So I was sitting in a classroom at the University of Oklahoma. This was about a decade ago. I was in my master’s program and it was a special topics course on heteronormativity in American culture. We were discussing James Baldwin’s work, and the professor said, “I love Baldwin’s writing and I don’t know how he does it.” Then he looked at me. We locked eyes for a moment. I’m the only one in this MA program who has a BFA in Creative Writing. I immediately thought, I know how he does it. But before I had a chance to respond, he quickly stated, “And I don’t want to know,” as if he knew I was about to break the spell.

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It was Saturday night when I knew I’d smudge myself and my house with sage the next day. There had been a build up. With the media exposure of police shootings and the new energy for social justice as a response, I was caught up in the energy. But not without personal justification. Under Trump’s toxic atmosphere, my beloved Cherokee community quickly became as divisive as the rest of America.

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I get mentally stuck sometimes, and frustrated, when I think of the disparity rates in the communities I serve. I’m Cherokee and Kiowa. I live in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and work for Indian Child Welfare. I’ve worked my entire career serving Native communities, working diligently to correct the disparity rates, and every time I see a Native person walking down the street strung out on meth, fidgeting and impulsively picking at their skin (the telltale signs of meth addiction), it breaks my heart. I get frustrated at the disparity rates among Native Americans and see first hand the negative impacts caused by historical trauma.

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If you’re getting silenced, or an attempted silence, as an artist/writer this is a sign you’re doing something right.  The ACLU has extensive documentation about the rights of artists to speak our minds and advocate for communities.  Intimidation tactics from white supremacists didn’t stop me from writing my first novel, UNSETTLED BETWEEN, and they won’t stop me from writing my “ICW” novel.  Power hungry racists will always fear artists. We have a power they’ll never have: the ability to move audiences to connect with a deeper sense of their own humanity.

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Call it evolution or enlightenment. Our perspective is broadening. Where we once only had the capacity to see ourselves in strict hyper local terms, now we can access the universal. In fact, both the universal and the hyper local are needed as checks and balances. In the narrow reaches of our identity, people are quick to lock themselves into violent identities–those in need of contention to exist, to be relevant, to matter. It takes a little dialectical thinking to incorporate a universal identity, where we have the intellectual capacity to, simultaneously, know how we are all connected.

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I’m open minded and enjoy talking to people about their Native ancestry.  Folks get comfortable with me when they know I’m not going to judge them for admiring Native people, so they share their family lore.  If they’re writers, they’ll likely mention a project they’re working on where they have characters who are Native.  Out of respect, they’ll ask, “Can you make sure I’m not doing anything offensive?” and ask me to read their work.  If I have time in my schedule, I’ll gladly do so, but I’ve been busier than usual over the last year and haven’t been able.  This is part of the reason why I wanted to construct this list.  This article is a serious examination of character archetypes for the purpose of creating literature.  A unique approach situated from a Native lens.

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Sometimes I like to say controversial things, like the title to this article: “Being In’din’s a party and everyone’s invited.”  The stodgy conservative Native crowd gets upset with me.  I hear comments like, “You’re undermining sovereignty,” or “Don’t give the wannabes more fuel to misappropriate.”  All this is said with a fervor of control and a need for validation.  Interestingly enough, I always wonder why they need me to validate them.  “Who am I?  I’m nobody,” as my elders say before espousing wisdom.  So let me hand you a little myself.

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I spend a lot of time thinking about love, and what I’m about to discuss here is in the vein of love.  But a love for cohesiveness, a love that desires modalities in cooperation rather than competition.  Certainly, it took the very pessimistic concepts around Baudrillard’s philosophy to engender my thoughts on this subject.  But without Baudrillard I would’ve never reached this conclusive ending:  competition is a mere copy of a copy.  I hear you asking “So then what’s the original source?”  My answer:  inspiration.

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This article is a confession to my gurus.  Well, maybe more of an apology.  Or a humble request for forgiveness.  Okay, it’s a mixture of all three.  Sometimes I can be an asshole.  More so when I was younger and before life kicked my sorry brown ass into submission.  People say they love writers who have had the life beaten out of them.  That’ll be my remaining solace in this whole matter:  I’m only likable after bruises on the side of the face and a gash near the hairline.

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There I am, like you, and so many writers, sitting at my computer and starting a new writing project.  I’m drawing up characters because this story has been running through mind for years and it’s finally ready to go onto a page.  Since I already have a working idea of who my main character is and her antagonist, I now need to weigh her against Karpman’s drama triangle.  What is her good, bad, and ugly?  This is how I’ve drawn multidimensional characters for over 10 years.  But then two other creative forms changed my approach:  Evolutionary astrology and Stanislavski’s method acting.

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