the strength, the courage it must take.
i know this was meant to be sarcastic, but sincerely for a large population of people, it does. Particularly for those who come from families who have had relatives who’ve been through boarding school and were made to feel so ashamed of being native that once they left, they tried to assimilate into the dominate society… and felt that they were only doing what was right for their family to keep all information about being native buried.
The same is true for folks who belong to families that back in the day it was safer to pass as anything other than native american… and for folks who belong to families that historically, the dominate culture has not wanted to identify them as native due to the fact that they and their families do not fit into the dominate society’s idea of what a native looks like (hello: Black Natives, Asian Natives, Indigenous people below the southern boarder of the U.S., Jewish Natives, European Mixed Natives, the list goes on).
“Coming Out As Native” (myself as an obvious example of this) is also incredibly hard for thousands of folks over the coarse of time who have been adopted out (remember, that just as it was 1950s-present, between 25% and 35% of all native kids were and are being adopted out into non-native foster homes and adoptive homes). It does take strength. It does take courage.
Not all of us are lucky enough to be born into situations where our pride in our cultures, tribal nations, and identity is handed to us and validated. If that has been your luck, then hug your family and thank the creator every day.
Much like folks don’t want Natives to be seen as stuck in the late 1800s, we need to stop thinking/acting like assimilation also stopped sometime ago. The systematic assimilation of Native people is just as real today as it was when the government was rounding our ancestors up and sending them away to boarding schools.
Assimilation today in 2013 may look much different than it did in the late 1800s. But if folks want to talk about assimilation and how bad it was/is then let’s not just confide it to boarding schools, the Dawes Act, and forced sterilization of 40% all native women. Lets talk about how assimilation is being carried out today, in the present… and let’s also not just confide it to Cultural Appropriation and stereotypes… because that’s just the tip of the iceberg (and let’s also not pretend like every Indian, NDN, Native American, American Indian, American NDN, Indigenous or whatever you want to label yourself and other folks as do not also participate in tacky images of Native imagery and stereotypes). Let’s talk about the adoption system, how the indian child welfare act is being undermined-and frankly have been since it was passed in 1978. Lets also talk about other important ways that assimilation is being carried out today.
We would all do well to remember that a large portion of us have to take the burden upon ourselves (sometimes even against our family’s wishes) and be the first one… sometimes in a few generations of people… to step out/up and say “Hey, I’m Native.” That step in and of itself is a huge step. I can’t even tell you how long it took for myself to gather the courage to say that out loud.. in a non-“fun-fact-about-me-i’m-a-snowflake”-kind-of-way and to also buy books about Natives to begin learning even the smallest of details (outside of a text book) about natives… and to think about what that information might mean for/about my family and myself. It took an even greater amount of courage and strength to even take the train across Chicago to Uptown to just step inside the American Indian Center Chicago to sign up to be a member and see what that place was all about. I can tell you that even just doing that, I needed my friend Cat (non-native, but best friend) to go with me. These seem like small steps.. very small things… but they were huge.. and took a lot of courage for me. It took me even longer before I could just straight out say, when asked where I was from, “I’m Lakota and Choctaw*” without having to go through the “Well I was adopted out and my mom’s side is both Lakota and Choctaw and my dad’s side is Choctaw… my grandfather was full*” and go on a whole long explanation… like I needed to go through my family history to justify myself as native to everyone I met.
It seems to me that there are quiet a large number of people who like to talk a good talk about “Decolonize yourself!” “Decolonize your mind!” “Decolonize the land” blah blah blah.
Let’s get something straight.
Going around and shaming folks for “Coming Out as Native” is just disgusting. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and just say that it’s just ignorant.
I’m gonna go back and underline a point: There’s quiet a large number of people who like to talk a good talk about “Decolonize yourself!” “Decolonize your mind! “Decolonize this land!” “Decolonize this!” “Decolonize that!” blah blah blah…. but then like to turn around and say sh** to folks like you just said “,Coming out as Native American, the strength, the courage it must take.” All these things to deny and shame people. To get a laugh when it’s convenient to pick and choose what parts of history you want to take and blindly hate and belittle folks that you perceive to be non-native (generally “white”).
It’s not convenient to look at history and remember that a product of Boarding Schools and Residential Schools was that there were large number of people who had the pride of being Native beat out of them… and when they were able to leave (if they made it out alive) they felt it was safer (for themselves and family) to bury they were native. Remember: The product of boarding schools was assimilation. To “kill the Indian, save the man.” To white wash natives. To turn people in to living apples: Red on the outside, white on the inside. And you know what, the tragedy was that the boarding schools, on some level, were successful.
There are many native folks who like to be masochistic. We like to relish and dwell in the pain of the boarding school experiences… the kidnappings, the beatings, the sexual assault, the mental abuse, the deaths, the process of the assimilation. We’ll talk for days about it on our blogs… we’ll scream at people in our classrooms about it. We’ll cry. We’ll cry for all the ancestors that died there. We’ll cry and feel bad for our relatives who survived it… as long as they still identified as native… no matter whether they in turn turned in to alcoholics, drug addicts, abusive, or poor parents because of their experiences there. We won’t think about those people who survived and assimilated because of their experiences there. We damn well also will not think about their decedents.
No. We’ll scoff at them instead… because it makes US feel more NDN.
But I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s a been a rare moment for me that I’ve ever seen anyone stop and think about how the boarding schools and other successful assimilation attempts, past and current, have affected the generations of people… “What are these folks like now?” “What does a successful assimilation attempt of Native people look like?” “Do I interact with folks who have been successfully assimilated?” “How should I interact with people who have been successfully assimilated?” “How does shaming people who have been successfully assimilated help solve the problem of assimilation?” “Does shaming people who have been successfully assimilated mean that I am also engaging in the colonization and perpetuation of the the colonizers’ desire to ‘Kill the Indian Save the Man?” “Am I up holding the systematic oppression and genocide of native people when I shame people who have a family history of being successfully assimilated?” “Is my shaming people who are ‘Coming Out As Native’ essentially telling people who are working on decolonizing themselves and perhaps their families, acting also like the people running the boarding schools?” “Can I really say that I support Decolonization if I shame people who are working on decolonizing themselves-particularly when their family has a history of being successfully assimilated and that person I want to shame is essentially taking the first step (abet seemingly small) to undo the assimilation of their family?”
Yeeahhh… I’m gonna go a head and say it’s exceedingly rare for me to see ANYONE even begin to ask any of those questions. Instead, it’s cooler to scream DECOLONIZATION (and post photos of various plains chiefs and indigenous people with the word Decolonization typed boldly across them) and then slander anyone who says something like, “I’ve got native in me” “i’m part native” “my great grandmother was native” “I’m native”
It’s time to start thinking (dwelling) beyond boarding school. It’s time to start thinking about the assimilated generations.
It’s time to stop screaming Decolonization if you’re not willing to also begin thinking in realistic terms about how to engage yourself in processes of healing the colonization and assimilation that has been done.
Don’t refer to the word/term Decolonization if you’re willing to walk the road of shaming someone rather than helping them in a process of healing. If you’re not in a place to help someone in a process of healing from assimilation (aka helping them to also begin an intergenerational process of decolonization for themselves and their families) then don’t say anything at all. Just scroll on past or walk away. The energy you exert shaming them only serves to make you bitter (and eventually sick) and perhaps turn that person from a path of decolonization… thus aiding the process of assimilation. All the way around, it’s not worth it in the end. Pain promotes pain.
Remember that if we are all going to talk about colonization, assimilation, and decolonization, it is ultimately our responsibility to also think, talk, and write about healing. Decolonization is ultimately a process of healing. It’s a process of healing the broken circle. This means helping to bring people and families back into the circle-not excluding them. This is a time of repatriation and rematriation. This is a time of looking at our shared history and not dwelling on the pain, but looking at solutions to heal.
Become part of the answer (decolonization), not the problem (perpetuating assimilation).
*having met my paternal birth family, I now know that my paternal grandfather was actually full Cherokee (last name Bear)… and after doing the family tree on ancestry.com I know it’s also likely that my maternal grandfather was not actually Sioux… and that my maternal grandmother was Choctaw. The story/knowledge about my tribal nations have changed since the time I struggled to just tell folks out rightly where my family was from tribally.
It’s frustrating to not be able to fashion myself in ways that are fulfilling and empowering, but that’s not about an overpriced, blasé cap sleeved polo from A&F.
"The odd thing about this life is that you spend half your time trying to get people to listen to you and the rest of the time trying to get them to leave you the fuck alone."Tom Waits (via moonbrains)
People don’t write “queer women” as “queerwomen” because queer women’s (note the space) womanhood isn’t distinct from regular womanhood. They’re women who are queer - queer women - so “queer” is just an adjective further describing the woman. As in, they’re regular women who have an identity (queerness) that doesn’t disqualify them from womanhood and place them in a type of second-class womanhood (which is what “queerwomen” would denote if it existed). Then why do people write “transwomen”? Put your thinking caps on for this one. Show all work to receive full credit.
Most people won’t admit it, or don’t even realize it, but
caring for people takes energy out of you.
Investing your time and attention making sure somebody knows
that you love them and that you want to ensure their well-being can drain you:
- even physically.
Love people, but take care of yourself.
Don’t burn yourself out.
"I cannot stand small talk, because I feel like there’s an elephant standing in the room shitting all over everything and nobody is saying anything. I’m just dying to say, “Hey, do you ever feel like jumping off a bridge?” or “Do you feel an emptiness inside your chest at night that is going to swallow you?” But you can’t say that at a cocktail party."Paul Gilmartin, The Mental Illness Happy Hour (via conceptnoir)
"Well, the idea I was raised with was that, as aboriginal people, everything that we do is political. When we wake up in the morning—that’s political. The fact that we’re here driving and surviving is political because everything has been done in the past 500 years to stop that from happening. So the politics part of it is automatic. It’s not even a choice. It’s a responsibility that we have to carry as aboriginal artists because it’s just part of our life. It goes back to that holistic way of seeing life. We don’t divide the political and the spiritual. The day to day. Those are all a part of the same thing."
"I still catch myself feeling blue about things that don’t matter anymore."Kurt Vonnegut (via route-s)
what kills me about these goddamn “why can’t i let my kids do racist shit and play NDN” posts is that you ALWAYS see people arguing that it’s just kids “using their imagination”
look, your kid didn’t just dream this shit up, they picked it up from somewhere. yet that’s the big defense - it’s imaginative play! where’s the harm in a little make-believe?
but that says it all. because to racists, native people aren’t even real people, they’re just figments of their kid’s imagination.