Are you beginning to learn about your Indigenous heritage?
If you’re just starting to learn more about your Indigenous heritage - there are some big misconceptions when exploring or digging into your ancestry, or cultural heritage that can lead you down the wrong path.
So if you are on your journey to discovering your Indigenous heritage then keep on reading!
These top misconceptions for learning about your Indigenous heritage that I’ll be covering come from:
- My own experiences of learning about my Anishnaabek ancestors from my grandparents
- As well as other friends and online community members of Tribal Trade Co. community
Here we go - the misconceptions about learning about your Indigenous ancestry, culture and background:
#1 You underestimate the importance of defining your intentions for learning, and being clear on what exactly heritage and identity means to you.
- What I means by defining you heritage and identity is that identity is so complex and it doesn't have just one meaning
Identity is defined as the unique set of characteristics that can be used to identify a person as themself and no one else. The word can be used in different ways in different contexts. On a personal level, identity often refers to a person's sense of self, meaning how they view themself as compared to other people.
- The caution for not defining what identity or Indigenous heritage means to you is that you can explore your Indigenous heritage with someone else's definition of what it means, which can lead you down a path that isn’t significant to you personally.
- The way to fix having a undefined meaning of Indigenous heritage is to take some time to self-reflect, have an open mind on what your true values and beliefs are, and learn about multiple perspectives and cultures before committing to what you think you should follow based on fitting into a specific cultural box.
#2 Relying on the results of your DNA test being 100% accurate
- What relying on DNA test results means is putting all of your faith in these tests to decide who you are.
- One reason you don’t want to do this is because sometimes the results from these tests are inaccurate, yes they have a lot of scientific research but the data is only as valid as the information used to gather those results… so take your ancestry tests with a grain of salt.
- The way to avoid relying on the science too much is to get scrappy in your own research. I know it's uncomfortable sometimes but call up your relatives and see what they know.
- Maybe if you find a lead or two from one of the ancestral heritage websites - try to reach out to the individual or community who might have more information on the nation or community your ancestors were from.
#3 Thinking that your bloodline, your ancestry, what lives in your family tree is what makes up your identity
- What this means is limit your identity to just ‘who your blood related family members are’, is what makes me who I am.
- Yes, Identity is rooted from your ancestors, but its so much more than that.
- You don’t want to limit your ‘identity’ just to your family members because identity is about who you are as an individual so your values, beliefs that you choose for yourself for your current and future path in life.
- The way to fix the misconception that we are limited by our families identities is to use the following analogy to remember the importance of building upon each generation
- Our parents ceiling is our floor - meaning our parents did the best they could with the knowledge they had, and we start at their ceiling and we build up, every generation building upon the previous generations ceiling which repeats with each generation
#4 Asking your relatives or other connections
- What I mean is Asking Indigenous people about their history or culture without thinking about the significance of what it could mean to them.
- When you're exploring your Indigenous identity, an important factor to keep in mind is that, asking relatives about their past and their ancestors can trigger complicating feelings.
- The way to fix asking insensitive or triggering questions is to just share your intentions.
#5 Believing that gatekeepers are protecting Indigenous culture
- Putting too much weight or belief in what gatekeepers of Indigenous culture say is a misconception. An example of the rules that gatekeepers say are things like:
- You have to be a certain % Indigenous to participate in
- You should look Indigenous or speak native language in order to _____
- These are just some examples of rules that gatekeepers communicate, and it's easy to believe these rules, and its easy to allowing yourself to get discouraged as a result.
- This only happens as a negative affect of colonization and fear that has been instill in Indigenous communities from intergenerational trauma.
to learn more about gatekeeping watch this video right here
- The way to correctly deal with the fear of gatekeepers shutting you out is to understand that GATEKEEPING exists in all backgrounds, understanding why it happens can make you better equipped to not become discouraged to move forward on your learning journey.
#6 Focusing on embracing only one 1 part of your ancestry
- What I mean by focusing on only one part of your ancestry when you're exploring your heritage is another major factor in having a positive experience is to keep in mind that you don’t have to go all in one one, appreciate the diversity what makes you you.
- If you are 100% of settler background
- If you are 100% Indigenous
- If you are of mixed settler and Indigenous background
- Focusing on only one part means you'll be neglecting the other part
- The way to fix this is to explore all of what makes up your ancestry as there is value, depth, and significance in each part
#7 Striving to accomplish your identity as point of destination
- What I mean is thinking that you will be happy once you achieve knowledge of your Indigenous ancestry.
- This is a misconception because discovering your Indigenous culture and background is a journey that will not be finished.
- Yes you can make strides and progress in learning more, but its never “complete” in learning who you are in your personal identity
- Weather you are Indigenous or an ally