There I am emailing back and forth with my editor, Kathy Pories, of Algonquin Books about the cover to my debut novel, CALLING FOR A BLANKET DANCE. She let’s me know that the Creative Director of Algonquin Books, Christopher Moisan, has found an artist in southwest Texas who does amazing work. He’s especially interested in the specific style of art she employs. I quickly click on the attachment they provided. I’m instantly taken by how her work captivates the mind. It’s almost like a trap. A beautiful and alluring trap that you never want to leave.

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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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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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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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I’ve had several people inquire about practices and customs associated with smudging.  I decided to cleanse myself today so I thought I’d make a short video on rituals I’ve learned over the years.  This is by no means anything dogmatic.  These are just methods that I’ve learned over the years.  I’m Kiowa and Cherokee, and I’ve incorporated practices between both cultures and lessons I’ve learned personally through doing this routinely that work for me.

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Someone tells you, “There’s nobody on that piece of land,” and you’re invited to stake a claim to it, build a home, move your family, and grow crops.  Start a new life for yourself.  That was the narrative fed to early European settlers and is commonly referred to as “The Pristine Myth,” meaning the wilderness is untouched and open for the taking.  Then you arrive and find that not only are there people, but they’ve been there for thousands of years.  I’m going to ask you one question:  Has modern day academia created the same siphon?

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What to do with a great idea?  Let’s sit down and map out a novel.  Writing in the dark is a popular way of writing short stories.  We get an idea.  We pull out the laptop.  We write until everything is on the page.  As we write, we don’t know where the story will lead and this suspense and feeling of surprise keeps us writing, it builds adrenaline, and keeps us guessing as we finish a story.  But there may need to be a different approach when it comes to a 25 chapter novel.

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Like clipping and pruning back branches on a bonsai tree.  Then we wire and train those branches to spread in the appearance of organic design reflective of the natural environment, taking careful consideration and steady hands.  We have to make the right decisions.  I’ve been revising Unsettled Between over the last two months and it’s been a transformative process not only for the novel but for me as well.

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What I’m about to say is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, especially an older generation who built their identity on the backs of a sovereignty based in contention between governments.  But ultimately a shift occurred while many were sleeping, and this wasn’t something the younger generation brought about.  We were simply swept away in the waters and learned to swim for fear of drowning.

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