My Indigenous Personal Journey

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May 27, 2024

Hello, My name is Melissa Marcia Gonzales, and I wish to share with you a deeply personal journey sharing grief, resilience, and the healing power of tradition.  

Currently a proud member of the Patterson of the Kickapoo and Sac & Fox tribe family and I was born as a descendant of the bloodline of Surveyors, Roman Nose “Thunder” and Chief Dull Knife family. From the Northern and Southern Cheyenne Tribe, I carry with me the rich legacy of our ancestors. Their stories and their traditions are the very essence of who I am and who I strive to be.  

But our journey took a turn on May 31, 2023, when my beloved mother, Marcia Nina Patterson, went on the spirit world. A master of many crafts—Southern Cloth Dancer, beader, fry bread maker, seamstress, and ribbon skirt maker—her absence left a profound void in my life. Her battle with cirrhosis of the liver, ending just a day before a transplant, shook me to my core. Witnessing her battles with her illness, I too faced my own diagnosis, and the challenges seemed insurmountable.  

Yet, amidst the darkness, I found a guiding light in my father, David Patterson—a Gourd Dancer, drummer, teacher, and speaker. His unwavering strength became my beacon of hope, inspiring me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace dance as a form of healing. Guided by prayer and focus, I dance for her. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery and resilience. Always learning, making good, some mistakes along the way but not to far astray always keeping my heart open, she constantly is with me and never lets me forget it. Interestingly enough as I write this missing her, tears rolling down my face her fancy bag just fell over from across the room. Yes, and thank you for that reminder.

Working through missing my mom, I went from feeling loss trying to make her proud making my own regalia to then comforted when I earned and inherited her regalia. I truly wear it for her and dance because she no longer can.

On April 21, 2024, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hosted a Pow Wow named For the Planet— Thank you to Tami Tiger, and Shelly White for allowing our family to do an honorary “coming out” special. At my side displaying the coming out as a dancer, my aunt Yvonne Hawk Verjgan-elder Southern cloth dancer, my dad David Patterson gourd dancer, teacher, and drummer, family members and my trusted friends. I felt such gratitude and loving support from the community in Las Vegas, NV where I’ve made my home for the last 12 years. It is an honor to bean upstanding member of our native community and will continue to pass on our traditions through generations.  

My journey into dance traces back to my childhood, where the vibrant spirit of our culture ignited a fire within me. I would get scolded for trying to grass dance on the sidelines at the pow-wow. I remember so vividly telling me to put my leg down and behave like a lady lol. She always wanted me to dance but not the grass dance. Despite my initial shyness, I found solace in healthy living, cooking, beadwork, handcrafts, and now as a Dancer. I am nurtured by my parents’ commitment to preserving our traditions.  

In honoring my ancestors and embracing my cultural identity, I find purpose and resilience. My journey is a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the healing found within our heritage.  

As I embark on my journey, recently visiting Cal State Long Beach, CA Pow , Gathering of Nations in New Mexico, and UCLA in California, I carry with me the lessons of the past and the hope for the future. My goals are to manage funds to travel and dance. Along the way I plan adding more to my journey as much as possible aside from giving back to the community and passing on traditions, sharing native crafts, sewing, and more.

Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of my heart with you.