October 16, 2012

Native Roots

Native Americans are not all living on Reservations in the west. They are alive and well and just might be your neighbors. How do I know this? Because my husband and I have Native heritage. Let me first start off by clearing up some misconceptions. Not all Native Americans have dark skin. Not all have big noses and the high cheek bones. Yes, many tribes have those distinguishing features and skin coloring that fit in the stereotype, but many do not. Why? Because of a few factors. The first would be because of geography. Those Natives living in open plains or deserts have darker skin tones simply because they live in area that do not have much coverage from the sun. Whereas, the Woodland tribes lived in areas that were dense and shaded. The biggest factor is due to Native Americans marrying and having children with other cultures. Or what we call assimilating. In these instances the "blood quantum" (a term the government uses to measure just how "native" you are) has been reduced or cancelled out by the other ethnic blood. That is my family's reason. For me, my own personal heritage goes back to my 5th Great Grandmother, Manga. She was a full-blood Ottawa Native woman. However her husband was a French man. As my direct line from this woman came down through the years, there was no more Native American lineage added that we know of. So for blood quantum purposes, I would not be considered Native by government standards. My husband's Native blood is closer in his lineage. He is Cherokee and Choctaw, and is about 1/4 give or take. (I know ridiculous, it is not like you have to prove how much German, Irish, or English you are.)

My 3rd Great Grandmother. Julia Rumery Thayer. 1/4 Ottawa.
That brings up another issue, the "That we KNOW of." Native Americans did not always claim their heritage. Did you know that at one time it was considered better to be African American than Native American? So many Natives claimed themselves "white", Black Dutch, Black Irish, or African American on government records such as the census. There was also the government's way of "assimilating." There are so many stories of Native children being removed from their tribes and put into schools where they were told to forget their Native ways and become "white." But they did not forget. I was told by a wise Elder, "that if you have one drop of Native blood in you, than you are Native." It is more than blood lineage, you must live it.

Regardless of all of this. We are here. As a family we have brought the ways of the Anishinabe (the Original People) back into the light, we honor are ancestors. We are teaching our children the traditions of the old ways, we are teaching them to live in harmony with the Earth, to love those around us. To be better.
Brian dancing in the circle with Lavinia in 2009.
My husband Brian in his traditional Southeastern style regalia.

Brian in Traditional Men's Dance Regalia.

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