No matter who your ancestors are, it can be difficult to find them. This is doubly true if you were adopted, whether you knew it or not. And if that is the case, you have to decide if you want to trace your adoptive family, or your biological family. And in many cases, your biological family may not be who they think are. Throughout history, children were adopted, names changed, and not told. Or, if they knew at the time, after a few generations, the knowledge was lost.
As a person with Native American ancestors more than a few generations, tracking your ancestors may be nearly impossible due to the Indian Removal Act, Indian Adoption Act, and the shame of Native American ancestors. If you do find which tribes you are descended from, you have to determine if you can reconnect with your heritage. You may want to. The tribe may not be looking for lost members. Especially ones who have never been part of their own, or similar culture.
A good place to begin your search is listed in the Works Cited. This article discusses how to begin your search, and there are links to further information about various tribes, and articles that may help you in understanding your ancestors. Your acceptance by your ancestral tribe, or tribes, will vary.
In my writing, Terra in Crosswinds discovers she is a lost member of the mixed tribe that she is staying in. Keama hoped she was the missing granddaughter, though she wasn’t sure, till she met her, and heard her words. In Trails 2, Corbo finds out how he is connected to a specific tribe in Arizona. In both cases, the connection, and acceptance will be a lifelong journey.
Steps to your Indian Ancestry. Indians.Org.
http://indians.org/your-indian-ancestry.html. Access Date: August 31, 2016
Living on a reservation isn’t easy. Some are large. As large as a small state. Others are small. In some ways, the smaller ones are more likely to be better off. The people who live there can leave the reservation every day to go to a job and return home at night. On the larger reservations, this isn’t as likely. Most of the jobs on the reservations are in teaching or law enforcement.
Even after over 100 years, the land is not usually good for producing food. Families often live in over crowded situations, with limited water, food, or electricity. These leads many young people to leave the reservations in the search of a better life. Though, they often don’t find it. What they do find, is they don’t fit in off reservation life either.
I tried to portray the starkness of reservation life in Crosswinds. However, this was doubly difficult. First, Terra, the main character, finds the starkness and silence refreshing and peaceful. However, her primary opponent, Vasa, does not. She is working to make everyone leave the reservation. The reservation is shattered. Families are split. They simply don’t know how to connect the life available to them on the reservation, with the life off the reservation.
Perhaps, this is because I value that way of life. However, one friend, who has lived on a reservation, said it did not portray it well at all. She thought I didn’t make it desperate enough. And another friend who did live on a reservation a few decades ago, felt it was almost too desperate.
Living Conditions. Native American Aid. A Program of Partnership With Native Americans. http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions Access Date: August 31, 2016.
The legal status of Native Americans is so complex, entire encyclopedia sets could be written about it. This article will mention a few specific facts. Native Americans, who have lived here over 10,000 years only became citizens of the Untied States in 1924. Their right to vote came even later. In some states, it was as late as 1962. Long after women and other minorities.
Native Americans living on a reservation are subject to the reservation’s local laws. The reservations function in many ways much as a state, and only federal laws can override the reservation laws. This applies to the 567 federally recognized tribes. It does not apply to those who belong to tribes the government does not recognize. Many reservations have tribal governments, including courts, police, and jails to deal with most crime that occurs on the reservations, and by tribal members.
Federal recognition of a tribe is not a quick process. There are three routes to recognition: Congress, court, and an administrative process. Many smaller tribes were not federally recognized, or have merged with other tribes and did not have the ability to be recognized in the past. Perhaps in the future, some smaller tribes may return to the tribal roles.
In my writing, I did not cover federal recognition. I did however, cover Terra’s village receiving funding and support from the governing village on the reservation. Many of the villagers are afraid to stand up to the governing village, where many of their family reside. They are afraid they will lose everything they have. And that isn’t much.
U S Department of the Interior Indian Affairs. Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.bia.gov/FAQs/. Date Accessed: September 3, 2016.
Tribes Listed by Area. National Congress of American Indians. http://www.ncai.org/tribal-directory. Date Accessed: September 3, 2016.
Bureau of Indian Affairs. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Sociology 220 Lecture.
http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~oliver/soc220/Lectures220/AmerInds/AmerInd%20FAQs%20from%20BIA.htm. Date Accessed: September 3, 2016.
The year 1978 was the beginning of hope for Native Americans. Religious practices were no longer outlawed. They could begin to rebuild their cultures. This was continued with the Indian Child Welfare Act. This act was designed to keep Native American children in their home culture, and not adopted out, or away in boarding schools.
This protected children. It also protected parents legally from being forced to send their children away. There have only been 38 years (less than 2 generations) to heal the wounds of the 118 year (6 generation) project to remove culture from the Native Americans. What this often means, is that the generation growing up on the reservation is experiencing something their parents cannot relate to. Many of their parents, and grandparents, had been forced to abandon their parents to go away to school. Or fear being taken to be adopted outside the tribe.
In Crosswinds, we see the result of this, both an Terra’s actions and thoughts, and in Vasa’s insistence that the community leave the reservation if they want to survive. Keama’s story implies her fear, even as a spiritual leader, when one generation before, Terra had been brought to her as an infant.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Adoption History Project. http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/topics/ICWA.html.
Date Accessed: September 2, 2016.
Along with lost languages came lost family connections. Many children who attended boarding schools left their tribes to try to live in cities. As they did, they gave up their cultural identity. Many children were born never knowing their tribal history, clans within the tribe, or even that they had a Native American background.
This children, adults, parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents today, often search in vain for their ancestors. They feel something is missing. Even those who live on the reservations feel it there. Many generations are missing. Or blended with other cultures.
As the story of Ishi, the Yahi tribal member demonstrates, that loss can never bring back those who are gone, nor whom their descendants should have been. Their future, and ours, are intertwined. Connecting the past with future is a complicated generational long process.
In Crosswinds, Terra is pushed to make decisions to bring a future to the tiny village that lives in the past. Grandfather Honaw, who renounces the present in his own village, pushes Terra to save the smaller villages that she has worked with to become a full member of the tribe.
A Lost Indian Tribe but the Spirit Lives On. Indians.org
http://www.indians.org/articles/yahi-tribe.html . Date Accessed: September 2, 2016.
As Europeans expanded across the Americas, Native Americans began to succumb to diseases that they were not immune to. This led to a loss of many smaller tribes and languages.
The effects didn’t end after the diseases passed through the populations. The overwhelming effects of the government’s integration efforts: Indian Removal Act, shared reservations, and boarding schools worked to create a multi-generational loss of culture and language. Young people didn’t get to learn, or speak int heir native languages. This has led to many languages being forgotten. Or, only a few surviving members speaking the language in private.
The loss of a language may now sound like a big deal. Except, some concepts can only be explained in their original language. The loss of language leads to the loss of original religions, as they all become meshed into one. They lose traditions, name meanings, and much more of their identity.
Although the loss of language is not central in any of my novels, Crosswinds does mention it a little when discussing other cultures. It could perhaps have been worked in more. She could have interrupted a conversation in native speak. Except, this group was from so many cultures, that it was easier to speak English among themselves, rather than a combination of a dozen other languages that may, or may not have been grammatically meshable.
University of Utah Shifts Focus to Tribal Languages, Some Fear World Indigenous Languages Will Be Left Behind. ICTMN Staff. Indian Country Today Media Network. 10/3/12. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/10/03/university-utah-shifts-focus-tribal-languages-some-fear-world-indigenous-languages-will Date Accessed: September 2, 2016.
Boarding schools were not the end of the attempt to take the Native American child from their culture. From 1958 – 1967, the Indian Adoption Project placed Native American children with non-Native American families to be raised as their own. The article states that in some cases, it may have continued in the 1970’s. These children were pulled from reservations and counted.
How many thousands from mixed cultural backgrounds who were not born on a reservation went, and continue, uncounted?
Only a few years ago, a case of a child of mixed parentage was adopted by a couple, only to have the Native American father contest the adoption after the young girl had been living with her adoptive non-Native family a few years.
In Crosswinds, Terra, is herself one such adult child. When her mother died, she no knowledge of who her mother was, and she was never officially adopted, so had no way of knowing who she was. Or even that she had a tribal ancestry. Though, she was led to study tribal lifestyles across the globe.
Indian Adoption Project. The Adoption History Project.
http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/topics/IAP.html . Date Accessed: September 2, 2016.