Identity and knowing who we are is one of the most important journeys we can walk. I encourage you to explore your identity. This is a great start.
There are many ways you can do this, yet there is no right or wrong way for doing this.
I am always glad to hear when people want to explore their Native identity and heritage. Native American cultures are diverse and beautiful. But this exploration should be conducted with respect to our ancestors, past, present, and future.
To begin, it is important to understand who Natives are. The use of terms Native, Native American, American Indian, Native Alaskan and indigenous are generally used interchangeably, depending on the context of the discussion. The term “Native” is used to describe people who identify culturally as “Native”, whereas the terms “Native American”, “American Indian” and “Native Alaskan” are legal and political designations. Indigenous is used to describe the original people of any land.
Being Native means different things to each person. For some, it means that they are descendants of the original people of North America. For others, it means a way of life or a way of being; a feeling, how one sees the world and one’s self; a way of interacting with nature, family, and Creator. Native culture in North America, is rich in tradition, history, spirituality, art, economics, and politics.
My grandma (hota) always says, “We’re all the same people”. I think what it comes down to is that every ethnic population is diverse and at some level is interrelated. This applies to different tribal groups that come from indigenous ancestry, especially for indigenous people in the Northern, Central, and Southern Americas. We’re all on one land mass that can be traveled somewhat easily. That means we’ve all been influenced in some ways by each other’s culture, society, and sometimes language.
Do your Research:
- Relatives – start by talking with your family and see what you can dig up.
- Internet – Once you have some leads, do an Internet search to find out more about your tribe. If your tribe has an official website, maybe try contacting the tribal office to see if you can learn more through their records, or if a local library can help.
Make sure through this process of learning more about your culture, the history of your tribe and traditions, that you start from a place of respect and curiosity.
Good luck on your journey.