an Anishinabe NDN from Roseau River First Nation and live in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada.
I would say that I'm an artist. I take photos, bead, whittle. Always creating things and have ideas on various subjects.
I don't drink, don't do drugs, don't smoke... never have.
I only use “Native American” as reference to the indigenous tribes of people that inhabit North America. Here are my thoughts on the matter that I use as a guide.
Having several generations of family. Sorta starts at the end of the Indian Wars. This is pretty self-explanatory, So I’ll skip it.
Connection to the land.
No I don’t mean feeling some cult-like new age belief. I mean a very real and quite normal attachment to the local NDN territory. Even though I haven’t lived on my reserve for well over 20 years I still maintain close contact with the people from my reserve (Both on and off-reserve) and care very much how things are going. If you want to be technical I am still on my tribes original territory, They just a built a city on it and called it “Winnipeg” But at the end of the day occasionally bones and artifacts of my ancestors still pop up every now and then during construction as a reminder to all.
I know some of you wise-asses think that reading a few books counts you in but it doesn’t. When I say language I’m talking about the knowledge and constant use that also includes slang. We have a whole system of talking to each other that will appear to outsiders that our accents, grammar and sentence pacing will seem off or wrong. An example would be some older NDNs say “see you later” or “I’ll see you again” and choose not to or resist saying “goodbye” as its meaning could be taken as I’m going to die, or I think you are going to die, or I do not wish to see you again or there is a situation coming up in which we won’t meet again so I am saying farewell.
When I say culture I mean a deep rooted base in the local knowledge and customs, It also includes fellow natives (friends/families) who are able to make up a “living library” Every generation of Natives take what they know and pass it and add a bit of themselves to it. Quill-work still exists along side of beadwork. This is what non-natives get wrong. They can learn something and then proceed to crank the same thing out with each addition being a pruning down of what was once considered “native” is now a mass-produced very artificial thing that has lost all its reverence.
Often not mentioned but I feel its important to include. Weather we like it or not we are part of political and religious factions that intersect all Indian Reserves/Reservations. If I where to sum them up its something like The Traditionals, The Christians, The Modern Progressives and the Neutrals (who don’t want to fight to try and preserve tribe unity) There are probably more but that’s all I can think of now. Allot of these factions actually started before the Reserve system when Chiefs and leaders decided to take a different path. Its one of the ways we can tell a Plastic Indian (my term for fake) when we see one. He/She will proclaim to be a traditional, but speak the words of a christian, talk down to people and then fail on the other topics I’ve gone though above. One of the more politically dangerous situations is when outsiders manage to annoy or anger most or all of the factions. Its because each group within the tribe approaches the problem from a different angle, Which often appears like a constant attack even though its several different groups each taking a shot at the problem.
These are just my thoughts and observations on what makes a person “Native American” (Indian, American Indian, Amerindian, NDN)