Much of the literature to which I’ve been exposed in my particular education emphasizes the importance of attaching myself meaningfully to some place. That place could be Luther (a beautiful campus and meaningful relationships), my parents’ farm (very nice house, childhood memories), or my post-college location (as of yet unknown). I have been taught that this is the place of my forming, connected to land and to family, defined by communities in the place’s plethora of species. I have come to realize, however, that while I probably won’t live in Iowa after graduation, I will long identify as an Iowan farm kid.
I feel unable to call myself “Iowan” without recognizing my European-American heritage. Calling myself a native Iowan could easily convey connotations of equating myself to the legally defined “Native Iowans”. (Although there are many cultures considered indigenous to regions including Iowa, there is only one Native American reservation in Iowa.) I would be disrespectfully reappropriating a label that in the United States carries legal and monetary ramifications. Recognized biological heritage in established Native American communities – something I don’t have – is required to access these “benefits”.
Yet, I am able to trace my lineage to two emigration waves, one in 1700s (German side) and one in 1600s (British side). I was raised in a culture removed from European cultures; instead my upbringing was solidly that of a rural, Iowan-American. How many generations removed from the culture (food, language, customs, rituals, stories, etc) must a family be to be considered a native of the region to which they emigrated?
To where are you connected? Why there? Are you native to that land? If not, what people were there before you? What differs between their relationship to land and yours?
Resources involved in this post: a video on a pre-Clovis skeleton, an article towards creating a feminist philosophy appropriate for indigenous women, a book chapter exploring women’s role in interconnected communities, a different chapter attempting to survey women’s roles in indigenous religions, a third chapter emphasizes a desire to revitalize spiritual traditions to empower indigenous women, and an essay geobiographically locating the author.