This month’s theme is language. Ahem! “Boozhoo! Ozaawanakwadookwe indizhinikaz. Niin doodem Ma’iingan.”
There! I just introduced myself to you in my own language; Ojibwemowiin. It’s my real name, not Ricey Wild – which is Manoominikwe or the name on my checks, which is Kristine Shotley. My name in Ojibwemowiin is how the Creator recognizes me. That name is the essence of my being and what the Medicine Man dreamed for me. No, I will not divulge any more than that, you don’t need to know. I regard it as sacred and not to be bandied about lightly because in my name there is also my purpose, the reason I’m here. Miigwech Gichii Manidoo!!!
My Gramma Rose has always told me stories and then repeated them, but not in the annoying way at all. It was more like our oral history culture where repetitive stories are passed down through generations, so that we know our history, so we know our environment and spirituality. Gramma told me a few times, “I was a bright little kid! When my folks talked Indian to each other I would sit underneath the kitchen table and listen to them. I knew what they were saying!”
Wow. So many particulars to this story. First, Gram called it “Talking Indian” not Ojibwemowiin, but her generation has always described the language as that. “So and so knows how to talk ‘Indian’.” She was not spoken to in ‘Indian’. Her parents wanted their children to speak English because they thought it would be better for her. So then was it in her bones, her skin or spirit that she understood what her folks were talking about? That boggles my mind.
There is direct evidence that we Native American Indians carry traumatic DNA from centuries of horrific, savage genocidal tactics from European Immigrants who saw no wrong in brutally murdering our ancestors. Well, as we know, the European immigrant savagery didn’t stop at all. It is still a very real entity but they are using less blatant ways to exterminate us. Incarceration, illegal drugs and medications to keep us numb and unmotivated, plus racist legislative policies that continue on from centuries ago, aka “The Indian Problem”. We experience daily suppression by the continental usurpers not acknowledging our legitimate history and rightful place on our own lands; read Howard Zinn and Jack Weatherford. Yes, I know there are Native writers and authors, but I cite these men in this case precisely because they are white.
Oppression of our cultures and our spiritual practices by European immigrants has been relentless since they got here. Here we were, living the good life in a clean environment, lots of natural resources and freedom to move about as we pleased. There were no demarcation lines between the US, Mexico and Canada; those are recent and made up. The immigrants think they won. Hah-hah!!! The majority of Americans don’t know that every day of their lives they speak a little “Indian”.
Oh yahhhh!!! Over half of the States are Native-named, as are places, animals and the flora and fauna. Too many to list here but I encourage you to Google “Native American place names” and “Native words we use today”. Long ago one of the most interesting things I found out is that there are no swear words in Native languages. Yep. Swearing was unnecessary. I suppose we had better things to say. So now I don’t feel bad when I swear in English or Spanish because…well…I just don’t.
These days it is critical to the survival of our collective Native cultures that we revive, speak and preserve our languages. It is more than just a thing; it’s who we are as a distinct people. In the government boarding schools children were horribly abused and punished for speaking their own languages. The children’s hair was cut; they were made to wear European-style clothing and were traumatized to the point of believing they were bad, sinful beings. Because that’s what they were told by the Churches or administrators whose job it was to kill the Indian to save the man. Talk about sinners.
The lasting effect of the spiritual scalping of Indian children resulted in decades of malevolent pervasive dysfunction in Indian families. How well can people who didn’t grow up in their own homes know how to be good parents? It has been generations and we are now addressing the violent sickness that happened to us; it has left no one unaffected or immune.
I know well that life is not static, nothing stays the same. So when I read my dear friend Nikki Crowe’s post on facebook that said, “Feeling miigwechful” Ojibwe/English meaning thankful I LMAO’d! I called the word ‘Ojiberish’ and it made my day. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!