I have a particularly strong connection with North American First Nations, as I lived with Hopi and Dine friends for eight months, as well as spending time and making a life-long friend in Akwasasne, where the Mohawk tribe is based, part of the Iroquois League of Nations. After my initial travels there, I returned home and met my husband who has family among the Lakota. We have since visited several times, so I have a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the different tribes, the history and the treatment they have received, than indigenous cultures on other continents. Some of this is covered in my book, ‘To Be Human is an Honour,’ the title itself being a sentence in the Mohawk prayer of Thanksgiving (although it’s spelt Honor in America!).
The more one knows, the harder it is to choose what to share. So for each article I will focus on one person or one Nation. As with Africa, it is a common misconception about First Nations that they are all the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nations find it very insulting when they are lumped together as one, the classic example being a Haida totem pole placed outside a Lakota tipi. Nowadays very few people live in traditional homes and traditional outfits tend to be worn only for special ceremonies or pow-wows. However, each Nation has their own very distinctive dress, language and beliefs and there are still 562 different tribes in existence today. Many reside and work in the cities, although 22% of the 5.2 million indigenous people still live on the reservations. Estimates vary but the accepted figure seems to be 60 million people lived there in 1492.
I love this teeshirt that says it all.
Aaron Carapella has researched and made his own map of the original tribes before 1492, which you can view here: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/06/24/323665644/the-map-of-native-american-tribes-youve-never-seen-before
The first piece of wisdom is a very commonly mentioned one but as I’ve been wittering on, it’s probably best to keep it short!« Back to blog page