My mother is the family historian. She has spent hours looking into the details of where our ancestors came from, and imagines what their life was like back in the day.
From what I can put together, my DNA is a sacred blend of of tribal ancestry and Britannia comprised of Cherokee, Ouachita or Caddo, English and possibly Scottish. One thing is for certain–there are many grafts in my diverse family tree!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve primarily had two great interests: All things Great Britain, and all things Native American.
The first foreign country I traveled to was Great Britain. I spent many hours just walking the lanes and countryside of England, Scotland and Ireland. Rounding a bend and seeing a great castle or grand home captivated my imagination about what it was to live in such an enchanting, albeit harsh, environment depending on your socio-economic status.
I’m a Jane Austen addict…I have watched every version of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion ever made…and I never tire of them.
I love the architecture of the period and the clothing…the hanging of herbs out to dry and the English country gardens.
When Daniel Day Lewis starred with Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig and Madeline Stow in The Last of the Mohicans, it was the cinematic jackpot for me. Any movie where these two wildly different cultures interact and I can witness a small slice of the dynamics in creating a melting pot with different collective, individual and tribal ideals is something that I’ve always, always, been interested in.
I have spent a lot of time in the Southeast and the Southwest…walking over land that has been inhabited for thousands of years, peering into the remnants of the past where life was lived closer to the ground and there wasn’t much sense of ‘the future’, since the present took care of it. I imagine this period of time where bodies lived close together and care and respect for the young ones and elderly was considered a primary responsibility for the continuity of the tribe.
I am equally at home in a refined hotel lobby sipping tea at 4pm or out in the woods, observing nature and merging with it. I contemplate both sides of this cultural coin daily…mostly through my work as a jewelry designer and also as an up and coming Human Design Analyst.
I was reading yesterday where the respected Native American metalsmith, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, learned how to incorporate sword-making techniques from Japan in order to more fully express his ideas of Native American art jewelry into the world. Native American metalsmith’s from the Southwest learned their craft from the Spanish traders and explorers that traveled through…and on and on it goes.
I’ve picked up ideas and techniques from everyone that I’ve interacted with and merged them together into a particular expression of what interests me…that is how evolution works.
Life on this planet depends on interaction and trading…viruses and bacteria are always looking for ways to grow and evolve by hitching a ride on us, and exchanging their biological information with other bacteria and viruses they come in contact with. Our planet, like a single cell, is constantly exchanging material with what falls to earth from space, and our oceans send bacteria back out into space via atmospheric cloud making…this exchange is what LIFE is.
I embrace this exchange in all of its forms. Every culture appropriates from other cultures. Every cellular form of life appropriates genetic material from the others it encounters. I appropriate certain energies from all the people that I come into contact via my electromagnetic aura…or invisible skin. And so do you.
To not do this is DEATH. This exchange is the only way something NEW comes into being via evolution. Nature is all about appropriation.
I’m not naive enough to believe that appropriation shouldn’t at least involve attribution…in the economic sense, as well as the creative sense too…acknowledging that you are evolving something you feel inclined to express because of an interaction you had with someone else feels like good karma to me. That part of appropriation is still being worked out in the monetary sense as our world becomes much smaller.
But I believe the wrong way to go about it is to STOP it altogether.
One more short story about this from my own backyard…
The other day I was feeding my jays and crows their morning snack of unshelled raw peanuts. While I was still outside, I heard the call of a hawk right over my head. I looked up and didn’t spot the hawk, but I did see a blue jay. As I watched him, I observed him open his mouth and perfectly mimic the sound of a bird of prey. He was trying to scare away a couple of squirrels that were grabbing the nuts by using another voice.
Appropriation in action…right in my backyard.