With Nov. being Native Heritage month I chose to honor my Shima(Navajo Mother). She was born and raised on the Navajo reservation. My mother was raised in a hogan until her family had to move because of land disputes. Growing up my mother learned the importance of imagination as she made games out of sticks, rocks, and dirt. At a young age she discovered her love/passion for drawing and painting, and still paints in her free time. After graduating high school she was baptized and converted to the LDS religion. She went on to further her education and obtain bachelors degree at BYU. It was at BYU that she met her husband and later started a family. She's the most kind hearted person I know and she's the definition of strong! I'm blessed to be her daughter #nativeamericanheritagemonth #navajopride #tibblefork #patsybegay

A photo posted by @shikeyahrutter on

A photo posted by Megasari Ritonga (@queenbee_gha) on

ALL AMERICAN CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT THAT “sharing is caring”, but the motivation behind the act of giving and what giving means varies between Native American and European American culture. Though Native American values and traditions vary from tribe to tribe, the sentiments around the act of giving remain pretty consistent. Native American cultures are built on communal values with a large emphasis on the importance of giving, being equals, and the distribution of wealth. Generosity is our way of life. Needless to say, the Native American giving culture has been grossly misunderstood for hundreds of years. Here’s why:

1. Giving is not a sacrifice.

We are motivated by the joy of taking care of one another and the trust that when we are in need, our community will take care of us in return. We do not give to gain leverage over others or to add philanthropy to our resumes. To Native Americans, the act of giving brings us closer together and is a loving commitment to our community. But in European American culture, which is built on property ownership and saving for oneself, giving is seen as a sacrifice sometimes resulting in feelings of loss or of giving up something. This type of system feels isolating, distrusting, unbalanced, and lonely to a Native American.

2. Taking is trusting.

Because we value the Earth, we will never take more than what we need, so as not to deplete our resources. We will also return the favor by giving back and taking care of the Earth, because she’s takes care of us. The same goes for taking from one another. Native Americans trust that you’re only taking exactly what you need and nothing more, and we trust that you’ll return the favor to us when you are able. It’s often labeled as “Indian Giving” because in European American culture gifts are for the taking and are not supposed to be returned.

Personally, I’ve been told many times that I have to stop being such a giving person. But giving is in my nature. Why can’t I tell someone to stop being such a taking person? So rather than penalizing Native Americans for being so giving, respect our ways and respond with “I cannot accept this gift because it is not something that I can give in return.”

3. Never ask for something you would never give.

To Native Americans, asking is a vulnerable act and an opportunity to deepen our connection to the community. We feel honored when someone asks something from us, because it’s giving us the chance to become closer to you and to show you how committed we are to the relationship. But never ask for something you would never give in return. A Native American will expect that if you have the ability to take it, then you will have the ability to give it as well. Asking, giving, and taking is a continuous circle that when broken becomes unbalanced and unequal.

4. Gifts don’t have to be material.

Native American wealth is not weighed in just tangible goods. Spirituality is just as important as the physical world. Sometimes feeding our souls with wisdom or a good joke can be as valuable as a blanket, food, or manual work. Whatever you have the ability to give will always be greatly appreciated by a Native American, as long as you’re giving your best.

5. Value is what you make it.

Native Americans have an incredible capacity to see things from others’ perspectives. So we understand that the value of something varies from person to person, and that things have not only monetary value, but also carry spiritual and personal value. This historically led to major misunderstandings, especially to tribes who signed treaties unknowingly giving away their land for material goods like currency, beads, and mirrors. To a Native American, it’s important to have a clear understanding as to how each person perceives the value of what is being given, taken, and asked for.