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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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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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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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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We’ve heard the reified stories of men brutalizing men.  A rehearsal of patriarchy.   In fact, hyper masculine bullshit permeates our lives.  We see in the media, if not in our daily lives, the ramifications of patriarchy unchecked.  So what’s the answer?  Men are being called out now more than ever and violence continues.  Wars haven’t stopped.  We hear about a mass shooting in the U.S. almost everyday.  In my debut novel, Unsettled Between, Ever Geimausaddle faces his own brutality with the help of an underground matriarchy.

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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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