Hau reddit! I’m an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana. My dad is also Hopi from Second Mesa in Arizona but I was raised Assiniboine/Sioux on my mom’s side.

I never lived on our reservation but I have gone back several times a year since I was born, and was fully raised in my cultural traditions. Both my parents are from “the Rez”, and both hold very esteemed jobs in Indian Country regarding Tribal Healthcare.

I’m looking forward to answering your questions about my experiences and clearing up some common misconceptions about my people!

Along with my proof, I also want to make it clear that I do not speak for all Indians or even everybody in my tribe. These answers are all based off my own experiences and life so YMMV based off who you ask.


Edit: I was not expecting this to blow up so fast! Loving it! I am trying my hardest to get to all of your questions but there is so many! I promise I will try to get to all of them and any of the replies from others that I can. Hoping some of my friends at /r/IndianCountry can help provide their own insight and experiences.

Edit 2: Thank you to whoever gilded this post but please do not give your money to me or this website, please donate to organizations like Native American Rights Fund, American Indian College Fund, Indigenous Womens Resource Center, Stand With Standing Rock.

Comments: 3779 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

ntermation2315 karma

Hey there,

From australia, never met a native american. If I ever went to the usa, whats the best way to meet native americans and learn about the culture directly from the source- without coming across as an 'asshole tourist'?

Is visiting a reservation an option? Or is that not a good idea?

shoonka413 karma

I would say to post this question in /r/IndianCountry!

Shoot me a PM if you ever make it over here and end up in the Northwest or Colorado. I would be happy to meet up with you and chop it up.

twislebutt2144 karma

Do you or your family cook traditional Assiniboine/Sioux recipes (or other Indian tribe recipes)? If so, could you name off your favorites?

Ive recently wondered why we dont really have any American Indian restaurants/food carts anywhere, that I know of. I feel like Im missing out.

shoonka2773 karma

In Denver there is a restaurant called Tocabe that is modern Native cuisine.

My favorite Native foods to eat are wojape (berry stew), corn soup, and deer meat stew.

samthemuffinman671 karma

Tocabe's food is so good!

Was my go-to first date place before I moved away from Denver.

shoonka488 karma

It's good but nothing beats the homemade stuff :)

engineeredthoughts1775 karma

Do you prefer being called "Indian" instead of "Native American"?

As an actual Indian I find it weird when people refer to Native Americans as Indians. I thought "Urban Indian" was going to be about someone from New Delhi or something.

shoonka1649 karma

I prefer being called by my tribal affiliation but if not, Indian.

No matter which group the term is applied to, yours or mine, it was given to us by the white man and not what our people knew each other as until European contact.

corialis1518 karma

Have you ever faced any problems from your peers about 'going white' or the crabs in a bucket mentality? I'm from Saskatchewan and striving to get good marks in school and go on to post-secondary gets a lot of Aboriginal kids shit from their community.

shoonka814 karma

There is definitely a stigma among those that still live on the rez towards those that move away or are born in the city like myself.

I haven't seen it much because I didn't have too many Native friends growing up but I have definitely seen those views expressed by members of my family and friends back home.

RufMixa555905 karma

My daughter and I were just reading some Greek mythology and she asked me if we could learn about Native American mythology next. I looked around and couldn't really find anything that seemed suitable.

Could you recommend a book for us to get started with?

shoonka782 karma

This would be a great question for /r/IndianCountry.

iamrandybutternubs272 karma

Damn dog, the subreddit is about to explode now!

shoonka336 karma

My pain is now yours.

LoNo2408815 karma

Apologies if this feels like I’m entertaining a stereotype- but how around how many Native Americans would you say still carry those ‘Traditional’ names, like ‘Sitting Bull’ or ‘Black Hoof’ etc. ?

shoonka1168 karma

I can't even begin to ballpark a number like this, but I would guess that it is a lot. Many families carry traditional last names, similar to the ones you named, and many of us have names that are given to us by important people of our tribe.

TexAg09742 karma

What is the one thing you’d like non Native-Americans to know about how life is in reservations given that the vast majority of Americans never set foot on one?

shoonka2024 karma

I see everyone talking about there being no clean drinking water for Flint, which is truly fucked up. (Incoming Kanye) But, many reservations I have visited and that are close to my own have not had clean drinking water for several decades.

On my own reservation everyone either pays to have an expensive water filtration system put in, or uses the big blue jugs of water because drinking tap water will literally give you cancer and kill you. When you shower, it smells of sulfur and the soap doesn't sud up. I have also seen it turn peoples hair a light shade of red.

polyphonic_sri448 karma

This is terrible. Do you know anything more? Why is this the case? Is the tribe working to improve the situation? Is the EPA involved at all?

shoonka1006 karma

So many reasons why this is the case. The tribe is doing all they can but how do you clean up a polluted river with no money?

The EPA is not as friendly to Natives as one would think.

sparksparkboom677 karma

I'm in two native American themed honor societies through Boy Scouts, are those ever perceived as racist by native Americans?

shoonka1197 karma

Most definitely, my little dude.

Let me know if you have some specific questions and I'll answer them for you.

xerept661 karma

I am not too familiar with your culture or stereotypes regarding it, so what is the biggest myth you'd like to debunk for us??

shoonka1610 karma

That we receive free healthcare, college, monthly checks, and are exempt from paying taxes.

DJStatic486 karma

What ritual do you find to be the most interesting in your opinion?

shoonka1358 karma

I mean no disrespect but I cannot share this information with you, sorry.

But my favorite tradition that is publicly known about are powwows!

SugamoNoGaijin359 karma

Hello from Japan :)

I have never met a native american, but I am assuming that most would be exactly the same as everyone else: leveraging recent technology, having regular jobs, migrating to large cities for opportunities with larger corporations, while keeping in mind your traditions and roots.

Am I very far from the truth?

Any specific myth that someone not living in america would not be aware of?


shoonka376 karma

Nope, you're spot on! Most of us live in urban environments and enjoy many of the same things everyone else does.

I'm not sure what myths exist outside America but I guess it would be that we are still here and still fighting for survival.

WizfanZZ345 karma

What are your thoughts on the Washington Redskins name and logo?

shoonka861 karma

I find it extremely offensive, as does everyone I have talked to about it in my family.

adjustableplaid484 karma

I used to be a huge Redskins fan since I started learning about football as a child. Until 5 years ago when I was attending a Public Speaking course at MSU Denver. Our professor assigned us to support an argument we are passionate about. I chose to support keeping the Redskins name. But, to make a long story short, throughout all of the research I did I concluded that I could no longer support the Washington Redskins and Dan Snyder's choice to keep the name. I took my Brian Orakpo jersey off, dropped it to the ground, and stood on it as I fielded questions. Our professor was a big Dallas Cowboys fan and was blown away. It was cool too that I still got an A on that assignment regardless of the fact that I went 4 minutes over on timing. I'm not a fantastic speaker by any means but I try. After that I took more than a year off from watching NFL football and shifted my focus to soccer.

shoonka366 karma

That is awesome! I am really pumped to hear that. I also just gave a speech on changing the name too in my public speaking class.

You're a badass, I hope you continue to educate people whenever the opportunity arises.

aircavrocker325 karma

What can you tell us about your feelings regarding blood quantum and how it affects both relationships within members of the tribe, and the tribes relationship with the Federal government?

shoonka990 karma

Personally, I think blood quantum is an institution designed to further wipe out our people. There is a saying that the government only tracks the blood of 3 things, dogs, horses, and Indians.

There was a time when I was a sort of "purist" or gatekeeper and believed that blood quantum was necessary. As I've grown older, I see the damage it has caused for my people. Unfortunately, it has become something that is so ingrained in many tribal governments.

I can't say how it has affected individual relationships and those with the government but it has definitely created a lot of animosity by those that are raised Native but are not officially considered members of their tribe.

pomegranatefresh303 karma

This is an awesome AMA.

Does your reservation face any surprising issues? How does rez life differ from urban life for you? Here in Canada it can be quite drastic, even from a city only 20km from me

shoonka306 karma

Thank you!

I think that each reservation has a very similar set of problems, along with their own unique ones also.

For me, rez life is so much simpler. Which I see as a good thing, but can also be bad if I had grown up there. I love going home to my reservation to see my family and be around my people. It is a nice change of pace from the city for sure.

potodds290 karma

What was it like rooming with Ernie?

shoonka332 karma

He is a snorer.

SmellsofMahogany274 karma

This might be an odd question, but do you have any sort of feeling of kinship with hispanics? We are both descendants of the American natives, but the ancient South American culture was very different than their more tribal northern counterparts. Also, we presumably have less native blood than someone who'd be classified as an American Indian, and we've very much morphed into our oen thing. I look forward to your response :)

shoonka674 karma

I don't see how you would have less of your Native blood.

I myself consider you guys my brothers and sisters of the south. Just like I consider Hawaiian and other Islanders my brothers and sisters of the sea. We are all indigenous people of this land.

BigGigantic13126 karma

I like your mentality and sense of brotherhood, however Hawaiians really aren't indigenous to this (American) land whatsoever. The fact that is considered part of America at all is political and has nothing to do with Hawaiians having any indigenous association with North America.

shoonka187 karma

Oh yeah for sure. My parents just brought me home a shirt from there that says "NO U.S. LAW IN THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM".

FulminicAcid243 karma

Does the perpetuation of the term “Indian” seem problematic to you when describing Native North Americans? Asking out of curiosity, not trying to initiate any identity politics arguments.

shoonka412 karma

Not at all, each person has their own preference though. I think the general consensus is that we prefer to be recognized by our Tribal Affiliation.

I call myself Indian all the time and only refer to myself as "Native American", when talking to a non-Native.

Nixplosion237 karma

I grew up in AZ and learned about the Hopi tribe in school. Whats a lesser known fact about that tribe you'd like to impart?

shoonka469 karma

Oh man, like I said, I wasn't raised in those traditions at all. But, I think the most interesting thing that I know is traditionally, tribal "membership" is passed through the mother.

So even though I meet the requirements for modern enrollment, since my mom is not Hopi, I am not traditionally considered a member of that tribe.

fuheyu216 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. My question is pretty straightforward:

Up here in British Columbia, reservations are generally regarded as being some of the poorest living conditions a person can endure, and my experience with reservations in the states hasn't been much different from that. Do your own experiences visiting reservations reaffirm or refute this?

shoonka289 karma

Thank you!

The reservations that I grew up around are the same conditions that you describe. The only exception being tribes here in the Northwest seem to have a little bit nicer of conditions than those of plains reservations, but I can't speak for all of them and have only visited a few.

I asked my dad about it one time, who is an expert in Indian Policy (especially in the Northwest) and he said it has to do with the fact that a lot of Northwestern tribes were the last to encounter settlers and manifest destiny.

I am not saying conditions on those reservations isn't bad or have its own set of problems though.

Jalleia203 karma

May I ask what the feelings are in regards to the Native Americans in Latin America? Since they're essentially just living in the cities normally, and don't have the kind of reservations present in the US and well... they're still natives to the Americas.

shoonka288 karma

I consider them family. Hopis are a southwestern tribe, so genetically we probably aren't too different.

But you're right, they are Native Americans and many of us consider them to be as well. We are all indigenous peoples.

idelson201 karma

Do you guys go by the name Aboriginal? I’m native Australian Aboriginal and was curious to know.

shoonka266 karma

Brother! (or sister)

We address ourselves by our tribes when speaking to one another. If I am telling a non-Native what I am, I tell them I am Native or Native American. Other than that, I just call myself Indian.

idelson129 karma

Awesome, at my college we have two Canadian Aboriginals (that’s how they introduced themselves) staying with us for a couple weeks to exchange our cultures and learn. Amazing how similar some of the things we have gone through are.

shoonka75 karma

Where are you from?

AperatureScientist193 karma

Have you heard of the book "there, there"? How accurate of a description of your life/that of your tribe is it?

shoonka175 karma

I have not read that book or heard of it, but I’ll have to look up a synopsis when I have time. Care to share one of your own?

sniggity_snax189 karma

Do you sometimes find yourself (consciously or subconsciously) doing the extreme opposite of the stereotypes of your people, in an effort to dispel those stereotypes? As in, maybe even going too far to the opposite extreme, much further than you would if the stereotype didn't exist? Or am i the only one that does this

shoonka202 karma

No I have definitely done this. I can't think of specific instances but I definitely have.

plz_callme_swarley172 karma

Do you speak your tribal language?

shoonka312 karma

Unfortunately I do not. I know a lot of words and can somewhat understand what is being discussed if I hear those words.

I have been trying to teach myself but it is Lakota instead of Nakota and definitely hard.

plz_callme_swarley101 karma

What is the difference between Lakota and Nakota? Do most people on the reservation speak their native language?

shoonka167 karma

They are both from the same language family but there are different words and meanings for things.

I think a lot of people speak the language on the rez but I wouldn't say "most".

xLambdax164 karma

How important is it for you to pass down your culture traditions for the next generation? Do you get mad when white people with a small portion of native american blood try to get benefits through it?

shoonka312 karma

It is extremely important for me to pass along our culture and traditions. It is such an integral part of my life and upbringing, that I couldn't imagine the person I'd be without it. When I have kids of my own, I will raise them just how I was.

It is definitely annoying but for the most part, it is pretty hard to officially pretend to be Indian. Especially in a way that grants you some sort of benefit.

kremeyy129 karma

What's the general feeling towards white people nowadays?

shoonka275 karma

I love 'em! I grew up in the suburbs of Denver so I was surrounded by them.

AntiIntellectual127 karma

Does the phrase "off the reservation" bother you?

shoonka294 karma

I’ve axtually been having this discussion a lot lately, so it’s a great question!

I can honestly say that it does bother me and those in my family I’ve talked to about it. The phrase is used to denote something or somebody who has completely gone mental or isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

As far as I know, the term comes from Indians leaving the reservations and being hunted down.

So to answer your question, it does bother me along with many other misnomers and phrases tied to my people.

Bomb_Tombadil65 karma

Damn, I didn't even know that phrase had anything to do with native people. I always heard it in the context of someone being out of their depth. I'll try to phase it out.

shoonka19 karma

"Indian giver" is much more offensive.

ApexApron99 karma

What's something that hasn't been asked but you'd like the opportunity to share, about yourself or your culture ?

shoonka416 karma

There are almost 600 Federally Recognized Tribes in the United States alone. Each with their own beautiful languages, customs, traditions, and culture. Add in the Canadian First Nations, Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders, and South Americans/Latin people, and it's safe to say that there are several thousand tribes throughout the Americas.

I wish people would stop lumping us all into a single entity. It's like thinking that all Europeans are like British people.

microslasher94 karma

Is there a book, movie, documentary that best represents the way of life of the typical modern native American tribe? For those more interested in learning about that culture?

shoonka196 karma

I don't know about best representing everyday life but if you find one let me know!

For Native documentaries I recommend Reel Injun, More Than a Word, Incident at Oglala, and We Shall Remain.

Tnlander89 karma

What one thing, if added to the reservation, would greatly improve the quality of life for everyone living there?

shoonka207 karma

Jeeze, I don't even know. Honest and responsible leadership.

Tripleshotlatte88 karma

What are some of the privileges or differences a Native American has that an ordinary US citizen doesn’t? And do you still have to register for selective service, get jury summons, etc?

shoonka242 karma

I can own eagle feathers. I also was exempt from the Obamacare fine of not being registered.

Still have to pay taxes, still have to register for selective service, and although it hasn't happened yet, I still have to show up for jury summons.

PastorofMuppets10179 karma

So, Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. He's bad, right?

shoonka129 karma

He's definitely bad.

Noilen174 karma

Does living in the city make it more difficult to stay in touch with your culture? If so, how?

shoonka175 karma

It definitely does. I had this talk with my mom the other day about how when she's gone, how will I raise my kids in our culture.

Everyone I know is through her and I feel like she is my strongest and only link to our tribe. I was brought up in our culture and traditions but I still feel as if growing up in the city has made me miss too many ceremonies and things like talks with elders that could guide my life even more.

When I have kids, I will do my best to raise them in our culture and try to create a stronger connection to our people than I myself have.

CaioMain71 karma

What are 'wolf people'?

shoonka127 karma

You got me there. Where did you hear this term?

sonofabutch65 karma

How did your parents meet?

shoonka93 karma

They met at a 49 after Denver March Powwow I believe. Or it was after a conference, but it was definitely during a 49.

sonofabutch56 karma

What’s a 49?

shoonka145 karma

It's a dance that takes place after a powwow where people sing round dance and two step songs.

It is more of a party than a powwow and its where you meet (snag) somebody to take home for the night and maybe be your future ex-spouse. Usually drinking is involved.

I have never been to a 49 though, just heard stories.


thackdacknack62 karma

How American do you feel?

shoonka229 karma

I feel an intense sense of belonging to the land of my people. I have great pride in my culture and our traditions.

I'm not patriotic but I feel very "American" in that regard.

vtjfvkc161 karma

What’s your favourite 90s hip-hop record?

shoonka117 karma

6 Feet Deep by Gravediggaz. Also a big fan of the Art of War by Bone Thugs N Harmony.

Duckierthanchu55 karma

What do you think about your cousins up North in Canada, the First Nations, Metis, and Inuits?

shoonka101 karma

Nothing but love and respect. Technically I am First Nations too, being that I am Assiniboine.

My dad also works for the largest Native Employer and 2nd largest employer in the state of Alaska. It is the most beautiful place I have ever visited and love to go back.

Fuck_The_West44 karma

What's your opinion on the Education of Little Tree?

shoonka173 karma

Oh fuck, that used to be my favorite book when I was a kid.

I was heartbroken to learn that it had not only been written by a white guy, but a fuckin klansmen at that. Fuck that dude and his fake book.

takestheraftwithhim40 karma

I was too man and it broke my heart. Then I listened to a radio lab episode that suggests he had a revelation about his actions and the damage he had done after living among Indians in Oklahoma. I know the majority consensus is that he made it up using stereotypes to tell the story. But that book drips with love, not hate, and it made my life richer and my kid’s lives richer. Left me better than I was before (and my kids). He did unforgivable damage but somehow made a piece of art that did the opposite. I don’t know why or how and I’m not sure if it matters. I think that’s one of the many weird and dichotomous things humans do and I’m okay with it.

Also, fuck him for writing George Wallace’s speeches.

shoonka20 karma

That's a good way to look at it!

shaunluu43 karma

Is American Indian okay to say? I'm in Minneapolis and we have the American Indian center. I catch non natives being caught off guard by the term but I assume if it was an issue, the center would surely have a different name by now.

shoonka47 karma

Yeah its more than ok. Some things are known just as "Indian __". Such as IHS, BIA, NCAI, ATNI, etc...

runyoudown42 karma

What are your thoughts on how Natives are treated in the U.S. vs Canada?

shoonka151 karma

I think they are treated pretty shitty up in Canada. But with this new administration, we are quickly trying to catch up.

HalfFroMan37 karma

Do you consider yourself more Native American or American, or do you believe that the two are mutually exclusive? Also, are you concerned with what mainstream America does with symbols regarding your culture? (eg: Feathered Headdresses, Redskins mascot, etc)

shoonka102 karma

Yes those things are very offensive and disrespectful.

I consider myself Native. I have some white blood in me, but I was raised Indian and everyone in my family is Indian. It is the only thing I identify as.

StandToContradict32 karma

Ok, perfect timing. I’m from Wyoming and currently live here. Last night I finally watched Wind River. It was horrific. Have you seen it? If so is that what life is like on all reservations? I’ve only been to the casinos which I didn’t like and they don’t show the whole picture. If you have seen it I have follow up questions. If you haven’t seen it I also have follow up questions. I can PM you if that is better for you.

Edit to add: I know my questions seem ignorant and I am not as knowledgeable on your culture as I should be or would like to be. I truly do not mean to be disrespectful with my questions/ interest.

shoonka34 karma

No disrespect.

I have seen that movie and it shook me to my core. I can't say that is what life is like on all reservations but a lot of them it certainly is.

CrusaderKingstheNews26 karma

How do you feel about the non-native locals you grew up with versus the rural ones you've met? I'm a non-native from South Dakota, and I found it pretty accurate when Mary Crow Dog wrote "White kids in South Dakota are born racist." I wasn't taught it by my parents, but white people in South Dakota make rez jokes and insult natives (especially the accent) all the time like it's 1950s Alabama. It just grows into you, and unless you're taught otherwise, it stays with you.

shoonka63 karma

My mom is adamant that South Dakota is the most racist state in the country.

I have dealt with racism from both country and urban folks though, they're just different types. A city person might not call me a prairie nigger to my face, but they'll proudly do the tomahawk chop and dress up in redface.

johnjr12125 karma

Do you find it offensive that there is a football team named the Redskins? Do you have any other thoughts/opinions on the matter?

shoonka89 karma

Yes. I find it extremely offensive. Everyone in my family that I have talked to finds it offensive.

I have written many papers and presentations about this topic so I consider myself an expert.

I could go on about it forever, but long story short: Native imagery in sports and as logos/mascots has been proven to lead to higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide among Native youth.

Catman4199 karma

What are your thoughts on people who are a fraction of NA heritage, (1/16th, 1/32nd, etc)? Do you consider them NA, basically the “one drop” theory, (old propaganda used against blacks IIRC, saying even one drop of blood makes them whatever that one drop of blood is)?

shoonka25 karma

If they are raised in the culture and in their traditions then I consider them Native. Many "white-passing" people in my family, including one of my sisters.

dcast7776 karma

Are you completely exempt from state laws on the reservation? What other abnormalities of the enforcement of laws would others be surprised about?

shoonka9 karma

Oh man tribal jurisdiction is so insanely complicated. As far as I know, only a Federal agency can prosecute and arrest me for a crime committed by me or against me by another Native.

The only time I think a state agency is involved is if its white on white or Native on white crime.

Sorry I can't answer your question better but when my grandpa was young they used to bait police into chasing them onto the rez in their cars.

moonday5 karma

Skinwalkers. I’ve always been fascinated. Do you or your family have any stories of encounters? Or do you think it’s all lore?

shoonka5 karma

I'm only making this comment to clear up misinformation from other commenters but it is not something I like to talk about.

What you speak of is not only a Navajo thing. They exist in many different tribes, mostly Southwestern or Desert. There have been encounters.

original_greaser_bob2 karma

do you agree with people calling Poplar "Stab City" even though, at best, it is a town?

shoonka8 karma

Bob you are the only one I have ever heard call Poplar, "Stab City".

toan552 karma

What is your favorite first level in a video game?

shoonka7 karma

First level? I've never thought of that one!

I suppose it would be the introduction to Conkers Bad Fur Day.