Just back from Norman, Oklahoma where I was involved in honoring of a beloved Maori writer/storyteller and citizen of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, Patricia Grace. She was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for literature. She is the first indigenous person to win this award. She has written six novels, five short-story collections and a number of children’s books. She writes about the every day life and traditions of the Maori people. She grew up with only a few books in her home. Her parents shared stories with her. One that caught her imagination as a child, was about the relative way back who had two sets of teeth, both top and bottom, which were great for sawing ropes on ships. She also raised seven children, taught school while she wrote. Now that’s quite an accomplishment!
The organizers were generous and brought in Gary Whitedeer’s southeastern intertribal dance group for the honoring. We danced to honor Patricia Grace and the Maori people and included everyone in the dancing. Grace, her husband, the educator Waiariki, and the Maori performer and storyteller, Rangimoana Tucker chanted and sang in return.
For some of the events the New Zealand consulate, John Mataira came from Los Angeles. He is also Maori. This got me to thinking: why not establish a Muscogee Nation consulate, or office of foreign service? This would be a person who is knowledgeable about other indigenous and world cultures as well as our tribal culture. This, it seems to be an important component of acting as a sovereign nation. What kind of protocols do we have in place for such things? Something to think about, though I can hear the outcry: we have to take care of everyone here at home first. And that’s true, however, we must continue to develop our vision, our relationships with other peoples. In this way we develop allies on this journey.
In the end, we are all representatives of our nation, whether we see ourselves this way or not. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we reflect back to our people, our homeland. Everyone watches our behavior. Every challenge we successfully negotiate, every small and large kindness makes an impact on the minds and hearts of everyone else around us. Why not acknowledge these small and large victories? Instead, jealousy is the most damaging epidemic in Indian country these days. And these days there’s a kind of virulent strain of jealousy going on. There’s way too much talking, and not enough doing for others.
For the last year I have attempted to write a column to address the division in our nation between various groups of citizens. Some would institute a full-blood only club. Others would exclude anyone not living in the boundaries of the Nation in Oklahoma. According to the U.S. inspired and enforced laws of division and disappearance the more we exclude, the smaller numbers we have and the closer we become to dying off as a nation. Why can’t the nation embrace all citizens? Aren’t all representative of genuine Mvskoke human experience? Do we throw away our children and grandchildren?
Send me your notes and ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll keep trying to find a way to address this in a compassionate manner.
September 21, 2008 Albuquerque, NM