Know Your Story, Live Your Story
4 Ways to connect to your Native Roots
- Listen To Your Elders - Next time you're around your grandparents, ask them questions about your culture and traditions. Ask them if you can take notes or record what they are telling you. If you don’t have access to your elders, please continue to watch our videos and learn everything you can.
- Apply What You Know - Try to apply what you already know, or what you are learning to your life. Sometimes we think that the old ways are not applicable to modern life. But if we look hard enough we can see how to apply the old ways today.
- Genealogy / DNA - Genealogy can tell you a lot about where your native roots come from but records for many tribes only go back to the 1800’s. DNA is a good place to start and as more people use DNA it will be able to pinpoint tribal affiliation. However, currently DNA can only tell a person what percent of their blood is Native not which tribe your DNA comes from.
- Blaze Your Own Trail - This option if for those of who cannot find their genealogy but remember a grandparent or great grandparent telling their history. Those who may have been adopted and have no way of knowing their relations. Blazing your own trail requires you to follow your heart and listen to what your ancestors are telling you. This is one of the reasons the Story Pouch was created.
The Use of Symbolism
Native people use storytelling to pass on the traditions. This storytelling is rich with symbolism and deeper meaning. Because Native people didn’t have a written language, these stories and symbols are very important and hold many different meanings.
A Scattered People
During the 1800's many tribes were at war with the U.S. Government and were scattered. Thriving tribes were never the same when the dust settled. Misinformation began to creep into traditional teachings as western anthropologists and archaeologists wrote history. Some say they did the best they could, others say they deliberately wrote history to benefit western expansion and manifest destiny.
When Native people look at the things they were taught by the old ones, and the things they learn in western classrooms often times it doesn't add up. Pure tradition is nearly impossible to come by.
For people who struggle to trace their genealogy to their native roots it can be even more difficult to know their story. When Navajo Traditional Teachings first started sharing their culture, many people reached out to them looking for answers about their own native roots. Wally Brown and his son Shane, the founders of Navajo Traditional Teachings knew they needed to do something to help these people connect to their roots.
In traditional settings, native people use their medicine bundles and corn pollen pouches for traditional purposes but also for everyday application of their traditions. The medicine bundle would include things used in the different ceremonies that mostly the men would practice and offer to others. It would contain different herbs, stones tools and mountain soil.
Out of necessity, to help others connect to their native roots, the "Story Pouch" was created. The pouch is a hybrid of traditional teachings and an object journal. The pouch has symbols that tell the Emergence story along with 4 different stones each a color of the 4 planes of existence, which are "The Black World", "The Blue World", "The Yellow World", and "The White World".
Printed on the leather pouch, hand pressed from an original painting, are symbols showing the 4 sacred mountains, 4 sacred types of vegetation (Corn to the east, beans to the south, squash to west, and mountain smoke to the north). and the continual growth spiral.
"The purpose of the story pouch is to help connect you to your past but let you carry that into the future". Says Shane Brown, the designer of the story pouch. Shane, who is half Navajo and sometimes doesn't have the right skin tone to be accepted, says "no one can take away your culture, you have to let them, and I'm not about to do that". He says he hopes people will take the story pouch, learn the emergence story... Add other things to their pouch. Then move forward sharing their story with others as they go.