Opening salvo from a token indian?Talk About Race — By Gyasi Ross on December 14, 2009 at 06:00
I feel very fortunate to be given this forum to speak. I look at my people, Native people, and realize that there are many issues and topics that are very urgent within our communities. Rest assured, the Native journalistic community (and white folks who like to write about Natives to create a niche market) is just as cliched and reactive as mainstream press. That is, every single one of those “hot button” issues will be covered ad nauseum by every single member of the Native intelligentsia and we will all give our respective spins on the same piece of information. Makes sense, right? That’s the same cycle as with any other insular groups’ media.
Still, as fortunate as I feel to be given this forum, my initial reactions were 1) flattery, 2) interest and 3) suspicion. This is flattering because the Race Talk blog tracked me down through my own blog, “The Thing About Skins,” in another publication. All men like to feel important. Therefore, someone actually tracking me down made me feel like…well, in the words of Jesse Jackson, “I am somebody.” I dug the proposition that these folks, academia-game on point, took the time to contact me–a big, tall, goofy looking Indian boy with barely any writing chops. Cool!
I simultaneously had the instinct of interest because as a member of an insular and silenced group, I am always looking for new outlets to ensure that my people are not forgotten. That’s why our people wear stupid “Native Pride” shirts and chokers and all this nonsense–to signify, represent, show that we aren’t dead. So this–Race Talk–gave me an opportunity to do that. Hence, “interest.”
Lastly, I got suspicious when I got the invite to come over here and write. Why? Because who cares–in the larger context–what a Native has to say about the larger society? Look, I love my people, but I’m not stupid. Most people, I suppose, even white liberals and people of color who are supposed to be our “allies” generally do not care about Natives in the grand scheme of things. They say they do, but I don’t think they really do. All those “hot button” issues that I mentioned in the first paragraph, as much as they are important to us, only Natives care about those issues – Oh and white lawyers who benefit from Natives. It makes sense: from an external point of view, we’re half of 1 percent of the population–so why all the fuss about us? Internally, hell, most Natives do not care about another group of Natives other than for rhetorical purposes 90% of the time, otherwise we would have some of the wealthier tribes giving start up capital/low-interest loans to some of the poorer tribes! And I cannot say that I blame them. At some point, it is incumbent upon any group of people–ESPECIALLY one who professes “sovereignty” as a constant talking point–to take control of their own destinies.
I get that. I think that allies and alliances are still important. But I understand the resentment and the tendency to look us over.
So when Race-Talk got a hold of me, naturally I was a little suspicious. “Why would they want a Native’s perspective? Nobody else does.” To answer that question–”I still do not know.” Therefore, my first entry is a question–do you have an interest in “Native topics” and the “Native perspective,” or is this going to be an exercise of a publication that merely wanted to make sure that it was inclusive to ALL ethnic groups, but really saw that some of the ethnic groups would sort of fall by the wayside just because no readers would be interested?
I’m not saying that’s the publication’s fault, by the way. But I’m curious if there’s any REAL interest in analyzing Indian Country by a non-Native audience.
Talk to me.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Author: Gyasi Ross (4 Articles)
Gyasi “Fancy Skin” Ross is a member of the Amskapipikuni (Blackfeet Nation) and his family also comes from the Suquamish Tribe. His Pikuni (Blackfoot) name is “Oonikoomsika.” He is co-founder of Native Speaks LLC, a progressive company owned by young Native professionals which provides consultation and instruction for professionals and companies. Gyasi is currently booking dates for his newest presentation, “Mother Lovers: Poetic (and Musical) Justice.”
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