Becoming Indigenous by Pam Montgomery
This time of year is always deeply reflective for me as I end a very busy season of teaching, gardening and traveling. In keeping with the seasonal cycle I pay homage to my ancestors and hold them close to my heart. I wonder about their lives most of whom lived a land based existence. I don’t know when they first came to America and what their struggles may have been like coming to a new land filled with the growing pains of white settlement on heavily populated native land. What were their relations with these native peoples – ones of peace or conflict? Conflict surely for the natives (if not physically then spiritually) as it was my relatives wanting to farm their hunting grounds. Did the Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, tell them the lands of the Ohio River valley were where his peoples’ fires would always burn? Did my ancestors who settled south of the Ohio River hope to live in peaceful co-existence with Tecumseh and his people or did they ignore his indigenous rights? After watching the American Experience epic series “We Shall Remain”, a story of over three hundred years of Native struggle to remain on their ancestral lands, I dig into my cellular memory as I ponder some of these questions. Now, at least two hundred years later, this land I love and care for I still cannot call my homeland. What’s two hundred years of walking the same ground compared to ten thousand? Am I still an orphan in a land of foreigners? And yet, my pagan (country) roots course through my veins and the deep love for this land is undeniable. Perhaps the distinguishing factor of indigenosity is ones mindset. When I realize I do not own the land but the land owns me, I am in service to this land instead of enslaving her and this land is not a property commodity but a living entity with spirit that deserves equal rights as me, perhaps then I can approach the possibility of truly being of this land. As my breath is exchanged with the breath of trees and plants, my hair is woven into bird’s nests, my urine brings enriching nitrogen to my garden, wild water is my drink and my prayers of gratitude focus on the generosity of this land, my longing for home that is deeply rooted in the Earth begins to be realized and my indigenous soul stirs.