Could just wear the face of brotherhood
Chris, you might be the most intelligent and insightful person I've ever had the privilege of reading. I've had six different (and ongoing) conversations about the question of identity since reading Cyca's amazing interview yesterday, some of them general and some very personal. What you've articulated here is the first that really gets to the heart of it all. Thank you 🧡
It wasn't a confusing mess- it was rich, deep, meandering and beautiful. I so appreciate how so much of your writing mirrors a walk alongside a stream: at times burbling merrily, at other times rushing over rocks and around bends, and still at other times, content to swirl in eddies.
Thank you for writing this and sharing the books I will look into. I will speak on the broad issue of us being divided... We are seeing division sowed everywhere, when we need to band together against fascism and white supremacy. No one should have to suffer indignity to join and fight hatred. But if we fight each other instead, we will all suffer.
Thank you so much for this. It's extremely relatable. I too have an extensive family tree of French ancestors with the occasional grandmother on the line who has a Francophoned name next to 'nee. Cree/Indian'. The system has worked as it was meant to—I cannot tell anyone the specific Nation, band or tribe any of those women belonged to. I can only assume my own family lore is correct because there are so few records about these women, and their children were gifted with whiteness because of patriarchy.
In short, it's a classic case of "You cannot dismantle the master's house with the master's tools." As long as there is a focus on proof, it's all still gatekeeping the ins and outs of whiteness and nothing at all to do with Indigeneity, Landback, and human identity beyond the binaries insisted on by oppressive systems.
Have been thinking about all of this after reading AHP's interview, and how maddening the concept of race as identity is, let alone as somehow something that can ever be described as pure--how it diminishes so much of what makes us all human in so many obvious and not obvious ways. I love how you wrote about belonging more than identity, about community and culture and tradition, not blood. So grateful to have your words be part of my day.
"It demands sacrifice from everyone involved and we must be selfless in the approach if we have any hope of overcoming the tremendous obstacles we’ve allowed to be created in all of our names."
It is your honesty and clarity, among other things, including your irritability, that prompted me to keep reading your posts and then to subscribe.
This whole post could be seen as a tribute to your father and your ancestors. So many reasons to keep hope alive.
And thank you for sending the copy of Tony Burfield's book.
I echo your advocacy for oneness Chis, we all are more similar than we dare to admit. For example, around the last week of October here in India we offer prayers over 14 oil dia (lamps) for the 14 generation of ancestors who guide us from the other side, different yet similar to the picture of offering ceremony you shared. Why should we hesitate to support each other’s identities and communities with total solidarity even if we are products of different geographies and culture? You should not have to prove to anyone what you know is true about your ancestry. I have hardly seen a human being capable of deeper empathy, with such ravenous hunger for justice than yourself. You are who you say you are and that itself surpasses the identity politics. I have nothing but respect and awe for your authenticity and work.
Reading AHP’s interview and Cyca’s piece I found myself really wanting to hear your thoughts, Chris, and this post did not disappoint. Thank you for your personal and nuanced analysis, and beautiful writing, as always.
You have reminded me of one of the most beautiful days of my life. A gorgeous day in May of 2006 when my niece and her husband were married in Midlothian, VA. The guests who attended the wedding hailed from almost every nook and cranny of the earth. It was all there. Every skin tone, many nationalities, representation from numerous religions, descendants of paupers and of kings. Everyone congenial. Everyone there to celebrate the union of two luminous individuals. A testament to the fact that we can. We can all get along and respect one another. A day of JOY.
My sympathy to you and your family as regards the loss of your father, Sid La Tray. I know that he continues to reside within you and among you.
WOW, Chris, I just finally got the time this piece deserved to read it. I read AHP's interview with Michelle Cyca and I wanted to read your take on it all. You delivered beyond expectation. If it meandered, isn't that the way of nature and water and us. Your story is so rich and so poignant. I think we may have enough young blood to nudge us to the right path-fingers crossed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Incredible post Chris. I love how your writing mimics the issues of identity itself -- not trying to come to a definitive (and impossible) conclusion, but instead probing, opening up, exploring, pulling from a variety of sources, reaching deep inside yourself, then deciding that’s enough. I learn so much from you.
“Could we make the two roads that today represent two clashing world views come together to form that mighty nation? Could a nation be formed that is guided by respect for all living things?” 🙌🏽
Great, great piece! Sometimes it's hard to realize how the language of identity and the conceptualization of what terms mean (like "tribes" and even "nations" for example) are constructed by the needs of "Western" capitalism and therefore serve those ends. Thanks to you and other histories I've read, my understanding of indigeneity has really broadened in the last couple of years. It changes how you see things when those terms are contested. Thank you!
I love the Where I Come From piece -- I have a poem of the same title in my next book, and I'm thinking about inviting some folks (in advance) to write from that prompt and share at the TBD launch event next year. (Want to come to Minnesota and read that for me? lol. but seriously.....open invitation if you happen to be in the area, in say, February.)
Thank you Chris for the excellent summation. The interview and article of Michelle Cyca’s work is amazing and eye-opening.
Whew.... here for it...stayed up way too late reading this, AHP's interview with Cyca, then the Maclean piece, and then one on Liz Hoover. Thanks for writing and weaving all those pieces together. I'm thinking of Dr. Kim TallBear's work on DNA and blood quantum; she too has written about these complexities of being "indian" enough, yet another form of colonialism in quantifying blood.
This theme too about claiming native roots being, I dunno, this badge of some kind of currency, of legitimacy, is worrying for sure, but some how stings more seeing it at this "hallowed" level of academia. (but really why am I surprised?) I'm used to it coming from white hippies; having lived in western WA now for over 15 years, local tribal influence is alive and well, and so is the hippie cultural appropriation, yet none of the want to do the heavy lifting of their own ancestral traditions- As if claiming our Lithuanian or French or in my case Scottish Gaelic and Irish ancestors isn't fascinating enough?
Around here there's a whole host of white folks who do all sorts of practices they say they got from someone who told them it was ok from the Native American Church. I've yet to do any kind of in depth reading on Native American Church, but it kind of gives me the shudders these days when any white person burns tobacco or sings a so called 'native' song, and yet my questioning or pushing back is never met by any sort of reflection, just emphatic, "this native man told so and so and passed this on, so it's ok." Like it's still hard to link the harm that's being done b/c what's wrong with a song? This is the place that I think on one level I understand years of reading, listening, wondering, tracking, yet I am still not able to translate this felt sense I have of the harm being done, into the physical realm to address say when a bunch of white people are gathered and they sing some supposedly "native" song in the sauna.
Sigh... thanks for bearing witness to my ramblings, which is further evidence I don't have enough people in my day to day life to grapple with about such things.