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Plural Ethnicity; A call for indigenous cultural sensitivity

In the folds of cultural sensitivity lies a new age of cultural dissonance, or what can be translated to a disharmony in embracing and/or participating in one’s culture(s) due to non-acceptance. In my own observation, over the past 10 – 15 years, I’ve witnessed changes in the local community and personal views of what makes one an ideal Hopi. I’ve thought about making this topic more broad and all-encompassing, but I can’t speak to what is going on in other Native/Indigenous communities by experience or with changes to policy related to cultural identity.

Aside from the requirement of being 1/4 Hopi descent to be an enrolled Hopi member, there are a number of qualities, values, teachings, practices and so on that would support how Hopi one might be. This particular call to the public is not about how qualified you are to be a Hopi, but our own indigenous cultural sensitivity; where we, as Native or indigenous people, create boundaries and self-monitor our level of sensitivity toward our children who have a plural ethnicity. And yes, one might sum it up by relating this to how we are practicing being Hopi.

For as long as I can recall and as recent as Saturday, people around the world speak in awe of our culture and the people of Hopi. It’s amazing how long we’ve endured and continue to practice our culture and maintain our language, even with the argument of, “To what degree?” What’s far more jaw-dropping is the lackluster idealism that eats away at our community through every imaginable avenue. We are absolutely our own worst enemy and you don’t have to be Hopi to see it.

Recently after hearing about the mongering of adults around a child with plural ethnicity, I found it harder to settle my own mind around this concern. I did however, mull on it and decide that this was too important an issue to leave untended. While we all have our own ideas of quality of life, whether that is spiritual or physical, we all have a responsibility to leave this world a better place for our children. This is my contribution for today.

Children of parents who choose to have a family (regardless of their tribal enrollment), have a right to explain to their own child(ren) who they are or where they come from. Even a parent will not be able to define that child or their children; who they become or how they contribute to the world. What we as parents can do is contribute to their existence. If we are fortunate enough to have a cultural or spiritual connection greater than ourselves, we provide only what we know and offer it to them through practice and experience. How it is interpreted and what a child chooses to do with that knowledge, is out of our hands.

People who are concerned with how Hopi (quantity or quality?) a child is or isn’t shouldn’t make it their business to interfere in what their parent or family is providing for them culturally. Out of respect for how each person chooses to maintain culture for their family, please remember that words hurt and the affect it has on a child, one can never know.

As we grow as a community, we can create opportunities to have bigger conversations about concerns with tribal policy or cultural practice. While we are in the presence of children, we should all aim to recognize their individual qualities, strengths and encourage them to learn more about where they come from and who they want to be. There is strong data to support long-term success in individuals with a strong link to cultural identity. Wouldn’t it be a greater investment to contribute to their success by encouraging them to learn more about their culture and language than the contrary? Let that be your challenge in this month, November 2015, being recognized as National Native American Heritage Month.

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