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A Spiritual Journey of Place, Identity, and Belonging

Woman hiking along near tree roots

Getty Images/Ales_Utovko

“As I put roots into the ground, every step I take brings more roots up to accept and welcome me in—into my heritage and into the woman I am slowly becoming, even in this very moment.”

When you are born, you come into the world connected to somebody. Once that umbilical cord is severed, you become a little more distanced from the woman who birthed you, but your DNA still leaves an eternal fingerprint, your soul born to belong to this thing we call family. Sometimes those ties are broken, damaged, or met with challenges, but they are still there, asking us to look deeper, to remember how they formed us in our original state. Sometimes family becomes the people we choose, the people who move in and out of our lives to remind us that we are not alone, that we are beloved along the journey.

I was born in 1988 in an Indian hospital in Ada, Oklahoma, born to a quiet father who sang and played guitar and knew the Oklahoma red dirt we called home. I was also born a person of European descent to a mother who taught me to appreciate opera, the Eagles, and poetry in all its forms.

I was born into an America established by whiteness. While for generations, Black, indigenous, and other people of color have struggled to be noticed, seen, and valued, we live in a nation that, from its origin, has given priority to people with white skin and Western European ancestry. Systems of whiteness, like white supremacy itself, reward those who invest in what whiteness produces: the idea that anyone who isn’t white is less-than. Whiteness both forces people into assimilation and rewards those who stay assimilated. Much of my life has been dictated by this, and more so because I am a white-coded Potawatomi woman. But as an adult, after I married and had children, the need to know myself outside the language and control of whiteness became an urgent matter, because to know myself is to teach my children to know who they are, to journey together toward that wholeness.

On a walk one winter day, I realized that the deep roots of my identity were coming to the surface, making themselves known in my daily thoughts, actions, and life choices. I was choosing to look back and remember, to understand, to ask the questions I had never asked before.

I began the journey backward, which, for me, was the miraculous journey forward.

As I put roots into the ground, every step I take brings more roots up to accept and welcome me in—into my heritage and into the woman I am slowly becoming, even in this very moment. Those roots are embedded in the soil of who God is and who God has always been, in the moments when I call Papa or Kche Mnedo, when I whisper in Potawatomi, Migwetch, Mamogosnan. Thank you, Creator.

I belong to Turtle Island (North America), to the land that I stand on, as did my ancestors. That journey takes me deeper into myself, deeper into the heart of Mystery, the origin of everything, who knew the land’s essence before any of us did. Suddenly, I see the full circle. To find our origins, even the histories of darkness that precede us, we find truth and we expose ourselves to the reality of those who walked before us and what that reality means for our lives today.

Content taken from Native by Kaitlin B. Curtice, ©2020. Used by permission of Baker Publishing.

About the Author

Kaitlin B. Curtice

Kaitlin B. Curtice is a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation as well as a Christian, public speaker, and poet. She...

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