Native American Issues

Living in the liminal space between cultures has been both a blessing and a challenge in my life. I have often wondered “who am I – really?” I would prefer to answer that by saying that I am my Ojibwe mother’s daughter, “the one bright star in her life” as she once told me during my fortieth decade. I am a mother and grandmother to a wonderful group of mixed ancestry family. But identity is never that simple. Should we ever define ourselves solely by others’ expectations or the socially constructed roles and statuses we inherit based on the positions into which we were born?


Photo: My Granddaughter and Me – June 12, 2015

Yet, on some levels, those characteristics take on a life of their own – they are real to most of the people in our lives, and hence, have a profound influence on our lives. Perhaps we carry the responsibilities they represent for reasons we may not know. All I do know is that I carry both the beauty of what I inherited and learned through my mother’s presence in my life and a deep sense of sadness for what my Ojibwe ancestor’s experienced and the confusing array of her other ancestries – French adventurers and voyageurs, one of the first English settlers in Ojibwe country (Willard Leroy Ackley), and either a mysterious Norwegian “Count” (Lugwig Motzfeldt) or a Danish writer (Wilhelm Dinesen, father of famous writer, Isak Dinesen).  But this is not all I have inherited. My father’s fragile, angry brilliance and the cruelty and displacement of his ancestors from their small island of birth (Great Britain), are part of my heritage as well.

How does one learn to live with an eclectic mix of empathetic tender-heartedness, intellectual curiosity, and anger about injustice? Following are some of the posts I have written that describe the challenges I have experienced as a human being of mixed ancestry who has learned to see the world from a different perspective.

“We’re Honoring Indians!” (August, 25, 2013)

Reflections on River Teeth (October 26, 2013)

Why Are You So Different? (November 6, 2013)

The Dance of Illusions (November 29, 2013)

Aadi and the Epeaturstrich (January 1, 2014)

Living in the Space Between Cultures (January 11, 2014)

Honoring “The Strength of Indian Women” (January 22, 2014)

Circle the Wagons – The Natives Are Restless (January 24, 2014)

Go FISH! (January 31, 2014)

Living in the Space Between Cultures – Part 2 (February 23, 2014)

Indian Child Removal and the Ga-Ga (March 8, 2014)

Rescuing Children or Homogenizing America? – Part 1 (April 5, 2014)

Rescuing Children or Homogenizing American? – Part 2 (April 6, 2014)

A Life Lived as a Song for Her People – An Ojibwe Woman’s Story – Part One (May 11, 2014)

A Life Lived As a Song for Her People – An Ojibwe Woman’s Story – Part Two (May 14, 2014)

Worlds Apart: The Enduring Significance of Ojibwe Culture (June 7, 2014)

Spirituality and Rationality – The Liminal Space Between Cultures (July 7, 2014)

Who I Am and Why I’m Here: Blogging 101 (September 15, 2014)

History Matters (October 13, 2014)

Reflections on Winters Past (January 1, 2015)

Context Matters When Teaching Diversity (January 6, 2015)

Privilege Comes with Such a Heavy Cost (February 12, 2015)

Restorative Justice – A Practice that Was Outlawed in the Past (February 24, 2015)

Restorative Justice – Part Two – “Somebody Cares About Us” (March 4, 2015)

When you think of “health” what comes to mind? (March 6, 2015)

Reflections – Respecting Diversity Matters (March 16, 2015)

The Year My Mother Was Born (April 5, 2015)

The Challenge of Reweaving Communities (April 13, 2015)

“You Need to Tell Them How I Was with the Children” (April 14, 2015)

Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare: Part One (May 11, 2015)

Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare Part Two (May 16, 2015)

Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare Part Three (May 18, 2015)

Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare Part Four (May 25, 2015)

Differential Power and Indian Child Welfare Part Five (May 28, 2015)

Whose Perspective Matters Most? (June 6, 2015)

Social Security and Nationalism (July 3, 2015)

38 thoughts on “Native American Issues

    1. This is such a thoughtful and lovely comment, D. Wallace. Thank you. “Honoring and embracing” are appropriate descriptions of what I was feeling when I decided to create and post this new page.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. This is truly wonderful, the more I come to your blog, the more I want to stay here and educate myself on Native American issues, thanks so much for your writing and this blog. A great and valuable resource for readers and people interested in learning the real voices and actual representations of the Native American people.
        Personally, I believe strongly in preserving the indigenous heritage of Mother Earth and I sincerely appreciate how your work is helping my personal process and growth.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I’m deeply grateful for your kind words, Writer from the East. I think we share many values – recognizing the divisiveness of colonialism, acknowledging the power of women, and raising awareness about the importance of honoring heritage while healing socially-constructed divisions among people.

          Thank you for your ever-thoughtful comments.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. Carol, Thank you for signing up to follow me, and know I will come visit your blog as often as I am able. (Working full time, pursuing my dream of writing/illustrating children’s books, trying to blog, and occasionally to clean. :o) You are writing about many things that touch my mind and heart – thank you for that, too. Jeanne

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Jeanne. I look forward to reading your blog, although like you I have many things that limit my time online. I wish you well with all of your exciting endeavors and am grateful for the chance to learn from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Saw a tweet on the damage that overthinking can do and retweeted it because I know what it does to me. THEN… on reflection, I took the retweet back and responded instead that those like me who overthink do really suffer, but all life suffers from the epidemic of undrethinkers that has allowed things to get as bad as the hey have. I thought that this sort of idea has the potential to inflate the “Who’s Asleep?” score to even scarier numbers… Just sayin’ You Go, Carola Hand! But take care…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your always thoughtful (and humorous) comments, Bob. Yes, some of us do overthink. I love your observation, though, that it’s a necessary counterbalance for those who don’t think enough. Tragically, many in the world don’t have that luxury because of the oppressive circumstances that rob children of lives and potential and make survival a precarious venture that requires all of peoples’ attention, time, energy, and creativity.

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  3. I would include intellectual “oppression” of the pampered, who are distracted by watching, using and, maintaining, our toys. It’s a very sneaky oppression but invaluable in maintaining a docile population. I often think that education as a rat race can hamper our perception and replace empathy with selfishness. We are almost all deprived of the opportunity to fully BE.

    On overthinking, one more irony: “Whenever I start to beat myself up about being overly negative I see an article/program showing me that things are worse than even I thought.” It’s a lonely place out here…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such an apt observation about discovering “that things are worse than even I thought.” I just finished watching a documentary series produced by the BBC in 2009, “Last Chance to See.” It is distressing to learn how widespread human environmental devastation has become just to make a short-term profit and witness the consequences for indigenous plants, animals and peoples. The behaviors that result for both oppressors and some of the most brutally oppressed remind me of Colin Turnbull’s study, “The Mountain People” (

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      1. Thanks, Carola. I read about the Ik and Turnbull’s fears for the rest of us as a result of your comment. Shocking. I remember my sadness years ago reading about East Timor. And Columbus had wonderful praise for the Taino of Cuba, but it didn’t stop Spain from sending Velasquez to decimate them.

        Russia and Assad are endlessly criticized as responsible for Aleppo’s suffering, when US regime change and the destabilization of Syria (illegal and immoral by any human standard) uses Islamic State terrorists and weapons supplied by the US and their NATO lackeys and moved from Libya, victim of a previous tragic regime change war that made Libyans so much worse off than they were under Gaddafi who, whatever else he was, ran a secular regime. Unlike the Saudis, he was not a fundamentalist Wahhabi.

        The article by Robert Parry I linked to in a recent blog made it clear to me how intractable your leaders’ predicament is. They are on a tragic path and I can’t begin to think how even a brilliant president could begin to repair the cumulative harm done since the forties, when they started mucking around with Syria and other parts of the Middle East. So many errors, so many crimes, so many self-dug traps. So many “acres” of hatred sown.

        It’s not about Assad or Putin. It started before they were born, and the juggernaut will likely continue until they are both gone and after they are gone, or until we all are gone, or have become starved and dysfunctional like the Ik.

        But, when I watch my young grandchildren, I am charmed into fervent moments of hope. We will need to become like the Taino of the 15th century and look to the ancient wisdom of interconnectedness present then and struggling to survive in First Nations societies around the world.

        Can we do this? Can we live more simply and innocently? With far fewer “toys” and a gentle, silent footprint? I hope so, for the sake of R, Q and M, who will follow me – and for yours and the grandchildren of us all.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Bob, the more I learn about “real” history, the sadder I become and the more concerned I become about present lies and ongoing oppression and destruction. I echo your questions – Can we live more simply and compassionately? What can we do? I can light a single candle this season to symbolize simplicity because I also worry about the future our grandchildren will inherit, even though christmas light displays will blaze elsewhere.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Its refreshing to see that there is cause as to why I feel the way I feel about my culture. My last name comes from Spain but my grandmother is part Wixáritari, or formerly known as, huichol. I learned about this a couple of years ago, after she passed away, and no one in the family really talks about it. Its something that’s so close to my heart that I want to embrace but yet so distant. I grew up seeing the Wixáritari people around town in Mexico but barriers between “them” and “us” were clearly defined. How do you get close to a culture that hasn’t embraced you, especially when you dont know the language?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Shining Tecciztecatl, and for sharing a bit of your ancestry and journey “home.” You might be interested in a very old post I wrote about living in “the space between cultures” ( It’s taken a long while for me to make peace with being in-between. Now, it feels authentic to me and allows me to my unique positionality and skills to bridge the many differences that all too often divide people who share oppression. Sending my best wishes to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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