In honor of Native American Heritage Month and our own Cherokee lineage, we took a family outing today to the Native Nations Mini Pow-Wow at a local community college. It was such a blessing to be there and to take the girls. November is filled with many important and beautiful holidays that I rarely hear mention of this being Native American Heritage Month as well. Everyone in the hollers and hills around us are preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today, there was well deserved honoring of our Veterans. Other Waldorf homeschooling families were celebrating Martinmas today, as they do in the Waldorf schools across the country.
For some reason, I didn’t feel the calling to pick up Martinmas for our family this year. Though I do seek to follow the basic tenets of a Waldorf education for my children, I wanted something for us that was our own – something I didn’t have to research and contrive a meaning for myself in order to attempt to translate it for my children. So much of what was right about my childhood was the diligence of my grandmothers in teaching me from where and whom I came. When I had no self esteem at all, I still held great pride in my ancestry. I want my girls to know exactly who we are and that there is a rich and distinct culture within our own family and within our own part of Appalachia. I firmly believe that this will prepare them to be confident and tolerant adults able to communicate with and love the people they meet. They will know themselves well enough that even when they are unsure of their path, they will know at the very least how they came to be.
There were many tribes represented from all across the United States from the eastern woodlands tribes, the plains peoples, and even the Pacific Islanders. We saw hula dancers, tepees, various native dances and songs from the represented tribes. I participated in as much as I could. The best part for me was talking to a Mohawk Iroquois man. He explained to me how the Cherokee who resisted/escaped the removal (Trail of Tears) joined with the Iroquois for protection. He called it genocide, which is what I’ve always thought it was. He spoke of how their family/clan system was set up. He told me how the clan mother was revered even more than the chef, and in fact the chef answered to her. This made sense to them because no one exists without a mother to bring them forth to the earth. He explained to me the beaver bowl of rights and how Benjamin Franklin was key in bringing their ideas of place and government to the colonies. The man explained that Franklin got it all wrong though. He turned it into a Bill of Rights for the white Anglo-Saxon male. He left out women, men of other races, and importantly Mother Earth and the animals and plants that were created for us to co-exist with. All of those people and living things lost their rights. That is when things fell apart. When there was illness, and not enough food. Polluted waters, and fighting over land – real wars. This really made me think about the situations facing eastern Kentuckians with coal mining. (I’ll leave it at that for now. That topic would be a whole other post.) But, apparently we are the 49th happiest state with only West Virginians being sadder than we are. That really hurts my heart that things are so out of focus for many of my fellow mountaineers.
I loved walking the girls around and showing them the artifacts, regalia, and pictures that were on display. They enjoyed seeing the wooden baby carrier (I forget what the woman called it. It wasn’t papoose.). Deladis got a kick out of the fact that we have one too, only not wooden. I found myself tearing up a little explaining to her that our people lived in log homes and stayed put a little more than the plains tribes. Our People. I wonder sometimes if I even have a right to say that. I look in the mirror and search for the characteristics that I saw in my great grandmother on my father’s side and the pictures of her mother. I believe that it is in my soul if not in my outward appearance, though I like to believe there is something of them in me.
The girls relished in hearing the drumming and seeing the dancing. Ivy nodded her head to the beat. Deladis was so excited she covered her face when she saw a man in full regalia doing the chicken dance. He did take on the soul of that creature perfectly. 🙂
So, in remembering a piece of our history, I feel like we are moving forward as a family. Homeschooling for us is not about sticking to some set of rules, or adopting practices just because a curriculum says so. Waldorf for us is about acknowledging our relationship with the Mother Earth, with God, and paying attention to the natural blessings of changing seasons, weather, good harvests, and the animals. It is about learning our place in that world and existing harmoniously as much as we can with what is natural. What is natural to us right now, is grounding ourselves in our rich history, and using that foundation to move us toward the future with a postive light.