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I've been an aspiring vegetarian for almost a year now. I've never been able to get past the 'flirting' point and I've realized lately, alot of it has to do with my family's traditions, beliefs and customs.
I was raised in a pretty traditional Lakota Indian family, where the women grew the gardens and the men were the hunters. My mother and my grandmother would tell me stories of our heritage and why we do the thing we do and the way we do them, but it never failed, even as a child, when it came time to process anything the men brought home, I would be nowhere to be seen. See, my grandparents, especially, would tell me stories of how everything was related and how all things on the Earth are our relations. "Mitakuye' O'yasin."
So it never made sense to me, that if the deer or the fish was my brother, why on earth would I want to EAT them? In my young mind, that was like cannibalism and that wasn't going to happen in my world.
This stuck with me for years.
Last year, my New Years resolution was to go vegetarian. A decision that did not sit well with my family. My husband of 23 years, who has always been an avid hunter and fisherman, couldn't figure out how to provide for his wife any more. At first, he took it almost as a rejection. He's tempered down some, but is still confused at how to help with meal planning and is leery about going out to eat anywhere with me. Its still beyond him how anyone can survive without meat.
My mother has many heath issues and has taken notice that I feel and look much better than I used to. I was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS 7 years ago and since going vegetarian, I'm in complete remission. She asked me once about what does it mean to be a vegetarian? I told her, "It means I'm not eating anything that had a face, Mom."
She made a soup for me one night and was very proud that she "made it vegetarian" just for me... And added beef stock for flavor.
Her logic behind this was that "Beef stock doesn't have a face."
She, too, is still perplexed over the whole idea of no meat, whatsoever, in my diet. She wants to learn, though, so its a start!
My brothers, on the other hand? Well, everyones got to have one or two of those "special" folks in their family that can't have anything constructive to say.
I don't force my choices on anyone. This is a spiritual, emotional and physical choice that I don't eat meat. I don't condemn them for what they eat or how they live, but they feel the need to get in their two cents whenever possible.
Usually its, "My favorite vegetable is chicken." or "Hows it coming with that rabbit chow you call food?" Or even going so far as to bring a plate of leaves in to me on Thanksgiving. They thought it was funny. My husband just looked at them and then at me and waited for the eruption to happen.
It occurred to me, though, that our culture has had so much play in our beliefs that anything deviating from our native ways is viewed in our family as almost forsaking our heritage. While my mother is more open to learning new ways and experiencing new things, my brothers view my life choices as a slap in the face and they're using obnoxious humor to hide their resentment and anger.
Its really an odd situation and hopefully, over time, it will get better.
Either that, or they'll just move away. ;)
Anyways, I didn't mean for this to become such a long winded post. Thanks for reading and I hope someone can give me some tips on how to go about dealing with these two. I plan on getting past the 'flirt' stage this New Years, and I know it'll just give them more ammunition. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Kay. It sounds like you have a pretty difficult situation there, more difficult than the social situations that most of us have had to deal with during our transition. While meat is a big part of our culture, it seems to be a much larger part of your Lakota culture especially since there is such an emphasis on hunting. I can see how this would be hard for you to butt-up against. It sounds like you have known you should be vegetarian since you were little though and you should follow your heart no matter what. The fact that it has sent your MS into remission is phenomenal and such a huge reason that you should continue. It is sad that your family can not even see this as a great reason to stick with your new lifestyle. Looking from the outside in, it makes perfect sense to me that with your culture and belief of connectedness (which I have always appreciated and respected as part of your culture--I wish ours thought that way!) that you would not think it right to eat animals. Unfortunately, when people do the same thing for years many are unwilling to change and are threatened. I think you are doing a great job sticking to your beliefs and you are just going to have to sincerely ask your brothers for their respect. As for me, if it was not given, I would probably pull away a little bit simply because I can not be with people who do not respect me and my choices as I do theirs. You are being completely respectful of theirs and you deserve the same. Your husband will slowly come around, don't worry. If he sees you happy and healthy and understands the connection he should also appreciate and respect it also. Good luck and we are glad to have you here!
hi kay! above is an interesting article from the vegetarian resource group about the evolution of meat eating in native american cultures - you have to scroll down the page until you hit that article. it kinda explains the contradiction between the reverence for the animals and the heavy hunting - seems it wasn't always that way (the hunting part!).
if any in your family are activists, you could possibly come at it from that direction - that traditionally your people were not big meat eaters, and it was the invasion of europeans that led to the change toward a bigger dependence on meat and hunting. If that article is correct in facts, you eating much less meat is actually more traditional to your culture!
there are also some great veggie recipes like three sisters (?) that are native american so maybe you could start compiling a list of dishes from your culture that are veg - it may be an easier way "in" with your family then putting a big hunk of tofu on the table!
Thank you both so much for your input! :)
I'm very thankful that while my husband doesn't comprehend my choices, he doesn't berate me for making them. He's just baffled at how to deal with it, I guess? I'll definitely be checking out those recipes! Maybe it will help put him at ease. He's such a good, kind-hearted man and we've been together for so long, its heart breaking to see how such a personal decision has him feeling so insecure. I guess the male ego is more fragile than I thought it was. He'll come around, though. I haven't, physically, felt this good in years, and he knows it.
My mother was so totally blown away by my choice, she just can't seem to wrap her mind around it.
Heres a glimpse of our conversation a year ago.
"Have you made your New Years Resolution yet?"
"Yes, Mama, I've decided this year, I'm going to try my hand at being a vegetarian."
"So you're only going to eat chicken and fish?"
"No, Mom. I'm not going to eat meat, at all."
"So not even chicken and fish? Whats left to eat?"
"Lots of stuff!"
"So maybe you could have turkey on Thanksgiving, then, right?"
"No, Mama. Nothing with a face."
"But you get them at the grocery store. They don't have faces when they get there."
"But they had one before that. Don't worry, Mama. I won't make you go without."
"Good, but I don't know how you're gonna eat. You're gonna waste away and be sick!"
"If I start getting sick, I'll eat meat again, okay?"
Shes done her best to understand and be helpful, but bless her heart, she can't make a single meal without some type of meat in it. We'll get there. I have faith.
Those brothers, though? Not only do they see my choice as a blow to our heritage, but they see it as herbivores are prey and carnivores are predators. Predators are strong and prey is weak.
I think I just need to take them outside for a big sister butt-kickin' one time. LOL
Kay, the funny part about your brothers' opinions is that without our weapons, humans are prey too. It doesn't make them weak, it makes them smart by finding ways to outwit their predators. Unfortunately, our prey species has found a way to outwit our predators but we use it to kill and eat them. Not cool! Obviously there are carnivores in this world that need meat to survive, but as I have talked about in other discussions, humans are not carnivores anatomically. This is a huge reason as to why animal products make us sick and lead to diseases. If you compare our anatomy to that of a carnivore or an herbivore, we are so much closer to herbivores.
Kay, I appreciate your humor, resolve, nice writing style and patience with your mom. Best wishes to you in your journey! Stay veg and stay healthy!
Thank you. :) I'm glad theres someplace I can go now to get support and encouragement. I'm so glad you all are here! :D
catconsrv- I'm not really sure where my brothers have developed the "caveman" mentality. I can understand having different views, but to belittle me to make them feel more right wasn't something they were taught. Trying to talk to those two has proven to be about as productive as trying to teach a goat quantum physics.
All four of my children were also raised traditionally, and not one of them has an issue with my choice. A couple of them have even decided they like to experiment with new recipes and flavors afforded with vegetarian cooking. Maybe its just a generational difference?
*sigh* And now the hubby has started the, "It must be all the chemicals and growth hormones in store-bought meats. Now that you've gone without meat for a while, you should try venison."
Just when I think he gets it enough to respect my choices, he dives in and second guesses me again. AARRGGHH!
Kay -- Sorry this is tough on you, but you are making the right choice. I, too, have R/R MS and that was the main reason I chose to be vegan. Now, the longer I am vegan, I am finding other reasons as well.
I found that, while being an activist of sorts is important for vegans/vegetarians, even in an educational or "leading by example" sense, There is a period of time at the beginning of your transition where it pays more to "fly under the radar". By this, I mean, keep a low profile, and just fix what you need for yourself, grains or beans that you can use to fill in the nutritional "holes" on your communal table. In other words, Just eat the side dishes your family provides that have little or no animal products, and fill in the gaps with your own healthy food, even if you have to sneak it before or after. If you are being picked on, don't feed the fire for a while. Use short, matter of fact answers to questions. If the fire is not being fed, it will die out because your brothers will get bored with their game. Just try laying low for a while, while privately sticking to your guns, and people really will lose interest in picking on you. Then, as you become more confident and more used to your choice, you can become a little bolder, little by little. At that point, if you have an opportunity to cook some really delicious vegan or vegetarian food to share with your family, that would be a good chance to show them they just may not have it all figured out. Still, though, educate gently, by example, and don't feed the fire! Good luck, and remember, your health comes first! http://midlifevegan.blogspot.com