gifting is a practice that goes back through the very thread of the
culture. It is the cohesiveness of the people. When a gathering
happens it is an accepted practice that the host will put out a
blanket in the center of the gathering, called a giveaway, miigiwe,
and put various items on the blanket. Each guest from eldest to the
youngest will in turn go to the blanket and take one item of their
liking. This will continue until there is nothing left on the
blanket. Sometimes the blanket itself will also go as a part of the
gifts offered. Some people have been known to give everything they
have because they feel so honored by the people who visit them.
Ongoing gifting is a
normal part of this practice. It is a custom to gift anyone that
comes to visit. Often the host will gift something of significance,
to his guests. Always food will be offered as well, that no one
will be hungry.
When something is done
to help the people it is a gift of spirit. At a wedding the people
come to witness the wedding. Gifting to the groom and the bride
comes generally from within the family. The bride, groom and their
families will have a giveaway at the end of the ceremony. The
people attending will often gift to the newlyweds at some point
during the following year to see that the needs of the new couple
are meant. Gift the people that honor us rather than expecting
gifts from them.
In our culture we use
the term donation for giving. To the Native American that term
means having pity on. Giving to the less fortunate. They do not
see themselves as less than others.
Gifting is giving of
yourself in return for a kindness that has been given to you. The
kindness may be a material thing, a teaching, a healing or just a
friendship and bonding between people. The importance of gifting is
in the honoring of one another. It is not payment for something
rather recognition of having respect of one another.
In this society it is
difficult for indigenous people to offer the love of spirit through
their teachings. In the past they would have been honored in return
through the gifting of a blanket or trade item or something of need
to them and of value. What was given was always acknowledged in
Today our society says put a dollar
amount on the item and we will pay you. This is contrary to the
teachings of native culture.
Jim Beard aka Noodin