10/11/15

Real Native Americans and Mattress Sales

I can honestly say that for most of my life I have given no thought at all to Columbus Day. Similar to Ortho-Mattress-Columbus-Day-Sale1
President’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day I think of the holiday in terms of mattresses going on sale and hopefully getting a day off of school.

Recently I have embarked on a new season of learning. I have begun a Master’s in Intercultural Studies. The program is in partnership with George Fox seminary- but run by NAIITS– the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies. So the program is taught by all Native American/Indigenous Christian professors, and many of my classmates are Native and Indigenous people.

I am a newbie to this world. I have only taken a couple classes, attended one conference, and just begun to learn about smudging, sweat lodges, and indigenous spirituality and worldview.  So what I offer is purely 101, or maybe even less than 101. I’m offering the pre-req’s before 101.  Here are a few lessons that I have been learning as I have entered into this new community.

Not all Indians are dead.

Kind of an abrupt statement. But I have learned that for someone like me, educated from the perspective of the dominant culture- the narrative is that Native Americans are a part of our history. Something along the lines of “It’s kind of sad what happened- but that was a long time ago. All the Indians died and we don’t need to really worry about them today.” We are taught to think of Native Americans as part of our past, not our present. This is part of how we reconcile ourselves with our colonial, genocidal, and racist history- we think of it as something that was perpetrated a long time ago by other people, not something that we need to be affected by today. Real, living, non-historical Native Americans, are troubling to this comforting worldview. My comforting worldview.

Everyday is talk about Colonialism Day

When I am in predominantly African American contexts or with activist minded POC, we talk about race all the time. We talk about systemic injustice all the time. We talk about what is bothering us about our churches, organizations, cities, and white friends- ALL THE TIME. We process the stress and dissonance of our racialized experience ALL THE TIME. It’s just normal. It’s just talking. But when white, and some Asian American folks, get around this they experience dissonance. It seems extreme, like we are making everything very racial. It has to be a special occasion (usually a crisis) for most white and Asian American people to talk about race.

Well I experienced this dissonance as I entered into my NAIITS context. Talking about colonialism and settler colonial issues is not special occasion talk in my new circle. It is everyday talk. I called something a hoe-down- which is part of my charming and whimsical slang, and got told, causally over lunch, that it was very colonial of me. I had to laugh at myself. When is the last time someone casually callethought-i-was-nnjcwtd me colonial!?!

At the NAIITS conference the Indigenous people introduce themselves by their tribe and geography, and everyone else introduces themselves by name and as a settler. I’m a settler!!! Ha- no free pass cause I’m a WOC. I have to own my identity as a settler on this land. Not just on special occasions, but everyday. It’s just normal talk. It seemed so militant at first. I was no accustomed to having this as a normal lens on life. But it would be weird to say to my Native American classmates and teachers- “Why do you keep referencing this totally normal part of your daily experience and worldview? It’s not something I usually talk about, so lets stop.” That would be ridiculous. Now after a short time, talking about how colonial I am, is as normal as talking about my next hair color.

So here we are at Columbus Day 2015. Most of us know that Columbus did not 11800361_894716260622089_5228560746448242866_nin fact “discover” this land. And we have become aware, to varying degrees, that he was a raping, pillaging, enslaving, violent man. Read this biography of the man for a helpful history of his life and the holiday. But what can be done and who wants to expend any real effort? Well, Native Americans have been expending effort to end Columbus Day as a holiday for a long time- since 1954 in my hometown of Portland.

So my application of my 101 lessons is to proactively support the trend of cities changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. I know that many people will write off this change as politically correct and irrelevant. I disagree. It matters. It matters who we want to honor in our history. It matters that we are willing to even think about our history and our present. And it matters that we begin to bear the fruit of repentance in any way we can. So if Indigenous people are lobbying for this change- why wouldn’t we listen to them?

Indig.PeoplesDayI for one will pay attention to October 12th for the first time in my life. And I will celebrate Indigenous people and their presence. I will continue to try and learn from them. I will urge my community of friends to honor actual real Native American leaders and stop using them as costumes, mascots, and festival gear.

Do you want to listen to some North American Indigenous voices to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day? Don’t just turn to history, listen to contemporary voices. Here are a few interesting options.

Unexpectedly, MTV took an episode of its Rebel Music series to feature several next generation Indigenous artist. Here is a write up on the mic about several artists they are featuring. And below is the episode. Absolutely worth the 30 minutes.

Here are some additional resources, mostly Christian Indigenous perspectives.

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss

Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley

God is Red by Vine Deloris Jr.

Singer Cheryl Bear’s music

Band Broken Walls

Here is a list of cities from www.usuncut.com that have changed Columbus Day to Indigenous people’s day.

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico – The city’s formal declaration”encourages businesses, organizations and public entities to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, which shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that our Indigenous nations add to our City.”
  • Lawrence, KS– Since September, students from Haskell University in Lawrence, Kansas have been taking initiative and pushing for the city to honor their ancestors by declaring October 12th Indigenous Peoples’ day. Just this Wednesday, they won.
  • Portland, OR– Portland’s City Council declared Indigenous Peoples’ day on Tuesday, something tribal leaders have been seeking since 1954.
  • Paul, MN– In August, St. Paul followed Minneapolis by declaring Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. Minneapolis passed its own resolution last year.
  • Bexar County, TX– The resolution was passed Tuesday, and local activists intend to press for the same thing in San Antonio.
  • Anadarko, OK– In September, Anadarko declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Anadarko Mayor Kyle Eastwood signed the proclamation while surrounded by tribal leaders from the Apache, Choctaw, Delaware, Wichita and others.
  • Olympia, WA– Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones presented Olympia’s proclamation at a rally in August. Nearly 150 people showed up to support the initiative.
  • Alpena, MI– In September, Mayor Matt Waligora declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The city says they desire “to develop a strong and productive relationship with all indigenous peoples, including the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, based on mutual respect and trust.”

These cities are following in the footsteps of Seattle and Minneapolis. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City    came close to passing it in September and will try to pass it again on October 13th, the day after the holiday.

 

Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

Indig.PeoplesDay

 

 

 

02/19/14

When Your Dreams Actually Come True

Sorry it has been a while since I posted! February 8th  was my EP release party. And it was AWESOME! It was the expression of many dreams coming true. Oh you want to see some pictures? Indeed! This is me… singing my #feistytunes!

Cozy_cave-1Cozy_cave-84Cozy_cave-95

Seven years ago I had a tiny idea spring into my head “I want to do more with music.” That evolved into the more practical step of “I want to go to music school.” So I went part time in my work with InterVarity ( big decision) and researched schools, and in the fall of 2009 I went to music school. Three quarters later my husband decided to leave his job, and it didn’t make financial sense for me to keep going to school in the midst of that transition so I stopped. I started a cover band and played our first gig the summer of 2010. I did that for about a year as I wrote my own songs and in the fall of 2011 I started a band that helped me arrange my original songs. Spring of 2012 I played my own songs in public for the first time. Spring of 2013 I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign. And February 2014 I had the Release Party for that EP.

The show was next level- we had background vocalists, choreography, and even dancers! Over 250 people came- more than I dreamed. My dream of writing my own songs and playing them for people had come true. My dream of recording had come true. My dream of seeing dancers choreograph something to one of my songs came true. Playing for an audience larger than my immediate circle of friends came true.

 

And here are lessons I learned along the way.

 

1)   It mostly felt like hard work.

The word dream is misleading because it sounds like something that happens while you are sleeping. But the truth is that these dreams required making hard and practical decisions to pursue music in the midst of an economic downturn, hitting my late thirties, my husband changing jobs, and not knowing what I was doing. There was nothing dreamy about it. It required planning, sacrifice, feeling dumb, and risk.

person-sleeping

 

2)   Nobody Cared

As an artist you have to come to terms with the fact that nobody cares if you do your art. Nobody insisted that I make art. Nobody noticed when I wasn’t writing songs, or challenged me when my work schedule filled all my time and I stopped creating. Outside of the sphere of the super famous- nobody cares if you make art. Nobody cared except me and God. So the drive had to be internal and that can be hard to sustain.

 

3)   A Surprising Number of People Cared

On the flip side, as I stepped out and took risks I was often touched by who came forward to encourage me. Pursuing music in this way happened after I was married. This wasn’t part of the deal when my husband married me, but he has been the source of unending encouragement and support. When I launched my Kickstarter, I felt so nervous that it would fail and I would look dumb. But it ended up being a deliriously encouraging experience. I couldn’t believe all the people that came forward to support my first time in the studio. I was so scared each time I asked someone to be in my band- but I have ended up working with an amazing group of musicians. Oh did you want to see the band? Cause we just got new band pictures taken. Here you go!

Motley

 

4)   Unexpected Returns

Through my work as a campus minister I have the joy and privilege of getting to know many many students and investing in their spiritual development. But as I stepped out as an artist I found a whole new way to connect with my students, particularly my students with artistic leanings. Suddenly a student was designing my album art. A former intern, that I had mentored in Black Campus Ministries and worship leading, became my songwriting buddy and background vocalists. A former student choreographed a piece for one of my songs. My growth and needs as an artist opened up a whole new way to relate to my students and it was incredibly creative and reciprocal and I was able appreciate their gifts in a new way.

 

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Album Art brought to you by Kayee Keek- Animation and Digital Arts major at USC and part of the InterVarsity group there.

 

5)   The Generosity of My Christian Community

There are a million stories about Christian community and all its shortcomings. But this journey has been a chance to experience an amazing side of my Christian family. People at my church gave to my Kickstarter and played my CD for their friends. The most unexpected people would tell me they had downloaded the EP or that they were excited for my release party. When I asked for help people showed up to help me set up and tear down for the release party. As a Christian minister I am often in  leadership and in the position of giving to others. This journey has made me needy- I have needed help, encouragement, support and I have been moved by all the people that have given that to me.

 

6)   Sometimes pursuing dreams is full of alone time

There were plenty of mornings where I would be sitting at my desk, trying to write a song, and just feel like it was all pointless and dumb. But I kept showing up to that stupid desk and that stupid blank piece of paper. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel dreamy. But that’s what it took.

 

7)   I needed to find ways to be inspired

Taking a class called the Artist Way helped me enormously. Reading books on creativity like Art and Fear. Visiting museums. I did better when I poured into my creative reservoirs.

 

8)   I learned to ask for help and promote myself

I write a lot about this issue in other posts. But as a woman, it took a lot of growth to put myself and my music out there and encourage others to partake.

 

I share these reflections because the idea that you “get a break” and your dreams come true, or that it’s someone else’s responsibility to come along and make your dream come true, can make you miss all the opportunities that can actually move you forward. I think this is true in many fields, but particularly in the arts. There is a myth that downplays hard work and plays up getting discovered. I’m sure getting discovered would be awesome. It seems like it’s working out for Justin Bieber really well. ( Too snarky?) But there is a road paved with hard work and perseverance that is gratifying and powerful as well.

And now I know more and my dreams are continuing to evolve. I want to write new songs. Better songs. Record again. Keeping the dream alive.

And here the song that we performed to kick off the EP release party. Its our cover of 25 Miles by Edwin Starr. I’m so in love with it!

 

25 Miles