The Great White Tribe

native_american_dancing_shawl_mat_by_spearcarrier-d72w22z[1]It’s spring powwow season, a time I used to look greatly forward to, but nowadays my mind instead gets crowded with dark memories and unhappy thoughts. This to me is not a time of renewal. It’s a time of endings and the death of dreams and childhood wishes. All because of what I will forever consider a wannabe tribe.

See, as a child my father refused to take us to the reservation. He always said no when I begged him to teach us our tribal language – what little he knew – and staunchly refused to so much as find a powwow. This need for the family to get back to our cousins consumed me, though. So while my father handed me bows and arrows and raised us traditionally (It was the only way he knew, and it wasn’t until I was grown that I realized my childhood wasn’t like my White neighbors’.), my heart said it wasn’t enough.

I searched years upon years for my cousins. My mother told me Sioux. I went Sioux. She told me Cherokee, I went Cherokee. I was told Chippewa, I went to that. Mohegan. Narragansett. Let’s make one up.

The truth is my family knew who were were, but we didn’t know the name. My father remembered being on the reservation, and he could even tell me which one, but he had been there during a time when the rez borders weren’t so strict and you didn’t have to be a Narragansett to live on the Narragansett reserve. You just had to be family.

These days the source of the confusion is clear. I’m a Brotherton, and this is a tribe which was formed out of all the different tribes my family knew we were a part of.  So yes, we were Narragansett. We were also Mohegan. And Ojibwe (Chippewa). We are all these things, but not really. Because our tribe is Brotherton – and your tribe isn’t necessarily a DNA matter. Your tribe is your culture.

That being said, not knowing the legal and rightful name of my “classification” sent me down a lot of roads and I met a lot of people. I even traded snail mail with Wilma Mankiller, the first woman chief of the Cherokee tribe. She was nice to me, and she looked in the rolls for me as hard as she could. Then gently she told me that my family was not Cherokee, and that she was sorry. That broke my heart.

I made phone calls to the Ojibwe nation, and got treated like dirt because I didn’t know the slang insult for Whites the woman slipped up and said over the phone. (Thanks, Dad.)

Then I stumbled across a small “tribe” located about 2 hours away. I attended my first powwow with them – their spring powwow – and they welcomed me as a long lost cousin. I would join them, I decided. With excitement I told my family of this thing so close to us, and we all flocked to be near our new family.

I look back on that band now – they didn’t have state recognition back then, they were just a bunch of people (most of them folks who knew they had native ancestry but no tribal upbringing) trying to GET state recognition – and all I see is a cult. I can’t see them any differently. I have stopped trying.

A cult expects you to become a blank slate. To be just like everyone else without exception. It’s not culture. Culture grows and breathes. A cult will cut you deeply by throwing you out, or having you live under the threat of being thrown out, over the slightest thing. All to get you to conform and be more easily controlled.

I and the clan mother were like fire and water. I tried. I seriously tried. But she kept telling me all the things my father taught me were wrong. She didn’t have any rhyme or reason as to why he was wrong. He just was.

They were things like: women had no place making decisions for the tribe. Unless they were her, the clan mother, of course. (Anyone who knows Cherokee cultural history would know that’s a load of bs from the start.)

My regalia had to be just like everyone else’s. I couldn’t have anything personal about it. I couldn’t use any patterns that weren’t things she approved. All female patterns had to be of a certain old-fashioned look. No camouflage. No stripes or anything like that. Just small flowers, because that’s how she always did it.

My name – my wonderful earned name of which I was so proud of at the time – didn’t sound Indian enough for her because it doesn’t have a gender attached to it. She wanted to change my name – not because I’d earned a new name. But because my name is only Spearcarrier and not something Hollywood sounding like “Dances With Wolves”. It had to be Spearcarrier WOMAN, which would have completely changed the meaning as well as the reason behind it. We argued about that constantly, actually. That should have been the biggest red flag, that this woman didn’t know language (least of all her own) enough to know what a direct translation would be like. Or how to respect a fellow cousin’s personal identity.

They had a very “settlerlike” way of worshiping what they called the Creator. There were no ceremonies with drums or any of the things I’d seen scant details of growing up. They held church on Sunday. With a pastor. (Ironically my tribe is known as the Christian tribe because we openly adopted that as part of our culture way back when.)

I was invited to a wedding – a three day affair – and got to see a lot of things I’d only heard about. That was fun… only… the night before the ceremony I stayed up talking to a few other women in the camp. We ended up trading ghost stories because, well, that’s what you do. The bride and a woman whom I can only call Snake With A Knife were eavesdropping. By the end of the weekend, Snake had told everyone I was part of a satanic church (not true, one of the other girls had mentioned being part of one). Without being given a chance to defend myself I was exiled from the clan. I almost said, “Thanks for giving me a chance to defend myself. That was very White of you” at the time. But I didn’t sink to their level.

The day I was exiled, I remember seeing many important signs that in the old ways meant it was for the best. I was comforted by a blue heron who stayed by my side for hours, for example. The “tribe” often said that the blue heron was a sacred bird. I saw turkeys, another important bird. And… just stuff.

I also, because of their wrongs, have often been pushed to do things that educate people otherwise. Take for example my longstanding argument over regalia. I went so far as to write a paper about regalia, something I then put out as free to read. Because regalia isn’t always a uniform. It’s sometimes an expression of your journey and who you are… as well as your finery. As I go from powwow to powwow I learn more and more that people are forgetting the Medicine behind it.

The last time I saw the clan mother was at a powwow. She acted like we could just be friendly as if nothing had ever happened. Yet, the others who were wronged by Snake With A Knife were given feathers and offered official apologies through ceremony. I’m guessing this might be because those people had money. I, on the other hand, have never so much as been written an email saying “Sorry about that”. (I think if I got one now after posting this I’d just hit delete.) Considering the lack of respect on every single level I have been thrown in my direction, I am pretty sure acting like nothing ever happened isn’t socially possible. It’s not a matter of me being immature. It’s me saying, “No. I deserve better.”

All of this looks like so much petty bullshit, until you step all the way back and assess the damage done by that cult. When I was exiled, my parents didn’t side with me. They didn’t stand up for me. Instead, I got to watch the parent-child bond fade until it’s a mere sliver. My mother has made snide comments such as, and I’m going to quote, “Who was the smart witch that got kicked out of the tribe?” (Clearly my mother believes the cult over her own daughter.)

My father used to say often that they treated being a tribe like a “culture club”. Each time he put them down I wondered why he never stood up for his only daughter, the one whose childhood quest had been firmly destroyed by a rumor.

My family stopped a lot of things I grew up with. I used to be able to call my father over spiritual things – Dad, I saw a ghost! – but I can’t anymore. See, the cult doesn’t do that. The cult doesn’t do anything that goes against the teachings of the Creator. My Dad doesn’t talk to me about ley lines anymore, or the art of using sage to break things, or any of the stuff I have had to figure out by proxy were traditional Native things. He talks about the Creator now. Replace “Creator” with “Jesus” or “God”. Yes. That’s right. He doesn’t talk red anymore. It’s been bleached out of him. I can’t turn to him anymore.

I love my family, even if I don’t agree with their choice of social affiliations.  I don’t blame them for getting sucked into that group. They wanted to be near their cousins almost as much as I did. When there’s such a hole in your heart, it’s easy to get fooled and used.

But what kind of family would destroy the childhood wish of someone raised traditionally over a rumor? They wouldn’t. That’s just it. They would not.

I’ve talked to more traditional Cherokee about the matter and have been told what should have happened. 1. The ghost telling should have been respected. It’s an unspoken tradition. 2. Have these people never heard of Indian Bullshit?? Which – c’mon – young folks telling stories at midnight? No. Really. 3. If this accusation were truly a big problem, I was supposed to be sat down with my accusers and given a talking stick so I could tell my side of the story. That of course never happened. The woman who told me that was very distressed at the cult’s behavior, that they couldn’t so much as do that. I’ll never forget the waver in her voice.

That cult took away the family I had, using the need for family as a tool. It’s disgusting, really.

So this weekend is their spring powwow. I wouldn’t go now if they begged me to. My parents and older brother are there, speaking Cherokee and giving away resources to the culture club. And I’m up here, far north, considering what items I’m going to make for my culture, my tribe. My cousins. The Brotherton.

That Cherokee cult weren’t the first to use me as a scapegoat. I get given the blame all of the time, some times for things I had no idea were happening until someone pointed the finger. It’s like I have “blame her” tattooed on my forehead.

But I gave up on family years ago. I like looking at the old pictures, but I get a little anxious when I think about going to the tribal  picnic in July. (Haven’t made it yet because of finances. I’d really like to go.) Maybe it’s PTSD, but I am actually afraid of what would happen if I got too close.

What would I be accused of next?

Phone Thanks

Our phone was shut off yesterday morning. Normally I would be running in circles trying to get it turned back on, but this has happened way too much in the past year. I have decided to flip the company the bird and find cheaper phone services, ones that don’t continuously send a bill that’s $50 more than promised despite how much money I send every paycheck. My husband is up in arms – he says it’s because he has to have his phone for work. But when I point a very cheap phone plan to him that would allow him to keep his fancy smart phone but has limited minutes to talk, he says he needs those minutes. Who do you talk to? I ask. He balks… and after a few seconds tells me that he calls me on the way home. I of course am not fooled and so have been pushed into wanting a family phone plan even less.

I need unlimited minutes because my phone is my portable office. My husband? He does not. He just needs his job to be able to reach him when they want him to come in on his day off. That hardly requires unlimited minutes. Anything beyond that is just confusing the desire to play and a very bad addiction to convenience with needs. Although it is nice that he calls me on his way home to talk. When he calls.

Ha. Well, having a phone got me stuck on it by an inconsiderate client ON MY HONEYMOON and again WHEN I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TAKING MY CHILD TRICK OR TREATING. And uh… we’ll be fine for a few days.  You start thinking that when the slave masters around you realize you’re more bound by your fear of doing without convenience than anything, and you just start feeling tired of waking up every day to put up with it. Or you stop wanting to wake up every day to deal with it. Or something.

In our case a lot of my exhaustion is because the credit holders wield their power beyond that of convenience. For example, our mortgage bill should be several hundred dollars a month less than it is because of a tax break my husband gets as a surviving veteran. Will they fix it? No, no they won’t… thanks to the mechanisms of red tape and government backlog. We have to wait for this bill and that bill, and this tax action and that tax action. The wait time could be anywhere up to the end of July to the beginning of next year. And meanwhile? Meanwhile we’re being eaten alive by this monstrous bill. You just get so tired of being taken advantage of. You get tired of feeling like a slave.

So tired, in fact, that when you realize certain people are nothing but caustic in your life you begin to cut ties. Because you have to get away from the bullshit in *some* manner, and if you can’t get away from a tyrannical tax trap you can at least cut out people who hold you back. Make it so you don’t see their constant emo posts on Facebook… something.

I recently ended a friendship that was over 15 years old – if you could call it a friendship. Now that I’m away from it – far far away – I realize it may have been a one-sided feeding arrangement with a self-centered emotion leech who only treated me like a person when they realized I was at my patience end a couple of years ago… and once they got what they felt like they wanted, they dropped even that part of the facade and if it weren’t for my nature I would have ripped their head clean off at a couple of years ago.

It’s the little things that count. Things like… boyfriend leaves you and they say in a snide tone about your choice in men, despite the fact that their own choices are historically worse. Your daughter breaks your heart in a way children should never be allowed to do, and they make a snide comment about your choices in men. Or how every single time, without fail, you share a business need or traveling dream they manage to purchase the very equipment you wanted for themselves or take that vacation you were dreaming about. And it doesn’t happen just once. It happens almost every single time, to the point that you become afraid to share your most private dreams and hopes for fear of them stealing it.

Sure they helped you out when you needed it during that time they were trying to make amends. Then again you were always there for them, sometimes to the point of neglecting matters with your own family. In fact, there were times you were dealing with some very serious shit and… heavens forbid but you were even a little suicidal… and they managed to always turn the conversation around to talk about their own drama and issues. So although you’re grateful for how they helped you through a tough spot or four, you’re also not appreciative of how they did more than take you for granted.  You’re tired of being accused of control when you know it’s not true, of being told you don’t listen when it’s the other way around. Of being emotionally shat upon. They used you and did not value you as a person. Not in the least.

In the end, when a small disagreement stands in the way of communication, do they have the balls to apologize for getting snide and nasty to you? No. They blame you for their actions, which they’ve done a lot over the years. When you stand your ground, they blame static on the phone rather than swallow their pride. That’s right: static on the phone that wasn’t even there. And they end the conversation rather than be a mature adult.

By then you’re just so tired of their caustic, selfish behavior and one-sided drain you’re glad to hit the end call button. “I deserve better,” you say to yourself. You walk away, and you never. Ever. Look back.

Gratitude should never be a reason to stay in such a passive aggressive, abusive situation. I’m grateful to the Pell Grant for allowing me to become a first generation college graduate – even if literally no one gave a fuck when I walked. I didn’t do it for them. I did it for me.

I’d like to be grateful for food stamps and help with keeping a roof over my head, but I can’t because I’m not sorry enough to qualify for welfare. Not even when I’m a single parent with two small children. But it would be nice to feel that way, yeah. Instead I had to do some pretty base things to feed and care for my children. I had to sacrifice my pride more times than I can count.

I am grateful to the Catholic church for helping me when a boyfriend left suddenly. He even took the blankets off the bed – blankets I brought into the relationship I might add – and took all of our money out of the bank. A lot of that money I put in, I should also add. No one would help me, especially not the organizations that were put together for just that purpose. In fact, when I called desperately seeking help of these places I used to donate to they gave me the number to a homeless shelter and hung up. So much for the Baptist faith. That’s when the Catholic Church stepped in. They not only helped me, they offered help in areas I had to turn away because it would have been dishonest to take it. I didn’t need help with that.

Despite my feelings of gratitude to each of these situations and more I’m too lazy to mention here, my life couldn’t improve until I learned to stop confusing “thank you” with friendship. I won’t tolerate a preacher telling me I should bow to my husband, not when I was raised as an equal and possible tribal leader. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if the government came to my home to tell me how to raise my children – which the food stamp program threatened me with as a condition for help when my ex-husband left us destitute. I can’t bring myself to feel good about big government, despite the fact that my college degree is largely thanks to a government provision. I certainly have no feeling of gratitude to a company that overcharges for a service they monopolize. I believe in the separation of corporate and state.

The government confiscated a woman’s business a couple of years ago because they decided she was laundering money. She just proved her innocence and managed to back her right to use cash only in court. Do they apologize? Do they admit they’re to blame? No. Like the situation above, they’re blaming the proverbial static on the phone. They’re filing to sue her again.

How can we continue to confuse gratitude with friendship when it’s always like this? We can’t. We shouldn’t. You can be grateful without allowing yourself to become a vampire’s meal ticket. We deserve better.

Which brings me back to the cell phone. I’m grateful I’ve had it, to a point. I mean, we’ve really been overpaying for it in a lot of ways. And I’m so tired of being overcharged. Fuck the phone. Just. Fuck it. It’s time I started seeing other phones.

It’s something like 0130 hours or so, and I’m awake because I’m going through another one of my becoming-famous PMS migraines. These migraines are very draining, and if I wasn’t the unhireable type before I definitely am now. Still, because working at home means I can crawl back in bed and sob softly into my pillow with greater ease, I’m up because I’m tired of being down and taking the silence of the wee hours to put together some things for the up and coming convention.

One thing I’ve been doing for the past couple of years now is creating refrigerator magnets with my own artwork on them. They’re basically refrigerator art prints. I’ll post some photos of them in the future. I used to do art prints in little mats, ready for framing but I got tired of those. Oh, they sold. People do like my stuff. But I disliked doing them, I’m not sure why.

Sometimes I’ll have posters made of something that’s especially popular, but with work happening the painting I have in the works has remained in the works for months now. I doubt it will be ready by convention time. And the posters rarely sell, I guess because I’m not creating gigantic boobed versions of Wonder Woman and Powergirl.

I had a very small credit with one of my distributors, so have ordered a total of two copies of Heavenly Bride Book 1 for the convention. I have one other book in my box of stock items, so that means I’ll have a whopping number of three copies at the convention to sell. Oh yeah. I’m expecting to sell by big numbers, can you tell?

But I’d like to have Book 2 finally finished by then. I’m ready to crawl back into my sick bed now, but first I shall at least poke at panel 1 of the next page.

Gosh. It’s after o200 hours. Maybe I should try to sleep some more.