And thats what I grew up in So I know what that kinship system does for you You

And thats what i grew up in so i know what that

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it with people in the community. And that’s what I grew up in . . . . So I know what that kinship system does for you . . . . You [also] know that if you venture out into the [larger] world, you don’t have to do it by yourself . . . . And that whole idea of individuality and competitiveness wasn’t really in our [Cherokee] culture, in that kinship culture . . . because it was all about helping one another and sharing everything . . . . There are communities that still practice that [way of life] to this day. Other Native peoples, separated from their communities of origin, express a sense of responsibility for W nding new ways to contribute to tribal survival. For some, this means aligning themselves with tribes other than their own. Their actions may be quite ordinary, but they merit our notice because of the actors’ expressed sense that these behaviors are part of the way they live as tribal people. For instance, Melissa Nelson, president of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native nonpro W t organization working to preserve traditional cultures and lands, is of Ojibwe, Nordic, and French ancestry. Her mother was raised on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa reservation, but Nelson herself grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She writes: Because I live in central coastal California, which is primarily Ohlone territory, I support and work together with some Ohlone people and other California Indians who are working to protect the diversity and quality of all life in this region: endangered species, languages, habitats, songs, stories, and the free X ow of rivers. Managing a native non-pro W t organization dedicated to these native land protection goals, I have spent many nights and weekends faxing letters to Congress, writing letters of support for tribes and communities, grant writing, 128 ALLOWING THE ANCESTORS TO SPEAK
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compiling and sending out educational and technical information packets, and responding to various requests. This activism has been part of my commitment to my Native heritage. 32 Such 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 particular ways. These ways of relationship constitute what I am calling a respon- sibility to reciprocity. It is likewise suggested by Christopher Jocks when he writes of the “ability to participate in 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’s genealogical connections: “In every Indian community I am aware of there 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 to value most; and all of us who pursue this work [in American Indian studies] know non-Indians who have succeeded in it.” The same logic, he notes, also works in reverse: “There are full-blood Indians who have lost this ability to participate in kinship.”
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