Friday, January 15, 2016

Joseph Bruchac Interview: A Person of Mixed Ancestry & Other Tellings

Joseph Bruchac Interview: A Person of Mixed Ancestry & Other Tellings

Joseph Bruchac is a well-known and prolific Native story-teller/ writer of mixed ancestry.  In many ways, Joseph Bruchac has always been sort of an inspiration/ role model as far as I am concerned, because his ancestry and family situation when growing up very much parallels my own.  I would like the readers of my blog, and the people I have met in the field of research concerning rock piles and stone-works, to understand this about my own Native ancestry.

Joseph Bruchac is one of those individuals, like myself, who is of mixed American Indian and Euro-American ancestry.  Bruchac was able to re-connect with his Native heritage and identity.  Indeed, long before I learned of the full implications of the Ceremonial Stone Landscape, I was at least to some degree involving myself with Native cultural events such as Pow-wows, meeting other folks, etc.  After all, as I have stated in another post, my own grandfather on my father's side (English, Scottish and Native) volunteered with the American Indian Center in Chicago when he lived in that city (an urban center by and for Native people), lived on a reservation with extended family as a teenager/ young man during the Great Depression era, went to cultural events such as the "Indian Games", my Uncle's business is a Native American owned company my grandfather started, etc.  My mother's side of the family also has some Native heritage through my great-grandmother who lived to be 106, originally from the Quebec region of Canada (French Canadian and Native, married an English American).  And lastly both my grandmother's were Swedish in descent.  So that is the personal summary of my line of descendency.  Also, my father was a first-generation business-man, but I have no clue how to relate to that kind of work. 

To most people, Native people are "invisible", even more so if one comes from a family of mixed heritage, whether the case be a white or black ad-mixture.  For instance, there are different ways that people of mixed descent can choose to view themselves.  I have personally come to the realization that I can ultimately trace myself back through my Native ancestry, yet oddly enough this too is true of my other lines of descent... I may not be a card-carrying tribal member but I will not allow my Native heritage to completely fall silent.  Furthermore, most people from the outside world do not "get" or "understand" people of mixed Native ancestry, and sometimes people's views can be hurtful.  For instance, I was talking to an elder at last year's Hassanamesit Powwow, and he told me that anthropologists told him straight to his face that he was "black" (and therefore denying or ignoring his Native heritage to his face).  This is wrong on the anthropologists' part on every level... institutionalized racism.

On another note I have always like the quote from Chief Dan George when he said, "if you have one drop of Native ancestry, you are a Native person."  Furthermore, I feel that some of the researchers I led on hiking expeditions to rock pile and Manitou sites were un-aware of my unique circumstances as someone of Native ancestry, something I believe I should have addressed to them right off the bat.  When I did mention my ancestry to a couple of them, but not really getting into any detail, they said, almost dismissively, "oh, you should try finding out more about that"... (<insert belly laugh here>--) yeah, as if I don't already know!!  All the sites I have shown to researchers I have done in good faith, out of my own time, so that these places will be recognized for what they truly are, and hopefully to be preserved in future generations.

I would also like to say that I see much sacredness in the natural world around me.  When two tree branches fall on the ground outside my door and make a nice shape, such as a crescent or a circle I take note and see such an act as a good omen (for lack of a better word.)  I look up at the stars at night and try to identify the constellations I am familiar with, I anticipate meteor showers, full moons, "super" moons, etc.

So, Joseph Bruchac, like myself, is a person of mixed ancestry.  In the following interview, he expresses this issue perfectly.  I would recommend to people to watch not just the first video, which bears the title "A Person of Mixed Ancestry" but all 30 videos in the Playlist which range from 10 second clips to 2 minutes, so the whole playlist isn't that long.  Also important is in a later clip where Bruchac talks about Native languages.  Native people and their descendants don't just simply "live" in an area... we are OF an area.  My own Native ancestry may come from other regions and places in the country, but I have lived where I do all my life... I am OF the area, a man of the land.  I have had a couple of Joseph Bruchac books kicking around in my room for quite some time.  They are "Native American Animal Stories" and "Thirteen Moons On Turtle's Back."  Good books.

So finally here is the link to the Joseph Bruchac interview:

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