On November 28th, 2018, a couple of students, Emory Anthropology faculty, EASS and OSSPS hosted a movie night to show, “The Cherokee Word for Water.” The film was accompanied by food, provided by OSSPS and EASS. Refreshments included Navajo fry bread, made by Atlanta local, Melanie Quiver. For some attendees, it was their first time experiencing fry bread, which was a real treat.
“The Cherokee Word for Water” is a film that follows a short snapshot of activist Wilma Mankiller’s life on the Cherokee reservation, located in Oklahoma. Mankiller works throughout the reservation, trying to lobby for and eventually build an 18-mile water pipeline for rural tribal members. Mankiller is eventually successful in her endeavors, and works alongside Cherokee and white community members alike to dig and bury the pipeline, providing running water for many living on the reservation.
Overall, the film was highly accurate in depicting how reservation life looked in the time periods of Mankiller’s activism. This film was a beautiful saga of Mankiller’s pipeline expansion, and gave hope to those sitting in the audience, that they too could rally around their communities to provide for their own people. To be grounded in one’s culture and community is to be well.
Case Study: Native Wellness Institute
The Native Wellness Institute is an amazing organization that works to promote wellness in Native American tribal communities. They do so by providing culturally relevant training, workshops, health initiatives and conferences to tribes.
Being grounded in one’s culture is extremely important. For Native peoples, it is our connection to our culture that has kept us alive.
The Native Wellness Institute has branded their organization as being specifically targeted for Native peoples. This has allowed for the community of those people to which it serves to become close in their endeavors for achieving wellness. Topics taught at the institute include:
- Healthy Relationships and Parenting
- Youth Leadership and Development
- Workplace Wellness / Staff Development
- Strategic Planning, Program Development and Curriculum Development
- Educational Wellness Conferences, Retreats and Training
Grounding Native peoples in their own being through physical, spiritual and emotional means are important to maintaining survival. The lessons taught through the Institute are exclusive, which is not a bad thing. It is important, now more than ever, for Native peoples to feel safe in community, discussing and learning how our ancestral peoples wanted us to live. Ultimately, to live well is to live in accordance with our predecessors’ wishes.
MADE IN NATIVE AMERICA:
JIM THORPE AND SUANNE BIG CROW
As a young girl, I absolutely loved playing and competing in sports, more specifically softball. When I was 14 years old, I had the opportunity to compete for the Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin region in the sport of softball, in the Jim Thorpe Native American Games located in Oklahoma City, OK. At the time, my interests were more so in the competitive aspect of the game, rather than how to effectively use the game represent my peoples and my tribe.
When I arrived at the games, it became apparent to me that I HAD to represent both my peoples and my tribe. Tribes from around the North Americas traveled to OKC to compete in multiple events, including fastpitch softball. The opening ceremonies paid tribute to the athleticism and life of Jim Thorpe.
While browsing some of my former teammate’s Facebook pages a few weeks ago, I came across the lifestory of SuAnne Big Crow. SuAnne played basketball for the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes. There, she led her team to the State A Basketball Championship in 1981 by sinking the winning shot off of a rebound with only seconds to play, the bus carrying her and the team home from the tournament was met by more than 200 cars and with horns honking and lights flashing, the proud sports fans of the Pine Ridge Reservation guided their beloved team home. In 2017, she was nominated to the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
It is interesting to me in reading multiple articles on these two athletes as to how non-Indigenous sport and Indigenous grounding activism can intersect. Sports have the potential to be good medicine for Indigenous peoples, if it is played in the right spirit.
I always aspire to do well by my people. Jim Thorpe fought hard and won two Olympic medals for the US when competing in the 1912 Stockholm games. It was not until 1924 was he considered a US citizen. Now that is a statement.
Excerpts from “Sands, R., & Sands, Linda. (2010). The anthropology of sport and human movement : A biocultural perspective. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books” and “Bolin, A., & Granskog, J. (2003). Athletic intruders : Ethnographic research on women, culture, and exercise (SUNY series on sport, culture, and social relations, Albany: State University of New York Press.)”
There are many ways that humans have interacted with sport. I have been most interested in the ways by which contemporary studies have framed these relationships. As a former athlete and anthropologist myself, I was bothered to read that there have been very few studies in to these relationships. However, in this field being new and revolutionary, it does allow for my work to be more welcomed by the anthropological field, as it will be filled progressive ideas. There is no foundation by which to approach this specific research area.
Despite there being very few literature pieces on the anthropology of sport, there are, however, quite a few ethnographic writings regarding these interactions. I would argue that a majority of the literature in the field of the anthropology of sport are ethnographic ones. One piece that I read that was not an ethnography is The anthropology of sport and human movement : A biocultural perspective. This research looked at how biocultural factors linked to sport have been impacted the evolution of beings within specific cultural contexts. It was refreshing to read a biological anthropology piece. For Indigenous peoples, this piece could be applied as a look into how potentially traditional Indigenous knowledge of how to play sport has been affected by biocultural factors.
I believe that an ethnographic approach, like the pieces presented in Athletic intruders : Ethnographic research on women, culture, and exercise would best capture the relationships between Indigenous peoples and sport. Some of the ethnographies in this book were riveting, and captured many of the issues between gender and sport. It would be interesting to capture another aspect of identity, Indigneity and sport , through an ethnographic lens as well.
Excerpts from “Fisher, D. (2002). Lacrosse : A history of the game. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press” and “Pietramala, David G., et al. Lacrosse : Technique and Tradition, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. ProQuest Ebook Central”
As a young Haudenosaunee girl growing up in Northern Nevada, it was extremely important for my parents to immerse me in my culture through their own teachings. Specifically, they taught me within the confines of our home. Outside the walls of our home, it was difficult for my parents to affirm our identity, for the high desert of Nevada was not where my people were originally from. Some of my favorite memories of being immersed in my culture as a young girl took place on the lacrosse field.
Lacrosse was a gift from the Creator, given to my people to bring Him pleasure. As I understand the creation and history of lacrosse as a Haudenosaunee woman vastly contrasts the history given by non-Indigenous peoples of the United States. This is extremely problematic, both for the sport of lacrosse, as well as the Haudenosaunee nation.
Lots of widely read materials that discuss the Indigenous game of lacrosse discuss the capitalistic benefits that the game has given non-Indigenous peoples. This was not the intent of the game, however it has been appropriated into that form. It is problematic that mainstream histories and narratives of lacrosse do not discuss the spiritual aspect of the game.
Overall, I feel as though there is a special need for those who are in positions of power in lacrosse (coaches, professional athletes, referees, etc.) to lift the voices of those first peoples who played the game. It is evident through current written materials on lacrosse that this is not happening, but it should.
Hello to all. I am going to be starting blog posts from my ANT397R course. These blog posts will be about Indigenous spirituality and sport, and the blog post reviews will be posted as readings are completed.
“Strong Medicine Speaks” A Native American Elder Has Her Say
An Oral History by Amy Hill Hearth
Review by Klamath Henry
Marion “Strong Medicine” Doris Purnell, the subject and main speaker in the book, was born on April 25, 1922 in Bridgeton, New Jersey. A contemporary elder, Strong Medicine is of the Leni-Lenape, also known as the Delaware Indians.
This book was written by Amy Hill Hearth, who recorded the oral history of Strong Medicine. Hill Hearth is an American journalist by trade, however this book reminds me of a great cultural ethnography piece. Between the excerpts of dialogue/monologue that Strong Medicine has, Hearth inserted personal anecdotes of how she observed Strong Medicine’s Indian life.
This book is an excellent oral history of Strong Medicine’s life. It examines the non-Federally recognized Leni-Lape tribe, with Strong Medicine discussing sovereignty, identity and Indigenous “grounding” issues.
I would recommend this oral history to any person looking to have a first person account of Indigenous life and culture in the New England area. This book was a great segway for my directed readings course, as I have been taught to always start with Elder knowledge and work my way forward.
Klamath Henry 19C’, produced a piece of anthropological research for her ANT497R course, advised by Dr. Debra Vidali, entitled “Three Sisters Resiliency Project.” Her research has been published on this site, and can be accessed here.
Hannah Mosley 19C’, produced a piece of anthropological research for her ANT497R course, advised by Dr. Debra Vidali, entitled “Native Linguistics: The Decline In Indigenous Spoken Languages.” Her research has been published on this site, and can be accessed here.
Please visit the Emory Public Anthropology page to see student produced publications on Indigenous issues. These projects were produced in Dr. Debra Vidali’s ANT285: Indigenous Peoples of North America course.