Trace wishes to thank Loud Blood for her wonderful guest blog...
(excerpt from upcoming book, "Loud Blood")
I have been fed, clothed, sheltered, yet, my spirit must live off cultural scraps that I go begging where Native people gather -- a story, a song, a weave, a smile... where I feel a resonance, filled, soothed, but sadly, also invisible, broken, culturally orphaned; lonely.
Will I forever be a guest among my own people? Who will celebrate my joys and triumphs with me? Who will mourn my sorrows? Who will laugh at some shared history? Not my adoptive family -- our non-connection continued and became stronger in adulthood. I want to join in the Native community, to participate, to serve and share what I have and to receive recognition and feel valued. But even on this side, there are those Indians that I thought were friends who walk past blankly in fuller-blood situations, or those who look at me in public settings with flash card eyes as they calculate their racist arithmetic with no thought of how they’ve adopted the blood-quantum mentality constructed by the colonists. I yearn to feel welcome somehow. I need to heal myself enough to come forward to work, for otherwise I remain immobilized, hollow, invisible.
I can hear the critical thoughts of others; I think them myself -- Get over it. Geesh, move on. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
I’d love to. The same as someone uses crutches when they are injured, or someone wears bandages after surgery, or someone wears glasses to compensate for not being able to see on one’s own; I am doing the best I can under the circumstances. But I need to be my own auntie and tell myself, ‘Chin up. Get over it. Move on with life.’ This I can do. It’s the smiles, nods, and hugs that are harder. My grandmother’s spirit did come with me, but she cannot hold me connected alone. When I am acknowledged with a smile, a hug, a nod -- these small acts mean so much to me, reminding me that I am here, less hollow, less invisible.
I must expect nothing. This is not my business, not my community. So what am I doing here? What is the draw? It used to be my honeymoon, my infancy of native identity. What didn’t take hold? What connections failed? I am not connected to these people, we are connected as human beings, but not as relatives. I am a guest.
Because my mother was taken into the dominators boarding school and brainwashed and culturally broken, she gave me over to a white man’s church-people with the hopes they would find a wonderful family for me. I am indebted my adoptive parents, Ole and Arleta, who did choose to parent me, and raise me in the best way they knew how. But I must accept that I am henceforth a guest among my tribe. Anyway, my lack of tribal knowledge and family history must make me seem like some sort of imbecile in a place where the connected members are at home. It is as though when my mother said, “Goodbye,” all conscious Native training ceased. When I reconnected with my Native family, and began listening to Native stories, songs, and conversations, my life as a Native resumed. So I gather scraps, like Yvonne, an educator and Chehalis master weaver who collects cedar bark scraps from the weaving tables because she soaks and blends them and makes them into functional, spirited cedar paper. I want to gather the bits and pieces of my life and process them into something functional and spirited. I can’t wait to get over this deep-seated wound of detachment and melancholy. I want to heal and live fully the life that isn’t about solving disconnection. Once this is healed and resolved, what will I be writing about? What work comes next? Who am I in another context? I long to find out.
It has been so soothing to be present at Native gatherings --witnessing tribal connections, witnessing families, witnessing powerful leaders; seeing Indian faces after growing up among blondes. When attending the 150 Year Anniversary of Treaties Symposium in The Evergreen State College Longhouse, one word stood out: “Quyana”, the speaker said. Thank you in my mother’s original language. Quyana, I heard. Quyana, I comprehended. Quyana, I felt run down my cheek.
Quyana to you, Alaska Native speaker Sally Smith.
A group of young speakers from the Makah Nation stood together at the microphone to share stories about their life and relations. Afterward, I wrote to them:
Thank you for appreciating the beauty of your culture and tribal connections. As a person who was given away from her family and tribe as a newborn baby, who feels so alone in this world, who has no family connections to celebrate big days, like the births of my three babies who are strangers to the people who would be their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I also mourn my losses alone. This is a heavy burden; a wound I don’t know if will ever heal. But perhaps it will, because when I see young people like you that love and appreciate the connections you have to each other and your culture, this beauty gives me healing.
Thank you for appreciating knowing the names of your grandparents and great-grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins.
Thank you for speaking.
I fully support my birthmother’s pseudo-decision to release me to adoption. What choices were there? How is it that she and I are one set among over 100,000 others (check for numbers) that experienced this? Whose genocidal plan conceived this “solution?” Instead of creating or supplementing support systems for mothers in great need, they were set up to break contact with their family’s next generation; en masse.
Part of my story is finding out that there are so many others. It changes everything. I experienced myself as an Indian who stood alone, yet now I know there are hundreds of thousands of other Indians directly affected, and hundreds of thousands more affected in the aftermath. This fact produces in me an empathetic stupor for us hundred thousand humans dispersed and scattered into strangers homes.
On a Dakota-Lakota-Nakota site, a link reads,
For the Children in Exile.
I feel the exile pain. Though I’m not a child anymore, the exile remains. I live free, moving to many places. A tumbleweed. Free. Just the same, the longing for connections to my people, my tribe, my familiar blood, rises in waves like a daily tide. The exile is not punishment from my tribe, but a natural consequence of the benign genocidal practices of the colonists.
In our lives, the security of connection to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents is absent. I’ve no older relations to call up and ask important questions or drop-in to witness, observe, share.
According to a quote by the International Indian Treaty Council from the 57th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2001, as Agenda item #13: Rights of the Child, it seems that all or a majority of us have suffered extreme loss:
Current studies have investigated the damaging effects of transracial placement which include psychological damage, ethnic identity confusion, self-concept formation difficulties, and adolescence repercussions such as alcoholism and high rates of suicide.
Growing up, I thought something was very wrong with me -- not looking like others, not thinking like others, and when I could feel, not wishing to live. But fortunately, I didn’t feel often.
Ok! Enough of that! Beloved Upper Skagit elder, Vi Hilbert came to the microphone to give an even shorter variation on her signature “Ten line story” about Lady Louse.
Lady Louse was a sponge. Lady Louse became self-absorbed, and that was the end of Lady Louse.
I am going to be ok. I am willing and able to work, I just also need to heal enough to not fall into that huge gaping wound at my core and walk and talk. I see the hole now and can go around, jump over, build bridges of songs, stories, smiles, hugs, drumbeats, actions, and continue to listen, learn, light up the bridges and work around it. I have encountered many full wings -- on my own, with my husband, the spirit of my grandmother, all my spirit helpers -- all lifting me up.
I do have my immediate family to celebrate with, to laugh at shared history with, to mourn tragedies with -- my brilliant husband, and three beautiful daughters, each bestowed with multiple intelligences.
The day I stepped off the plane and met my mother, brother, and sisters, then, I looked like someone. I met cousins, aunts, uncle, and cousin’s children. From that point, I looked like a lot of people and something began to settle. Some new sense of belonging, visibility, and authenticity rose above feeling detached and unseen and mismatched. With this strength growing inside, I must squeeze the self-absorbed sponge, and focus outward.