What Patriotism Means to Me, as a Native American

There was a time when I was asked what to do when the National Anthem played. As a child I had always done the pledge of allegiance at school. Yet, as I grew older I started looking into Native American history and it led me to question whether or not I should respect the symbol of a country that did such horrible acts to my people, and then I questioned my patriotism.

One day I asked my father about it because I noticed he always stood, or removed his headwear, and held respect for the American flag. He told me something along these lines, “At the battle of the Little Big Horn, we captured that flag. We claim that flag, it’s a symbol of our people now.”

His explanation lessened my questioning about respecting the flag, but I still had questions about strengthening my “patriotism” toward my people and my country. Many Natives hold cynical views toward our country, something I always wondered about. I’m a firm believer in middle grounds, that somehow I can respect my ancestors’ resistance and the greater U.S. of which I am now a citizen.

I came to a singular conclusion. While I don’t support or approve of the wrongdoings that happened or arguably are still happening, I believe in the solution that was once integral for my people. I don’t believe people are bad or that people should suffer, and so I work to set an example of cooperation within my new “tribe” — living today by the principles of my culture, in a world that still doesn’t necessarily understand or praise them.

As citizens of the U.S., we are Americans whether or not we are immigrants. Our old ways once said to take care of each other, and while I guarantee not everyone in a tribe saw eye to eye, they valued the importance of the tribe’s well-being and worked to find consensus out of differences. It is important to remember where we come from, but it also important to take into account that culture is different today and it will be different again in the future.

As a side note, this marks over a year I have been blogging for PWNA, and in one regard, it has been difficult, as sometimes it is easy to focus solely on the negatives in the issues we all face today. Instead, I keep my writing focused on the positive, the real, and the change that can happen if we apply ourselves to these problems, the solutions that will alleviate our problems, and the impact of cooperation with others outside of who we might define as “our people.”  I hope to continue to offer outlooks that can bring people together, indigenous and otherwise, and bridge the gap that has been built over centuries because, at the end of the day, we are all related.

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