Driving through Wyoming last week drove home how much I had missed the land I grew up in. At a rest stop I collected sprigs of sagebrush. The familiar scent of Russian olive trees hung heavy in the air. The wind sung to me through the aspens. I left Wyoming twenty-two years ago and it was calling me home.
My longing is tempered by years of learning about social justice topics; especially colonialism and this country’s horrifying treatment of indigenous people. The knowledge that I live on stolen land colors my dreams of the future.
As we drove, Charlotte pointed out places to build a castle. “That’s part of the Wind River Reservation,” I told her. “I don’t think the Shoshone or Arapaho would appreciate us building there.” The entire trip back I was aware of all the reservations we drove through, all the casinos we passed, all the roads and creeks and passes we crossed that had “Indian” in their names. I come from a place that has herded various tribes onto parcels of land and monetized their very identities.
If I am allowed to move back to Wyoming, how do I, as a witch, practice without adding to the harm already done. The question is especially tricky as I have no cultural heritage of my own to fall back on. My sister did the Ancestry.com test a year ago. Genetically, we’re a mix of Irish, Western European and British. That knowledge doesn’t give me any real answers, though. In the same way that I don’t feel part of football culture just because I am American, I don’t feel any more connected to those cultures just because of my DNA.
So where does that leave me? I can make sure that I don’t appropriate any Native American spiritual practices, something I strive to do anyway. But I don’t know if that is enough. Do no harm doesn’t delineate levels of injury. I feel a responsibility to go beyond, to do more than just the bare minimum.
I’m not quite sure what that will involve, or how it will look. As I figure it out, I’ll write about it here.