Monday, November 10, 2014
Don't Be Ashamed
I've been hesitant to publicly share my Cherokee heritage. Sometimes more than hesitant— I've been terrified at times.
I knew of this fear in me already, but I thought I had good reasons for it: there is no shortage of people who claim "Cherokee ancestry" (especially a "Cherokee princess" for a great grandmother!) and I've seen a lot of sometimes understandable hostility among Natives towards people who claimed but could not prove ancestry, or who had not come from the Rez (one friend dubbed them the "pureblood police"). Underneath I was also simply afraid of being pegged as a "wannabe."
But the other day as I explained and gave my usual justifications for hiding to a new friend (who also has Cherokee ancestry), I began to feel something was wrong.
So I prayed.
Creator reaffirmed what He had told me and awakened in me, and gave me His assurances, as He has always done since I first discovered my heritage and began walking on this journey of reconnection. And He also said that it's *okay* to care what people think; some restraint is definitely good—it's good to be respectful especially in mind of how ancestry claims are abused. And I don't want to give the impression that I know more than I do.
Then suddenly I realized that I have been feeling and hiding my heart exactly as I had done with my necklace when I was younger!
Hearing the rumor of Native ancestry in my family, I had begun learning all I could, as well as sewing leather accessories like I had seen in history and hobby books. One favorite thing I made was a little necklace... I'm not sure if I saw a similar one in an illustration or if it was from my own vision, but I took this old mini 'dog tag' my parents had made for me several years earlier, and I covered it with leather. I liked the feel of it and wore it around my neck. It was like an identification tag for my Native heritage and for my heart, I now realize.
But I was shy of explaining it to anyone who asked about it. I wanted to share what it meant to me, but at the same time I was uncomfortable when anyone asked, and would answer quickly without really explaining anything.
And now I realized that I was treating my Cherokee heritage the same way... like I'm as unsure, embarrassed, and fearful of it being exposed as I was back then! Like wearing the necklace over my heart, I've kept my heritage largely hidden in my heart, afraid of others asking about it and not understanding, or thinking me strange and just a wannabe.
I was shocked by this parallel. I didn't know what to do, so I asked the Spirit and felt impressed to share on Facebook two new paintings I had made which clearly show me awakening to my Cherokee heritage.
I planned to write about this here on my blog, which I don't usually mention to people unless I know they're "safe". But later as I was praying, I felt impressed to write a public note acknowledging my heritage on Facebook.
This was a big step for me!
I wrote the note, "Do You Have Native Heritage?" and felt great afterwards! I was surprised at how easily it came out, and how well everything fit together.
About the same time, a new Apache friend asked me if it was okay to share some of the poems written here on her Facebook page ministry. Instinctively I said yes, but asked her not to post a link to the site because I was still shy about sharing it publicly.
Again something felt wrong, and at night as I prayed to find out what, the Spirit led me to give Him my fears about the blog being seen more publicly. He reassured me again (as before), and also reminded me that yes, while I've been very personal here, I've also treated subjects as respectfully as possible. I've laid out my heart so that people can understand I'm not trying to "claim" that I have the knowledge or experience of being some kind of "Indian expert" or even a "wannabe". Instead this is deeply personal and spiritual to me. Up front I recognize how little I know, and I want to learn and walk this road reverently and with humility.
So I told the Apache sister it was okay to share links to this blog, and to be patient with me! :)
Then as I laid down to wait for sleep, I heard men's voices crying out,
It moved me deep in my heart, and I asked Creator it was about. He confirmed that, yes, they were the voices of my ancestors in me.
And they were saying, "Don't be ashamed of us!"
My God... I just suddenly wept SOOO hard!! Crying, weeping, a groan, and my body shook and trembled! It was exactly like it rose up out of me! I wept tears of sadness, but not my own out of shame or sorrow... instead it was *their* tears—it was *their* pain!
The Spirit witnessed to me as I wept that in my family history somewhere there was *shame* about who we were! Shame because we were afraid of what people would think if they knew we weren't regular white people!
I wept hard again.
So somewhere in our history, my ancestors hid their Native identity. They knew of it amongst themselves but avoided the official rolls.
God, I feel the pain.
I looked at this back through my fear of being exposed and shamed. I looked at this through my fear today and through the parallel of my childhood necklace.
Forgive me, Creator and my ancestors, my relatives, my family. I'm sorry. Forgive me for hiding who I am. Forgive me for hiding my relation to you all, my ancestors. I've kept you in my heart; I loved you and wanted to share you and wear you openly, but I was more afraid of what other people would think. I'm sorry. My family, I love you. I will not be ashamed of you anymore. In Tsisa's name, Sgi!