Sunday, February 20, 2011

Poem: Traditional

This poem is in response to all of the issues I have dealt with in the Native community. Often those on the outside romanticize Native communities as being peaceful and about the Earth. I have attended powwow's where family and relatives were drinking when there should be no drinking allowed on powwow grounds. I am told I am weird by my own family and relatives when I eat whole foods like brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal, peanut butter, hummus and drink smoothies. I am weird to them because I am not drinking Folder's coffee, pop/soda and eating a bag of potato chips. I am sick of being called weird because I deviate from social norms. When in fact I live more traditionally than many Natives I know. But then I have been excluded from the community because of many reasons. Mainly I have been put under the microscope and each and every one of my privileges and oppressions has been examined. It is and has been an assault on my identity, body, mind and spirit. To all of the outsiders, please don't romanticize Native people and our communities as often many Native people are just as mainstream as you.

Some questions to ponder -- what does traditional mean these days? Does it mean reclaiming culture, identity and heritage? Or can it mean going backwards?


The ancestors design,
I've found the traditions,
Why I feel more traditional,
Than some in my community,
And then I am told I am weird,
Traditional means,
Hate from our own community,
Violence against women,
Blood quantum division and racism,
Resource wars,
I've been told to sit outside,
You have no wisdom,
Little woman,
Reality convoluted,
Romanticizing of the past,
Gazing at a plastic NDN statue,
Made in China,
Truly traditional,
I've been treated as the "white" girl outsider,
Visionary distillation,
I am not an attractive Native man,
That woos you,
And sir,
You know who you are,
I've been treated like the witch in the village,
Past life,
But surviving this time,
Ousted from the village,
Commonplace gratified division,
My own have laughed in my face,
While the idea of "community" is pushed down my throat,
Correlated to responsive documents,
I'm hustlin',
Trying to relate to the community,
A "community" member wants to slit my throat,
Archaic egoism,
Poured over me,
A sticky film,
You did not have an eating disorder,
You were not abused,
In fighting,
Traditional is a fight,
Reclaiming culture,
Identity is a fight,
I reject the assault on my identity,
The ancestors design,
They watch,
What do you think they want for their descendants,
Their relations,
All their relations,
All of our relations.


i'm a superhero i can like fly and shit said...

it's very beautiful, sad, and true.

every culture is being watered down
especially now with the advent of the
digital age. communications technology
has destroyed much of tradition, not just
yours, but everyone's. it has changed the
way we relate with one another and with
the world.

as for sexism, violence, discrimination;
these are age-old battles which may well
persist for as long as humans do.

i liked it.
you can tell it is from the heart.

Anishinaabekwe said...

i'm a superhero i can like fly and shit - Yeah, it is very sad that cultures get watered down. Today for instance, I got rid of my text messaging on my phone. Soon enough I will be getting rid of my land line. I remember a time that I didn't want to drive, didn't want a computer or a cell phone. But here I am with all three. I think even if people give up this stuff we will still have a hard time relating to each other. Its a very sad state of affairs out there.

Amaya said...

Which makes me question...what is traditional? In this time of warped, convoluted thinking and deviant (??) behavior, what is traditional?

Powerful, and as usual, thought-provoking.

Anishinaabekwe said...

Amaya - It is a conundrum in the Native community to be or not to be traditional. Who knows exactly what the traditions were before colonization? I do honor those who are truly traditional, which is rare by the way. I feel the more remote the tribe the more traditional you will find the tribe or community to be.

We are all affected by so much - technology, media, class issues, etc.

kuma said...

I grew up (and it's still my home) in Washburn, WI, which is near the Red Cliff reservation, and alas you are right in saying that the nostalgic idea of Native American reservations is futile. The biggest issue that I'm personally aware of is that the reservations are poverty-ridden.

There is s still a strong sense of tradition though up north, and even teach Ojibwe in Bayfield and Ashland schools. My mother, a massage therapist, had even traded with a native: food commodoties for a massage.

However, one of the major concerns of mine is not that "society" views the reservations as "ideal" (you had worded it better, can't think of the right word here), but rather that there is still a lot of derision--some whites have the idea that natives are lazy and drunk. But even if it might appear this way, that is far too simple minded. (Not to mention when I worked on a housing development in Red Cliff there were very hard-working construction workers who were local natives.)

I think one of the attitudes we have to watch out for is the "me against you." All of us can learn from each other, and we mustn't stop listening, nor should we stop patiently teaching each other.

(I loved the contrast you made in your poem between the images summoned with the word "traditional." Very nice poem ^.^)

Anishinaabekwe said...

kuma - Yes, one of the biggest and very real issues is poverty. I had a friend who worked on the Apostle Islands one summer and she felt that there was a difference in the Native communities there than the ones she knew of here in Northwest Lower Michigan. This summer I actually plan on going to that area because I am starting to make some new friends in there. It is a really beautiful area from what I have heard.

It is hard to not do you against me. Divide and conquer is age old and it perpetuates divisions of race, class and gender. Even in the Native community it does this. It is sad to see it take place in the Native community especially since the goal is to work together to overcome and break free of majority culture influences. Its a very tricky task.