The Secret to Tribe Writing

Today I was asked to question my own beliefs and motivations behind my choice to use the word TRIBE by a new community member.

The Secret to Tribe Writing - Intention is everything.

Their Post:

“Yesterday was indigenous peoples day. And I have a request and a perspective to share. Many of us may have some level of indigenous blood, or it may or may not be traceable. We all have ancestors and we all have indigenous roots, and ultimately we are all related.

At the same time there is generational trauma, and it is just a few generations back for severe trauma to Native Americans, and it is still happening to various degrees now. I worked on a reservation for many years and I have Native friends.

I have advocated for both children and adult Native Americans, among courts systems, school systems, and with peace officers. I have as a clinician and community leader, been the witness, the therapist, the coach and mediator.

It is not respectful to generically use the term “Tribe”, can we please use terms such as community or audience and not tribe as a generic term. This simple act can make a difference in being present today, in generational healing and respect for all. Thank you for reading.”

My Response:

“I appreciate your opinion. I choose to use the word tribe in full respect to the word, the lineage of the people and to natives of all lands. One of my certifications as an educator is in building Tribes Learning Communities.

Tribe to some is a stereotype – yet as an educator, I feel it is extremely important to bring awareness and acceptance to the deeper connection of the word.

I spent many hours studying with Native Americans in Wisconsin, discussing exactly this… especially referencing educating others and the appropriateness of language.

The last thing I want is to be disrespectful to Native Americans, and all other tribes of our world. Rather the opposite… my desire is to break any negative stereotypes associated with the word tribe and to bring forward the deep richness of the cultures of the world.

But by the time I finished typing my response, a seed of self-doubt had rooted. So I reached out to a friend…

Hey Kelly, Okay, so I’d love your advice or support or slap in the face….

I was just called out as being disrespectful to Native Americans for using the word tribe… and back at UWO, we spoke to Native American teachers about what and why and how etc.

Please tell me if I’m wrong. Seriously. Last discussed was 6 years ago so I could very well be out of line…

Here’s what’s going on:

Kelly’s Response:

A Tribe by definition is “a group of people United by common descent and sharing common customs”.

As a Native American I do not take offense to your usage of the term. You apply it as defined and leave no hint of negative implication.

My Anishnabe tribe is Potawatomi. As a family, my daughters and significant other are my tribe. As writers, women, entrepreneurs & lovers of this earth, YOU are my tribe.

“Tribe” is a term introduced and defined by a “tribe” of non native people and is commonly used to distinguish various “groups” of Native Americans. Any word can be used and implied with negative connotation but I myself have never been offended with the way you speak of your tribe. I find it to be a beautiful connection. I myself am more irritated with the use of the term “Indian” lol…. – Kelly Tovar

Food for Thought:

Intention is everything…

Be transparent and bring your awareness to a deeper understanding.

We are obligated to go beyond tolerance, even beyond acceptance, and truly embrace understanding each other.

And remember: you, to the core of your soul, know your truth.

Thank you for being part of my tribe. Truly, it means the world to me.


  1. Daphne Grayson on August 11, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks Stephritz, for giving more clarification to the term and I feel very fortunated to be apart of your tribe. I enjoying all of our writings.

  2. Sarah on September 12, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you Steph for clarifying but more giving such greatness and insight both to our language but even at a moment of doubt – honesty and truth prevail . Love this and it’s complete circle – synchronistically as you are true to your heart and calling on your friend that speaks from her heart but is also at the core of the topic being discussed – beautifully written by both of you – thank you for sharing !

  3. Cheryl on June 11, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Thank you, Steph. I really appreciate your explaining the use of the term “tribe” and for encouraging everyone to share their truth and express from our hearts.

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