Becoming A Good Relative

A quick disclaimer — there are no guides or steps to becoming a good relative, because Indigenous people groups are unique and different and for that reason there is no universal guide to becoming/being a good relative. To fully understand what it means to be a relative and a good relative a person must learn from that tribe or nation.

What is a “relative”? Just as there are no steps or guides to becoming a relative there can be no universal definition of relative. Each tribe and nation defines and term and what it encompasses within their own perspective and language.

For the Navajo, we used the word k’e’ to describe our kinship system. “K’é’ refers to the behavioral codes based in affective action such as love, generosity, kindness, and so on. . . When the ending is added to k’é’ [K’êí]… it refers to the vast set of relationships that are initially defined by the features of giving birth and are further differentiated by the components of sex, generation, age, and lineality [clan or descent system]” (Witherspoon, 95).

K‘é’ not only distinguish a Navajo person’s identity and where they come from, but it defines a responsibility to those who they are related to by blood or clan. A relative does not exist as an individual person, but as a member of a family, community, clan, tribe, and nation. Being a relative suggests having a responsibility, to their people, to the land, to the animals, plants and trees, traditions, language, and teachings.

Being a good relative also means agreeing to join in on conversations about what young Native people are thinking through. Rashawn, Navajo and Intervarsity worker, reached out to me and Bobby GreyEagle to discuss what it means to be a good relative:

I hope this conversation between me, Rashawn and Bobby is only the beginning of even more conversations of what is a relative, how to become a relative and most importantly how to be a good relative. I shared the story of the creeper van during the event and if you want to read the whole story click here: https://thetalkingcircle.com/2018/06/29/creeper-van-part-1/

Works Cited

Witherspoon, Gary. Langauge and Art in the Navajo Universe. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1977.

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