Monday, November 17, 2014
Uncle Randy Woodley
Uncle Randy Woodley is one of the first people I wrote to after my Native heritage was awoken while watching Richard Twiss' memorial service. I had no idea who Randy was, and so didn't recognize him when he spoke at the memorial service, or know he was a close friend of Richard's.
I learned of him because Terry Wildman gave me a lot of good advice the next day after my awakening, and mentioned Randy's book, "Mixed Blood Not Mixed Up", as something that had helped Terry understand his own mixed-blood heritage. I checked out Randy's page and ordered the book from Amazon, because it's TRAGICALLY out of print! (**hint hint, Uncle!**).
Then I learned that Randy is also Cherokee like myself, which came as one of a series of confirmations and encouragements that Creator quickly sent me in the first day after my awakening (it was not until that day that I had ever remembered hearing "Cherokee" until I saw my mother had written it on the family tree she'd sent me).
So I ordered the book and also wrote to Randy, but it took him almost a month to accept my Facebook friend request (lol), and he didn't answer back initial my message until June, haha! By that time I'd started doing work for Terry's FNV project, and had sent a link of my paintings to Randy. In retrospect, it doesn't seem like it took him song to reply, haha! I should say that from what little I know of Randy, he is a very patient man!
Randy's personal story in the book indeed did help me. One thing in particular that resonated with me was how my heart had thumped and my soul stirred whenever I had seen the Smoky Mountains of the Southern Appalachia— the homeland of the Cherokee people, the place Creator had planted us. Even before my awakening those mountains had stirred something deep in me, but I hadn't understood why until my awakening and then reading Randy mention how those mountains are buried deep in the heart of every Cherokee. The painting at the top of the page is something I made immediately after finishing Randy's book.
I am grateful for Randy, who was not only the first person of my people that I re-connected with, but he was also one of the first among a number of friends who could completely understand my awakening and assure me that I was not crazy! (Wado, Uncle!) Coming from traditional American evangelical Christianity, Randy understood how I felt having such a deep spiritual experience that none of my teachers or churches could have ever prepared me to understand. He's been through these kinds of experiences and has seen them many times. (When I skyped with him a year later, Randy looked over at his wife and said, "We've been seeing these experiences happen to people for what, 20 years now?")
Randy is an awesome guy and family man. One of the first things he asked was not only how he could help me on my journey, but he also wanted to know about me and my family. He's also a brain— he's got a Ph.D and can make your head spin with academic writing and language with the best of them!
He's been a great advisor, mentor, resource and Uncle to me during this last year and a half (even if he doesn't write all that often, haha). In fact, it was Randy who first called me "nephew", which meant and still means a lot to me. (Wado, Uncle!) He's also been very patient with me as I've run things by him, shared some ideas, feelings and experiences, and collaborated on some ideas together.
Randy does a lot and has a lot going on, so the following list of links, like my description of him above, is woefully incomplete:
• Randy's Bio on his homepage
• Eagle's Wings Ministry
• Eloheh Farm
• Some of Randy's writings
This is Randy's latest book, "Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision". About the book, the best "review" I could write about it was this, from September 22 of last year:
I wanted to write a review of this book, but I'm at a loss. I don't know how to sum up what I read and how it affected and continues to affect me.
I shouldn't say "sum up what I read," but instead that it was more like "what I saw"... because the book is like putting your head into a whole different world, a whole different way of seeing things and understanding them, and taking a 360-degree view looking in that world. I learned so much, and I want to read it again. Soon. But I feel incredibly inadequate to describe it.
In a way, perhaps that is exactly as it should be when we consider the thoughts and hearts of indigenous peoples. Perhaps we should be silent, in awe, astounded by their different and holistic way of seeing.
So I'm moved. And want to go back and look through that 360-degree view again. And although I can't bring up specifics and don't know where to start in describing parts of the book, I suspect that quite a bit more of it has stuck with me than I realize.
Thanks, Uncle Randy.