Friday, February 28, 2014

Walking the Road

On an earlier post I told the story of how I had felt when I was younger and had heard that I had some Native ancestry, but it was too far back and I couldn't find out enough to be absolutely certain. I was too far from Native culture to learn more, so I began to feel "not real", and after a period of interest, eventually
"I gave up trying to find my ancestors, and let go of identifying with Native Americans in any measure. If I did have some "Native blood" it was so far back that I thought it couldn't matter or couldn't "count" for anything."
When I shared that story, Uncle Randy Woodley commented,
"It's never about what we have,
but what we do with what we have."
It's taken me a little while to begin to understand what that means, and the wisdom if it.

As I'm reading more and more articles about people discovering ancestry, and as I'm hearing more and more encouragement and seeing the light of the wisdom of acceptance, brotherhood and community, I find that I'm accepting my own Native heritage and identity more and more.

The worries are dying down for now, and the voices of the anti-wannabe police and the "you-don't-count" crowd are becoming less persuasive. After a recent ICTMN article about Black Americans discovering their Native heritage, one person shot back in a comment at voices of criticism:
"It sucks that there was so much discrimination in this country that nobody can really trace their family without having 50 people trying to discredit them."
It doesn't matter how much you have, but what you do with what you have.

What do I want to do? What am I longing for?

I don't want everyone to look at me as an Indian. I'm not seeking some kind of recognition. I want to know the people instead. I long to be with them... there's an ache for "home" inside.

I was surprised last night when I realized that I really want to learn the Cherokee language. That may seem like an obvious, but for me languages haven't come easily (may I say that Japanese is pretty difficult!). But there it was in my heart, bubbling up and coming out in tears as I realized it: I want to learn Cherokee.

You know why? One reason is that when I meet an elder, I want to greet them in their own language. I want to give that honor to them, even if I can't go much further in the language.

Maybe I don't have much "blood quantum" at all, but here is my heart. It's the heart the Creator gave me, that He awoke and brought home to a people long since sundered from.

I trust that He arranged things this way for a reason, and that in the end, I will thank Him even more than I thank Him now ahead of time.
"The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name."

(Psalm 147:2-4)


  1. I wondered why I was impressed to title this post, "Walking the Road".

    I know it refers to what many Natives call "the red road" (or among the Cherokee, "the white path")—the right path of walking in the sacred way, being as Creator made you to be, respecting and honoring others and nature as He intends.

    I know He is leading me in this way. (ᏩᏙ, ᏲᏩ!)

    What are You telling me, Creator?

    I hear You say that I've been on this path for quite some time now, even before I knew it. I didn't wait to find out "how much I had", but with the little I did, I started walking... wanting to know more, wanting to know people—to love, honor, understand, and learn from them.

    Thank You, Creator. Wado!

    It's not how much you have or don't; just walk the path.

  2. Good stuff, Nephew...

  3. "Our ethnicity and cultural identity is tied to our collective and ancestral history, our upbringing, our involvement with our tribe and community, our experiences, memories and self-identity. To measure our "Indianness" by a [blood quantum] number is to completely eliminate the human element. And to allow others to judge us based on that number is to continue a harmful trend." (by Christina Berry)