i’ve been in a space of healing and on memory recall. healing and also grieving the loss of a loved one who had encouraged me with some good words and left this world unexpectedly in february of 2016. so much to share however, i only have two words to share, “Thank You.”
during the last nine months i’ve experienced deep emotion that run the gambit.
from both my families, friends, colleagues, and members of both my home communities there has been a resounding circle of support and encouragement. completing the doctoral journey was incredibly difficult at times and there were many moments when i doubted myself and didn’t think it was meant for me.
i questioned and doubted much of what i was doing, at times, all the while thinking that perhaps it was. i could not just walk away. perhaps my ego was too vain to let it go? alas, i survived, but not without scars. much like when Neo was told to follow the white rabbit, I struggled with believing in that, and yet also, fell into many rabbit holes before i shed that pre-doctoral skin.
it took a toll on how i thought and viewed the world at times. it also challenged me to become a better person after learning of something that i knew nothing about. i walked into the academy believing one thing, and left there knowing nothing.
i chose the blue pill.
as i write this blog-thoughts out loud, i realize it happened exactly how any journey of learning occurs. without a doubt, i understand, it was/is exactly what i needed to understand of the world i knew so that i could continue and complete what i had started to help create a better future.
the academy is a great place to learn from and it is not entirely an unhappy place. however, i will also share on that same note, there is structure and agency of power within the institution because it is indeed a Western system.
as i recall my first year, i was introduced to Gramsci’s cultural hegemony and Foucault’s agency and structure of power. i struggled with the fact that i still could not find myself or read texts of critical discourse about Indigenous people or the Indigenous reality in required readings, let alone my ancestors. i found that what i was experiencing was an Indigenous resistance to normalizing more settler colonialism and trying to fit the square into a circle. i fell into many, okay, several rabbit holes before i could accept i knew nothing.
when i recognized my ancestors i learned to recognize myself.
since those struggling moments, i have been able to look back with a much different outlook and one that does not include worry, stress, or concern with how i was going to complete and finish the task at hand. managing family, remaining involved in ceremony, and life lived out on the land was needed.
it has not been the easiest journey, however, it has also been helpful in understanding the practice of self love, diligence, commitment, determination, and perseverance. all of these, and then some are important to a person’s journey. belief in self is what kept my hope afloat and was nothing short of emotionally taxing work.
during this reflective practice, i have been going through my rolodex of individuals who have helped to keep me afloat and also for those who encouraged me with their words of wisdom and kindness. at certain junctions on this journey, i was served tough love. the critiques that taught me the most were the ones that helped to balance out the scales. healthy doses of the following were necessary: instruction, critique, and emotional support were needed and came to me exactly as they were intended to.
it’s been a journey indeed.
i have some creative works coming up and scholarly contributions to make. coming full circle, i am quite aware of the next phase of my journey in life. i may have completed the biggest task at hand with defending a dissertation, however, the next part of my journey entails doing the work.
i think of my late grandpa who instilled education as a family value. he knew exactly what we needed to move ourselves forward as Indigenous people and that was through education. we have accomplished much, and yet we still have much more to do.
this journey was mine to walk, and yet on the same note, my grandparents who are no longer here taught me some things, in essence they walked along with me. i wasn’t entirely alone. for the times i felt insecure, whether as a panelist, or some written critique, systemically, the odds were against me. looking at colleagues who had three, (mostly two) generations of privilege, standing next to me writing and critiquing with such ease, i felt like it was not for me. it felt as if that one drip of water lasted minutes.
sometimes, rather many times, i felt alone. as it turns out, i am, the first Indigenous women to graduate from my program.
the thing about “firsts” is it comes with the burden of responsibility and mistakes are bound to happen. yet it is also a victory.
i know the day my professor presented and announced me to the world, my grandparents were with me. as a first, it was what taught me the most about humility.
ALL of it and everything anyone could experience was indeed my privilege and honor.
while i won’t paint anything without a balancing of ying and yang, i must share, there were moments when i felt deep peace and felt just knew i wasn’t alone. with many hands and good words of support and encouragement, i know that my ancestors were also along for the journey.
at this time, i thought it pertinent, in the spirit of Thanksgiving being every day and not relegated to November, i send my thanks and deepest gratitude and appreciation to everyone who helped along my journey.
from the day i announced leaving work to return back to school to finish my education it was set.
to the day i received my acceptance letters.
to choosing which school i should attend.
to the time i finished my first semester, then second… because after my first year, i actually said, “Duck this. i’m out.”
i remember the call to return and knowing full well it was what creator intended for me.
to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and final year(s) which included many revised drafts, paperwork, applications, and to the final graduation and reception process.
all of it was a success because of family and dearest friends.
it could have not happened without family, friends, and community support. as the final days approached i was so busy and don’t remember a whole lot. what i recall is how my heart, head, and body was feeling. i felt beat.
as a graduation announcement was made, it became surreal. that expression of “ish just got real” was not proverbial, but literal. my family from AZ was excited and pre-planned everything about coming to visit. it truly made my heart and spirit happy. they gave me a last push to the finish line and fed me with love. they showed love with their presence and it humbled me so much it means the world to me today.
as i look back, on graduation day it was one of the most memorable days of 2016 personally. both sides of my family tree showed up and the memories, laughter, food, and circle of life that showed their support was truly what was needed. they were my “why” all over again. while planning any event can be a stressful time and everyone who showed up made me one of the happiest people in the world on that day as i was told not to worry. those types of things are what life is truly about. showing up for someone you love. again, this was probably one of the biggest days in my life next to having my first born, who is truly a blessing.
during this reflection and introspection, for the last 7 years, i was enrolled in a program at WSU College of Education, Cultural Studies and Social Thought program. i share this because it is not widely known, and been slept on. reading some of the densest scholarship troubled me at times, yet today when i look back, i think, i had to read THAT?! whew! thank the universe i made it.
the program itself taught me how to critique a system using critical discourse analysis. its tough some days because i forget how i was critically trained to critique the system. it has been a journey of education, that brought me closer to my cultures, languages, and healing which kept me grounded. not that i had no ceremony prior, what occurred during this phase was a more conscious effort to learn and participate, not for myself, but for my children who needed the stability and space for their own healing and understanding of the world which i could not do alone. i am forever grateful for the teachings and values that were instilled by family and extended members of family who show my children a way of life that is bigger than any degree.
as a result, i think before i can truly begin my next phases of work and contribution, i also need to extend thanks and send gratitude to everyone who offered words of encouragement & emotional support over the years, especially to those who imparted cultural knowledge and shared their wisdom. it was what kept me close to the ancestors and stay grounded. we truly need those pillars when we embark on a journey that is meant to assimilate us to the highest degree necessary in order to fit in or be accepted as a scholar.
in my reflection, i realize, my critique of the systemic oppression comes from being trained as a critical scholar-activist. it is one i have resisted in the sense of how labels and judgment can muddy a person’s choice to speak up against the injustices related to racial, social, economic, and structural oppression of Indigenous and Black communities. it is one i am constantly reevaluating because i don’t think of myself as an activist, and yet i would state i am a scholar-activist and note how my faculty chair would challenge me to rethink my role in community.
i reevaluate regularly because i find myself thinking and rethinking ways to help. as i move through this next phase, i am taking my time and doing things slowly, perhaps some would say i am procrastinating or not doing anything. however, i also listen with my eyes and observed people stumble and fall without humility. being too cautious and careful has not failed anyone yet and thus explains why i wish to move in this manner and extend my gratitude before i proceed with doing work.
in no particular order i send a Thank You to the many people who helped me throughout my program. it’s an amazingly painful process, and it took me some time to get to this level of understanding, and at this time, i also need to express my appreciation for the people who were hurtful with words and behaviors.
in true universe fashion, they helped me to succeed as well. as my mom would say, “Yeego, Yeego.” if anything, they were my driving force and exactly who i needed to light that proverbial fire in my heart and soul. there is much to be said about how those who are living with unhealed pain and unresolved grief will try to hurt and control us with hate and bitterness. it can literally change the trajectory of our journey’s if we don’t put love into praxis. one word comes to my mind…. Compassion.
i learned from those hurtful lessons that compassion is what people need more of than anything and whatever love and simple teachings exist, we all could use more of kindness, speaking good medicine into our children and family, and speaking love with healthy words of encouragement into the lives of people who may have missed out on a safe, healthy, and loving environment as children. they are needed to remind us (we) to practice compassion and forgiveness. those lessons are probably the hardest on my heart and today, i still thank them. each and everyone who hurt me, i learned from you.
i also learned in a real big way
hurt people, will hurt people.
the voices of lateral oppression such as gossip, lies, and hurt that they sling and carry within their hearts, had and still has nothing to do with me yet i grew from them. so Thank You my healing journey has been helpful in showing me this and i am working on forgiveness daily.
on another personal level, to balance out that experience with goodness and sweet medicine, i also want to send my deepest appreciation and gratitude to those who sent love, support, encouragement, kindness, goodness, prayers, more love, happiness, celebration, wisdom, spiritual insight, positivity, ceremony, more prayers, gifts, food (especially the first foods but all homemade cooking was so much goodness when i was tired and did not feel the muster to cook) and to any and all who crossed my path to show me a new way to think.
in both my languages i say Thank you. Ahe’eeh and Imeeqis Qeci’yew’yew.
to my creator and all maker in the universe who shows me love each and everyday. Saa’h Na’ghei Bi’keh hozho na’sha. to both my parents, the ones who brought me life into this world and to those who raised me up to value education. both sets had words of wisdom and love to share. their teachings and examples kept the fires lit. it wasn’t always easy. i learned, we, in infinite universal protection, choose our parents before we enter this earthly plane from the celestial heavens. i chose them and time can not be turned back. i love you the best way i know how.
to my immediate, extended, and adopted families, who helped me with my children, prayers, sweats, and everything, so much love and gratitude for helping me when you did. i heard so much criticism and judgment from people over the last few years from work to doctoral journey, and those who supported and loved without judgment and criticism. i heard you the loudest when you kept me going through it all with your actions. love in action comes to us in small or big ways like home cooked foods.
as pillars in my home community, is a family structure. my lifeline. no matter where i travel to and lay my head to rest, i always come home.
home is my anchor,
home is my pillar,
home is my life,
home is where I tether.
big thanks for everything to my ké and himyuuma.
Sisters: Clarice, Leah, Pearl, Shannon, and Tina. i could call, text, or post FB/Twitter/IG posts and they would call, message, or send random messages of encouragement every time i needed them. they showed us so much love and support. i say “us” because when i felt alone they helped me to get through those tough times with the kids. to my scholar sisters, thank you for the guidance and mentorship it helped me see i wasn’t alone or crazy to be going through some of the struggles sending me samples of critical scholarships and writings was life. bestest sister-fran in the whole world of Indin’schtuff, Sarah Ione. nothing or no one will ever compare. period. saying “Thank you” seems like it will never be enough considering all the fun and work things we’ve been through and shared over the years, the many tears and the endless, crazy cackles of laugher we have also shared. creator truly blessed me when she brought you into our world. so i’ll just keep paying you in chocolate and whatever goodies i can find hehe… (by the way i found something… Caramac’s from Hawaii… to die for!!)
on a community level and administrative support, i also want to thank Joyce McFarland & the Nez Perce Education Department staff, they always made sure i was taken care with our tribal education paperwork. they are all rock stars! second but none the least, the Nez Perce Circle of Elders, Bessie (& Wilfred) Scott, Chet (& Ron) Halfmoon, Pinot, and to Ann McCormack, Angel Sobotta, Bessie Walker, Leslie Moses, Phil Cash Cash, Tatlo, and Stites longhouse crew, everyone helped me along my journey with Nimiipuutimt. thanks to my families fr: AZ, NM, MT, & WA for traveling all the long way and feeding me soul food, but also keeping me grounded in our cultural ways. thanks to sisters Tracee, Tina, Leslie, Clarice, & Zan for also helping a sister out with dinner. thanks to brothers Ratsky, Virg, Erik, Lew, & Err for the many sweats and the land is life hunting excursions. thanks to Me’qe Vic and Aunt San for being the pillar of our family and lifeline, he is our nat’aani, our chief. thanks to Aunt Suzie & Cheddah for being here in Pulllman to the music of life we all dance to, your happiness is cool and fun to be around, we all need more of that. Rachel Hobart for gifting a beautiful and personalized shawl, Go Cougs!! to Woad for the band and music played, i absolutely love and prefer private affairs, low key and no drama, it helps make the world a safer place too. thanks to LeRoy “Pop Pop” McCaskey, Brenda, Cindy, & Willa Stevens for always showing the love and support by being pillars for Lil man and thanks to Connie and Steve Evans for the support and encouragement over the years. thanks to WSU Native Women’s Association for providing the emotional support and women’s talking circles, those were everything for me, sisterhood and Aunty’hood is good medicine and food for the soul.
thanks to the many sweathouse prayer warriors of our nation from all denominations, prayers truly are heard and i sent many a prayer up to creator and felt the cleansing spirit of sweat.
it seems like there will never be enough thank you’s