“…if you want to be hero too, start wearing the same clothes every day.”

Some of things I wasn’t allowed to do as a kid around the age of 8.

  1. Watch violent cartoons i.e. X-Men and GI-Joes (My Dad said it made me too violent)
  2. Watch cartoons with magic i.e. Smurfs (My Dad didn’t want me turning into Harry Potter, jk. Christians don’t like magic… or at least in those days haha)
  3. Watch anything that shows disrespect to adults i.e. Simpsons (For obvious reasons)
  4. Drink Soda (My Dad said it made me too hyper)
  5. Eat jelly (My Dad said it made me too hyper)

What I was allowed to do at the age of 8

  1. Cook ramen noodles (I was always hungry)
  2. Jump off the roof into the pool
  3. Watch wrestling before church on Sunday
  4. Ride my bike by myself to the dirt lot across from the red Catholic church
  5. Work on my fort
  6. Drink coffee black
  7. Mow the lawn

I’ll talk about that last one a little more in detail. I remember as a kid I dreaded wearing the same clothes in the same week. And I felt like it was such a big deal to some kids. I really wanted to have at least a different shirt and a different pair shorts for each day of the week so five shirts five pairs of shorts. That way, I never had to go to school wearing the same thing twice in a week. Most kids at school could wear different types of outfits each week. But for me it was a struggle to make sure I didn’t wear the same thing twice.

My Dad taught me how to mow my lawn when I was 8. We had an old red gas self-propelled lawn mower, that you had to flip gears to move. I started mowing our lawn with my Dad’s supervision for a few years. Eventually he sold that mower, and bought an electric mower. I started taking that mower around our neighborhood and mowing lawns for a few dollars. My Dad also would find me jobs for people at his job. Although, he actually paid his work friends to hire me.

Eventually I got my first steady summer job at age 13 working for my Dad. This was Phoenix, so we started in 100-degree weather at 5am and ended in 120-degree weather at 2pm. During those summers, I did a variety of jobs that ranged from moving flagstone, shoveling rocks, and digging trenches sprinkled with some landscaping. I started off at $2.75 an hour and was getting $3.50. by my second summer. But all that manual labor at a young age made getting my first job really easy because all I had to do was sit in the air-conditioned building selling shoes, Brooks running shoes to be exact. And most people who knew about Brooks were going to buy them anyways. So, I didn’t have to make a selling point. I started making $7.50 and then I made enough money to wear whatever I want to in a week. But then I went in the army.

And then I deployed to Iraq. In Iraq, I didn’t have to worry about what I wore, because it was all the same. And I wore the same two army uniforms my entire deployment. One was for missions and the other was for when I got visits from our battalion commander or other random officers who came around our patrol base.

So now, I’m 32. I’m in grad school. And I have to admit, I wear the same outfits multiple times in a week, and don’t care haha. I mean really, our ancestors (or at least my tribe) didn’t even wear clothes that often. And if they did, they wore the same rabbit skin everyday. Which also makes me wonder why we think ribbon shirts are traditional. In reality we should be wearing some rabbit, bear, or deer skin for our traditional regalia.

But I get teased occasionally, mostly by my sisters or my wife telling me I can’t wear my Stars Wars shirt again. I wear the same clothes two days in a row, and it’s probably because I don’t mow the lawn anymore… or maybe it’s because my childhood hero, Wolverine, (who I never watched on tv) wore the same thing every day and no one batted an eye… Which brings me to my next thought. If Wolverine wore the same clothes every day, and if I wore the same clothes every day, does that make me Wolverine? At the very least, it means I’m closer to being a hero. And if you want to be hero too, start wearing the same clothes every day of the week.

“When did Marlboro Reds become sacred?”

Growing up in Phoenix, we had a rather large Ash tree in the front yard where birds often nested. When I was about 8 years old, Camie (my sister), Jonathan (my God-brother) and I found a dead bird that likely fell from the higher points of that 20ft. tree. Being kids, we were sad to see the dead bird. We decided it had to be buried. We look around the house and found a shoe box, some flowers and a RIP cake topper. My Dad just turned 40, and he had an over the hill party (not sure if those are still a thing) and he had a cake topper that was in the shape of a headstone that said, “RIP.” We snagged it and used it for the bird’s headstone.

We placed the bird in the shoe box, and dug a little hole. We said a prayer. I really wanted to light the shoe box on fire, because that’s how I seen our cremation ceremonies go on the rez. But I also knew that we lived in the city, and I wasn’t sure if PETA would get mad at us for lighting a dead bird on fire. So, we just buried the bird. We said a prayer and offered as many kind words as kids could offer. After the bird funeral, I wondered if we needed to smoke (I’ve only heard the term “smoke” used as opposed to “smudge”) ourselves. It was because one of the times I was in our Big House (where we hold the wake for funerals) I overheard some older Quechan men talking. They said, “we need to cleanse ourselves of these spirits.” They proceeded toward a basket that was filled with hard candies and packs of cigarettes. I watched them load their pockets with Marlboro Reds, and head out of the Big House. I could see them through the clear windows, and watched the orange glow of the cigarettes as they started smoking beneath the awning. I didn’t really think about it much at the time, but now that I’m a little older, I keep wondering…. when did Marlboro Reds become sacred? Or if not sacred, when did they become apart of cleansing ourselves of spirits? I get the smoking part, but if we are trying to be traditional, why not grow your own tobacco to use instead of smoking tar and arsenic filled tobacco? Either way, I think people would of frowned at me, my sister, and God-brother if we decided to light one up to cleanse ourselves of that bird’s spirit… I mean we were under 11 years old.

But I often wondered the same thing in the Christian church. I remember as a kid going to Walmart with the pastor to get grape juice to serve communion the next day. Occasionally someone whipped up some tortillas and I would help serve it to the congregation. When we were done, my God brother and I would go in the back and drink up all of the rest of the grape juice and eat the rest of the tortillas. I don’t know if that makes me extra sinful or extra Holy. I just know those tortillas were awesome. But I wonder when Walmart grape juice and tortillas became a part of communion?

Anyways, I guess someone could make their own juice from some vineyard in California. And I’m not complaining about those tortillas, because they were by far better than those wafer crackers that I had in White churches. There’s been a few times I’ve taken communion with stale crackers. And sometimes those crackers were stale, old, and dusty. When you took a bite, it felt like you just bit the tip of a piece of chalk. And then it felt like that chalk blew up in your mouth like baby powder. Except it didn’t taste like baby powder, it tasted like dirt.

But all I’m saying is, it’s good to think about the things we’re doing and remember why we’re doing them.

“You can’t play rez ball the rest of your life…”

Rez ball is somewhat of a lawless form of basketball often played on dirt courts, plywood backboards, using a ball covered in bullheads. There’s usually not an out of bounds, or three-point line, and painfully there are normally no fouls. If you ever played rez ball, you would understand what I mean.

I was in northern Arizona one time, at a camp meeting. My Dad, was preaching and I was out playing ball during the day. I lost track of time, and before I knew it people started coming out of the service. I kept playing ball, and soon some of the adults started joining. There weren’t any rules, and we were just more or less shooting around. As the shooting progressed, we became more and more competitive, not really playing any particular game; just rez ball. One of the older, bigger gentleman, got the ball. I ran up to him, punched him in the stomach, and said, “give me the ball, fat boy.” I was 7 or 8, and he was in college. My Dad popped up out of nowhere. He took me around back and whooped me. Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to play rez ball.

Sometime this past year my Dad and I were talking. In my later years of life, we’ve become philosophical in our conversations. Contemplating life, identity, ceremonies, etc. He brought up to me about playing rez ball. He said, “Remember playing rez ball, and eventually you started playing in that club team?” I said, “yeah, I remember.” My Dad went on, “You can’t play rez ball the rest of your life, eventually you gotta learn the rules of the game if you want to move to the next level.”

We literally applied that concept to different things in our life. I applied it to thought of going from high school to college. We mentioned it in regards of churches. Eventually we need to learn the rules if we’re going to play at another level. I was lucky to have a Dad that put people in my path that new rules to different games. Whether it was fixing door knobs, laying flagstone, getting into graduate school, etc. It’s hard as parents to know that we don’t have all the answers for our kids, but I’m glad that I have family and friends who can help me along the way… It makes me happy to know, Luna or Gordie won’t be stuck just playing rez ball the rest of their life.

“I dreamt that I was riding a horse from the barracks into a green pasture…”

The warrior spirit is something you’re born with. It’s in your dreams, and it’s in your actions. Not to be confused with patriotism. Patriotism, on a surface level, being the love of country, the love of culture, and your devotion to those ideals; that is conditioned by your experiences. The warrior spirit is a calling, and something birthed in your dreams manifested in your action. I met a lot of officers throughout my time in the Army, who joined because of patriotism, and it’s evident in their actions.

I was sitting a gunnery range, getting ready to shoot the Abrams tank. My battle buddies and I were talking during the proverbial time known as, “Hurry up and wait.” During those times, soldiers talk about a gambit of subjects from time travel to religion, etc. One of the guys started teasing about getting free stuff, because I was Native. I normally let stuff like that go, and chalk it up as ignorance. But that day, he was talking about how I got free college, and free money, free everything. I looked at him after listening to him run his mouth for a few moments and said, “How’d you commission.” He said, “ROTC.” I asked, “Did they pay for your tuition.” He replied, “yes.” I said, “Well, the government didn’t pay my tuition, as far as I’m concerned, you get more free stuff than me. I volunteered to be here, because it was my calling. You’re here because of an obligation.” He never brought up free stuff to me again. My point being that our warrior spirit transcends obligation and duty, it’s a calling and a calling that is evident in our tribal Nations in the United States.

According the US Department of Defense in 2010, Native Americans have the highest per-capita commitment of any ethnic population to defend the United States. There are estimates that if other ethnicities volunteers to service were as high as Native Americans, there would have never been a need to draft for World War II or Vietnam. The rate of those Native volunteers for service indicates the warrior spirit calling; not an obligation. Lots of people joined out of obligation, but there is no explanation for so many Native volunteering, other than it must be our warrior spirit calling us to fight. But it also means we have lost warriors in battle. And especially within my own tribe, given us Quechans have fought in every major battle since the Spanish American war and fought in battles before Americans had a history.

It is inevitable that we would lose warriors along the way. I am grateful for people like my Uncle Peter Flame. He was born in 1906 and died on Dec. 11, 1944 in the Bataan Province Central Luzon, Philippines. He was a CPL in the US Marine Corp during World War II. The family first heard about some of his injuries when he was wounded in action on January 24th, 1942. On December 1, 1943 he was one of 244 taken as prisoners of war by Japanese Forces. On Friday, February 2, 1944, our Uncle Gerald V. Dewey received a card from Peter, The card was from Philippine Military Prison Camp No. 3. Uncle Peter wrote that he had not received any letters (although Dewey has written frequently) but that he is doing fine and “don’t worry.” However, on Dec. 11, 1944 CPL. Peter Flame was killed when the Japanese prison ship he was on sank. I am in awe of his selfless act. What I respect and admire the most is when he told our family, “don’t worry.” In the face of adversity, he was able to maintain composure. He embodied the warrior spirit that runs in our blood as Quechans. The men and women who died for our Tribal Nation/ Nation leave a powerful legacy to their families. We must remember to carry on those legacies, and ask ourselves what am I doing with the sacrifices of my ancestors.

It’s one of the major reasons I joined the Army. I had my uncles in Vietnam and grandfathers in World War II, great Uncles, and cousins that served. I knew I had to join up, because I knew I was born with that warrior spirit. It had to manifest itself through military service, and since I was a kid I had dreams about it. My dreams have constantly guided me, and even in the little parts of my life.

The way I chose to be an armor officer was because of a dream. Our tribe believes in dreams and dream power, and although not explicitly I know a lot of other people believe in their dreams as well. But it also has to be coupled with action and performance. I remember it was the night before we were about to choose our military occupation or job. I was torn between two occupations, one being infantry and the second being armor. And that night I had a dream.  In my dream, I was riding into the battlefield. I dreamt that I was riding a horse from the barracks into a green pasture, almost like in the Battle of Little Big Horn. And although I had short military style haircut back then, in my dream I had my long hair flowing in the wind like a Native fabio. And I rode into battle with the M-16 in my hand, waving it in the air like a AIM NDN. I rode back-and-forth from the battlefield to the barracks with my horse and M16. I woke up the next morning and knew I had to choose armor.

I’m thankful for the tradition I carry. But I’m most grateful for God giving me a warrior spirit that carries me, and continues to give me dreams to guide me along life’s journeys.

“… the only one treated worse than a White kid on the rez is probably a rez dog.”

You ever think about White kids who grew up on the rez? I think about their thoughts on Dances with Wolves. In that movie the White cavalry man was portrayed almost as a hero of Natives. He befriends the only White lady in the tribe, he gets initiated through a buffalo hunt. He goes to battle with the Sioux, and ultimately gets accepted and lives among the tribe. Everyone knows that is the most unrealistic story (other than him leaving at the end), and I think White kids on the rez know this more than anybody.

I thought I had a difficult time growing up as a dark urban Native in a predominately White neighborhood. The only thing harder than being an Urban Native in a White school is being a White kid on the rez… And if we’re honest, and maybe it’s just anecdotal for me, the only one treated worse than a White kid on the rez is a rez dog. I think it’s much harder for White kids who grow up on the rez. Let’s face it, the rez can treat anybody that is from outside with a little hostility. Even if you are Native. Even if you’re from that tribe. Even if you grew up on the rez but are a hybrid Native (aka only half). And White kids on the Rez get the wrath of centuries of pent-up aggression from the past centuries of colonization from some kids on the rez.

Now, if you grew up on the rez, think about that one White kid who you grew up with. You know the one, maybe he had sandy blonde hair, some sunburned skin, maybe some cargo shorts, and maybe wearing a Metallica shirt. Those kids got beat up, made fun of, and often never reached the phase of acceptance. You never knew them by their first name, because everyone just called them White Boy or White Girl. More than likely they left the rez the first chance they could, didn’t look back, and may even resent their childhood. It’s not everybody, but what I’m saying is Dances with Wolves is just as unrealistic for White people as it is for Natie people.

But I don’t feel sorry for the White kids who grew up on the rez, because they got something I wish I had. I wish I got to grow up on my rez. And in some cases, I imagine those White kids feel some empathy. They got a first look at what colonization did to our Native people.

Overall, I think deep down the White kids probably want to be accepted but after years of struggle realize it doesn’t happen. Or at least for most. The best you can hope for is a few friendships. So if you are that White friend from the rez who stuck it out, feel fortunate to have seen the world through someone else’s eyes and I hope you made some good friends from the experience.

“…two reasons that my Mom cut my hair as a kid, 1. Lice and 2. Funerals.”

 

Besides the need to look presentable, there are two reasons that my Mom cut my hair as a kid, 1. Lice and 2. Funerals. Lice were straightforward. Lice get out of hand and sometimes rather than going through my hair with a fine-tooth comb strand by strand, my Mom cut my hair. Funerals were a little different.

I can’t remember the first funeral I went to (My parents took us to a lot of funerals as kids because my Dad was a licensed minister). But I remember bits and pieces of the first time I went to our Big House. And If I’m honest with myself about the first time I went, it was a bit scary… because I didn’t understand it.

As we approached the Big House, where our tribe holds our wakes, you could hear the singers’ gourds and see women start to sway to the rhythm of our ancient songs through the small window openings. I walked in and saw the old wooden pews beneath the dim lighting, and the mourning family with women crying at the open casket. My Mom directed me to go shake hands with the family members mourning and then we went to sit down. We just sat there, no talking, some whispering, and a lot of reflecting. I watched the Bird and Pipa singers most of the night, and watched the Quechan women stand and sit during the songs. After we had spent a few hours there, my Mom said we were leaving. We proceeded to shake hands again, but this time with everyone in the Big House. We squeezed through the small aisles to shake everyone’s hands and I watched as my Mom smiled at some of her family and childhood friends. Before we left, I went with my parents next door to eat some pasole and tortillas and watched them visit with our relatives and friends they hadn’t seen in years.

I went to my Nana’s house to sleep for a few hours and the next morning my parents woke me up to bring me to the cremation ceremony. I watched as my Uncles brought the body out of the casket and laid it between the cottonwood. Soon after they asked for blankets and then my Uncle stood there and said a word in Quechan, meaning clothes. My Mom leaned toward me and said, “Take your shirt off.” I didn’t understand why, but I also didn’t question her. As I started to see everyone putting their shirts and dresses on top of body with the blankets, I took my shirt off and put it in too. My Uncles lit it all on fire. I stood there watching the remains, blankets, and clothes become engulfed in flames with smoke leading to the morning sky. We left the ceremony not too long after, and that evening my Mom cut my hair.

I never quite understood the tradition of why we threw our clothes into the fire, but a few weeks ago I was sitting with an elder. Among many things he imparted to me, he mentioned that during the death of the creator in our tribe’s creation story the animals didn’t know how to mourn, so they began to take their ears and tails off to throw into the fire. A piece of us dies when someone we love passes away, and it’s one way we remember that. In a similar vain, it’s why my Mom cut my hair, to signify a piece of me was taken.

“… history talks about the “hefty” Quechan women who killed men in battle.”

We know Native women are tough. I’ve seen it in my Mom, cousins, and sisters. And we also know some Native women can work over a man any day of the week. I’ve heard it, and seen it. Our tribal warfare history talks about the “hefty” Quechan women who killed men in battle… and if you saw or heard the women in our tribe, you would know they are descendants of women who could fight. The real Wonder Women, the true “Amazons.”

I love hanging out with all my cousins, but honestly, they scare me sometimes. One of my female cousins used to always sleep outside under the stars on our rez with all the snakes and scorpions. I remember as a kid admiring how tough she was for doing that. But my sisters could be a little tough and scary at times too. I had a bladder infection when I was 8, and constantly had to use the restroom. My sister scared the bus driver into waiting for me as I ran off the bus to use the restroom in our house. It wasn’t always in my defense though, because one time they both jumped on top of me and gave me a wedgie till my underwear broke. But my sisters were like that; aggressive when they needed to be.

And in some ways, knowing how rough my sisters and cousins were, I knew I probably shouldn’t marry a woman from my tribe for the fear of getting beat up… and plus we’re all probably cousins because the tribe is so small. So, I married a Mexican… only problem is now I’m afraid of getting stabbed. And I know it’s messed up, but it’s kind of true. I just accept it though. Like, aw man, one day I know it’s gonna happen. Vanessa is gonna get mad at me and take a razor from her hair and shank me. But it’s also kind of exciting, like no telling what’s gonna happen tomorrow. And when I really think about, she’s Indigenous too. Violence generally isn’t cool, but at the same time I like that the women in my life are tough.

I’ve been saddened, amazed, and challenged by hearing of all the #metoo stories this week. The strength and the resiliency is nothing short of amazing when I hear what some women (probably most) have endured regarding sexual harassment and assault. It’s been a topic on my mind for the last few years, and admittedly probably should have been on my radar much sooner. But as I know women in our tribe have undoubtedly have faced sexual harassment, violence, or assault I still see them as those warriors. Women warriors who can fight, and the stories I’ve heard from my family and friends are proof of that. I only hope that the strength they have displayed to tell their stories is something that my daughter will adopt in her life. At the end of the day, I think it means I need to make sure Luna is one of the “hefty” Quechan women who could fend off any enemy.

“That brilliant ignorant teacher said, “you get to be a pilgrim.”

This week there are a ton of tribes celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. It’s also my birthday today and I’m heading toward my rez to celebrate like it’s 1491… or I guess in our case it would be party like it’s 1773, the first significant contact we had with Spanish explorers.  But I remember those days when we didn’t celebrate Indigenous People’s day.

In kindergarten I had an amazingly brilliant teacher who acted stupid on the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day and holiday currently known as Thanksgiving. She dressed us up like pilgrims and fake Native Americans on those days.

I’m sure some of you remember. You would get some construction paper, glue, and start making your costumes. Everyone wanted to be Native, because the crafts looked better and plus Natives are romanticized so much by society as being warriors and running barefoot with the wind that it made the idea of being Native awesome. And let’s face it, pilgrims historically sucked. Being a pilgrim in class only involved black and white paper and making a nun type hat to put on your head. But if you were a fake Native in class, you got all the colorful construction paper for feathers, and got the foil to make all your silver turquoise bling.

Well, only half the class could be Native and half could be Pilgrims. And for that day, everyone wanted to be Native. Only problem was, it was done by lottery. Like you picked a race from a hat. And I remember thinking in my mind, I can’t wait to be a Native. I still didn’t quite understand that I was Native, but I knew better than to want to be a pilgrim. Like what were they known for, other than being diseased.

You can see where I’m headed with this. It was my turn to pick from the hat, and as I was praying to be a Native for the day, God played a joke on me. That brilliant ignorant teacher said, “you get to be a pilgrim.” Like what the!!! I’m a pilgrim. I sat there all mad, making my black and white hat and felt inferior to the Natives in the class. And all I can think now is, “The one day when everyone wanted to be Native was the day I didn’t get to be one.”

…“Let’s pee on the fire.”

I heard my Dad use that cliché “put out fires,” referring to addressing or solving a problem because it prevents it from spreading while working at AIC. The cliché made sense because I put out multiple fires throughout my life, and something that I learned at a young age.

My God brother Jon, my bro Dave (Jon’s cousin from Stockton), and I spent a lot of time together during different points in our childhood. Dave was from Cali, so we only saw him a few times a year when we went to visit him or when he came down to the valley to visit us. But we always picked up where we left off playing basketball, fishing, or making fires.

We had a tradition of making fires in Dave’s front yard, and talking all night til the morning. Dave’s Dad, my Uncle Claudio (NDN way), worked a night shift that had him getting home around 4 or 5 am. We would still be out in the front yard with our fire talking. At other times, we would be at Jon’s house in the backyard with the fire roasting pecans that we took from the trees at the church, and/or burning green army men and listening to the wax whistle as it melted away.

One of the most memorable fires we had was in Jon’s backyard. We were out back like we always were, chillin’, talking, and roasting the stolen church pecans around the fire. That evening turned into early morning and we were tired. So, we decided to put out the fire and head to bed. Before we proceeded to put out the fire with water as we always did, we got a genius idea, “Let’s pee on the fire.” We all agreed and stood there, and almost in unison started to pee on the fire. Immediately following us peeing on the fire was a massive billow of smoke that shot back into our faces causing instant headaches. We jumped back from the fire, while trying to put ourselves together and peeing on each other in the now, dark of the night. Needless to say, we were sick for the rest of the night and next few days. The lesson I learned that day, only get close enough to the fire to put it out with water, because the closer you are to the fire the more likely it is going to make you sick…. Also, don’t pee of fires.

“Sir, I was wondering if you’d shake my hand and let me touch your hair.”

 

Growing up I had a bazillion awkward interactions with White people. One would usually happen when the mission teams came to the Native church camps I used to attend. I loved those camps, and although I haven’t helped out in a few years, I still enjoy going. Now that I’ve gone in and out of the Army, I can tell you that these camps in the earlier years were somewhat like Army basic training. Not even exaggerating. It was probably because a good portion of our dorm room counselors had gone through the service. But I remember the very first year I went to church camp I was 7 years old. I was a little nervous because I was one of the youngest in camp, the age requirement being 8. The first night I slept on the top of this high metal bunk bed on one of those plastic pee mattresses. The grey concrete floor had cracks and seemed a million miles down from my bed with an industrial fan below that gave a rhythmic buzzing sound throughout the night. I fell asleep the first night after being scared into salvation by the reading of Revelation in the evening service. In the middle of the night I felt myself roll, and completely woke up when I realized I was mid-air falling to the concrete beneath my bed. I probably would have got seriously injured if that industrial fan didn’t break my fall. I made a loud, “Ompffff,” sound. The camp counselor, now Fort McDowell Yavapai councilman Paul Russell, woke up and said, “JD, you okay?” I replied back in a moan, “Yeaaahh.” The counselor said, “Well then go back to bed.” We both laughed the next day, and I still laugh about it today.

In my latter years of life though, I’ve also become more critical in self-reflection of those camps. It was strange to me because a bunch of white kids from churches normally in the Midwest would come to the camp to evangelize us Native kids. They would come and ask us repeatedly to get “saved,” to get high numbers of conversions to report to the people that donated to their small crusade. These mission teams felt like they came to somehow fulfill their dreams of being another White savior to Native communities. As if they watched Dances with Wolves, Dangerous Minds, etc. a bazillion times before embarking on their mission. They had this fantasy of going to the camp and becoming one of us, becoming accepted, or at the very least take pictures with us.

Pictures always consisted of a group of us Natives with one of the mission team members as the sole White face in the middle. My Buddy Kyle, who is White Mountain Apache, had these long braids and rather intimidating persona with a stoic face that seemed to draw all these mission teams to ask for photo ops. In reality, he was a cool dude and really funny. He never let that through to them though. Nonetheless, these camps were awesome because it was a huge group of Native kids from across the southwest, something I never got growing up. But the mission teams that came still seemed strange to me, and I thought to myself, “All these White people are coming to us Natives, we should be going to them too.”

 I took an opportunity during my college years to go to one of these churches in Arkansas that sent mission teams to our tribes in Arizona. I remember thinking to myself, all these years they have been sending mission teams, now it’s my turn to take a picture as the sole Brown face amongst a bunch of White people. After I spoke at this church in the middle the sticks in Arkansas, this little girl ran up to me. She said (in my southern stick voice), “hey sir, I just wanted to let you know that I told my Mama I’m coming to church today. So I jumped on that bus and came to church.” I said, “well, nice to meet you.” And that little girl went on, “I told my Mama, I have to make it to church, because there’s gonna be a real Indian there. And I’m gonna shake his hand and touch his hair.” She paused a few seconds and said seriously, “Sir, I was wondering if you’d shake my hand and let me touch your hair.” Not knowing what to do, I said, “Sure.” So that little girl shook my hand and she touched my hair…. That little girl was Hillary Rodham Clinton…. Hahaha, just kidding. It wasn’t Hillary Clinton, but I’ll never forget the time I went to visit the White people on their rez (aka Arkansas).