As an academic I’ve been studying the meaning of “place” in American Indian ways-of-knowing from a distant, theoretical perspective.
Trying to link my personal concept of place doesn’t fit neatly or inform the traditional Native viewpoint, probably because we moved so often my sisters and I could stuff all our belongings and clothing into one suitcase per girl.
On the other hand, my brother loaded his suitcase with rocks.
Once, when we were in the middle of a move, my mother picked up my brother’s suitcase and told him it felt like it was full of rocks.
Turns out, he packed his suitcase with rocks.
Our definition of home became woven with “place.”
And just like the Osage story about the spider who carries her home with her everywhere she travels, we carried our homes with each move.
For many indigenous people, place is described as central to ways of knowing. Vine Deloria Jr. and Daniel Wildcat write that, “Indigenous people represent a culture emergent from a place. And they actively draw on the power of that place physically and personally.”
I’m beginning to think about place as a metaphor, particularly in light that over the last two hundred years many Native people have been displaced. Place, therefore, becomes infused with the concept of home, and you end up carrying your home in your heart.