Dangerous Compassions

tribe vs nation

Oh hey.  I am not Native American.  My dad was a white guy born in England.  My mom was a Mexican-American person born in United States.  New Mexico is where my peeps on that side are from.

Yesterday I recorded my favorite Chencho song, Borders Crossed Us.  Please give it a listen, if you get the chance!

Our family tree is traced way back, to the 1500s.  There was a stop in the Canary Islands.  Weird, huh.  Feels intense.

My peeps were harmed in the Trinity test of the first nuclear bomb.  We are all downwinders.


I was thinking about the use of the word tribe vs nation, when referring to Native American peoples.  When I was a kid, I thought Native American people are from or in tribes, and that was a fine word.

Then I heard white people talking about “finding their tribe” and felt squicked by that.  It’s yuck appropriation.  Like really, do you need to take that word for yourself?  How about being respectful of terms that belong to others?

It’s one thing to eat the food of another culture, learn mythology, or study its art.  Going to powwows, buying jewelry, enjoying Indian tacos–whatever.  But to take another culture’s terms and apply them to yourself feels selfish.  There are other ways to say what you’re talking about.


But tribe is a difficult word aside from the appropriation, in terms of power.  When I was hanging out with people who are of the Western Shoshone nation, I was taught the word “nation” as respectful.

Also I remember being told that a tribe is a group that took the inadequate government reparations money, and a nation is sovereign, standing up for itself as an entity, saying no to a payoff.

I wish I could remember who told me that.  Now I think that distinction is not true.  Well, people use the same words very differently.  My job as a non-Native person is to listen to the Native people around me, be as respectful as I can, support good efforts, and understand that I don’t understand.  I’m welcome where I’m invited, and that’s good enough for me.

tribe vs nation

This essay I found on Indian Country Today explains clearly about the tribe vs nation distinction.

I like how it goes into the history, looks at the word origins, and lays out how the words are used today.  It’s great to think about a treaty as an agreement between nations, and the implications that has for whether tribe vs nation is used.  I love thinking about connotations.

I’m grateful to the people of all different races and ethnicities who’ve let me in at all, to learn about their culture and get a glimpse of how life can be.  Grateful to Ming for helping me learn about Chinese-Americanness and Judaism.  To the neighbors for singing loudly in a language I can’t identify.  To the countless Hindus who’ve welcomed me to meditate with them, and all the friends who’ve helped me learn about people other than me.

self-awareness, then other-awareness

I’ve heard white people say that white people don’t have a culture, and I feel repulsed, at the hubris of being so standard, that you can’t even see yourself and what your own culture is and has done.

It’s kinda like people who say “I don’t have an accent.”  You can learn to hear your accent, or a lot of people can.  You just have to pull your head out of your own ass, far enough.  How are you using vowels?  What’s your cadence like?  How do you end your sentences?  You can hear how other people do it, and learn to hear your own voice too.

Self-awareness is important so you know who you are and what you need.  Then you have a chance to develop other-awareness, about who others are and what others need.  Then you can know if you’re actually being ok to them, or destroying them or whatever.

This is a basic fact about love and disability justice, as well as anti-racism and all the justice work.  I recommend it!

People differ.  Other people are not failed attempts at being you.  We have to be able to see the differences in order to respect the differences and be ok to people.  Treating other people as you would like to be treated is only an effective strategy if the other people are just like you.  People are so varied–that golden rule doesn’t work in this modern diverse world.  I doubt it ever worked at all.

permaculture event tomorrow

There’s an Earth Day permaculture event tomorrow at the Indian Center, which is near our neighborhood.  Thank you for caring for Mother Earth and loving her as you can, for the well-being of all organisms, your own spiritual wellness, and the children to come.

earth day

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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