71 Comments

The TSA crap is really galling, that should be in their training. It's a real bad oversight. You know they'd never pull that with a military ID. Even before 9/11 when everyone became a Hero(tm) we had the Saving Private Ryan / Greatest Generation propaganda going. My friend, a Marine, would tell boy scouts "thank you for your service" and that was his take on the whole thing. That it was meaningless. If we cared about the troops we wouldn't have a 2 year backlog for mental health care at the VA.

I'm sorry you have to deal with the "family stories" from ignorant white people. It does sound exhausting. As for the famous person ... I'm glad you changed your speech and gave them all what they needed to hear. I'm sorry that you had to.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Thomas. And this: "If we cared about the troops we wouldn't have a 2 year backlog for mental health care at the VA." is the absolute truth.

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

Racism and privilege seem baked into the stories that too many white people seem to embrace without any awareness of it. I know I was raised with them, taught them, shared them. We often expect others to behold our “shared” experiences with enthusiasm. I am glad you found some solace in the end but the toll this imposes on you and others is continual and all of it can affect physical and mental health long term. I know how the stress of living with a severely immunocompromised person since March 2020 has affected me; I have a lot more empathy and understanding of what racism must do to people over a lifetime. I guess I’m glad you spoke out but hate what it costs you.

Expand full comment
author
Oct 21, 2022·edited Oct 21, 2022Author

I feel like I am learning ways I am not compassionate almost every day. It's a neverending battle against a culture that doesn't want us to see the vast similarities we all have with each other. It's hard, isn't it?

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

Hi Chris,

Its probably no consolation but maybe some validation.....I also flew with my LS tribal ID about 18 months ago. I got on the plane just fine in Bozeman. We were flying during the storm of the century that paralyzed Texas and all airports between Montana and El Paso so we missed our connecting flights on the way home. We ended up having to stay overnight in Denver unexpectedly which meant we had to leave the airport and come back. With the exception of Bozeman, all of the white-appearing airport agents rejected my ID. I had to argue and explain what it was every time. This was in Texas and Colorado which are indigenous homelands. I was so unimpressed. I was even less impressed by "You don't look Native."

Keep fighting the good fight for us all.

Laura

Expand full comment
author

Ugh. Yeah, I get the "you don't look Native" on occasion. Friggin' people....

Expand full comment

Not only was this piece beautiful and moving, it also shone a spotlight on the travesty that is the Panera app.

Expand full comment
author

It's just awful, isn't it?

Expand full comment
founding

There are so many things here but the picture of "books by Native authors" is really catching me up. How exactly did *that* happen? I shouldn't be surprised anymore but ...

You're a much-appreciated fire in the world, Chris.

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Nia.

And I can make a pretty good guess as to how that photo happened. The photographer probably went to the party at Lois Welch's house for the festival. She had tables out of books people could take with them. Books she was culling from the Welch library, in other words. Whoever used the picture assumed they were Native books. You'd think they'd at least use books by the writers who were at the festival, or of Jim Welch's books, right? It's just a really, really bad look.

Expand full comment
founding

You'd think someone would have at least checked before putting it up. Ugh.

Expand full comment
author

You'd sure like to think.

Expand full comment
founding

I love these essays that allow us to walk with you through your experiences--the humor, the rage, the exasperation, all of it. I felt my blood starting to boil at the treatment and idiocy of tsa--another performative ruse inflicted on us all to have to prove we are who we say we are. I can't stand that while the incidents seem routine and everyday it is such a feeling of death by a thousand cuts of people being untrained, unaware, ignorant, and rude. Another reason I am loath to go back to flying... how much of our support the troops (ugh) and front line workers and teachers and all of it is just performative ruses to keep everyone in line. I love that you re-wrote what you presented, but like someone else commented, so wish there weren't a thousand reasons why you shouldn't have to. It's maddening as all hell.

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Freya. I regretted flying, for all the usual reasons. I should have insisted on driving. At eight-ish hours away on the ground, I really didn't save any time by flying. I won't make that mistake again.

But "death by a thousand cuts" describes so much of modern life perfectly. Oof.

Expand full comment
founding

and that book photo.... just why HCN? really??

Expand full comment

I am so with you on the vet thing. I see the use of veterans as a "think of the children!" cry—it's a script used to not address systemic failures (or systemic successes, since the point is the few who benefit from the system have no reason to challenge it) or even look at the systems at all. We can't talk about mass-poverty, colonialism, white supremacy, or the destruction of late-stage capitalism because tHaT iS iNsUlTiNg To tHe tRoOpS. *deep beleaguered sigh*

Expand full comment
author

Very much so, yes. Vets become something to virtue signal over while simultaneously exploiting them over and over again as a kind of human shield.

Expand full comment
founding

The TSA and tribal ID situation is really sticking with me. How many ways can humans find to devalue others, to say "you're not valid," "you don't belong here"? It's endless. If I look a little deeper into myself, I find an ocean of rage about this dynamic crashing around. How many billions of others are walking around with the same rage, acknowledged or not?

Expand full comment
author

Billions, certainly.

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

Geeze. some fun in Boise, eh? Sounds like A Weekend at Bernie's, Night at the Museum, and Raising Arizona all rolled into one cluster f**k.

Expand full comment
author

... with some Last of the Mohicans for good measure. 😂

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

O yeah, that's the frosting on that moose turd pie. ✌️

Expand full comment

Thank you for continuing to share your story and perspective. Especially when’s it’s hard. Respect!

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Pamela!

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

"I get emotional and a little worked up and I don’t know if it is the presentation they wanted or expected but it felt more like the one they needed." Hmm. I don't know who all was in the audience, but when it comes to issues affecting Indigenous people, I don't think White people should get to decide what presentation they "want". So you gave the right presentation--the one the audience needed to hear. And for that reason I, too, am disappointed you didn't get to address the entire conference.

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Debbie.

Expand full comment
founding

You'd think they'd have taken that picture down by now, especially considering HCN's very vocal focus on Native issues. Damn that's a bad look. I had to cringe at seeing Stephen Ambrose on there. I went to a talk he gave years ago where he proudly stated that Western Civilization is better than the rest.

Expand full comment
author

Honestly I was surprised to see it still up, or at least the caption. I feel like Ambrose's book is the one that immediately grabs the eye, doesn't it?

Expand full comment
founding

I was completely struck by that too. Oof. Just...no....

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

I love reading your stuff. You always open my eyes a bit more. And I’m sure wherever you travel or speak you do that for others too.

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Victoria.

Expand full comment
Oct 21, 2022Liked by Chris La Tray

Thanks, Chris. Your comments about vets reminded me of Noam Chomsky’s response to “We Support Our Troops”.

“The point of public relations slogans like “Support our troops” is that they don’t mean anything. They mean as much as whether you support the people in Iowa. Of course, there was an issue. The issue was, Do you support our policy? But you don’t want people to think about that issue. That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy?” -Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda -1991

I think that’s what gets stuck in the craw and also what’s effective about propaganda - that it’s a tacit agreement with the policy that landed soldiers there (wherever the There du jour is).

I know you were and are tired from this experience. But your sharing it makes me hopeful from the way you peacefully negotiated these weird spaces w/o giving ground to foolishness. I admire that ability. Thanks again. (P.S. Just dragged my son to hear The Who in Portland. Those old guys can still stick it to the man. And my (20-yr-old-bass-playin) son thought it was great.)

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Nigel. I bet that Who show was awesome indeed.

Expand full comment

Whew. Where to start. I’m sorry you had to endure the airport experiences.

In case you are wondering if what you do alters perspectives, I can say it has for me. Example. I just started working through ancestry.com and trying to learn a bit about my own history. In researching the tree and reading the documentation of others, it seems possible that my second and third great grandmothers were of native origin (speculation is Cherokee from Tennessee). I can see exactly how the timelines line up with the trail of tears and the forced removal from Tennessee. There’s actually a picture of my second great grandmother and she is stunningly beautiful and looks nothing like the rest of that side of my redheaded Irish family. So as I looked at this information – and I will say it specifically said forced removal, it didn’t try to paint a pretty picture about people denying their heritage – what I thought about was did these women married voluntarily? Were they forced? And even if not forced, was this the only option even if it wasn’t a good option? and what happened to the rest of their families?

More to the point, none of this gives me any perspective on what it means to be Native Peoples in America. 

Expand full comment

PS - I didn’t expect to find any native heritage in my tree, and I’m not willing to claim that I have at this point but at least I did find it interesting. I never heard any tales about this and I will say that side of the family was quite racist. In that same section of the tree I found Confederate soldiers, which is also not surprising given that my family settled in southern Missouri which was very much Confederate territory. 

Expand full comment

I’ll tell you a little different native ancestors story. My father was New Mexican Spanish and like most in his generation very proud of being pure Spanish . Now in the days of genetic testing and Ancestry.com, like many New Mexican Spanish I have learned I’m also Sephardic Jew and Native American. Back a more than 150 years ago, there is a native woman in the Ancestry.com records who is only known as wife. No tribe no name. I’d love to know her story but the details are lost along with with my father’s birth certificate. I hope she was loved and honored.

Looking at our fellow humans as other is a sad disease that makes all of us poorer.

Expand full comment
author

I have a couple "Native Woman" records in my tree, back in the late 1700s/early 1800s, with birthplace as "On the Plains." I hope they were love and honored too, and what a beautiful way to express it. Thank you.

Expand full comment