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Why I Write

Last Thursday, I was featured with three other Native writers by Passion Passport as part of Native American Heritage Month. I'm resharing it here because I think the interviewer did a great job capturing why I write. If you'd like to support my work on #GivingTuesday please do check out my Patreon. Also, support all Native journalists by donating to the Native American Journalists Association (of which I am a board member) here.


Who she is: “With a Diné mother and a Dakota father, my dual Indigenous cultural backgrounds have always provided me with an alternative way to view the world, both from a historical and a political standpoint. As I note in my piece ‘Thanksgiving and the Hidden Heart of Evil’: ‘As a child of a Native American family, you are part of a very select group of survivors, and I learned that my family possessed some inside knowledge of what really happened when those poor, tired masses [the Pilgrims] came to our homes.’”

What she does: “I write, think, and lecture. In 2017, I also edited a book titled ‘Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears,’ which compiles the works of Native poets, activists, teachers, writers, students, and public officials, and shares their passionate feelings about the Bears Ears.”

Why her work is important: “Writing in mainstream media allows me to put a Native perspective on newsworthy events in front of Americans who have never considered that point of view. It also allows me to intellectually address the issues Native people face and help our people process these experiences. We do not have a media that does this for us, so every article I write is putting ideas in the public sphere that would not normally be there.”

How she thinks society at large can better support Indigenous people: “Publish the writing of Native journalists and pay attention to the issue of sovereignty. Tribes are Indigenous sovereign nations within the United States; they have a federal relationship that includes treaties, which can only be entered into by sovereign nations. We are not a race or minority group — we are citizens of nations that precede and persist through the creation of the colonial state.”
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My First Newsletter 'Make America Native Again' or Happy MANA!

This is my first newsletter and it has been quite a learning experience. I have a lot to improve on next month!

Hope you all had a wonderful time with family and friends! Nizhónígo Tązhii Day! 🦃 #NoThankstaking Wopida!

An unusual amount of national media coverage of Native Americans surrounded the 2018 Midterms—which means it was not zero as is what we are accustomed to expect. From the North Dakota ID law to the election of the first two Native congresswomen, Native people were in the news.

Today you can read my analysis on the election in Truthout (see below). Just so you know, my working title was "In Partisan America, the Native American Vote Rules: How A Little Known Demographic Maintains the Balance of Power in Congress." I know, long. You can also hear the KBOO Wednesday Talk Radio show I co-hosted on Native American political and ethical leadership online. The show includes an interview I did with Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland when she was in Portland. On Thanksgiving Eve, I was on a panel Art & Power: Centering the Voices of Native Artists here at Portland State University. I closed out the evening reading aloud my take on Thanksgiving (see below).

But really, for me, the theme of this month was "Make America Native Again" or MANA for short (and you can buy the hats here). And that began in October as more cities across the country gave up the ghost on Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day. I examined this in a piece I wrote for Yes! Magazine: Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step and spoke to Klee Benally on KBOO. He helped organize protests in Flagstaff on Indigenous Peoples' Day. 13 are now facing misdemeanor charges.

In October, I also addressed Senator Elizabeth Warren's announcement of her DNA results (see below) and shared a byline for the first time with Kelly Hayes, (Menominee) for NBC News' THINK (link below). Then I did it again with Terri Hansen, (Ho-Chunk) for a post-election piece for Yes! Magazine “We Are Still Here”: Native Americans Win a Voice in Government. It was wonderful collaborating with both of these talented Native women. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

In November, Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears, a book I edited in 2017 is also having a moment. The book is featured by Powell's City of Books for Native American Heritage Month in their store here in Portland, Oregon (see photo below) with a number of other amazing Native-authored books. The bookstore's blog published an essay I wrote "Trump vs. Bears Ears: Five Tribes Take a Stand for Their Collective Histories on the Land, and the U.S. President Dismantles It." In it, I quoted from my famous (or infamous?) Thanksgiving essay "Thanksgiving and the Hidden Heart of Evil." This bit of writing has been published all over the world in many different languages over the years and was republished in The New York Times last year. Words, it seems, have a life of their own.

I have one more piece to finish writing that is a special request from my uncle, Sam Deloria. He takes issue with the way the word 'tribal' is being used by talking heads on tv when they are discussing the political divide in this country. The working title of my response is "It’s Not Tribalism, Let’s Call It What It is: Terror." And the even longer subtitle is "The American Dream Has Always Been About White Affirmative Action and Terror for Everyone Else."

We'll see if any editor is brave enough to carry it! In any case, happy MANA!

You can read the rest of the Make America Native Again newsletter here. And sign up here.

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