when i attempt to embrace my native/moor heritage, i am embracing a lot of pain. have i already mentioned this? it means embracing the poverty we lived in, the second-class status among whites - read Brewton Berry's 1961 book 'Almost White' to gain more insight into those cultures and the kind of prejudice that kept them going - not to mention the constant wrangling among all the various shades of peoples with their unique stories of oppression. a lot of this has not gone away yet.
yes, i want to embrace all that was really so so good about my mother's values, but i recognize that there was this 'other side' to the whole experience. it wasn't all about living peacefully, humbly, adopting people into our family circle, being good listeners and pray-ers and having internal and external visionary experiences (spiritual life), and a vivid relationship with nature and place. there was also the fighting, the hatreds, and the jealousies that I believe my mother tried to protect me from by crafting a 'white' identity for me. yes, my father was from denmark (from the lower classes in Denmark), but I knew nothing of 'denmark' other than my father, who saw himself as a part of the world, having lived among people of color since the age of fourteen. i lived in the quasi-indigenous world of Germantown. Even the Irish immigrant children there seemed to me not to belong, to be very different, and more 'white' than the rest of us. Then there was that stratum of 'our people' who seemed so comfortable there, sometimes angry, sometimes humorous and as accepting-on-the-surface as possible about the situation, and that was my world.
do i fit in anywhere? no, not really because i look white but don't think white. or to be more honest, i've spent most of my adult life trying to learn to 'think white' and I make a fair pass today, but feel alienated from most of that culture. i don't usually 'fit in' anywhere, not even where I grew up either, except with a few individuals who cared for me. i accept that (for the most part), and am appreciative and grateful towards those who can see me. aren't we all?
on someone else's blog (2006) who was saying how hard it is to be native american adopted by white lesbian parents and to be lesbian-transgender herself, a comment was posted to the effect that many people in america are in the same predicament of having lost their 'original' culture. italian-americans, philipino-americans, russian-americans, german-americans, african-americans...people who have come here from various and varied backgrounds, even within a 'category' such as 'italians,' 'africans,' etc, and have created a 'sub-culture' here, yet eventually even that sub-culture is left behind for something else, and the 'original' culture feels more and more lost.
I guess, in our case, my husband's and mine, we have yet to find another culture to belong to. we have not successfully evolved, perhaps, who knows? we still resonate to a culture we have carried with us from our origins into the present time and place. people meet us and think we are just the neatest white people, really different and grounded, but they don't realize we represent a particular cultural moment in time as it persists into the present.
it's nice for me to connect, even if only electronically, with the lenape nation of pennsylvania, because i sense our 'culture' continuing on in them too. in a way, this business of my learning lenape, and so forth, is a way of holding onto this cultural thread, this mere strand of culture, that still exists and is very real for me, yet on the verge of feeling as if slipping through my fingers. this makes it real at least for a little while longer, perhaps for my lifetime, perhaps longer, as i know we all wish. it allows me to become more aware of what I already know, sense and have experienced but without the right language to express it. so for me it's very important.
I will soon be publishing another website that will deal with these ancestral, genealogical, ethnic and heritage issues exclusively, so maybe this blog can go back to being a sort of personal 'literary blog' which is how it started out. The new blog will be called something like 'Great-grandmother Carney' or 'my delaware moor heritage.' Not sure yet, but until then you can view the spud of it here.
Also, I recommend here the book "Native American Postcolonial Psychology" by Eduardo and Bonnie Duran, to learn more about native american people and their issues.