Sunday, October 13, 2013

Indian 101 for Writers, Part 5: Walking In Two Worlds

Alison DeLuca, purveyor of Fresh Pot of Tea, and Kara Stewart, part-time post pusher at Kara Stewart Art in Photography, have collaborated to bring you this five part traveling blog series. 

This series takes a look at writing about Native Americans and gives resources to accurately and respectfully do so.  

Alison DeLuca is is the author of several YA steampunk books. She is committed to adding characters with different ethnic backgrounds to her works, and is always looking for authentic, realistic ways to do so. 

Kara Stewart is Native, an enrolled member of the Sappony, and white, and is a full-time Literacy Coach in the public schools, as well as serves in several Indian organizations, with a passion for photography, writing and Indian education. Her disclaimer for this series, “The views I express in this series are my personal views, brought about my own experiences and many years in literacy and education. I do not claim to represent the views of all Indians, but I do hope writers will find helpful resources and perspectives.”

Today we host the last in our five-part series,
Indian 101 for Writers, Part Five: Walking In Two Worlds.

Alison: Do you have quite a bit of interaction with people from your culture? What desires, if any, do they express for representation within literature and film?

Kara: Your first question is a difficult one to answer because I don’t/can’t really separate my culture from me; I am as much Indian as I am white. As much white as I am Indian. So I live in both worlds equally. Our mainstream culture in America is white; I don’t think anyone could sensibly argue that. So of course I live in that world. We all do, no matter if we are black, white, Latina, Native or Asian or multiracial.

Powwow by Kara Stewart
But as far as my Indian world, I am involved in Indian education in North Carolina and am fortunate to know a number of other North Carolina Indian people through that. I also currently serve an elected position as a tribal council member for my tribe, the Sappony, and tap into Indian issues that way. I am active in our tribe through volunteer activities such as our youth camp and other events, which give me regular contact with tribal members. And the main thing - tribal members are my family. So calling my cousin and talking to her would count as “interaction with people from my culture”, no? Going to a party with a friend who happens to be Native would count as “interaction with people from my culture”? I don’t know. It’s hard to separate and I'm not sure it's possible to. 

The Visitor by Kara Stewart

The concept of living in two worlds is very common for Indian people. For many (myself included), there’s a whole other world going on for us, parallel to the mainstream world. There’s a parallel, Indian stream of information, issues, events, and people that we navigate along with those things in the mainstream world. This parallel stream makes us aware of these things on multiple levels – how information, issues, events and people impact, are perceived and relate to the mainstream world, and how they impact, are perceived and relate to Indian Country. These two streams weave together, sometimes clashing (as when faced with stereotypes and possibly well-intentioned but uneducated statements). What you, as writers, teachers, humans, can do is to educate yourselves. Open your eyes to an entire world going on around you that you haven’t taken the time to notice before. And ask us. Talk with us. Don’t be afraid of race conversations or approaching us. We know we’re Indian, just like most black people know they are black and most Latinos know they are Latino! It's okay and it’s not a secret. Talk with us.

Powwow Barbies by Kara Stewart
As far as your second question, what Indians would like expressed about us in literature and film, what I have mostly heard from friends and family is the wish to be portrayed accurately, respectfully and to be real when you write about us. To be aware of, and not perpetuate, the stereotypes, or to even do a little stereotype-busting! We will read your books and be hurt by your stereotypes. Our children are hurt by teachers and authors who unknowingly promote stereotypes. Make it real. Because we are real.

Thank you, Alison, for the idea for this blog series, for working with me on it and for hosting our 'hops'! It has truly been a pleasure creating this series with you, my friend.

Indian 101 for Writers, Part 1: Know Thyself
Indian 101 for Writers, Part 2: Know Whereof You Speak (a.k.a. Don't Make It Up or Rely On What You *Think* You Know)
Indian 101 for Writers, Part 3: Keep It Real, People
Indian 101 for Writers, Part 4: Aargh!
Indian 101 for Writers, Part 5: Walking In Two Worlds

Jingle by Kara Stewart


Whittler said...

Our children are hurt by teachers and authors who unknowingly promote stereotypes. Make it real. Because we are real.

All educators and writers need to remember this.

Thanks so much, Kara and Alison.

Alison DeLuca said...

Thanks so much for stopping by! We are beyond happy you enjoyed the series.

Unknown said...

I'm so pleased you and Kara have written this fantastic series. I travelled to a reservation (Six Nations in Ohsweken) in Canada and met some lovely First Nation people. After talking at length to one particular guy, I'm inspired to write a fictional book based almost entirely on the First Nation people, incorporating their folklore. I purchased some books from their craft centre (recommended by my new friend, Gordo, who is half Mohawk and half Aztec) for research.

Reading all these articles has given me much insight as to the further research I need to do. Thank you both!

karastewart said...

Carolyn,, thank you for your comment! Carlie, I am so glad you found some tips that will be helpful in your writing! I'd also like to recognize that not all Indian agree with the term 'people of color' in reference to themselves - sovereignty. See