Being Native America gives you a different perspective on things that are normalized in American culture. It also gives you a different sense of self than American culture. And there are some lessons Native Culture teaches like no other.
I am Seekonk Wampanoag. I wasn’t raised with my culture all my life but introduced to it at a young age. My family had accepted American culture and were fine with a smaller connection to their Native roots. However, for me, the pull was stronger and I found myself through my culture.
What perspectives has Being Native given me?
Critical View of History
Tragically being Native tends to give you a different understanding of history. There are actually people out there that don’t know that tribes still exist and only see Natives as casino owners. High school history doesn’t give people enough understanding of the culture that survives within their American society. History is taught from the American perspective and Native Americans are talked about how they were viewed way back in history—as savages. Some teachers teach history right but the books aren’t exactly the best aids. It’s not like Native American culture is studied in depth and it never addresses current Native Culture. The genocide of the past is ignored while current issues like the protests at the pipe line are not thoroughly addressed.
Awareness of cultural disrespect
More recently people have been speaking out about Native American Halloween costumes and Fashion based on Native Culture. Seeing Native culture made into fashion and costumes as a Native isn’t as normal as everyone else in American society thinks it is. It is odd to us to think that a culture is a costume or outfit. Why make a skirt that looks like a deer skin skirt when people still dress in regalia with traditional deer skin skirts?
Mascots that seem normal because they are tradition, are offensive. They are not normalized in the eyes of natives. We see street names and know they are Native. We know what is built on Native land, Like Roger Williams University built on Wampanoag territory that has one room and a class every so often that does some justice to the Native Culture.
What has being Native given me?
The Native Culture has beautiful traditions and beliefs. Despite the genocide, repression and continued disrespect, Native culture still includes strong morals of respect and kindness. Being Native gives more value to my life and more pride to my soul.
Alcoholism and depression is high among Natives. You can blame this on the economic situations of reservation, however I, a Native from a tribe without a reservation I can understand how depression can grip Natives more. Nothing makes me feel more myself than my culture, I feel at home during ceremonies. Religion always seemed ill fit for me, until I found my culture’s faith. I do not feel blessed by holly water, but when I was smudged for the first time I never felt more blessed, strong, and beautiful.
What has being Native Taught me?
Natives are still struggling and we all understand that we must help each other to keep what is left of our culture alive. Bing Native shows you that you cannot be greedy and let people fight alone, It gives you a sense of unity.
Respect your elders
Being native has given me a stronger sense of respect for elders than I see from American Culture. It shows me that only our elders can teach us the traditions that make us whole and that there is not replacing something made by hand.
Knowing that your culture is hard to learn because it has been destroyed makes your value it even more. I am frustrated and angry about how Native Culture still cannot thrive the way it should. Especially when I compare how being Native American makes me feel about myself compared to my place in American society.