As an indigenous woman I am aware that there are other indigenous women and men regardless if we are from the urban or rez community who believe in our youth. While serving the Native community on the board of directors for the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to meet other indigenous people from throughout Indian country who have shared their stories and visions of hope, faith, and love for our future. I have learned we all share a common thread, no matter what part of Indian country we come from, we believe in our cultural ways. Despite what mainstream society may believe that we are plagued with socio-behavioral issues (like other ethnic communities) we also have victories. We have celebrations, in fact we still sing songs and practice ceremonies that are older than the colonization of Indian country and the borders that were created. In these ceremonies we have relatives who pray for all of our people to continue what our ancestors fought for, the preservation of our way of life.
Recently Indian country received coverage on the 20/20 special by Diane Sawyer. The show has opened the floodgates of interest to help the Pine Ridge reservation. I believe our Lakota relatives are appreciative of the mainstream interest and are aware this opportunity is here for a moment in the large schema of Indian country news coverage. As a community I also believe we are all proud of the youth who were featured in that special. As a call to action, this is a reminder that we also need to elevate the awareness of our communities and look for our local youth who have the same dreams and hopes as Robert Looks Twice. Wherever we are located in Indian country, we have youth who are seeking the same opportunities to make change, just as Robert hopes for and more. As I look around and see good brothers and sisters doing work all over Indian country, I thought this was a great opportunity to share four Indigenous core cultural values from the Americans for Indian Opportunity that was shared with me and my esteemed colleagues.
Despite my Twitter soapbox (for those of you who want to go there follow me @Renee_Holt) I pretty much have concluded that we are the at the crux of change. We have the opportunities to move our community forward. Overall, I am appreciative when anyone from our community can go out and elevate the awareness of indigenous issues that range from education, health, behavioral, social injustice, racism, environment, etc.
In doing so, I have found myself conflicted with the word or process of resiliency. I used to believe it was the only good word as a result of abuse, until I started looking at it through a cultural lens. After hearing an elder share the cultural significance of songs and how they are healing and necessary for us to stay connected with our ancestors, “they don’t want us to stop singing, they want us to keep singing…” that piece of cultural knowledge changed my view and today I vacillate with that word resiliency. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the clinical definition of it, in fact I have subscribed to it for my health and well being. Yet I am conflicted with it after hearing the elder’s wisdom in cultural terms. I don’t want any of my family, friends, or friends of friends’ family to believe that adversity is the only way to get through the process of resiliency. I want to see more than a coping mechanism. I want to see more positive, encouraging, and uplifting culturally based events in our community that deepens the experience of our youth and cultivates, more importantly, ones that develop our youth to become leaders and continue the legacy that our ancestors believed in.
In closing, as an indigenous scholar I understand my perspective will be unique while I am in the academy. In fact, in some classes I wonder if my non indigenous colleagues will care to hear what I’m saying. Recently I shared, I don’t expect them to care about my community, nor do I expect them to get up on the charity train and head straight down to my rez, nor did I fault them for that. I am very aware that its my job to help my community as much as I can and equally important, to help them understand without indifference. In the end, speaking in #OWS terminology, only we can help ourselves. We are the 1% of the 99%. Let’s reach back into our historically significant ancestry and reclaim the core cultural values for all our communities.
I believe these pillars of core cultural values instill more than resiliency, they also remind of us of our inherent cultural ways of knowing.
Four Indigenous core cultural values:
• Relationship: Relationship is the kinship obligation, the profound sense that we human beings are related, not only to each other, but to all things.
• Responsibility: Responsibility is the community obligation. This obligation rests on the understanding that we have a responsibility to care for all of our relatives.
• Reciprocity: Reciprocity is the cyclical obligation. It underscores the fact that in nature things are circular; that as Native people we reciprocate within our relationships with our family and our community.
• Redistribution: Redistribution is the sharing obligation. Its primary purpose is to balance and rebalance relationships. Generosity is the most highly valued human quality. The basic principle is to keep everything moving, to keep everything in circulation, including knowledge and wealth.