Things To Keep In Mind Traveling On Native Lands In America-How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch

I am Sicangu Lakota from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and I’m here to share my experiences as an indigenous woman in the United States.

It was not until February 18, 2018 that I participated in my first ceremony known as inípi (sweat lodge), a place where we offer prayer through earth, water and fire. My experience was powerful and let me know that I was on the right path. Luckily, I have found others who are working hard at learning our traditions and ceremonies and languages. I didn’t have another Native friend for the first 27 years of my life, and I never really realized how isolating that was until recently. As we find each other and ourselves, we realize we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations have no trouble accessing our culture.

Growing up away from my reservation was a barrier to accessing my culture, although my story isn’t uncommon. Many natives live in urban areas. It is estimated that 70% of Natives live in cities vs. reservations. I grew up in a small, predominantly White town on the outskirts of Chicago. My até (father) adopted me at birth and was the only native I knew in the state. He moved to Chicago at the age of 18 through a relocation program designed to integrate Natives into urban areas and offer opportunity for further education and jobs.

Traveling as an indigenous woman means having valid fears when traveling to certain areas of the country, such as the Dakotas. But other areas of the country have been very welcoming. I don’t know why that is- whether it is because I’m usually traveling with white people, including my husband and family, or because people can’t quite categorize me. Curiosity is what I encounter most. People notice my tan skin, chocolate brown eyes and long, dark hair. But they can’t hate what they don’t know- so I blend in. I’m often mistaken for “foreign” when these lands are my home. I fall into the “other” category when I so desperately want people to look at me and know I’m Lakȟóta.

Traveling the country as an indigenous woman also means that I take into consideration who called these lands home before their removal. My favorite travel destinations are National Parks which all have easily accessible, extensive native history. I have such a deep appreciation and connection to these lands that I would much rather travel to parks than cities. More often than not, indigenous peoples were forcibly relocated away from these sacred lands so National Parks could be established. When I visit these lands, I remember and honor these relatives. My favorite National Park is Grand Teton National Park, WY which was home to Shoshone, Bannock, Crow, Blackfoot, Flathead, Gros Ventre and Nez Pierce tribes.

Jaylyn GoughComment