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Tiny Native

Assignment 2 

Pitch: What Does it Mean to Be Native in the 21st Century?

Last month, as the Baby Veronica drama unfolded, I found myself awkwardly holding a minority opinion as an Oklahoman and a Native American.  In Oklahoma, where I live and where the final months of the custody battle played out, public opinion sides heavily with Dusten Brown, the Cherokee Nation and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

A card carrying member of the Choctaw tribe, the most tangible evidence of my tribal affiliation is a Christmas ornament I receive in the mail every year. It’s arrival always delights and puzzles me: I display it with some pride (“Why, yes, I’m part Choctaw!”) while wondering: ‘Are Choctaws Christian?’ 

The benefits of tribal membership extend beyond complimentary Christmas ornaments, of course. I’m also eligible to adopt Native children, from any tribe, because under ICWA placing Native children with me would do more to preserve Native culture than placing children with non-native families. This despite the fact that every time my brother visits he points out some aspect of my lifestyle that’s straight from “Stuff White People Like.” 

I propose writing an article that explores what it means to be Native American in the 21st century and ICWA’s role in preserving the existing culture. Living in Oklahoma, I have access to range of sources including contacts with the Cherokee Nation, a close friend that was adopted by a white family in 1978, just before ICWA was enacted, and my own tribe, which I will be visiting over Thanksgiving (a fitting holiday for confirming and dispelling Native lore). I will approach the subject with genuine curiosity: what am I missing in my opinion on the Baby Veronica case, and in my own life as a tribal member detached from Native culture? 

Alternate Angle

Pitch: Tribal v. Women’s Sovereignty 

Earlier this month, Dusten Brown, the biological father at the center of the Baby Veronica adoption case announced that he was giving up his fight for custody. While the case is now closed, many questions linger in the minds of those who’ve followed the case closely. In Oklahoma, where I live and where the final months of the custody battle played out, public opinion leans heavily towards Dusten Brown and the rights of the Cherokee Nation to oversee adoptions, rights thought to be protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

As I followed the case over the Summer months, I found myself in a minority as an Oklahoman and as a Native American. I could not sympathize with Brown, who had been quick to waive his parental rights before Veronica was born, leaving biological mother Christy Maldonado to make her own choices. Nor could I support the heavy handed involvement of the Cherokee Nation, who had been quick to flex it’s muscle as  a sovereign tribe to override the careful decision Maldonado had made for her child, breaking up an established family. As a woman and a reproductive rights advocate, I’ve been troubled by the use of the Indian Child Welfare Act to trump the rights of a woman to decide what is best for her and her family.

I propose an opinion piece that explores how the Indian Child Welfare Act pits tribal sovereignty against women’s sovereignty over their reproductive choices. Christy Maldonado says she briefly considered having an abortion after Brown stepped out her life. Instead she chose to place her child up for adoption, carefully selecting a family she could trust. Under ICWA, is that a choice a non-native woman is free to make without tribal involvement?

Assignment 1

A brainstorm about my areas of interest and expertise:

Oklahoma 

  • Weather (interest) - severe weather junkie
  • Native America (curiousity)
  • Being gay in the heartland (personal experience, not like a real hardship though...  other than most of the gay ladies here suffer an unfortunate lack of fashion sensibility, which pains me).

Transportation/Urban Planning (profession)

  • Active & public transportation
  • Walkability
  • Designing citites for people
  • Local/regional government

The Sharing Economy

  • User of various collaborative consumption products (like this one!)
  • Lead sharing initiatives at neighborhood level

ARTICLE IDEAS to work on in this class


1. Yoga Breakdown - personal narrative

Last Winter I went through a slow and painful breakup with my yoga studio, as a result of an actual breakup between the owners (a married couple). There was no interruption to their business and I don't know the owners personally. Our breakup was entirely in my head and culminated with me having a minor emotional breakdown in the middle of a class as I reflected on marriage and my own relationship.

2. Baby Veronica & Women's Choice -profile of biological mother or opinion piece 

Living in Oklahoma, there has been a lot of uproar about this complicated custody battle. A lot has been said about Dusten Brown, about the Indian Child Welfare Act, about 'selling Native babies' and an 'illegal adoption'. What I haven't heard a lot about is the biological mother and how her right to choose comes into play with ICWA. I would need to do some research -might be out of my reach for this first project!

Alternatively, this brings up the question for me: what does it mean to be Native in the 21st century? Veronica is the same percentage native american as I am (which is a very small percentage, but enough to be on the rolls)...this could get long... 

3. Why I Walk to Work - personal narrative, maybe a good local piece 

Pretty simple idea, explain the benefits of walking and the joy I, personally, find in walking to work. Hopefully, encourage others to try walking for transportation, as they are able! 

These are my ideas, I welcome comments! (Despite my cover photo image - I don't know, that was just the first image I found on my computer).

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