Reconnecting The Circle had a chance to catch up with Georgetown student and NASC Students of Color Alliance Representative, ANDREW VONDALL, of the Crow Nation. Andy writes a weekly newsletter for the Native American Club at Georgetown University, which was founded just recently in 2012. No surprise, Andy was part of the founding group, along with Hilary Andrews (Chair). Georgetown will also be hosting its first annual powwow this year. We interviewed Andy to learn more about what he believes the rest of us should know about the Crow Nation and Native American cultures (that’s plural), in general.
RTC: Andy, what would you say is the single most valuable element about your culture that has really shaped your life?
AV: The Crow language. 85% of our elders still speak Crow daily. Very important aspects that I associate with my culture have been spoken in Crow — powerful prayers, naming ceremonies, honoring ceremonies. During parades, we have a Crow Cryer – a Crow member who speaks only crow during the whole parade. The Crow language connects my family and community. It’s a really huge part, because people speak Crow to each other on the reservation and off the reservation. Non-Native people don’t talk about losing their language. When Native Americans talk about losing their language, it’s a big loss. As if someone died. It’s very somber. Losing a language is like losing the culture — language is the backbone to the culture. When we hear about other tribes not speaking their language anymore, it’s really tough. What would we do? Where would we go?
The Crow language connects my family and community.
RTC: I understand your father and mother are military — which arms of the military?
AV: My mother is a Commander in the Navy. My father is a Marine Corps veteran. Other members of my family have served in the Navy and Marine Corps. We’re a very traditional family.
RTC: How many of your family members are or have been in the military?
AV: A lot. My aunt (mom’s sister) just retired after 20 years of service in the Navy. Many of my cousins are in the military. My grandparents and great-grandparents were in WWII. On my dad’s side, my grandfather served in Vietnam and my great-grandfather in WWII.
The Crow Tribe has a warrior culture. When Crow people serve in the military, regardless of the type of service, they are recognized as actual warriors. It’s deeply integrated in our culture. Serving our people and being part of a fighting force has always been important to us. The Crow only fight if they need to — for their land.
The Crow tribe never fought against the U.S.
My father’s family is North Dakota Sioux (Dakota). Indians weren’t allowed to join the military for a long time. It was a big deal to keep Indians away from a fighting force. It was a really big blow to the culture.
The warrior culture = proving yourself. It means you’re capable of fighting when necessary; protecting family, protecting tribe, protecting land. It’s a very personal thing. Most people who have served have their own reasons for doing so.
The Crow live on their original homelands.
RTC: Which VALUES does your family promote in the home, based on their military backgrounds?
- Hard work without complaining or getting tired. Working tirelessly. You’re not supposed to show that you’re tired or that what you’re doing is difficult. Make it look like you want to do it. There’s a difference in working hard with a bad attitude vs. a good attitude.
- Having a good attitude. That came from my mom’s side.
- Family. Runs very deep. You may not like your family a lot of the times or not get along with them, but your family and tribe always come first.
My family travels all over the world. I learned that the only place you can really sleep well, lay your head down, and be comfortable, is home on the Crow reservation. We always conduct ourselves in a way to honor that. When we travel, we’re on our best behavior, because home is in Montana — the one place we’ll always be safe.
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