Returning to the Ahtanook: Reigniting the Ancestral Memory of Kumeyaay Women through Participatory Action Research
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Returning to the Ahtanook: Reigniting the Ancestral Memory of Kumeyaay Women through Participatory Action Research

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The following dissertation explores the history of Kumeyaay women, providing a taste of what their lives were like pre-colonization. The role of the Ahtanook – the Kumeyaay women’s coming-of-age ceremony – is explored, focusing on the crucial role of how it fosters the relationship of a woman’s positive cultural identity, foundational belief systems, and the cosmological connection to the feminine force in the universe. Many Native nations across the United States have a ritual connected to celebrating a woman at the time of her first menstrual cycle. A transitional life phase occurs when this life-giving force makes its presence known. The Ahwhot (blood) connects her to the spiritual realm and is considered a sacred time for a woman. Some tribes have continually practiced their ceremonies, while others have diminished due to the forced invasion of European, Spanish, and American influences. Grave effects to ceremonies, such as government forced boarding schools, religious suppression laws, and sequestering of Native peoples onto reservations, are discussed – specifically the effects these policies and institutions had on Kumeyaay women. Those who do not have their cultural rituals to call upon when they need help in their lives may replace ceremony with self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse, domestic violence, and incarceration. This study is to help Kumeyaay women reconnect to their foundational cultural beliefs through the use of ceremonial elements of the Ahtanook. It is my hope by doing so, ancestral memory and feelings of self-efficacy will arise within women. Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) is used as the theoretical framework, and Participatory Action Research (PAR) as the methodological approach. PAR is a qualitative research methodology that uses self-reflective inquiry that researchers and participants undertake. Using these frameworks and methodology, I hope the stories from Kumeyaay women who experience Ahtanook elements will help themselves and future generations of Native American women reclaim Indigenous coming-of-age ceremonies. Keywords: Kumeyaay women, Ahtanook, reclaiming Indigenous ceremonies, coming-of-age ceremonies

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This item is under embargo until January 6, 2025.