Writing, Reading and Living

In this collection of writing I turn to my favorite literary terrain exploring themes of community, race, the natural world, simple life, simplicity, and sharing my thoughts on the urgent business of being alive. My stories illuminate our humanity, remind us to be open, to connect, hope, to question, or bring change. Some of these pieces have been published previously, excerpts from my books, magazine pieces and guest essays published in other online places. A number of posts are serious/substantial, balanced with lighter topics. Most of all, my writing is timeless (vs. timely).

10 of my favorite places in the US where you can experience Native American cultures

One of my earliest memories is watching Grandma sew beads on Uncle Elmer’s deer skin leggings. Listen to my grandmother and you’ll hear stories about me in diapers moving to the heartbeat of the drum. Talk to me and I’ll tell you about my husband recalling how unfamiliar he felt when he first met me and found himself the only non-Indian person among American Indians. Blending our lives (and later raising our children) helped me gather opportunities where he could begin to understand and learn about Native lifeways. 

Recently an editor invited me to contribute an article about friendly places to experience Native American cultures. While researching the piece I had fun traveling from my armchair, revisiting some of my favorite places. You will notice that the title of the original article says culture. It ought to read cultures, reflecting the fact that Native American people are of many, many tribes, Nations and cultures, languages, histories. Also, the photos accompanying the article are of Native Peoples in regalia. Are we not recognized unless we are wearing beadwork and feathers? When I was a kid since great grandma and grandpa, dad, me, and all of the aunties and uncles and cousins, were all Indians, I thought it was rather funny that the black and white movies on television always showed Indians sitting on horses at the rise of a hill, with their faces painted and living in tipis. All of the Indians we knew drove cars and lived in houses, like we did. 

I poke fun, but I greatly enjoyed researching and writing the article and I’m thankful for the invitation to take my readers into Native America. To visit the thriving lifeways of a continuing land and people. 

Read my article at Matador Network to see 10 of my favorite places to discover modern-day Indian life and to observe tribal descendants echo and give expression to cultural traditions.
You May Think It's Harmless To Dress Like A Native American On Halloween. 
Here's Why You Are Wrong

I love Halloween, but my thoughts are heavy saddlebags. Native social justice activists have been speaking out against Native American themed costumes for decades. Plenty of people buy and wear these costumes, dressing in a manner to look like an American Indian, to resemble a race and culture of people they do not belong to. Some wear it out of naiveté and others in a blatant disregard, disrespect, and irreverence.
Read more at Matador Network

Goodbye Christopher Columbus 

In mixed race America all of our individual histories and cultures matter, yet since 1937, on the second Monday in October, the day Congress named Columbus Day, Christopher Columbus was allowed to ride herd. My son bounds from his classroom. Eyes filled with brown warmth, he peeks out from under a cap of shiny dark hair, holding a milk carton cutout fashioned into the shape of a boat, with two smaller makeshift vessels trailing behind. Out of the corner of my eye I see children clutching newspaper sailor hats and Columbus’ Ships coloring pages. With his eyebrows curved in question marks my sons tells me that there is also a song about Columbus, sung to the tune of Oh, My Darling Clementine. And then we both laugh at the absurdity. It’s both funny, and not funny. 

We are a mixed-race, mixed-blood Native American family. My son knows there is controversy surrounding Columbus and his Day of recognition. But at age seven it’s not his job to carry the weight. As his mother that responsibility belongs to me.
Read more at HuffPost

Freefall Home

It was a long time ago in the 1950s, and I was visiting Great-Grandma in Freefall. I watched her peel and slice apples. I must have been pretty small; I stood on a stool to see what she was making. She nodded at me; her eyes were quick behind the thick lenses of her glasses. Grandma rolled out dough, filled it with apples, and put it in the oven to bake. Then I went out back on the porch to watch an orange-black garden spider, her web a zigzag of silk, right above my head. Having Webb for a last name gave me more reasons to notice spiders. My legs were long and thin, and the cousins called me Spider Web. I imagined myself a spider sitting in my parlor awaiting visitors.

In the little town, Freefall, on the edge of the reservation, laughter comes in handy.

Every Sunday mom and dad took me to my great grandparents house. Understand, I was an only child until I was 10 years-old, and I loved being in a house filled with relatives. It meant cousins to play with. The uncles talked politics shouting out their rock bottom opinions, while the Aunties gossiped and the kids played together like a pack of wild pups.

Since Great Grandma and Grandpa and dad and I, and all of the aunties and uncles and cousins, were all Indians, I thought it was rather funny that the black and white movies on television showed Indians sitting on horses at the rise of a hill, with their faces painted and living in tipis. All of the Indians we knew drove cars and lived in houses, like we did.

A sweetness of cinnamon and steaming apples brought the uncles into the kitchen. “Grandma’s making apple pie.” Somebody said. I’d never tasted apple pie, but felt positive it would be the best dessert ever.

A few minutes later more relatives arrived. Nobody ever went away without eating. The aunties, apron-bound, brought out platters of fried chicken, biscuits crusty on the outside and soft inside and broiled cracked corn, and everyone gathered around the big table. So much food was pushed onto my plate. Afternoon sun poured through the window onto the table. Tiny dust particles were floating in the sunlight.

“Child, you eat like a bird.” Grandma said. “If you don’t eat more than that you’ll never get fat.” My older, round-faced cousins always cleaned their plates. My family thought it was necessary to eat lots of food to grow up the right way. But I couldn’t eat more, so I plainly could never hope to be normal and healthy.

Finally the pies were brought out.

“There won’t be enough pie to go around.” Someone hollered. I smelled sweet, browned piecrust. My heart pounded. I wondered since I hadn’t eaten very much, if I would get a smaller piece. A clatter of plates was passed, with a bunch of forks, sugar and cream stirred into coffee. I grabbed my napkin by two corners and shook it out onto my lap and sat on the edge of my chair, my back bony, my elbows sharp, waiting. The little dust particles swirled wildly.

Before anyone else, Grandma, all smiles, lifted a large triangle sized piece of apple pie onto my plate, I took a bite, tasted its warm crusty apple goodness, and I felt lucky and special.

First published at 
Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers: Native Realities
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