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Research and Reflection on Your Indigenous Ancestors

As you spend time with this window of ancestry, we encourage you to do a little research into when and where your ancestors might have been indigenous. Remember, if you are adopted, you are welcome to consider either your adopted family line, your biological line, or both – this is entirely up to you. We honor the kinship bond of adoption as one that binds you to the ancestry of your adopted family on equal/parallel lines as the bond of biology, and we trust you to work with whatever ancestral lines are most appropriate for you at this time. The same is true of any other-than-biological kinship you are tracking for this course.


This exercise has much in common with the one we encouraged you to engage in for the study portion of Session Two (“Research and Reflection on Your Family Story”), however the focus now is not on migration or assimilation, but on the place or places where your ancestors held a strong bond to the land before migration, assimilation, or older disruptions of colonial / imperial forces in Europe. For many (but not all) people who are now white, their indigenous ancestors first encountered imperial aggression and destruction of indigenous lifeways through the Roman Empire.


If you know nothing (or very little) about your family story, you may want to simply Google your last name, and any other family last names that you know (your mother’s name before marriage; grandmothers’ names before marriage, etc). For example, when I Google “Hancock surname origin”, I can see that it is an English name. The same is true of most surnames in my family. If I knew nothing else about my family, this would still lead me to consider indigenous peoples of England (who fought and succumbed, in different capacities at different times, to Roman imperialism) as potentially part of my ancestral story.


Below are some resources that might help you consider basic themes of indigenous or folk traditions you may have some connection to, through the part of your lineage that is now considered white. Keep in mind that, when faced with colonization and/or imperialism (from the Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, etc), older indigenous traditions often morphed into what we call “folk traditions” today. 

*The following resources are for your reference as you consider/explore your ancestry. We do not expect you to read or look at all of them.

  • Ancient Spirit Rising Practices – An excerpt from Ancient Spirit Rising, by Pegi Eyers

    • “IK” is an abbreviation for “Indigenous Knowledge”

    • We are thankful to Pegi for making this resource available as a PDF to our class!

    • Note that Pegi takes a very specific approach to European indigenous traditions, actively encouraging her reader to reclaim their own European, earth-honoring roots. While some of you may feel called to do this, White Awake is not encouraging or even recommending that you make this activity part of your personal journey. Our goal is for each of you to understand that these older, ancestral lines exist, and to come into an appropriate relationship with them in whatever way is best for you.

  • Magical World of Aradia – This is a passage from the 1998 translation by Mario Pazzaglini, PhD and his mother, Dina Pazzaglini. It focus on Northern Italy, and is a useful resource for thinking about the ways that older earth-honoring traditions remained alive through thousands of years of repression

  • Boudicca – A short summary of how Boudicca united Celtic tribes against the Roman invasion of the British IslesBoudicca’s story helps illuminate some of the earliest forms of colonization in the British Isles, which would later become the colonizing force that gave birth to “whiteness” and white supremacy.

  • Before We Were White #1 Participant Sharing: Exploring Earth-Honoring Traditions of European AncestorsThis is a compilation of resources shared with us by participants in our first Before We Were White course (Jan-Feb, 2018). The list is in no way comprehensive, but we are thankful for the rich variety of things participants shared, some of which may be helpful to you!

  • Consider what remnants of earth-honoring traditions you have access to right now – a holiday/s or holy day/s; nursery rhymes, “folk” or fairy tales; folk songs or a lullaby (especially those that are preserved in the language of your ethnic fore-bearers, before assimilation). These elements of ethnic, cultural, or religious heritage can be considered important links to older, earth-honoring cultural ways.

    • A lot of baggage may have accumulated around these pieces of heritage through imperialism, colonialism, or capitalism (take Halloween, for example, which is based on a pagan holy day in which Celts honored their beloved dead as the harvest season ended; was co-opted as a Christian celebration when religious imperialism spread through Europe; and has now been further co-opted by capitalism as a consumer-oriented event that prioritizes candy and manufactured costumes).

    • However, we encourage you to look for links to older traditions wherever you can find them (brushing off accumulations that might not serve you), and honoring the mystery and beauty they contain.


Return to Session Four of the course participant page.

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