Native American or American Indian?

By John Marcus
Communications Specialist

As part of my duties, I send out a group of blurbs to our email subscribers that we call AIHFS Community Announcements. (if you are interested in signing up for this, click here) Sometimes I will get a response or question emailed back to me.  Recently, I received a question in regards to the first people of this land: “What do you preferred to be called?”

I let them know that mostly, I try to think about the context. One of the most formal contexts that we can discuss is the political status as designated by the United States government. This we would also refer to as a federally recognized tribal member. This is someone that has a tribal enrollment card from their specific tribal community within the United States. This means they are legally entitled to the rights of that Tribe, as designated by that Tribe who in turn maintain a special relationship with the United States. The specifics of that relationship vary from Tribe to Tribe and is beyond the scope of this blog. I think of federally recognized tribal members, or cardholders, as American Indian because that is the term used by the U. S. and this term is used to designate which communities are able to receive monies and things like that. These community benefits are the result of having a government-to-government relationship originally, or more specifically government-to-government agreements, also known as Treaties. This important point is often left out of most discussions about what to call us. This is also a good time to mention that most tribes in the Americas existed before the United States, Canada, or Mexico and their relative imposed international borders, but I’m focusing mainly on the United States in this posting.

When I am in a more relaxed setting, I usually use Native American or my actual tribal names: Mohawk, Pueblo or Chippewa. From the heritage on my father’s side, I can say pueblo, or sometimes I will get more specific, since there are 19 pueblos, and say Taos Pueblo, but the traditional name means place of the red willow.

photo by Elisa.rolle from Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 (link for license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

On my mother’s side too, I sometimes get more specific and say Six Nations Mohawk (meaning Six Nations Indian Reserve, Ontario, Canada), but the traditional name for Mohawk people is Kahniakehake and means people of the flint, which incidentally, geographically referred to eastern New York state. Those were the homelands of the Mohawk prior to the American Revolution.

Cornhusk representation of the Six Nations/Haudenosaunee Confederacy Of Chiefs and clanmothers endorsing the Great Law Of Peace.
In 1988 the US Congress passed a resolution that recognized the influence that the Six Nations constitution had on the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

When I was a boy crossing the international border into Canada with my maternal grandfather he would always tell me as we got closer to the booth housing the customs agent, “remember, when they ask citizenship, you say North American Indian.” I felt confident while waiting for the person in the booth to start asking the citizenship question in our vehicle and, at my turn, I would say, “North American Indian.” It was one of my earliest experiences of feeling like an adult.

My grandfather was from a generation that had migrated to the Detroit area and I believe had this identity discussion back in the 40’s. As a result, they formed what they called the North American Indian Club, which later became the North American Indian Association. The organization is still in existence today.

Looking closer into what the term Indian even means, what do the Indians of India call themselves now that they are no longer under British rule? Their country is still called India on maps and in the media. Now according to Wikipedia the ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi, which translates as “The people of the Indus.”  The Indus river runs through what is now called the country of Pakistan. But we don’t know if the people of that river actually called themselves that or not, only that this is what the Greeks called them. It turns out when the people of India did break free of British rule and adopted their constitution in 1950, they used the name Bharat as an official name for the country throughout that document. Yet, on the maps I have access to and all the news I can find, that country is still called India. So, even the “real” Indians are not actually Indians, but that’s what everyone still calls them.

That brings us around to one of the most important perspectives, the media perspective. What voice is that context? What efforts have they made to use the appropriate designation?

Bringing it back to our original question, I must also say that a Native way of pursuing this question is to ask this question of the native community members, under guidance of local native Elders, and listen to their results, as my grandfather’s generation did. Until then, I will go by what the local Elders I’ve heard use and also go by what my family has used. If someone uses a label around me in a manner that I find offensive then I will tell them as much. Most people will respect that.

In trying to follow my own micro version of the Native way of approaching this question, I did an in-house survey, amongst the native staff here at American Indian Health & Family Services. Below are the results and I hope they help us all move forward on this question.

How should the U.S. news refer to U.S. Indians? AIHFS natives say Indigenous.

 

What do you prefer everyone uses in informal gatherings? AIHFS natives say Native.

For additional viewpoints on this question, here are some links to writings I have found helpful.

 

In closing, here are some questions to consider.

  • If you are Native, what term do you prefer and why?
  • If you are Non-native and have asked a Native what they prefer, what was their response?
  • There are also state recognized Tribes throughout the United States. These Tribes are not “recognized” by the federal government. I wonder if they might have a different choice for what to be called?
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Traditional Food Principles: Cultivate Generosity & Gratitude

by Shiloh Maples
Healthy Foods Initiatives Coordinator

The fast-paced, money-driven society that we live in forces us to live in a scarcity mindset— the false belief that there will never be enough; whether it’s money, food, time, energy, or something else entirely.  As a result, our actions and thoughts stem from a place of deficit or lacking. That mindset leads us to believe that there is a limited amount of good things to go around and if someone else gets something then there must be less for us. We can begin to hoard our belongings, it can create sadness or envy, and breeds competition. However, Mother Earth has shown us this time and time again—being generous with our abundant gifts allows all life to thrive.

An elder once told me that generosity is one of the core parts of living a good life. Mother Earth shares her abundant gifts of the land and water so that we may live. She does this with a spirit of love and generosity, expecting nothing in return except that we respect and honor these gifts. Showing our gratitude for this life and its gifts can be done many ways. We can offer sema (traditional tobacco), say a prayer, sing our songs, practice our ceremonies, prepare a Spirit Plate, and feast in honor of these gifts.

When we take time to carry out these traditions, we show reverence or deep respect for the gifts our relatives share with us— and our relationship to them is reinforced.  Incorporating these rituals of thankfulness into our daily lives allows us to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. Our interconnectedness is remembered and we gain a deeper appreciation for how all of these gifts have helped sustained our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. We are honored by their gifts and our gratitude honors them in return– it’s this reciprocal or mutual gift-giving that sustains all life.

Typically during the month of November, people pause for a brief moment to give thanks. But true gratitude is a lifestyle. It’s in the way you speak and treat all of your relatives. It’s the spirit that you approach your work and tasks. It’s the loving spirit you greet the world with and carry with you throughout the day. So, yes, let’s continue to feast and give thanks for all our gifts— but let’s continue to make it a habitat to express our gratitude each day.
For more info like this, be sure to follow our Sacred Roots Newsletter found at this link: http://mailchi.mp/8b1fb6390646/dqqkgd3xdx-315171

 

Grief

by Chris Biek, LLMSW
Behavioral Health Specialist

The story you write of your life with each other is what will keep you alive in the hearts of others.

Grief is about loss, loss of another and loss of self. As we find people, places, and creatures that we endear to our hearts to, it is inevitable we will also feel joy and pain. The loss we feel is more than just physical, it is emotional and spiritual, it is a loss of self. We are not individuals on our own navigating this world, we are interconnected through experiences, laughter, and heartache. When we lose someone, a pet, or a home we knew well, we lose a piece of ourselves and the pain of loss can be unbearable.

It is important that we take time to mourn in our own way and in our own time. Grief has no time limit and oftentimes can last a lifetime. There is no pain that outweighs another, we all feel grief in relative terms, meaning, a minor loss to one person may be a devastating loss to another. We can never know what another is feeling and how grief is affecting them, only that it is and we want to be aware of their pain. Simply listening and showing that you are present can be enough to help someone process their grief. By listening to another, you are allowing them to release pent up emotional energy, helping them to transform their pain into something that might someday comfort them.

Healthy grief can transform over time and become, stories, laughter, and sometimes tears. Those stories live on in our hearts, keeping those memories alive within our hearts, allowing the ones we love to become immortal. The journey toward healthy grief is not easy, nor is it particularly kind, but it helps us to grow and learn. There may be days when you feel the weight of grief is too much, weighing you down, keeping you from the sunlight. Other days you might find it to be irritating and poking at a hot fire of anger within. All of your feelings are okay, they are yours and you are allowed to feel them, contrary to social beliefs. Only by experiencing these emotions and feelings can we reach for happiness and feelings of being content in our lives.

Like those who celebrate Día de los Muertos, we must keep those memories alive, so they may live in the land of the remembered. If you can weave the threads of loss and pain through the tapestry of life and joy, someday you will step back and see a lifetime of stories and legacies. If you are unable to move forward in grief you may find yourself missing the good parts of life, leaving your tapestry monochromatic, instead of the brilliant rainbow it should be.

As the seasons change and we prepare to shift our own gears, let us not forget the moments we have shared, the laughter, and the frustration. Keep close what is important to you, let that become a part of your bigger story. Take time to grieve, but don’t forget to live….

A New Old Friend

By Elizabeth C. Kincaid

SOC Project Director

For this year’s 25th Annual Concert of Colors, we were graced with the opportunity to host World Roots musician Martha Redbone. Rarely, if ever, have I met a celebrated personality so devoid of ego. Martha was immediately disarming. She entered our community with the grace and humility characteristic of most of my colleagues and community members. After initial introductions with staff and volunteers were made, she quickly pulled out her phone to share family photos, and began describing fond memories from her childhood in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to “pre-gentrified” Brooklyn, New York.

“It was an inspiring, relevant & moving experience at Community Talking circle with Ms. Redbone. The depth of her wisdom, eloquence & ability to authentically connect is magical.” Eric Wilkins, AIHFS Behavioral Health Therapist

Shortly after 11:00 a.m., Chantel Henry opened our Circle with a smudge. Martha sang a traditional song, accompanied by a rattle. The tone was set for an unexpected, unrehearsed, non-scripted discussion led by Spirit. The topics covered ranged from Multi-racial identity, the infancy of DNA testing companies, Indigenous paternity claims by enslaved women of African descent (to veil the shame of rape by slave masters, which resulted in pregnancy), youth voice, and youth identity. What was most thought provoking and heart-stirring was Ms. Redbone’s charge to youth; don’t allow anyone to project their prescribed identity of you on to you.  Our youth, who were present, were told to use their voices for change, the type of change that, “does not apologize and does not ask permission” to exist, be seen, be heard.  She cleverly admonished those present to be the authors of their “phenotypes” (the physical expression or characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype {a set of genes in our DNA which is responsible for a particular trait}), rather than allowing dominant culture to ascribe it for us. She shared her own trials from her community members telling her, as an example, “You look…, but if you didn’t wear your hair in braids, then you’d look more…” She urged them to use their voices and justifiable anger to fuel a desire to be advocates for themselves. She wanted for them to be Native changers, rather than Native complainers. She spoke to each person within the circle with unwavering personalized connection and authenticity. She brought healing words during our short time together.

Martha Redbone at the Max M. Fisher with AIHFS System of Care Youth Liaisons Sierra Kincaid (L) and Nena Kincaid (R).

Ms. Redbone was once again gracious to remain with us for photos, personal conversations, and warm farewells even though her transportation had been patiently waiting for her outside. Several of us drove over to the Max M. Fisher to hear Martha Redbone’s contribution to this year’s Concert of Colors. The same woman who had just led us in an intimate talking circle, was now singing on Center Stage with a voice that reached notes that gave us chills. Her use of Southern Gospel delivery combined with Appalachian tunes is ingenious. It was reminiscent of the religious symbology that enslaved people of the Americas had used to send messages to each other on the plantations of their owners. Her music is, needless to say, powerfully moving. Ms. Redbone even gave American Indian Health & Family Services a shout-out from the stage. She is truly a delightfully charming, warm, kindred spirit. We still keep in touch, and this is why I call Martha Redbone, my new old friend.

Jessica Care Moore (Left-Poet and Executive Producer and Founder of Black Women Rock), Elizabeth C. Kincaid (Center), and Martha Redbone(Right).

*A special Miigwetch to Nickole Fox, who had pre-prepared a gift bag for our lovely guest.

A Year in Review

By Jacquelene Hollier-Jackson
Programs Assistant

They say time flies, and it has never been truer. In June of 2016 I began a journey and I didn’t know where it would lead me. I started working at AIHFS primarily with the Sacred Bundle Program, The Youth Program, Cultural Services and the Healthy Start Program. I also worked on projects that included members of the Behavioral Health Department. I have learned so much and I am so grateful to be able to look back on this year and share a few of my experiences with you.

Fall camp 2016 with the Youth Group: it was an amazing experience, connecting with the youth, making fun crafts including the awesome mocs I learned to make.

I remember my first day working at the agency, I was sitting in the Admin building, doing training, and meeting almost everyone who was on staff. I toured around the agency learning where everything was and meeting everyone in the pod, front end, medical, basically everywhere. I have learned lessons from the people and programs here. I never thought sitting in that desk and taking the tour would lead me to the journey I was on.

The lessons I have learned are priceless gems that I will always carry in my heart no matter how far I travel from AIHFS. I have learned the kind of woman that I want to be; I want to be a woman who exemplifies traditional values; love, wisdom, humility, respect, honesty, truth, and bravery (check out this link for more info on the 7 grandfather teachings http://ojibweresources.weebly.com/ojibwe-teachings–the-7-grandfathers.html) . I choose to love unconditionally, acquire wisdom every day, be humble in all endeavors, respect myself and others, be honest, be truthful in all aspects of life, and to be brave in every step that I take. These gems are not only a part of my memories but they will forever be a part of my spirit.

I have also acquired amazing skills that I will always have moving forward. I was able to attend trainings and receive certifications in SafeTALK, ASIST, and Youth Mental Health First Aid for the roles I have filled here as a leader for the youth group, a Sacred Bundle Screener, but most importantly an active member of this community.  If you are interested in learning more about those trainings or in attending them, contact Lauren Lockhart, our Sacred Bundle Program Manager, at llockhart@aihfs.org or Karen Marshall, our Training and Outreach Coordinator, at kmarshall@aihfs.org . Also, for more information, check out these links!
Youth Mental Health First Aid  https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/course-types/youth/
Livingworks Trainings and Info (safeTALK & ASIST) https://www.livingworks.net/

I have learned skills that are part of my culture as a Muscogee Creek Nation woman. One skill that I have learned that has been very valuable has been beadwork. I wrote a blog last month about beadwork specifically and my growth and skill in this art over the last year is really mind blowing. I am so honored to be able to do the art of my ancestors.

Above is my first ever beading project from June of 2016. Below is an elephant pin I made for my grand-mother in October of 2016.

I will keep this short and sweet and say Mvto (Thank-you). I will close with my favorite quote, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The Art of my Ancestors as my Artistic Foundation

by Jacquelene Hollier-Jackson
Programs Assistant

Long ago, the shells from the sea, porcupine quills, elks teeth, bone, bear claws, turtle shells and even dear hooves were used to make beautiful beadwork that accentuated dancers as they moved, beadwork that highlighted the accomplishments of tribal members, and even beadwork to mark milestones in life. As time went on, and trade grew seed beads, metals, and precious stones were incorporated to add even more creativity and uniqueness to regalia. I started beading in the summer of 2016. My first project was a medallion with the seal of the Muscogee Nation, my tribe I worked so hard on it and I am so proud of it; even in this short time, beading has taught me many lessons. I learned patience, and beading skills, but more importantly I awakened a spirit inside myself that is so passionate about beading; it drives me to learn more and keep making beautiful pieces of art.

When I started this blog I didn’t know what direction I would go. Would I talk about my experience or would I ask other people about theirs? I decided to do both. I will talk about my beading journey and the tools and ideas that I have learned along the way. I will share some of the advice that I was given from people that are close to me and inspire me to keep going. And I will give a few tips that I use when I bead. So let’s get started.

Picture it… American Indian Health and Family Services the summer of 2016. It was glorious….

I was new to working at the agency, mostly working with the youth group, and learning more about myself as a Muscogee Creek Nation tribal member. I did research about Native American arts and was honored to be able to learn how to make moccasins and how to bead. I have made 2 pairs of mocs and have beaded a number of things I am so proud to showcase my talent and be connected to my ancestors.

When I first started to bead I took on a huge project-a medallion- and, at the time, I didn’t know how much work I would put into it. But now I see just how much work beading actually takes. I have a new found respect for beaders because beading is hard work. It really takes blood, sweat, and tears. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have pricked my fingers beading or the times I have been focusing so hard that sweat has formed on my brow, but it is all worth it to see my skills grow and progress each day. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to learn different beading techniques and I used Pinterest for inspiration on what to bead and what to use to bead various pieces. Learning to bead is one thing, but learning how to do edging or how to make shapes and letters is a whole different ball game. I remember the first time I did edge work. In all honesty, it was sloppy and had gaps, but now I make almost seamless edges and I owe it all to practice.

In the end, well maybe the beginning since I have only just begun, these three P’s (& one O) are my best advice:

  1. Practice- even if it takes you 10 earrings to get the edging perfect don’t quit.
  2. Patience-take deep breaths and breaks when you are beading. It’s supposed to be fun so don’t lose sight of that. And finally…
  3. Praise- give yourself praise whenever you are beading be proud of what you make.
  4. The last piece is an O, be Open to advice and critiques. The people who really know about beadwork only want to help you be better and see you do well, so accept the advice and the help. I wouldn’t be able to call myself a beader without the help of the beaders in my life. So I would like to say Mvto (Thank-you) to Shiloh, Sarah, Christy, and Nickole for always helping me and sharing your wisdom with me.

With the knowledge these wonderful women have shared with me I now bead and sell my beadwork on Etsy and I make gifts for my family. I hope that my learning journey can inspire others in some way, even if it’s just the spark that gets them started on their passions.  With any art form you make always remember to have faith and pride in what you do. If you are interested in exploring your talents in beading I recommend some of the following next steps:

  • Join a beading class at your local Indian center or cultural center.
  • If you are in the Detroit area, check out the men’s and women’s group at AIHFS or contact us to let us know you are interested in taking a class! We have lots of people willing to teach!
  • Check out Shiloh’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PaintedTurtleCrafts
  • Check out an upcoming powwow! There are always great vendors selling amazing hand crafted beadwork!  In fact, there is a powwow coming up just outside of Detroit the end of this month! https://www.facebook.com/events/784391181708948/

What steps will you take to pursue beading?  Is there another passion you are thinking about pursuing?

An Evening with Joy Harjo

By John Marcus
Communications Specialist

On Friday, March 10th, we travelled from AIHFS to hear internationally known poet, writer and performer Joy Harjo of the Mvskoke Creek Nation. Our evening included traveling in luxurious comfort to the University of Michigan, due to the generosity of the Native American Studies Department.

The event was held in the Michigan League Ballroom at the University of Michigan. A capacity crowd attended the exciting program.

Joy began the festivities with a beautiful native flute song and acknowledged the Ojibwe. She wanted to share that this is Ojibwe land and as American Indians, we thank the people who have always lived on the land. She told the crowd 20 years had passed since she was in Ann Arbor. She shared some interesting stories about her background, including that she is wind clan and apologized for the recent strong winds. Everyone laughed at this remark! Strong winds caused approximately 1,000,000 people to be without power in southeast Michigan!

She shared several poems and even played the saxophone. I wasn’t expecting the saxophone, but was pleasantly surprised. One of her poems was “Rabbit is up to Tricks.”

If you have not heard or read that one, I recommend it. It is very relevant to today’s times. This poem has a “trickster” in it. She mentioned that many American Indian nations have a “trickster” type character in their oral stories. These tricksters often show you the importance of following the traditional ways by NOT usually following the traditional ways. She mentioned that stories are universal in all cultures and we need to share more of them. Specifically, for America to heal, our stories need to be heard and shared. She feels that America is at a breaking point.

She closed her presentation with a question and answer period. One of the questions asked was if she preferred to be identified as American Indian or Native American.

She said she prefers American Indian (later even mentioned Indigenous), as do more of her generation. She also sees Native American as more of an academic term.

After the question and answer period, the crowd enjoyed complementary food, drink and snacks. In addition, guests had the opportunity to buy Joy’s books and have her sign them. I stood in line with one of our community members, Nancy Opatich. Thank you, Nancy, for allowing us to use this picture.

I would like to close this post with Joy’s comment regarding poetry because personally, I find poetry difficult to relate to, but now understand it better.  She said, “Poetry is not about answering questions, it’s about asking them.” My question is “what is your favorite American Indian poem?”

Thank you to the following sponsors from that evening:

Dan and Carmen Brenner Family
Native American Studies
Department of English
Institute for Research on Women and Gender
University of Michigan Office of Research
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Native American and Indigenous Studies Interest Group
Institute for the Humanities
Department of American Culture
Zell Creative Writing Program
Department of Afro-American and African Studies
Department of History
Department of Anthropology
Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies
LSA Residential College
Department of Women’s Studies

Special thank-you to Scott Richard Lyons, from the University of Michigan Native American Studies.