I may not look like it, but I am a Native American mom. My mother is obviously Native with jet-black hair, brown eyes, and brown skin.
Growing up, she ensured I knew my Native roots in Oklahoma and visiting my extended family members on a regular basis. However, as generations have gotten older, some history and relationships have faded.
As a mother and member of a minority race, I feel it is important to teach my children about their ancestry and keep that Native pride alive in them.
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Learn Your Culture
My advice to anyone who is Native — even if they were not raised in the culture — is to learn the culture.
These days you can learn a lot about your tribe online. Most tribes have their own government websites where they will provide tribal history. This can be a great place to start your education if you have no relatives to learn from.
In my case, my mother is one of five children, so if she can’t remember a story or provide an answer, I can call my aunts or uncle. Don’t be afraid to reach out to tribal elders for information. Ask where your native lineage comes from. Who was the first? Where did they originate from? Were they forced to attend boarding school? Did they embrace assimilation or rebel against it?
Many tribes are also offering online language courses to keep their language alive. This is a great family activity to learn alongside your children. Did you know some tribes have even been able to add their language courses to local high school curriculums so that their children can get credit for it?
Take an Active Role in the Culture
Once you’ve taken an interest in the culture, it is important to interact with the culture and take part in the traditions of your tribe.
Visit your tribe’s reservation and take part in ceremonies where possible. Attending ceremonial dances is a great experience where you and your children can take a step back in time. See what the ancestors wore, how they danced, listen to the language being sung, and partake of the traditional food being served.
Elders are always willing to teach the younger generation when they express an interest. So don’t be afraid to ask them about the regalia, what the dance signifies, or if they’d be willing to teach you how to dance alongside them.
Take trips to your tribe’s reservation regularly so you can stay connected. Immersion is key to keeping the culture alive. Get to know the programs your tribe offers to its members and how they maintain those programs. Find out where you can help.
Share the Culture
As you learn about the culture and immerse yourself in it, teach it to your children so they can carry the culture onto the next generation.
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Keep a record of your family lineage to pass on to them when they are older. Teach them how to make the regalia, to bead, or to cook the traditional foods. If you haven’t mastered the skill, learn alongside your children from someone who knows. Share the stories, the fables, the superstitions even if it’s not something you subscribe to because oral traditions are the common thread in Native American history.
Sharing is how our ancestry, culture, and traditions live on.