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The Practice of Becoming Native

It’s not about having a federal Indian card, and surely not about getting a share of casino profits.

Illustration of coyote with butterflies flying from mouth

Illustration Credit: Coyote and Butterflies by Alexandra Loesser

To feel a little more native, sometimes I gaze at old photos. I am reminded of faces, stories, and landscapes of my youth. Maybe I visit an ancestor’s grave. Maybe I read an Old Time myth from my southern Oregon homeland. Though these are good, they’re usually not enough. For me, being native is not about how long my family has lived here. It’s not about having a federal Indian card, and surely not about getting a share of casino profits. It’s about celebrating a primal connection to place, people, and stories. And that can happen anywhere, for anyone, at any time.Today I want to feel as deeply native as I can, so I take a walk, and I listen.I saunter along the creek, listening to the end-of-summer trickling of water. I listen to the drumbeats of a woodpecker far off in the woods. Squirrels rattle through dry leaves looking for autumn food.I come to an ancient creek crossing. Fur trappers once crossed here on their way into the mountains, and Native Americans crossed for centuries before that. I pause and try to take it all in. For this to work, I need to get quiet and sit still for quite a while. This …

Doty Meets Coyote, an eight-hour audiobook of traditional and original Native American stories, by Thomas Doty, will be released on February 1 by Blackstone Audio.

By Thomas Doty. Click here for more!

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