Culture Shocked Without Leaving Home

In Native American culture shock, Native American reverse culture shock on February 28, 2010 at 3:47 am

Mary Winter and Lorraine Smith Mary Winter with her mother, Lorraine Smith

One thing that I really appreciate about my community, especially my church community is its diversity. I’m never without African or Filipino food at a potluck.

Tonight my church sponsored an international food festival complete with food and entertainment from 22 countries including Zimbabwe, Ghana, the Philippines, England, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Germany and more.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Romanian Sarma, Filipino egg rolls, British scones, and German sauerkraut, but also took the opportunity to talk to several of the immigrants and their experiences with culture shock in America.

Right next to my Pennsylvania Dutch food station was Mary Winder (the granddaughter of the Oneida Nation activist who started the fight to re-acquire native lands) and her mother Lorraine Smith, serving samples of butternut squash with maple syrup.

Winder was born on the Onondaga Indian Nation reservation in Central New York and is part Oneida and Seneca Indian.

Winder has always lived in America, but has often experienced culture shock when going between the nations and the general American population.

Winder spoke her native Oneida language at a young age, but was soon encouraged to speak only English in school. She didn’t speak it again until her 30s.

Members of the Oneida Nation use baby boards, like the one pictured, as a baby seat. The babies are placed on the wall at face level so they can see what is going on in the room.

Years later today, she tries to use the language, but struggles to understand everything said at Indian ceremonies.

When going to funerals she struggles to understand everything that is said and doesn’t fully comprehend that person’s greatness, she said. “I feel like I’m caught between” (the languages)” she said.

Winder has learned how to act to fit in both cultures, but still sometimes notices the difference in American funerals.

Emotions of sadness are freely expressed at funerals in the nation, but “off the reservation you’re not supposed to cry” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

  1. I ran into this article about how different cultures plan their rituals for the dead. Check it out at: http://creativity-online.com/news/design-in-death-how-we-craft-our-rituals-for-the-departed/142239

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