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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Growing up in households where words and phrases in both Kiowa and Cherokee were spoken and mixed with English, it gave me a unique understanding of language. As my family spoke, someone could be both skaw-stee and mon’sape. Skaw-stee is a Cherokee word that means “stuck up,” and mon’sape is a Kiowa word that means “trouble maker.” Mix these words with other phrases and Indigenized English words like gaa which is the Native version of “golly,” and all of a sudden language becomes a playground of agency. Where this Kiowa/Cherokee/Mexican boy had a canvas of words to create a beautiful new symmetry.

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“What do you write?” Have you heard that question before? For literary writers this question is like a grain of dirt on the ass cheek of a wild hog running through the brush in the Ozark Hills. Every time I go to answer the question I know what’s going to follow. It’s going to be another question, with a quizzical expression on the questioner’s face, asking me, “What’s literary fiction?”

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I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be able to read for my debut novel. Many writers don’t get the opportunity to record for their own audiobooks. Because my novel is polyvocal and comes from the heart of tribally specific communities, Kiowa and Cherokee, I was more than happy when Algonquin Books asked me to read for the male characters in my debut. Moreover, they hired a Native actress to read for the women characters: Rainy Fields.

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It’s been a day. A good day. Busy, but good busy. Got some great news. Well, I guess I got the news a couple weeks back and sat on it until today. Why? Because today was the day the American Booksellers Association made the announcement for this year’s Indies Introduce list. And guess what? My debut novel, CALLING FOR A BLANKET DANCE, made the list! Only 10 adult fiction novels are selected each year, and it looks like 2022 was my year.

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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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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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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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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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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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