I admit I have been reluctant to start this blog for my Contemporary Indigenous Rhetoric graduate course. It’s not the fear of expressing my views in a public forum, but that strange notion of whether my thoughts are valid enough for expression in the first place. During our first class, we were asked to write down our preconceived notions, experiences and possible misleading ideas of the contemporary lives of Native Americans. Outside of the incessant pejorative representations in media and commerce, my own experience was severely limited. With a weird intellectual pride, I announced that I was woefully ignorant in all aspects of contemporary Native life.
I mentioned tangential experience living near the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State; my connections being more commercial than social. A few “knowing” comments from friendly people while I was looking for work—”you can try the casino, but they tend to only hire tribal”—may have also colored my opinion if I weren’t old enough to take such advice with a heavy dose of salt and a side-eye.
During that class, I briefly touched on my mother’s interest in Native American music and spirituality, one more woman swept up in the New Age “revitalization” and misrepresentation of the “Red Path”, as she calls it. I sound critical of her interest. I am not. Yet there is a certain wish to keep our interests from crossing due to our personalities and my lack of an ability to share. Separate spheres, is what I call it. You have your things, I have mine.
This is probably the main obstacle to fully diving into this topic, at least in the same way I have other classes. I feel like I am treading on someone else’s territory and trying to call it my own. Add to that, the destructive “white guilt” that only comes from a self-awareness of one’s privilege and I found myself a little stuck.
Yet here I am, and while I am doubtful that I can add anything revelatory to the conversation of contemporary indigenous rhetoric, I can curate a space of awareness; a place where I can parse out my own imprinted notions of Native American life, present and past.