Apr 15, 2015 - Native-r Than You by Dana Her Many Horses
Growing up on the Rez versus out here, in this un-Indian landscape; it’s more than a paradigm shift, it’s not even close. There’s an undercurrent of competition like some kind of school yard push and shove that goes on in our social media circles that we all talk about but not as openly as we should.
If we are going to go forward in positive ways for our Nations we can’t do it fighting with each other in the backseat of the bus. It’s almost something you can’t pin down or address directly because the ground shifts so easily when you’re talking about rumors and salacious gossip. Slippery and without accountability, we see keyboard warriors accusing each other instead of lifting each other. If my Kunsi was still here I could sit and talk with her about all these things that go on and she would laugh about a lot of it. She loved to laugh and gossip too, but she would also talk about where the line is drawn or where it should be. She used to tell me the big stories were who got in trouble at the Indian School, who got pregnant on the side, who was leaving the Rez forever because they got their heart broken. She left Coeur d’Alene Rez forever with a heartbreak like that, her man was dead and she had a baby on the way to raise alone. Some hearts don’t recover, some people don’t just bounce back after that type of loss. The talk then wasn’t what it is now. Then it was Pow Wow gossip, harmless talk over coffee at the kitchen table at night because she and my Aunts always seemed to have a fresh pot going. She called it camp talk since so much of their time to catch up was at deer or fish camp. Especially among the women within our families that’s a hard-wired part of our culture; laughing sideways and Oh is it? until the Sun comes up. But what a leap we have made from that tiny kitchen packed with my Grandmother’s sisters, to the cyber bullying we see now on Twitter, Face Book, Instagram and others. It’s not about hurt feelings at this level; it’s about the black eye it gives what we are trying to do here. There is finally a momentum that I have been excited to watch building up over the last five years among our Nations; for pride in who we are and what it means to be Native at a time when the World needs a strong voice for the environment, for what is right, and for voicing what is wrong and what has to change. We have a chance to do good and to help ourselves and yet for each accomplishment there is a sustained and stinging loss of leadership in our communities because in real talk, people get tired of the constant negativity, the back-biting. When you’re dealing with social media you’re in a whole other country. We tend to take on the organizations we see as defamatory to Indian Country, and from the other side of our faces we smirk and spread gossip about those of us who are doing positive things for our People as a whole.
One of the most common attacks in social media of Natives on other Skins is the one I call “Native-r Than You”. We all know what this is, we see it played out continually on Twitter. The one-up on everything from if you grew up Rez or not, if not why not, if you speak your language or languages fluently, and how many first cousins you have, to the ultimate throw down; how much blood you have. I’ve been through this more times than I can count at this point. I have joked about printing up a genealogy flier to keep in my war pony glovebox. Makes it easier; just hand over the list of relatives, adjust the aviator shades and keep driving. No other group has a more defensive posture as a whole than we do when it comes to our past. It’s a cultural stimulus response reaction stemming from several hundred years of racial profiling, assimilation to survive, and de-assimilation to reconnect us to our roots.
Of course blood is important. There’s no doubt that who we come from gives us strength for where we find ourselves today. Our past is carried forward in our blood. But Crazy Horse isn’t on Twitter. White Buffalo Calf Woman isn’t on Face Book. Our blood and our prophets, our blood and our ceremonies, our blood and our land, our blood and our children; our blood and our unborn. Yes it matters where we came from but it should never be the thing that stakes us to the ground. It should be what gives us the fire inside to move forward as Red Nation People; not in competition with each other, but hand in hand walking forward into a future that our ancestors would be proud to see.