Manataka American Indian Council












Lucia Wind on Water Interview
Seneca Elder

P:  How do you feel about what's going on.  The way people are treating the Earth with disrespect.  How people are trying to grow.  (how do you feel about ) The reaction of the Native community to European people wanting to learn about the native culture.

LW: I think it's getting better.  I think more people are accepting it.  More people are seeing the irony of it.  For many, many generations they tried to assimilate all of us into white culture.  Now the white culture is coming to us hoping to be assimilated back to us.

Anyone who knows about native peoples who live in native towns, reservations, even non-res. people who live in communities with a high population of native people know that the problems of the native people are different.  The solutions are different, because the people think differently in a lot of ways.

Just like with any repressed people, there is a lot of anger but by and large more leaders everyday, whether they are Chiefs, Medicine People, Teachers, Elders, Tribal Council Heads, tribal political leaders, writers, musicians -people in the tribal society who have a louder voice,- are coming forward more and more and saying this is a good thing.  Still there is a large resistance to it.

This is why some of the people who come forward feel they have to come forward under other names because there is a resistance and people can get angry at you for talking about it.  In my personal experience, the people who have been coming forward and teaching (non-natives) have been coming forward quietly.  These are people who are often already "whited".  I don't know if that is a good word to use, but what I mean is that they are already assimilated into the non-native community at large.  Very few people who are deeply seated in the native community come forward.  But this is political stuff.  This is probably not the best thing for your web site.

P: No. Not really.  We are looking for things that will give people a positive message...

LW:  This is positive in the bigger picture, because things are changing and people's attitudes are changing.  Some are not changing for the right reasons.  Some are changing because they figure now that they (non-natives) are coming to us we can get them back for all they did to us.  We can buy Manhattan from them for 24 dollars.

P: What advice would you give people who come to people like yourself who want to learn and want to grow?

LW:  Oh, good question.  I think first people have to do their homework.  If you think that maybe you're part of a tribe, or you have a strong interest in a tribe and want to be part of it, don't walk into a place and say, "I know nothing about your culture, but I am one of you."  It's very insulting to us.  You should go and do your homework first.  Find out all you about the culture, about what's polite and not polite.  Different places have different days of celebration, holy days.  You shouldn't go on those days.  Different places have different ways of addressing people who have honor in our society.

With the Internet out there now, there is no reason why you can't find these things out.  You find out as much as you can about where you're going.  Don't just show up one day and say, "Hey, I'm here".  Write them first.  Give them the opportunity to contact you.

So many people now are trying to look for something.  A lot of people are going back to look at their past.  They see how precious this is, how precious the native way is because it gives you a connection to the Earth and that is lacking in man's technological world.  The more we go towards technology the further we get from what is truly real.

Even though the Internet brings information, it also takes them (people on the net) away, tears them away from the Earth if that (using the Internet) is all they do.  The further you get away from the Earth, the more you need things like reconnecting to your roots.

Some people are looking for their roots.  Maybe they are Irish, maybe they are Italian, maybe they are Mexican.  The roots of some people are Native American so they feel like they have to find that.  Even some who don't have that, feel they need it because they can see the value of it.  This is why a lot of the tribal offices and the cultural centers and reservations, even cultural center and museums, are absolutely overloaded with people trying to come back and find their roots who haven't done there homework first.

It's a good thing to know more, but learn as much as you can before you walk onto that reservation and see someone face to face.

Also, know that some tribal rolls are closed rolls.  Each tribe has their own rules of what will get you in a tribe or not.  Every tribe has rules.  You have to show genealogy proof and things like that.  You just can't say, my grandmother told me she was one of your tribe without proof.

The important thing that people need to know is that it's not the piece of paper that says "I am an Indian", "I'm a Cherokee", "I'm a Sioux" or whatever.  That's not what's important; to get that paper.  What is important is to get the knowledge and values of the people, then try and incorporate that into your everyday life.  That is what is important.  You may never get the paper, but it doesn't mean that you can't live like them (and hold their values).

You see, there are two different levels I see.  I see that there is a level of tribal membership where you actually own a piece of the tribe.  You are a card-carrying member of the tribe.   A lot of that is very coveted by tribes because there are allotments and political reasons.  But we will not go into that.  Also if they gave out tribal membership to anyone who came walking in and say, "Look, I want to be part of your tribe," it would soon destroy their cultural base.  It would be too much, too fast.

P:  I am not clear on it.  So if somebody were to come to them without...

LW:  If you walked into (for example) a Mohawk reservation and said, I believe my grandfather or great grandfather was Mohawk, and I want to be a Mohawk and part of your tribe.  And if they said, O.K., you're Mohawk, like it's a club it would dilute the core of the community.  It would take away the morays that make the community whole.

P:  Then people unintentionally annex what they are trying to become...

LW:  Right.  They dilute it all.  So they (tribal rules) are protective to make sure that doesn't happen.

But if you believe you are Mohawk and you believe you want to live like a Mohawk, it is your right.  That is as long as you don't go around lying and telling everyone you are a card-carrying Mohawk and belong to this or that tribe.  You have every right in the world to look at the ways of the people you believe in and follow them.  You have every right in the world if you think the ways of the Hopi, or the ways of the Navajo or the ways of whatever tribe you choose are the right ways for you, to try and live like that and believe that way.

Many of the leaders of these tribes are finally realizing that this is important to encourage.  It doesn't necessarily mean that you will ever become a Navajo or a Hopi, or anything else other than what you are.  It means that in your heart you feel that there was value to those ways.

It is important to tell people who want to know if they are native or not that it is more of a state of mind than a piece of paper or tribal ID card.  So don't worry if you can't get a piece of paper that says this.  Rather, look at what you are doing.  Look at the culture.   Get involved if you can.  In some communities they always need volunteers to help with their projects.  This is a good way to learn too.

P:  If somebody were to come to you.  Somebody that you thought you could work with and teach them, what would you want to teach them first?

LW:  I believe the first thing you need to teach people is how to pray.  People don't always know how to pray.  They think you need to say a structure of words that you repeat without thinking, then you are done.  Prayer is different.  Prayer is a state of mind.

When you think of the Creator, the Great Spirit, whatever your culture calls it, God, you open yourself to that consciousness and you say, "I am standing, open in front of you." And you talk with your heart.

If you stand up and say the same chant over and over without thought, that is not prayer.  At least not in my mind.  You have to have thought to have prayer.

I would probably teach them that first if they didn't already know.  Then I would tell people to talk to themselves.  Learn and listen to that inner self.  That is where all your power comes from. (It comes from) From inside and outside.  From the Creator and what he created.

P:  People are always interested in the prophecies of the future.  How important do you think that is to the people of today?

LW:  I think it is very important because it seems the time of prophecy is coming true.  Everybody's prophecies are kind of the same.  They all see the next 20 years as critical.  Many see the next 5 years as very critical.

Prophecy is important, but you have to live today too.  A balanced person keeps both in mind.

The interesting thing about prophecy is that it may or may not happen in your lifetime.  That day of judgment may or may not come in your lifetime.  But your personal day of judgment will come.  You have to keep that in mind.  Even if the end of the world doesn't come, the end of your world will, someday.  If you do what you feel is right, then you have nothing to feel sorry for when that happens.

The Electric Wigwam (N.H.), 2001