Coming out of the closet

This morning I woke up with great anticipation of what the day might bring. Here was my plan; go to the gym, do my laundry, then sit down for an afternoon of beading and pow wow videos. This is the perfect day. Throw in a cup of coffee and a chat with my sister and the day would have been top notch.

Instead, I spent the morning working in the print shop. Not that I am complaining, normally I enjoy the work. But this morning it felt like everything was getting on my nerves. Every one of my pet peeves came before me. For example, there was a bwoot fly in the print shop that wouldn’t stop landing on me, someone next to me at lunch was chewing like a horse, and every time I sat down to write I got a phone call, a knock at the door, or an email that needed my immediate attention.

I finally sat down with some time to myself and realized that I’d spent nearly the entire day with my yoga pants on backwards, which included a very public trip to the plaza in Ohsweken. Deep breath in, long breath out. I hope nobody noticed.

If I close my eyes and concentrate my mind drifts back to that hopeful place this morning, where beading the day away was all that I could see. Ah, my beading table and my beads! My own private island of paradise where I don’t have to deal with anything except broken needles and running out of thread. Paradise awaits, calling my name yet here I was getting paper cuts trying to make a living. I felt like going fetal and crying out, “I just want to bead!”

It’s moments like these that bring conflict to my Ongwehowe soul. Two weeks ago I had to walk away from a field full of hickory nuts ‘ripe for the pickens’ because I was on a deadline. There is a desire in my generation to grow the gifts the Creator has given us, yet we are pressured daily to keep pace with the world and grow their economy. Organizations across the country are rushing to give accolades to the next indigenous so-and-so who broke away from the ‘bleak life of the rez’ and ‘made it’ in the world. It is a locomotive, running full steam ahead that does not run on Indian time. If this is what it takes to reach their version of success, stop the train, I’m getting off. I’d rather be counted in with the hobos.

I am an Onondaga, but the truth is I am first a rez girl: a Hill-General from the upper end. My dreams of a successful life include a fully beaded outfit by the time I reach the Golden Age category and making sure my kids go door to door for No:ia. I use the terms heckinit, ace, and simmer in their proper reservation context. I am not phased when I see hickeys on old people and I can turn a can of tomatoes and a bag of macaroni into the best thing you ever ate. I might never stop working in the print shop and selling beadwork on the side to make ends meet, but if it means I get to live out my life here on Six Nay with everybody else I’m all in.

It’s about time we “rez-bians” come out of the closet and embrace rez culture as an authentic aspect of who we are as Haudenosaune. Consider how the term “rez” became a derogatory term in the first place. I propose a social reclamation of sorts. Dispute the disgrace! Loving who we are, as we are just may be the strong chess move whereby we reject the stigma of shame and stereotypes implanted in the Canadian psyche about reserve life, turn the tables, and change the status quo.

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