I am a non-indigenous person working for a Native American tribal nation. For years I avoided something like this, because I didn’t want to be seen as an outsider coming along and telling people how to make their lives “right.” Native Americans got WAY too much of that ever since Europeans arrived on their land. Nor did I want to be seen as a hippie/New Age white woman appropriating Native American culture. My spirituality is nature based, so we share many similar values, but because I’m about three-quarters Scots ancestry I express my spirituality in a Celtic manner (mostly).
What I’ve been doing this first week is meeting people and reading. I respectfully ask questions, and I honor the Tolowa way of doing things (when I know what that is). By the third day one principle had been emphasized even in casual conversation . . . it is all about relationships. People often introduce themselves by first name, then add that they are the daughter/sister/auntie/etc. of so-and-so. I found a quote this morning that sums it up: “The value of our relationships — that is, our interpersonal and intrapersonal connections to place, community, family, spirituality and ideas — is a central principle of Indigenous systems of knowing (Wilson, 2001).” That covers a lot of territory. I’ve been thinking about that, and how it relates to my tendency to be a loner. (The Hermit is my Soul Card.) So while many Tolowa beliefs and ways of acting are very much like mine, this is one area I am going to have to work on.