Yvette Neshi Lokotz: ON BELONGING
Yvette Neshi Lokotz is the CEO of the Star Nations Organization, that publishes a magazine and creates and sends out a variety of radio programmes that hope to contribute to a shift in mindset and increased sacred connections across cultures and geographies.
Neshi is also a tribal member of the
, with Ho Chunk Nation and Yaqui Nation descent. She was raised in the traditions of Ho Chunk and Potawatomi since birth. Neshi teaches about Native American hand drums, drumming, the medicine wheel lifestyle, and space clearing.
Neshi has more than 12 year’s experience making drums and has taught hundreds of people how to make their own hand drums. She has over 30 years of space-clearing experience and has lived the lifestyle of the medicine wheel her entire life.
Neshi lives in Tomah, Wisconsin.
Bosho, that’s hello in Potawatomi. My name is Yvette Neshi Lokotz, and I am from Turtle Island, the United States, and I am a Native American woman.
I would like to introduce myself in the old way. You always want to know who your people are, see if you’re related.
(Introduces in Potawatomi language)
(Nesh nabe nos wen, Bneshikwe. Nshe dodem tthigwe. Dwagen, Tomah Wiscconsin. Nshe mesho, Skama-ben. My Gaga, Ho Chunk, Spreading Wing. Nshe nos, Kabance-ben. Nshe no ye nan, SheweKwe.
My name is Bneshi-kwe, which means bird woman, , my clan is Thunder. I live in Tomah, Wisconsin. My grandfather, Misho, Shkama-ben. My grandfather’s name was Shkama-ben that he has walked on; He’s passed away. And his native name, his Indian name, meant new chief. My grandmother who is Ho Chunk, I don’t know how to pronounce her Ho Chunk name but it meant ‘Spreading Wing.’
And my father, Kabance-ben means that he passed away, the ben part, but Kabance means to Walk On Earth. And it’s really about the imprint of the moccasin in the soil on Grandmother Earth.
And my mother who is still living. She-We-Kwe means ‘Leading Elk’. And so that is how we would normally introduce ourselves so they have an idea of how to address you. It’s all about who is connected to you. It’s much more personal.
NESHI INTRO CONTINUED
I’m an enrolled member tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation, the Prairie Band. There are nine bands of the Potawatomi Nation. When we were forced onto reservations is when we kind of got split up that way. And that’s on my mother’s side. Her father, my grandfather. Skama-ben, he was he was the Potawatomi.
We follow the patriarchal line, and this has more to do with the colonization. We’re enrolled underneath my grandfather’s who was an original lottee number when he went to the reservation.
My grandmother on my mother’s side is Ho Chunk. We might classify her as an activist. She was she was one of those people who would be a part of changing the norm. And so she was a very strong woman. My grandmother on my mother’s side.
Ho Chunk has been in Wisconsin for hundreds and hundreds of years. The Potawatomi started out on the East Coast and migrated west.
On my dad’s side, he was a Mexican Indian. Yaqui is his nation. Where he is from would have been around the southern border between Texas and northern Mexico. The Yaqui nation actually is on both sides of a border now. (laughter) Before there was a border.
I also have some French Canadian as well intermarried into the Potawatomi Nation and also the whole nation as well.
That is the connection to Turtle Island.
On Turtle Island
Turtle Island is really comes from an indigenous creation story. What we’re talking about is the United States. And the story goes the creation story goes is that the creator created man.
And that what happened was that
there was this this rain. It was a deluge. And there wasn’t any land to speak of. And so animals and we’re trying to survive. The animals would volunteer to dive all the way down to bring up soil to create to create an island. The turtle volunteered to carry the soil on its back. so that we could all survive.
It was the muskrat that was able to dive all the way down, and grab handfuls of soil to bring it up. And so that is how Turtle Island got to be. And how everybody got to survive and to thrive, is because they all worked together. And it was the turtle who volunteered to carry us on its back. So, we have a very strong connection to turtle. Turtle medicine. And it means that you’re very grounded and connected to grandmother earth, and you also have a way to protect yourself too.
On a multicultural background
Growing up in the household that I did, there was one way to communicate there, and experience life there, and then I would go to my grandparents’ house, and that was another layer of a way to communicate, because there are certain ways like any other culture, right? You don’t look an elder in the eye. You don’t keep that constant eye contact, it’s disrespectful. You’re not asking a million questions. You know and those kinds of things. And so then when you’d go to school it’s the complete reverse. It’s like if you don’t have eye contact. It’s disrespectful. If you’re not asking questions you’re not interested. (laughter) On occasion I would get into trouble. (laughter)
On Standing Rock
Standing Rock, literally it woke up the world. It shook the world. And so much came out of that both positive and negative. But really it brought the world together in that one tiny little space, they had over. 500. Indigenous flags flying. And people from all over the world came. Right. And the premise was to do this in peace and then the ceremony. And for the most part, that that was true. There are some things that occurred that you know.
The aftermath. But we all learned a whole lot from it. And. It really did ignite the passion and to for people to use their voice in their own backyards. Right. So, there’s a lot of things that have come out from this and the Sami came not once I think they were there like, three or four times different times over that.
It’s also a free press and they we’re really riding on the edge of an extinction of the free press. Really. We’ve been dealing with the US government for generations and we’ve survived we’ve survived them time and time and time again. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have people like Leonard Peltier still in prison. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a high proportion of numbers of Indigenous people in the prisons. But we’ve survived this government for a long, long time. A long time.
And so that that is why Standing Rock was so important because it was a renaissance that was reigniting, reclaiming our power as indigenous people.
Now many people would say that we don’t or that we don’t have much power. But Standing Rock really showed us that yes we do. And a very it turned out in a very quiet voice. And it was the youth that really brought it to the forefront and they turned to the elders that still knew the ceremonies that still knew how to call in spirit and have spirit present during that whole thing.
Neshi On Spirit Guides
So many people non-native people non-Indigenous people to Turtle Island are still very, very interested in Native American or the indigenous culture. To be more specific in the spirituality. I encourage them to really search out who their people are.
But we’re carrying our ancestors’ wisdom and also their trauma in our DNA and our blood and in our bones. And so, we can make that connection through our ancestors. You don’t have to make that connection through my ancestry.
The culture I grew up in, we talked about spirit all the time, it wasn’t anything new, but coming into what’s been known as the new age world, realising that all these people had Native American guides. And I’m asking why don’t I have Native American guides? Because I don’t. So how come I don’t I have Chief Red Cloud as my spirit guide? And it’s like this because you call them ancestors. It’s like it’s like –oh OK so your light bulb went on.
But why do so many non-native people non-Indigenous people have Native American guides? Because they’re being taught or given opportunities to remember their connection to Grandmother Earth.
And so with indigenous people, our belief is really about our connection, that we have this very loving and strong connection to Grandmother Earth. Protecting sacred sites. Cleaning up the water. Picking up your own trash for goodness sake. Those kinds of things, right, is a calling on your spirit guides to help you to rekindle or reconnect to Grandmother Earth because it’s hard wired in us to like it’s in us humans. To protect what we love. And if we can remember how much we love the Earth Mother Earth grandmother guy up we’re going to protect her.
Being indigenous to this continent and growing up the way that I did. OK. There’s some things that I took for granted. In my culture, that I didn’t realise until I was a young adult…. is that when you grow up in the culture, the spiritual connection that we have to the earth, it’s just your life, it’s your way of being.
You don’t question why we do ceremony. and call in the four directions, why we address Grandmother Earth and grandfather sky. because everything goes back to grandmother earth. Our culture is based on our connection to her. It’s your life, it’s your lifestyle already.
There’s many of us who do keep that connection and nurture it because like any other relationship you’d have to pay attention to it. And so sometimes they think that we take for granted that kind of connection. It’s when someone else outs that’s not indigenous, they’re looking in to this life, they see this connection and they yearn for belonging.
And so I think that’s where you get a lot of people wanting to have the same kind of connection but really. Really trying their best to be able to do that. And sometimes it takes on a different a whole different role.
In order to have to retain and to foster to nurture that relationship to Grandmother Earth you have to practice it every day that becomes your lifestyle. That is your life. And so it’s a way of being and it’s a way of walking this earth is to be able to remember your connection to her and it becomes your lifestyle you live it every single day.
On cultural misapproproation
Cultural misappropriation basically, is a put a nice way of saying stealing. The using of another culture when it’s feeding your ego more than your soul then I think that you have to step back and say “What did I just steal?”
When you are an indigenous person and you’ve lived that life and you have people who are non-Indigenous coming into your home basically. you know your community, they feel like they can use it, without any of the training, without any explanation, without the foundational information. It’s for their ego more than it is for their soul.
And so that’s my two cents on cultural misappropriation is that many times it’s it’s being a part of themselves that is not a part of their spirituality. I think it is but it’s really feeding their ego. Those are the name droppers. They’re keen on the word Chief you know.
And I tell you there are some Native Americans some indigenous people who get very upset with this. They’re very upset because they you know I’ve heard it said that they’ve taken everything else and now they want to take our souls too. They want to take our Spirit.
On terminology and names
What do we call ourselves…. right. I agree it is important. Whether we call ourselves cells Native American or indigenous are First Nation is really for the benefit of the person that we’re speaking to that is non-native.
And it’s a misnomer. Let’s take the term Native American Native American really is what I would call a misnomer. OK. It has become antiquated because anybody who is born in the United States could could say that they’re Native American. So it kind of washes out the first people who were on this continent.
And so what, what do we ended up calling ourselves when we have multiple generations who have now resided in the United States. They came from a different continent. And so there is this term called colonisers and that we are being another thing being usurped from us. But. And. I in my world in actuality. The term Native American Doesn’t really describe the indigenous people here on Turtle Island, it really doesn’t describe, in truth the original people here. And especially not American Indian. (laughter) Because this this this man who said he found this new world we’re already here. And he was lost. He thought he was in the East Indies. That’s how we got the term Indian. That has nothing to do with the original people who were already here.
Now Canada has started a movement and calling natives from Canada Indigenous people from Canada started using the words indigenous. And also First Nation. Which I think is a bit closer to accurately describing people who were here originally on this. But you know what I tell you.
We slide back and forth between depending on who we’re talking to.
And I’ve also found that it’s generational.
Because my mother who just turned 100 on Saturday, she still uses the terms American Indian or Indian and also uses Native American. And no matter no matter how many times I will ask her, are referring to East Indian or indigenous people. And so, she’ll look give me this look and she says I’m referring to our people! (Laughter)
She was part of the mission school generation. And most non-indigenous people don’t realize that that’s still occurring that children are still being taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools to create a person who is more.
Non-native non-indigenous. Still happening in this century. Some things never change, I suppose.
You know, I think language in itself falls short of really truly describing the emotions that are underlying, because even when we use the word ‘indigenous’ we have to qualify it indigenous to what continent. because there are many people who are Indigenous, but indigenous to their own part of grandmother earth right?
And so I think we still have to qualify what part of Grandmother Earth are we referring to when we’re talking about indigenous people.
Indigenous. It’s a start.
In the Indigenous world we there is a belief that our culture is connected to our language. And so, when you lose the language you lose your culture and so much has already been lost. And so there has been a many and about two decades worth of a renaissance where many people are learning their indigenous language.
Our ancestors survived. Survive so that we could be here. They went through so much for us to be here to live these lives. They went through genocide. They went through colonization. They did what they had to do to survive, so that we could be here. It makes us stronger. For what they did for us now when we talk about where’s our home.
And the thing is is that we have to be clear in. When we use the term ancestor when I’m using it I’m talking about and referring to them as this spirituality the spirit of not the physical the spiritual. Not the physical place. No.
When we’re talking about our connection to the earth. We belong to her not the other way around. Literally our bodies come from her. And our bodies returned to her. When our spirit is released.
Our complete physicality. Is connected to her are brainwaves or connected to her.
She literally gives us Life.
Ceremony and ritual touches that part of our brain. We recognize it. Oh something important is happening here.
It’s about making that connection, to nature – or to all that is really. The creator, all the planets, the sun, the moon, the four directions, to all the animals, to all bodies of water, to all things green, to those who fly to those who swim to those who crawl, all of creation. The entire universe.
So when you do those kind of ceremonies, we are all watching and listening and we are also feeling our connection to each other and to the earth, and to all of creation and that we’re reminded that that we are a member, of nature. That we’re not separate from it or separate from each other.
And so when you’re looking at nature. And the ecosystem that we’re all a part of. It’s a very large body that we call Earth.
You can’t take one piece out and take a look at it and say this is this is the only thing that we’re going to be concerned about. There’s something from an indigenous point of view is that all of Grandmother Earth is sacred. All of it is not just one aspect over here one aspect over there but the whole. Is sacred. And that we have a commitment to her. To take care of her. That’s why we call her grandmother. (laughter) is that we have a commitment to take care of her.
And so if we can look at her as a whole being rather than bits and pieces of, that we can start to remember our connection to her. And that we actually see ourselves as a whole being rather than bits and pieces.
You know there’s another thing is that we don’t we don’t own her. If she decided that she was done with the human race done with a two legged it would be so easy for her to shake us off her body.
We have such a loving and complicated relationship with her. And she literally we are one of her children. So how does how does a parent how does a parent corrector. Explain to the child why they can’t do this you can’t do that or why they should do something.
How does a parent do that?
Shows them consequences. And I think we’re being shown consequences. And so, for those of us that are awake and we see sense or feel it is to be able to use our voices in some way. To say you know let’s listen to this. Let’s go out and actually pick up some trash. Take your children with you to pick up the trash. Yes. Yes. No, it doesn’t. You know some people think that it’s so overwhelming. What can I do? You know I’m not going to affect anything but when everything that we do affects someone else. We’re so interconnected.
Start locally, start in your own backyard. What are you doing to effect your own home. What are you doing? And so you know and if you feel like that’s the extent that you can help. Well then that’s fine that’s good at least you’re doing something. There’s others that will take on a more regional or national or international… Because they’re meant to.
How are we planting our garden, how are we tending it? We live in a world of duality. When you see. The really negative and the very low vibrational side of it. What’s the opposite? Because there is an opposite. So where is that? Where is that? And go there put your energy in there.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated this opportunity to be with you and to express, my belief my heart. We’re all a part of the same universe.
And so thank you. In Potawatomi It is Kttche Megwech, which is a very large thank you and Igwien, Igwien is a more formal thank you that we reserve for elders and for special occasions. And so I want to tell you Igwien.
SOUND: Tanya’s Garden in Sweden the Summer
Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON BELONGING. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast
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Yvette Neshi Lokotz is the CEO of Star Nations, a multi-media company with a global community. Please see starnations.org.
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