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Posts Tagged ‘Indian’

One question that we get from time to time is “Are you really Indian?”  Robert is a direct lineal descendent of Black Elk (Chippewa). He is of Chippewa/Ojibwe and Apache heritage.  His family traces back over eleven generations to the Swan Creek/Black River Bands of Michigan, known today as the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The Chippewa/Ojibwe refer to themselves as “Anishinaabe” (The People).

Terri Lynn is French, Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh. She was recently told that her maternal grandmother said she was an American Indian, but because she was adopted from the orphan train and raised by another family, we know little about her. Terri wears the traditional buckskin dress during ceremonies and teachings, to honor her husband’s family. The dress belonged to her mother-in-law, Akwagiishnuquay (End Of Day Woman). When they married, she was given the command, “You are now one of us, go teach with your husband. This is the traditional way of our People.”

White Shield, An Arikara Chief said it better than we ever could:

The color of the skin makes no difference.  What is good and just for one is good and just for the other, and the Great Spirit made all men brothers. I have a red skin, but my grandfather was a white man. What does it matter?  It is not the color of the skin that makes me good or bad.

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I remember walking into a store in Old Colorado many, many years ago. That’s where my first Native American flute called to me. There was this beautifully carved eagle on it’s end. They wanted $125. But back then, times were tough. I barely had enough to make ends meet and I had little ones to take care of…still, I just knew I had to have that flute.

I asked the store owner if he’d consider a trade. I’m Chippewa, and I never met an Indian who didn’t love a good trade. That man wasn’t Native though, so I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. I was excited when he said yes, and so I headed back to my little jewelry shop to pick up a few things. I took a small animal hide and carefully selected some of my best work. I’m an silversmith by trade, and I knew the value of the goods I pulled from that display case. I made sure to take a nice variety, so he would have plenty to choose from.

When I returned to his store, I laid the hide on his counter and opened it up. Inside were rings, necklaces, bracelets…a sizeable selection worth many hundreds of dollars. He looked at them and said, “Alright,” and in one swift move reached over and took the entire bundle.

I knew he was aware that he was receiving far more than the value he was offering, and my heart sunk. I’d worked really hard to build up my inventory, as this was how I was able to support my family. Why would a person deliberately take advantage of someone, I wondered. My heart was on the ground.

I decided to take the flute anyway, realizing that I had been honorable in the transaction and that was what mattered most to me. I held the flute in my hand and stepped out into the afternoon sun. Up in the sky was an eagle, circling in the distance in the direction of my little shop. I held that flute high in the sky, and offered my thanks to the Creator. I knew I had made the right choice.

I didn’t know that day that the flute would take me on the journey I’ve been on for the last twenty years. I didn’t know it would take me around the world. Sometimes you have to be willing to give up everything for what you know in your heart to be true.

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