Florida State Goes To The Rose Bowl (mascot, poetry, arts)

Editor’s Note: This poem was sent to Native News Online on January 1 prior to the Florida State Seminoles versus the Oregon Ducks appearance in the 2015 Rose Bowl. Melissa Bennett (Umatilla/Nez Perce/Sac & Fox Nations) is the Portland State University Program Coordinator for the Native American Student & Community Center. She earned her Master of Divinity degree from Marylhurst University along with graduate certificates in Pastoral Care & Counseling and Theological Studies. Melissa is a writer and emerging storyteller and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize after her poem “Church of Frida” appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Yellow Medicine Review. She is interested in story as medicine, especially its ability to heal historical trauma among indigenous communities. Melissa is a member of the 2014-15 Native American Youth and Family Center LEAD Cohort, the Northwest Indian Storytellers Association, and WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. 

“FSU Goes to the Rose Bowl”

By Melissa Bennett

Unwrapping my new stainless steel French press when you
On the couch three nephews away from me
Unwrap your 1996 flannel shirt and show us all
With a big smile on your face that pints nowhere near me
Your new Florida State Seminoles t-shirt

And that pasty white face
With the two red war paint stripes
With the low hanging feather
And the mouth open in a battle cry or mourning wall

Is the only thing I see in that room

The Christmas tree with its white lights and red ornaments has disappeared
The presents left underneath fade away
The smell of holiday ham and Grandma’s pineapple sauce evaporates
The laughter of your boys as they open gift after gift has never existed
Mom and Dad are gone
Your wife an illusory mirage at the edge of my vision

It is you
And it is me
And it is that shirt

Almost 38 years I have been a daughter in this room
36 of those years I have been your sister
In the time it took you to unwrap your flannel
And reveal your allegiance
To racism and oppression and colonization
Your made me the Indian sister to the white brother
The adopted one
The outside one
The alone one
The one no one listens to
Or cares about

And it all comes back

When I was four and overheard Mom defending her choice to adopt an Indian baby
When I was six and our Great Aunt told her friend standing next to me,
“You know she has that red blood in her”
When I was twelve and everyone began asking, “What are you?”

When I was sixteen and became a “Half Breed” certain to get one of those “Indian scholarships”
When I was twenty and my abusive boyfriend reminded me I was a “Lazy Indian”
When I was thirty-two and a man in my grad school class said,
“I bet you could sneak up barefoot on a white man and slit his throat”
And on Monday when I heard that an Indian man was killed because the police officer mistook his sweetgrass braid for a knife and shot him
And how my friend was the dead man’s cousin

All of it comes back

Every cut
Every mirco-aggression
Every feeling associated with
Every word
Every look
Every act of violence

All of it

The adoptions
The sterilizations
The relocations
The reservations
The suicides
The homicides
The blood quantum
The boarding schools
The 522 years of genocide

All of it hides in that pasty white face on your shirt that is supposed to be me

An Indian
Your sister

This Indian Does Not Owe You (arts)

Just because you’re curious about my ancestry, my beliefs, and my experiences doesn’t mean I owe you answers.

I am here before you, a living Indian, upright and animated, full of blood. I am a young Cowlitz woman, not one of the dead chiefs flattened into history books. I have come to expect that you may want to know what an Indian knows and feels; you may want to unroll before me your knowledge about Indian wars or toss out a fun fact about totem poles — conversational niceties, perhaps, attempts at connection. Fair enough. Know, though, if I have no response, it is because I have only a few inches of innards left to pull out for examination. I must place some limits so that I might keep myself intact.

I do not owe you a complete breakdown of my ancestry. I do not keep a blood quantum chart sketched out on my palm like crib notes for an exam. I do not have to tell you where my mother was born or what substance forms my father. I don’t have to justify the place of my birth, necessarily off-reservation because my tribe has none, all of our land taken from us. I cannot stop you when your gaze searches my face, gouges out my eyes, and roughs up my cheekbones, but I don’t have to respond when you offer your assessment. I don’t measure my blood in pints and quarts, and I will not spill it at my feet for you.

I do not owe you my assistance with your search for the Indians you’re sure you’ll find buried somewhere in your ancestry, the ones from tribes and places you can’t name, specters skittering between generations, a rumor or a wish.

I do not owe you the names of those you call “shamans,” and I will tell you I don’t know where to find any, but when you ask me if it’s all a bunch of hocus-pocus, despite every urge to bundle up all my secrets and send you away with nothing, I will spit back at your slap, “Of course that’s real.”

When you refuse to copy down the contact information for the museum that will work to repatriate the “ancient Indian artifacts” you say you got for a steal at a yard sale, do not be surprised when I say I know no galleries that might offer up cash for your goods. I do not owe you advice on how to sell the bones you dug out of your garden.

I do not owe you the long hair that confirms your expectations or the short hair that defies them. I do not have to let you touch it. I don’t even have to let you witness it. And yet you do see it: the hair that was two inches long when I came to this place where every woman in line before me was born; the hair that has grown as long as it can, skimming my waist; the hair that is getting limp under the weight of trying to insist upon what my pale scalp cannot.

When you quiz me on genocide highlights — Were those smallpox blankets real? I’ve always wondered about that — to sate your hunger for facts, I do not owe you a free education of the kind that my university students pay for, and I am not so flattered by your interest in my people that I might unfurl a lecture on 500 years of colonization for your edification. I don’t owe you commentary, desk punditry, or afternoon anger. I don’t want to let you play devil’s advocate over casinos or feed you arguments about team names that you can pull out at happy hour. But I won’t tell you, either, about the burn that runs up my spine: the rape of Native women from sea to sea, from the first metal clash of conquest to each passing second. In the U.S., 1 in 3 Native women have been raped or have experienced attempted rape. When you are in a room with me, know that I am one raped woman. And though I owe you nothing, I’ve been broken into, broken down, and broken in over time. If you are a stranger in my otherwise empty office at the end of the day, I just might give you leads tracking down the Indian enrollment card you’ve been coveting if it gets you to leave.

I am not here to weigh in on the authenticity of that sweat lodge–retreat weekend you paid for in the ’90s. I am not invested in your personal search for meaning, but I was raised to treat others as I want to be treated. How I want to be treated: not like a cabinet full of curiosities. Not like a magic lady who waves her hands over your wounds and heals you of your ignorance. You can keep your wounds; I keep mine.

I do not owe you gratitude for your love of “our” ways, “our” art, “our” peaceful nature. Love is not consumption; love is generous, love is action, and violated bodies and homelands can do nothing with unfocused appreciation. Whether you’re learning your new fact for the day or admiring the print on my office wall, you have the privilege of consuming and walking away. You can discard the printouts from my website you brought to my office after you leave with what you came for: a look at what Irish, French, Ukrainian, and Indian looks like. You can scroll across the blip on your Facebook feed about the overrepresentation of aboriginal women among totals of murdered and missing women in Canada. Even if you think it’s a tragedy, you can click the X and walk away. Whether you believe it or not, I’m Indian every day.

When you tell me that if you had been alive back then, you would’ve done something, I don’t disagree. But I don’t say that I know that it’s true; you might have done something, but maybe not what you’d like to think you’d do. When you tell me that it’s too bad we were all annihilated, I owe you nothing, but still, I am giving you more knowledge than you deserve when I say, “I can’t help you.”

Photograph by Wendy Red Star: “Walks in the Dark” (Thunder Up Above series), 2011, 44 × 31 inches, archival pigment print on paper.

Reaching Back Through Time (arts)

TOTH: April Skinas

"Reaching Back Through Time: The WPA Interprets Native California Creation Stories" is an exhibit on loan from the Judith Lowry Collection, featuring New Deal era artwork reproduced courtesy of California State Parks. Between 1937 and 1942, Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists Marjorie Lee and Stephen J. Quinn produced a series of watercolor illustrations for the Mount Diablo Museum Project, based on the Creation Stories of the Miwok people. Stories include the “Birth of Wek-Wek”, “How Ah-ha’-le stole the Sun for the Valley People” and “The Bear and the Fawns”.  


National Poetry Month (arts)

April is National Poetry Month

Celebrate the art of the written word with NIEA. This month NIEA will highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievements of American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian writers and poets as they continue to share their personal stories, argue crucial political and social issues, and demonstrate historical events. Take this opportunity to read and reflect upon poetry from popular and traditional culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry's ability to extend across Nations. 
Joy Harjo, Muscogee Creek

Steven Kealohapau'ole Hong-Ming Wong (Kealoha)Native Hawaiian

First Poet Laureate of Hawaii  

Kealoha PoetryLive Poetry Reading 

 Resources for Educators

 Poetry Foundation;  Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center;  Academy of American Poets 

James Luna contemporizes American Indian art (arts/profile)

Much of James Luna's work is distinctly Native American, but the contemporary artist isn't churning out traditional pottery or Kachina dolls. The edgy, half-Mexican, half-Luiseño artist is known for his politically charged, often humorous installations and performance art. His best-known work includes the controversial "Artifact Piece" that he originally staged in the late '80s for the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Dressed in a loin cloth, he lay in a glass case for hours as museum visitors ogled him, reading informational cards describing the source of scars on his body, mostly results of alcohol-fueled incidents.

"Physically, spiritually and mentally, that piece was devastating, because you're so vulnerable being looked at like that," Luna recalls, giving CityBeat a quick preview of I Con, his new photography exhibition opening with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at Mesa College Art Gallery, alongside an exhibition by former collaborator Richard A. Lou. Lou will discuss his work, and Luna will present a 20-minute performance piece immediately after the reception in Room G101.

Like much of Luna's work, "Artifact Piece" carried a message about how mainstream culture chooses to include or ignore Native American culture. He wanted to draw attention to the way museums tend to treat native cultures as if they're a collection of artifacts from dead people, focusing on their history without acknowledging their place in contemporary culture.

The photographs in Luna's new show continue to prod at the notion of mainstream culture's inclusion and exclusion of American Indians, asking viewers to dig deeper into the meaning behind his whimsical work. He calls the photos in the show "Performographs"—performance art captured with a camera. Many of the pieces start with a written script or concept. He boils it down to a solitary moment and then freezes it in a stylized, narrative photo.

In one series, for example, Luna, who lives on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in North County but rarely shows locally, juxtaposes images of himself next to historical photos of Ishi, the last member of the Yana tribe of Northern California.

"The point of the work is, if you don't know about this man, you should," Luna explains. "If you want to know more, go look it up. I'm not going to spoon-feed people."

What is up at Birchbark Books (arts)

Birchbark Books  Native Arts
Birchbark Books Reading Series
Wednesday, March 12th @ 7pm 
Bockley Gallery 
2123 W 21st St, Minneapolis (next to Birchbark Books)
The Birchbark Books Reading Series is pleased to present poets b: william bearhartSun Yung ShinCole Bauer, and Margaret Hasse. Curated by Michael Kiesow Moore, the reading series features new, emerging, and established writers quarterly from September through May. View theseries flyer for details about the poets and the event. Hope to see you there. Bring a friend!
LeAnne Howe & Eric Gansworth
Tuesday, March 25th @ 7pm 
Bockley Gallery 
2123 W 21st St, Minneapolis (next to Birchbark Books)
Two of the most entertaining authors you will ever hear,LeAnne Howe (Choctalking on Other Realities) and Eric Gansworth (If I Ever Get Out Of Here), will be in the Twin Cities for the Native American Literature Symposium and will be giving a reading at Bockley Gallery with book signing to follow at Birchbark Books. View the event page for author bios and further details. Free!
Featured Books
Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language 
by Margaret Noodin
Combines literary criticism, sociolinguistics, native studies, and poetics to introduce an Anishinaabe way of reading. Although nationally specific, the book speaks to a broad audience by demonstrating an indigenous literary methodology.
Masculindians: Conversations About Indigenous Manhood 
by Sam McKegney
What does it mean to be an Indigenous man today? Firmly grounding Indigenous continuance in sacred landscapes, interpersonal reciprocity, and relations with other-than-human kin, these conversations honour and embolden the generative potential of healthy Indigenous masculinities.
Save the Date! Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Roadand Through Black Spruce, will be giving a reading of his remarkable new book, The Orenda, on May 20th. Stay tuned for location and further details.
All titles by Louise Erdrich available in our online shop are signed by the author.
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