Holding the Breath

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country, as well as broader racial justice and #BlackLivesMatter causes. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

by Aimee Inglis

Aimee (Osage/Wazhazhe) is a queer femme organizer rooted in California and concerned with the development of our human potential, defending the sovereignty of every being on this planet, and learning from the past and our elders to co-create a visionary future. She is on Instagram at @aimelissabalm

Life is sacred. This conviction is nothing short of revolutionary when those in power are calculating how many Black, Indigenous, and Brown lives society at large will quietly accept in order to go “back to business” and reopen the economy. I write this as hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. are refusing to accept the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black lives stolen because of the terror of white supremacy. I have hope that the compassion muscle we have been strengthening to support our communities and our broader human family in this time could mean that back to business is not business as usual. Business as usual is not freedom for all of us.

Breath is a gift, but it’s not true that you don’t have to learn how to breathe. In truth it can be a struggle to be able to breathe well and with purpose. We are born with the breath of survival. It is our birthright to learn the breath of thriving. In the time of this pandemic that uniquely attacks the lungs I have been learning about my own.

I started jogging two months ago and before I could even get out of breath my feet would creak in pain trying to carry my body across the pavement. Two weeks later my feet were stronger, but then my side would scream out before I could tire. Through trial and error I realized it was because I wasn’t breathing frequently and deeply enough. Once I noticed my breath I realized I was practically holding it. I was starving my muscles of oxygen as if air were in short supply.

I hadn’t run since I was a child on a soccer field. I would run hard easily for 15 minutes at a time–my face red and hot, but my body resilient. For a few months I did have what I’ve come to understand as stress-induced asthma, probably from the loss of my father as a parent due to his  tranquilizer habit. I would learn later how my body could express heartache even when no other part of me could when last September after my father’s passing the skin around my eyes inexplicably was constantly cracked and dried. I thought perhaps I was crying in my sleep but I never determined the root cause and it cleared up by the end of the year. My “grief skin” took some time before it was shed.

This recent experience jogging and getting tuned into my body brought back to memory years ago trying to hike in Yosemite. This was the last time I tried to do strenuous physical activity and my body seemed to refuse. My ears would fill with the blood of my own heartbeat before I could get very far up a hill. I had only moved to San Francisco in the past year. Walking up hills isn’t a regular occurrence growing up in Anaheim. I thought maybe I didn’t have enough practice or it was the altitude. I was relatively fit, but had just finished up a course of Accutane in my desperation caught between teen and adult acne. I worried pumping this poison through my body had weakened me. Walking uphill this past month in Redwood Regional Park, I applied my new knowledge of my need to consciously breathe and found my heart did not have to work so hard when I called on my lungs in support.

I’ve also been playing music again now for about a month. Off and on in my life I’ll pick up my guitar and sing. I’ll play covers of the music of my teens and twenties, sometimes more recent music, but mostly the old rotation: Neutral Milk Hotel, the Decemberists, Elliot Smith, Gillian Welch, etc. My finger calluses have nearly returned to effectively hold down the strings and my hands feel strong. My voice is finding its way back but I can hear whenever I waiver since I’m not singing along in a car, the place I used to get practice, the time when traveling used to be possible.

I loved to sing all my life. There were recordings of me as a toddler singing as my dad played the country songs he wrote. The only good part of Wednesday chapel at my Lutheran elementary school was singing together. I joined choir in high school and I would get chills that would bring me nearly to tears when our voices resonated. A few years back I took a singing class and after the exercise where the instructor determined my range, I was told that though my range was wide, I needed to put more power behind my voice. I already know intellectually that this means taking in breath in preparation and effectively pushing out breath to support the sound of my voice, but this takes practice.

We know breath as spirit, and that the act of breathing creates a sacred connection between our world inside our bodies and our world outside. This connection is our birthright, to every moment feel what we give to the world and what we receive. To know that we are worthy of both takes practice for those of us who have received consistent messages in our life that we should not exist, or that some part of us is inconvenient to others or should remain hidden. What it is to be sure of the next note you are about to sing, to draw power behind your voice?

In my work as a community organizer and activist, many meetings begin by grounding in the breath. Participants and facilitators are invited to breathe into the full length, width, and depth of their bodies, to take up space in the present moment and to see the dignity in themselves and others. This particular practice is rooted in generative somatics, but many cultures have a practice of grounding in the breath to slow down and be present.

We are born with so many tools that come to us free with the gift of life that many of us don’t know how to use. Stimulating the vagus nerve is recently being recognized in popular culture as key to our mental and physical health. Breathing deeply is an accessible way to stimulate the nerve and it really does work. What a wonderful thing for me to have known as a child. To know that I had the ability to calm myself when the world felt chaotic. We are taught so little about our own bodies. Imagine being an octopus that doesn’t know how to change color or a squirrel that doesn’t know how to hide acorns.

We are born into a world and a dominant culture of white supremacy and patriarchy that does not recognize the sovereignty of human life, that does not allow each of us to exist in our full length, width, and depth, that does not honor our boundaries, our NO in the face of racial terror, environmental degradation, mass homelessness, and gendered violence. Overworked and underpaid, expected to show up and serve white supremacists who don’t wear face masks in a pandemic: Black, Indigenous, people of color, womxn and essential workers are putting their bodies, their lungs, their spirit on the line because they are forced to do so.

This reality requires us to meet it, not to look away, not to distract ourselves, but to meet it with  compassion and conviction. We can take a deep breath in to meet the world and all its pain in the present moment. It can feel like too much but we can do it and find that we survive. We can let our breath out to extend ourselves into this world, to bring what we can offer to ease suffering. We can breathe in to fill our lungs with the capacity to shout, to sing, to yell at those who have profited off this suffering, those who would rather send more people to their deaths than extend unemployment benefits or cancel rents. We must demand more from those who hold power, who have taken power from us. We must practice to be sure of our own voice and our right to exist.

The donation for Aimee’s post is going to United We Dream’s National UndocuFund, which “will provide need-based financial help to immigrant families hard hit by the COVID-19 emergency,” as well as an additional donation to ActBlue’s split fund, which splits donations between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers.

White Entitlement in Boston During Quarantine

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest ContributerLeave a Comment

“The Gods of the Taino People,” Perkins Street (behind former Hi-Lo Foods), Jamaica Plain. By Rafael Rivera Garcia with Jose Ramos, Jose Alicea, John Montero. 

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

by Rosa Blumenfeld

Rosa Blumenfeld is Muisca raised Colombian and Jewish. Rosa is a writer, water follower, and mikveh guides who lives on Massachusett land in Boston, MA, USA. Website: www.rosablumenfeld.com IG: @spiritual_rosa FB: www.facebook.com/spiritualrosa

I live in a neighborhood of Boston that has been transformed over the last 40 years from Jamaica Spain, the city’s barrio, to Jamaica Plain (JP), a haven for white young urban professionals. They have taken over this neighborhood for the same reasons that I wanted to live here: it has good public transit access, the Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum. It is also Boston’s most walkable neighborhood, with small stores along Centre Street, very active neighborhood listservs and Facebook groups that emphasize caring for each other and social justice, and is very family friendly.

Although I have lived in the Boston area since 2006, I have always avoided living in Jamaica Plain. As a fellow Native/Indigenous woman raised Latinx, the gentrification and the entitlement that goes along with the white people who have slowly but surely taken over here has always enraged me, and I didn’t even grow up here. (Don’t know what I mean by saying I am Native Raised Latinx? Read my post about it here.) When I separated from my soon to be ex-husband, I lived in a friend’s guest room, then rented a room in a former trap house with 22 year olds who didn’t clean and stole from me. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and asked if anyone knew of housing in Boston on Facebook. The first listing I got was of a beautiful 2 bedroom that was below market rate because the landlord was a white JP progressive who wanted socially justice minded people in the house and could afford to do so. After a year of not feeling at home anywhere, I eagerly clicked on the photos and was delighted with what I saw. Plants everywhere, beautiful light, and artfully arranged furniture. I could tell right away that the white queer artist and social worker who lived there cared about not just having a place to live, but making it a real home. So despite my reservations about the Whole Foods and all the white yuppies in the neighborhood, including my new roommate, I moved in. I was tired and needed to feel like a whole person with a real home again. 

Now that COVID 19 has hit, I wouldn’t say that I regret my decision, but the underlying tensions in my neighborhood are rising to the surface in big ways, just like they are in the rest of this country. Stopping the spread of the Coronavirus isn’t just about washing our hands or staying home. It is also about consistently and quickly out thinking the virus. We now need to prioritize the health of the whole by stopping our instincts to be physically close to our fellow human beings and starting again when we make unconscious mistakes like touching our faces or a door knob. Every. Singe. Time. The delivery guy who stood right in my doorstep to collect a package from my landlord upstairs a month ago wasn’t intentionally trying to invade my space. He was just standing where he normally stood, with a natural inclination to want to be close to another human being. He didn’t remember in that moment that times have changed and that he should ring the bell and then step back. In the absence of national leadership and agreed upon rules of engagement, people are left to figure out what social distancing means on their own, and it is pretty clear that we all have different definitions of what that means.

When I go outside to walk my dog in Jamaica Plain, it is like playing the old video game Frogger. I am constantly crossing the street, slowing my pace to maintain a 6 foot distance from someone and checking my surroundings so that people stay away from me. The white people who I see on the street still think that they are entitled to all the space, even during a global health pandemic. I no longer walk around Jamaica Pond because people seem to think that this is a vacation and on a nice day are walking on the path or sitting on the benches much less than 6 feet from each other. The runners sometimes do and sometimes don’t wear face masks. They definitely do not slow down or move around others to maintain their distance because apparently keeping their pace is more important than making sure their sweat or their spit doesn’t get someone sick. (Yes I still see runners spitting in the street even while Massachusetts is in lock down and has not hit its peak yet.) This is what it is like when I go outside, where there is plenty of space. I can’t even imagine what these people are like in the tiny Whole Foods that sits where the Hi-Lo supermarket used to be. I don’t even go in. 

As we are seeing on the national stage, there is a way that white people think that their lives, convenience, and wealth are more important than anyone else’s. This is why there are protests to end quarantine in some states, why the Navajo Nation has more COVID 19 cases than 8 states, and quite frankly, why the virus has spread so quickly and so far in this country in the first place. I have been watching this play out from the safety of my own home where it’s been just me and my dog Penelope since the restaurant where I used to work as a server shut down right before Saint Patrick’s day. But now this entitlement has come home to roost. My roommate went to quarantine with her girlfriend at the beginning of the pandemic, and the heaviness of it all is starting to get to her. She wants to come home. 

Growing up in an alcoholic home, I was taught to focus all of my attention out on another person and severely punished when I tried to think about myself. The way this manifests in my adult life is by me taking care of everyone else in my life at my own expense. It is really hard for me to figure out what I actually want when faced with a request for something from someone else. My first thought is to figure out how to give them what they want, even if it doesn’t make sense for my life or would even be bad for me. It also makes me hesitate to tell my story as a Native Raised Latinx person for fear of how it will be read and received by others. It is no accident that during a Trump presidency, the Washington Post’s motto is “Democracy dies in the darkness.” I agree with this principle, so despite my fear and not wanting to upset my roommate, here we are. Just as I would never silence another Native/Indigenous person or person of color, I cannot silence myself. Sometimes the best cure for white entitlement is the truth in broad daylight.

When my roommate first called me saying she wanted to come home, my first thought was to say yes. An interesting conversation ensued where she told me all about the ways that she had and had not been social distancing. How she went to her Mom’s house and waved at her from the sidewalk. How she needed to pee when she was there but it was too dangerous to go inside, so her mom threw her a roll of toilet paper and she went in the backyard. How she had done better in the house with just her and her girlfriend, and that it was tense when the roommate was home, especially with her boyfriend. She talked about how all four of them were still working and that it was hard to find a place to take zoom calls when they were all there. But luckily, since quarantine had started, it had only been all four of them in the apartment twice, for a week at a time, with a couple of weeks in between because the boyfriend lives alone. How she thinks that we will all end up in pods, but that our landlord probably won’t want to be in a pod with her. 

A couple of things strike me now as I replay the conversation in my mind. I never told her how hard it has been on me to be living here alone. I chose to live with a roommate for a reason. I have struggled with anxiety, depression and disordered eating my whole life. Having the energy of other people in my own home helps me cope and do simple things that I struggle with: getting out of bed, eating, and going outside. Because she isn’t here I’ve had to dig deep and come up with other supports. I am spending lots of time on video chat with friends and family. I started this blog. I am turning to God, the universe, a higher power (I am still searching for a word that resonates most with me) and inviting them into an active relationship with me in my home. I am making friends with the plants in the apartment. I am cherishing my relationship with my dog more than I ever have. When the quarantine was first imposed and I was faced with an unknown amount of time alone, I couldn’t stand the silence of the apartment. It was very triggering. But now I notice the bird song outside my window as I write and I can tell I am not alone. Noticing all of these connections and being grateful for all of these relationships is huge progress for me.

As I reflected on this situation, I started to think about what I wanted and needed. With some help I realized that my top priority couldn’t be what my roommate wanted, but rather about my own needs. That I have a right to be safe and healthy both physically and mentally. And that during a global health pandemic, we both had a communal responsibility to each other to maintain our safety and health as well. Hers AND mine. In the ensuing conversation and email exchange, I told her that I wasn’t comfortable with her coming home. That the virus now considered us to be separate households. In my mind, this was pretty straight forward. No one likes the pandemic. We all want to escape from it. But the chess pieces fell where they did when this started and now we have to take responsibility for them. Make the best out of what we have. She had just told me how she hadn’t entered the homes of any of her friends or family, and neither had I. For most of the pandemic she has actually been having a pretty good time living with her girlfriend. They are getting along really well and making the most of it. They are baking bread, going on walks, and playing board games after dinner. They are both still employed. We were all in quarantine. All in this together, or so I thought. 

Her reaction to the idea that she had to stay away for longer and do her part in the responsibility we all have to bear during the pandemic was to turn me into the evil roommate who was depriving her of her home and her ‘right’ to it. I was shocked at how quickly she shifted the responsibility of the pandemic completely onto me and refused to accept her part in it in any way. She had just told me she was obeying the rules of quarantine and not going to any one’s home. She had just told me that she was struggling like everyone but that she basically had a 2 bedroom apartment for herself and her girlfriend and they were having a great time. Where did this urgent ‘need’ to be in our house come from? She just ran through all these people in her life who she was social distancing from to keep them safe. I assumed that she would put me in that category too. I forgot to account for the fact that all those other people are white.

There is a long history in the Americas of white people treating Native/Indigenous people as less than human in order to get their way. When the colonizers came here and fought to dominate this land, the way that they fought each other and the way that they fought us is very telling. When European colonizers fought each other, there were rules. Face to face combat, everybody has a gun in their hand, an agreement on time and place. When the colonizers wanted something from the Native peoples of this land, they just took it. By giving out smallpox blankets for example. No rules. No warnings. Just murder and then land theft.

The City of Boston posted an infographic that I saw on the mayor’s Facebook page urging Boston residents to Be Polite, and wear face masks out in public. The mayor’s personal blurb used stronger language saying that it is unacceptable to be outside and not have a mask on. What I know is that this isn’t an issue of being polite. It is an issue of the entitlement that is built into the white people who live here. They don’t need to be more polite, they need to stop thinking that their lives are worth more and act accordingly. 

As I develop this relationship with something greater than myself, navigate this pandemic as best I can, and struggle in my relationship with my white roommate, I am learning a lot about judgement and forgiveness. I am very angry about all the entitlement that I see, how many people have died, and all the ugliness that has always been there but is now more visible because of the virus. But I know that if I engage with that anger and let it harden into judgement, the only person that I am really hurting is myself. Bitterness does not lead to a peaceful and loving heart. It does not change the actions or hearts and minds of other people. It only leads me away from a spiritual center. I am not entitled to judge my roommate, or any other person on this earth. Whether they are wearing a mask or not, social distancing according to my version of the ‘right’ way, or handing out smallpox blankets. The Creator is the only one who can judge. It is also not my place to forgive my roommate or anyone else for their actions because again, that means that I felt entitled to judge them in the first place. The only place for forgiveness in my life is for myself. I get to forgive myself when I slip into the temptation to judge another person so that I give myself the opportunity to refrain next time. Given my story and the story of my peoples, this is a difficult road to walk. But if I expect others to give up their entitlement, I must give up mine too. In order to keep my own spirituality, my heart, and my sanity, I have to surrender it and give it away. God doesn’t want me to have an angry life and a bitter heart. Their purpose for me is much larger. I just have to keep listening, learning, and living for it to be revealed, one day at a time.

Donation for Rosa’s post will go to The NDN Collective’s COVID-19 Response Project, “designed to provide immediate relief to some of the most underserved communities in the country. NDN’s intent is to quickly distribute resources to frontline organizations, Tribes and individuals to provide gap services during this health crisis, and to artists and entrepreneurs who have suffered the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” as well as an additional donation to ActBlue’s split fund, which splits donations between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers.

Between History and Hope

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest ContributerLeave a Comment

Photo Alan Stark

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

By Vincent Barnargas, Jr.

Vincent Barnargas Jr, an Akimel O’odham from the Gila River Indian Community, is an unpublished novel and short story writer living in Chandler, Arizona. You can find him on Twitter @Windjammah.

They say there’s comfort in familiarity, but there’s horror there too. I find myself considering this as I watch my people suffer across the country, each and every story about tribes hit hard by the Pandemic bringing me closer to tears with every word no matter how many times they flow. 

It’s an old story and a song I’m so sick of hearing. How many times does it bear repeating and how long until it’s played for no one at all?

I remember reading Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse and finding so much pleasure in her version of the post-apocalypse where the Diné people survived because they, “had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before.” Pragmatism is a tool of the marginalized and down-trodden, a necessity to bear the burden of survival as a question, as a goal rather than a given. But if pragmatism could save a tribe of people like mine, then at least they wouldn’t have to suffer again. 

And though I won’t call this an apocalypse, instead of avoiding suffering I’m seeing tragedies written into our history once again. 

I’ve been struggling to get through each day. My tribe has managed to get by with few losses compared to the state, but it’s hard to find comfort in that when one of those was my grandmother. I choose to believe she passed unrelated, having been in the hospital for a month prior to all of this happening. But it’s little comfort when nothing is the same, when on top of abbreviated funerary rites and an inability to touch one another I’ve lost someone dear to me and I will not be getting her back when all of this is over. For her, the stories have stopped.

I have been doing my best to lift my chin and push forward. This marks the most words I’ve written since all of this began, despite writing being my biggest outlet, my tool for pushing back against the darker times and celebrating the brighter ones. But I will keep trying because I think we need stories in times like these. We need to remember that we can win and not everything will be a tragedy. That, despite history and the present being familiar melodies, we can create new songs and sing them together. And I think that’s the biggest thing keeping me going: trying to do some good.

One day this will all be over. One day I’ll stop seeing the death counts rise. My hope is that one day the news will play a smaller part in my daily anxiety, but until that day comes and forever after it, my heart is with my people. It’s with everyone who has lost loved ones like I have and who also fears every day that they will lose more. But more than anything I wish for this to be the last time that I have to brace myself every time I read “native” and “tribe” in a headline. I fear that learning my history has narrowed that hope for me, but I will hope all the same.

It’s important to imagine a better world. 

~~In loving memory of Ann Barnargas~~

The donation for Vincent’s post will go to the Navajo Nation Department of Health COVID Response, as well as an additional donation to ActBlue’s split fund, which splits donations between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers.

Race, Anti-Blackness, and the Cherokee Nation: A Reading List

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.1 Comment

Waynetta Lawrie (left), of Tulsa, Okla., stands with others at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City in 2007, during a demonstration by several Cherokee Freedmen and their supporters.

In the past week in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we’ve watched as cities, towns, and villages have risen up, marched against police brutality, and demanded that Black Lives Matter. If the Instagram stories and twitter threads are any indication, many are waking up to issues of racism and inequality for the first time, and it’s simultaneously frustrating and beautiful to watch. While many white folks have a lot of learning and un-learning ahead, we in Indian country do as well, especially in my own tribe.

We in the Cherokee Nation have work to do.

With our history of slaveholding and ongoing disenfranchisement of Cherokee Freedmen and Black Cherokee citizens, our nation has upheld anti-Blackness for generations. I and many white-coding Cherokees are complicit with our silence, it’s much easier to point the finger outward toward the structures of white supremacy that pervade American society, rather than inward toward the ways our own tribal structures and narratives perpetuate anti-Blackness. I know I have personal learning to do, so I commit to try and do better, and hope others will as well.

What follows is an ongoing and incomplete list of resources and readings to start the conversation. This is not a stand in for action, and definitely not the end of the road, it is not even the beginning. Self-education is an important step, but is meaningless without real action. I encourage fellow CN citizens to read and learn, but also start the difficult conversations within our own families, with tribal officials, and one another, and to start to build a nation that is inclusive of Black liberation as well as Indigenous sovereignty.

I made this primarily thinking about other CN citizens as the audience, so if you are unfamiliar with any of the “backstory” of our nation, you may need to read some other materials first.

This is not a history limited to Cherokee, other members of the Five Tribes have this history as well, and within all of our nations in Indian Country we have a history and ongoing struggle with anti-Blackness. I encourage folks to create their own reading lists or resources for their community.

If you have readings, resources, articles, or anything to add to this growing list, please comment on this post or send me an email, nativeappropriations@gmail.com.

When available, I have linked to the full PDF. If any of the links don’t link to the full PDF, let me know–I may have linked the wrong version. If any scholars listed here would prefer I not link to your work in full, just contact me. For books, I’ve tried to link to the publishers or independent bookstores, but most of these are available on Amazon as well.

As a disclaimer, I have not read every reading on this list. I can’t vouch for them other than many of these come from scholars and writers I trust, and many were recommended to me by others. As I said, I have a lot to learn as well. This list is heavily weighted to ‘academic’ scholarship (cause that’s me and what I do) and to the history of enslavement and the Freedmen cases, but there are additional resources on broader conversations of race, belonging, anti-blackness, and intersections between Black and Native communities, and I’ll continue to add and update.

Race, Anti-blackness, and the Cherokee Nation Reading List

Racial Formations, Broader Native/Black History:

Field, K. T. (2018). Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War. Yale University Press. Buy Here.

Forbes, J. D. (1993). Africans and Native Americans: The language of race and the evolution of red-black peoples. University of Illinois Press. Buy Here.

Katz, W. L. (2012). Black Indians: A hidden heritage (Rev. ed.). Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Buy Here.
NPR interview with Katz: “Black Indians Explore Challenges Of ‘Hidden’ Heritage”

Wilderson III, F. B. (2010). Red, white & black: Cinema and the structure of US antagonisms. Duke University Press. Buy here. Link to PDF.

History and Contexts of Native/Cherokee Slaveholding:

Krauthamer, B. (2013). Black slaves, Indian masters: slavery, emancipation, and citizenship in the Native American South. UNC Press Books. Buy Here.

Miles, T. (2015). Ties that bind: The story of an Afro-Cherokee family in slavery and freedom (Vol. 14). Univ of California Press. Buy Here.

Miles, T. (2015). The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens & Ghosts. John F. Blair, Publisher. Buy Here.

Miles, T. (2010). The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story. Univ of North Carolina Press. Buy Here.

Minges, P. N. (Ed.). (2004). Black Indian slave narratives. John F. Blair, Publisher. Buy Here.

Naylor, C. E. (2009). African Cherokees in Indian Territory: From Chattel to Citizens. Univ of North Carolina Press. Buy Here.

Cherokee Identity and Broader Native Identity and Belonging:

Garroutte, Eva Marie. 2003. Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America. Berkeley: University of California Press. Buy Here.

Sturm, C. (2002). Blood politics: Race, culture, and identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Univ of California Press. Buy Here.

Sturm, Circe. 2011. Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-First Century. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press. Buy Here.

Ratteree, K., & Hill, N. S. (Eds.). (2017). The Great Vanishing Act: Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations. Fulcrum Publishing. Buy Here.

Wilkins, D. E., & Wilkins, S. H. (2017). Dismembered: Native Disenrollment and the Battle for Human Rights. University of Washington Press. Buy Here.

Cherokee Freedmen:

Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Freedmen, A Historical Timeline (Cherokee Phoenix, September 27, 2017)

Nash v. Cherokee Nation 2014:
– Court brief (via Turtle Talk)
– Court opinions (via casetext)
– Cherokee Nation reply (via Turtle Talk)
Allen v. Cherokee Nation 2006

Barbery, M. (2013, May 16). “From one fire”. This Land Press. https://thislandpress.com/2013/05/16/cherokee-freedman/ (AK note: great in-depth, non-academic overview of the Freedman issue, some cringy language from author, but important info overall)

Chin, J., Bustamante, N., Solyom, J. A., & Brayboy, B. M. J. (2016). Terminus amnesia: Cherokee Freedmen, citizenship, and education. Theory Into Practice55(1), 28-38. (Link to PDF)

Chin, J. (2013). Red Law, White Supremacy: Cherokee Freedmen, Tribal Sovereignty, and the Colonial Feedback Loop. J. Marshall L. Rev.47, 1227. (Link to PDF)

Cooper, Kenneth J. “Perspective | I’m a Descendant of the Cherokee Nation’s Black Slaves. Tribal Citizenship Is Our Birthright.” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/09/15/im-a-descendant-of-the-cherokee-nations-black-slaves-tribal-citizenship-is-our-birthright/

Ray, S. A. (2006). A Race or a Nation-Cherokee National Identity and the Status of Freedmen’s Descendants. Mich. J. Race & L., 12, 387. (Link to PDF)

Broader Convos of Anti-Blackness/Settler Colonialism and Intersections between Black and Native Studies:

Iyko Day. (2015). Being or Nothingness: Indigeneity, Antiblackness, and Settler Colonial Critique. Critical Ethnic Studies, 1(2), 102-121. doi:10.5749/jcritethnstud.1.2.0102 (Link to PDF)

Byrd, J. A. (2019). Weather with You: Settler Colonialism, Antiblackness, and the Grounded Relationalities of Resistance. Critical Ethnic Studies5(1-2), 207-214. (Can’t find full PDF)

Harris, C. (2019). Of Blackness and Indigeneity: Comments on Jodi A. Byrd’s “Weather with You: Settler Colonialism, Antiblackness, and the Grounded Relationalities of Resistance”. Critical Ethnic Studies, 5(1-2), 215-228. doi:10.5749/jcritethnstud.5.1-2.0215 (Can’t find full PDF)

King, T. L. (2019). The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies. Duke University Press. Buy Here.

King, T. L., Navarro, J., & Smith, A. (Eds.). (2020). Otherwise Worlds: Against Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness. Duke University Press. Buy Here.



Other Syllabi/Reading Lists:

Please send me any feedback or more resources you feel should be included! I realize this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Color Red

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest ContributerLeave a Comment

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

By Mr Little Cat

Mr Little Cat (Diné and Havasupai) is a genderqueer, artist and activist who resides in Omaha NE. Their purpose is to uplift the Indigenous and LGBTQIA2S+ communities.  You can follow their work on instagram at @DisarmingAllure

I’m come from the land of red dirt and red canyons

Some people, call us The Red People 

I’m born after Valentine’s Day; red hearts 

Red fire flames burning at ceremonies 

A red velvet blouse my grandmas wears 

Dad wasn’t in the picture, my anger is red 

I felt shame when I got my first period; red stains

I noticed my Mom drinking a lot of red tinted drinks 

I’m too familiar with skin becoming reddish from anger 

My school work had a lot more red markings than blue markings 

My art teacher recommend me to take up pottery, some from of therapy with red clay 

But I found sick relief seeing red come out of my skin 

I wish for my life to be of red carpets and red roses 

All I got was red stretch marks and cystic acne 

I grew up to have Red Pride if it only came to sports 

Too many red states, rapidly decline of my people

I’m a red target for racism, hatred, violence

I live my life in red ominous shadows 

But I wear my red heart shaped sunglasses 

It seems my life has too many red stop signs

I find myself beautiful with red lipstick on

I sometimes cry so hard that my eyes get bloodshot red 

I’m exhausted, I wish too often for a red line 

To me, a red dress is not only pretty 

It now represents trauma, suffering, silence, violence

Red blood from the murdered 

Red bodies being buried in the red dirt 

Bold red font of the missing 

Those red hearts aching from grief

I could easily be a MMIW, I wear red for awareness

I wear red to honor the murdered and missing

This color impacts my life and livelihood

The color red 

The donation for Mr Little Cat’s post will go to the Radical Indigenous Mutual Aid Fund, which supports radical (non-charity anti-capitalist anti-colonial) Indigenous Mutual Aid organizing efforts by individuals, collectives, and other organizations (excluding non-profits).

Meditative Notes on Dance During a Pandemic…

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest ContributerLeave a Comment

Vogue to the West by P. Don’Té Cuauhtémoc 

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

By P. Don’Té Cuauhtémoc, M.F.A.

Cuauhtémoc (Mescalero Apache, Mexika-Chichimeca/Cano, Cihuaiyolo Butch Queen) is a Critical Dance Studies Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). Their research and writing focuses on how queer, trans* and two-spirit black, and blackened indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere have deployed the dance form of vogue (voguing/Performance) as a praxis of decolonization, resisting capitalism, transformational resilience, and radical indigenous knowledge reclamation.  You can follow their work on Instagram @donte_omelauren and Facebook.

1) When dancing becomes easy, I get bored and unmotivated, but ‘ease in grace’ is a necessary aspect of dance performance.

2) I enjoy the rigor of dance class, training and practice, because of the growth I experience and see in myself, but always pushing limits can become unsustainable.

3) I was taught to dance in service of the people around me, and to the spirits and the Creator of this world. All of my dancing has become sacred because of this.

4) I want my dancing to be delicious. I want to be delicious. And that takes a lot of work. Every day, one moment at a time. I had wished there was some sort of end, or achievement, so that I could relish in all that I am and have created– but that’s only possible through privilege, which is an exploitation of labor through generational insidious means.

5) So long as we stand on stolen land that is “America,” our dancing is imperfect, and like everything we make, it is made with theft. I had once wanted to be a strong and balanced dancer, but the Queens taught me that’s an illusion made and sold, entrapping us to the reservations of our mind. They taught me to focus on acceptance, refusal, resistance, survival, and reciprocity. They taught me to enjoy the adventure, because my birth was prayed for, and I am a gift from the ancestors to do the warriors’ work.

6) I was born into a body that colonization had tried to destroy through genocide. The biopolitical warfare continues today on my black and brown, and blackened families. Because of this, the joy of dance, and my freedom to express anything I feel, is a blessing, a gift, that was fought for, through deadly wars and battles. My grandfather’s dream was for us to have our sacred freedom to dance.

7) What makes an incredible dancer, is not their technique, or their passion, but the fortification of their Spirit. Anyone can be beautiful when they are young, but to be beautiful and delicious in old age, is earned, and deserved.

8) Dancers lie. Hips lie. Eyes lie. Hearts lie… Like everything else, imperfection of truth, is the only real lived experience we will ever have. So, I’m not too interested in the illusion of moral consistency, or greatness in integrity… I am much more interested in how we recover when we fall: …how our completion of a dip always includes recovery…

9) Failure is our greatest teacher. She’s a hard-ass, but she knows how to get you to where you need to go.

10) I have seen, felt, heard, tasted, experienced my full truth only once in my life. But, I know the formula now, and I know how to recreate it. But recitationality is never enough, innovations through inclusivity is required for sustainability.

11) Elitism, ownership, and exclusivity are colonial terms, illusions for commodifications of materials, services, and experiences into commodities. With this, because of the meta logics of colonialism, those with power always benefit. Statements of truth, such as “dance is for everyone,” are strange and terrifying, because with simplicity, it disrupts colonial order.

12) We all want to predict the future, avoid mistakes, and say “aha!” Or “I told you so!” — but how we dance in the present moment is honestly much more important.

13) Why we dance comes before what we dance, always.

The donation for Cuauhtémoc’s post will go to the First Peoples Fund Resilience Fund, which “provides emergency relief to grassroots artists and culture bearers within our network so that they can cover urgent personal needs: food, housing, caretaking, and/or healthcare expenses.” 

This is Her Way

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest Contributer3 Comments

Wi’áaşal, the Great Oak, on the Pechanga homelands

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

By Stacy Roberts

Stacy Roberts is Pecháangayam Payómkawichum, The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Granddaughter of Lucille Garbani Leake. She is a Momma of two, and Auntie to five, but happy to Auntie anyone who comes along.  You can find her work at StacyNRoberts.com and on Twitter @StacyNRo.

When we first started to quarantine, I called my Grams. She answered the phone, but I am pretty sure she didn’t want to because she knew I wouldn’t approve of her shenanigans. She was out buying dried beans–because God forbid the family is in lockdown without fresh beans and tortillas. She says she is getting pizza and that she will head home after. I am not sure what it is about “pizza” that does it, but I feel fear rising in my throat like bile, hot tears rolling down my face, and I shriek, “I can’t lose you…I can’t…I don’t know how…I…I am…I am not okay.” She knows. She knows just like she always does. She assures me that everything is okay, but I know it is not. I mean, it is right now, but how can we be sure that it will remain okay? My anxiety has overcome my knowing and it is speaking loudly; it is all I can hear.

Anxiety is something we talk about a lot in my family, like a drunk cousin who is always there, but never invited. It sometimes feels like a superpower–sharpening my senses, making me hypervigilant. Because of it, I am fantastic under pressure, a problem solver. I give myself permission to fall apart in the aftermath, but not in the moment. Never in the moment. My superpower can also be my undoing–shrinking me, telling me lies, making me forget what is real and good. It is the trauma–current, collective, generational—that brings on the anxiety. It is the trauma that ushers it in, but I am learning how to manipulate it, using the anxiety for good.

Every now and then I have my fill, and this time it is pizza that sends me over the fucking edge. I try to hold it together, but I can’t. My Grams is out of the house and the thought of losing her is more than I can bear. I try not to think of it, ever. She is strong and measured and kind, but she can verbally eviscerate you with a smile on her face, and you don’t even realize what happened until you walk away. She orders Jack and Coke at the bar, can still a room just by walking in, and her voice can send me into a fit of tears. She isn’t sick and still I am afraid.

My Grams can sense my anxiety. When it is out of control, she treats me like I need to be shielded from all the bad in this world. She is the only person who has ever protected me in this way. I did not realize what was happening until recently. “Slow down, little girl,” she always tells me in a voice that sounds more like a threat than a suggestion. But it is movement that manipulates my anxiety, work that quiets the shrill voice. My Grams knows that; she invites me to slowness, to be present, to feel.

My Grams, in all her wisdom, sends me text messages joking about toilet paper, while teaching my sister how to pick medicine, how to pray, how to protect us from the virus, from the fear, from the bad medicine. My sister then distills the information, sends me medicine, and tells me what to pray. I was jealous, but my sister is further along; she knows how to listen, to slow herself, to see what is in between this world and the next. Our grandmother teaches us. This is her way.

Since the pandemic started, I find myself with this visceral need to be back on the Rez, to be with my Grams and surrounded by my people. I never lived there, but I want to be there now. I grew up on my grandpa’s Rez. I dream of him and that place almost every night–his living room exactly how I remember it, but his house devoid of walls, floor, and roof. The burnt orange, threadbare area rug laying ridiculously on hard dirt and rock. My grandpa is there. He is wearing a white undershirt, blue pants, gray Velcro shoes–the same thing he always wore. He invites me to sit next to him on the worn sofa I don’t ever remember him sitting on, preferring instead the armchair closest to the TV. He smells like soap and Black and Mild Cigars.

He was gruff and fit almost every stereotype of Native grandpas. He worked hard and could fix damn near anything. His hands should have been worn, calloused, and rough, but they weren’t. He had the softest hands, like little pillows of clouds for fingerprints. He was like that. Most people knew him as a hard man, but I never saw him that way. He loved us and made sure we knew it. In my dreams, I lay in his lap as the stars shine where the roof should be. He caresses my hair with those gentle cloud fingers. There is a peace in this dream place that I do not experience in my waking hours. This world makes sense to me.

My grandpa was claustrophobic. When we would go camping, he would haul his bedframe, box springs, and mattress all the way up the mountain. He set up his bed just on the edge of the tree line so he could see the stars. He slept under his blankets, in his own bed, and woke every morning to make that bed with the tightest hospital corners I’ve ever seen. I’ve always admired his “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want” attitude. Tents are for suckers, anyway. I miss him so much, every day, that it makes me feel like I might vomit. I do not want to miss my Grams like that. I do not want this virus to touch her. She knows that I am afraid. I wonder if she is sending me dreams of home, and him, to comfort me in the restlessness of night. 

This pandemic has awakened something old and deep within me; a thing that lives in my body, and is as resilient as my grandfather and as clever as my grandmother. My knowing is ancient and is being cultivated in prayers and silence and stillness. My knowing can get suffocated by my anxiety, sounding too much the same; my sister is better at differentiating the two. My knowing tells me that I can do hard things, that my people have always done hard things. Memories of eating commodity cheese and powdered eggs flood my mind. I feel the pang of hunger in my belly. I hear the wind whipping the thin walls of our single-wide trailer. I feel the synthetic fibers of ‘70s shag carpet on my bare feet. I smell the dust and desert rain. My body remembers; I have done hard things. The anxiety screams all the possible outcomes, the devastation, the pain. My knowing reminds me of strength in the face of fear. She does not numb, she does not shrink me, and she does not tell me lies.   

So, I do the things we have always done. I light sacred medicine, and the smell of my grandmother’s house fills mine. I watch the embers burn, and I thank our ancestors for their protection, for their resilience. I know this same resilience lives inside of me, inside of us. I put on a pot of beans and try to make tortillas like my Auntie. I suck at it, but I will get better with time. I call my Grams who tells me she has never seen anything like this in her life, and she is staying home and being safe. (I will text my Auntie and cousins to confirm this.)  I feel homesick, but these rituals make me feel better as they still the anxiety. They are ancient and a part of me, so I slow down and remember.

Stacy’s donation will be going to the NDN Collective COVID-19 Response Project. The NDN Collective’s COVID-19 Response Project is designed to provide immediate relief to some of the most underserved communities in the country. NDN’s intent is to quickly distribute resources to frontline organizations, Tribes and individuals to provide gap services during this health crisis, and to artists and entrepreneurs who have suffered the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I Am a Reluctant Gardener

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Guest Contributer1 Comment

Welcome to “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times,” an ongoing open call series to share perspectives and reflections on the pandemic from Indigenous people and communities. For each post I’m donating to a cause supporting COVID relief in Indian Country. For more information on the series, submission instructions, or if you would like to contribute to author honorariums and donations, please see this post.

By Patty Krawec

Patty Krawec is an Anishnaabe woman with roots in Lac Seul First Nation and the Ukraine and feet in Southern Ontario. Always looking for opportunities to talk  and write about the impact of racist policies and beliefs, Patty is a podcaster with Medicine for the Resistance which is co hosted by Kerry Goring, a Black woman and according to one reviewer, is an unapologetic dose of Black and Indigenous womanism.   You can find her at http://www.daanis.ca and on Twitter as @gindaanis.  

I am a reluctant gardener. In late winter I buy seeds and peat pellets and fill trays with little packages of misguided hope that sit in my bathroom for a few weeks. The ones that survive my inadequate and unpredictable watering get put outside on sunny days, and sometimes forgotten overnight. The hardiest of them make it to the end of May. Then I need to actually get them into a garden, by which time I’ve moved on to other interests.

My mother is a born gardener. She was mulching long before it was fashionable and my summer memories include long hours in the kitchen helping to preserve whatever was in season. This trait has skipped me and gone straight to my oldest son, but he gardens in a different way. He gardens the way our Anishnaabe ancestors did. Not the tidy lines of my German matriarchs, but the tended forests of woodland peoples. 

We live in the country, a long skinny property one acre wide and eight acres deep. It backs onto a wetland, a swamp, mshkeg.  You go through the meadow grass of our yard to the thicket and find a deer run. Follow that across a stream and over a small berm and the forest opens up to you in all its swampy beauty.  We used to call it Narnia because in the winter you can see the faint lights of our neighbours on the other side of the forest.

To most people it is a wetland, a forest filled with vernal pools and tall grasses, trees and low shrubs. To my son it is a garden. He tends the nettles and raspberry bushes, brings home ramps and the leaves from toad lilies, burdock root that he worried had been crowding out the nettles and turned out to be edible. He experiments with controlled burning of the meadow to see if it helped the wild strawberries threading their way through the grass.  It does. 

Starting in late winter and then through spring and early summer last year I went out to the swamp every week or so. My son had gone back to BC where he worked fighting forest fires, and I sent him pictures so he could watch it wake up. I harvested the nettles, eventually getting so used to them that the sting barely registered. I ate the raspberries that I could find; the birds got most of them. I remembered to bring candy and silver and small bits of leather and sinew, gifts for the little people. One day I found a small jawbone on the path, a gift maybe. Summer gave way to fall and the green gave way to gold and orange and red before getting tucked into its snowy blanket for a rest.

Europe colonized itself before it came to America. It separated peasants from land and separated people from the each other. It turned its hunger on the Americas, a wendigo so hungry that it consumes its own lips if there is nothing else for it to eat. We feed it because we don’t know how else to live, and so we live disconnected lives watching the seasons change through windows, marking the seasons by what we complain about.

The virus came to us in winter. It came hard and cruel, taking the most vulnerable instead of those responsible for the irresponsible stewardship of forests and animals. Those responsible always manage to distance themselves from the consequences of their actions. It came to us in winter, and it stayed with us while the swamp woke up. 

Many of us are at home because of the virus. Many more are not, working jobs deemed essential because they are in health care or part of a supply chain or a service that can’t be suspended. Our staying home means their work is safer and so many of us are at home, I am at home.  I’ve been at home since late July. 

I spent 15 years doing child welfare and one day I just couldn’t. The week before I went off sick I didn’t care, I didn’t care about anything. Not my workload, not the people whose homes I entered and investigated. The years of anxiety and stress had fractured me, secondary trauma wrapping my psychic wounds in a fog of apathy. I went to the doctor and two counselors and they said the same thing, I needed time to reorient myself. And it turns out that the best way to reorient is to stay home and walk dogs.

My dogs are active; they need to be walked no matter what the weather is which means walking in the early morning during summer heat, and later even when the snow is blowing sideways. So I walked the dogs every day, going around a 3 kilometer block that includes forest and fields, farms and horses. We didn’t go out to the swamp this year, but we did watch the seasons change.

This western society needs to reorient itself, and with more of us at home, walking our dogs or just ourselves if we can stay off Netflix we might see the changes that we’ve been travelling past. Facebook memes about March and April lasting for years remind us how fast life normally happens for us. Of all the ways that an apocalypse could happen, forcing so many of us to slow down and stay home is unexpected.

If we are going to transform our world we need to restore relationships, and our relationship to land is the first relationship we need to restore. Gardening is a restorative act, whether you garden like my mother in tidy rows and raised beds, or like my son who tends the forest behind our house. It connects you to land and to seasons, it creates a relationship in which we care for and are cared for in return. Garden centers noticed a spike in purchases of seeds and starter kits. We intuitively reach for this as a way to feel connected to something real.

I am a reluctant gardener. I may have some tomatoes and peppers that survived my ministrations and no garden beds yet to put them in. But I did subscribe to a CSA box. Community Shared Agriculture boxes are another kind of relationship. You invest in a small farm and get vegetables every week or two for five or six months. My hope is that in taking this small step I will begin to restore that relationship. Eating food in season instead of the same six vegetables I get from the grocery store regardless of the time of year. Taking small steps and reorienting myself.

Donation for Patty’s post will be going to her Pay Your Rent fund. The Patreon based mutual aid project called “Pay Your Rent” is a continuation of a June 2018 fundraiser on social media to bring menstrual supplies in extra luggage to Iqaluit. Since then she’s had been inviting settlers and allies living on occupied land to pay their rent. Through a partnership with Moon Time Sisters sanitary supplies continue to go to Iqaluit every quarter and many Indigenous projects supporting culture, two-spirit youth, water protectors, and families receive support.

Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times: A Series

In Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times by Adrienne K.2 Comments

Harvesting cedar gifts in my urban backyard

The world has changed in the last few months, and the world continues to change. The media has shown us plenty of footage of armed white protestors at state capitols demanding haircuts and gyms, but still largely leaves out the human stories of struggle and survival, the thoughtful, first-person perspectives and reflections that bring a face and voice to the reality that is right now. And as always, Indian Country’s stories are nearly absent. We know Native communities are being hit hard, but we also know there’s much more to the stories than what we’re shown in the news.

I’ve admittedly really struggled during these weeks of staying at home. My reality as a professor shifted dramatically overnight, and like many of you, I suddenly went from seeing my amazing students and colleagues daily to sitting in a cold basement, staring at moving squares on a laptop–a poor substitute for the relationships we all need to thrive. I felt, and feel, like my brain is working at about 1/3 capacity lately. Everything takes much longer and isn’t quite…right. I sleep so much, and am still tired. I miss my family, I worry for my friends, I haven’t gotten to meet my new baby nibling in NYC, and the uncertainty of what’s next causes endless stress.

Yet, I am safe, I am healthy, and there have been so many moments of beauty in this time. This is the longest uninterrupted stretch I’ve been in Providence since I moved here over six years ago. I’ve taken long walks through the quiet and empty city and come to appreciate it deeply. I’ve had to slow down. I’ve had to listen to my brain and my body. I’ve had to think about what matters to me, and what parts of “normal” are worth returning to, and what parts I want to leave behind. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.

I saw that last line on a pencil case on Anthropologie’s website. Or maybe it was Pinterest? Because let’s be real, while I’ve been walking and reflecting and being contemplative over loaves of sourdough, the one thing that has been overwhelmingly true of this time is that I’m spending hours scrolling things on the Internet. What is time but a chance to look at memes and read thousands of awful news stories or imagine alternate realities? For example: a new favorite is looking at Zillow listings, playing “where would I live if I moved to X?,” judging people’s interior decorating, and pretending I could make a downpayment on a $1.2 million dollar house (I can’t).

All of that is to say, there’s lots of stories of this time, especially in our Indigenous communities. Stories that are serious and real and funny and terrifying and everything in between, and I’d love to hear them. I posted this on Twitter and Instagram a few days ago:

This series will be the result. “Indigenous Stories of Uncertain Times” will feature voices of Indigenous people navigating these uncertain, scary, and sometimes beautiful times. The call is open to all Indigenous folks, and I’m open to all types of writing and media–photos, videos, audio, and artwork are welcome and encouraged as well. If it can be put in a blog post, send it over. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be perfect or polished. Youth submissions are encouraged, and if you want to call your grandparents or elders and record what they have to say for a submission, that would make my life complete.

As I was reading through the first submissions I decided I needed and wanted to offer some form of payment for these posts, even if largely symbolic. So I’ll be offering a small gesture of $20 per author, with an accompanying $10 donation to an organization supporting Indian Country’s COVID-19 response. I’ll start with $500 of my own money, but if you would like to sponsor a post, or give a donation to support more authors and charitable donations, my paypal is here, or my venmo is @adrienne-keene. Just put “for stories series” or something similar in the memo.

For folks who would like to submit, just send me an email at nativeappropriations@gmail.com. In your email include:

  1. A title
  2. How you would like your name and tribal or community affiliation to appear
  3. A short 1-2 sentence bio, and if you’d like, links to your work or social media accounts
  4. A way for me to pay you (paypal, venmo, zelle, cash app…etc). (If you’d like your honorarium to go toward a COVID cause of your choice, that’s totally fine too!)

I’ll plan on posting 1-2 stories a day, depending on the volume, and I’ll share out on Twitter as they go up. You also can subscribe to the blog by email here, if you’d like to receive new posts in your inbox.

So I welcome you to share with me, share with one another, and stay safe and well. I look forward to creating and sharing this space with all of you.

PS- If you would like to support Indian Country during this time, https://indigenouscovidresponse.com/  is a great resource pulling a lot of different links and sources together.

An apology to Navajo, Hopi, and Choctaw

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.2 Comments

Yesterday I tweeted something quickly during a meeting, an insensitive and misguided attempt to critique media framing around Irish support of Navajo and Hopi Nations. I immediately deleted less than 20 minutes after I posted it, once I realized how off the mark and harmful it was. But in the land of screen shots, the tweet has now circled all over social media and back again, and while I’ve apologized on Twitter, I want to make sure the apology lives here as well. Here is the text of my twitter apology, with a few edits for clarity:

I went to bed sick with anxiety and woke up to folks I deeply respect from the Navajo nation in my inbox telling me how much harm I caused. So I want to reiterate that my original tweet was awful and misguided. Navajo/Hopi are suffering deeply right now, and to imply through my words that Irish support was misdirected was harmful and wrong. The fault lies in the media framing, conflating tribal nations and erasing that this generosity is not a “payback” for any kind of debt, rather a paying forward of Choctaw kindness.

Regardless, it wasn’t necessary to tweet this opinion, especially right now, and I thank the Navajo, Irish, and Choctaw folks who jumped in my mentions immediately to tell me so and helped clarify my words and thinking. I deleted the tweet quickly once I realized how wrong it was, but I recognize I should have apologized immediately and not only later after folks called me in. I have many friends and relations in Navajo and worry constantly for them. I have been trying very hard to support from afar, but there are amazing groups on the ground doing life saving work.

For those looking for ways to support, my college friend Stefanie (@GiveIndigenous)has pulled together a site to streamline how to help: https://indigenouscovidresponse.com, with many links to resources.

So again, I apologize sincerely and deeply for my original tweet. It was hurtful and wrong. It was deleted. If you feel the need to continue to share out the screen shot, I hope you’ll also consider sharing this apology as well.

I realize as someone with white privilege and academic privilege I have to hold myself to a higher standard, and that I have a responsibility to continually unpack and dismantle that privilege. I feel like I’ve been failing on that front recently as I’ve dealt with my own personal and career challenges. But I commit to doing better. For many years I’ve been trying to figure out how to transition Native Appropriations back to what the original goal of the project, which was a forum of many voices discussing issues of representation. It was never meant to be just my voice and my perspective. So in the coming months I’m going to think about the ways to share this platform, especially on Twitter, whether through a rotating “host” like @indigenousX, @IndigenousXca, or @IndigenousBeads, or through a core group of folks willing to curate the feed on issues of representation, like @_illuminatives. I’ll keep thinking, and will make any announcements of changes both here and on Twitter.

Thank you, as always, for continuing with me on this journey as I attempt to learn publicly. I truly apologize for my insensitive tweet, and hope we can continue on together.