“When you’re speaking English and you’ve been disconnected from your cultural, spiritual heritage and power for hundreds of years, how are those ancestors going to connect with us?  What’s the way?  We don’t have an intact tribal community to contain it, to hold it, to support and protect us.  How’s it going to happen with integrity and safety?  One of the main ways is through dreams.”

Dr. Apela Colorado
Founder of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network and the Indigenous Mind Program

How to Introduce Yourself: Recovering the Indigenous Mind

In traditional indigenous cultures, any formal interaction starts by introducing yourself and the ancestors and lands from which you come.  For westernized people who are recovering their indigenous minds, it is important to learn how to do this.  This simple protocol not only honors the ancestors but also invokes their presence & power into the gathering.

Many of you have met me before on the Dream Tribe, but to honor the spirit of indigenous mind I am writing about in this post I will introduce myself more formally.

My name is Atava Garcia Swiecicki.  My ancestors are Dine (Navajo) from what is now called New Mexico, Otomi & Mexican (from Guanajuato, Mexico) Slavic (from Poland) and Magyar (from Hungary).  All of my great-grandparents and my maternal grandfather immigrated to the United States from other countries and cultures.

I have been observing my dreams for most of my life.  My first official introduction to dreamwork came in 2001 when I entered the Master’s degree program at Naropa University Oakland, as a student in the Indigenous Mind Concentration. Founded and guided by Dr. Apela Colorado, the Indigenous Mind Program (IMP) is an academic track that offers students an opportunity to deeply explore the indigenous roots of their own ancestral traditions.  Indigenous and cultural elders mentored us to help us recover our own ancestor’s traditional ways of knowing.

What is Indigenous Science?

In the IMP, each student chose one of their own genealogical lines to research in depth.  Our research utilized not only traditional western academic methodologies but also we engaged in research employing the tenets of indigenous science.

Western science strives to be objective and is limited to rational, observable and quantifiable data.  Indigenous science, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach.  Indigenous science works with spiritual processes like prayer and ritual to collect and integrate information.  The indigenous scientist not only gathers information from the physical realm, but also from many other different spheres, including the realms of nature, spirit, ancestors, and dreams.

For more on Indigenous Science, see Dr. Apela Colorado’s “Nine Distinctions of Indigenous Science”,

Dreams as messages from the ancestors

A main sources of research material for students of Indigenous Mind has been our dreams. One of our first and most important assignments in the program was to keep a dream journal. According to Dr. Colorado, the intention of the dream journal was to track the messages from the ancestors.

From an indigenous mind perspective, “ancestors” includes not only our own genealogical ancestors, but it also refers to the earth, the elements of nature, the animals, plants, rocks, stars, planets, or  simply put, “All My Relations.”

Making offerings

A first step to practicing indigenous science is to learn how to make offerings.  In many traditional cultures, all rites and rituals begin with the participants making offerings to the spirits and ancestors.

Each culture has its own special offerings.  For my Native American ancestors, offerings can consist of tobacco or cornmeal.  My Polish ancestors made offerings of bread and salt.  Some traditions offer mead, wine, herbs, flowers, songs or prayers.

If you do not yet know your cultural offerings, start with offering something small and biodegradable that has meaning to you.  It may be a special stone, some bread you baked, a piece of chocolate or a pretty sea shell.

Offerings can be given to anything in nature: to sacred sites, a ceremonial fire, the ocean or other bodies of water, to trees, or simply to the earth itself.  Making an offering is a way of acknowledging the spirit embodied in the fire, the water, or tree.  As we make an offering, we are also politely asking for assistance or guidance from the ancestor spirits.

Incorporate offerings into dreamwork

There are two ways to begin to incorporate offerings into dreamwork.

The first is to make an offering as part of dream incubation or a request for guidance from the dream realm.  The elders taught me that making an offering to a tree is a good way to begin.  Trees are sacred to many cultures worldwide and often represent our connection to our ancestral lineage.  In many cultures trees also symbolize the connections between three dimensions or worlds:  the earthly realm (the trunk), the heavens or sky world  (the branches and leaves) and the underworld (the roots).

1. The day of your dream incubation, find a tree that is special to you and make your offering.

2. Say a prayer and share your intentions with the tree and with your own ancestors and spirit helpers.   Ask for the help or guidance you are seeking to come to you in a dream.

3. When you go to sleep at night, tune in again to your prayer and your intention.  Pay special attention to what dreams come.

Another way to weave offerings into dreamwork is to make offerings of thanksgiving to special dreams that come to you.  This is a way of actively engaging in communication with the ancestors.

For example, if you have a powerful dream in which an animal guardian appears to you, find some way to make an offering to thank that spirit.  If a dream brings you vision, insight or guidance, give an offering of thanksgiving as well.

What’s Next?

First, stay tuned for part II: Dreaming in the Indigenous Mind, Whale Offerings which will be posted on Thursday.

Second, introduce yourself below using the traditional indigenous way of giving an introduction.

1. Share your name (even if you’ve introduced yourself before)

2. Let us know who your ancestors are and/or where they came from.

3. Tell us a bit about what they used for offerings consider doing a bit of research to find out. If you can’t find information about your ancestors, pay attention to your dreams; they may give you information. Also, someone from the greater DreamTribe community may know a bit about your people.

*Photo at the top is Atava’s great aunt and uncle. Photo in the middle, a Polish elder Atava met in Poland.