The Invisibility of Being Native

A Conversation with Native Americans on Race


The New York Times’ Op-Doc: A Conversation about Race

No matter who you are, if you are Native American, your opinions and experiences are marginalized to the point of invisibility in American society and culture.

That’s a quote from today’s New York Times’ write-up on the video, A Conversation With Native Americans on Race.

The 5-minute video features young American Indians talking about their identities, with a few pointing out we’re the only folks in the United States who carry a Federal card with our blood quantum printed next to our names.

We’re identified by the percentage of our Native blood, courtesy of the government once anxious to rid the nation of Indigenous Americans.

Yet many of us to go unnoticed because our features don’t comport with a cartoon image on a hunk of butter or a tin of tobacco.

More important, perhaps, is the false idea that Indians are dead and gone, as one lad noted on the video. Continue reading

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Practice, practice, practice

A fistful of rocks

Practice, practice, practice.

I told my art teacher my new mantram is practice, practice, practice.

He doesn’t know he is also my new Zen Roshi.

I’m taking a watercolor class this summer–my first–and each painting is a new journey.

I learn to blend colors and try to capture what my eye sees.

Like Zen Buddhism, the point is to see what is in front of you: not what you wish were there. Continue reading

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Propaganda’s Tree of Knowledge

Today’s Maxim: To be well dressed is a little like being in love

I teach propaganda—and the truth is, the class teaches itself.

Examples can be plucked like low-hanging cherries from the Propaganda Tree of Knowledge. Continue reading

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Writing Postcards


Howdy_From_Chicago_Postcard_FOn a warm morning in Chicago, I’m walking around Logan Square—north of the city—looking for a blue postal box.

I have a handful of postcards to send to friends.

It’s getting harder to find postcards, perhaps because there’s less demand in the era of email and texting.

Still, you can manage to find a revolving postcard rack at tourist shops in Chicago, New York, London and Paris, but outside the cities, pickings are slim.

My grandmother kept all the postcards my mother wrote from trips to Moscow, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Rome, Cairo, Kuwait, Tokyo and Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Whether she just landed in Miami to buy a Volkswagen bus and camp across the United States, or she nipped over to Bruges to make crayon and paper-rubbings of ancient brass plaques, my mother sent her mama a postcard. Continue reading

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The Music Man, The Library & The Osage

What happens when you visit New Jersey


I can’t get The Music Man songs out of my head.

Posters for a community performance of the 1957 musical hang in store windows throughout the little berg where we’re vacationing.

We walk to town a few times a day from our hotel on the beach: it takes about 7 minutes.

First stop is breakfast, where I order a coffee with a shot of espresso and Honey grabs a cappuccino.

New Jersey knows muffins, and we split a fresh, hot banana-nut muffin when the café opens at 8 a.m.

We’re starving by then because we wake early and take a stroll on the boardwalk.

Other early-risers are biking on one-speed cruisers or jogging past us.

Most denizens are browned from the sun and look retirement-aged.

After breakfast Honey heads off to visit his father and I wait outside the Library on the steps until it opens at 10 a.m.

And the songs begin anew in my noggin. Continue reading

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Keeping Secrets

gourd vine

I have a quote worth sharing.

The writer pits scientists against journalists, and says, without apology:

The people who run the media are humanities graduates with little understanding of science, who wear their ignorance as a badge of honor.

The writer, Dr. Ben Goldacre, of the blog, Bad Science, goes on:

Secretly, deep down, perhaps they resent the fact that they have denied themselves access to the most significant developments in the history of Western thought from the past two hundred years. There is an attack implicit in all media coverage of science–in their choice of stories, and the way they cover them. The media create a parody of science.

Goldacre’s provocative perspective—that journalists have a preference for “stupid stories”–suggests a polarization of science and journalism.

His view is shared by many.

Problem is, scientists may withhold information, fearing misquotes or mistakes.

And some scientists in our country have been threatened that they’ll lose their jobs if they share facts and data about climate change.

Withholding information has had a long tradition in Indian Country, built on a load of mistrust. Continue reading

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Gossip: Who’s Heaving the Rocks?

dante image

When gossip spreads like wildfire, who is responsible?

I’ve been thinking about gossip at an individual level and at a grander, social level, encouraged by our Zen teacher to consider how gossip might harm.

Last night we took the light rail home from an outdoor concert and I marveled at the tattoos on the woman next to us: a heart-shaped tattoo on the flesh of her left scapula, mirrored by another crimson image on the right.

I bit my tongue, trying to resist a snarky comment.

The woman sat diagonally across the seat from her adult daughter, each bowing their heads to tap on their cell-phones.

Their heads bobbed in unison as the train lurched.

Then the tattooed woman propped up one foot on the seat opposite, revealing another host of leg art.

And then she placed her other foot on the seat. Continue reading

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