Indigenous is defined as “originating or occurring naturally in a particular place.” Indigenous can be used to define species of plants and animals that originated in a particular place. It is also used more broadly to refer to native people, those who were here first.
In this way, we can all be defined as Indigenous, because we all originated from someplace. While we may have moved, migrated, or emigrated from one place to another we all belong somewhere. While I biologically originated in Northern California this area no longer feels like home to me. Each time I returned to Northern California it’s fun to visit friends and family, but it no longer feels like my roots. Some people say your home is where you make it or your roots are were you sink them. Presently I call my home in Western North Carolina, though I know it’s not permanent. It feels like home to me now, but I also feel a sense of home in Arizona, in the land of my Navajo relations. So my identity with place is North Carolina and Arizona with my roots presently sunk in North Carolina.
Lineage is also how we define ourselves as Indigenous, which is not to say that we designate ourselves according to certain percentages of this or that ancestry, rather to say that we acknowledge and honor where we came from, not denying any portion of our ancestry, accepting and honoring all of it. My lineage is Scottish, Irish, Welsh and German. I’ve also been adopted into a Navajo family of the Mexican Bear clan. So I acknowledge and honor both my European and Navajo lineage.
In this question of what does it mean to be Indigenous, the word brings us a sense of native people, people living close to nature, living tribally, and simply. We also tend to envision people who hold certain traditions that have been handed down for long before recorded history, which includes songs, rituals, and ceremonies.
This new work that we are taking on, the book I’ve written, the speaking and workshops, and the focus of this blog now being an exploration of deriving wisdoms contained within the cultural framework of the people we refer to as Indigenous, is about how we can apply the principles and value system of traditional Indigenous people into our modern business world. And, the first step in this exploration is coming to an understanding that we are all Indigenous, and that the Indigenous Principles and values truly belong to all of us.
It is our birthright as human beings to live, to grow, to learn, and to evolve. Indigenous people make no distinction between how they make their living and how they live their life; it’s all one integrated system. The values they employ in their work are the same as those in their life. The purpose of work is to support life, not the other way around. This is a simple truth that is both self-evident and deserving of attention.
It is also a simple truth that we all evolved from someplace, that we all have some place that we feel a sense of connection to, that we all have lineage that speaks to who we are and how we got here, and we all have a right to lives and work filled with meaning and purpose. This meaning and purpose begins with right siding up our perspective towards work as our personal self-expression in the world, an extension of our personalities, talents, and passions, as a challenge we face, a means to a livelihood, and a contribution to the world.
Being Indigenous means that we accept and honor our roots, both in terms of where we came from (place) and who we are (lineage). Honoring our roots is the first step to living and working with purpose and also the first step to being Indigenous. It is also an important step towards shifting our culture in a positive direction.