Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing "We"

Recently I've been writing poems and making memes for the CANM (Christians Against Native Mascotry) page I started on Facebook and Twitter.

The main angle that I'm working from there is looking through the lens of Matthew 25:40, "Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you have also done to Me."

Initially l wrote about Natives in the third person or as "they," but in three the last few poems I've written of Natives in a collective, plural first person "we."

I've been cautious about this, if you've read any of my posts here about identifying and recognizing the need to respect those who have grown up in a Native community. So when posting things on CANM and talking with Natives & non-Native allies involved in anti-mascotry activism, I've generally kept quiet about what my heritage means to me and how deeply it affects me. And I'm not sorry about that. I think it's the right thing for me to do.

When I wrote two of the recent poems ("Not Your Heritage" and "For Our Children"), I set it in my mind that although I felt a kinship with Natives, I was assuming a poetic "Native voice"—and that was easy because those poems were based largely on words and feelings I had seen from Native people themselves. I purposely distanced my person from them and wrote "inspired by" at the end of the poems. And I was truly inspired by them!—especially by the parents involved in the activism for the sake of their children.

But when I started writing the most recent poem yesterday something changed in me.

It had started after one activist parent shared some comments made by a school board member at Neshaminy, where the team name/mascot is the "r-skins." He had said of the name that it was "our heritage and tradition" and was an "inherent positive in how its been displayed and upheld for 85+ years."

Something rose up in my spirit and had to be let out in a new poem, called "An Older Heritage".

As soon as I began to write it, I felt like what I would write about Native heritage was also *my* heritage. I wanted to write not only the feelings other Natives have shared as before, but also my own feelings. Maybe no one could tell by reading it, but I wrote from *my* heritage.

I prayed about it as I began, and felt the Spirit say it was ok, and was good to do. (Wado, Unetlanvhi!)

(By the way, if you haven't read that particular poem, maybe it's a good idea to do so now. Here's the link again: "An Older Heritage".)

I think one of the things that really "broke" open in me to make this possible was that I heard my ancestors speak to me last night as I went to bed.
"Ramone," they called me.

"What is it, Tsisa?" I asked.

He told me, "They say, 'You honor us.'"
I can't explain what that did to me... the tears I wept and the cry that came out from deep within me so hard and so powerfully.

Earlier that night I had versified some comments written to a friend and posted them as a poem, called "So You Have Some Indian Friends?" (posted with a picture of the Wounded Knee cemetery, though the poem ranges all over the place and doesn't specifically mention the Wounded Knee massacre).

As of the time of this writing, that poem and picture have been shared 85 times and seen by 3,012 people! Some of those who re-shared it said, "Please share for our relatives." (I can't tell you what it means to me that my poems and memes are touching hearts across Indian Country and among non-Natives as well... that's another incredibly loving and humbling thing for me to experience.)

But one person when sharing that poem said, "Please share this for our ancestors. And for our children."


That triggered it for me probably, and Tsisa (Creator's Son) let me know that my ancestors were honored.

That is just incredibly humbling and awe-inspiring for me. It moves me deep in my soul, my spirit, and my heart.

Maybe that did something to me that opened me up to writing from a "we" perspective today. Yeah. Yes. That's it. That is true. Knowing my ancestors were honored did something deep in my soul, and released me to write in a way that identified with them and other Natives as "my people."

I thought ...well, I worried and doubted my "right" to do that. Of course. I thought of how I'm less than half "white," being half-Mexican and with 1/32 or 1/64 Cherokee from my mother's side. I thought of how Mexicans are the descendants of Natives just south of the modern, artificial "border." I didn't think of my desire to reconnect with my heritage & people as being any kind of "qualification" to write what I did. But I was lapsing into thinking of how I would explain how much Native "blood" I have, how it's more than half of me...

I felt impressed not to write about that when sharing it with my activist friends. But I wanted to explain it to myself. And really, that's just a feeling of inadequacy in me. I don't need to justify what I wrote to myself or to others. I don't need to count my "blood" amount.

Couldn't help it, though. ;-)

Ah well. :-)

So we'll see what happens. Maybe I'm growing more bold. Or more sure. I don't know. But I'm humbled, no matter what happens. And I'm thankful. And I will continue to speak and paint and write and make memes for my people. I love them.

Wado, Unetlanvhi. Wado.

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