Louise Erdrich on ‘LaRose,’ and the Psychic Territory of Native Americans | In The Veins @BlueHandBooks #NoDAPL

By Lara Trace Hentz  (poet-writer) (founder of Blue Hand Books)

I am remiss in mentioning I’m in the new poetry anthology IN THE VEINS (released 2-1-2017) and last year I did mention the poetry book TENDING THE FIRE by Chris Felver that is coming out in 2017.   Louise and I are both that book.  NICE!

Louise’s bookstore BIRCHBARK BOOKS (top photo) in Minnesota carries some of our Blue Hand Book titles. I am very grateful to her for this. Supporting me as a small press and publisher helps me publish new Native authors.

click logo to visit them

I founded Blue Hand Books in 2011 to give back to my community, right after I did my memoir One Small Sacrifice.  Since then we have published 18 books, with four volumes in the Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects book series. (TWO WORLDS was the first anthology.)  In the Veins is Volume 4.  A portion of the proceeds from this poetry book edited by Patricia Busbee will be sent to the Standing Rock Water Protectors Camps (#NoDAPL).

Here is one of my poems from IN THE VEINS

…When People of the First Light saw ships and strangers disembark

…When the conqueror ran out of the woods firing loaded guns

…When they loaded some of us onto slave boats in shackles

Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood

…When an Indigenous mother loses her child at gun point

…When her child is punished by a nun, kicked in the neck

…When her child dies in residential school, buried in an unmarked grave

Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood

…When a black sedan enters the rez and children run and hide, afraid

…When a Cheyenne adoptee is a small boy, watching westerns on TV, he is told he is Indian

…When a Navajo adoptee is taken at the hospital and disappears, raised by Mormons

Then a trickle becomes a river, then a flood ….. of tears.

The people who chained, who murdered, who hacked, who raped, who hated their way across North America… they are still here, too.

ebook-cover-vein

Read an IN THE VEINS excerpt HERE.  My Ojibwe scholar friend blogger Dr. Carol A. Hand (who I interviewed on this blog) and my dear friend and Unravelling anthology co-editor MariJo Moore and many many other Native American and First Nations poets (some of them famous or soon-to-be) contributed prose and poems for this beautiful new book. If you love poetry, you will love this… LINK to BUY from BHB.

COMING SOON! Blue Hand Books is publishing a brand new novella by Barbara Robidoux, author of Sweetgrass Burning.

Part Five: Interview with Anishinabe Scholar Elder Carol Hand

outside my window in western Massachusetts
outside my window in western Massachusetts

By Lara/Trace

Hi everyone. Happy Holidays and Welcome to Wintertime. Today is the last chapter of my extended interview with Carol Hand.

The following interview (5 Parts) is with Anishinabe/Ojibwe Elder Carol A. Hand (Voices from the Margins blog) (Professor in Social Work and Sociology, Author, Guest Lecturer). Carol and I have roots in Wisconsin. I’ve been admiring her work and scholarship for quite some time. Please read this entire interview by this extraordinary woman. I am truly humbled and grateful that Carol has agreed to answer questions. Our Elders are to be respected, listened to, and honored, so with that note, let’s read on….and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. Learning from our elders is tradition. Learning from all elders is a gift. Telling stories in the winter is tradition, too.

Please tell us about the books you are writing?

Carol Hand:  I am working on two books!

Book One: Indian Child Welfare

My mother, born in 1921 on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin, was a survivor of a Catholic Indian Boarding School. When I was growing up, she only shared a few stories about the years she spent there but it was clear that her treatment there left life-long scars, making her feel inferior to Euro-Americans because she was Ojibwe. Her “teachers” also told her that she was not like other Indians because she was smart and well-behaved, creating a profound sense of alienation from her Ojibwe community. Because she felt inferior and alone, my mother was motivated to succeed in her education and career as a nurse. Although many in the Lac du Flambeau community and elsewhere benefitted from her work and her gentleness, she never felt she really belonged in either world.

It was not my mother’s experience, however, that led me to conduct the study of the Indian child welfare system many decades later on which this book is based. The motivation stemmed from years of trying to overcome policies and practices that undermined the right of Tribal communities to exercise sovereignty over the issues that affected their lives. After serving as the “tribal child welfare training specialist” for a university, it became strikingly clear that Native American children were still disproportionately at risk of removal from their homes and communities. Despite policies that claimed to assert tribal sovereignty over health and children, every detail of state and federal policies was based on Euro-American paradigms. For example, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) was passed to end the destruction of tribal cultures by ending the removal of Native children from their families and communities and subsequent placement in Non-Native foster and adoptive homes. In reality, ICWA only granted tribal courts some say in decisions affecting children, and allowed tribal governments an opportunity to place some children who were removed with families on the reservation rather than with Euro-Americans families in other locations. The law did not return total jurisdiction to tribes to design the types of practices they defined as best to promote safe and healthy families. Practices are still largely dictated by federal and state governments.

Shortly after I finished writing about my study (An Ojibwe Perspective on the Welfare of Children: Rescuing Children of Homogenizing America?), I was asked by the director of a child welfare agency if I would be willing to conduct an in-service session on the Indian Child Welfare Act for staff. She added, “They don’t need to know about the law itself – they already know it. They need to know why they should care – why it’s important to follow the law for the sake of Indian children and cultures.” This is what I am trying to do as I transform an academic dissertation study into a book that reads like a story. It’s the only way I can think of to honor the wish of the community members who shared what they lived through and their insights about what would have made a difference in their early lives in order to help others. I posted two draft chapters on my blog to gage readers’ interest and responses. (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/rescuing-children-or-homogenizing-america-part-1/ , https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/rescuing-children-or-homogenizing-america-part-2/ ) As always, I look forward to feedback from any readers who wish to share their feedback and suggestions for the draft chapters I posted.

Book Two: My Mother’s Story

I am also working on expanding the story I complied about my mother’s life. Originally, I wrote it in 2007 when my mother was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, living in an assisted-living facility in Minocqua, Wisconsin, more than 1,000 miles away from where I worked at the time. I assembled photos and stories that she had shared with me over the years in hopes it would help her remember who she was. I’m not sure that the stories helped her remember, but the booklet did help the staff and administrators to see my mother as a person worthy of respect. The care she received during the last years of her life by staff was extraordinary. Several draft chapters of this book in process are also posted on my blog. (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/a-life-lived-as-a-song-for-her-people-an-ojibwe-womans-story/ , https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/a-life-lived-as-a-song-for-her-people-an-ojibwe-womans-story-part-two/ , https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/a-great-grandmothers-gift/ )

Works Cited:

Carol A. Hand (2003). An Ojibwe Perspective on the Welfare of Children: Rescuing Children of Homogenizing America?). (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertation and Thesis database. (UMI No. 3089652)

FOLLOW HER BLOG: Voices from the Margins: [LINK]

Megwetch Carol for your time, writing and wisdom. I am blessed to call you my friend.

Readers: You can read the entire interview here Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Part Four: Historical Context: Walking in Two Worlds

Photo Credit: Circles of Care – samhsa.gov

By Lara/Trace

Part Four: My extended interview with Anishinabe (Mole Lake Ojibwe) Elder-Scholar Carol Hand

(continued)

This quote from the Mic Check post really hit me. “When you try to be a bridge between two cultures, you should expect to get walked over by some people from both sides.” This speaks to oppression and a mixed race ethnicity, something we both have lived. How are you handling this today?

CAROL HAND: The only way I can do justice to this question is to explain a little bit about how my experiences changed in response to different times and settings (last post) and the strategies I used to blend cultures in my work and life (this post).

Historical Context

As you explain in your memoire, Trace, so few Americans actually know much about the real history of Indigenous peoples. This reality was one of the key challenges I needed to address during my life. As someone who walked in two worlds, I felt a responsibility to bridge differences. I felt my mother’s suffering deeply and knew the conditions on some reservations, and I had lived and worked in settings where most non-Natives knew nothing about “real” U.S. history or contemporary Native issues.  These realities were important for me to understand on both an intellectual level (my white culture?) and on a heart level (Ojibwe culture?).  Learning to understand different cultures and history through different lenses was a way for me to make sense of living in between, sometimes feeling at home for a moment in both cultures, but more often feeling not really part of either.  The more I learned, the more responsibility I felt for building inter-cultural understanding and collaboration. The wounds that keep people divided are deep and not easily overcome.

Merely lecturing people about history tended to raise resistance, sometimes strengthening people’s prejudicial views. In order to bridge cultures in my work, I experimented with different approaches for presenting information in ways that were less threatening. Finally, I discovered social “sculpting.”  There are two sculpted exercises that proved to be effective for both Native American and non-Native audiences. Both illustrate the magnitude of suffering caused by centuries of domination without assigning blame on the current generation of Euro-Americans. The first exercise illustrates the ongoing and intensifying assaults on First Nations’ sovereignty over their lands and people. The second illustrates what happened to communities when children were forcibly removed from their parents and communities.

The growing weight of historical trauma that has been passed on from generation to generation is a direct consequence of unrelenting assaults on tribal sovereignty. When audiences participate in the sculpted exercise (described in the post “Go Fish” on my blog https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/go-fish/), past and present problems and potential solutions become clear. In my experience, Native people gained a clearer overview of the devastation wrought by colonial domination over every aspect of tribal life, and better understood how the trauma was passed from generation to generation. Non-Natives were also better able to see the history of domination without feeling that they were being personally blamed for a situation they did not cause. The following except briefly describes the exercise for anyone who is interested.

We “sculpted” the weight of oppression for each succeeding generation, as illustrated in the following figure. For each historical era, the audience was asked to shout out the historical events that occurred for their tribe. The volunteers lined up, all facing the same side wall, each representing one historical era.

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five generations

Contact Era: massive death mostly due to disease, displacement, land loss, massacres, missionary efforts to “civilize” Native Americans

Conflict/Domination Era: massive death due to disease, warfare deaths, removal of children to boarding schools, displacement, land loss, customs outlawed

Assimilation Era: land loss, tribes placed on reservations, U.S. Congress assumed plenary power over tribes, removal of children to boarding schools, more customs outlawed

Integration Era: Corporate form imposed on tribal governments, children forced to attend off-reservation public schools, termination of some tribes, relocation of families from reservations to urban areas, states granted jurisdictional powers over civil issues (e.g., child welfare)

Self-Determination/Self-Governance Era: limited sovereignty returned for tribal administration, justice systems, health and social services, child welfare

(The Five Generations Exercise, Recovery Foundation, 1999, High Risk Kids Workshop Manual, p. 27.)

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For the first era, the time of early contact (1500s-1770s), many spoke of massive death, massacres, and land loss. When it was time to move on, the representative of the first era leaned forward and placed her hands on the shoulders of the next generation, symbolizing the weight of unresolved grief from so many losses that would be carried on the shoulders of the next generation. Again, the audience called out the events for tribes during the era of conflict and colonial domination. As each era was covered, the generational representative would lean on the shoulders of the next in line. By the time we reached the present day representative, he was struggling to stand with the weight of the past on his shoulders. Then, it was time for a change. The present day representative was asked to turn around and face the history. The weight was still there, resting on his shoulders, but our physical bodies are better able to deal with the weight if we are facing it, and so are our emotions. By acknowledging our history, we can bear it. We can understand how the legacy of loss and unresolved grief has affected our families and communities and begin the process of healing…

************

One of the most effective colonial strategies for destroying tribal cultures is something that you have written about, Trace, the removal of children from their families and cultures. As you describe so compellingly in your work, the forced removal of children had profound consequences not only for the children who were removed but also for those who were left behind to grieve. The sculpted exercise described in “Indian Child Removal and the Ga-ga” (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/indian-child-removal-and-the-ga-ga/) demonstrates the consequences of losing children for families and communities as a whole. Again, I’ve included a brief excerpt to describe the sculpting exercise.

… Culture matters a great deal. Being part of a community with which one identifies matters as well. An exercise designed by Vera Manuel link, First Nations author and teacher from British Columbia, demonstrates the profound difference between the Euro-American concept of “permanence” and an Indigenous sense of belonging to a community and culture. She engaged participants in sculpting the organization of a pre-contact tribal community. She placed a small pouch on a chair in the center of the room, explaining that it contained things that were sacred to her. The sacred pouch represented the spiritual beliefs that were the center and foundation of the community. She then asked for volunteers to act out the role of children. She asked them to form a circle facing the sacred bundle. Next, she asked for volunteers to role-play parents and form a circle around all of the children. The next volunteers, encircling parents, were aunties and uncles and other adults in the community. Elders formed the final circle of those community members who were facing toward the children and the sacred center. Around the periphery, facing outward, were the volunteers who agreed to represent leaders and warriors who were responsible for protecting the community from harmful outside forces. Next, a few brave volunteers agreed to play the role of “child stealers,” the ga-ga.

In early times, the ga-ga were federal BIA agents or missionaries. In later times, they were state and county child welfare workers. These agents of churches, the federal government, counties, and states broke through the protective circles to forcibly remove the children. Despite resistance by the leaders, warriors, elders, aunties and uncles, and parents, children were removed from their place at the center of the community and taken away by strangers using threats and force. Participants in the sculpted exercise were asked to act out their reactions to losing their children. Without their children, parents, adults, and elders cast their eyes down and turned inward, wrapped their arms over their heart, turned their backs to the center, or left the circle. Warriors and leaders were deeply shamed by their defeat and also turned inward or left. Their meaning in life was lost. When some of the children returned as adults, the community was often disorganized and unrecognizable. Without a purpose, the circles of care that had surrounded them as children were in disarray.

Cumulatively, child removal and deliberate colonial policies intended to destroy tribal cultures, euphemistically referred to as assimilation, have had profound effects for tribal communities, leaving a legacy of inter and intra-tribal divisions and conflict and deep divides between Native and non-Native people. As a child welfare agency director once told me, the challenge we face if we wish to improve the situation for tribal families and children is not only providing historical facts to both Native and non-Native people. It’s more important to inspire people to care enough to find culturally appropriate solutions.

My focus as a professional, a responsibility I felt I carried as someone who walked in two worlds, was to find ways to build common ground within and across tribes, and between tribal and non-Native communities. Yet finding the path to this focus was not always easy. And now, in retirement, I have the luxury to simply be myself. I don’t need to worry about shifting cultures to be an effective teacher or advocate. As a writer, I still ask myself about my motivation for the writing I decide to share. Is it true? Is it constructive? And I still ask myself if it will help build common ground to improve people’s lives. Is it something that will lead to anger or compassionate understanding? Will it leave people feeling hopeless or inspire them to find solutions to the many problems that confront us these days? In many ways, retirement has freed me to live my life more simply – to write and garden, to spend time with my family and play with my grandchildren, to learn how to play the piano (maybe) and read the pile of books I saved for “someday when I have time.” Retirement has also given me the glorious opportunity to learn how to find beauty in each person regardless of culture, age, or status and in each new day – not always an easy task, but something that will keep me busy for a long time to come. Perhaps this is the ultimate lesson of walking in two worlds. Underneath the superficial differences, we really are all related and dependent upon each other for the future of the earth we all share.

(PART 5 will run on Dec. 25. Thank you for reading and thank you to Carol for her time and wisdom…XOX Trace)

Part Three: Personal Experiences: Walking in Two Worlds

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Carol Hand

By Lara Trace  (author of ONE SMALL SACRIFICE: A Memoir)

Welcome to Part 3 of my extended interview with Anishinabe Elder Carol Hand.

 

QUESTION: Carol, this quote from the Mic Check post really hit me. “When you try to be a bridge between two cultures, you should expect to get walked over by some people from both sides.” This speaks to oppression and a mixed race ethnicity, something we both have lived. How are you handling this today?

 

Carol Hand: This is such an important but complex question, Trace. In my silver-haired retirement I face different challenges than I did when I was a child, student and professional. The only way I can do justice to this question is to explain a little bit about how my experiences changed in response to different times and settings (in this post) and the strategies I used to blend cultures in my work and life (NEXT POST).

Responding to this question, Trace, brings to mind the important discussion you shared in your memoire about the way adopted children are socialized. They are expected to be grateful for their traumatic separation from birth parents and sometimes made to feel as though they were initially abandoned because they were unwanted or unloved. These messages are then internalized and often result in the need to hide or anesthetize one’s deeply hidden shame and insecurity. I think it’s very similar to the identity development challenges faced by children in any socially devalued group. I know my mother internalized the messages that she was inferior to whites because of her Ojibwe heritage. She became fastidious about cleanliness because she still felt others saw her as a “dirty Indian.” (This is something she said to me when I was little, so I trust that it’s true.)

Unlike my mother, I grew up in New Jersey, in a small community twenty miles away from New York City. It was a small homogeneous (white) community in a mid-Atlantic state with an exceptional school system. I escaped the prejudice and discrimination my mother encountered in the Catholic Indian boarding school she was forced to attend. I also was spared the treatment Native American children typically experienced (and still do) in reservation border towns or segregated urban settings. Because Indigenous tribes had disappeared from mid-Atlantic communities centuries before, the predominant view of Natives for those few who ever gave it a thought was that of the noble savages who once lived in harmony with nature (rather than the other predominant view of Natives as blood-thirsty heathens). Although this absence of prejudice toward Native people in my childhood community indicated absolutely no awareness that Native Americans still existed in contemporary times, it also meant there was an opportunity to educate the community. So as a child, I learned to see my Ojibwe identity as one that was unique and a source of pride despite my mother’s shame. I also internalized the need to prove to my mother that as Native people, we were just as good as anyone else – we could do anything they could do. Yet this doesn’t mean that I saw anyone else as inferior because of ancestry or ability. It just made me feel that we were all uniquely and equally human.

Because I learned to see ethnic differences as positive and fascinating, I really didn’t realize that other people didn’t share this view. It wasn’t until my twelfth summer when I became aware of anti-Indian prejudice and discrimination. It was the summer I spent with my grandmother on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation. Although my grandmother was a gifted hairstylist with a busy beauty salon every day, she spent most of what she earned at the local bars and taverns almost every evening. Of course, she dragged me along everywhere. Sometimes I sat in the bar next to her and drank sodas for hours, and other times I was told to wait in the car. I would often hear men referring to her in loud whispers as “Black Agnes.” At first I thought it was because of the black dye she used on her hair that reminded me of shoe polish. But I gradually became aware of the other ways she was treated with disrespect and it made me sad, even though she wasn’t someone who could ever be mistaken for a kind and nurturing grandmother. When I spent time with my aunties and cousins, I also noticed something I had never encountered before. Some of my cousins were much darker because their fathers and mothers were both Ojibwe. Others, like me, were lighter-skinned because their fathers were white. The cousins who were darker-skinned were treated much more harshly by everyone, not just their mothers. Again, it made me sad to see this differential treatment.

I mention these childhood experiences and observations because they relate to your question in a fundamental way. I could see the way internalized racism affected Indian people, and in turn, how it influenced the way they viewed and treated others as a result. When you grow up being told you are inferior because you are _____ (fill in the blank), it’s hard to feel a sense of pride and confidence. It’s hard to see yourself as someone worthy of respect, and so the world becomes a place of fear, struggle and conflict. I could also see the consequences for Euro-Americans who lacked not only an understanding of history, but were also unaware of deeper wounds. I question if those whose ancestral homelands were on other continents could ever really feel this land was their rightful home. Could they ever really face the fact that their inherited privileges in the US were won because of the disinheritance and oppression of other peoples, both Indigenous and those who were kidnapped from their nations to serve as slaves? Would they ever be willing to acknowledge and do what is necessary to redress past injustices in fundamental ways?

Throughout my education and career, I gradually learned to embrace the need to work in two worlds. Although I worked from a foundation of respect, I shared my perspectives as gently and honestly as possible. Sometimes I was seen as an “angry Indian” by Euro-Americans who felt threatened by truth spoken without deference to their socially-constructed position of power, or “not Indian enough” or “assimilated/colonial” by other Native people who felt they should be the only spokespeople for Indian issues. It helped me to remember each time I advocated on an issue that I needed to be very clear in my own heart about my motivation for speaking. This was something I learned to do during my short career as a singer, described in one of my old posts, A Darkened Auditorium. https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/a-darkened-auditorium/

“… every time I teach a class or speak in public, and every time I post a new essay on a blog or send out a manuscript for editing and peer review .. I ask myself “Is this true? Does it come from my heart or my ego?” As a singer, I both did and did not sing for people. I sang because there was a song in my heart that needed to be given voice, and I hoped for people and hearts that would listen and sing back their songs. It’s the same with writing. I write because there is a story that won’t let me rest until it is spoken. Once written, it only comes to life if others read it and join me in dialogue. Dialogue is like the voices of a choir adding harmony and counterpoint, depth and breadth, dissonance and resolution, to the stories that unite us in our shared humanity. Yet even if dialogue doesn’t come immediately, I know that I have contributed what I can to touch the hearts of others.”

Photo Credit: Carol Hand, Carlos, José, and children, 1973, photographer unknown

Walking between two worlds effectively also meant “switching cultures.” I think it may have been something I learned to do as a child, but I didn’t realize it was something I automatically did until one day when I didn’t have time to make the transition – but that’s another story. Realizing that I did this, however, helped me see the differences. In tribal settings, I encouraged others to take the lead. In settings where the people in power were non-Natives, I often had to take a lead and speak in academic, analytic terms to increase the chances that the voices of other Native people would be respected. It was at these times that I knew criticism was likely to be leveled from both Native and non-Native people. Taking the time to know my heart before I engaged in these negotiations gave me both the courage to speak honestly and as forcefully as necessary and the strength to withstand any criticism that came as a result.

(to be continued)

Part Two: Carol Hand interview: River Teeth

By Lara Trace Hentz

(Part 2) My extended interview with Carol Hand (Anishinabe Elder Scholar)

The Prophet, a book that changed minds and lives

One book you mentioned in the article “Living in the Space Between Cultures” was The Prophet. How did that one book affect you and change your life view? I know it changed me when I read it.

CAROL HAND: Trace, let me begin answering your question by citing a brief passage from the essay I wrote for Jeff Nguyen’s blog, Deconstructing Myths (http://deconstructingmyths.com/2014/01/11/mic-check-carol-a-hand/). (NOTE: PLEASE READ THIS)

“Because I grew up between two cultures, I never felt that I really belonged to either. There were no family members or classmates or teachers to serve as guides to teach me how to walk in two worlds. But I quickly learned that the liminal space between cultures is often a lonely place to live.”

How does a child, teenager, or young adult come to terms with the feeling that one never quite belongs anywhere? I suspect from reading your memoire, One Small Sacrifice, that you understand this feeling all too well.

Gibran’s eloquence and depth helped me realize that others shared this experience. While other authors spoke of this existential sense of aloneness (e.g., Camus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus , Sartre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus , Dostoyevsky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Dostoyevsky , and Flaubert http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Flaubert ), The Prophet touched my heart and helped me realize that this sense of aloneness was shared by many others in different times and different cultures.

Now as I look back on some of the “river teeth” experiences that made me feel different I am amused (http://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/the-fools-prayer/ ), although other experiences were excruciatingly painful at the time (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/reflections-on-river-teeth/ ). In retrospect I am grateful for the lessons I learned and grateful that I found Gibran’s work. His writing offers wisdom and hope.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/khalilgibr386848.html)

Overall, I have learned to accept this existential sense of difference with humor and humility, knowing that much of the pain and suffering in the world comes from trying to escape the reality that we are all ultimately alone. We are all unique. Each one of us has unique gifts to offer if we are willing to take the risk to express who we really are and care enough to face the possibility of rejection and ridicule.

Gibran’s work continues to be an important source of guidance in my life.

“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where the sunset left us.

Even while the earth sleeps we travel.

We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and scattered.” (Kahlil Gibran, pp. 82-83).

Chi Miigwetch for asking this important question, Trace. I hope my answer does it justice and conveys my gratitude that as wonderers, our paths have brought us together.

 

Note: River teeth are the hard resinous knots that are all that remain after the softer wooden fibers of pine trees have been dissolved by the river waters into which they have fallen. (David James Duncan, 2006). Applied to life, they are the memories that remain decades later as transformative experiences and epiphanies.

Works Cited:

Duncan, J. D. (2006). River Teeth: Stories and writings. New York, NY: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks.

Kahlil Gibran (2002). The Prophet. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

(to be continued) NEXT POST will be Dec. 20 (4 parts)

Part One: Interview with Anishinabe Scholar Elder Carol A. Hand

By Lara Trace Hentz

Hi everyone. The following interview with Anishinabe/Ojibwe Elder Carol A. Hand (Voices from the Margins blog) (Professor in Social Work and Sociology, Author, Guest Lecturer) will run over the next few weeks on this blog. Carol and I have roots in Wisconsin. I’ve been admiring her work and scholarship for quite some time. Please follow this important interview by this extraordinary woman. I am truly humbled and grateful that Carol has agreed to answer some questions. Our Elders are to be respected, listened to, and honored, so with that note, let’s read on….

Photo Credit: Carol Hand – Lake Superior - Duluth, MN – 2010 (Photographer – Jnana Hand)
Photo Credit: Carol Hand – Lake Superior – Duluth, MN – 2010 (Photographer – Jnana Hand)

 

Carol, please tell us, when did you begin blogging? [LINK]

Honestly, I don’t see myself as a writer, Trace, although I do write and sometimes say I am a writer when people ask me what I do.

In the past, writing was something I only did in the context of school or jobs that required concrete results – state policies, grants to address specific issues, or program evaluation reports (e.g., elder abuse, infant mortality, access to health services). I only started writing in my own voice as a means of surviving in the brutal context of academia, a new career for me when I was in my early 50s. The essays I wrote weren’t shared with others. Instead, they were a way for me to understand the senseless oppression I witnessed in institutions that I had formerly romanticized as the bastion of innovation and liberation. I wrote to save my life, to find my foundation. Through writing, I began to discover the roots of my differences with the competitive, oppressive paradigms that governed academia. The values and skills I learned from my (Ojibwe) mother were profoundly different and influenced how I understood the world, how I worked with students, and how I approached research. Based on the belief that all people were born in a state of original sanctity, an idea I found words for through Rupert Ross’s (1992) work Dancing with a Ghost, the ethics that guided me were always at odds in institutions that were based on the taken-for-granted assumption that education should be founded on saving people from their nature as beings born into a state of original sin.

Although my academic research and writing gained some national attention, my focus on Indian child welfare was not viewed as important by my Euro-American colleagues. At the same time, my critical stance on Indian child welfare policies, practices, and paradigms was also threatening to many people whose jobs and positions depended on preserving the existing policies and structures despite serious needs for greater tribal innovations and sovereignty. Rather than compete, I shifted research topics to Indian health, and again realized that the forces defending “business as usual” were too well established to yield before the modest work of a small number of researchers.

So for a while, I put my writing on hold and simply tried to teach and model how to apply Freire’s (2000) liberatory praxis ideas in the classroom. Rather than seeing my students as “empty vessels” who needed to memorize and accept whatever “experts” said as truth, I worked from a dialogic framework, asking students to consider issues from a variety of different perspectives and come to their own conclusions after critical reflection. But how can one transform a system that is controlled by insecure people who need to be “right” (and I use that word in both of its connotations) and whose socially-constructed hierarchical positions of power perpetuate “expert” knowledge, individualism and self-interested competition? After one too many battles defending vulnerable students and colleagues from destructive oppression, I left academia earlier than I planned. Writing then became a way for me to heal, and then a way to share stories that I hoped could touch people’s hearts and open their eyes to new possibilities. Journals were not interested in publishing these hybrid essays that often interwove stories and critical analyses.

And then I discovered blogging, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2013.

After my first retirement in June of 2011, I reconnected with a group of people that I had known in my early 20s when I experimented with living on a commune. (In case anyone is interested, the following link describes my commune years and insights: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/in-search-of-community/.) One of the friends I reconnected with was a writer and editor. When I mentioned the challenges I was having finding some place to publish what I was writing, she suggested that we start a blog together. I had no idea what that meant. I had never even seen a blog before.

Given her background with technical writing and publishing, she did the initial research on blogging platforms and suggested WordPress. I drafted a title and purpose statement and she figured out the technical aspects of actually creating the blog. We agreed that neither of us would publish anything on the blog unless we both agreed it was appropriate – a promise I would later regret. My first post (June 18, 2013) was a story I wrote about an issue of particular interest to my blogging partner. Gradually my topics and style shifted. I had so many backlogged stories that were waiting to be told that some days when I sat down at the computer it felt like the words were literally pouring out of my heart and my mind through my fingertips. My partner was a gifted writer, but rarely posted. Because of our agreement, I was constantly emailing drafts and pestering her for feedback. I know I was annoying.

My writing style was (and still is) eclectic, a blend of storytelling and academic analysis. Long ago, I learned to make up some of my own grammatical rules while other stylistic conventions were deeply ingrained habits from years in academia. As an editor for technical and literary venues, my partner didn’t approve of some of my punctuation – too many commas. (When I write, I hear the flow of language and try to show it on the page.) She did not like my failure to use contractions because it made me sound too academic, as did my use of citations – an absolute no-no from her perspective. And my long poetic titles had to be shortened. Many of her suggestions helped me improve immeasurably as a writer, but some were not negotiable. I listened to her suggestions thoughtfully but after reflection, I decided that citations – giving people credit for their words and innovations – were absolutely essential and non-negotiable. Eventually, we did agree that it was time to dissolve the partnership and I removed all my posts from her blog and created a new one in February of 2014, Voices from the Margins. My first post on the new blog was one my soon-to-be new partner liked: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/in-honor-of-caregivers/. My new blogging partner (Cheryl Bates) and I have a different agreement. We agreed that each of us has the right to post whatever we choose, although we often read each other’s drafts and give whatever level of editorial assistance is requested.

In retrospect, I can’t imagine what my life in retirement would have been like without blogging. I have met so many fascinating people like you, Trace – gifted, kind-hearted, committed to social justice. They have opened up new worlds for me and enriched my life immeasurably. In my effort to give something back to them in return, I have been willing to address new topics and experiment with new ways of writing. I have learned a lot about myself through writing, and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people who are now part of my life. I hope readers will visit Voices from the Margins and consider being guest authors. Cheryl and I welcome dialogue and guest submissions.

Works Cited:

Paulo Freire (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th Anniversary Edition). New York, NY: Continuum.

Rupert Ross (1992). Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian reality. Markham, Ontario, CA: Octopus Publishing Group.

 

About Carol:  About my enrollment, “My mother was initially enrolled in Mole Lake – the “Sokaogon Chippewa Community – Mole Lake Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa,” and it’s where my brother and I were enrolled as children. As you write in your book, One Small Sacrifice, tribes do have some authority over determining their enrollment policies. At the time my mother was enrolled, Lac du Flambeau (LdF) only allowed reservation residents to be counted as members, while Mole Lake allowed non-resident descendants of those on the original tribal roll to be recognized as members and enrolled. Although LdF later changed their residency requirement and my mother and brother shifted their enrollment, I decided to remain on Mole Lake’s roll for a number of reasons. Mostly, it’s a tribute to the grandfather, Ray Ackley, whom I never had an opportunity to meet. It’s a lost opportunity I have always grieved. The stories elders and relatives have shared about him paint a picture of a kind and gentle man who took other children “under his wing” when he realized he would never be able to be part of his own daughter’s life. (Here’s an older post about my mother’s relationship with her family: https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/a-life-lived-as-a-song-for-her-people-an-ojibwe-womans-story-part-two/ ).”

Lara/Trace, I had an opportunity to read your book – I have learned so much from your experiences and insights. Your work helped me see new dimensions of harm caused by the colonialism that continues to underlie child welfare policies and practice paradigms in the US. It also touched my heart to read about you and glimpse your incredible tenacity and resilience.

(to be continued)

 

Rescuing Children or Homogenizing America? — Part 2

please read and share Carol’s writing

Voices from the Margins

Carol A. Hand

 (Part 1 Questions)

… Grandfather Thomas focused on helping others. He took me under his “left wing” and shared his stories, photos, and the amazing beauty of his art (paintings, wood carvings, drawings). I wondered what his life would have been like if he had been able to grow up with his family. I wondered what his life would have been like if he had been able to attend a school that provided more than abuse, discipline, and training for farming and manual labor. And I wondered what his life would have been like if the government had apologized and offered reparations to the children and families who had been traumatized when agents were sent to kidnap children and place them in abusive institutions simply because they were Native American.

Part 2

State and Federal Child Welfare Initiatives (1935-1978).

The answer to these questions is suggested…

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