking site, which enables millions of “friends” to stay in touch with one another, has disabled the account of the 28-year-old Lakota woman from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Facebook assumed Kills The Enemy was a fake name.

Now Kills The Enemy — yes, that’s her real name — has lost touch with hundreds of her Facebook friends. “I’m getting used to it, but it still pisses me off,” Kills The Enemy said in a telephone interview from He Dog School in Parmelee, S.D., where she works as a computer technician and mentor.

On Tuesday, Kills The Enemy received an e-mail notice from Facebook that read:

“Fake names are a violation of our Terms of Use. Facebook requires users to provide their full first and last names (i.e. no initials). Nicknames can be used in the form of FirstName ‘NickName’ LastName, but only if they are a variation on your real first or last name, such as ‘Bob’ instead of ‘Robert’.

“If you would like to use this profile again, just get back to us with your real name, and we will reactivate the account for you.”

It was signed, “Thanks for your understanding, Zoe, User Operations Analyst, Facebook.”

Facebook officials have not responded to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

One-Word Account, Killstheenemy

Kills The Enemy said she had a Facebook account earlier with her last name written as one word, Killstheenemy. Her troubles began when she asked Facebook to change her name to three separate words. She even submitted e-mails with her employer’s name and number so Facebook could call and verify her name. It never did.

Now Kills The Enemy waits, hoping a friendlier Facebook will reinstate her account. In the meantime, more than 350 people have joined a site support group called “Facebook: don’t discriminate against Native surnames!!!” (The group was created by this reporter.)

Members are American Indians and non-Natives, and some have last names such as Her Many Horses, Bear Eagle, Big Crow and Twoleggins.

One person with the last name of CrazyBull, all one word on the site, wrote some words of sympathy:

“When I joined Facebook they didn’t accept my name as a real name either. I sent e-mails and after going back and forth a couple of times, I decided not to join. After a few weeks I joined and put my name as one word. It makes me angry that people are so ignorant!”

Kills The Enemy said she’s grown used to skepticism about her name when she is off the reservation. The Kills The Enemy’s name is a shortened translation of an ancestor’s given name from about four generations back. Many Native Americans were given names in ceremonies or through Vision Quests, she said.

What makes her roll her eyes is that there are people on Facebook with obviously fake names.

“They can have Isthebest as a last name, and I can’t have my last name?” she said

Nancy Kelsey, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, is studying journalism at the University of Nebraska graduate school in Lincoln. She is a graduate of the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She interned as a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston last summer and, in 2007, at The Seattle Times.

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