An Indigenous Perspective: from Live Life Music
By Alaina Brady-Hummingbird
Published February 7, 2021
The modern day Native American. What does that mean to modern day America? The modern Indigenous voice is a rarity. But as time changes and the true history is taught, our voices become louder.
Osiyo (hello), I’m an Indigenous woman from the Aniyunwiya tribe, most commonly known as the Cherokee tribe. I’m from Oklahoma City. I do not live on the reservation, and I’ve answered a few questions from the LLM team. I hope this article will help amplify Indigenous voices, answer questions, and break down false narratives.
What are some ways that Non-Natives can appreciate Native culture?
Non-Natives can appreciate our culture in many ways! Watching Native creators will give you great insight into our modern day culture as well as supporting genuine artists. In comparison, instead of buying a whitewashed and appropriated dream catcher, try to understand the culture behind the dream catcher and find local Native American artists who may sell dream catchers.
Are there any misconceptions about Natives and their history in American history textbooks?
The list of misconceptions about us in American history books is never ending. The idea of America starts when Columbus arrived on this continent, through to modern day. But who were the original Americans?
The lack of knowledge surrounding Native Americans is ever present in our existence through the colonized world. We consistently have to differentiate and distance ourselves from the idea of the “western Hollywood Indian”.
What are ways that you connect to your culture?
Connecting to my culture is a struggle in many ways. I don’t speak my native language, I cannot read my native language, nor am I ever presented the opportunity to learn about Native Americans in my public school. I do my best to read articles, do research, and follow Native American influencers. I support Indigenous artists and proudly identify my voice as Native American. I collect books specifically on my tribe, Cherokee. I intend to create my own library. I also always take the opportunity to do projects on Native American subjects. Native American teachings are passed down orally in our culture, so I do my best to ask my elders questions.
I ask them what their experience in the colonized world is like.
I do my best to listen to our stories and retain our folklore.
What are some topics regarding Native life and oppression in the U.S. that aren’t talked about enough?
The murdered missing Indigenous women’s movement is extremely disregarded. Native women are preyed upon and targeted in alarming numbers. This does not apply only to Native Americans, but First Nations in Canada as well, where there is rampant racism that has been swept under the rug. There is also a terrifying neglect of Native peoples who live on the reservations. Many Dineh (Navajos) notoriously have struggled with access to electricity and water. Almost sounds like 3rd world country problems. This is happening to our Indigenous here in America.
In what ways are you actively continuing the life of your culture into future generations?
I want my children to know the real truth behind their culture. I want them to know the religion, the way of life, and the strength of our peoples. I want them to make space for themselves, because as Natives, our space is not allotted to us. Long ago our voices were removed from the conversation. They were overlooked, they were silenced, our voices changed language, our voices were moved across the country, they were cut off (as was our hair), and our culture was smudged but not erased. Our imagery was changed and mocked and put on jerseys, but I want them to seize back their voice unapologetically. I want them to be loud. I want them to be spiritual and wise. I plan to teach them as much as I can using books, articles, and history. More importantly, the connection that native people still have to this continent and one another still holds strong. And that is something I want all Indigenous peoples to remember.
How does your Native American identity affect your everyday life and the choices you made in the past?
In the past I stereotyped myself because of my Native culture. I saw it through a white lens, therefore putting those misconceptions upon myself as a child. I saw the stereotypical Hollywood Indian. I saw dream catchers and western wear, and that was my idea of Indigenous peoples. As I grew older, I had to re-learn my identity as an Indigenous woman. I learned that my voice has value, but it was hard to make space for myself. I saw other cultures having a prominent role in diverse conversations, but I never saw an Indigenous voice. Our place in conversation is sometimes taken for granted. We are given the mic only so that there is proof that we are “ heard from”, but I find it a struggle for Native Americans to be taken seriously. Our oppression and genocide is yet to be validated by modern day America. The idea of the original Americans is yet to be realized. America was stolen from us, but what was taken was never the America that we know today. The idea of Indigenous peoples; our own essence, is ancient and vast beyond comprehension and memory. Our peoples are older than the idea of America. We are a deeper meaning than the Native American, and we are not your American Indian. We are the people of this land, and our elders and ancestors had deeper ties to nature and spirituality than could ever be realized in the modern world. I am constantly striving for the knowledge and connectivity that was stolen from our peoples. My identity is consciously on my mind when representing myself and when placing myself, AND my peoples, in the center of conversation.
The conversation surrounding Indigenous peoples is an ongoing narrative. I encourage my fellow Natives to find strength in who you are, and utilize it and never doubt it. I encourage everyone else to please educate yourselves about us. Make space for the Natives around you. Help them, help us. We are still fighting for validation for our suffering. For so long our stories have been swept under the rug, and our imagery has been twisted and changed. Help us decolonize and reclaim our identity. Everyone is Indigenous to some extent. I dare you to look within yourself, whether you’re removed from your homeland or you fled it, look into your culture. Look into where you have descended from and find out what your Indigenous identity is. Claim it. Make your voice heard. We are all Indigenous and there is power in your native voice. Amplify it... for all of us.
Wado. (Thank you).