Road Trip Recap: Days 3 and 4

A recap of days three and four on the road.
Stay tuned for more video recaps!
(Click HERE to watch this video on Vimeo).

There were many highlights along our journey from L.A. to Connecticut, but the one that really stands out came at the beginning of our trip when we stopped in New Mexico for gas, and saw real Native Americans. Or Indians. Or whatever you prefer. I personally prefer the term Native American because they were, you know, HERE FIRST. I feel a slight itch to give a long-winded speech about Thanksgiving and the pilgrims here, and all the injustice and oppression the pilgrims spread like a cancer, but I’ll refrain. One, because my family has availed of this holiday since I was a kid, using it as the one day during the year when all of us congregate in one place to spend time together, and Two, because it’s not right to clump people together based on the actions of others, be it a minority or majority of wrongdoers. Just as there were some Germans who protected Jews during Hitler’s rule, I’m sure there were also some pilgrims who protected the Natives during the mass rape, murder, and pillaging that went on even after the Natives TAUGHT THE PILGRIMS HOW TO SURVIVE IN A NEW LAND. A thank-you card would probably have sufficed. Just saying.

So, we’re in New Mexico at a gas station, and I’m dying to see real Native Americans. Of course I’ve seen one before. I’ve seen a few. You know, when they came to my elementary school and talked about their ancestry, tribes, and way of life. But I always had a problem with those school assemblies that corresponded with the quarter’s history lesson. See, we’d get a handful of Indians who’d come to our school and be all Oh Sun God, and Oh Tee Pee, but those people were Christian, and they lived in houses. THAT TAUGHT ME NOTHING. I didn’t want modern-day Natives to come visit and pretend like it was still 1542, I wanted them to talk about how their culture has changed and how they felt about a government that walked all over their basic human rights (though things are finally looking up). Did they vote? What did they name their kids? Where did they work? Did they still speak a different language? Could I braid their hair? You Guys, even as a 10 year old, my frustrations stemmed from the realization that I was too far ahead of my time. NO ONE UNDERSTOOD ME.

So back in New Mexico, I kept a look out for anyone who looked like a Native. I couldn’t bear the thought of completing our cross-country trip without meeting a person whose ancestors were responsible for the creation of lacrosse! The Boss had seen plenty of Natives during his drive from Northern Virginia to L.A. last year, and he even asked a woman about her race. According to him, he told the woman that he wasn’t from around the area, didn’t mean to sound rude, but had seen lots of people who looked like her, and was wondering if she could tell him a little about her ethnicity. Apparently, she was really nice, told him what tribe she came from, and even gave him a quick run-down on the other tribes in the area, and how to differentiate who descends from which tribe. I was so jealous, You Guys! I wanted to know how to differentiate, too! On various stops through Arizona, and New Mexico, The Boss told me he was certain I’d see someone.

“How will I know?” I asked.

“You’ll know,” he said. “Trust me, you can’t miss them.”

Well, I did miss them. At least three of them. The Boss would nudge me in the arm when someone walked by, but by the time I turned around, they were gone.

“Did you see?” he’d ask. “That guy was a Native American.”

Finally, understanding that my cognitive skills did not allow for me to turn my focus from the bean and cheese burrito that was in my hand to the Native American standing four feet in front of me fast enough, The Boss changed his approach. This time, he saw two Native’s standing outside, gave me ample notice, and then opened the door so we could walk passed them and to our car. I didn’t even try to play it cool, I just stared. At both of them. They had smooth red skin like clay (no, I didn’t touch them, stop it) ink black hair, almond-shaped eyes, sky-high cheek bones, and strong builds; both the men and women looked tough! They looked at me, and I at them, and we all smiled at eachother wide-eyed. When The Boss and I got to the car, I couldn’t stop laughing.

“What?” he asked.

“Did you see how we were all just staring at each other?” I said. “I wish someone could have heard everyone’s thoughts right then, you know, ‘cuz I was all, ‘WOW! A REAL INDIAN!’ and they were probably all, ‘WOW! A REAL MUZLIM!'”

  15 comments for “Road Trip Recap: Days 3 and 4

  1. Panya
    December 16, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    Argh, sorry, ^that was my attempt at writing phonetically with IPA symbols.

  2. Panya
    December 16, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    As a Hoosier, I just have to say, in English Terre Haute is pronounced TAYR-uh HOTE / t?r? ho?t. [Though, as a French-speaker, I’m annoyed that it’s not pronounced the truly correct way, TAYR OAT / t?? ot.]

    Oh, and my husband is Native American. His maternal grandparents met on a reservation in Alabama before they moved to Indiana. As a hijabi revert I get lots of “Where is your family from?” Here. “Is your husband Muslim?” No, he’s Native American. “Oh……” *confused look*

  3. December 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Thanks, Erin:)

  4. Erin Grace
    December 15, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    I think it’s cool that you’re so curious about Natives! I just happen to be a tribal member myself (Siletz!), and although the Northwestern tribes don’t have a lot of “cool” history, I’d be happy to answer any questions. (That goes for commenters, too.)

    To answer what’s already been asked:

    How has the culture changed?
    Well, we don’t live in lodge houses or run around shirtless anymore, and most tribal members are Christian. But we’re able to embrace our culture again. Because of the subjection my tribe faced, a lot of the elders refused to teach their children or grandchildren about the culture, because to them the culture was only useful as a way to get yourself killed or shipped off for brainwashing. But now, as you said, things are looking up, and the tribe is working to re-establish our culture as a part of our everyday lives. We have “Culture Camp” every summer where we’re taught things like dance, creation of native crafts, stories, history, language, etc. The school on the reservation is even teaching our native language as a requirement so that it doesn’t die out. Although most Indians in my tribe are thoroughly Americanized, most of us also hang onto our culture in smaller ways. My mom, for example, loves to bead, weave baskets, and make moccasins.

    How do you feel about a government that walked all over your basic human rights?
    Since I’ve never been directly affected by the government’s mistreatment of my people, it’s hard to be angry. Things like how my 6x Great-Grandpa was shot and left for dead do get my blood boiling, but the people responsible for it (even indirectly) are all dead. Although the BIA isn’t my favorite government agency, I think that most Americans have a healthy respect for, interest in, and curiosity about American Indians that makes me feel like the attitude about us is shifting, and that’s the most important part. My feelings on (and anger toward) the tribal government, however, are much more strong, but an explanation of that would take more time than I can spend here.

    Do you vote?
    Usually, yes. I voted in the Presidential, but forgot in the most recent election. Which is just sad, because I work with state election boards. :p

    What do you name your kids?
    My son’s name is Killian. My name is Erin, and my siblings are Jason, Loren, Megan, and Jordan. My mom and her sibs are Judy, Jack, Eva, Terry, Helen, David, Rosalie, Ronnie, Julie, and Rodney (“Rocky”). Her mom’s name is Jeannette. Her mom was May. Her mom was Lydia. Her mom was Lucy. I’m sure Lucy had an “Indian name,” but I have no idea what it was. “Indian names” aren’t very common in my tribe except as jokes. (For example, my brother Loren is “Runs With Scissors.”)

    Where do you work?
    I work for Hewlett-Packard as a Help Desk Manager. My siblings are: an unemployed computer programmer, an Air Force enlistedman, a Bath & Body Works sales associate, and a cashier and Wal-Mart. Two of us have degrees, and one will graduate with her degree in a few months.

    Do you still speak a different language?
    Well, I speak Japanese, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. ? Although most of my family isn’t very good at it yet, they’re almost all learning the language. My sister and brothers can say a lot of nonsensical stuff, but nothing terribly useful yet. However, none of the tribe speak our language as their mother tongue.

    Can I braid your hair?
    Mine, my sister’s, one brother, and my mom: sure. The other two brothers’ hair is too short.

  5. December 7, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    Umm Ammar, I can’t comment on what Sabrina may have meant but I think I can relate. In school, we (meaning people my age, which is kinda old) were only taught one image of Native Americans, or Indians. Up until my teens, I always had this image in my mind of what “Indians” would look like. I lived the majority of my life in Western New York, where there is a large reservation, but one rarely sees native americans outside of the reservation. At least not that I was aware of because I was looking for people in loincloths with big feather head dresses. Yes, I was ignorant. Despite the fact that the rest of society had changed over the past few centuries, I for whatever reason assumed that Native Americans preserved their culture to a “T”. You can imagine my surprise when I did meet a Native American at my job and he looked just like any other man there. Of course he had beautifully striking facial features, but there was no loincloth or head dress. Just slacks and a polo shirt. I felt like an idiot when my jaw hit the floor after he made mention of his heritage. Then, my sense came back and I thought to myself: “So that’s an Indian.He isn’t different from the rest of us.” Not in a derogatory way at all, just surprised because the way I was taught about them as a child. I am not sure if things have changed in the way our school systems teach about the history of Thanksgiving, but I have a feeling that like many other countries, we would avoid showing ourselves in such a negative (regardless of how truthful) light.

    I think we would be kidding ourselves to say that any person is above stereotyping any group of people. I think it is just human nature. That doesn’t mean feeling any disdain towards a group of people, but having a preformed idea in our heads of who they might be. The important thing is to learn all we can about people who are unlike us so we can overcome those stereotypes. Sorry Sabrina, for hogging your blog with my long post.

  6. Umm Ammar
    December 7, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    I’m not sure if this post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek… but it struck me as a little off. What exactly do you mean when you define someone as “Native American” and what does it mean to be a “REAL INDIAN”…
    Despite acknowledging that there are, in fact, different tribes and your desire to want to learn how to differentiate between those tribes… it seems as if you also see them as a different species almost. Is this an American thing? Are the First Nations there still subject to the same prejudice and racial divides as they were hundreds of years ago?

    At the assemblies you mention– were you able to interact with the presenters so you could ask your questions?

    I’m so sorry– I don’t mean to come off as rude or judgemental or anything– if any of my fellow commenters wants to offer me enlightenment– please, feel free!! It’s just that, I too, found the history of the Americas troubling– but I had the opportunity to talk to my first nations classmates or whoever else I needed to talk to. And I’ve never had that need to go looking for someone who is First Nations… because they’re right there… It just seems like your views as a child were an exception.. and weren’t what was taught in your school curricula and I find that disturbing. How does the American school system teach you about the European/American encounter?

  7. December 7, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Hi Mariam. I will absolutely upload my videos to Vimeo! I’ll update posts with links as the videos become ready:)

  8. zubeida
    December 7, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Thanks Sabrina, I was able to watch it now, so much fun!

  9. mariam
    December 7, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    very interesting video,I am eagerly waiting for next parts.
    Dear Sabrina, you know Youtube is blocked in Iran,watching videoes with anti filter softwares is very frustrating,if it is possible, please upload your videoes in Vimeo.
    thank you sooooo much:-):-)

  10. December 6, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    How are you holding up againt the New England winter :) had abnormally low temps today even in NYC and omg snow flakes!

  11. December 6, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Zubeida, it should be working now. Tabitha, maybe try a hard refresh? It’s playing in Safari and Firefox. You can also watch it at Youtube.com/sliceofl. I’ll look into it further if readers continue to say they’re having trouble viewing.

  12. Tabitha W
    December 6, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Hey, where did the video go!?

  13. S
    December 6, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    hahahaha you make me laugh :P that last sentence made me smile haha

  14. December 6, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    LOL @ the last sentence! :)

  15. zubeida
    December 6, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    your video comes up “unavailable” :(

Comments are closed.