“…Natives don’t wear pajamas.”

My opinion is that we don’t always know what others dislike about yourself because we put our best foot forward in the dating process. You want that person to like you. I always tried to do things how I always did, and be who I was.

But I made a short list of habits I’ve had to change to improve as a partner.

  1. (Occasionally) I would leave my clothes on the floor for multiple days
  2. I take solid bites out of blocks of cheese, then put it back. (I still do this, but I use the cheese grater to smooth out the ends)
  3. I taught the kids to get the remote for me
  4. I leave my hair in the shower (occasionally)
  5. I don’t make the bed correctly (Ironic, considering I was in the Army. But I don’t line up the sheets and put the comforter on sideways. Plus in the Army, the crisp bed was just for show. I actually made my bed once, and then slept in my sleeping bag on top of the bed the whole time)
  6. I don’t wear pajamas to bed, I wear jeans, and/or regular clothes to bed.

I remember the first time I was kicked out of the room by a partner, I made a blanket fort in the living room… not a good idea, but it seemed funny at the time. Okay it’s still funny, and I would probably do it again. But it’s nice sleeping in the living room. The TV is bigger, the fridge is closer, and it reminds me of my Army days. I loved sleeping on top the tank, and the hood of HMMWVs. The warm exhaust would rock me into a coma full of vivid dreams. The perfect escape. But it got me thinking, why did I like sleeping in the living room, and why do I still like wearing jeans to bed…. I think it’s because it reminds me of my childhood.

I remember long trips and church services on the rez my parents would take me too. I always fell asleep during the loud alter calls somewhere in between pews and wood chips. I would feel the occasional spider or bug crawl across my arms. My Dad would pick me up and carry me to our blue astro van. I would sleep the whole way back to wherever we were staying and I would either sleep on the couch, or some other make shift bed on the floor, always in my jeans. I don’t ever remember having pajamas. I don’t even remember my parents ever wearing pajamas. We probably all did, but Camie is the only one I remember having them. She had this light blue green night gown from her birthday when she had a slumber party. But it makes me wonder if most Native don’t wear pajamas.

But I liked sleeping in my jeans. I would take a bath and change into the clothes I was going to wear the next day, so I could just get up and go. It was efficient. Just like we all didn’t grow up with our mattress on the floor. I also liked my mattress on the floor though, because monsters could never live under my bed. My bedroom was scary enough. It was in the middle of the house in the darkest room, with a wobbly wooden fan barely hanging on by electrical wire. There were no pictures on the wall, just these mickey mouse curtains. But they weren’t real Mickey Mouse curtains, they were from Mexico. They were bootleg Mickey Mouse curtains. If the mickey on my curtains had a show, it would be called Mickey Mouse Meth House.

The real reason I loved sleeping like this is because I knew my Mom had a much tougher childhood than me. And I always loved her stories. She told me about having her make shift bed, running around with no shoes, eating crickets with tortillas, among many things. And I wanted to be like my Mom, so I love make shift beds, I still walk outside with no shoes, and ate a few crickets. I never had a childhood like my Mother’s but I had my own. I still like wearing jeans to bed because it’s a profound personal reminder not to get too comfortable, and reminiscent of happy times when we had much less in life, like pajamas.

“WHAT’S YO NAME?????!!!!!”

If you don’t know, Native boarding schools still exist, although not like those of old. And one of the most memorable times I went to a boarding school was when I was 16 years old. My friends’ band was playing a concert in the Spring of 2002 for the students at Sherman Indian high school in Riverside, CA. I normally didn’t play with the band, but they needed an extra guitar player at the time. So I went. It was fairly calm. I remember walking on campus, I saw some kids my age studying studiously, some kids playing ping pong, some other kids snagging under a blanket in the grass area, and some other kids playing basketball with hickies. It seemed like a cool place to be. The show went well, we met some kids, and then our host took us on a tour. The tour was rather dull, but whatever. I was 16, and there were Native girls all around. So like I said, it was a cool place to be. Well we were nearing the end of the tour and they were going to give us sandwiches in the kitchen and send us on our way.

We walked up to this old brick cafeteria, trying to avoid breathing in the asbestos. Looking back, and just judging by the state of the infrastructure, the school was underfunded. To the point that it felt like you could get hepatitis C from touching the walls. This place was old. Anyways, we’re about to walk into the cafeteria and of course one of the doors was broke. It meant there was only one way in, and one way out. All of my buddies were in college, and I was the youngest, so I walked in the middle of the pack. When it was my turn to cross the threshold into the rundown cafeteria, this Native girl was coming out from eating lunch. She had on a green t-shirt and was with a bunch of other Native girls all wearing green t-shirts (someone told me the green t-shirts meant they were on discipline, but I’m not sure). But I didn’t know what the green shirts meant, but they were walking and talking loudly. At the time I was extremely shy, and as I tried to pass through the threshold, that pretty/ scary Native girl with corn rolls wearing a green t-shirt, stepped to my face. She stood in the doorway squarely looking at my eyes, and in a deeper tone than what I can even speak now as a man, said, “WHAT’S YO NAME?????!!!!!”

I was extremely intimidated, and bashful. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do. I looked in front of me, and my bros looked confused. And I looked behind me and my other bros shrugged their shoulders without any counsel. I looked back at the girl for a second, because it was all I could muster to do, and looked down quickly in what felt like fear of my life. And I pushed myself against the wall, taking chances at getting Hep C, and tried to squeeze past her. It didn’t work, she stepped in front of me again, and I wasn’t about to risk getting worked over in front of the school. So, in a quiet voice I gently responded, “J.D.” In that same deep tone she said, “ALRIGHT,” and some other things I can’t remember. She moved through the threshold first, and since then, I have never lived that moment down.

And now, every couple of years or so, I’ll get a message from my bros that reads, “WHAT’S YO NAME!!!!???” And it adds to these reasons why I can never forget about boarding schools.

“this window is unbreakable.”

My parents left us home for the weekend with my oldest sister Joy. Not a big deal considering she was 9 years older than me and at the time was a responsible 17 year old. On the very first day I was in the front yard playing basketball. I was jumping off her car dunking on the 8 foot rim sitting on our garage roof. After awhile I decided to dribble the ball around the front entrance near a large wall and window.

I was dribbling, practicing my crossover, between the legs, and then started passing the ball against the wall. I wanted to see if I could throw the ball against the window. My instincts said it would break… but it made me want to do it more. I threw the full size ball against the window gently. It didn’t break, and I got a sensation of excitement. I said to myself, “this window is unbreakable.” I threw the ball a second time against the window. This time a little harder. And it smashed into pieces. I freaked out, got scared, and ran to my sister’s room. Camie had a trundle bed where I used to sleep in between the lower bed and top bed. My hair always got caught in springs beneath the top bed. It was there that I slept for the next few hours with my hair tangled in the top bed.

When I woke up, it felt like a dream. I was thinking to myself, “Did this really happen, is the window really broke.” But all I heard was Joy in the family room freaking out. She was talking to Camie in a frantic voice,”what happened?” Camie didn’t know. I wandered out of my room to meet them. I saw Joy, Camie, and the window. And instead of confessing I said, “Woah, what happened?” I continued,” someone must of thrown a ball.” Joy was still frantic that our parents would be upset, mostly because we knew we didn’t have a lot of money to fix things like that. The rest of the weekend Joy was nervous, but it turned out alright in the end.

My parents came home, and saw the window. My Dad called the insurance company and they showed up a few days later to replace the window. Luckily, my Dad had paid for window insurance anticipating me breaking a few windows. Sure enough I broke a few more over the years with a  baseball, football, and bb gun. It’s a good reminder now for myself, that I can’t always prevent things from happening, but I can prepare for them. A few years later I would confess about that first window I broke and didn’t get in any trouble, also reminding me that sometimes time is the best healer.

“Before I knew Santa was fake, we had drunk Santa.”

One Christmas Eve (around 8 years old), I asked my Mom if Jesus and Santa were friends, she said, “yes, they are close friends.” That night I was going to bed and my sister Camie saw me and said, “JD, Santa isn’t real.” The rest of that night we spent sneaking in the hallway watching my parents and older sister Joy wrap our presents.

I have two kids now, and I’m not all that excited about them believing in Santa. Partly because I don’t want them sitting on Santa’s lap…. 1. because you have to pay money to do it, and 2. because I don’t like the idea of the kids sitting on some old White dude’s lap who asks them, “what can I get you for Christmas.” (sounds too much like these White politicians). Especially Luna, she doesn’t need to be sitting on Santa’s lap asking you for some presents. I feel like this would be the start of some bad habits. So no Luna you can’t sit on Santa’s lap and no Gordie, I don’t want you sitting on Santa’s lap either. We don’t need to reinforce that White savior mentality (Brilliant White person comes and saves the poor, needy minorities who earnestly need saving). But I need my kids to know that it’s Brown faces gave them these presents, just like I had a Brown face bringing me presents when I was little. We didn’t have White Santa, we had Brown Santa… and sure he may have been drinking a little.

Before I knew Santa was fake, we had drunk Santa. I think every family occasionally had a drunk family member and one of ours came at Christmas time reincarnated as drunk Santa. I actually never knew which family member was drunk Santa… my cousins probably would, but I was too little to really remember. I thought he was for real Santa.  But I remember every Christmas we had a gathering at my Nana’s house on Christmas Eve and my Nana would make us wait until midnight for Santa to bring presents. Santa would come and bring us presents but he never came on time. So around 1:30 am, throughout my childhood, we would meet Santa. He would stumble out of his sleigh, and walk towards the house. I would be jumping around because I was happy to finally be opening presents. He was always a character, one year he fell out of a lawn chair and in his slurred words he would ask us, “what do you want.” And coming from a Christian home and not ever really smelling alcohol ever in my life, I always knew something was weird. But I would go with it. And I would take my turn going to sit on Santa’s lap. Let’s be clear, this Santa never brought what we wanted. These Christmas’ were really about family. Normally Santa, or my Nana, would buy us stuff like tube socks or soap on a rope. Not complaining, but all those years Santa never brought us our heart’s desire. It was our parents that brought us our presents. But I would go sit on Santa’s lap, get my present, open it and then head to bed.

I’m still reluctant on letting the kids believe in Santa. I would rather them just know it’s us. And if you don’t behave this year, Dad and Mom are the ones not giving you anything. But I guess I would let the kids ask Santa for presents if we had a relative willing to dress up… even if they had a few.

“You made it, you eat it.”

When I hit my mid-20s, I realized quickly there were two things that needed to be eliminated from my diet immediately… ramen noodles, and kraft mac n’ chesse. I spent 24 years of my life eating those magnificent creations. But supposedly they have no “nutritional value.”

Well, I recall one spring break when I was around 11 years old and I had a buddy spent the night. We decided to build a raft out of random scrap wood from my fort. We literally spent the entire week building this thing and it was awesome. We used the old warped wood that gave you splinters every time you touched it, we had snagged some crates from the back of Country Market near Mountain View and 15th avenue. Then we used an old broken broom and one of my Mom’s good sheets as a sail. After spending most of the days and nights working on it, we finally finished, after fastening the two crates and filling them with water balloons. We pushed the raft into the pool and gave it a test run. No sooner than we tried to sit on it, it sank. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be my last attempt at wasting time (The Army was especially good at wasting time). We eventually ditched the project, and spent the last day of spring break in the house eating mac n’ cheese.

After our failed attempt at rafting, we cooked up some food. We used to get food boxes when I was a kid, and someone dropped off the equivalent of a Costco palette size of mac n’ cheese boxes. My buddy and I made a bet. He said he could eat 4 boxes of macaroni and I said I could eat 5. We made it, and only ate about 3 boxes together. My Dad came home from work and saw what we were doing. I was getting ready to throw away the rest of the macaroni when he said, “You made it, you eat it.” My buddy left later that day, so I was on my own for eating the macaroni. My dad didn’t let me eat anything else til I finished it, and it stayed in our fridge for a few more days… slowly getting nastier. I eventually ate up all the food, and needless to say, I ditched mac n’ cheese for a bit. Now all I can think, is what I would give to eat another 9 boxes of mac n’ cheese.

It also makes me realize that sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad, and not having a good thing can be worse.

“The moment my boss busted out the hot plate… I knew I could belong in academia”

My family took a trip to Montana when I was 6 years old. It was my parents, sisters, and me. My oldest sister Joy is 9 years older than me, and my sister Camie is 3 years older than me. Making me the baby of the family, and everyone knows it. I got lots of attention from my Mom… it helped that I resembled my Mom’s younger late brother, my Uncle Lorenzo, who my Mom took care of when she was a little girl. But I was spoiled by my Mom most of the time, minus the time she tried to spank me and the wood spoon broke. That’s what happens when you buy yard sale cooking utensils, they break easy.

Anyways, my older sister Joy and I didn’t have a lot of childhood memories together like me and Camie.  Mostly because Joy was 9 years older than me, and like any teenager, stayed mostly with her friends. Half way through a trip back from Montana I didn’t even notice Joy had left to hang out with family friends in Washington state. We drove almost to Utah, before I asked, “Where’s Joy.” But it’s interesting to me how when we’re kids, we tend not to think much about those who we’ll miss. I find it opposite as an adult, I often think of people I miss and especially when I don’t know when I’ll see them again. One of those people is my research supervisor.

I was saving all my graduate college education stories until after I graduate… because I don’t want a professor to get mad at me before I’m supposed to defend my dissertation. However, this professor is leaving, and she made a big (positive) impact in my life as a graduate student. I was extremely grateful to have her as a boss because of her expertise in research, mentoring, and for creating so many opportunities for me. Especially since there were plenty of moments when I felt like I didn’t belong in academia. But one of the most memorable meetings I ever had was during our research meeting.

I’m normally awake by 4:30-5AM, so my supervisor liked to schedule our weekly meetings around 7-7:30AM. During our research meetings we mostly went over the research agenda, progress in the projects, and she would ask how I was doing in the graduate program. Well one particular morning as we were walking into her office she asked me, “JD, are you hungry.” I said, “sure.” I didn’t eat breakfast, so I thought it would be a good idea. She asked if I wanted a breakfast burrito, and I said, “of course.” Well at this point I’m thinking that maybe we would head out of the office to go grab something nearby, but we continued walking into the office. I thought maybe she had to grab something before we headed out, but then she reached into her bag and pulled out a big hot plate like she was Mary Poppins or something. Mind you, while she is doing all this she is talking to me about our research projects. I can’t focus at this point, because I’m trying to figure out what’s happening. And then all of a sudden, she busts out some eggs from somewhere, and potatoes from somewhere else, and then some tortillas. She is not skipping a beat, and still talking about our research projects as she starts making breakfast burritos. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My brilliant research supervisor was making me a breakfast burrito in her office while talking about research projects. My first thoughts are: 1. Is the smoke alarm going to go off (because that would be hilarious) 2. Can we get in trouble for cooking in an office (not that I cared) 3. This is going to be the best breakfast burrito of my life. Well she finishes cooking and we eat and talk more about the research.

I think about the experience every so often, and it’s a great assurance to my reoccurring mild case of imposter syndrome. Although I didn’t think I belonged in our graduate school, the moment my boss busted out the hot plate to make a breakfast burrito was the moment I knew I could belong in academia.

I know you’re moving on to bigger and better things, but I’ll miss you, your expertise, mentoring, and breakfast burritos professor!

“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.

“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.

“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.”