Going Native

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On behalf of the loved ones and descendents of whomever I murdered in a past life, I hereby offer my profoundest sympathy, compassion, and above all, regret.

Make no mistake: I did murder someone, and it was brutal. There is no other conceivable conclusion. I murdered somebody and now I am paying the delayed price. How else can one explain the suffering I’ve endured this past week? It’s karma, plain and simple.

The suffering this past week has taken a deviously fiendish form of punishment known as Grant Training.

I’m telling you, I slaughtered my victim. It was a bloodbath. Had to have been.

Grant training is the process by which a bunch of strangers are thrown together in close proximity for the duration of one week, during which time they have to listen to the monotonous drone of The Composition and Construction of the Grant.

This makes How A Bill Becomes A Law from civics class look scintillating by comparison.

Worst part? I think I already knew how to do this stuff. Grant writing ain’t rocket science. Ya follows the directions and ya writers yer grant. There is no special mystique or arcane knowledge required.

Maybe—not likely, but maybe—I’d have a less cynical attitude if I hadn’t written a master’s paper in grad school. But I did, I did. Because of that, I have more than enough experience in writing Objectives and Methods and Statements of Purpose, please and thank you.

(But while we’re on the subject, allow me to remind everyone that I had the coolest title for an academic paper ever. Naked Ladies and Macho Men: A Feminist Content Analysis of a Burgeoning Graphic Novels Collection. The bit after the colon is dull, but it starts with naked ladies. Everyone loves naked ladies.)

If grant training is so dreadful, you may be wondering, why didn’t I jump off a cliff? Why endure this mortal coil when I could end it all? We’ve just seen conclusive evidence that reincarnation is a viable option—alive and well, as it were.

Respite from the agony of grant training has come in the unlikeliest form, by way of two of the other participants. John and Roy are neat and fun and—get this—their brand of entertainment comes with a theme. They are both Cherokee Indians, visiting here all the way from Oklahoma.

Can’t say I’ve learned much in the way of grant writing this week, but I’ve learned tons of stuff about Cherokee culture, history, and politics.

The grant we’re writing, along with a few other nifty folks, is an attempt to get funding for a totally awesome project. The Cherokee Arts and Humanities Council wants to go into the schools and teach little kids how to sing Cherokee songs. It’s a way of preserving the culture and sustaining a language that’s in severe danger of dying.

Having grown up in western North Carolina, spitting distance from the eastern Cherokees, I had a slightly better knowledge of Cherokee culture than your average bear. I’ve been to Cherokee and I’ve seen the museum and I know that Andrew Jackson was a dick. But I wasn’t what you’d call an expert.

I’m still no expert—that would be Roy, a living encyclopedia of everything Cherokee—but I think I’ve ascended to enthusiast. I’ve learned a lot about Cherokees this past week: There’s beadwork, and there’s flatbread, and there’s this messed up form of discrimination amongst the Cherokees (not to mention from outside sources), and there’s, um, Walmart. And I can say “see you later, alligator,” in Cherokee: Kilah Julahski.

This is the pinnacle of cultural enrichment, if you ask me.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking about race this week. I have a long, happy history of thinking about race. In college I majored in Women’s Studies, and while there’s obviously a focus on sex/gender/orientation, there’s also a lot of discussion on race and class. I tend to think of my degree as Oppression Studies.

I’m a white girl. I’m privileged, but at least I know it. I am deliberately conscious of my race. Folks in other races don’t have the luxury of forgetting their skin color; they get reminders of it every day, every hour. It’s the least I can do to try to be aware of my own color, and the little ways it helps me out (every day, every hour).

Though contemplating race can be painful, it can also be great fun, and no matter what, it’s fascinating. I miss being in college, when it was normal to chat about race and ethnicity and society. That sort of thing doesn’t happen too often in the real world.

That’s partly why I’ve been so pleased to work with Roy and John. They’ve been happy to talk about Cherokee stuff with ignorant ol’ me. The good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between—it’s been fabulous. I’ve learned so much, and it’s fun, and gosh I wish every week was like this.

Except for the grant training part, I mean. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m never killing anyone ever ever again.


One response »

  1. the queen of Claremont

    Congratulations on becoming more PC.We, too, became engrossed (don’t think I’ve ever typed that word before – had to look up if it’s an I or E)in Indian culture through the Claremont 2007 Commemoration that celebrated (at my suggestion)the contributions the Native Americams made to the success of the settlers – a fact often overlooked. We made good friends in the Chickahominy Tribe and the Nottoway Tribe, and participated in the Nottoway Powwow here in Surry in June.Some time in this timeframe, one of my cousins casually remarked that our great-grandmother was an Indian. Nobody had ever discussed this wonderfully interesting fact! My brother and I are going to WVA sometime soon to try to verify if she was full-blood or what, because that would make me 1/8, and since she was from WVA, she was probably Cherokee. I have a really cool picture of her. I’ve always felt like I was an Indian in a former life…maybe there’s a reason.There are many powwows in the area that are informative and interesting. The Chickahominy is September 22 – we’ll be there for sure. Or, you can check out any other powwows in the area…they are incredibly enlightening, and the atmosphere is one of true community. We were privileged to witness a "wedding" at the Nottoway Powwow of 2 of our favorite people – Greg Two Hawks and Lady Hawk – made all the more special b/c our son Gavin’s name is derived from hawk in Celtic.Or, if you get the chance, go to Fort Story and see the "First Landing" play (soon; it’s not going to be there much longer)…2 guys from Claremont are in it, and it’s far more historically accurate than Disney’s Pocahontas (gagggg). BTW, anytime you want to practice writing grants, come see me..I don’t have the patience anymore.


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