Tag Archives: ndn

Native American Books: Reading List

Books about indigenous culture, religion and history. These are definitely worth checking out, for natives and non-natives. This will be an ongoing list, because I am always sniffing out new books and I read a lot.

If You Only Read a Few, Read These

  • Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Questions and Answers from the National Museum of the American Indian by the Smithsonian
  • An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn
  • Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria Jr.

 

Generally Awesome-Religion, Culture and History of Indigenous Peoples

(Not specific to any one tribe)

  • 100 Native Americans Who Shaped History by Bonnie Juettner
  • God is Red: A Native View on Religion by Vine Deloria Jr.
  • The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey Through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
  • The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men by Vine Deloria Jr.
  • Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future by Melissa K. Nelson
  • 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by K.B. Schaller
  • The Circle is Sacred: A Medicine Book for Women by Scout Cloud Lee
  • The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions by Paula Gunn Allen
  • Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook by Paula Gunn Allen
  • Two Spirit People: American Indian Lesbian Women and Gay Men by Lester Brown
  • American Indians in WWI: At Home and at War by Thomas Britton
  • Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law by David Wilkins
  • National Geographic on Indians of the Americas by Matthew Stirling
  • First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History by Colin Calloway
  • Indian Herbology of North America by Alma Hutchens
  • Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism by Stephen Harrod Buhner
  • How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts by Frances Densmore
  • Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians by John Swanton
  • Native American Stories by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac

Specifically Awesome

(Focuses on a Particular Tribe)

  • A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks by Jean and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri (Mvskoke)
  • Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians by Bill Grantham (Mvskoke)
  • Creek Religion and Medicine by John Swanton (Mvskoke)
  • Creek Indian Medicine Ways: The Enduring Power of Mvskoke Religion by David Lewis Jr. (Mvskoke)
  • The Wind is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Bear Heart (Mvskoke)
  • Native Plants Native Healing: Traditional Muskogee Way by Tis Mal Crow (Mvskoke)
  • Totkv Mocvse/New Fire: Creek Folktales by Earnest Gouge (Mvskoke)
  • The Creeks by Michael Green (Mvskoke)
  • The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions by J. T. Garrett (Tsalagi)
  • The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing by Lori Arviso Alvord (Dine)
  • Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth Fenn (Nueta)
  • Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems and the Sun Dance Opera by Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Sioux)
  • Uprising: The Pueblo Indians and the First American War for Religious Freedom by Jake Pace (Pueblo)
  • Black Elk Speaks: The Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (Oglala Sioux)

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Crazy Brave

This is a book that I have reread multiple times. Joy Harjo is like the voice in my heart that I never knew I had. This book recounts her life growing up as a Muscogee in Oklahoma (just like me!) through her poetry. She paints pictures with her words, describing different events in her life that changed her and shaped her. She uses many poems from her other books, as well as some new ones, and fits them in with stories about her journey from Oklahoma to Arizona for school.

I think I would go as far as to say that this is like a combined memoir and poetry anthology, because even when she is just talking about her life, it sounds like a poem. She had a very hard life growing up and yet her poetry had become renowned as some of the most well known Native American poetry ever written. That must make her so proud. She had been writing poetry since before I was even born.

I read this book when I am sad, or when I need to feel some sense of purpose. Because it gives you that. This book has a power and life all it’s own and it challenges you to take the rough patches in your life and make them into something beautiful, to learn from them and to move forward with your head held high. She is an incredible poet and often writes historical poems about the Trail of Tears and life as a Muscogee native. She often writes about music and how it is like the breath and the heartbeat of our people. I have so much respect for her, because she puts into words the way I feel when my people stomp dance at pow wows, and I never thought I would have words for that feeling.

I highly recommend ALL of her work to any Natives out there. We need to read these things. We need to know more about where we came from and the traditions of our people. I also recommend her work to any non-natives as well, because everyone should be able to appreciate and admire a culture, even from afar. Her writing is so beautiful and haunting. Everyone should read it. It is truly amazing.

Buy it here!

You are not "Honoring" us. You are Hurting us. 

Today I heard that the Coweta public schools made a horrificly racist homecoming float. I didn’t believe just how racist it was until I saw it myself on the news.


I was so disgusted that I nearly vomited.

My hometown is the ‘Catoosa Indians’. And in Tulsa, the Union Public schools is the ‘R*dskins’. Both are racial slurs.

Now I’ve openly displayed my disgust of these mascots because they reinforce racist stereotypes, contribute to further cultural genocide, and teach children that racism, hatred, appropriation and annihilation of a race is acceptable, along with telling kids it’s okay to objectify and fetishize an entire group of unique cultures and peoples. 

It’s not okay. It’s unacceptable. But as a young adult in a world of middle aged white people who refuse to listen to me, an actual native person, it’s really hard to make a change. But this recent development sent me over the edge. I did what little thing I could to try to make a difference.

So, I’ve created a petition to ban all Native American mascots in Oklahoma. Other states have done it successfully and good things have come out of it. One would think that ‘Indian Territory’ would have been one of those states. And while Oklahoma City has passed legislations and ordinances to make changes, and have made positive changes, the rest of Oklahoma sits on its racism with an extreme amount of appropriative ignorance.

These racist mascots do not promote peace, they promote hatred and violence towards indigenous peoples. You are not honoring our cultures, you are mocking them and offending us. 

It’s time to change the mascots, guys.

If you are reading this, thank you so much for reading my blog. Please consider offering your support to the indigenous people of Oklahoma who are so desperately trying to preserve our traditions and cultures and sign the petition here.

The Mvskoke and the Boarding Schools

As recounted by Mvskoke author, Bear Heart,

“Even after we were settled, that was not the end of our problems. Our children were taken from their parents and forced to go to boarding school, where they were not allowed to speak their native tongues–they had to speak English. They boarding school was a government school, so they had to march to and from class, make up their beds, do everything as if it were a military camp. This was forced upon our young children. Back then Native people took pride in their long hair, but the children had to have their hair cut short. Sometimes the administrators would just put a bowl over a child’s head and cut around it, then they would laugh at the child.

Those are the things that we endued. And yet today in our ceremonies, many of our people still pray for all mankind, whether they be black, yellow, red, or white. How is it possible, with a background like that among our people, to put out such love

Halloween Costumes, Redface and Mascots//

Sigh. It was just a matter of time before i had to make this post. For those of you who don’t know me, hi, I’m Vi, a Mvskoke and Cherokee Native American.

Halloween costumes such as ‘sexy squ*w’, ‘Indian princess’ and ‘tribal brave’ (to name a few I’ve heard and gagged at) are extremely insulting, disrespectful and harmful to native cultures for the following reasons.

1) it plays into the idea that we are fantasy, extinct or fairytale. Which, obviously, we are not. How do you think our children feel when their white classmates dress up as pirates, mermaids and…one of us? As if we belong in another world? It’s alienating.

2) it fetishizes our women, which leads to the incredibly high rape count. 9 out of 10 native women have been sexually assaulted, molested or raped. I myself have been raped by six different men, all white, since I was 4 years old. Only 10 percent of committed rapes are reported by natives because the law has a notorious history of doing jack shit.

3) it mocks our culture and clothing and certain items we hold sacred such as the medicine pipe, talking stick, eagle and turkey feathers, etc. Ceremonial clothing and feathers are earned by our warriors and spiritual leaders. Non-natives wearing these things is a slap in the face. Imagine if someone dressed up as a Marine and was decked out in Purple Hearts, Stars and Stripes and medals Halle but had done nothing at all to earn them, and were in fact anarchists who hate the military. Same thing only worse because our objects not only hold sentimental value but spiritual and religious value.

4) 100 MILLION native peoples were massacred during colonization. And it hasn’t stopped there. Our people are killed and raped and forced to assimilate into white culture EVERY. DAY. For a non-‘native to slather on red face paint, put feathers in their hair and call themselves native for a day…..that’s unspeakable. It’s disgusting. You want our culture but you don’t want us, except in a body bag.

5) Mascots like the Wildcats, the Cowboys, the Crusaders and…the R*dskins? Okay, so animals, occupations….One of these does not belong. R*dskin is a harmful slur, dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s when the government PAID for ndn scalps. ‘200 for every r*dskin sent to purgatory’. Don’t you DARE try to tell me it is appreciating and our of respect for our culture. You would no sooner have a sports team called the ‘N**gers’ or the ‘G*psies’ or if a nazi team had a mascot called the J*des. It’s NEVER been okay and it will NEVER be okay. It’s not just sports. You are comparing our people, our race, to animals. ‘Animals’ that white men used to hunt.

6) just like blackface is never okay, redface is never okay. Just don’t fricking do it. We have to live with the stigma of having darker skin every day. We struggle with depression, addiction, poverty EVERY DAY because of the people we’ve lost. The land that was taken from us not once but TWICE. We weren’t allowed to have our religions, speak our languages. Many of us don’t even know them anymore because of colonization. We deal with racism every day. My mother and I have been kicked out of an Irish restaurant before for being a ‘sq*aw’ and a ‘dirt injun’. Our women are raped, our children are beaten and our men are slaughtered by your cops EVERY DAY. So, NO, you cannot claim that for a day if you cannot claim it for a lifetime as we have. We are born into this. We survive it. We fight it.

These are just the best reasons i could think of. I’m sure there’s more I forgot.

On Dreamcatchers//

What is a Dream Catcher?
The dreamcatcher comes from the Ojibwe and Chippewa people. Traditionally, it is made from bent wood, sinew and one or two feathers. The sinew is weaved to mimic a spider’s web. In many native religions, including my own, Grandmother Spider played a huge role in the placement of the sun in the sky. Dreamcatchers were traditionally hung over children’s beds to trap their nightmares.

Expansion//
During the 60s and 70s, the making of dreamcatchers became popular with other Native tribes, such as the Pueblo, Navajo, Lakota and Cherokee peoples. But as far as I’ve seen, the Ojibwe are the only traditional creators before the ‘pan-indian’ movement. This movement during the 70’s involved the sharing of many cultural aspects across many tribes such as dreamcatchers, fancy dancing, powwows, certain cleansing rituals, beadwork styles, Etc. This was not appropriation, but appreciation. Our tribes adopted certain things and shared certain things from one another to unite us in all of our relative struggles. We had all suffered at the hands of the invaders. The pan-Indian movement was a way of uniting us and making peace.

Symbolism//
Dreamcatchers are a very popular gift among native peoples. They symbolize peace, the unity of all Natives and are often considered sweet gifts given out of love. It is a very important cultural icon for us.

Modernization//
Nowadays you’ll often find them with beads, colored leather, and multiple feathers hanging from the frame. Every Native Reservation produces and sells dreamcatchers, it seems. You can buy them at almost every powwow. There are even some online stores run by enrolled Natives that make and sell dream catchers. While traditionally hung above a bed frame, now they can be found as home decor and even on rear view mirror of cars. Some Natives view the dreamcatcher as the Christian equivalent of cheap plastic crosses sold at malls.  Sadly, outside of certified Native-made stores and powwows, dreamcatchers are often made and mass produced by underpaid workers who are not Native in Asian sweatshops. These are cheap imitations and are insulting to our history and beliefs, as well as harmful to our economies as many Native artists rely on the income received from selling dream catchers to feed their families.

Appropriation//
I do not recommend non-Natives owning a dreamcatcher, due to the religious and ceremonial ties to Native history that they carry. Much like frybread and spirit animals/totems, they have become a universal Native entity and symbol, carrying the spirit of Union and Peace amongst our people. If you are not Native, regularly cleansing a dreamcatcher can be difficult, as the process for doing this is a sacred closed tradition that varies from tribe to tribe. If you absolutely MUST have this piece of our culture, you can buy Native, or receive it from a Native as a gift. It will have no Medicine and will not work if you buy that cheap mass produced reproduction you see in gift shops. And you will be committing cultural appropriation and a deep disrespect towards Native cultures in the process.  If you are interested in selling and making dream catchers yourself, that is illegal under the American Indian Arts and Crafts Law of 1990 and is also deeply disrespectful and hurtful to us. Instead, I would recommend making a Witch’s Ladder, which serves a similar purpose and is not tied to any one single culture and religion.

I am an enrolled member of the Mvskoke Creek Nation. Thank you for reading! Mvto!

Please note that I do not speak for all Indigenous people. Do not send me hate over this post, as I am neurodivergent and extremely prone to panic attacks. I will not hesitate to delete and block anything that may threaten my mental health.

On Smudging//

//What is Smudging?//

Smudging is a traditional religious ceremony practiced by a majority of First Nations, Native American and Indigenous peoples. Smudging is done to prepare a space or a person for a spiritual ritual or ceremony, or the arrival of spiritual leaders and elders into a sacred space. The burning of herbs is often accompanied by chanting, singing, fervent prayer and sometimes musical instruments. The particular herbs and techniques will vary from tribe to tribe and clan to clan, which is why the method is often past down from family members and tribal elders.
//How can I Smudge?//

Unless you are Native and have been taught by family/clan/tribe members, you cannot smudge. Native religions and cultures are closed to outsiders/non-natives.
//But other cultures smudging!!!??//

Actually, they use smoke cleansing. Smoke cleansing is the burning of purifying herbs to cleanse an area. It is a very basic procedure. The term for it is ‘Cense’. If you are Celtic, it is ‘Saining’. This process is completely different and unlike Smudging. Many cultures all over the world smoke cleanse, and have their own techniques and specific herbs they prefer. However, Smudging is a term that refers specifically to a religious ritual practiced in nearly all Indigenous tribal cultures. Because of centuries of having our cultures ripped from us and beaten out of us, we have lost our original terms for many of our religious rituals and important spiritual aspects of our cultures. So we are reclaiming the English words used for them, much like the terms ‘two spirit’ and ‘spirit animals’.
(I had originally posted a section here about the specific beliefs of my tribe, but I decided to take it down as this post usually gets a lot of discourse and I do not want my tribe’s beliefs exposed to negativity.)

I do not speak for all Indigenous peoples. I am Mvskoke Creek and Western Cherokee. I am what my people consider a Kerrv, a medicine person who has learned their practice through various sources and with experience. Please do not send me hate about this post. I am neurodivergent and prone to panic attacks. I will not hesitate to delete and block anything that could threaten my mental health. Thank you for reading. Mvto!