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Adventures In Ancestry Part 3: How Does It Change You?

I’m not going to lie. It was a little disappointing to find that the Native American heritage that I’d always grown up with in my mind and my heart wasn’t actually there. Ever since discovering this I found myself wondering if the fact that I don’t have literal Native American blood (again, that I know of or have been able to find) takes away the things around Native American history, lore, and beliefs that are very much a part of who I am.

As I got older, I went to powwows, immersing myself in as much of it as I could since I wasn’t around it growing up. I’d meet people and make friends who were from the southwest and were darker skinned, and we’d joke about me being a “pale face trying to fit in just to have the frybread.”

I’m not going to lie…I fucking love frybread.



But now I feel so weird about it all! I LOVE…love love love…native music. Flute music, drumming, tribal singing…now I feel a bit weird listening to it. I feel like if I listen to Black Lodge Singers (one of my favorite Native American singing groups) that I’m doing something wrong.



Seriously…WTF?

I remember years ago, when I was still happily living with my Native American story, in an uproar, about a woman called “White Eagle Medicine Woman” (aka Suraj Holzwrath…and her actual first name is Rachel). She was clearly “playing” at being Native, dressing in what looked like the expected medicine woman costume, making lots of money off other white people wanting to surround themselves with Native wisdom.

She was also decorating her large powwow drum she uses for her events and performances with eagle feathers, which is legally a problem because there are laws prohibiting the sale, use, and possession of eagle feathers. You can get fined thousands of dollars if you so much as find a Bald Eagle feather in the wild and decide to pick it up and keep it. People would protest her events online and in person, especially if she were anywhere near tribal lands. I was bothered by her whole act, and I gladly joined in with the online protests and petitions against her.

There was one event that she did back in the early 2000s where people from a tribe near her event protested, demanding that the local police go and confiscate her feathers. I remember that being about the time that her supporters said she would no longer be bringing or wearing her feathers in public because she didn’t want them taken away from her, saying it infringed on her religious freedom.

I still stand by my feelings about her and others like her. When she started including Reiki as part of her “native medicine” was seriously ready to blow a gasket. But I’m now sitting here with my stuff to think about.

And it’s weird. I don’t feel like it’s some kind of “white guilt,” but I do feel like I need to question. And frankly, it’s something I have to get over.

My personal magickal, spiritual, and metaphysical practices dip into so many cultures that I am genetically and ancestrally not part of. Buddhist, Hindu, Peruvian, and Huna are just a few. I don’t feel anything weird about those. I don’t feel like when I chant in Sanskrit while meditating with a mala that I’m doing anything inappropriate. So why should I now feel like drumming is doing something wrong?

Finding out things about your ancestry definitely can change you. The big thing that it changes for me is just wondering if the things that I was raised to think and believe about certain things, and the beliefs of my own that I formed from being raised that way, changes who I am now. Should I be going back over my life and remove the things that are now no longer “accurate” according to my DNA and the research into my family?

No.

No, I’m still Little Eagle to my Dad even if I’m not Native by blood. I’m still the girl that loves listening to flute music when I’m stressed or when I feel my soul needs some healing. I’m still the girl that loves Native American movies (Smoke Signals is one of my favorites). I’m still the girl that gets excited for the frybread booth at a powwow.


But what about the more positive changes?

From all the things that I learned I have certainly found where my deep soul-level connection to Boston and New England as a whole comes from. So far ten generations of my family on my Dad’s side have lived there, and many of them are still there and will continue to be for generations to come.

I understand where my innate desire to be involved in religious, spirituality, and art comes from. I have yet to find a generation from either side of my family that doesn’t have reverends, ministers, religious scholars, and artists as part of it.

One thing that I also found interesting was that as I researched back through the two sides of my family, I found myself much more connected to and interested in my Dad’s side than my Mom’s side. I guess I always felt that with my Mom’s side there wasn’t much mystery to be had. My grandmother’s family was from Italy, and my grandfather’s were from Germany and the Netherlands. The only thing I never knew was how far back any of those went and where else people may have come from. But I also never felt this big need to find out.

I am, without question, Italian. I may not be ten generations back Italian, but I am definitely, unshakably Italian. As my husband will tell you, my temper and stubbornness cement the Italian and German ancestry, without question.

In my heart, I am Native American.

That feels so weird to say and makes me feel like some hipster white chick desperate for something interesting to cling to, but I’m not. I’ve never worn a feather headdress as a fashion accessory (that shit seriously pisses me off, for a bunch of reasons) and I’ve never gone around trying to take on a Native American number publically (only my Dad ever calls me Little Eagle). But when I go to a drumming circle or a powwow, and a group of people gathers to drum together on a community drum, and they sing in a native dialect, something stirs in my soul and makes me emotional.

The last time I went to a powwow with my Dad we were watching the group drumming and singing competition, and there was a Blackfoot group from Canada that performed. They were about a half song into time, and I just started crying. My Dad just looks and me, as I’m probably making a bit of a spectacle of myself, and says, “Come on, Jesse, get it together.”


A picture from the Grand Entry of that powwow.


They sang in Siksika, one of the Algonquin languages that the Blackfoot speak in Canada. I don’t know Siksika at all. I know very little of the Passamaquoddy language spoken by the tribe my family claims, mainly because it’s a dying language and there are (far less) than 1000 people left that speak it. But hearing the Blackfoot group singing, feeling the power and the energy of their voices and their collective drum playing, it feels like something I know on some deeper level, if not from the blood of my ancestors than maybe through another lifetime. Or possibly just because we’re all connected in the cosmic soup.

Another group from Canada that I love is Young Spirit. They have singers that perform with them from all over, but they represent the Plains Cree people from Western Canada. One of the reasons that I love them is that it’s all young guys (and some girls), and there’s something that just feels hopeful about younger people actively representing their heritage.



So did learning all the things and finding out that some things I thought I knew may not be what they seem, change me? Yes. But at an Ego level more than anything. It doesn’t change who I know I am at my core.

I believe 100% that we are told taught or learn things at any given time in life for a reason, either to lead us toward or away from something on our path. It’s one of the reasons that I believe completly that even if something a psychic, reader or healer tells you is technically “inaccurate”, it’s actually right.

I don’t need to close doors on things that may not be 100% accurate to open doors to new things I found. Instead, it all just comes together to make up who I am meant to be in this life.


Comments

  1. Melody says

    I am a Native American enrolled in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at Ft Yates, ND. I was married to a Native American who is enrolled in a tribe and our children and grandchildren are enrolled in the Sac & Fox Nation of Oklahoma so we’re authentic. I’ve been to a Native American college and we go to powwows and take part in activism ex. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and protecting the water. I understand your belief that you are Native American. Maybe a past life? However, in this life you are not Native. You are probably what we would consider an ally. I think it’s great that you go to powwows and that you love frybread. I do too! Unless you live 100% of your life as a Native and all the baggage that carries then you don’t truly understand what Native life is about. I hope I don’t sound critical but I see this on social media constantly. If you had discovered Native blood in your DNA you would still be white-coded and that means you can pass as a white person. You will always have greater freedom and social mobility than those who have darker skin. You are less likely to be discriminated against as well. These are the difficult parts of being a Native person. We have convos amongst ourselves about inter-tribal appropriation. We have a responsibility to call out lateral violence between our tribes and communities. Drumming is a part of many cultures not just Native people. I believe that it may be that many non-Native people are responding to Native culture as a call to return to their own roots that pre-date Christianity. I worked at a party store and was amazed at the number of people who loved Halloween more than Christmas and Easter but were regular churchgoers. I believe that Christianity itself is somewhat of a cultural appropriation of Jewish customs. I also think that it’s okay to borrow from other cultures if it’s done respectfully with acknowledgement that you are a borrower not speaking for the culture yourself. Americans have experienced a lot of cultural loss and have had to blend with other customs. It’s unfathomable to me how many non-Native people here in America know nothing about their roots. My roots are who I am. I have a bit of French blood and non-Native family and friends. I’m interested in learning about other beliefs as well.

    • Jess Carlson says

      I understand what you’re saying. And I also know what you mean about seeing this stuff online all the time. There is a huge difference between appreciation and appropriation, which is something that gets forgotten. When it comes to things like people adopting Native beliefs or practices and whatnot, most of what people are doing isn’t even Native American. So many practices in shamanism, for example, are not at all Native American but people have the complete misunderstanding that somehow shaman = Native American when it doesn’t, at all! When it comes to things like the baggage of discrimination and whatnot, you’re also absolutely right. Of course, I’ve never experienced discrimination for being Native, but I’ve absolutely experienced discrimination in other ways. That said, suddenly dismissing something that I’ve lived for 43 years as though it is nothing and isn’t part of who I am isn’t something that I can easily do. Nor is it something I want to do. As I said, in my HEART I still see myself as being Native. But when it comes to “roots” I wish it was as easy to say “Well, my DNA says I’m this so there you go!” But it isn’t. My BLOOD says one thing, but my ROOTS, the things that ground me in who I am since I can remember, are different. I have never claimed Native blood to get anything, which is something I’ve seen plenty of people do and it’s disgraceful. It’s like I’m a fucking Native American Rachel Dolezal! I will never, just as I never have in the past, walk around and say “I’m Native American” and somehow try to deny that I’m white. I’m so fucking white I’m surprised “ghost” isn’t in my DNA.

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Jess is a great teacher, as well as an insightful reading and a wonderful healer. Her lessons are informative and easy to understand. Her cards speak to her in a way that I hope mine will to me one day. I have also had a Chakra session and a Reiki session with her and afterward I felt at peace, balanced, and whole again (I was quite sick at the time). I trust very few people, and I follow my path alone, but I trust Jess. She’s a beautiful spirit.

Bev

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2019-05-09T10:56:45-07:00

Bev

Jess is a great teacher, as well as an insightful reading and a wonderful healer. Her lessons are informative and easy to understand. Her cards speak to her in a way that I hope mine will to me one day. I have also had a Chakra session and a Reiki session with her and afterward I felt at peace, balanced, and whole again (I was quite sick at the time). I trust very few people, and I follow my path alone, but I trust Jess. She’s a beautiful spirit.
When I started coaching with Jess I thought I was coming to her for help with a breakup and an unexpected and sudden international move. It turned out that wasn't the real issue at all! Jess asked questions I never would have thought to ask myself and gave me a whole new perspective on what was going on in my life. She made me feel like what I want matters. By the time we were done I felt like I could take on the world!

Patricia

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2019-05-09T10:56:03-07:00

Patricia

When I started coaching with Jess I thought I was coming to her for help with a breakup and an unexpected and sudden international move. It turned out that wasn't the real issue at all! Jess asked questions I never would have thought to ask myself and gave me a whole new perspective on what was going on in my life. She made me feel like what I want matters. By the time we were done I felt like I could take on the world!
Incredible, intuitive, thoughtful, and professional reader! Will definitely book with Jess again.

Cadey

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2019-11-11T23:09:41-08:00

Cadey

Incredible, intuitive, thoughtful, and professional reader! Will definitely book with Jess again.
OMG I'm blown away by the accuracy of the reading. Jess has a special gift. What she revealed to me, opened me up to a place I knew I should be at but was holding myself back from.

Masha

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2019-11-11T23:10:42-08:00

Masha

OMG I'm blown away by the accuracy of the reading. Jess has a special gift. What she revealed to me, opened me up to a place I knew I should be at but was holding myself back from.
I was so overwhelmed trying to get back into my witchcraft practice, but Jess helped me create an actual plan and a schedule for doing the work. The results in just two months has been far beyond my expectations. I'm in touch with my power like never before!

Sara

Jess Carlson
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2019-11-11T23:14:38-08:00

Sara

I was so overwhelmed trying to get back into my witchcraft practice, but Jess helped me create an actual plan and a schedule for doing the work. The results in just two months has been far beyond my expectations. I'm in touch with my power like never before!
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