- This topic has 13 voices and 107 replies.
- June 12, 2017 at 6:09 pm #347280
So, controversial question: Do you think once a person is fully assimilated away from their ancestral culture, they can ever become part of that culture/claim that ethnic identity every again? Sorry if this stirs the pot a bit – I’m interest only in engaging respectful dialogue here.
I am Native American (from the Huron Nation) but I’m also European. When other native people ask me where I’m from in any sort of conversation, they are asking where my ancestors are from, not where I was born or raised. The protocol response is always an “I am…” statement. If a person doesn’t know, then they have to say that. the more time they spend with indigenous people, especially elders, the more pressing it becomes to find out where they are from as a matter of personal and family responsibility. Seeing your life as a fact of ancestral and cultural resilience can’t be emphasized enough in native cultural worldview all over the Americas. It’s the foundation for everything.
I wonder if this worldview mirrors Elder teachings in some Slavic cultures as well? What are some of the more contemporary beliefs around this issue? What are the beliefs of people on this forum, if you don’t mind sharing?
A bit of context for my question:
This is a contentious issue right now among Indigenous and Settler Canadians of mixed heritage. Because I don’t live in my ancestral territories (and have never been to them), I am considered a “guest” in the place where I live. This is ok for me, because I respect the cultures here and that they never ceded their territory to the British. It’s their land.
But there is this understanding of the concept of “home” that is so much more than where a person’s house sits. So the native people here, take pity on me in a way and have embraced me into the community and given me teachings and share their culture.
There are indigenous and non-indigenous people here (mostly academics and activists) who believe opposite – that a person must be claimed by the Nation first to claim it as an identity – also ethnic identity is more about how you connect to the culture through everyday life – be it song, or ceremony, stories, or daily living and cultural responsibility. Language would be a big part of it if so many of the languages hadn’t become endangered or extinct here because of government policies – this view is in response to the cultural genocide and oppression that happened over here to Native people who are now healing through their ancestral teachings. They also continue to face colonization/marginalization/oppression while privileged white people appropriate aspects of their culture or co-opt their identities in various ways. So they can be very guarded against outsiders wanting to connect.
Colonization has really messed things up when it comes to identity and made it a political issue for the people here. Before colonization, you were simply “human” identified by other humans through the language/teachings you grew up with (even if you weren’t born to that nation), also characteristics and special gifts/animal spirits that are associated with a people in a specific geographical place.
The Rusyn diasporic community is very active in engaging people with Rusyn ancestry to cultivate Rusyn Identity, but I haven’t heard much about this from the Rusyn point of view of people living in Rusyn-Carpathia. It’s a question that interest me because I’ve been doing research into my European ancestry and wonder what the feeling around this is for those people.
*edited for corrections*June 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm #438238
Short answer: you are a mix and don’t belong by default anywhere. Whatever acceptance you might find you’ll have to work hard for it and there will always be those who will consider you an outsider.June 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm #438241
yup.June 13, 2017 at 12:52 am #438242
I don’t know how to answer this question. Never thought about it.
My ancestors are originally from eastern Slovakia. They moved to other countries to find work. My grandparents were born in Hungary, but they moved to (western) Slovakia, when they were kids because of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czechoslovak%E2%80%93Hungarian_population_exchange My great grandmother never learned Slovak, but my grandparents did. I don’t feel any connection with Hungary. I’m Slovak and I’m happy.
When speaking about Rusyns, I don’t like their behavior. There are Rusyn schools in Slovakia, but Rusyns put their children to Slovak schools instead, even if the Rusyn school is closer to their home. They think Slovak language will help them more than Rusyn. As far as I know, all Rusyns in Slovakia speak (or at least understand) Slovak, but not all of them speak Rusyn. It makes me sad how Rusyn language is slowly dying. They really need a national revival.June 13, 2017 at 9:36 am #438249
A little nitpick of something you said, but I think the modern concept of “cultural appropriation” is a very stupid thing. The surest way for a culture to stagnate and die is for it to encapsulate itself. Especially when it comes to small/minority groups. So what some people today call “cultural appropriation”, I call “cultural expansion”. And while it does have its negative side-effects, I think it’s mainly a positive thing. After all, how do you think f.e. the Balkan Slavs became the dominant group here? It certainly wasn’t just by genetic expansion, considering the barbarian invasions never really depopulated the land (even if we ignore that famous remark of Herodotus about the Thracians being the second biggest people after the Indians). I’d say it’s mostly through cultural assimilation – the Thracians and Illyrians had already became largely assimilated into the Greko-Romans and then most of them got assimilated into the Slavs. Not by the Slavs keeping themselves segregated from all other groups and outbreeding them, but exactly the opposite – by welcoming foreigners (especially slaves/prisoners of war) into their ranks. That’s why I think many people today simplify a very complex issue in regards to their ancestry research, thinking that genetic testing alone will reveal all they need to know. In fact, I think culture is far, far more important than genetics (though definitely much harder to be easily tested and crunched into a computer).
In that regard, while your genetic ancestry is certainly important as well, I believe you are what you are culturally – what you’re raised as and what you’ve chosen to accept by yourself. Thus, I think there’s really no problem for you to be both Huron and Rusyn, just like I think a complete foreigner could fall in love in my country and essentially become a Bulgarian (though obviously living here for at least a few years, in order to submerge in the local spirit, is virtually a necessity). Of course, the more colourful your background is, the harder it would be for you to “honour” all of your cultural backgrounds. But 2-3 shouldn’t really be that hard, if that’s important enough for you.
As for there always being someone who would consider you an outsider – well, there’d always be someone like that even if you’re a “true born and raised X” (hence the existence of the “no true Scotsman fallacy”).June 13, 2017 at 9:39 am #438250
I don’t quite understand this question. Too many information at once. I am what i feel I am. I was born and raised in Serbia, I live in Serbia. My father is a Slovak, my mother is a Serb from Bosnia. I was raised as a Slovak (trust me, my mother played the bigger role in decision, than my father), I always identified like that, I never once said I’m half of anything, I am a whole man. I bare the same last name as my Slovak ancestors, it’s only natural to me. I never had problems here because of that. I speak Serbian most of the time and think in it most of the time, but Slovak is no foreign language to me. I do fully embrace both sides of my family, all the traditions and connections, but I have only one ethnicity.June 13, 2017 at 10:09 am #438253
Interesting thread. At the end of the day you are what you are. I actually believe genetics does play a part in tempermant and personality but obviously culture is a huge factor. My father is from Slovakia , my mom is American but half Slovak. I was born in Germany but grew up in Texas and tenessee. Lived in Slovakia as a kid for year though. I grew up with constant contact to Slovak culture and attitudes, but in the u.s as a proud Slovak American. I live now in Europe and my parents now live in Slovakia. Am I accepted by Slovaks? Hmm, I don’t need acceptance by anyone honestly. I know what I am and if Slovaks want to accept me or not its their problem not mine. I love both countries but Slovakia will always be my blood I could never turn my back on it. Just accept what u are in ur entirety and don’t listen to people like aaaa, he’s an idiot. My background allows me to be an American citizen and Slovak citizen, as far as Im concerned it’s the best combo in the world.June 13, 2017 at 10:45 am #438254
Self-identification is the most powerful assessment on this topic. You are what you believe, and believe me, no matter what other people do to you, or think of you or whether they accept you or not, they can not take your self-belief away from you. I think its as simple as that.June 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm #438256
Yeah, no matter what everyone else tells you, if you believe in yourself you can be whatever and whomever you want to be. They won’t even institutionalize you these days, I hear. Reality was invented by the patriarchy to oppress innocent tri-gendered cat people.
Here’s a short motivational video:
Belive in the ball, and throw yourself!June 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm #438257
^Dumber’n’shit.June 13, 2017 at 5:07 pm #438262
beautiful analogy, @aaaaa (lol).
@Dusan The issue seems less complicated for those who’ve grown up in their ancestral culture (and probably is fundamentally a simpler matter for everyone than contemporary politics makes of it). I think it gets more complex for children/grandchildren of immigrants, especially if they were forced to assimilate because of persecution in their new country (like my family on both sides had to). And of course, the socio/political circumstances within a region can create tension among different groups – complicating a sense of belonging for children who are born to mixed heritage among these groups. I’m curious about how Slavs navigate the issue, if it’s even an issue at all over there. It certainly is here, but we have a different history in our lands than you do.
But what is similar to your experience over here is what you’re raised with regardless of mixed heritage. Many of our First Nations are mixed with white ancestry, but those who were raised in their indigenous culture identify with their indigenous nation, because it’s what they had access to in terms of traditional teachings from their grandparents and elders.
One difference though, is if you’re indigenous but raised as an anglo-american, you are always welcome back to be part of your indigenous community. During the sixties-scoop in Canada, the government kidnapped countless indigenous children and put them in white adoptive homes far away from their biological family and homeland. Because of this, and because of the residential school system, survivors of this displacement can go back to their home nation and be giving the Indian name and learn the culture/language and proudly call themselves by the nation of their ancestors.June 13, 2017 at 5:21 pm #438263
Though I’ve never been to Slavic Land nor speak a Slavic language, my Ukrainian grandfather lived with us when I was growing up, until his death. Every morning he greeted me with “Ubiraiysa! (? not sure on spelling). After his breakfast of a pork chop or ham steak, he was in a good mood. That’s when he played his Russian and Ukrainian music. Volga Boatman song sung by the Red Army Choir is just awesome at 8 am in the morning! Oh, yeah! Then, he made a big pot of bubbling Borsch for lunch! After lunch, all his old men Slavic friends and one old Jew friend came over so they could yell at each other in Ukrainian and Russian. More Slavic fun!
So, I feel a connection with Slavs because of those experiences.June 13, 2017 at 5:26 pm #438265
@Karpivna I had a wise teacher tell me once that being indigenous (insert Slav/Russion/Jew/ or whatever) is a feeling and the culture of our ancestors is a living thing that dwells in each of us, even if we are unable to name it. I call it blood memory.June 13, 2017 at 5:34 pm #438266
…so they could yell at each other in Ukrainian and Russian.
LMAO My grandfather didn’t invite friends home. He would either go to a local football (soccer) game and yell there or at the players or politicians on his TV.June 13, 2017 at 5:43 pm #438267
@NikeBG Cultural appropriation is a big deal here and in this context defined as stealing elements of another culture without knowing the teachings behind them and not crediting/acknowledging their origins.
Also, assimilation does not equal appropriation over here. When the US and Canada were founded, Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Slavs, and Native Americans were forced to assimilate because of racist policies. These people didn’t “appropriate” the colonial culture.
The ancestral traditions of these people managed to survive to this day, and in many ways, take on new meanings as the colonies develop. But people took huge risks and suffered horrifically for the sake of being able to pass their sacred traditions on to future generations. An certainly this preservation is instrumental to the resilience of these people. It is where they find their strength to fight continued oppression…the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement are great examples of this (and of course Black music which has impacted the entire planet).
I love how Polish rap artists refer to hip hop as “czarna muza”. This to me is not cultural appropriation because the term honours it’s roots with a specific people and the spirit of protest/self-determination behind it.
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