The difference between an undergraduate degree and a graduate program, in my opinion, is about about ten more pages and a focused area of research. Pretty much, one will find their reading is in a focused area and research will use a specific methodology. In that graduate distinction, is the doctoral program, which separates and weeds out (as my Kanaka Maoli bruddah shares) the “can do and no can do” and in so many Jigga words (or less), it’s JV and Varsity. Work, work, and more work.
While on this journey, I have found that I prefer ethnography for research. I recall as an undergraduate, in my senior year, being instructed by one of my professors, Dr. Alan Marshall to read up on “colonialism” but also to research another tribe. In that process I would learn more about my own tribes. Little did I know this was the beginning of my educational journey that has led to where I am today. My senior research project as an undergraduate was something about who knows what and where? (seriously don’t remember… oh yeah, selective memory is a mofo)
As I entered graduate school, my thesis shaped itself and I wrote “The Cultural Significance of the Ojibway Jingle Dress” which took me into the heart of Anishnaabe country in the Lake of the Woods region. The ethnography included interviews with family of the late Maggie White, during which I was most blessed to be adopted into their family. Not only did the family show me the hospitality of their homelands in the Lake of the Woods region, they shared story. I still remember driving over a frozen lake and about passed out from a dizzy spell. I was mad dizzy and thought I was gonna puke (or die) drowning in a lake that decided to melt that day while we were on it. How narcissistic of me to think that the lake would do THAT for ME right? Well, while on our trek to their family fishing spot (we went over AND back so I was a big chiggen) I learned more about my adopted family that day. Life happens everywhere. I spent a beautiful week in Canada and learned their wolves are MUCH bigger than our wolves. I howled and loved the moonlit nights and seeing the beautiful spring melt off in Ontario.
While I had some work to do before I went to visit, I started research with reading works from Gerald Vizenor and any book I could find on Anishnaabe people. Since then I have learned Indigenous scholars all have a niche. As an emerging scholar, I’m finding mine and damn, IT IS as awesome as they say. Trust me, this is indeed a beautiful journey in which I have learned about other nations and their cultures. Within that realization, I have also awakened the spirit of my ancestors within me and feel a deep appreciation for my culture and People. Having been raised in Dine’be’keyah, I am also Nimiipuu, and my grandmother, who was Lenape helped shape my worldview. I have learned my cultural influences are tremendous and I can do a mean dirt off my shoulders
One thing I’ve learned when I look back as I entered a MA program, it’s taken me a while to accept, embrace, and grieve what I didn’t do. To my young sisters on the come up, when you get accepted, go with it, do it, and have no regrets. Trust, don’t listen to what others say or want for you! As a matter of fact, they really don’t know, you know whats right for you and the answer is within you. Besides, if they don’t support, encourage, or help you grow on your journey, drop them like a hot potato! As I have learned, do you and remain focused.
Looking back from where I stand, shieeet graduate school seemed hard and yet today, that was easy breezy compared to what I’m trekking through. You see, this journey is not easy. I’ve loved, lived, and been around the block more times than you know. In two years I completed my Masters and granted it was done, I went through a divorce and learned professors usually know what’sup with their students. They do know what a college trek is about because they been there too. After grad school, I thought I’d take a year off, the universe decided otherwise. Seven years later… I entered into my doctoral program. Some days I have resentments and wonder if I should have kept that cush job, money was damn good and living large was nice, yet at the same time, the blessing has connected me to my ancestors in our homelands and I’ve found riches in my culture that no dollar amount can put a place value on. I am Indigenous, Nimiipuu to be exact, and living in my homelands, (Treaty of 1855) I am proud. Hindsight looking back, I learned quite a bit, and within that vision, I look to my People.Yes, I do this for my culture.
In summation, this journey has been a beautiful blessing, through the good and not so good, high and low, fast and slow, black and white, love and hate, through it all, I journey. I listen to music and walk on the shoulders of giants, those of my ancestors. In this journey, musical artists like Jigga speak to me, and his beats, well, they speak about surviving and I am a survivor. Not only do I think his beats are dope, when he came out on the scene, I would listen to his music to digress while in what seemed like a grueling program. Today, I think they’re still dope and some day’s I visit my HOV tracks to remind myself, heck, they’re my anthem and speak to my journey. A sign of his artistry and legendary dopeness can be found in his lyrics because they’re still wrecking people up with that truth.
Although I can’t speak to being a street thug, nor was I a drug dealer, HA! I know what it means to hustle. It’s more than work hard, play hard. I have lived in that struggle and survived. I know: how to make a dollar out of .15 cents, tortillas not made with Bluebird, Suave, Equate, ProWings, peanut butter no bread, kool aid, no sugar, and on that same note, I seen the top long enough to know, my heart is with my People. I am an Indigenous woman on a privileged journey and this isn’t even half of who I am. *puts headphones back on* Peace