So much of what we as urban Indians do is stymied by study and data.
In the 19th Century it was the Indian Agents and Commissioners. In the 20th anthropologists (see Vine Deloria Jr.’s Custer Died for Your Sins for more on that). Today? It’s some of all of the above plus vetting by committee, panels and the gauntlet of public opinion.
It used to be–and still remains the case–that in ndn households, extended families, clans, bands, tribes and nations, we’d get an idea, talk about it for a minute, look around at each other and agree it was good. Then we’d do it. Things seem to run smoothly in this way. Sometimes it takes a while to get done, but we can wait out the process.
On the other hand when it comes to the world beyond our snug cultural niche things seem to get a lot more complicated.
Take the case of a certain bus. We all agree within our community that, although it runs a little too infrequently, the bus just works. That’s it. This bus gets us to where we need to go and we’ll fill in gaps if they arise. Unfortunately this bus isn’t “efficient” enough when it’s serving the ndn community and service is slated to be rerouted quite a haul from where we need to get to. It’s confusing because here’s a service that just works well enough and it might be going away.
Such is the way, it seems.
Another case is with proclamations. Many in our community want to move to acknowledge us on a day in October. Simple! Vote, sign, done. Except, that’s not how it’s working out. Apparently there wasn’t enough media around it so we need to go through a process now. First, a committee gets it. Then a council. Then someone signs it. There’ll be a speech, some photo ops, maybe someone in a regal eagle feather tsa?nika will end up the backdrop to some fine fine election lit.
Now, I get it. I get that we need to promote better representation of ourselves, and certainly this is doubly true in a somewhat diverse city, however the process all seems so tortured, and even a bit foreign to us given a shortage of Native American representation at the City and County level. So when we say “this is the way it works” and we hear “well, we’ll just let a study or a committee figure that out, thanks” it’s just frustrating.
Then again, we survived lots of things, even committees.
So we deal with it as it comes to us.
Next time: words from people that help us deal with all this.