Native Americans, as Fiction

The following paper is an assignment from a course in the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, which I turned in today…as a student at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Shout out to my brother from another mother, Ron Haschak, without you this wouldn’t have been possible. 
I stood in front of the butter, eggs, yogurt, premade cinnamon rolls, trying to recall my grocery list that I’d left in the car when she caught my eye…long black hair separated into two braids, two feathers tucked into her headband, a buckskin dress, beaded at the hem, high cheekbones, presenting a pale yellow box at breast level, as she sat on her legs with her head held high, a partial smile showcasing white teeth. She was perfectly positioned in front of a utopia of Unsalted Sweet Butter…All Natural, Sweet Cream, the Land O Lakes Girl. But that’s not true. It’s all a lie. The four sticks of unsalted sweet butter isn’t a lie, but the image of the woman who sells it is. The Land O Lakes Butter Gal isn’t a Native American, she’s not a Neshnabe, she is a fiction. She is a stereotyped image that was made to “honor” us. Just like the Redskins, The Chiefs, Tiger Lily, Pocahontas, the big smiling redskins, the smoke shop Indians, the proud silent, stoic image that America chose to caricature. They borrowed pieces of us, of my great-great grandparents, and handed them down, as they saw fit. They’re meant to “honor Native Americans”, and we should be silent, and proud, just like the cartoons, drawings, and outdated, old western images, films, and stories depict us. But that’s not what they were meant to do, they weren’t meant to do anything but perpetuate a legacy of stereotypes that has resulted in Native Americans not being taken seriously. We’ve become the “invisible minority”, we’re part of history, as told by a select few who have “creditability” that they made up. We have the highest rates of poverty in the United States, highest teen suicides, gang violence is going up, addiction and alcoholism threaten people in almost every household, our men are filling prisons, our women are being raped, murdered, and abused in higher numbers than any other group of women/females in the United States (and Canada), our children are being taken from homes and placed in non-native households-and the government is just now correcting that crime. We are silenced with settlement checks, federal payouts, land settlements, and public apologizes, it is all hush money. It’s easy to write off the genocide that happened here and refer to it as “well, I guess you could say that but it doesn’t really fit the definition”, that who made up? The United Nations? OUR government, the same ones who committed all of these crimes? Those same systems that weren’t even established at the time and wrote their crimes out of definitions and history, and is housed in New York and wouldn’t consider that a crime against humanity because THEY did it! It’s easy to sweep the mess under the rug, as silently as possible when you dehumanize an entire nation of (indigenous) people and make them into fictional characters that grace food isles, bags of tobacco, liquor, cigarettes, football stadiums, tailgate parties, state parks, and write them into text books that feed the masses “knowledge”, and then when they speak up for themselves, demand they cite their sources and argue as to the history of where it all came from…of where we came from. Because our oral histories, language, customs, traditions, ceremonies aren’t credible in contemporary American Culture. They’ve been so busy telling us who and what we are, that they don’t even know who or what they are.

Needless to say this assignment was hard for me, I hear the comments that came from some of my classmates all of the time. I’m not sure what I expected from this class, and while I’m enjoying it, I’m disappointed that there’s barely a mention of the people who are indigenous to this country, simply a chapter and a few statistics in a text book. It’s ironic this assignment falls in “Native American Heritage Month”, on the horizon of “Thanksgiving”, but I guess that’s just part of this (life) lesson. A couple of years ago there was a Southern California bread company, Milton’s, that was fairly local and sold a loaf of bread called, “Squaw” bread. Some of our family friends reported on this and I did my typical social media protest and added my commentary on links for Indian Country Today, and replied to arguments of “this is an honor for your kind”, “what would we call it then?”, “you should be happy they recognize your women”, and anything else that told me how I should feel about Squaw Bread. Then there were the arguments telling me I should take a history lesson, “Woman” is Kwe. Not squaw, which is an offensive and derogatory term. But this is part of the problem with these stereotypes. This came with colonialism. Women were treated different, in our culture women were equal, typically owning the homes, and most of our ceremonies were made for men so they could be on the same spiritual level as women. But in American Culture, Native American women are squaws, who sat around making bread…we’re either painted as defiant, and women who need to be tamed, half-naked running around with scalps and being unruly (also add drunk and or promiscuous to this), OR we’re painted as doe-eyed, submissive, helpless squaws who need to be saved. Neither of these inaccurate portrayals is how Native American/First Nations/American Indian/Indigenous Women are. Our men aren’t mute mouthed, broken English speaking savages, but we’re seen how we’ve been historically presented to American society. Or we’re just a piece of history, and when someone finds out you’re “Native American” they study you first, and then proceed with, “how much?” Or “Oh, I thought so”, or “You don’t look Indian.” The list goes on, and you can tell they’re assessing whether you compare to the image they’ve been taught is Indian. The Land O Lakes Butter Girl, or any other proud Native Image that’s been “red-faced” up for America’s entertainment, so they can feel settled in the history of how “there were some people who used to live here, but they should get over it”. The fiction that they’ve learned through grocery shopping with mom, Thanksgiving school parades, Football mascots, Western Classics, or Dances With Wolves. I’m not sure where Neshnabe people fit in contemporary American Culture, but we’re still here. We’re not fiction. We’re not the pieces of history that’s been taught in the majority of American classrooms, or the people who are occasionally skimmed over in courses across American Colleges. Breaking these stereotypes so our voices can be heard to help make the changes our people so desperately need is going to be a huge challenge, but at this point, people are beginning to listen. That’s a start. I hope that someday I can space out in front of the butter, yogurt, eggs, and premade cinnamon rolls without being haunted by the Land O Lakes Butter Girl. Maybe they can retire her back to her tribe and replace her with a doe or something clever like that…

Land O Lakes 1

Sources and References:

Merskin, Debra. “Crazy Horse Malt Liquor.” Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity. By Charles A. Gallagher. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. N. pg. Print.

“Milton’s Squaw Bread: Not Forgotten, But Is It Gone?” Indian Country Today Media Network. Indian Country Today Media Network, LCC, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Identity and Society, via Poetry

Here are a couple of my recent poems, both touching on identity and society for those who self-identify as non-white, in American society.

“Black Girl” by Sarah Perrote via Occupy Poetry. Logo from Occupy Poetry.

Occupy Poetry

“Taking Back the Indigenous Woman” via Four Winds, Issue #3, Strong Women Edition. Logo from Four Winds, A Native American Literary Journal.

Tiger Lily

I have a few more projects in the works and this spring 2016 I will be the featured Poetess in a couple of Literary Journals, so that’s exciting! The book I’m working on with Marci Sanchez, who is a Native American/Latina artist will be out in December of 2015, please stay tuned to support us on this project. Thank you for reading and supporting my work.

Human Touch

His tiny fingers slide over the skin on the palms of my hands, he laces his fingertips around the soft spots between my fingers and squeezes tight. He does this so that the tiny palm of his hand is pressed against mine, just barely. He loosens his grip and we start walking in stride, or as close as possible, I slow my steps so he can maintain his steady pace. He asks me if I like this, I think for a moment…

“You’re one of the only people I’ve ever held hands with as we’ve walked along.”

“Along what? What are we walking along?” He asks me, impatiently.

“Along the hallway. But we’re walking along a life moment. When you’re older you won’t remember this, but I will.” He squeezes and replies, “I might just surprise you.” This gentle loving gesture, this subtle exchange of energies, this moment interlocked between us, with fingers and hands, this is human touch.

Fall 2013

He presses his bare chest against my back, I push my ass against his groin and feel him growing. The morning sun slips through the blinds and he nuzzles the nape of my neck; we’re both uncomfortable and not ready for sex, my breath feels hot and my eyes are filled with restless sleep gunk. He reaches around and squeezes my breast, then lets go of me, completely. We take a few moments untangling ourselves from sheets, our love is becoming comfortable, which is typically when I let go. He sighs and asks me, “Will you ever get sick of waking up with me?” I chuckle, and tell him the truth.

“Aren’t you going to ask me?” He reaches back across the bed and his fingertips graze the tips of my naked erect nipples, they grow harder, so hard that it aches and I want him to just touch me instead of tease.

“No. I’m not going to ask something I already know the answer to. We’re wired this way, we’re built to grow tired of one another, all of us. We just turn that off for the kids, for the vows, for self-preservation’s sake, for the safety, for the comfort. Because leaving wouldn’t be right. Or would cost too much.”

“You’re such a fucking cynic.” He finally grabs my breast, and this is human touch.

Summer 2005

The sun is slipping below the mountain tops, the hard outline of the Snowy Mountain Range is melting into darkness and overcast evening skies. Spring storms gathering strength before they release Winter’s grip, and here I am. Spread eagle, body trembling, legs in stirrups, my mother at my side with Dr. Laura’s head between my legs. “One last push! Now!” The pressure that’s been building for months, for weeks, for days, for hours, for minutes, seconds…it’s gone. Exhaustion envelopes me and I can hear myself whimper, but I’m a distance voice, an out of body experience. I draw in a second breath, deep and hold it in my chest, everything sounds muffled, and as if it’s slow motion. Blurs of soft light and shapes who must be humans shuffle, whisper, and move just past my line of clear vision. I wait for it. Reality is a blur and I start to fade into the darkness, just like the mountains that frame our life giving scene and then it comes-her first cry. Her first noise. Her first. I’m too tired to move, and I know I’m not done, there’s more. I’ve prepared for this, the placenta, the nurses, the family, so many moments must pass before she’s gently set on top of my chest. She’ll feel this side of the heartbeat she’s grown accustomed to. She’ll look up and lock eyes with me, blind to the amount of love that will embrace her as I check to make sure she has two leg, two arms, five fingers, and count her tiny toes. Really this is just seconds, but too many to count. I close my eyes and listen to her brand new cries, this is human touch.

Spring 2000

For thirty-one years this woman has been the porch light that has lit my way home, no matter how far I’ve traveled, how lost I’ve been, how broken I’ve become. The beautifully strong resistance that silently screamed, never give up. Full of spit and vinegar, unconditional and moxie, “gypsy blood” and tradition, I’m her legacy. Still and cold to my warm touch, her sweet curved lips are now a thin line of Cha-Cha Cherry Red lipstick. I gently dab a bit of her make-up off. My private viewing is breaking open a flood of emotion; the reservoir of love and hope inside of me rushes forward in a choked sob, escaping just shy of the dark wooden box that shines with a polished seal coat under soft flickering candle light. When I turn to leave this lonely room I will be empty, maybe forever. This is human touch.

Summer 2010

My body has been a clumsy chamber of change since birth, I’ve become more often than not, with each cycle of change that creeps across this earth I’ve joined the march. The moons have guided my shedding womb. The years have shaped my hips, waist, thighs, and breasts. I have cut, cropped, chopped, my hair, and my heart has quickened it’s deafening beat with the tides. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve cared about the win, but more important was how I got there. I’ve been ripped open, from the outside in and the inside out. I’ve been split, divided, shifted, transformed, thrown away, faded out, and lost. I revisit my scar garden daily, ritualistic in recounting the times I’ve been busted open at the seams, and each retracing is a reminder. This is human touch.

The Shower, just a hour ago.

Blue Corn Pancakes

she nudges me, points her chin to the stack of blue corn pancakes
“eat”, simple one word command. humbled, it’s tradition; she feeds, i feast.

lick the maple syrup from my bright pink lips, chokecherry
gravy in my blue enamel camp dish, coffee is black, strong and thick

she seasons her cast iron skillet, sings song about wanting me to stay
over the holiday. she snickers over the kitchen sink, “you’re like

blue corn pancakes, enit?”-i’m not sure what she means, she giggles
and tells me i’m different, that’s all i’ll ever be, probably.

my flesh has wrapped itself around a barbed wire spine, it rests atop
boundaries and well defined lines. i was born with too many ribs,

they cage a box that beats, hard and quick. there is a hollowed out womb
that sits underneath my emptied out cavities, she calls me blue corn

girl, they call me by my english name, everyone tangles words
around their tongue, between their incisors, sinks teeth into

sweetness. something different, something filling, wash me down
with campfire coffee, with chokecherry gravy, with holidays

to celebrate manifest destiny, with jokes and giggles, poking fun
at the one who doesn’t belong. but those blue corn pancakes…

humble you, bring you to your knees. dripping with maple syrup
it’s tradition; you feast, we feed. second helpings, the want

the desire, the craving…it comes so easily. everyone loves blue corn pancakes.

Between Two Worlds

I was so grateful to be able to stay at the amazing Between Two Worlds Sanctuary, it was perfect timing. Stepping out of the hustle and bustle of life and most modern amenities, or “distractions”, allowed me the time needed to focus on priorities and figuring out how to make my dreams a reality. Margaret was the perfect host, the music was amazing, the lakeside views, the cabin, being able to disconnect and write, it was heavenly. Being surrounded by family was the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae, that topped it all off. So much gratitude for the opportunity.
  I cannot tell you how great it felt to be able to kick my feet up, sip hot tea and write, took it back to pencil and paper, with the option of using my laptop and voice recorder, writer’s dream, for sure. Being in the midst of so many brilliant women was inspiring, and having my brother and his new family right next door to us was very heart healing, and made it more difficult to say farewell (until next time).   Gaining knowledge and access to the Healing Touch work was perfect timing and has really been helping me on my journey with overcoming the uterine cancer in a way that has left me feeling empowered, hopeful, and healthier in the holistic approach. Coupling these techniques with my medical treatment plan and opting out of the use of chemicals in my body has left me with more energy and ready to tackle this surgery and the healing process after. If you’d like to know any more about Healing Touch work please visit the Healing Touch East Tennessee .
   Mom and daughter time was awesome. Thanks, Between Two Worlds.

I Should Have

been swallowed, to practice safe sex is an art,
my parents should’ve swallowed…probably.
the flawed child, the problem that won’t solve itself,
the extra rib, wasted, the 13th, “aloof”, obligations to connect,
it’s poetic justice; disconnected to the life givers,
it’s the price we pay, i think. they think. we all think.

they said to stop believing in it and it would go away.
they said to chemotherapy it and it would go away.
they said to radiotherapy it and it would go away.
they said to cut it out and it would go away.
they said too much and they won’t go away.

i had four dreams and each one ended the same, hard to believe, so don’t.

you were wrapped in wallpaper, faded vintage wallpaper
you smelled like lavender oil and our sex, but we’ve never
fucked, we’ve never touched, we’ve never been so lost
in any one moment with one another that it could smell like
anything other than lust, my hate cup was overflowing, so i woke up.

we sat, cross-legged in the back seat of a sweaty taxi cab
you’d hailed the cab as we stood face to face in the hot humid summer rain
my hair was matted to the sides of my head and you told me your
mommy issues; she’d loved (her) pre-baby body more than she loved your
fuzzy head and opted to be a mess over being your mother, my hate cup
was overflowing, so i woke up.

two cardinals and a hummingbird picked the flesh off a rotten apple,
which was strange in itself, you recited an entry from Moby Dick, a classic.
i wore ballet slippers and had a lamb on a leash, the lion approached
from behind us in the apple orchard and my hate cup was over flowing,
so you woke me up.

the fourth dream is still playing out in my morning ritual,
right now we’re tangled in my sheets and you’re singing to me.
i should have been swallowed, out of all my parent’s children,
i’m their least favorite, my hate cup is over flowing, but i can’t wake up.


Books have saved my life, more than once. One of my favorite bookstores is in Denver, Colorado;  an independent bookstore named The Tattered Cover Book Store, fantastic store with several floors of books, shelves, deep-seated chairs, sofas, coffee (black coffee, no cream and hold the sugar). I must’ve been seventeen, mostly legs, small breasts, never combed my hair, and was very lost in books, distance running, California, and desperately trying to stay sober. I had hidden myself in a dark corner, coat over my shoulders, reading a Gordon Parks book, and this middle-aged man walked up, stood over, and said, “you should smile more.”

For a moment I felt small, I felt like an object, like less than my worth, then my shitty attitude kicked in and “fuck off, cocksucker” fell from my lips. I’d been used to this type of approach from men, since I was nine years old, maybe ten. At ten-ish, I remember being hand-in-hand with my mom, running across a street in some crappy Kansas city and some college-aged kid yelled, “Fuckin lesbians!” Out of his car window. At the time my mom had either been teaching at Kansas State or working at a news station, can’t remember which, but she said nothing and then told me, “you get used to it.” -Well that was nonsense, I did not want to get used to it. I did not want to ever feel like that was okay. I wanted my mom to do something, anything. As I’ve grown and aged, I’ve come to understand why she did nothing, and I’ve learned that picking and choosing my battles is the most important response.

Back to The Tattered Cover, the guy stopped looming over me and proceeded to sit across the isle from me, and an employee asked me what the problem was, I pointed out I was a paying customer, who was waiting for my mother and I wanted this older guy, who I did not know to leave me alone. They “helped” by asking him to go to another area, only after learning I was under 18, and asked me to “calm down”, because apparently sexual harassment is okay.

Over the years I’ve been called bitch, cunt, slut, whore, anything and everything you can imagine, all very typical, and “expected”. Then there’s this other set of phrases and comments that both men and women say, although it perpetuates the androcentric and patriarchal agenda that’s ruled this society (and most Western Societies) since the get go.

“Smile” along with, “You just need to get laid.”

Stop telling women to smile. And stop telling women who are passionate about ANYTHING that doesn’t fall in line with Republican Motherhood values that they just need to get dicked down/laid/ “fucked properly”, etc. Stop catcalling, stop talking to breasts, stop saying we’re asking for it because we’re “displaying” them. Just stop.

If you would like to know more about the Stop Telling Women To Smile Movement, please read up. And also realize women are dealing with some intense shit, globally; 1 in 7 women lives in poverty. Women are currently paid 24 cents to 45 cents less than men, to the dollar that white men make; this changes a bit based on “race”.  57% of poor children live in families headed by women. 12% of black girls received out of school suspension, 6 times higher than white girls. Out of 100 rapes, 46 are reported to police, 12 lead to an arrest, 9 get prosecuted, 5 lead to felony conviction, 3 rapists will spend even a day in prison, 97 will walk free…there’s so much more on sexual-harassment, gender structure, and every other sex/gender based injustice possible. The above information was gathered from National Women’s Law Center, please search their site for more information, as you see fit. I may identify with being a woman, but that does not mean that I owe anyone a smile. I hope that in coming days, months, and years that the world can give women more to smile about.