Time to Start Over. The Process of Remembering My Ancestors
My mother’s family’s story is similar to many American immigrants (still learning my father’s). Our ancestors came to escape something in their homeland and North America was the carrot dangling in front of them. They arrived on the shores of Ellis Island ignorant to the fact that their opportunity was created due to the cultural assimilation and genocide of another group of humans. Their survival here required them to change their names, suppress their cultural identity and try to fit into this strange new world.
Here in America, they were provided a freedom and gift to expand their communities, build wealth, and prosper. Many of our ancestors never understood the depth of what they stepped into. I believe, they were not aware that the lands they lived on were stolen from another group of people nor that these people, our first nations communites were still actively being oppressed.
From a cultural perspective, my Rusyn ancestors arrived in the late 1800’s. They left their communities to escape their own oppression, poverty, and a dramatic political climate. Like many American’s, they arrived with a sense of relief. They landed on a safer land. They had an opportunity to make life better for themselves and their family back home. The story of the indiginous people and their lands, if they were any, were taught to them by the oppressor and would have been a white washing of the truth. A story that would have allowed them to accept being here as a gift instead of an active festetering wound.
When they arrived, they had to assimilate into the dominant culture while striving to maintain their own. Their struggle was how to become American, how to make a home for their family, to fit in yet remain who they were. Our immigrant ancestors learned the
stories lies and language of the oppressor and unknowingly switched roles from oppressed to oppressor… and probably never even knew it. I am still just coming into that understanding.
My journey here is a result of seeking my ancestral roots, stepping out of the larger collective that created our current oppressive society into a deeper understanding of what it means to be indigenous. I know and work with spiritual teachers from all over the world that are speaking out about the loss of our cultures and why it’s important to find our ancestral roots.
Our indiginous elders speak out about oppression and colonialism. What it is. Who is doing it. How we multi-generational immigrants are have been trapped in and are continuing the cycle. What we can do to heal ourselves and ultimately, the planet. They are removing the veil for us to see clearly what oppression is so that we can acknowledge it, reflect on our part in it and ultimately end it. Our indiginous teachers provide tools for us to heal our individual and collective trauma of our ancestors. It requires us to go deep, remember who we are and where we came from.
I am Rusyn, a culture that is still actively oppressed in Eastern Europe. A culture that is buying their homelands that were stolen from them back. A people that are returning to their roots. A people that are still divided yet resilient in their drive to become whole again. “Our people’s” story is a similar tale to all indiginous people from around the world. We are divided. We have lost so much. We have had our lands stolen from us. We have done harm to others. Yet.. we are resilent. We held onto our culture despite all odds.
By remembering who were are and our place in the cosmos, we change the way we walk on the Earth and while it may be too late or not enough, we become active participants in the healing of the planet. This blog is the remembering of where I came from, where I am, and what my current role in colonization is. My writings are to share:
- Disoveries of my ancestral people
- What colonialism is and what decolonialism looks like
- Search for ways to decolonize our thinking
- Identify what oppression is and how to stop oppressing others.
- Provide useful tools for you to find your ancestors
Thank you for reading my thoughts. Please comment and share your stories. Let’s dive into the stories of our ancestors together. Let’s remember their names. Remember and release their trauma. Celebrate their beauty and love. Honor their lives. Thank them for coming before us. Forgive them for their part in the collective wound.