When Hobby Becomes Lifestyle

My┬ápretendian journey began with an interest in exploring my wife’s supposed family Native heritage. We joined ourselves to an inter-tribal group and then to a Lenape “nation”. This was followed, in turn, by other “nations” and groups until my wife had had her fill and largely moved on to other, more familial, matters.

But I couldn’t let go. I continued to attend powwows and tell stories. For a little while, my wife and I continued to educate at a local exhibition and frequented another inter-tribal association. But, gradually, we stopped participating in the local pretendian community.

So, I turned to Internet oriented Native activities, e.g. forums and chat groups. I developed and maintained friendships with various Native people across the country. And I continued to study. I attempted to learn a dialect of the Lenape language. I was drawn to Native life like a magnet.

There comes a point in your journey where a casual interest becomes a driving passion and then becomes a lifestyle. I found resonance in the Native mindset and spiritual traditions. I learned and practiced ceremony for myself. I learned to listen more than speak. And I continued to study.

Finally, there comes a day when you realize that you don’t remember how to be anything other than a pretendian. It is fully integrated into your being. I cannot return to the person I was 20 years ago. I don’t see the world in the same way. Hopefully, I have lost much of the colonizer mindset I was raised with. Prayerfully, my ambitions are turned outward to helping others more than myself.

I still periodically attend a local powwow. This is not because of any allegiance to or affinity for the host organization, but because I have an innate need to dance in the circle and feel the heartbeat of the drum. Given the opportunity, there are several powwows and events that I would like to attend at least once; a bucket list, if you will.

I recently received an ongoing opportunity to tell stories and educate locally, periodically throughout the year. This encourages me to continue to study and research, so that I do not find myself numbered among those I have been calling out on this blog!

I have developed a driving ambition to give of myself to the Native community, regardless of any prevailing attitude. I have been given a vision of how I can integrate myself into the Native community, not by force, but by service and active participation.

The Native lifestyle and mindset is no longer a pursuit of curiosity; a hobby, a weekend diversion. It is the major part of who I am and how I view the world around me. It colors my being and consumes my non-professional time. It is my passion. Call me pretendian if you must; my spirit camps among the People.

2 thoughts on “When Hobby Becomes Lifestyle

  1. the Tree with a Beard

    Pretendians, meaning those who are pretending to be Indian. Most of the Eastern Lenape People I know are serious, they aren’t pretending anything. Most have Native ancestry. The Pretendians, those who wish to be Indian, who are playing around, usually they eventually fall by the wayside. Those of no Indian ancestry, even if adopted/becoming members of the Eastern Lenape Tribes, they can never truthfully claim to be Indian, these would be Citizens/Members of the particular Nation/tribe. As Nations/tribes/Communities of Native Peoples, we have the right to allow anyone to be a Member-Citizen, and these become People of our Community/tribe. Indian is a Racial term, and if you have no ancestry as such, then you can never claim to be Indian. However, one can claim to be Eastern Delaware/Lenape, if they are accepted parts of our Communities/Tribes/Nations. There are a few such individuals that I am aware of. So far, most of these have become active, contributing, and accepted members of our Communities/Tribes. PRETENDIAN would be a derogatory term to apply to these people. To our Big Horn Lenape People, we consider other groups as being one with us, brothers & sisters with a common bond (one can think of the various groups as being Villages, smaller parts of a greater Nation of People). Yes, the term Pretendian would apply to yourself, as you have stated, you were a member of various groups. Those who aren’t playing around, stick with their Community, and work to better their Community , they don’t hop around like some shopper at the mall. As a once accepted Member of a Lenape group, I consider you Eastern Lenape; accept the honor, work to bring back our culture, traditions, language, spirituality. It is you who gave up on us, and now choose to be a Pretendian, lacking a connection to Native Community.

    1. Greetings, Treebeard!
      Thank you for reading here. But you must have come lately and missed my aim. Pretendian is a word that is used derogatorily to refer to any who can’t pass muster with someone who thinks they have the right to judge others’ place in the Native community. I want to reclaim that word, in a manner of speaking, by turning its meaning around.
      I am sure you are aware that we will always be seen as pretendians and wannabees by people who have the genealogy and degree of Indian blood to hold Federal recognition. I am campaigning here to provoke people of my type to get it right. My hopping around was not always of my own choosing; other times it was the necessary thing to do to remain true to my desire to get it right. We have had our differences over the decades, mostly because of misunderstandings on my part. but I include you among those who are working in the right direction; there is no question that you are serious.
      My use of the word pretendian here is rather tongue-in-cheek in several ways. First, the similarity between the blog title and Indian Country Today, and second, because, as I said, it is certain that we will always be laughed at from certain quarters so we may as well be able to laugh at ourselves.

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