Sunday, May 31, 2015

Speaking For Natives?

Yesterday I took a big step.

Because of recent poems which I posted writing in a plural "we" (identifying with Natives), I felt the need to clarify who I am in terms of Native heritage on the CANM page, and so I wrote it out in poem form, and then shared it on the CANM page as well as with my anti-mascotry Native friends.

I had never come out and said things so straight to them. Well, actually I had, in an article one of them published for me last December. But I'm not sure how many read that.

One person who I wish had read it and taken it to heart is a young, pro-mascot conservative blogger and commentator. She has been on the news and in print, publicly citing her Native identity and tribal membership. But yesterday the tribe she claimed membership in exposed her— she wasn't enrolled and they didn't have her lineage. Natives took to her social media pages and there was a mix of reprimands and harsh words, calling her a fraud, etc.

I felt bad for her. She should have known better. She feels rejected by the tribe, and mistakenly thinks it was because she was pro-mascotry. I feel bad for her, but I also feel bad for Natives because they put up with people claiming Native identity all the time. She publicly lied (maybe foolishly rationalizing it to herself in some way as not "lying"), and she got caught.

It hurts. I want to see families and people reconciled. I want to see generations and descendants reunited. I don't want this to happen. It's painful.

I'm praying for her to repent and try to learn and understand why false claims hurt Natives. And to somehow be reconciled to them, to be each other's "people" by more than blood, but by a relationship of respect and love.

As I wrote my poem about who I am, about my Native heritage, I couldn't help but think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." I could have taken a similar route if it were not for the wise advice of friends. I could have made claims and loudly self-identified if it were not for friends teaching me to respect, honor, and quietly learn from Native people.

I couldn't help but be afraid as I posted my "coming out" about my own heritage. I couldn't help but fear rejection and reprimand for what I had written. So far I've only had support, and haven't received any reprimands. But I'm mindful of boundaries and don't want to cross any or offend anyone. So it was right that I should come out and say what I did.

The timing didn't escape me, though. I felt the need to write what I did before the young conservative lady was exposed. I don't think it's coincidental that I felt led to write and that she got outed for false claims around the same time. I'm not sure what it means, that timing.

But God, she just shouldn't have claimed what she did. She should have known better. Someone should have told her, or she should have listened and not barged on with her public commenting (which got a lot of no doubt intoxicating applause from conservative media).

On that note, I don't want to be intoxicated, either, by the support and praise for the poems and memes I've made on the CANM page! I want to be humble, and to remember where I've come from and how much of a non-expert I am— that I am no spokesperson for Native people at all. I don't want to make the mistakes she made.

I'm praying she repents and seeks reconciliation. It's a tall order, though, and few friends are optimistic that she will. I hope the shame and embarrassment have a positive effect and lead her to do the right thing, and to learn to listen and try to understand Native feelings instead of sharing her own feelings as in the name of Natives.

With that desire, I wrote a letter to her. I pray it will reach her, and pray that it will help her take a step back and begin to understand what she has done.

It wouldn't have been hard for the news agencies that used her to have simply checked with the tribe she claimed to be a member of. It wouldn't have been hard, either, for them to simply approach tribes to ask for comments and opinions about things like mascotry. There are a lot of enrolled Natives who don't mind mascots!

(Though the latest and most methodical poll asking Natives if they found the Washington football team name offensive finds that over two-thirds of respondent Natives find it offensive, and if that's any indicator about how Natives feel about mascotry in general, then pro-mascot Natives are a minority.)

The tragic reality is that we hear what we want to hear. This young lady claimed to be a tribal member, and they put her on TV and in print because she said the things they wanted to hear.

Sadly, it's not the first time this has happened with the mascotry debate, as several pro-mascot teams have flown in "Natives" whose claims of being Native have been proven false. It should be embarrassing to them, but they keep doing it anyway.

Why can't they just go talk to tribal Natives? Why does the majority race in America think they can speak for Natives, or not care to hear them at all? This is very, very reflective and characteristic of the whole pro-mascot position. People want to keep their mascots, and dismiss Natives who protest against them as being liberals or "politically correct."

It's also really reflective of how Natives are treated in general— their opinions don't count. America doesn't even bother to ask.

Praying for this to change.

Please, Yowah.
Please open eyes
and make this change.


It's painful.

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