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.Read More »
Native Heroes for Character Building: Issues with Villains and Victims in Storytelling
“Did you hear about Kaleb Nowater? Maybe his name was Kevin. I’m not sure, but it was a K name for certain. Come to find out, he was sexually assaulted by a worker at that children’s group home. By whom? It was ol’ what’s his face. I forget, but he likes to surround himself with those wannabe artists. Anyway, they fired him because they caught him sleeping during overnight shifts in that poor boy’s room. Awful. And imagine all those artists who just look the other way. I wonder if they know. More so, I wonder if they care more about their reputation than a child getting harmed. Just makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it. Who makes sexual advances on a teenage boy with emotional and psychological issues?”Read More »
Gritty Conversational: A Contemporary Native American Voice to Combat Erasure
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.Read More »
Self-Imposed Crippling Frustration Under a Wave of Social Justice Advocacy
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.Read More »
Giving Back: Murrow Indian Children’s Home Needing Assistance
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.Read More »
Indian Child Welfare Novel: Lessons in Cooking Coded Cake
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.
Mexican Indian: The Shifting Indigenous Identity of Turtle Island
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.Read More »
For Literary Eyes Only: Budding Archetypes for the Native American Literary Tradition
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.
A Call to Gurus
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.
How to Smudge with Sage & Native American Customs for Prayer
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.