As I may have mentioned before, I do not live in the same lands that my known ancestors lived in (though if we wanted to get technical we’d all have to fit in Ethiopia in order to truly be in our land of origin as humans). Living in America, I am dependent on the land that was taken from the Natives by people who did not honor the local gods here. Shit happens in life, and there’s no way to change the past, but part of my customs involve the land that my life depends on. That land is not where my ancestors were, but the Great Lakes region instead, and it is likely that the gods here are not those of my ancestors (except in the churches here for my Christian ones).
Now foreign gods are nothing new. Humans are natural travelers, and some gods travel with them. We see this most plainly with the Abrahamic deity, but the pagan world is rife with examples too. Roman and German military made votives to gods far from their homes when going on expeditions.
So why do I spend so much effort with local ones?
Well, those same Romans also adopted local ones and made votives to them as well, such as the famous Matronae, and some German tribes adopted the Roman ones as interactions increased.
My personal interest in the local deities is due to my ecology background as well as my personal preferences. I love being outside, and I try to work in the forest preserves whenever possible, usually collecting specimens for various studies. Given that land-based beings would logically stay with their land rather than travel with humans, I’m of the opinion that the beings I’m interacting with outside are not European. Given that I live in America, the next logical conclusion would be that the beings are those recognized by the Natives that once lived here. Hence, my interest in who the Great Lakes tribes talked about and how they interacted with them. Other pagans have expressed similar feelings, and have since incorporated local lore into their own rituals (for example, a kindred in Canada have incorporated both immigrant French and local NA beings and customs into their yearly rituals).
Now some say that doing so is appropriating NA cultures, which is a very real problem in Neopaganism (and in America in general). I cannot refute that, as it is not my place to decide whether or not the local tribes should feel offended. My only justification is the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” cliche. If I was in the Austrian or Bavarian Alps, then making offerings to Perchta in the forests would make sense, because that’s where she’s from. However, I am not walking those forests, I’m walking the ones in WI instead, and Perchta is not here. There are other beings living here instead, and I want to be as respectful a neighbor as possible. To me, that means figuring out what these beings prefer I do or give instead of assuming they’re like European ones. That requires both experimentation (primarily with food in my case) and digging into local lore made available to outsiders.
I have no interest in “becoming Indian”, I already have my own heritage and culture.