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Reinvention Part 1

I’m not sure what I’m doing here, but I’m doing it.

Vibe Song:

Like most people during the pandemic I went through a few different identity shifts. At the start, I was a cis-het white dude who was pretty focused on my career. I was working all the time, too much to be honest. I had my normal day job, and after work I was working a few different side projects. This helped me skill up and progress my career but everything else in my life took a back seat.

After the start of the pandemic I decided it was finally time to find another job. Honestly, I had gotten so burned out from dealing with the politics on my job that I needed something different. Especially because my job wasn’t in the industry my skills were based on. So I found a new job and because it was with a company that is in the tech industry my yearly salary was about the same amount as what my partner and I were making. It was a huge step up.

Because I was making so much more, it allowed my partner to quit their job and take a much needed break. During their break they were able to focus and learn more about themselves. This lead to several discoveries that had the knock on effect of me coming to terms with my own identity.

First it was taking an interest in my native heritage and building my family tree. All my life I knew I belonged to a tribe but I had no connection to it, just the knowledge. So for the longest time my heritage was always more of a fun fact about myself that I liked to tell people to “blow their mind.” However, when I finally looked more into it by building my family tree I was shocked by what I learned.

Building out both sides of my family, the reality of my heritage sank in. I was able to trace back on my father’s side to my ancestor who came over from France and married “Native Woman.” That’s all that is known about her. This was shocking to me because of the level of information I have about my French ancestor is fairly extensive compared to a person who just labeled as Native Woman. Switching my mother’s side I was able to find an ancestor who had a nickname of The Pioneer. Which leads one to ask the question, “What was he a pioneer of?” Then it sinks in, “Oh…” Having a clear and blatant example of having the blood of the colonizers and the colonized was unsettling.

Having grown up in the tradition of masculine whiteness and never feeling comfortable in it, dealing with this internal conflict wasn’t easy. For years I had invented my own philosophy to live by because all of the guidance I’d received growing up seemed flawed in one way or another. But once I started learning more about my tribe’s specific philosophies, I started to feel a sadness and grief take over. Grief because these philosophies were in line with my thinking and I had to wait 32 years before learning them. How would I have turned out if I grew up with them? What kind of person would I be?

Unfortunately, knowledge can be cruel company but it forces you to grow in ways you weren’t expecting. Now I attend my tribe’s monthly elder meetings since it is the best I can do living so far away from my tribe. Also, I co-lead a monthly group of reconnecting natives that creates a space for us to process the complicated feelings that you go through on your reconnection journey. I attend Powwows when I can and I make the yearly trip to participate in my tribe’s Powwow. I do my best to stay connected and having the monthly events are great reminders to keep moving forward.

As much as I would love to be fully accepted in the native community, I know it is a journey that possibly won’t end in the way I’d want.


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