..and so it begins…

Melissa & Chas water walking

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After 4 takes we finally settled on this one. It’s a way to begin an extensive–& sometimes ornery–dialogue between two people, representing at least two worlds. How do we learn to translate, to understand what the Other means, even when only one language is spoken? In these so-called United States, what do conversations founded on consent culture look & sound like? And what needs to be addressed about rape culture & how it’s gotten us this far? What does it mean to be “Indian” or “White” these days? And how can we be better allies, better relatives, to one another?

These questions are not external, intellectual ideas we’ll be discussing. Well they are, but they’re also embedded in how we ask the questions & in how we engage with one another in the process.

Plus we’ll have some amazing guests with us in the coming weeks to explore such topics as:

  • Uranium Mines, Pipelines, and All the Gold in the Black Hills
  • Pocahontas & Indian Grandmas
  • What you Should Know about Wounded Knee
  • Standing Rock: Oceti Sakowin, Chaztopia, and Traditional Tribal Governance
  • What’s in a Name? Country, Tribal, and Place Names
  • Where Are We Now? A Statistical State of Indigenous Peoples Address for 2018
  • Nuclear vs. Tribal Family Structures
  • Smudge yourself Before you Judge yourself: Living in Ceremony
  • Cultural Appropriation: Who has a Right to What?
  • Settler Colonialism 101
  • Genocide, it’s Not for Everyone
  • Nepotism? or just Good Sense? — Understanding Indigenous Hereditary Leadership
  • How to Survive and Thrive when you’re ‘That Way’? — Gender, Two-Spirit, Winkte, and the Colonization of Sexuality
  • Prairie Niggers, Redskins, and Squaws — Racism Today
  • Powa in Movement and Song 
  • Tobacco and Lace — the Revenge of the First & the Loss of the Last

There’s a wild frontier out here, and it’s Kindness. Love. How do we have these difficult conversations, some of which may be brand new to you, gently?

2 thoughts on “..and so it begins…

  1. Thank you, Chas & Melissa, for who you are & for this podcast you are creating. Chas, I don’t know how you do it. We White folks don’t deserve your patience, but I thank you for it. In this episode, I was surprised the term White was being questioned, but I understand & appreciate why. Even though (like both of you) I resist much of what White culture represents (individual salvation, militarism, materialism, etc.) & mourn how/why it was created (by erasing authentic cultures in order to legalize genocide & land theft), I still identify as White because I believe to refute it would only further confuse today’s conflicts around racism in the U.S. Whiteness permeates who I am, how I think & how I behave – whether I like it or not.
    .
    For example, as I was listening to this first episode, I grimaced a couple of times after Chas had talked for awhile and Melissa said something like “I don’t know how long I’ve been teaching yoga either b/c I haven’t gotten the chance to introduce myself” and later, “Yes, I’ve had several thoughts I wanted to share… part of what we’re learning is how to have a two-way conversation.” While these exchanges were probably intended as good-natured jabs from one friend to another, to me they also sounded a bit resentful. In every joke, there is usually at least a grain of truth.
    .
    Please correct & forgive me if I am wrong. But I wonder if Melissa may have felt Chas “ought” to have paused sooner to give her a moment to introduce herself at the beginning and again later to comment. And I wonder if this concept of how a “two-way” conversation “ought” to go might be subconsciously rooted in a White supremacist mentality (aka “being polite”) that insists waiting for one’s turn to speak is a “better” or “more appropriate” way to converse than interrupting others to make oneself heard. And Chas, I am curious: In your cultures on the reservation & in political/community organizing, do folks typically wait for others to stop talking before they respond, or do peers often interrupt one another & so conversations catch fire naturally from those sparks?
    .
    One final note on this concept of “how” to have a “two-way” conversation: Because White voices so rarely whisper & so often drown out Other voices, if an “imbalance” persists on this podcast, I hope Native voices get more air time because giving them more play would be a small but significant gesture toward balancing the scales which have tipped toward White dominance for centuries.
    .
    Other notes on this episode: Chas, I appreciate how you phrased “the ongoing genocide of our people” and self-corrected “my mother was” to “still is.” I hope to use these in my own speech, as I have often been embarrassed to find myself speaking about Native folks & White atrocities as historical rather than present moments. Also, Chas, I resonate with how you identified, “It’s an education gap… poor White folks & poor Indians have way more in common than these suits that are running our country, but we’re constantly being set against each other.” I daydream about organizing across class. Chas, have you ever tried it?
    .
    Melissa, I love how you tease out the phrase, “Begin how you mean to continue.” That makes me sad when I think about my nation, the United States. But it gives me hope when I think about organizing. Have you done much work or study with New Zealand’s indigenous-rooted conflict resolution processes?
    .
    Chas, my heart cried when I heard you say, “I’ve been fighting, fighting, fighting my whole career, and I didn’t spend much time loving the water… every step was a prayer, taken in love… it changed my life.” As an activist & organizer, I understand the first part. When I took a year off to farm, it scared me because what I seemed to hear/learn from Earth was something like, “Stop fighting so hard. Just be. Being is the meaning of life.”
    .
    But that scares me because in a world like we have today, being able to “just be” seems like a privilege while others are just, as you put it on the show, surviving. I look forward to learning from how you explore these tensions and thus am especially looking forward to your episodes on “survival v. privilege,” “White tears and help I don’t need” (G-d knows I still need to learn more about this” & the one on the Black Hills (b/c I was born in Rapid City, SD).
    .
    Love to you both. Thank you for welcoming me so warmly on the walk, even though I could only be there a couple of days.

  2. Thank You Kimberly for this thorough & thoughtful reply!
    I appreciated this that you said, “In this episode, I was surprised the term White was being questioned, but I understand & appreciate why. Even though (like both of you) I resist much of what White culture represents (individual salvation, militarism, materialism, etc.) & mourn how/why it was created (by erasing authentic cultures in order to legalize genocide & land theft), I still identify as White because I believe to refute it would only further confuse today’s conflicts around racism in the U.S. Whiteness permeates who I am, how I think & how I behave – whether I like it or not.”
    And I hope that our second episode– https://whitepeoplewhispering.org/index.php/2017/12/06/whiteness-emma-mincks/ –addresses even further these questions about whiteness.

    I loved that you picked up the tension between us around the two-way conversation. The relationship that Chas & I have enables us to explore this tension that exists, to varying degrees, between other people & which may prevent them from even entering into a discussion like this. I feel like we can be an example of what’s often unsaid or misunderstood. These are complicated dynamics, layered over hundreds of years, & no black & white answers are going to aid us in untangling the messy skein that is the current state of affairs among different cultures. Most definitely Native voices will have more air time on this podcast, although our first few do include conversations with white women so that we can better explore what “white people” even are & where our responsibilities lie in these conversations.

    As for your question about Aotearoa/New Zealand, the short answer is no. Unfortunately not yet. I know people who are directly involved with the Waitangi Treaty & with Maori affairs, but when I was living there more full-time (I’ve been on the road the past 4 years!) was simply wanting to learn Te Reo Maori, which is prevalent in the Kiwi culture to an extent that would be hard to fathom here in the US. Any politician of merit or public official will know how to give a Maori welcome/blessing. Can you imagine this in the US?!? However, the water walk & the time in the US feeling more deeply into the his/her-story here has inspired me to explore why it is that the Maori people have more presence than the First Nations in the US.

    Your comment is so packed Kimberly that I will need to stop here & hope that we can address some of your thoughts in future episodes. Thanks again for listening so carefully & writing in. And your presence on the walk was most welcome, as well as all the amazing food you fed us with!

    Much love,
    Melissa

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