• sarahonlybetter

Native History Awareness, Only Better

I've shared with you before that I am Native American. 50%


A recent Instagram post showed me that you want to learn more about my heritage, and I love it. And what a better time to learn than Native American History Month, right?

So yes. I am an Ojibwe native. Ojibwe, at one point in history, translated to 'Chippewa' when European settlers found their way to Minnesota and couldn't speak our language. They are used interchangeably. We reference ourselves in our language as Anishinabe, "The original people". Our history in northern Minnesota dates back to 1400AD and we are the largest native group in Minnesota. My family belongs to the White Earth reservation, named after the thin layer of white clay found in the soil.

My connection to my heritage and our history was taken from me before I was born. In the 1950's the American government set out to relocate Natives all across the nation by moving them off of the reservations and into cities where they would disappear through assimilation into white American mainstream. The goal was to make tribal land taxable and available for purchase and development. They couldn't do that with the Native population at the time, so they started to relocate and remove Natives from our land. They did this in several different ways. Many native children were taken out of reservations and adopted into white Christian homes. Many times this was done under false pretense and/or more broken promises. The children would "go to get a good American education" at a boarding school and they would never come back. Family separation seems to be an American tradition.


My mother and Aunt Charlie (Lori) were taken from the reservation to be fostered by a number of white families. As they sometimes are, these foster situations were awful. My mom had scars on both of her arms from being tied up at one point. Deep deep rope marks that never went away. She died with them still visible back in 2014 after poisoning her body with decades of alcohol abuse. They endured physical, mental and sexual abuse all through their childhoods. It breaks my heart.


In the end they were adopted by who I know as my grandma and grandpa. They took them to a small white community in southern Minnesota, and that is where I ended up being raised. I did not know any of my biological relatives until I was a young teen. My Aunt Charlie maintained contact with an uncle who organized a reunion of all living siblings. There was a lot of them. I want to say more than 12. I really only maintain contact with 3 or 4 of them. For obvious reasons, we are not super close. My uncle Butch and his family is involved in the tribal community on the reservation and he has been a great source of history and help getting reconnected. Once a family leaves a reservation, it is really difficult to return, especially because tribal leaders are apprehensive to trust. Cant blame them with more than 360 broken treaties though. So while me and my children are not registered with the reservation, we have family that is and it will take a lot of paperwork and signatures to get us officially enrolled. We go back to visit for Powwows and other celebrations from time to time. It is beautiful land with rolling hills and scattered lakes. Maybe there is a lakefront property I can build my dream home on one day.


Now most of the history I was taught about 'Indians' in school was written by white historians who thought that the history of this land did not begin until the white man came. We only talked about it on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. But we had a full rich culture established long before then. I'm slowly learning more about this history as I grow.


I got involved with a team member network at work that has given me the opportunity to rate American Indian scholarship applications and help Native students prepare for college entrance exams through mock interviews. I take Native books into my children's classes to read books depicting our true culture and folklore. These books are donated to the school to improve their libraries.


I take Ojibwe language classes online with the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire to keep the language alive. Boozhoo. (Hello). It kind of sounds like the French 'Bonjour.' Did we come from France? I don't know. I'm not that far. There is a lot of information on the internet sharing information and different perspectives and I want to know about it all. I want to know what it was like before the Europeans came.


Is there anything specific you'd like to know about? Drop a comment or shoot me an email at sarah@onlybetter.life and I'll be happy to explore it with you.


Thanks for stopping by!

Stay well.


Sarah

72 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All