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young Ella

This is a picture of my great-great aunt, Ella Deloria. Also known as Anpetu Sa Win (Beautiful Day Woman). This was probably taken around 1915 when she was studying in New York City at Columbia Teacher's College and working with Franz Boas, the "father of American anthropology".

Here is one of my favorite quotes from her book Speaking of Indians:

Kinship was the all-important matter. Its demands and dictates for all phases of social life were relentless and exact; but, on the other hand, its privileges and honorings and rewarding prestige were not only tolerable but downright pleasant and desirable for all who conformed. By kinship all Dakota people were held together in a great relationship that was theoretically all-inclusive and co-extensive with the Dakota domain. Everyone who was born a Dakota belonged in it; nobody need be left outside.

This meant that the Dakota camp-circles were no haphazard assemblages of heterogeneous individuals. Ideally, nobody living there would be unattached. The most solitary member was sure to have at least one blood relatives, no matter how distant, through whose marriage connections he was automatically the relative of a host of people. For, in Dakota society, everyone shared affinal relatives, that is, relatives-through marriage, with his own relatives-through blood.

Before going further, I can safely say that the ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple. One must obey kinship rules; one must be a good relative. No Dakota who has participated in that life will dispute that. In the last analysis every other consideration was secondary-- property, personal ambition, glory, good times, life itself. Without that aim and the constant struggle to attaint it, the people would no longer be Dakotas in truth. They would no longer even be human. To be a good Dakota, then, was to be humanized, civilized. And to be civilized was to keep the rules imposed by kinship for achieving civility, good manners, and a sense of responsibility toward every individual dealt with. Thus only was it possible to live communally with success; that is to say, with a minimum of friction and a maximum of good will.

Great-great aunt, Ella Deloria, Speaking of Indians, p 24-25.
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My First Blog

Hi Everyone,

This is my first post to my first blog. After a lot of time thinking about creating one I've finally done it! This will serve as a collection of my thoughts and ideas on American identity and politics from my own perspective (for more on me check out my profile). I've called it TiyospayeNow in sort of a wish-fulfillment. Tiyospaye is the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota word for an encampment of tipis wherein a traditional Nakota person would live their entire lives surrounded by family and their lives filled with a sense of purpose. I got this idea from the writings of my great-great aunt, Ella Deloria, a famous Yankton Nakota Sioux ethnologist. My dad is Yankton, I am however, due to my U.S. Federal laws, registered as a Navajo tribal member (my mother's tribe). But I gained a tremendous respect for my dad's people and their ways through the writings of my great-great aunt. I met her only once as a baby crawling around on my grandmother's living room floor. My mother says she entered the house, to my full-blood mother she appeared to be a tall white woman and swept me up in her arms and kissed me full on the lips. As my small town, Midwestern grandmother and aunt watched disapprovingly. "Who kisses babies on the mouth?", they asked, my traditionally-raised mother saw it differently. She believed that this amazing woman had given her daughter some of her spirit and then my great-great aunt said, "This child will grow up to help her people and write great things." Now, I don't know what all this really means, but the overall effect of the story was to leave a big impression on my as a child. Perhaps, yet another self-fulfilling prophecy?

I must also note that I have recently become an atheist, yet have a great deal of respect for my traditions. I do not believe in a personal god, but do feel the traditional Nakota "crying for a vision" ceremony more accurately depicts the relationship we could have with greater spirits than our own. If small beings like us can generate a spirit, surely larger beings can as well? I believe in the miracle of life as it evolved from the smallest organism and stardust. To me this process is surely the greatest miracle. And I view my body and its workings as an amazing thing and a great honor to possess even for so brief a time. As an atheist, I believe that our future depends on human beings as weak as we are to ascribe to greater moral and ethical values not bounded by religion or fundamentalism, but through a basic desire to do good and make the world a safe place.

More on all of this later.
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