Finding Wolf Spirit
Photo courtesy Smith.
If you’ve met her, you probably know her affectionately as “Wolfie” – a nickname of admiration given to her by close friends. By birth, she is Susan Smith.
She remembers the moment when she began to question her spirituality identity and began looking for something more.
Smith grew up in a Richmond-area Baptist Church her family attended faithfully each Sunday. Both parents taught Sunday school and held many jobs in the church.
A black family came to the church and were asked to leave before the Sunday service. This was the mid-1970s.
“When my parents saw that, we all sat down around the dinner table…” she said. ”My dad sat there at the end of the table – ‘what we all witnessed today, how do you feel about returning?’”
Although she attended a Christian school up to high school, her family never returned to that church. It was during those years that Smith’s parents began exploring their Native American heritage.
Smith learned her father was of Southern Cherokee descent and mother was of Nansemond descent. Each Native American tribe has varying rules for membership including proof of descent through genealogy.
She’s reconciled sexuality with heritage. In Native American culture, the term “two-spirit” is used to identify any combination of mixed gender roles and has been documented by over 130 tribes. No one was looked down upon by other tribal members unlike todays society according to Smith.
“Most of them, the tribe held high as a person of value. Some were used on council and others ended up being medicine men,” she said.
She’s currently actively involved in both Tribes although the Nansemond Tribe is working on the Mattonock Project. The tribe has been working to secure land from the City of Suffolk to build a cultural center including a rendition of a village, museum, and a school for the future of the tribe.
She is a traditional women’s buckskin dancer and gets emotional talking about the art.
“I wear buckskin regalia and between the drum, the earth and the creator the energy I feel is amazing when I go into the circle,” she said. ”I dance for the Spirit of the Wolf. I am the Spirit of the Wolf.”
Smith is Wolf Spirit – a name given to her by a Nansemond chief.
“To explain the spirit of the drum that grabs you…” she said. ”I don’t know how to explain it. The spirit of your ancestors are all around you when dancing in the circle. It’s just such a great feeling and to be able talk to someone … The feel of the drum pounding underneath of you. When you’re in that circle, nothing else exists.”
The Nansemond Tribe hosts its Annual Pow Wow on August 18 and 19 at Lone Star Lakes Park, 102 Bob House Pkwy, Suffolk, VA 23434. For more information on the Nansemond Tribe, visit nansemond.org.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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