ASK YOUR RELATIVE QUESTIONS

Dear Auntie Manda, I have recently started to seriously try to reconnect with my Choctaw culture. My Great-great Grandpa, was an enrolled member of Choctaw Nation. He was orphaned as a child and enrolled in 1903, signing the Dawes Roll and moving to Oklahoma. For some reason, his children we not enrolled, which meant neither was my Nana or my father. My mom is full white and my dad is mixed, which makes me look very ambiguous to people because of my lighter skin and freckles. I’m afraid of overstepping by reconnecting since I’ve been socialized as a white person. I’ve started learning Choctaw and Tribal history, but I’m afraid to openly claim my heritage as a part of my identity for fear of backlash, not just from people who don’t know me, but from people that do. A few times, I’ve had friends and even family ask me, “Why is this so important to you? Why now?” I can’t put it into words, but I’ve always felt so lost and have had no cultural connection to anything growing up. I don’t want to feel disconnected anymore. Also, another thing that complicates my existence is the fact that I’m transgender. Perhaps, this is another reason why I feel lost. Not only do I want to feel like a whole woman, I want to feel like a whole person. Anyway, do you have any advice?

Hi there,

Halito relative! Yakoke for writing in – I always get a lil extra excited when I see other Choctaws reach out 🙂 Let’s see where I can support you!

I definitely want to acknowledge what youv’e written, because there’s so much there – goodness. I want to give my heart out to you because I am so sorry for the heaviness and disconnect you are experiencing, but also I am very moved and giddy about the important work you are doing!

First off, you are not alone in your pain with disconnect – even though at times it may feel like it. Just know that acknowledging and understanding it is the first step to softening the pain. I would even argue that the healing process is so profound, that it also extends beyond yourself and heals your past (lineage, ancestors), present (those around you that you see and don’t see), and those coming after you (future generations).

Also, it’s helpful to remember that reconnection looks different for many Indigenous individuals and communities. Likewise, it’s super important to go about it in a respectful and honorable way.  With the preface that I cannot speak for everyone nor am a spokesperson on the matter, my general (hot) take on reconnection/connection is looking at whether it is done out of love and care, or personal gain (not including personal growth!)… I think the fact that you are doing this with a good heart and necessary thoughtfulness puts you in a wholesome position for it, which will lead you down a lot more open doors and help you to live a life that is authentically yours!

Just remember that because of colonization, some relatives may not always consciously know or understand this process and might be why they question with ill intent instead of curiosity (note – it is helpful to be able to distinguish between the two). When folks see you doing the work and witness the powerful person you are becoming, it may mirror their own pain, insecurities, etc. so carry enough compassion for the both of you. Learn to be able to say “no more” to whatever it is that they are putting on you to feel/carry without your consent, so that your load doesn’t become so heavy. This healing process is not only for you, but them too.

And personally, part of learning that has come with age, as getting older and having a firmer footing of who I am has been helpful in not letting those types of things get to me as much. But, it can still hurt. I’m not quite sure how to 100% remedy the pain and pass that knowledge onto you, but I can say that the closest I’ve gotten to it, was by building relationships with those who genuinely love me, engaging in healthy relationships and community. Family doesn’t always come from blood and personally some of the best parents/caregivers to me were at times my own peers. Community and love (self, romantic, platonic, etc.) is sometimes the sweetest medicine available. I hope you find your community and have a healing reconnecting journey.

Hugs,

Cousin Asia

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Dear Auntie Manda, I have recently started to seriously try to reconnect with my Choctaw culture. My Great-great Grandpa, was an enrolled member of Choctaw Nation. He was orphaned as a child and enrolled in 1903, signing the Dawes Roll and moving to Oklahoma. For some reason, his children we not enrolled, which meant neither was my Nana or my father. My mom is full white and my dad is mixed, which makes me look very ambiguous to people because of my lighter skin and freckles. I’m afraid of overstepping by reconnecting since I’ve been socialized as a white person. I’ve started learning Choctaw and Tribal history, but I’m afraid to openly claim my heritage as a part of my identity for fear of backlash, not just from people who don’t know me, but from people that do. A few times, I’ve had friends and even family ask me, “Why is this so important to you? Why now?” I can’t put it into words, but I’ve always felt so lost and have had no cultural connection to anything growing up. I don’t want to feel disconnected anymore. Also, another thing that complicates my existence is the fact that I’m transgender. Perhaps, this is another reason why I feel lost. Not only do I want to feel like a whole woman, I want to feel like a whole person. Anyway, do you have any advice?

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