The process of decolonization. We hear this a lot, and if you’ve taken a Native studies class then you’ve likely thought about this in different aspects of society. So what does this look like in literature? I’d like to take a close look at decolonization and talk about the importance of allowing people of color to bear witness on the page, to show readers what it’s like to live through sometimes brutal circumstances, and to highlight the dangers of silencing people of color in a Neo-colonial program to whitewash our experiences.

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It’s gotten crazy out there. These social media giants are getting more and more ridiculous every day. They’re contributing to the polarization of the politics in America as opposed to just running their companies. Their egos are bigger than their platforms. I’m not going to name any names here so I don’t contribute to their idiocy. But we all know the name of the newest buy out and the one who started it all. At one point, I’d say back in the good ol’ days of MySpace, it was an environment where we could create our own content and engage with each other freely. Now algorithms and propaganda have disrupted our freedom. We no longer have an array of personalities with unique qualities. Now it’s one of two choices. Get in your line and stay in your lane. Way too rigid for my tastes. So I’m back!

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When we pick up any literary novel we must commit to being an active reader. We can be entertained by the surface plot and the triangulation between characters, certainly. But the purpose of literary fiction is to dive deeper into the text and search for symbols. Not only the symbols that comprise a larger thematic in a storyline, but, more importantly, the symbols that shape the really real world we walk through every day.

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So I know it’s not cool to say “own voice writer” anymore these days, but we have to give credit to the Native writers writing from inside our own tribal communities. It doesn’t happen as often as you might think. And you know what happens even less? When a debut Native writer from inside his tribally specific and historically targeted community gets a little recognition.

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Let me ask you a simple question: What was a significant event in your life? Moreover, how did it impact you, change you, make you into the person you are? What I like most about this question is how it immediately takes us deep into memory. Suddenly a series of memories flood our minds and we rifle through each to determine which might be the most impactful. Now let me switch it on you. What if I asked each of your relatives about the most significant event in your life?

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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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First off, none of us live in the village of the happy people. Secondly, if there was such a story, no one would read nor watch it. Because it’d be a bunch of BS. One of the many pleasures of engaging with art, whether it be film, literature, or the various branches of studio arts, is the freedom we have to think critically about what we consume. When I heard about the series, Reservation Dogs, coming from FX and Hulu, I was excited to watch. I’m always pleased to see Native faces and Native communities in popular culture–especially when it showcases our resilience. We’re a beautiful people with unique experiences to share.

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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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