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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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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#WritersLife was the first thought I had when I woke.  But I couldn’t shake the deep depression taking control of me.  I felt an immense sadness.  It felt like I was so inadequate that I didn’t matter to anyone.  My life was so pointless and meaningless that no one would ever want to connect with me enough to care about my life.  My mind kept circling around about how shitty a human being I was and how it didn’t matter what I thought or felt.  My chest was heavy, shoulders sunken, and I could feel the length of my jaw pulling downward.  I had little energy.  Just enough to zombie through the last two days.

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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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I hiked into the Grand Canyon.  I must’ve been in my late twenties, maybe early thirties.  It started out as a walk to look over the rim.  I had camped the night before in a tent at one of the sites and woke early (probably about 5am).  I was there with a friend and she was still asleep.  As the sun rose out of the east, I decided to follow the paved roads toward the rim of the Grand Canyon.

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