International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and with it we celebrate our culture, our identity, in hopes of improving lives socially, economically, educationally and spiritually. Established by the United Nations and dating as far back as 1994, this important day goes fairly under the radar. So, PWNA would like to take a moment to talk about it and the indigenous culture in the U.S., and bring some education into an age-old truth experienced by many in today’s society – walking in two worlds.

8.09.16-International-Day-of-Indigenous-Peoples---IMG_5195-TWMany cultures encounter this challenge: How do we practice our culture in a society that demands a large portion of our time outside of that  culture? How do we connect our culture to our daily lives?

I was raised traditionally by my father, and since my independence have had issues tying my culture to my everyday life… where I work, where I go to college to complete my formal education, and even in everyday social situations. Many of us indigenous to America know this can be a struggle, but it’s not just about our ceremonies. It’s about our outlook and the keeping of our values in our day-to-day lives.

Frankie Orona from the Borrado and Comecrudo of Texas, and the Chumash and Tongva of California, was kind enough to offer a few words on this topic.

“I have found it is very difficult at first when learning how to prioritize what’s important and critical on living and walking the spirituality and way of life of your people, versus surviving in today’s society. I was told one time by one of my elders that ‘we don’t really need all the physical ceremonies we do as Native people because we have them inside of us and were born with those teachings that come from the ceremonies already…’ I think the difference between our spiritual beliefs as Native people and the mentality of today’s society is that we are taught spiritually through teaching passed down to think of future generations… rather than today’s society teaching you must think and put yourself first without considering the consequences to others and future generations.”

As it turns out, Native Americans may carry our culture closer than we think, according to a small study done by Evergreen State College that gives a quick generalization of Native behaviors and values, including acceptance, mutualism, non-verbal orientation, and practicality, among others. Through our background, and our ancestral upbringing, it could be argued that it is an inherent part of our nature to “walk in two worlds” every day.

With so many cultures and social intersections occurring all around us, and obligations following us home through technology long after normal working hours, it can be easy to forget a simple teaching in my culture: “Mitakuye Oyasin” (we are all related), reminding us that we are intertwined with our cultures, and our devotion to each other. Let’s all be mindful of this, on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

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