Feb 23 • 1HR 3M

Black and Indigenous Solidarities

with Robert Warrior

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Black and Indigenous Solidarities

With Robert Warrior

Patty: 

So we're here with Robert Warrior. And so funny story, Kerry, I'm reading this book Crossing Waters Crossing Worlds by Tiya Miles. It was for Aambe book club, History a couple of months ago back in February, and I can't and, as happens a lot of times, you know, when I'm reading books or essays, I always think “is that person on Twitter, I got to find them,” you know. And so I'm going along, and I see Oh, Robert Warrior, and I'm really enjoying this essay. And so I log on to Twitter with the intention of seeing if I can find Robert Warrior. And in my notifications is like, Robert Warrior just followed you. *laughter* No way, I was just about to look for you. So that's Yeah. So there's a nice, nice, nice little bit of synergy there. I don't know what I might have been going off on on Twitter that got your attention, but

Robert:

I think it was on I mean, I think it was on Afro Indigenous issues or something like that.. That's a bit identity in general, I can't remember.

Patty: 

But that was something that, I mean, really, thanks. You know, this is this is why relationships are important, right? You know, because it's relationship that I have with Kerry, and then, you know, and other, you know, and other people that I'm getting to know, you know, just really how important these conversations are between our communities, and recognizing that our communities are not discrete categories, either.

Robert:

Great points,

Patty:

Not only are people in the Black diaspora Indigenous in their own right, in other ways. But people who are Indigenous to here also had relationships with Black people.

Robert:

Exactly, sure

Patty:

Also, you know, so we're, we're relatives in all kinds of ways. And, and, you know, one of the points that Tiya made when we talked with, you know, when, when she was on, Aambe, on the book club, was how there's gaps in gaps in our stories, and the story in our own stories. I mean, we all about what passes for mainstream education and the gaps that exist there, and how we're just not present. I just went off on a Twitter thread about Grapes of Wrath. And, you know, and how Steinbeck almost gets it, so close to understanding connection to land, you know, but where are the Indigenous people? On whose land, they're living? Oh, we're dead, like the snakes.

Robert:

Wow. Right.

Patty:

You know, so I go off on that relationship to land because like, we know that we're not in white literature in white education, but we're also missing from each other's stories. That was the point that Tiya made was, you know, in Black Studies, there's gaps where Native people should be. And then Native studies, there's gaps where Black people should be.

Robert:

Right, right. Well, I mean, I think that's a terrific point. And I think that I mean, so much this this conversation in general this topic I think, requires a lot of a lot of grace on the part of the people who are having the conversation, a lot of compassion for why people don't know the things they don't know. And and that people can only start where they start from and and we're trying to make the conversation better, we're not trying to have a perfect conversation right off the bat.

And so it but they can be really difficult and Tiya is such a genius and such a wonderful person, such an amazing scholar, but also just an amazing writer. And how she has she's able to, to in her first book and Ties That Bind, tell the story of this one little family and illustrate through through Shoe Boots and Lucy, that story that is just so powerful. You know, it's not very often that I cry in in when I'm reading a book but you know, When, when, when Lucy at the end of it is freed. Finally, when she's a very old woman, you know, I just, I just cried because I just it just the weight of her of her servitude had weighed on me through the whole thing, you know, and the way that she had to persevere through all of that. And then to say, oh, it couldn't have mattered that much, which is what people always want to say, right? But of course it did. Of course, it did. You know, she even if even if she'd had 15 minutes left to live, she still want to prefer freedom for those 15 minutes, you know, than not.

And but I do think that that being able to enter into a conversation where there's not a lot of rules, at the start, where there's not a lot of, of saying the only way that you can be part of this is if you will make sure that you do enough of this or enough that. I mean, you I guess I want to assume that a good author, a smart author will say, I hadn't thought about that, you know, the next time I do a story like this, I want to think more about that. And and that that can make that that we're trying to move forward. And we're trying to make the stories better. It doesn't be it doesn't make things excusable, that are inexcusable. But it does, I think it does offer a way into a circle of conversation that I think can be much more powerful.

Patty: 

Mm hmm. Well, I know, I'm working on a book myself, I'm my editor, you know, we were going, you know, going through the first half of it, and I'm talking about Indigenous experience. But I can't exclude, like Black experience as part of that. Right, you know, part of a colonial, you know, it's part of a colonial project, it happened, you know, in tandem and intersecting it all kinds of ways and, and acted differently in some ways, you know, and you get at that in, you know, in your essay that you contributed to this book, about why we reacted differently, you know, in sometimes supporting the residential schools. You know, you kind of get at, where's our WB DuBois? You know, and so she said, You really need to have Black eyes on this, because you're talking about Black experience. So you need to have Black eyes on this, you know, as part of, you know, your posse of people that are reading it ahead of time. And so I was like, okay, so I shipped it off to Kerry and Kerry had some feedback for me.

And I was like, okay, that's not what I meant. But you know, why, if that's the way it's being heard, and that matters, because communicating something if it's not going to be heard, or if it's going to unintentionally cause harm, like that's not. And I think these conversations with Kerry, have been really helpful for me as a human being, not just because we're friends. But just really helpful to me as a human being, because these are, these can be hard conversations. And I sometimes I say things that aren't right, because we're all raised in this soup. Having the grace to be able to share with each other and kind of go on like, sometimes Kerry, and I'll go. But that's, I don't know, like, I hope that we've created this space where we can have these conversations and that they're, they're hard, but they’re also a lot of fun.

Kerry: 

Absolutely I and I agree, I'm listening to both of you and recognizing the uniqueness of what we are creating even just the facet of having this kind of a conversation. It's creating the safe spaces to fill in those gaps. You know, when I look at I was thinking, the other day, I'm reading a book called Lose Your mother. Lose Your Mother is all about a woman, um a professor in the US, who is tracking back her history to to Ghana and going back through the Gold Coast and and her experience of what it is to go home.

And it's interesting because her experience of going home left her feeling much more of a stranger in that space. You know, we and why I think it's important to this conversation is what it got me thinking about is how when we don't get to really draw our tapestries really create our own stories and tell our own stories, it's left to get skewed, it's left to be romanticized in ways that may not be the actual reality. And we leave out some of those integral pieces that create the fullness of what our stories would be.

So for Sadaiya in that book, she was talking about how she was received in Ghana, after a while, you know, she was, um, she came back with the idea that she would have been welcomed home and The Ghanian people would have been like, yes, you know, sister, you know, and, in fact, what they kind of saw her as the privileged American, and not understanding the experience of what it was to have that ancestor move through the Middle Passage and what was endured in North America. And it struck me, because I know that I've romanticized one of my, my bucket list things is to go to the Gold Coast, and to really, you know, go to see some of the slave forts. And that thought, to me of being lonely in the space that very, you know, most often might have been the launching spot for where my ancestor left was, it was sobering.

And it brings back the idea that the stories that we tell each other, or we tell ourselves may not be in, contextualized in the right way, if that makes sense. And that, the the, the truth is to be able to hear the different voices as we move through that, and how those relationships really connect together to form the truth of who we are how we stand in this hear and now.

So I I'm, I think you're right, it's, it's very important that we create these dialogues that we can tap into those pieces of the story, like, when I was reading, um, you know, your book, there were some pieces of tendrils of, of family or relatives that were formed from, you know, tribes coming together with Black folk that I did not know. And, and that to me, oh, like, Well, hey, because I've seen some pictures, where you see some Black people in regalia, and you know, wearing wearing tribal feathers and stuff. And it's never made sense to me, 100%. And that picture was opened up simply from us being able to read, or me hearing it coming from you. And so to me, these forces in ways are integral, it's integral to get a fuller picture of how things exist, and how we sit in the structure of our world.

Robert:

And it seems like to me, I really appreciate all that, Kerry, I think this is really powerful. And it seems to me that, that recognizing that the conversation happens in places of pain is just so crucial. And that that's one of the reasons why people shut gates on each other, and why they create a kind of a gatekeeping, of who's allowed into this conversation space, that is my life. And, and this is why I'm accepting and this and and, again, I always want to call people out when they're being inexcusable in their behavior. And at the same time, I want to try to, I want to try to lead with compassion and trying to find a way to say, Can I get you to open that gate? Could I get you to think about, because the person on the other side is trying to open theirs right now. And until they're both open, and this is what I mean,

I think this I love your podcast already. Because, because it because it's about friendship. And I think that friendship requires this kind of this kind of vulnerability, right? And this kind of saying, I want to open myself to you in a way that allows you to see me and, you know, I'm pretty flawed. And so, but these flaws, that's part of what friendship is, you know, it's like saying, I'm overlooking your flaws. I'm not even seeing them anymore, because we're friends, we've moved past that point, right. And so the, the powerful conversations that can take place as you build that foundation of friendship is built on trust, and it's built on trust that, that we don't have to write each other off because we make mistakes, because we say the wrong thing.

And, you know, but I think one of the things you're seeing that it's I think that it's still largely unimagined and that we lack imagination and having the conversation about the different kinds of indigeneity that that we're talking about in this conversation, and that there are so many versions of indigeneity that go through it. I know that that native people in the US and in Canada and North America tend to, I mean, we're so fortunate to have communities that are intact we can go to, not everybody belongs to one of those communities, which is really important to say, right? A lot of people are incredibly disconnected from those things. But the fact that they exist, the fact that they're over there somewhere, that someone is really tightly connected to that sort of, of reality is, is powerful.

And of course, of course, those things exist in Africa as well, right? For African descended people. But the but the, the separation is, is so severe, right? I mean, in terms of distance, in time, and in geography, that, that it that it creates a different existential reality for people who are having to think it through. But on the other side of that is that connection to indigeneity, as well, and so for. And so it's unpredictable, right, and the way that these things intertwine with each other, usually through the process of love. And oftentimes just through people getting together to survive in the kinds of situations you're talking about.

Not always I think we romanticize things, if we think it's always that way. But, you know, I think I think of New England and how, how, at the time, when Native men were leaving New England to become whalers, African, African descended men were moving to New England as free Blacks, and were working in the same households that native women were in that this is where we really see the start of a lot of the Native New England families that are mixed between African and Native. And they came together that they didn't, you know, they, they, for the heterosexual people there, they didn't have other people and they turned to each other, they found in each other the sort of intimacy and the sort of being able to share a life with somebody that was really deep and meaningful for them.

And that this is, we see this now, you know, in, in the people that we meet. But being able to account for and not having to have made sense of them right off the bat, there's different forms of indigeneity that are in play. My I mean, I'm really fortunate coming from a family that is very deeply connected to who we are as Osage. And I'm able to, although that wasn't always true, just in the individual kind of end of my family, with my dad and others, but, but I've been able to connect with that. And you know, and I can dance and I can be a part of our traditions in a way that's really powerful part of our social life our political life. And, you know, I felt so fortunate about that. For other people that, you know, that that's not true in the same way.

But I think that, that, that I still at this point in my life, in spite of that good fortune, my own indigeneity as an Osage person eludes me at times. It catches me, it catches me unexpected, I learn new things, I find new connections. And so for me to expect that someone else is going to have figured their ties to indigeneity out seems a bit unfair to me, you know, at best, you know, and and so I think that, that, that can create the possibility of, of connection.

Patty: 

Well, and then you add to that, so we had those kinds of relationships. But some of our tribes were also slaveholders. And, you know, you can say all kinds of stuff. I read somewhere you know, about us not, you know, that. Okay, how did I, how did I put this, you know, this slavery is never, you know, it's it's never a good thing, but that a lot of native slave owners weren't as bad. And oh yes. Yes, I said that. I said that on Twitter. knocked over was a moment where I was like, wow, I'm really, really sorry, that was a huge misstep. You know, I clearly missread something and everybody who jumped on me was absolutely, absolutely correct in that, you know, because, you know, and I actually got a couple of book recommendations out of it. They said  “you need to read these books,” and I did. I did and we were jerks. Well, the Anishinaabeg weren't one of the slave owning nations. But you know, so we had those kinds of relationships too.

Robert:

Right.

Patty:

And then we're seeing the ripples of that with, you know, with what's happening with the freedmen?

Robert:

Absolutely,

Patty:

You know, and you know, and I wouldn't shut up about that with dead Holland's nomination because, yes, she's great, but but look at this legislation she sponsored, she has to do better, she has to recognize she is now in a position of some serious power. And look at this legislation she sponsored this is terrible anti Black legislation. And she needs to you know, she needs to do better. She's under the guise of Kerry, I don't know if you're familiar with the legislation I'm talking about. But under the guise of I think it was native sovereignty. She had co-sponsored legislation that would allow to try to determine its own citizenship, knowing that what they were going to do was strip Freedmen of their rights of their rights to citizenship and basically creating Jim Crow type situation for tribal citizenship. Is that correct? Robert?

Robert:

So I'm going to rely on your I mean, I’m new on that. But you know, I think that on those situations, I mean, these things are incredibly difficult politically to figure out and the policies behind them. In the end, I just, I mean, one of the things I've always said is, is, especially for Cherokee people, that whatever freedom you have to do something like you're describing to disenfranchise people, that you committed to not do that, too many of whom are your blood relations, even if they're not on your tribal roles, that when you do that, you really do have to open yourself up to the kinds of criticism, you can't just go hide from that critique. And if that critique ends up, alienating, you know, members of Congress who no longer want to send you the kind of funding that you have to say, why are we funding these folks? Yeah, of course, we recognize their freedom. But should we be? Should we be encouraging that through, you know, through the funding that we provide? And, and I think that that has to at least be an open question. It's one that can be debated, but I just don't think that people should just get a free pass.

Patty: 

Well, we're to hide behind sovereignty. Right,

Robert:

Right. Exactly.

Patty:

The South tried that argument. It didn't work. They fought a whole war about it. Don't get too well. And we talked with Azie Dungey about the Pamunkey tribe, which she's connected to. And, you know, the laws that were on that were still on their books about, you know, if you're Black, you can't inherit what you can't be a tribal member have land or something. And it had to do with protecting their own land. But the rules that required them to do that required is really the wrong word. But kind of boxed them into that corner 100 some odd years ago, don't exist anymore. So why are you still disallowing these members? Why did you set your membership criteria based on when that law was still legally enforceable? Like? That's not very nice. Yeah, so our relationship is complicated. And we need to be able to me that's the book that I had held up the Crossing Waters Crossing Worlds, that conference, you wrote the afterword for it, talking about the conference. It got heated,

Robert:

I did, and it really did. I mean, it was a wild ride. I mean, I'm so glad that it happened. It was hard to watch at times. And at the very end, I mean, it, you know, it there was a great idea that that Tiya had to use that time when she was when she was a fellow at Dartmouth to bring people together, Eating Out of the Same Pot. And you know, and let's, let's come together and let's talk and it and just saw that it was really a volatile kind of situation for everybody who was there. And that, that I think it was because of of how painful these histories are for people. And that, that, that I also think that there's a lot of dismissiveness in, in, in all of these groups in both of these groups, especially,

I mean, the main two groups that were at this conference, or whether it's really I would say four groups of people were there. There were Native scholars who do Native studies. There were African American scholars who primarily were there who do African American studies, but also the relationship to Native American studies. And then there were white scholars who were there who mostly did Native studies, who knew a lot about these things like [intelligible] really wonderful person and, you know, great scholar. And then there were there were there were Afro Native people there, there were Black Indian people there. And and that was part of the mix that really made things made things more, more tense at times, because there were people who had skin in the game literally, right?

The and I think that that really taught me being a part of that gathering really made me see that, along with getting Black eyes into this conversation, it's also really important to have Afro Native eyes, in Afro Native Voices in that conversation that it said that there's a that there's a different state that people have, when they've embraced that identity. And they're putting themselves forward into the conversation in that way. That because that, that, that the Afro Native people at that particular meeting made, made, made, some of the Native American people uncomfortable, made some of the white people uncomfortable, and many of the Black people were uncomfortable too they hadn't really spent a lot of time around people who were so forward in, in identifying as Afro Native, they knew people like this existed, they probably have relatives who, you know, say, hey, you know, we're like that too, right.

But it was a bit it was really, it was really, it really said something about where we are in all of this. And I don't know that we've come that far, either. And at the end, I mean, it was really I mean, it was so it was hard to watch at the end, because people, there was nothing resolved, we had a big session at the very end of it. And we tried to come together to say, this is what we've learned. But really, there was just a lot of bad feeling. And it's really hard to leave something like that when there's so bad feeling in the room.

And I mean that the thing that I always remember about that there had been a group of people from Dartmouth who wanted to sing Amazing Grace in a bunch of different native languages. And they tried to do this at the very end, it was, you know, would have been a really beautiful thing. But everybody was just feeling so terrible at that point. It was just it didn't feel like there was any grace, amazing are not in the room at that point. You know, we just really were kind of feeling like, there's so much to do here. There's so much, you know, that remains undone that, that that we don't know how to do this.

You know, we can't be kind of cold blooded scholars who just disinterestedly come into this conversation. There isn't a place of being disinterested here, we really have to see everybody's made to feel by this topic in some way. And and we have to own our own position within it. I've certainly seen that, you know, I we brought up the Freedmen issue. And, you know, thankfully, it's progressed, I think, in many ways, although I'd say there's so much more work to do on it still. But at least you know, the, the current leadership with the Cherokees has, has embraced has embraced the idea that moving forward is the best way with this and to just follow the treaty follow the law and and to move to move on. And so that to stop this process of trying to stop people from being able to vote and the Win I wrote about, I wrote about that issue when it was still pretty hot.

And I wrote an essay that was the most widely read essay on news from Indian country for about three years, called Cherokees flee the moral high ground, saying and it just really set out I just think the Cherokees are wrong. You know, I'm not Cherokee, but I'm gonna say they're wrong. In what they're doing. It's just morally wrong. And, you know, I have people in my own community in the Osage community, including relatives who basically said, you know, we don't agree with you, right. And the Wii was really saying, we, we Osages, just don't believe the way you do, Robert. And, you know, and luckily, I was mature enough by that point that I said, to myself, at least, I know one Osage who does. And I'm going to hold on to that, you know, so I don't I'm not going to have somebody tell me Osages don't believe that because there's one right here who does?

And I didn't ask for permission from everybody to write anything I've ever written. No claim it could be something that somebody else agrees with. I this is me, you know, and I wrote that I wrote that and I anytime I take a stand like that, whether it's saying I think that I guess on the on the issues of same sex marriage that have come up for the Navajo people, for the Cherokees, and for my own Osage people, we had our own version of that. And I took a stand against them. Because I thought it was right. And I think that that's such an important thing to do.

I have to say that one, one person I learned that from was my philosophy teacher, Cornell West, who is just, you know, one of my philosophical heroes, and I had him as a teacher, when I was at Yale back in the 1980s. When I was teaching at Stanford in the 1990s, Cornell came and gave a, a big talk for like, 1000s of students, and then he did a smaller presentation for, for a bunch of us, like 20 of us. And it was so great to be in the same room with him again, hearing him hearing that, that, you know, hearing his voice and just hearing how he talks, and he's so inclusive, and so wonderful. And I know a lot of people disagree with him. And I do too, sometimes. But just as a figure as a moral figure, I just think he's so considerable.

As somebody asked a question as a student of color, with this 15 minute long question. I remember, in my mind, I'm sure it was more like two. But the question was, well, what do you do when you when you're trying to make changes, but you know the change you're trying to make, isn't going to happen. And that, that, even though you're fighting for it, you just already know that the end of this is going to be you're going to be defeated, and you're going, you know that the thing you're trying to get, you're not going to be able to get and so you use all this energy to try to get it but then you don't get it. What do you do? How do you figure out when's the right time to fight for these things? And, you know, this is at Stanford was a very powerful institution, right? And in Silicon Valley, where everybody's just worried about money and worried about success. And it was just so great to hear Cornel West, his turn to that person and say, well, sister, sometimes you do things just because it's right. You just do it, because it's right. Yeah, that's it. Right. I hadn't heard that kind of moral clarity in so long, right? You say, I don't have to make up my mind based on some really complicated calculus that says, do I? Do I take this position or that position? And so I don't know, I think it's right. I'm gonna I'm gonna say it.

Patty: 

Is this the right, you know, we get so caught up in thinking strategically, right? And that's where this question was coming from is, you know, what's the point of being right, of speaking up, if it's not a good strategic moment, if it's not going to gain the kind of traction, that it needs to go anywhere? And, you know, when you were asking that about, you know, when do you know when you know, when it's the right time to bring it up? And in my mind, I thought, when you know, it's the right thing. That's when it's the right moment. Because when you know, it's the right thing, then sitting on it and not speaking up, becomes the wrong thing. You know, because now I know better. So now that I know better. Why wouldn't I speak up?

And of course, I don't speak up because it's scary. I will say things on Twitter, that I don't always say on Facebook, not that what because my Facebook friends are different, right? Like, it's a completely different crowd. You know, and I know a lot of people feel this way Twitter is my chosen family. Facebook are the people I have to see at Thanksgiving.

Kerry: 

And she says that with love.

Patty: 

But I think what I've gotten much better at and I'm in some of it really is the podcast. Because Kerry and I just keep putting ourselves out there week after week. And then people listen to it. You know, they listen to us, as both, you know, learning in real time. You know, but so but there's things I will talk about a lot of times mostly like about religion or something I don't know, because the people I go to church with are on Facebook, but I'm getting much better at kind of the crossover at saying the things where there might be some social consequences. In my day to day life.

Kerry: 

Yeah, I love this. I love that that you are bringing that up. It resonates with me so deeply. Oh, my goodness, Patty, because I have been in this space, I think over the last, you know, two or three weeks where I'm having to come into stepping into my power in that way. Where it's recognizing that the voice that I have I I'm I'm in the realization that I don't necessarily speak on it. Um, as largely as I would like to and when I'm starting to examine the whys behind that, I think it is because there's still that part of me that's looking for the acceptance or that or that, you know, not wanting to upset necessarily the different flows, or the different cliques of people that exist in my life. And with that being said, it's, it's coming to a point where I'm feeling not whole in who I am. So that, you know that stepping out is just what it's got to be because I'm I just, you know, it's I'm too compartmentalize, and it's not working very well.

So hearing you say that really resonates, really helps me know that, that that emergence, I almost feel like it's like a growth I'm doing, I'm rebirthing in some ways,I’m wilding is the word I like to use. But it helps me know that I'm not alone in that journey. And I take that almost with with looking at how we, as Indigenous and Black people are forming relationships are looking at relationships,

You know, when you mentioned the conference, and there being so much, you know, drama and trauma that sits in the air, I am, I celebrate it in some certain way. And in parts of that, because it's when we go through that kind of really feeling into it, I think a lot of times we do come at it from a strategy or we come at it from you know, the history, but we're not looking at what all of that brought into the room. And there needs to be a space to release some of that trauma, some of that pain, because it's a collective pain, what no matter what the perspective is, we all have come out of the direct response of this colonial capitalist system. And until we afford ourselves that space, the right to really feel into what the effects have been, then, and only then can we, I think fuse the other piece of it, which is to heal. To really be effective, you have to be able to offer some healing up so that you can process what the next phases of this game are going to be.

And you can't do that without getting mad at each other, or having those tough conversations that will create that forum, that space to go. So now what i Okay, yeah, I don't like what you say. But maybe there's something there. And I so, I really think those are the things that we have to continue to do is, is get in the room, close the door, hopefully it can be soundproof a little bit and just hash it out, hash it out and see each other, see each other as we move through me.

Patty: 

Robert, you had made a comment at the end of this essay, and I was just I was just rereading it the you were you were a Lone Wolf and Dubois For a New Century. At the very end of it, you as you say it will help us perhaps, work through the way we see ourselves in the way we exist in this world. Perhaps such work will help us re ask the question, what does it feel like to be a problem? Because that comes from the Dubois that comes from Dubois, right? I'm remembering this correctly. Can you talk about that a little bit about why you went looking at DuBois. And yeah, I love that essay. By the way, it was really interesting.

Robert:

Thanks very much, thanks. You know, I like so many things that had to do with the conference I had been invited to, to present at the 100 100th anniversary. There was a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Souls of Black Folk at the University of Wisconsin, that scholar, Caribbean American Scholar Nelly McKay put together. , And this thing was just, I mean, an incredible All Star lineup of people, especially of African American scholars, Nel painter, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. David Levering Lewis, who wrote the great WB Dubois biography, the two volume biography of DuBois. Lots of other people too.  

Vijay Prashad, and I were invited to be the panel that was about people other than Black people. And he had just written his wonderful book, The Souls of Brown Folk. And. And so we did this panel together. And I wrote this essay for it. And what was interesting to me that one of the first the first question I got is, why didn't you talk about the train journey of Dubois through the South, when he talks about, you know, looking at the land of the Creeks, and looking at it that this, and I, you know, I kind of thought about that, I thought, well, that's probably more elegant. And as the person asked that, that, I probably should have done that I probably should have made this kind of more elegant kind of thing. But I also wanted to bring these two difficult things that don't really fit together, together into what I wanted to say about a Native American perspective on DuBois. I wanted to say, what was going on at this exact same time, you know, what was the Native world in, in 1902 1902, when When Souls of Black Folk came out? Or maybe it's 1903. But it's right there at the turn of the, you know, the turn of the 20th century. And that, that I guess, I mean, some of this had was probably a little bit of an exorcism to, along with, along with Cornel West, I had other Black mentors, James Cone who invented Black Theology of liberation was my doctoral advisor, wonderful, wonderful, very influential person, the academic

Patty: 

Quite the academic ancestry.

Robert:

Right. And, and somebody's not as well known, but who was at Union Theological Seminary, when I was there as well, James M Washington, who Coretta Scott King brought down to the King Center, flew him down for a meeting, and she said, I want you to put together the essential writings of my husband, you know, and he did that. He’s this amazing African American church historian, you know, and, and he gave me, he just, he freed me intellectually from myself, you know, he taught me how to take myself seriously, as a student. And in a seminar, I just remember that. I remember, I put my hands down on a table. And I started talking to him like this, you know, I thought, What am I doing, you know, and I can't I can't do this, but he was okay.

You know, he knew he already knew I had all of these things inside that are that I was trying to, and I was trying to cleverly pull them out of myself, you know, I tried to find some sort of safe, safe way of getting these things kind of blown out my ears and blown out, you know, other parts of me, when, in fact, they just needed to work through my brain and through my heart, and now, you know, and out my fingers in my writing, and, you know, the things that I said and, and like I say, I was felt as though Jim Washington, freed me from myself, from my own from my own conceits. In so many powerful ways.

I learned so many other things as well from from James Cone. And it also allowed me to be a part of this company, of his graduate students who were from around the world. Many of them were from Africa, other African American students, and, and I was the Native American student in that in that group. And, and I just, you know, and I felt a kind of camaraderie, intellectual camaraderie in that group that was really, really wonderful and really powerful. And I think that, that around that time was when I was really figuring out what that legacy meant for me, because I always wanted, I always wanted the the Native intellectual tradition to be different. I wanted to have that Dubois figure, you know, that we could look to and to say, I want that person who does that thing that Dubois does kind of pulls everything together, and does this amazing, comprehensive look at the entire world.

And, and I eventually just had to say to myself, we got what we got. And guess what, you know, the one thing that we have, it goes back to this thing of having these intact places and communities and political bodies and political people. You know, I always knew that, that that this is a little bit complicated, but it may be really helpful to the conversation.

Let's say that I love the way in the African American in the history of Black thought, than African American thought. You always had these two dynamics going on, you know, at the same time, you had Malcolm and Martin and you Have you know you have DuBois but you also have Washington? Washington, Booker T. Right. But yeah, and are later Garvey too, right. And so you have these, you have these, these, this dialectic, and this historical dialectic, that's just really wonderful. And of course, you have an entire hidden world within that as well, that is all the other voices you don't see. But that the, the dialectic is always there showing me different things.

And I was frustrated, because I couldn't find the other side of that dialectic in the Native tradition and the Native tradition of written thought. And I wanted it to be there, I wanted to see that more. And it was, I could see that in some places, but it seemed like our impulse in the world of Native thought was to try to come up with “The Position” with “The Native Way of Thinking About Things.” And, and I was never satisfied with that. And so I had this thing called discourse envy, I wanted to. And you know, the thoughts are greener, the grass is greener on the other side of this, this fence. Right? And that, that and, because the thing I realized early on, as I said, you know, we don't have that same kind of dialectic. But those other points of view do exist are out there. And there, you have to, they're, they're more, they're happening in the local places.

They're happening in, in a world of,of the people who are, it's not just traditional knowledge, which is, I think, one of the in this, this could make some people want to turn off what I'm saying and that, I mean, that's fine with me if they do, but to say, it's not just the that I said to myself a little bit later, there's two kinds of subaltern thought within the native world. There's a subaltern thought, which is the subaltern are the  people who are unseeable to the, the regular world, they just can't see that there's this layer of experience within peasant life, or within Native American life or Black life, you know, that, that there are two kinds of subaltern just in general, I mean, there's probably 50 kinds, but the two kinds, I could really want to highlight that you could see people who had held on to those kinds of traditional knowledge about healing, about how to how to live with each other, social relations, and the people had this, this kind of intact sense of those of those traditions.

But there was another kind of subaltern too, which was the voice of the destitute, the voice of the people who were, who were poorer than the poor, who are, you know, the most starving of the starving the people who just were so far beyond the reach of the things that were supposed to make their lives, work and make their lives better. And that there was without romanticizing the position, there's a kind of knowledge that comes out of that, that sometimes it's sometimes it's imbued with that sense of, of Indigenous tradition, but sometimes not. Sometimes it's just imbued, as it is so often in Black thought with just, how do you start from this place of living in a world that says, you're nothing, that gives you nothing? And then how do you make something out of that?

And I knew that, that that kind of thought exists out in the native world, too. It often associates itself with that traditional knowledge with that kind of prestige of that, you know, of that Indigenous knowledge, because it's smart. You know, I mean, people like that are smart, and they know that people who are in those positions have answers. I think that's been really theorized so beautifully by by Leanne Simpson, in her book, As We've Always Done, and I think she does a really great job of getting at a lot of those things

But that essay about Lone Wolf, I think, and the boys too, instead of being able to find this worldwide gigantic figure like Dubois that I had to say, while the gigantic figure was the gigantic figure for the Kiowas. And he was he was going to be this enormous national figure for the Kiowas. But he may not be a big, enormous national or international figure. In the same way DuBois is because this context is different and his his struggles are different, who he's who he's trying to reach out. to then be a part of that's also different, too, and to say, let's settle into this intellectual space, this tradition that I'm a part of, and stop looking over my shoulder, stop looking over the horizon, you know, and to just settle into it and to learn the beauty of it.

And to see, what does it take, if you're somebody like, like Lone Wolf, who, you know, doesn't have the benefits of education, the benefits of just knowing where the levers of power are? How do you figure out how to get all the way to the Supreme Court with with with a case like that? Even Even, even if it's not successful? But that you figure out how do you fight? How do you how do you take what you have a fight with it, and to fight back? Right.

I still, you know, I still want people to aspire to that, to that gargantuan sense of intellect that Dubois brings into, you know, what I see when I see my African American brothers and sisters in the academy, and then African American writing and other forms of African American thought, who are in that line of that DuBoisian line? You know, I marvel at it, you know, and I say, What a great gift that the world gave, that the African American world gave to everybody, the boys, but especially to the African American world, you know, to set this, this kind of example, and again, not to say that DuBois was perfect, or that you know, that he was just this ideal kind of person in all ways. But intellectually, it's just breathtaking, you know? And yeah, and I guess that was that was, I think, I guess the part that still lives on and that is to say, I really want to hold on to that idea of the intellect as being so crucial to how do we get how do we get from here to where we're going? I’m bringing mine along with me, I'm bringing my intellect along with me. And I don't want to I don't want to fetishize it, I don't want to make it the only thing I have, but I'm bringing it along, because it's helped me so many times. And it's helped other people, other people's intellects have helped them so many times.

Patty: 

And it's important, right, because we, we don't … I just read Dale Turner's book, This is Not a Peace Pipe. And he talks about that he talks about the you know, the, the need for “word warriors”, you know, people that know the language that know how to navigate the legal system, they know how to navigate the intellect, you know, the, the international stage and know how to, I mean, when when I did social, when I did social work, so much of what I did was, you know, was act as almost as an interpreter, you know, for people to be able to access the system, because if you can use you know, if you want to access a certain mental health program, you have to hit the key words, you know, you have to be able to identify the things that get you into their mandate because you might meet their criteria, but unless you can, unless you can articulate it, you don't and you won't get the service and so that was a lot of what I did was that kind of interpretation. And so I think that's what Dale is talking about, is you know, we need these word warriors because they can be those interpreters and get us putting our putting our needs and thoughts in ways that will be heard on the global stage

And I think Art Manuel was really good at that. From a Canadian standpoint, in terms of you know, we're not gonna deal with Canada we're gonna go straight to the World Trade Organization. “We’re nations dammit, we're gonna act like nations” you know, so that he was really good at bringing you know bringing things in and communicating it in a way that the people whose hands on the levers of power knew how knew how to do. So that's really really important you know, but then like he said, we also need that other thread those traditional people because otherwise what are we fighting for? What are we accessing those halls of power for?

Robert:

Right

Patty:

Not you know if it if it's just to set up another you know, just cut it just another capitalist society where we're the landowners instead of the white people. What's the point? That's not that's that that's not that's not going to save anybody that's not going to help anybody. So oh, we're just going to transfer land ownership. That's not a that's not what land back is for that? Do I want you know, do I want to transfer over ownership. Yes. Do I want it to end there? No, that's not that that's not what's going to fix this. So yeah, we need we need both of those traditions. But I think your what was neat was, as you were talking about that, yeah, like when you see that in Black history, you know, you've got like that yin and yang constantly. Both sides talking and making their cases. And then the power is in that, that friction between them. And what emerges and you know, and so often what we hear in Indian country, you know, you start disagreeing, like you had said, you know, being the only Osage you know, they'll say, don't think that.  Well, I know one that does. You know, we're told so often we need to speak with a unified voice, we need to agree we need to agree. And we don't. Disagreement is ok. That's where the important stuff happens.

Kerry: 

Yeah, I find this so interesting to listen to because it one last night it interestingly enough, I was on tick tock, and tick tock has these fascinating little blips of information that you can pull in, and I was actually got on a tic toc. stream or hashtag, where they were playing Malcolm X, they were playing Martin Luther King, they were going into Patrice Lumbaba, um, all of the great African orders that have spoken and held our struggle from here to Africa. And it was fascinating to feel the passion and the power of all of those voices. And what I was left with as I was watching, you know, you go down a tick tock hole, let me tell you tick tock is one of the most addicting things you can get on. And I think after about three hours of it, what I was left with was the power of the voices. But that the sense that because we were, they were so different, or we couldn't connect them, and what power it would have been if that connection could be made.

And so for me to hear both of you speak about the, the other side of that maybe where that, you know, when the voice is too unified, it may not necessarily or is one voice only, it may not have all of the the flow and color of that maybe right is an interesting perspective for me, because I know that one of the things that comes from our school of Black people is that we can't unify, we can't get it together, we you know, our scatteredness, and this is what is not allowing us the whole idea of the fist instead of the fingers, you know, whatever analogy you want to use. So I what comes to mind, for me is the sense of the balance between all of these sides,

You know, we talk a lot on this podcast, Patty, about the different medicines, the different approaches to be able to create the change that we all want to see. And it for me, it's once again, being in appreciation for all of it, getting everybody at a round table, and allowing for a safety space, a space of safety so that every voice can be heard. And then maybe I don't know if it's picking out the best pieces of it. But I, or holding the space for all of it. So that we can bring about change. Because as you as you mentioned, we don't want the same picture that we have now. It's to to evolve it in a way that's going to suit everybody and be relatives. I love that idea. When you say relatives, it just brings me joy, to know that we can all be relative.

Patty:

We are all related.

Robert:

So I think an important concept in that for me is it's in the title for today solidarity. And that, you know that there's a there's a time for talking, there's a time for solidarity, and sometimes I hear people say, Why are you talking about that? We don't have a dog in that fight. You know, I mean, I hear that a lot. And And I'll say, I don't, that's not how I do things. I don't really think about them in that way. Of course, I have a course I have a stake in that. You know, because what's going on there something that needs to be addressed. And so I'm addressed that. I didn't I don't calculate things that way. And I don't think we should, and that that, that.

That solidarity is such an important thing. And I think that at best it does grow out of relationships that are already that already exists. It's so much easier. Those relationships already exist. This, sometimes it doesn't sometimes you have to go stand with people. And that's where you start a friendship is by standing with them. And, and you stand with people without asking a lot of questions, you make up your mind to go stand with them, and then you got to go stand with them. And if you need to leave, then you leave. But you don't you don't say, Now, can we do this another way? Or could we? Could we change our goals a little bit here? It's like, no, no, no, you're you're standing in solidarity. If you can't do that, then stop standing, you know. But that, that, that's hard in and of itself, you know, and it can be hard for people to do. But it's also really important. But I think it's strengthened by the quality of conversations that happen. Before and after.

I think that sometimes people these days are always looking for easy resolution. And they don't realize that part of solidarity is getting together afterwards and saying, what worked about that? What didn't? I had some questions about what went down over there? I wasn't going to slow things down in the moment. But could you kind of clue me in? What was that, you know, I got to pick up a bad vibe from that person. What was that all about? Do you know?

And just to, you know, and one of the things that always is remarkable to me that amongst activists, people, people who really go out and put themselves on the line, it's not usually very hard for, for Black people and Native people to get together to stand with each other. You know, I mean, one of the one of the first things that Black Lives Matters did was to really stand with Native people, you know, other than doing things with and for Black people very specifically, were able to embrace the idea that, that even though Native people are a very small population, in comparison, that they got problems with cops too. Right, and that it's a really violent world out there for Native people, really dangerous place for, you know, for our people to and, and that was no trouble for people inside of that people who were the real activists, they understand that they get it

Kerry: 

And are used to being on the front line.

Robert:

And as an academic, I'm always having to remember that to say, sometimes people on the inside of, you know, the cloistered walls of academia can can have more trouble than then just people around the street people in the street kind of know what's going on. And, and stance and it going back to what Patty said earlier, you know how scary it can be to figure out how am I going to get up there? But am I going to say how am I going to do this right? But you know, the payoff of that is just when you get up there, just how how good it feels. You know, if you know something is right in your heart, and you go and you stand up for it. I was you know, I feel for people that have never done that, you know, who who can't bring themselves to do it not out of pity. But I mean, it's just because you don't know how good it can feel that you've done something. You've done something to make the world a little bit different. You don't have to win, win or lose that day. You’ve already won.

Patty: 

No, that's Whoa, yeah, you give me some really good things to think about. I so appreciate your time.

Robert:

For sure. Well, you're welcome.

Patty:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for this.

Kerry: 

Thank you, Robert. I definitely got to follow you back. I think this talk was amazing, really enlightened. Mind that by night, I appreciate it.

Robert:

Thank you very much for having me.

Patty: 

Bye bye

Robert: See ya’ll Later.