I am struggling with an issue that others may have dealt with. I may end up reposting this in other forums but I wanted to start here.
I'm full blooded Native American. Even though I was born in Los Angeles, I was raised in a tight-knit NDN community. NDN school, church, pow wows, tournaments, etc. I was pretty isolated from other cultures till I was nearly an adolescent. I was eventually integrated into the public school system but still only socialized with other NDNs. The reason I harp on this point will make sense later in the post.
During my adolescence, I lived in Oklahoma which is pretty conservative. I was sexually active by the time I was nearly 16 (odd term, sexually active). Anyhow, like most Christians, I had a lot of self-loathing because I was having sex. Granted, I wasn't always having sex for the "right reasons" but that's another story.
I later went to college but it was still an all-NDN school. I didn't finish due to family obligations (I did later at state school)but right after that, I decided I wanted to break free from "NDN life." Meaning, I wanted to get to know other types of people and I did. I cut myself off from the NDN community and began socializing with other races and ethnicities. It was during this time that I began to question a lot of how I was raised and it included what I realized was a lot of Christian influences.
Cut to me as an adult, this is post-christianity. It's now been around 10 years since I've been around the NDN community and I'm now very anti-Xtian and am comfortable with my sexuality which I'm a admitted bisexual. So what's the problem? FACEBOOK.
With FB, I am now connected to a lot of old NDN friends, in particular, many from OK who still hold mostly Christian values. Now here comes the rub, I was raised with utmost respect to my culture. It is very difficult to explain this because people don't understand what respect means in our culture. When I say this, many people are put off because they take it to mean, "It's an NDN thing, you wouldn't understand." We hold a very solemn respect to our traditions and beliefs to which I have no wish to go against as I hold very dear my heritage.
Being newly connected to old friends, I find myself censoring my comments now more than I did so before. Mostly the ones that reference sexuality. I now think, "cripes, I have family AND NDNs on my list, I can't post this!" The thing is, I'm not sure if it's because I'm afraid of the X-tian upbringing or my NDN culture. I'm not sure if as NDNs we traditionally kept our sexual aspects private or not. But I know X-tianity diseased a lot of native cultures with their unhealthy beliefs.
I'm very confused. I still want to keep in respect to my culture and have very little regard to offending X-tian thinking but I feel like I'm compromising myself now.
I realize this is a very long post but I wondered if anyone has similar experiences.
I'm full-blooded NDN, I am from the Choctaw, Hupa, Yurok, Chickasaw, Chimarigo nations and very proud of my lineage but I want to be true to who I am.
Can anyone help please?
Hi Sean, thank you.
What you said makes sense. I do find that I miss being outspoken about my sexuality but I do find comfort in your philosophy. I am a protector, to my own detriment but I'm not ashamed of that. I'd rather protect that which I love then let anything or anyone denigrate it.
I know that it is hard. But if you want to be true to yourself its better to let others know what you are thinking. I personally would let them all know. Its better to not hide anything in the long run. People that you love should love you back for who you are, not who they want you to be. I've always said what I want. I wont claim that my life is better for it, but I feel better most days.
I think this too.
However, the regard with NDNs is very communal. It's not of self. To us, sacrifice is what we do. I love that aspect of our people.
I'll give you an example. I once went to a Apache festival in NM. I'm not Apache or from NM but their way of life was very different from what I knew. They still lived in pueblos, lived without modern conveniences and danced ancient ceremonies. We pulled up and my aunt said, "if you get hungry, just go into one of the homes and they will feed you." Now, my elders were always jokesters so I took this as another prank. But hours later, sure enough we walked into the nearest door and they had a table waiting. We sat, ate, thanked them and left. None of us knew them. That's just the way they did things. You can't do this in "normal" communities. Can you imagine walking into a stranger's house expecting them to feed you?
I have other examples but the idea is always the same, we take care of each other. You don't question.
So I feel at odds with respecting my beloved culture and having my prideful "individual" thoughts.
Thank you for responding Scott.
it must be strange being native in the united states, many americans think native people are totally extinct.
considering the things christians did to native people, it's really astonishing how many of them cling to the religion that was forced on them. here in canada, there are 2 things that are viewed as our greatest national shames. one is the internment of japanese canadians during world war two, the second is the indian residential school system, christian schools run by clergy to forcibly indoctrinate native children. the amount of abuse that went on in these places is mind-boggling. systematic abuse like ice baths intended to "freeze the indian out of them", and the old fashioned kind of abuse, rape of the children by the priests and nuns. any time i hear somebody say that racism is a thing of the distant past, i tell them that the last of these schools closed in the late 90s. there are people my age who went through that.
i really have no advice. one of the things the bible gets right is that the truth sets you free. if others see a conflict these aspects of yourself, but you do not, i would simply say their opinion on the matter is irrelevant, and the only thing you can do is have no shame and live proudly and openly. but i think it's up to you to decide if you can do that. my opinion isn't really relevant either.
Hi Egan, yes, those same abuses happened here. The only difference is that Canada has more documentation of the abuse and the government and church has made a formal apology for it. The United States government has yet to acknowledge the same. From what I understand, only one case of any acknowledgement has been made by a church, the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, a Catholic Jesuit order. They settled a $166 million lawsuit with the NDNs who were abused by their organization.
I too find it odd (sad and distressing)that so many natives cling to the religion of their oppressors. Even when it's pointed out, they will still rationalize their stance.
I keep optimistic that with the advent of "free thought" that we will question the infringement of european ideologies.
I have no shame in who I am but I also love who we are as a people.
Thank you for responding.
"I have no shame in who I am but I also love who we are as a people."
makes me think of a line from "the god delusion":
"'But'? 'But'? Why not 'And'?"
i think all you can do is make it clear that who you are is not a thing that can be separated into parts, you are who you are and that's the end of it.
it's always puzzled me how people oppressed by christians have stayed with christianity generations later. but with native people in the americas and australia, the oppression was actually religious in nature, and makes it even more baffling.
There is a duality and conflict.
In my culture, a person doesn't single themselves out apart from the whole. We recognize our individual roles as integral to the entire scheme. I personally don't think that there was conflict with this system before the European invasion.
What causes the bifurcation is my reluctance to accept X-tian influence. I'm not at odds with what I consider our traditional ways as I am with being tolerant with an unnatural philosophy.
You reiterated your being stumped by a group of people who embrace the religion of their oppressors. However, this phenomenon has occurred throughout the ages. Call it Stockholm Syndrome or maybe just a successful brain washing campaign. It's not that hard to understand once you acknowledge the power of social control.
i also suspect it's a little different in the united states. native people are seen as a part of the mythology of the united states, whereas they are only seen as part of the history of canada, and people think history is boring, so native people here often don't bother having any connection with their culture. it doesn't help that the cultures have become confused as well, with their own history being nearly lost and twisted by the same kind of mythology. natives here in alberta are mostly cree, who were not a plains tribe, yet if you see cree people celebrating "their" culture, it will be through plains customs. most of them don't even bother that much. it's very sad. while i do think culture is, and should be, malleable and capable of evolving and mixing with others, it is just a shame when it's simply ripped away and then has to be reassembled from the remains. the result is seen in the bastardisation of native culture in the new age faux-hippie movement, all this one-with-nature spiritualist crap, justified by an invented history, as if native cultures were somehow above human flaws, free of war and discrimination. humans are humans.
anyway, that's my rant for the day.
there isn't really a canadian mythology. when people think of the past of the united states, the images that come to mind are the old west, davy crocket, geronimo, little big horn, the alamo, etc. when they think of canada's past, they just think of trees and rivers. that's our mythology. anything to do with people is just thought of as "boring history". be it riel or crowfoot, it's not considered mythology, it's considered tedious textbook stuff. in a way, it's easier to keep the facts straight that way.
but i think it's a mistake to confuse modern scientific and technological culture with white or christian culture, christians are as obsessed with maintaining outdated customs as anyone else. treating modern culture as white or western culture is what leads white-guilt faux-hippies to conclude any non-western culture must be superior. then you get teepee's with yin yangs on them, and people using sweet grass to clear their chakras.
Of course if you limit your definition of mythology to include only celebrities, yes, the USA has more NDN celebrities. But overall, having been born in Newfoundland, lived 15 yrs in the USA part time while also living in Yukon, 20 yrs in Quebec, a couple of years in Ontario, a couple of years in BC, and a few years of work in other countries... in all those places I spent significant time, I see in Canada much more native mythology in every day life, through art, commerce, food, language, much more so than in the USA. It is not just history, it is present. In the West, Jerry Alfred has long been a popular musician, in Quebec Kashtin was a huge NDN band. In Eastern Canada you'll find tipis scattered in many places; schools up north often include native languages in their teaching curricula. Among children's literature native stories have always had huge success.
But no, I haven't lived in Alberta...though I've driven through a few times, and been called sqaw there, not pleasant. So even when people want to be demeaning they use native words...
I think it is particularly hard for First Nations Peoples in Canada because the residential school system forced children and entire tribes into a childlike dependency state, whereas in the USA, bands have had freedom to develop economic projects on a much larger scale than in Canada, which has given many bands a great deal of autonomy.
As far as the global economic power that is Western Christianity and neo-liberal economics, they are very much entwined. It may not seem fair to you or to most atheists, but they are indeed the same drive to dominate all that surrounds us and all that defines us. Our era of Christianity is a very dominant mentality that thrives on dominating/controlling everything and everyone around us.
One must be careful to not be revisionist about history and separate cultural elements that have long been entwined. I equally dislike all the faux-hippies that ying and yang and waft of sweet grass, but there are also a small remaining crowd of true hippies... :)