Friday, April 24, 2009
It's Deep in the Bones
I joked apologetically about the paper work at the kitchen table of the transitional shelter. A closely cropped blond tipped person sat across the table. I had heard about C from another client and the outreach worker said “she thinks that she is a black man“. It was considered a delusion and I thought well that doesn’t seem that crazy to me. If you can be trans gendered why not trans racial?
I don’t miss all the paper work of working for an agency, but I do miss the people and the advocacy. I miss the inside of the “not always so fun when you are in it” survival track. I miss the humanity of it all. Even though that does get lost sometimes in the paper work and the posturing. Since the company crashed, I fill my time with groups on the ground and on the net and my favorite pastimes writing and art.
New to the local Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Branch, I agreed to help set up last Saturday’s workshop. (Code Pink the women who brought supplies to Gaza via the Egyptian gate is part of WILPF). The workshop was the Beloved Community’s training on White Privilege. I don’t really think that I need a workshop on white privilege, but I was looking forward to playing some of Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed games and getting to know some of the members better. The workshop facilitated by a multi racial individual focused largely un the more typical contemporary racial injustices and encouraged introspection.
One of my haunting brushes with White Privilege was when I found out that my beloved grandfather lost much of his mother’s Wabanaki culture due to climate of his times and he was forced to “pass“. He told me this when I was very young and he showed me an article about the Penobscot people. It is not even clear if this was his tribe because his half sister has a different story. I try to catch up on this loss by going to pow wows and reading. I like to be positive and hopeful. Times have changed now and it is actually kind of cool to be of native descent. Sometimes when I go to workshops like this or even pow wows. I feel a grief in the deep mists of my soul. Whether it was cool or not I think that I would feel that way. Probably because the look of loss on my grqandfathers face when I asked him to tell me more and he couldn’t. My garandfather who took the time to teach me so many things was never at a loss.
Many people claim native ancestry and like me the lineage was lost by the melding process or on a bad day you might say the “dispersal“. In the 19th century Native children were taken from western tribes and brought east. Some of them had been displaced to the west by manifest destiny in the 17th and 18th century. This is how my partner’s family who was part Blackfoot a northern Plains tribe ended up in Maine. Maybe that is why there was always such a resonance between us. I like to think that even though my grandfather was told to deny his tribal heritage he carried it deep within him and I inherited some of it. If you met him you would believe that too. It emanated in the way he lived his life.
A couple of weeks ago at a Wabanaki festival at Bowdoin College, I met a man Hawk Henries who makes eastern woodland flutes out of beautiful wood and plays them. He is a member of the Chaubunagungamaug band of the Nipmuc Nation. Which recently lost its federal recognition as a nation, (I looked this up). This means that the traditional slices of land near Worcester, Massachusetts are not officially considered tribal. The Nipmuc would have had to maintain 7 criteria for the federal government to consider their land tribal. I suppose that these pesky hoops one has to jump through were not something that the majority were willing to do. I don’t know specifically what the hoops are, but I think that after all they are someone else’s rules and probably constraining in many ways and just not worth it.
Most of the eastern woodland tribes dispersed and basically went underground to survive. It is interesting to read how they confounded enemy tribes and white settlers by trekking through the swamps and woodlands that they knew so well. The survivors effectively vanished into the woods in the 1600‘s. Not naturally a nomadic people they became so, making them a difficult target. You can google this information to learn more.
Hawk is very interested in music in a spiritual way. He learned to play the didgeridoo as well and had one with him the day I met him. If I was more secure in my financial situation I would have bought a flute. They were beautiful. I bought a cd instead. Just as well because I don’t have time to relearn the flute. There are beautiful pictures of Hawk’s flutes and Maine here http://www.hawkhenries.com/