Thursday, July 3, 2008

Here's my point about Stereotypes

Being American Indian and living in a Native way means doing things that are at odds with the dominant culture. For example, direct eye contact is considered rude. But in American culture it's very important to look people in the eye. In order to be able to function in both Native and main-stream society one must be able to flip back and forth between cultural norms.

As a mother I want my daughter to know what is expected in both cultures. She'll pick up American culture eventually. It's everywhere. I need to make an effort with her so that she knows some of the Native norms as well. One thing in particular is pointing. Pointing is considered very rude. Instead of pointing one will either purse their lips in the direction of what they are talking about or use ones entire hand to motion towards something.

As you might have noticed toddlers LOVE to point. It's a large part of how the pre-verbal crowd communicates. It's also the easiest way to "talk" to them. Pointing up at the moon, point to a tree, point to the doggie.

Since it's considered rude in my community I don't want to encourage pointing. So instead of pointing AT things I have been taking my hand, palm-up and motioning my arm in the direction of the item.

Piccolina has been doing this motioning, too. And then I realized....crap...THAT'S where the stereotype came from.


Mrs. Spit said...

It's interesting to remember the rules in different cultures. It took me a long time to understand why my aboriginal clients wouldn't look at me - It wasn't that they didn't know they shouldn't according to their culture, it's that it wasn't modeled as a virtue - they didn't see it done. It helped so much when an elder explained it too me. I could understand where they were coming from, and perhaps, in some small way, be a white woman, who could teach them a bit about where they came from. It made me a bit uncomfortable, but I was honoured too.

sara said...

That is really cool the way you brought up the differences that exist between cultures. I really enjoyed your post it really made me think. Thanks for sharing that with us :-)