I like the idea of this thread. It has been interesting to read through the responses here. Regardless of what our blood heritage is, framing our relationship with the land by describing the ancient tribal associations is a way of telling a deeper story. I don’t see it as appropriation because it is pushing for more depth of understanding as well as acknowledgement of colonial wrongdoings, rather than the simple superficialities of cultural appropriation.
I was born beside Minguanan, an old Lenape Indian town where the Unami lived (“the people downriver”). Minguanan was a place of importance and power because it was a place of portage, the closest and lowest point between the two major rivers of the Susquehanna and the Delaware. The Susquehanna is one of the top 3 or 4 oldest rivers in the world. The totem of the Unami Lenape was the tortoise, a symbol of age and wisdom. There were a very ancient people, even compared to other Native American groups, and they had a reputation for sagacity and peacefulness. Their neighbors referred to them as the Old Grandmothers. Minguanan was also situated not too far from the north of the Chesapeake Bay, which was one of the most biologically rich areas in all of North America.
Growing up and through land-associations of other family members, I also developed relationships with other Lenape lands to the north, as well as the lands of the Matapeake, Piscataway, Croatan, and Youghiogheny branch of the Shawnee. Some years back I homesteaded in an area where the Monacans lived prior to colonization. I lived also for about a year in the lands of the Takelma. I spent a couple years traveling over much of the lower 48 and have become acquainted with many other places and peoples. My home in Appalachia and the surrounding piedmont always calls me back though and I’m content and peaceful with her. I couldn’t bare to miss a spring in my beloved hills!
Ancestrally, by blood, I’m mostly northern European. My father’s lineage and surname comes from the north of Germany on the mouth of the Elbe river. My surname Elfers is actually a place-name of sorts. Because of the consonantal shifts between Low and High German, there are three surnames Elfers/Elvers/Elbers which all share the same origin, and mean roughly “people of the river” (Elbe-rs). The name Elbe for the German river itself has deeper connotations in mythology. Elbe means both “river” as well as “elf / little people.” It actually refers to something like the water people, the elemental spirits living in rivers. That’s why elf and river are both cognate with the same root. It is also cognate with the word white. Elf/Alv/Elbe/Albe thus may all be translated as white, elf, river, or all three at the same time. In the Nibelungenlied, Alberich (“albe” = “elbe”) the dwarf, is an animistic/ancestral little person who lives in the underworld realm beneath a mountain. Tribally these north Germans would have been Saxons. My paternal grandmother was born to a Welsh immigrant father who abandoned his child as soon as he learned of the pregnancy, so there’s also some Celtic or possibly Basque in there too from my father’s line.
On my mothers side, there is more German, and some Swiss. When she was growing up my mom was told a story that her mother (my grandmother) who grew up in rural West Virginia was part “Cherokee.” I remember her, she had jet black hair and dark eyes and different facial features. Nevertheless other family members don’t acknowledge the story, and my mom got genetic testing which didn’t directly find any Native American, but did say she shared heritage (at a low level) with other individuals who were part Native American. So kind of a confusing result. The story remains just a rumor.
Ancestrally, by spirit, the picture is different still. I’m glad to hear about Aludog’s experiences dreaming. I too have met ancestral beings through my dreams. In some of my earliest dreams I emerged out of the forest. I can still feel the crunch of leaves underfoot. A couple years ago I had a dream where I met a race of little people, who I believe to have been Germanic elven ancestors. However, in that dream I came out of the forest, again, and found their presence on top of a big hill and it was a disturbance to my environment. They were high-tech machine elves, exactly as people like Terrence McKenna describe meeting under high doses of DMT. But I was not one of them, and rather an outsider from the forest, and therefore I was able to receive a story about how these little people (though they are now as tall as you and I) came to earth to sing to sleep the Old Fathers and Old Mothers, who were the stewards of the earth, causing the world to fall into a state of disrepair and disarray. Anyhow, disturbed by their motives, I rebelled and fought against these little people and as a consequence, they killed me in the dream, but then I was reborn as a child immune to their song of sleep and tasked with a mission. This is all complicated to discuss and a bit “out there” for most people, but as I understand things it seems the spirit of land I was born to has stood as an ancestor to me for probably my whole life, for whatever reason, and it wasn’t until I was old enough and also on my path that through dreaming I was able to encounter and face-up to the other, teleologically-opposed ancestors in my spiritual heritage, who are perhaps most strongly related by blood. I’ve also had a powerful experience with bears in my dreamtime, and so have begun looking to the bear as a personal symbol of strength and vulnerability. I have been working to go further into this dream work, and intend to welcome more indigenous/land-based ancestors into my life.