The in-between place: wedding planning and my Native American identity

Guestpost by FraggleRocks Dahlia on Mar. 21st
Native American Wedding Dress, Hair

Thanks to katherineophoto for submitting this photo to the Offbeat Bride Flickr Pool.

My fiance and I are Native people. Our ancestors lived here for… who knows how long. We are bound to this land in a way I can't even explain. My first trip back to the reservation when I was a kid was almost like a religious experience for me. The land is old, and as a ten-year-old kid I could feel it. It was like nothing I had ever felt in the city, with its ever-changing way… new people… new buildings… the land is unrecognizable, and it's always changing. The land the city is built on seems to forget as it plunges into the future. But the Plains… oh, that was a different story. The land out there hasn't changed, it looks just like it did 300 years ago when my people lived, loved, and died there.

Nighttime is when you could really feel it. They told you not to pick up anyone walking along the road at night, they were spirits trying to find their way home. There was a heaviness that was always upon the air, but at night, it grew and intensified a thousand times. Maybe it was the humidity, the silent lightning storms, or the way the wind just died at night, but the land was still, no cars, no trains. Some spirit swept through the land and settled around us, almost as if reminding us who we were. And I understood this was home. Even if I never lived here, this is where I came from.

Fast forward to my early adulthood, and I'm feeling like a traitor. I work, I eat, I sleep. I consume. I make money catching shoplifters for an old American institution — a department store that throws a parade every year. My fiance fought for the United States in a war for who knows what. He now works protecting the assets of a casino. We rarely practice the old ways, but we're still tied to them… especially when planning a wedding.

We are both proud of our Native heritage. My great-great-great-great-grandfather is Red Cloud, the last of the indian chiefs to surrender and be put onto a reservation. He did great things trying to protect his people and his way of life.

However, sometimes we are not sure if that is who we are. Well… that is who we WERE, but is that who we ARE? This question has come up a lot in my wedding planning. Especially with dress. I would LOVE a buckskin dress, but I would also love a lace dress. We would love a traditional wedding that incorporates both of our traditions, but is that who we are? We'd love to get spiffed up in a dress and a suit, and we'd love a wedding that reflects US as individuals, not as a culture. I think that's what's so difficult about this. We KNOW the answer, but we feel like we're betraying our past.

My fiance and I, we feel it would be almost a sham — a theme wedding, a costume party — if we had a wedding where we did bits of both traditional and modern. We would feel it insulting to our heritage, but at the same time, we feel it insulting to our heritage to have a modern wedding.

So, this is our in between place. I think every Native person has one, and I don't think it's limited to weddings. Now that I'm thinking about it… I don't feel like this is limited to just Native people… what about children of immigrants? Others?

The in-between of the past and future is the present. Presently, it is my job to figure out how to balance the two so that maybe my children won't be so confused about their identities.

Are you in an in-between place?

Read more posts about: , ,

About FraggleRocks Dahlia

I'm twenty years old, but feel much older than that. I'm marrying a US Army veteran on Veterans Day in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm a San Francisco Bay Area native that traded the ocean for the desert and love. My fiance and I are just looking for our place in this crazy world... wherever that may be.