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The Blackfoot Civilization
A Book Report by Morning Star

Page 6

Anglicized Words

Long Standing Bear Chief made it a point to find out what the white man's translations of Indian words mean.   And just for kicks...I didn't to do the same before doing this report to help myself understand what this chapter is saying.  And the result, a well understood meaning of the Indian.  I'm glad I went to all the trouble and time to do so.

The word Indian is and anglicized version of Indios, which Christopher Columbus called the people he met, when he accidentally bumped into this world five hundred years ago.  Indios is a very important word that must be known if we are to understand the meaning of the word Indian.  After a short period of interaction, Columbus wrote, "These people are not unlike us in that they have a strong identity with matters spiritual and a belief in God.  These people are a religious people."

It is said that Columbus was amazed at their kind, accepting and giving characteristics, so he called the Indios.  And Indios means with God.  So in reality, to call them Indians is not an insult because you are telling them that they are with God.  Which I found to be interesting.

The word heathen, is a word that is meant these days as you do not believe in God.  When actually, that is not its meaning at all.  It originally comes from Middle English, and its original meaning is "peoples who pray in the heather.  So this also in not an insult in reality, but a good thing.

The word primitive really means first man, which Indians are the first people of North America, the first Native Americans.

In Long Standing Bear Chief's book he says, "Words changes take place as society grows and people's attitudes change.  We can be reactionary and take negative attitudes and be insulted by such names as Brave and Chief and so forth, when schools name their sports teams Indian names, but why?"  In others words, people shouldn't take things wrong without knowing the true meaning of the word or words being used.

Long Standing Bear Chief also said, "I look at it that the sports teams are displaying courage and individuality and an unwillingness to give up.  I believe all the terms apply to being successful.  It is a way to honor a group of people so why become insulted?  I am not insulted by it."  After reading this book and this chapter, I got to thinking about it and he's rights.  Before reading his book, these things bothered me highly when people would call my husband such things, and me for being married to him.  Now I look at them and say, "Thank you, what a lovely thing to say."  You should see the looks I get of puzzlement and wonder.

Attitudes are everything, if one takes something as an insult, then the person who said it to you wins.  They have succeeded in hurting your feelings and making you feel worthless.  By knowing the meanings, the true meaning of words, you have the upper hand.

Traditional Indian in Today's Society

The word traditional is used a lot these days by many people, no matter what their cultural background.  And they use it without much definition.  It is one of those words which has become popular during the past fifteen years or so.  The words traditional Indian is used to refer to one who consciously observes a particular tribe's culture, customs, beliefs and language.  Or, one who lives the best of many aspects of the Plains Indian tribal cultures in combination.  With this in mind, the traditional Indian in today's society must balance between both or all cultures.  People tend to think that this is impossible, but it is possible to be a multi-cultural person or people.

Being Indian or even have Indian blood running through your veins, can be hard.  Especially when people have no clue to what being Indian is all about.  Like Long Standing Bear Chief, my husband and I have been called thing that cannot be repeated here in this book report.  But after reading his book, I now have a much better understanding of both cultures.  I've made it a part of my life by marrying my husband and choice.  It's something that I accepted in my husband when I fill in love with him.  Because of this, people can be and are cruel in many ways to me.  But least now, I have a better understanding of the why behind the cruelty.

Being Indian does not require one to wear feathers, or dress in buckskins.  Nor does it require one to live in a tipi.  It doesn't matter what a person does, because it doesn't make them any less Indian.  And it doesn't mean that person doesn't hold their values and beliefs as anyone else would.  It simply means that a person chooses to live accordingly to their heart.

At one time, the Federal Government had to deal with the question, "Who is an Indian and what is an Indian?"  Twenty years ago there were seventeen different definitions of the word Indian.  Today, the definition boils down to something that simply says a person is an Indian if he says he is an Indian, and he is recognized by the community in which he lives as being an Indian.  According to Long Standing Bear Chief, this the correct definition, and Indian definition.

Therefore, even though my skin says I'm not Indian, as long as I feel that I am Indian, then I am.  As long as my community recognizes me this way, I am Indian.  And so far, every neighbor will we know would tell you, "The Eberline's are Indian."

For example, some new friends were having problems in town and couldn't remember our names.  Not being able to remember our names, the wife says to the husband, "Call the Indian people, they'll know what to do or suggest doing.  They seem to have many answers we don't."  Call the Indian people?  I felt honored...not insulted...but honored, and so did my husband who knows about his Heritage.  We both thanked them for honoring us this way.

Attending Ceremonies/Expressing Interest

Everyone is welcome to attend the Blackfoot ceremonies.  Long Standing Bear Chief thinks people need to know how to approach Indian people and how to go about attending a ceremony.  Certain manners and customs are necessary for all people at any function.

If you know the person sponsoring the ceremony, you can present a gift of tobacco and tell why you want to attend.  They do not want someone there who is only curious.  It's like going to church, and you do not go to church to watch the priests and nuns, rabbis or ministers.  You go because you wish to pray and partake of the sacraments.  Indian ceremonies are no different, and they do not like people to come just to gawk and take notes for some book.

If a non-Indian is genuinely interested in learning more about the Indian traditions and beliefs, they can, and there are many ways to get started.  Get to know the people who practice the ancient ways, meet the sponsors and express your interest and sincere desire to learn.  And become a participant in the ceremony.  Be honest in other words.  If you're not truly sincere in your intentions, then you will not be accepted.

There are some things non-Indians cannot do, which is for example, become a spiritual leader by simply saying that's what you want.  You cannot say, "I am an Indian spiritual leader." or "I would like to be a spiritual leader."  These things just aren't possible as a visitor who truly wishes to learn.  You must understand that if a person does desire be become a spiritual leader, a carrier of a pipe, then there is a process one must learn in order to be recognized.  So the best thing to do is attend a ceremony, bring tobacco or colored cloth to give to thee ceremonial leader, who in turn might use the cloth as a prayer offering.  The ceremonial leader would then tell you how you can become a participant and who to see for guidance.

This is a simple rule of courtesy that applies to anyone, Indians included.  One must be prepared before trying to participate in a ceremony or dance.

Women

Contrary to most white men's beliefs, women in the Indian culture are highly respected and honored.  All tribal people and the Indian Nations have always upheld women in high honor and respect.  To the Indians, it is a mystery how stories of Indian women being the salves ever came about, or how their society ever got started at being known in this way.  In any case, the stories about this are totally false.

Their tribal stories give them many examples of the very important place women occupy in their culture, and that without the woman's physical and spiritual presence in their ceremonies, there would be none.  Even when women are not present in a ceremony, the female of all things in the universe is honored.  The spirit and power of the female is prayed for and to, in order that their power will help them, and thereby save them, the world and the universe.  And they do not take it lightly.

Many people do not know the story of Feather Woman in the Pikuni culture.  She is the one who brought them the ceremony of the Pipe as a gift from the Creator.  The story is also know as Scar Face or Piye.  It teaches them about the origin of the Okan, which is also known as the Sun Dance.

The Creator chose a woman to give them His sacred gifts so that they might worship in the proper way to assure them a long, happy and healthy life.  If it were not for women, their ceremonial life as they know it today would not exist.

It is important to the Indian people that they have women to whom they can point out as examples or respect and honor for their daughters to model their lives after.  It's crucial to them because without a respected, loving, caring, honest and trustworthy mother, they would not have our Medicine Lodge.  Only a woman can make the vow to serve as sponsor of this ceremony.

Let the false story end that says Indian me do not hold their women in high esteem.  Men must give honor and respect to women, boys must honor and respect their sisters.  Women must remember to keep in mind they have a valued place in the Blackfoot tribal society.  The name woman must be held sacred.

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