Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fallin Fail, Part Tvklo (2)

Last month, I wrote about the daughter of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin's disrespect to Natives. The following anonymous comment was left on that post:

"Given the Warbonnet is a MALE headdress, you have two choices here.

Call it cultural appropriation, the fight against which used to have other names (xenophobia, segregation and racism, to name just a few). And before you freak out I ask you: Since when is stating that it's okay for you to wear/do something because of your race/ethnic background but it isn't okay for someone of a different race/ethnic background NOT racist?

Or... You can say it's strictly a MALE privilege to wear such a headdress and then be out of line in social justice terms.

But I doubt you will actually address either of my points, because frankly you don't really have a clean way out of this. Other than, perhaps, admitting it isn't that big a deal in the first place."
Perhaps it's just my cynicism, but I assume by the fact that the comment was left anonymously, coupled by the condescending tone, that the purpose was just to be argumentative. However, the false assumptions contained therein are things that I hear parroted quite often, so I felt compelled to address them.

First of all, I won't go into the fact that xenophobia, racism, and segregation, while related and often rooted in common causes, are, in fact, not synonymous; nor are they historical methods for fighting cultural appropriation. To say that they are is to misunderstand what cultural appropriation is, in the first place. Racism & xenophobia have often resulted in segregation, to prevent the equality and intermingling of races, not cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is stealing from, and bastardizing, elements of another culture. So, you see, the attempted argument in the first "choice" is foundationally fallacious & logically invalid. In reality, it's a diversionary attempt to dismiss the viewpoints of those who speak out, because it's easier to do so than to face the cognitive dissonance of acknowledging that many of the things that we are accustomed to are actually racist microaggressions. I understand the impulse...just don't expect me to buy into it, or shy away from pointing it out.

As for the second "choice" Anonymous laid out, it, too, is based on faulty assumptions. First of all, traditional gender roles with any given Native society isn't necessarily "out of line in social justice terms". I assume the suggestion is that a headdress being only for males is somehow sexist. However, that there are many layers to why this is a fallacy.

First of all, it is superimposing a value system upon another culture to which is has no valuable or relevant application. Western feminism plays no role in Native cultures. While most Native cultures have (or historically had) prescribed gender roles, to distill the idea down to a simple binary whereas you can extrapolate judgments is to overly simplify & misunderstand. Many tribes believed in Two-Spirit individuals, for example, which requires the rejection of a simple binary understanding of gender. Early missionaries to my tribe recorded their shock at seeing some individuals who were genetically male dressing & living 'as woman'. So there seems to be some persistence of the western idea that sex & gender are synonymous that often clouds peoples' understanding on this.

Secondly, even if we choose to look at it through a lens of binary gender definitions, the fact remains that such headdresses are not solely within the male domain. As Johnnie Jae, of Native Max Magazine, reminded me, there are women who have earned the right to wear the headdress, such as "Minnie Hollow Wood, who fought with the men against the calvary at Little Big Horn, and more recently Chief Theresa Spence as well as other First Nation female chieftains." Therefore, the last "choice" that the commenter left us with is, in fact, not valid, either.

Let's momentarily leave the concept of cultural appropriation as a whole and focus exclusively on that of the headdress. These are not part of my culture, so I have consulted with many people from those cultures, over the years. The refrain that I hear is the sacred nature of them. They must be earned. If someone wears one without earning it, even if they are from within that nation, it is sacrilege.

Since I choose to be a respectful person, I don't deliberately take sacred or exalted objects from other cultures and bastardize, trivialize, or appropriate them. Whether those things are valuable is determined by the culture they belong to, not by me. It really isn't terribly complicated.

As for the young Ms. Fallin, yesterday, she decided to show continued disrespect to the Native community.
Her band posted to their FB, early in the day that they would be appearing in "full regalia" at the Norman Music Festival that night. The backlash was immediate & a protest, led by a local musician, was formulated. Pink Pony attempted to have the protestors removed by security.

Fallin appeared onstage in a shawl with sheep on it. I can only assume that is a reference to the fact that many of her supporters were referring to those that spoke out about her headdress photo as "sheep", claiming that we were outraged  in the name of political correctness, rather than independent thought. Personally, I find their attempts at emotional manipulation and inciting outrage to be juvenile & indicative of their true character.

You see, many people defended Ms. Fallin the first time around. Perhaps she didn't know any better. Now, though, she no longer have naivety to hide behind. Not only did she receive critique, but she also received genuine education. In fact, a woman for the lodge that I participate in, extended an offer for Ms. Fallin to attend a sweat with us and to learn more about/from Native women.

She is clearly not interested in learning about, nor respecting, Natives. Her conduct last night was openly mocking & ignorance is no longer a defense. The first time can be a mistake, the second is malice.

EONM issued a press release about Fallin's performance, please read it. However, I want to go a step further than calling "upon the Riverwind Casino, Blackwatch Studios and Christina Fallin and Governor Mary Fallin to apologize for this direct attack affront to Native American concerns regarding the misuse of our culture and purposeful insult to Native Americans in general." I would like a statement from the Chickasaw Nation, either supporting or denouncing the behavior of Ms. Fallin, as they are not only the owners of the sponsoring casino, but also of the property where the original incident occurred. They need to make it clear where they stand.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Growth & Healing

Fire started on the first try. My friend & I are awesome. ;-)
While participating in a women's sweat last night, prayers went up for those who have been abused,
and those who have abused. As the prayers for peace, healing & forgiveness were spoken, my mind went to another place momentarily.

Memories of standing over the grave of the man that altered the world as I knew it were so clear. I remember seeing the messages left by his loved ones, expressing how wonderful he was & how they'd miss him. Reconciling that with the sadistic sociopath who had preyed on young girls for years, was difficult. Part of me always understood that he had probably become that way from things that had happened to him, as that is usually the case.

Another sweat, that one a healing ceremony for me, came to mind. I had been going through  a lot of personal issues & it was causing PTSD symptoms in levels that I had never experienced prior. The flash backs were so real, with full auditory & even olfactory integration...actually reliving experiences. I was suddenly remembering details that I had not previously had conscious memory of. Body memories were seriously interfering with my sex life; with any sort of physical intimacy, actually, as I couldn't even stand to be touched by others without feeling anxiety. In short, it was beginning to interfere with my ability to function & I needed help.

I turned to a Cherokee friend, who runs a lodge in eastern Oklahoma, whom I had sweated & attended various ceremonies with for several years. She & another friend from the circle brought me in for healing sweat.

The stories & confessions that were shared inside the lodge that day will remain there, & with me, forever. The experience, though, was transformative.

Thinking back, juxtaposing that sweat a few years ago with the one I was in at that moment, I realized how different I am now. Something happened over that time that I couldn't have anticipated. Along with healing and maturity, I gained more empathy & lost the compulsion to judge people (as opposed to their actions). I've become less willing to settle & less afraid to be alone. I have learned that no one is responsible for my happiness, other than me. Perhaps that is how I've reached the point where I largely ignore the expectations and rules that have been externally imposed in attempts to define individuals and relationships. Nobody, & nothing, is perfect. As long as it all averages out to more good than bad, & the cost-benefit analysis balances out, we're doing pretty well overall. 

I am so thankful for all the wonderful people in my life, such as the women in both of the ceremonies mentioned, that help me become a better person every day. I'm happy with who I've become & hope that I can continue to grow & evolve in positive ways...and, hopefully, that will allow me to help others and contribute to their lives, as well.

Time changes things...perhaps nothing as much as who we are...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Taking the animals to the zoo

Today, a friend & I took a dozen kids to the zoo. Like me, she & her husband have a large family that is comprised of both bio & foster kids. Today, she had only 7 of her 9 & I had all 5 of mine. So, the two of us took a dozen wild & crazy kids to the zoo. Ages 8 months, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 13, 13, 14.

When we take our large, diverse families out together, people look at us like we're part of some strange cult. The looks are always interesting. haha

It was fun. It was exhausting. I feel like I need a nap...but I should probably finish mowing the yard before dark, instead...

A mother's work is never done. But, while I'm working, you guys can see some of the critters we met today...

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Scrolling through, I notice that the blog has turned to mostly photos & I haven't actually written much lately. Mostly it's because I'm busy & exhausted, but what else is new?

So...for the updates:

I am currently job hunting, which is a full time job, in itself. But, I also have to actually work, & raise kids. I only have until the end of May to find something, because that's when my current job ends (No, it's not related to my Bar results, but I'm not at liberty to discuss the reason that my position is being eliminated, at this time). I'll probably have time to get it all done, as long as I don't sleep...or eat...or have any sort of human contact, ever...

I've submitted over a dozen applications already & am writing cover letter for a half dozen more, today. I'm determined to find something. However, I will be taking Saturday off & doing as little as humanly possible, because it will be my birthday. Even if no one else celebrates my existence, I will. ;-)

As for the Bar, I can retake it in July. I've sent for my essays and will be trying to formulate a plan on all that, but don't have one yet.

Let's see...what else?...

As far as I know, Wasband is still in jail. He's scheduled to stay there until the end of May, unless he pays the purge amount. The Bigs seem fine with it, but don't seem interested in seeing him over their summer vacation, so I interpret that as they are either upset with his choices or have just given up on staying connected with him, at least for the time being.

There has been no changes on Lil Sis's case. We don't go back to court until later in the summer, so this process promises to be long & tedious. Her CW is supposed to do a monthly visits, but I haven't seen anyone since January. I know that shouldn't surprise me, because it has become the pattern, but it does. The state has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the kids in their custody, and they can't do that if they don't actually check on them.

Lil Sis's behaviors have greatly improved & we are dealing mostly with normal, age appropriate issues at this point. She continues in therapy, though, and it seems to be helping her a lot.

That's all I can think of right now. If anyone has specific things they want updates on that I haven't mentioned, you know where the comments box is located...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

OU AISA Powwow

Yesterday was the University of Oklahoma American Indian Student Association's Centennial Powwow.

Sorry, I'm not a photographer, but I wanted to post the photos anyhow...because it's just a shameless plug for my alma mater...& I can. ;-)


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Flying W Guest Ranch

 My family spent last weekend at the Flying W Guest Ranch in Sayre, Oklahoma.

Today was their official grand opening, under their new management. I would like to sincerely wish them the best, as they seemed to be very nice people & my kids had a blast there.

They have a frontier town, complete with mannequins to set the scene of what things would have looked like in the late 1800s, as well as the usual trail rides and such that you find on a guest ranch.

One thing the Flying W has that most ranches don't, though, is an archeological site. Specifically, it is the "largest  buffalo kill site in the southern plains". Archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma oversee the exploration and excavation at the Flying W Guest Ranch kill site, and have revealed the remains of approximately 800 bison. If you visit the ranch during dig season, you can actually participate in the dig. Of course, I had to visit at the wrong time...but I would like to return sometime to see the dig.

The cabin we stayed in.

Monday, April 7, 2014


When I returned from my weekend trip, my Bar Exam scores were waiting for me.

I failed by 4 points, which means it was the curve that screwed me. I passed all my essay, except one, which I only fell below by 2 points. However, I apparently still struggle with the format of the multiple choice part of the exam. The problem I'm having is one that a lot of people have; it's not about knowing the law, but about misinterpreting what the examiners are asking when the questions are written to be deliberately misleading and confusing.

To add insult to injury, they passed far fewer people this testing period than they normally do. So, had I received this score last testing period, I most likely would have passed.

There are no provisions for appeal & the test is only given every 6 months.

In the mean time, my job situation is tenuous. Even if the firm can afford to keep me on while I wait to retest, I don't know that I can continue to survive on the tiny salary that I'm getting.

It has been suggested to me, by a few people, that I apply to teach at university. I actually think I would enjoy that job, possibly more than practicing law, and it would provide more flexibility for me. However, I have Zero teaching experience, so I don't really know if I would actually even a remote chance of getting a job like that.

In any event, one day at a time...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bad News. Again.

I did not pass the Bar. Again. And I'm devastated.

My boss is baffled. He says he considers me to be a better lawyer than him...but the test is the test & I can't practice without it. He's promised that I have a job...for at least a few more months. But they only give the test once every 6 months, so...

I know everyone wants to be helpful...but please don't slip into helpful mode with me on this. I've already had more than my fill of "well did you do better this time?" & attempts at problem solving about how I might can fix this situation. None of it is helpful at this moment. I can't think about that right now.

The only thing I can think about is how to break the news to my children.

That stupid test is the only thing standing between me & security for my kids. And I can't seem to get past it. I mean, I knew tests are hard for me. But none have ever been this hard. And none have ever carried so much weight.

I feel lost & scared right now because my future & my ability to support my children feels very shaky at this moment. 

I haven't felt this low since the day I realized I was out of possessions to sell &  had to talk to my parents about possibly sending the kids to then & living in my van to finish school. But, I made it then & I will now. Somehow. 

And, no, I don't want to talk about it right now.

My son's birthday is tomorrow & I'm going to make it a good one for him. That's all I can do at this point.