What do I call you?

I recently received an email letting me know some good people at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board are reading my book, Yakama Rising. They sent me some questions, including one that asked about identity, terminology, and enrollment of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. This is a common question and I’ll share some thoughts here.

There are many ways Indigenous people may identify. In the U.S., one might hear or see a particular definition such as “member of x, a federally recognized Tribe” and such an identity lets you know the person holds enrolled membership in a sovereign Indigenous Nation that exists within the boundaries of what we now call the U.S., and that their Indigenous Nation has a legal nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S. There are currently 574 such sovereign Indigenous Nations in the U.S. When one looks at federal resources or documents, this is the identity that is most commonly used. However, there are other identities, such as state-recognized Indigenous Nations and Indigenous communities who have no political status in the U.S.; that is, they are legally unrecognized as holding sovereign status in the U.S. All of these identities are shaped and complicated by the historical and ongoing settler colonialism of the U.S. nation state.

Traditionally, our Indigenous communities would not require a process in which paperwork was filed with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to state who belonged to a community. Yet enrollment is one way Tribal Nations may define their membership, governing bodies, and criteria for resource allocation. For example, only enrolled Tribal members may apply for scholarship funds from my Tribe, the Yakama Nation. However, who counts as Indigenous can differ by policy and program. For example, I serve as the Director of the Sapsik’ʷałá Program at the University of Oregon and our federal grant from the U.S. Office of Indian Education allows for second degree descendants (student has a parent or grandparent enrolled) from a state or federally recognized Tribe to apply for funding to help support their education in becoming a teacher. These are just brief examples to show that definitions of Indigenous identity can vary and be complicated.

I’d like to conclude by taking a step back from the details of definitions and bureaucratic notions of identity and pause and remember that Indigenous identity also means being in good relation with community and place. As Indigenous people, we are connected to, and responsible for, our Indigenous homelands. We also sometimes live other places for school or work or family reasons; we are called to uphold our cultural values and be in respectful relation in every place. Thank you to everyone reading this post who is respecting Mother Earth, and all our human and more than human relations.

Want more kindness, fierceness, and creativity in your work and life? Sign up for The Auntie Way Professional Development Course on July 22 and 29.

Auntie Magic in Your Mailbox

In The Auntie Way I write about the love and lessons we learn from our favorite Aunties. I refer to the kindness, fierceness, and creativity our Aunties share with us as “Auntie Magic.” I think we all need more Auntie Magic in our lives.

Thus, I’m excited to share that Auntie Grams are now available! Auntie Grams are handmade and heartfelt, made with great love and respect for Aunties and Mother Nature, with an emphasis on using post-consumer recycled paper.

You can send an Auntie Gram to yourself, family members, friends, colleagues, and students. Auntie Grams are designed to be sent in the mail so the recipient receives an envelope of Auntie Magic in their mailbox and can enjoy looking at their Auntie Gram at home or in the car or workplace. We all need Auntie Magic in all the places we go (or stay).

View samples and order you Auntie Grams today at my website.

National Aunt and Uncle Day is July 26. Send your favorite Aunt or Uncle an Auntie Gram!

I’m wishing you a day filled with Auntie Magic.

Auntie St. Kateri

For Kateri Tekakwitha’s many “nieces” and “nephews,” today is a celebration of their special and sacred “Auntie.” Like all Catholic saints, Kateri has a feast day in her honor. In the U.S., July 14 is hers. On her feast day many Indigenous communities, including my own Yakama Reservation community, are normally engaged with deep and prayerful preparation for a beautiful Indigenous spiritual celebration including a mass and a festive afterparty with traditional foods, a table of tempting desserts, cultural performances, wise words of our Elders in heartfelt speeches, and the usual teasing, laughing, and joking that make anyone who wishes to attend feel loved and welcomed.

This year, because of the pandemic that is hammering our precious communities, such large gatherings are not possible. Yet Kateri’s devotees continue to pray together–for the health and well-being of all peoples, for the foods, air and water to be safe and clean for us all.

I recently found some notes I took while attending the National Tekakwitha Conference in El Paso in July 2013. I talked with many of Kateri’s devoted followers. They taught me:

She is a strong Indigenous woman. She had a quiet but unwavering strong spirit. She’s one of us. She’s just like us. What a beautiful, loving description of a saintly Auntie.

All across Turtle Island, St. Kateri’s devotees, whether her actual Algonquin, Mohawk, and Haudenosaunee kin, or “adopted” nieces and nephews from other Tribal lands, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, lift us up in prayer. They are devoted to our well-being and the well-being of Mother Earth.

Do you feel those blessings? I do.

Happy Feast Day, Auntie St. Kateri.

You can read more about Kateri Tekakwitha’s remarkable presence in Indigenous communities in my book, Indian Pilgrims.

Have you heard about The Auntie Way Professional Development Course on July 22 and 29? Learn more here, and join us in bringing deeper levels of kindness, fierceness, and creativity into your work and life!

Vote for Michelle’s New Book Cover

It’s an exciting time at Anahuy Mentoring–it’s time to choose my next book cover! Please vote for your favorite cover for my forthcoming book, Huckleberries and Coyotes: Lessons from Our More than Human Relations

Both options feature original artwork by Yakama artist Crystal Buck, who did the beautiful art in The Auntie Way.

The form will require you to enter an email address. This is to verify that real people are responding to the poll. I will not share or use your email address. 

I will close the poll at the end of the day on Thursday, July 23. Please vote before then. Feel free to share this message with your friends. 

Thanks for voting

Fancy Auntie Talk

This week I need to send in my title for a talk I’ll give at a national conference plenary session. It’s a big honor. Only four scholars from across the U.S. are speaking on the panel and the organization’s Vice-President and President are in charge of the session. The topic they chose is: Got Critical Race Feminist Studies? The Possibilities and Challenges of Institutionalizing Intersectionality in the Neoliberal University.

This morning, as I printed out the details and really paid attention to the panel title, I thought, “Gosh, that’s a hefty title.” It’s weighty and hard; in my mind it is loaded down with a long and brutal history of struggle and way too much literature for me to ever adequately address. It’s a title that makes me feel like I need to come up with something fancy to say, but I’m not really a fancy talker, so it feels impossible.

Do you know the feeling? When you’re asked to do what seems an impossible task and for some reason, either you respect or admire the people who asked, or have a belief the task is important, or some combination of both, you say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Then, either a short or long while later, you realize what’s happened. “Oh bummer,” is usually my thought when I finally figure this out.

And after I say, “Oh bummer,” I know that’s my cue to sit and be quiet. To really pay attention to my surroundings. This would be the wise instruction my Auntie would give.

And so I do. I sit and be quiet. I pay attention.

The birds chirping–I didn’t notice them a moment ago. I hear at least five different bird voices. How lovely. How the grass looks a deeper shade of green, surely nourished from a recent rain. How, at first, the trees look like they’re standing still but on closer look I see the gentlest of breezes moving the very tip tops of the trees. Just a bit. Oh! Now I hear the wind in the trees, that soothing rustling sound. I think wind is greeting me, “Good morning,” and is probably pleased I took the time to notice. Yes, the breeze has picked up now, out of nowhere, seemingly. And I got to notice this change. How lucky I am to witness the tall tree tops dancing gracefully, their movement fluid and joyful.

Auntie was right. Mother Nature is the best teacher. She’s helped me see I don’t need to worry about the impossible. I only need to do what the best social scientists do–really pay attention to my surroundings.

Now, feeling grounded, feeling nurtured by nature, I take another look at the panel title. Got Critical Race Feminist Studies? The Possibilities and Challenges of Institutionalizing Intersectionality in the Neoliberal University.

I’ve decided my topic and message–Critical Race Feminist Studies needs to respect place and our Mother Earth.

Critical Race Feminist Studies does a lot of important work in helping us critique and address racism and heteropatriarchy. Yet, I feel my Aunties calling me to pay greater attention to our More than Human Relations. To think about the history and future of place from an Auntie and Mother Nature perspective. To remember the best social science includes all beings in our ecosystems.

The panel I’m speaking on will address academics. I feel a responsibility to give specific recommendations for implementing an Auntie methodology:

  • Go outside.
  • Understand where you are (place).
  • Build a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples and Native Nations.
  • Structure academic programs to be accountable to communities they’re meant to serve.

It’s not a perfect message. I’ll keep working on it. I have a month before the conference date arrives. I’ll try to keep paying attention to Auntie wisdom. What a gift. Maybe the simplicity of the message is its own kind of fancy. Yes, perhaps it is fancy Auntie talk.

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Auntie-ing Ourselves

Our cherished Aunties give kindness, caring, and love. They are known for their selflessness and generosity. But where do super Aunties get their support and encouragement? From their own Aunties, of course. And by Auntie-ing oneself.

I wrote a story, I Auntie’d Myself Today, in my book, The Auntie Way, to talk about this–when you find yourself facing a problem or challenge and you’re able to draw from Auntie teachings and examples to make it through. It’s a story and process about learning to take care of oneself.

What a gift our Aunties give to us. Through their examples and efforts they show us the importance of taking care of ourselves, so that we may live our best lives and, in turn, help those around us. This beautiful teaching is at the heart of my Yakama culture: strong individuals use their gifts and talents in ways that make us a stronger collective.

I have a dream that our schools, organizations, and institutions will more deeply embrace these teachings, and the Auntie Way ethic of care guides all of the work and planning. I want to see more leaders who are known for their Auntie-ing.

To that end, I’ve created The Auntie Way courses to support those who share these ideas and are on this same journey.

This month, The Auntie Way 3-Week Writing Retreat is beginning July 20.

Also, a two-part The Auntie Way Professional Development Course is being offered on July 22 and 29, for those who want to work with me to apply the lessons in The Auntie Way to their own work and life.

More information is on my website https://anahuymentoring.com/.

I’ll end this blog post with a simple message I hope you’ll carry in your heart today:

Take good care of yourself. We need you in our collective journey.

Cool Pants, Warm Heart

I’m thinking about trying to sew some new pants for myself. I could buy pants in town but, due to the pandemic, the dressing rooms are closed. It seems risky to buy pants I don’t try on. I could buy multiple sizes, but then there’s the chore of returning the ones that don’t fit. Sigh! And I spend a lot of time around Elders, who are at higher risk for severe illness, so it’s not good for me to be in stores too much. These are practical reasons for me to sew my own clothes.

There are spiritual reasons as well. One of my Aunties was a fabulous seamstress. I used to sit and play next to her as she piloted fabric so quickly through her sewing machine. How that fabric would fly! The sewing machine needle moved so fast it was a blur. Once the seam was done she’d expertly cut the threads and out would come the garment with a perfect straight line of stitches. Or a perfect curved line if that was the intention. She could get that fabric and thread to do anything she wanted. That was Auntie’s work and wow! It was beautiful. Like a prayer.

When I sew it doesn’t go exactly like that. It is a prayer, but it’s more like, “Oh, God! Why are my seams all over the place?!” But I still enjoy it. I feel close to my Auntie when I sew, as I carefully lay out my fabric and smooth my pattern pieces made from that brown tissue paper, light as air. I even use the same pins and magnetic pin “cushion” she used. I mimic Auntie’s actions to the best of my ability, her presence strong in my mind. She’s with me when I sew. I keep my patterns and fabric in the same wooden chest of drawers she used. I feel her spirit when I pull or push those large drawers open and closed. Like her, I can’t resist stuffing them to the brim.

Sometimes I miss my Auntie and feel sad. But then I remember how lucky I am to have an Auntie who brought so much joy and love to my life. Those memories are mine. They fill my heart. Like those overstuffed wooden drawers, my heart creaks it’s so full of good memories. It’s the sound and feeling of love.

Yes, I think I’ll sew a pair of pants for myself. It’s summertime now, so I’ll choose a lightweight fabric and a pattern that will yield a garment made for hot sunny days. Yet the true purpose of these pants is to warm my heart with Auntie memories. My spirit delights in this, no matter how crooked my seams.

Notions of Time

Greetings, The Auntie Way blog readers! I’ve been thinking a lot about our notions of time and time management lately. Perhaps it is the longer days of summer (where I live it is summer now) that are encouraging me to do so. I love summer, with sun’s long workdays–all that sunshine (and chirping birds!) invite me to rise early in the morning and fill my days until, finally, dusk arrives to signal the end of sun’s work for the day, and mine, too.

I’m happy to share with you that on Saturday, June 27 I’m hosting a free class and discussion about Indigenous Time Management. This 30-minute Zoom class includes a discussion about our notions of time. Also featured: timeless wisdom from Indigenous cultural teachings, from my book, The Auntie Way: Stories Celebrating Kindness, Fierceness, and Creativity. The class includes an activity in which attendees think about their own notions of time, and how they want to live in relation to time management.

Zoom connection is required.

You’re invited! Seats are limited. Register on my web page: https://anahuymentoring.com/

Also, while you’re there on the web page, please consider signing up for my mailing list. Email list recipients are the first to hear about all Anahuy Mentoring events and opportunities. Signing up is easy, just enter your preferred email address in the box at the top of the page and click “JOIN MY EMAIL LIST”. You’ll receive a brief welcome message after you join. Check your spam folder in case you have filters.

Have a wonderful day!

Happy Juneteenth!

Today I celebrated Juneteenth by hosting an online writing retreat with a group of brilliant thinkers and activists. I am in awe anytime I am in the presence of a collective that places the well-being of community at the center of their work. How lucky I am to sit with, and be inspired by, so many kind and fierce academic activists. 

It has been a good day, all day, right from the beginning. I started the day off by reaching out to Dr. Jennifer M. Gómez, Black feminist trauma psychologist, about her recent quotes in Newsweek. I asked if I could please share her inspiring words with my writing retreat friends. Dr. Gómez generously agreed. I’ll paste below the quote I shared. The spirit of Dr. Gómez’s words reminds us of the intertwining anger, and hope, that often fuels, and sustains, the work that activists and our beloved protectors do. All around us, we can see people speaking out, challenging systems and monuments that represent a hateful past, and providing us with a beautiful vision of the future. 

Happy Juneteenth, all. 

Our Collective Future

Everywhere we look we can find plenty of reasons to be afraid, angry, exhausted. And, these are true and real. I feel these things, too. Yet, it is not all that I feel. 

I also feel hopeful. 

Things we never imagined are here. 

Why not spend more of our time imagining a different future and bringing it into being? 

In all of the challenges around us right now it really feels like the future is up for grabs. 

Let’s reach out and grab hold of it with all our might. Like a big strong hug for a loved one. Squeeze our love and care into our collective future. 

Perhaps it’s ironic. In this time of wearing facemasks, perhaps this is the time when we find our loudest, most clear and confident collective voice. 

I feel hopeful. 

We can heal the world through our vision of love, care and respect for all peoples. Our communities will finally get what we deserve: Full membership in the human race. Policing that serves us and keeps us safe. Schools that educate for social justice and radical inclusion. No more missing and murdered girls, women, and trans folx. Basic needs and human rights met, upheld, no need to ask. 

The future is up for grabs. 

Let’s join hands and dance a big, loving round dance around our collective future. Dance it into being. We need you in our circle. Join us.