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it with people in the community. And that’s what I grew up in. . . .So I knowwhat that kinship system does for you. . . .You [also] know that if you ventureout into the [larger] world, you don’t have to do it by yourself. . . .And thatwhole idea of individuality and competitiveness wasn’t really in our [Cherokee]culture, in that kinship culture . . . because it was all about helping one anotherand sharing everything. . . .There are communities that still practice that [way oflife] to this day.Other Native peoples, separated from their communities of origin,express a sense of responsibility for Wnding new ways to contribute totribal survival. For some, this means aligning themselves with tribesother than their own. Their actions may be quite ordinary, but they meritour notice because of the actors’ expressed sense that these behaviors arepart of the way they live as tribal people. For instance, Melissa Nelson,president of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native nonproWt organizationworking to preserve traditional cultures and lands, is of Ojibwe, Nordic,and French ancestry. Her mother was raised on the Turtle MountainChippewa reservation, but Nelson herself grew up in the San FranciscoBay area. She writes:Because I live in central coastal California, which is primarily Ohlone territory, Isupport and work together with some Ohlone people and other CaliforniaIndians who are working to protect the diversity and quality of all life in thisregion: endangered species, languages, habitats, songs, stories, and the free Xowof rivers. Managing a native non-proWt organization dedicated to these nativeland protection goals, I have spent many nights and weekends faxing letters toCongress, writing letters of support for tribes and communities, grant writing,128ALLOWING THE ANCESTORS TO SPEAK
compiling and sending out educational and technical information packets, andresponding to various requests. This activism has been part of my commitmentto my Native heritage.32Such statements suggest a widespread conviction that The People—those who understand themselves as bound together in spiritually faith-ful community—are responsible for living with each other in particularways. These ways of relationship constitute what I am calling a respon-sibility to reciprocity. It is likewise suggested by Christopher Jockswhen he writes of the “ability to participatein kinship” (original empha-sis). He regards kinship as an ongoing practice or skill, an active rela-tionship that must be maintained and that is not invariably tied to one’sgenealogical connections: “In every Indian community I am aware ofthere are a few non-Indians who have gained [entry into kinship rela-tions]. . . .Generosity of time and spirit, respect and politeness, will-ingness to help out, and openness to learn, are what our elders seem tovalue most; and all of us who pursue this work [in American Indianstudies] know non-Indians who have succeeded in it.” The same logic,he notes, also works in reverse: “There are full-blood Indians who havelost this ability to participate in kinship.”