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“Give us the money and the cameras and the grants and the sponsorships and let us tell the story ourselves. That is an opportunity we have not had.”

Exactly. What Hollywood fails at time and time again is giving voice to people who would tell much better stories of their own history and lives. I dream of the day when Rez Dogs is one of the many original stories out there. I personally think Hollywood is afraid to give up their white male heroes and villains because they feel they have to be in every story. I’m over it. I will not be traumatized. Where’s deer woman? She has some visits to make. Just kidding (kinda).

Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I learn and I grow. Peace, friend!

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I'm weary of world wars and lines drawn over who is right and who is wrong and who gets to claim genocide. But not as weary as those in the battles themselves. My fight is about to begin--this little one-person battle with cancer cells and chemo. I'll probably be quiet for a few months while my hair falls out and my teeth bleed. But I'm always listening to your stories and observations, and feel grateful to learn something every time. I'm going to Montana one of these days, maybe late in the new year. I'll see you then.

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The thing about Killers that kills me is Linda Hogan wrote Mean Spirit in 1990 about the same thing. It should be on the bestsellers' list right now.

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This past summer during a trans & dyke pride march in my city, a two-spirit Cree person led us in a ceremony of thanksgiving, along with prayer and reflection, and it was everything I understand a Land Acknowledgement to be about: recognizing our place in all things, the place we are, and our relationship to one another and that place, prior to embarking on a community gathering.

A small number of bigots came out to shout about how much they disliked our existence in the name of their belief. It was a weird thing to be doing our own spiritual practice while someone else was justifying their hatred of our existence with their spiritual practice. It really gave a sense of the difference between connecting with a genuine spirit that is obviously interconnected, and weaponising spirituality in order to justify separation and division. We smudged and prayed and thanked our ancestors and while we were not loud about it, the crowd of over a hundred people acknowledging our connection was much more powerful than the hate mongering of two.

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I get up before the light here, and that gives me a chance to greet the stars every morning and watch them slide their slow way around Polaris. I know more of them now than I ever have in my life. And I remember a killer Gordon Bok song:

Oh my Joanie, don't you know

That the stars are swingin' slow

And the seas are rollin' easy

As they did so long ago.

If I had a thing to give you

I would tell you one more time

That the world is always turning toward the morning.

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My heart sank with the opening line of the Burns documentary - “In the spring of 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition reached what is now Montana.” Because even in 2023 that’s where western history begins. I thought not doing this was covered in Cultural Sensitivity 101, but apparently not.

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

Here's a bright moment involving Rez Dogs and a public high school classroom this week, but I need to briefly preface first.

Preface:

I've taught for eons at a large public high school in a state which recently passed legislation mandating further teachings of our state's Native histories and heritages. Unfortunately, for the same reasons Mr. La Tray shares here, this instruction has been a mandated slide deck to be used once per week by all teachers. It's...groan-worthy at best. But, because the language arts work I do with cherished colleagues goes far deeper and is less patronizing (we hope), we've been incorporating Rez Dogs epsidoes for the last couple of years when we have 10th graders examine texts through the critical lenses of race, gender, and social class. ALSO, you need to have a good handle on the Season One episode "What About Your Dad?" to really enjoy this bright spot.

THE BRIGHT HAPPY SPOT:

This involves two students.

The first we'll call X--he's new to the school this year, and is a goddamned fucking delight of a human being. He's shining light of intelligence and humor. He's vocal about figuring himself out in a cultural and racial sense--he's "half Ojibwe and half Black and half white" and says "I know...I'm learning about Indian math." He is beloved by all.

The second we'll call J--he's a very serious and stoic Mexican American kid. It's difficult to know when he's joking and when he's not. When he IS, you know you're in the presence of comedic genius. When he's NOT, it's because you somehow insulted either his grandma (I adore this woman) or his girlfriend and he will not hesitate to lay you out FLAT and you probably had it coming. He is respected (and a little feared) by all.

Scene (the day after "What About Your Dad?" and everyone has "Greasy Greasy Fry Bread" stuck in their heads:

J: (walks in mumbling) "fucking mother fuckers better leave my bitch alone I need to get paid so I can get the fuck out of here"

X: Hey J! Man! You are giving off some serious Punkin energy today! Better be careful or you'll forget how old your future son is!

J: What the fuck you say to me?

X: It's okay bro...my dad actually IS an Indian rapper and pretty much all his songs sound like "Greasy Fry Bread". He DOES know how old I am, though.

J: Bro. My cousin is trying to be a Mexican rapper and it is awful. I feel this pain.

(walks over, dabs X up)

Blessings on you, man.

Postscript:

Thanks, Mr La Tray, for both this writing and the related one that preceded it. Your kind and thoughtful words about teens and their teachers/schools does not go unnoticed. We appreciate you very much!

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

Thank you for the extraordinarily moving photo you took of Lily Gladstone. It's been a splendid cold clear day here in the far northwestern corner of Washington State, with moon and stars visible in the early evening darkness now.

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Nov 24, 2023·edited Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

That is fantastic from YF! I’ve been wondering for a while why more non-profits like that don’t do make that kind of move if they can find the funds. Thrilling to hear they are.

I had almost that exact conversation about KOTFM with a mutual friend a couple weeks ago, the book most specifically: if you want to see that story told, why not support a storyteller from within it instead of trying to claim it for your own and profit from it? That’s a paradigm shift that needs to happen.

I’ve had some beautiful times with friends recently. And moonlight and sunrises and lots of fresh beaver signs down by the river, which makes me happier than I can say.

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Something that makes me happy is reading what you write. I wish I had two million dollars so I could give it to you to make the movie you want to see. 🙏🏼💚

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

This was a day of remembering my mom and family not with us while I measured and stirred, whipped up and baked...

I really wanted her here to make the gravy really dark, not pasty white...how did she do that? I know I asked her, and being the creative cook she was, with no recipe, didn’t really answer, specifically.

So, here I am in my older age still trying to continue our traditions, something I attempt every November, where food means love, gratitude, family...

I tried and did not feel alone today.

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

I had the pleasure of working with Lily right before the pandemic and she's the BEST. I also am so happy she is receiving such accolades for all of her recent projects. Thanks for sharing that photo, I love it.

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I so wish I could beg, borrow, or steal my way to the Lamar Valley retreat! Maybe if I made a concerted effort to plan ahead for some other next time--next winter, say, since I am allergic to heat?--I would stand a chance of getting out. Seriously trying to keep my head pointed in this or some similar direction: I really want to be able get out of the city again.

For now, I am remembering driving to the Mojave Preserve in the deep winter, to camp on an outcrop in the Providence Mountains. Cold. Wind. Stars. So many stars! Instead of changing to crawl into my sleeping bag, I would just add nearly all the rest of the clothes I'd brought. It was toasty.. enough. Put the rain fly over the tent no matter the clear skies and use twice as many stakes as usual; it will stay put.

(OK it is true that the Campground at the end of the Essex Road is in fact near a staffed ranger station and there is even a flush toilet about 100 feet away. But after 11-12 hours of driving, the hike-in sites must wait at least a day. And the closest town is Barstow, almost 100 miles west, so the view is magnificent.)

And last night I stayed with LG, my qnok (queer-next-of-kin; I'm trying out acronyms), who lives in the 'burbs of Beacon Hill, a good two miles from Downtown Seattle, and got to watch Jupiter rise with the waxing moon in her bright, cold back yard. And then slept in the quiet, warm, guest bedroom that I used to frequent before I moved back here from CA. Today is a bright blue cold day. Soon I will join my cat, PeeWee, in bed to watch TV or read or maybe even doze some more.

Miigwech, Chris.

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

Hi, Chris - The thing that made me happy today was your great news that at least five indigenous students are being sponsored to attend your writer's workshop in Yellowstone over the winter solstice. I hope it will be a wonderful experience for all of you. More of this, please!

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Chris La Tray

Hey Chris, I'm an itinerant art teacher here in Berkeley, CA and I want to tell you a very positive story. I taught my elementary students the day after Indigenous People's Day. I asked them if they knew why they had the day off. One said "no clue!" One said, "it used to be called Columbus day, but now we call it something else." The third said, "Indigenous People's day" Before I could speak, they went off ragging on Columbus. Some of it was funny and some of it was right on. One seven year old said, "hey, but we're still taking about Columbus. How do we talk about Indigenous people." This particular child is proudly Jewish and already knows that murder whether it happened 500 years ago or 5 minutes ago is wrong. That gave me segue to talk about the positive contributions of native people. (These children are too young to read "Indian Givers" by Dr. Jack Weatherford.) We also named our local tribes - Ohlone, Miwok, Yurok - and how to care for this unceded land. They had great ideas. We only had a little time to make art, but the discussion was worth it. Stand tall and thanks for creating this space.

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In Marc Maron's interview with Taika Waititi last week he kept gushing about the experience of getting to participate in Reservation Dogs, and how creatively exciting it was to be on that set, entirely operated by indigenous people.

Thanks for writing this up. I adore Lily, but I don't think I can bear to see the movie ...

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