Oct 6, 2016 - What’s in a last name? by Earth-Feather Sovereign
What’s in a last name? Before the European Settlers arrived in the Americas, in the middle ages, people were given last names, to decipher from one John from another. Their last names were named after their occupation, where they lived, their first names, and after their talents. Then property laws became imminent, after the passing of John Doe, and his son Doe junior would be able to be recognized as the heir of his father’s estate. Property did not only consist of land, but also objects, cattle, women, and children. Entitlement was given to the men and patriarchy was born.
In 1452, the Doctrine of Discovery was proclaimed declaring war against all non-Christians. Pope Nicholas directed King Alfonso to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” to “put them into perpetual slavery,” and “to take all their possessions and property” [Davenport: 20-26]. In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed across the “Deep Blue Sea” in search of new land with the Doctrine of Discovery in mind.
Christopher Columbus was one of the first sex and slave traffickers of his time. Selling the Indigenous People of Caribbean Islands, while forcing its people into extinction. The Indigenous People of the Americas were the first Slaves in America. Slave owners often gave the slaves their surnames to let others know of whom they belong to.
The Doctrine of Discovery also influenced slave trade in Africa. In 1692, slaves from Africa were brought to the North American colony of James Town. The slave owners also identified the African slaves as theirs by giving them their surnames.
During the colonial days Tribesmen and African Americans who were uneducated often signed Treaties and legal contracts using an X as their signature.
In 1887, the Dawes Act adopted by Congress gave permission for the government to survey Tribal Land and divide the land in to allotments, for Tribal Members. Tribal Members often had difficult names for the non-native speaking agent to pronounce. The President authorized the Indian Affairs Commissioner to give the people European names. Tribal members were often named after Commissioner, military officers, and even Presidents.
Native American Children were stolen and brought to live in military run boarding schools. The children were kept from their Tribe and families while being forced to change out of their traditional clothes, forced to cut their hair, forced to give up their Native language, forced to live in brutal living conditions, and forced to give up their traditional names. The children were given names from the people of European history or names from the Bible. European names is proof that the Indigenous American People are assimilated and conquered by the European Settlers.
Patriarchy was forced on the Indigenous People. The Colonizers did not give consideration that allot of the Indigenous People were Matriarchal Societies; meaning the children belonged to their mother’s Clan and family.
Indigenous People often gave their People many names throughout their lifetime. A name as an infant, a name as a child, a name as an adult, and a Spiritual name or a name in honor of a noble act.
Today, what does your name say about you? Do you take pride in your last name, the same last name of your oppressor?
What do people see when they see you with the last name of the Irish name of Goldstein, the Jewish name of Brady, the German name of Wagner, the French name of Roy, the Spanish name of Garcia, or the Presidential name of Jackson?
Will they look at you and remember their history, that you are a conquered being? That your people use to be gun down for their skins, your people colonized, your children stolen, that you were once property? That as a woman, you are still treated as property, because your last name came from a man. A man who may have oppressed you, abandoned you, or abused you, and your children?
I am an Indigenous Woman! My lineage is from a Matriarchal Society. Matriarchy is not like Patriarchy. Patriarchy seems to be about power and control. Matriarchy is about being a part of my Mother’s clan. Women leaders who nurture and take care of their people as a whole. I reclaim my children and their children’s children!
I chose the last name of Sovereign. I choose to Reign Over myself! I will no longer accept to be abused! I will take back my body, my family, my Tribe, and my People! I take back my Sovereignty….
I call to action for ALL of my Indigenous People to do the same! We can Not be free, if you are not seen as free. Reclaim your Sovereignty!
Earth-Feather Sovereign, is a member of the Okanogan and Sanpoil bands of the Colville Confederated Tribes, in the State of Washington. Sovereign is an inspired poet and writer. Sovereign is on the board of directors of Help Assaulted Women and Kids (H.A.W.K.). Sovereign is a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate. Sovereign is striving to obtain her degree in Business Management and Tribal Governance and has received her certificate in Cultural Resource Management. Sovereign envisions of becoming a civil rights attorney, so she could continue to protect, advocate, and help Our Indigenous People in continued Sovereignty over their inherent rights and self-worth. Sovereign is a protector and a supporter of human rights and environmental rights with No Dakota Access Pipeline (NoDAPL), Idle No More, American Indian Movement (AIM), Colville’s for Justice, and is the founder of Indigenous Women’s Warrior Society. Sovereign enjoys being a mother, attending LDS church, participating in traditional ceremonies, cultural activities, attending powwows, and gatherings.