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By placing ourselves in situtions where we are the Other.
Last year, after happily discovering that my DH is Native American (the culture and everything NDN has always been a passion of my children were part of this great nation!), well, we as a family went to the Baltimore American Indian Powwow. I was so excited about it I totally blew off visiting family for the day to go to the all day event. It was horribly hot and threatening rain, however it was really fun and interesting. I had never been to anything like it. I didn't really feel like an other the whole ride there until I walked in the gates. I don't know why either, because I had been reading up on NDN issues and history (before unknown to me because of public school 'education') so I thought I was well versed and knew what to expect. But all of a sudden, I felt odd. Out of place. I was still excited and liked everything...but all of a sudden I felt like a tourist. An outsider looking in.

What is going through your mind during the moment?
I shook off the feeling many times because I don't accept such feelings in myself. I grew up around racism, but I don't and will not allow that type of behavior or thought pattern in me, so I just pushed it aside as nervousness about not knowing enough about the culture as I thought I did, and well, that was the reason I was there. To learn more! I watched the dancers and was intoxicated by the rhythm. I decided to accept the fact that we were uneducated, but that didn't mean that we (I) should be alarmed or on edge. This was a once a year deal and I should absorb as much as possible (before DH starts to melt in the heat!)

What is going through your head about the people who surround you? What do you perceive will be their treatment of you? How do you act in response to all this stimuli?
I was in a good mindset when it happened. I am still ashamed and frustrated by my reaction to this day (and this was last year that it happened). I went into a vendors tent, looked at some books and was interested in purchasing a few NDN children's books. There were no prices, so I had to find the vendor to ask. There was a caucasian woman with long flowy blond hair. She looked like Mother Earth reincarnated! I thought the store was hers. I started to ask her how much and she motioned to a man sitting down next to her. He was totally what you would expect an NDN (Indian) to look like in the face. Very strong features. I was startled by my reaction - I was scared! Me?!??!?! WHY!??!?! Then he stood up, and he was WAY taller than I had expected. I could barely speak! I felt like I had walked into a different dimension. Like I said, I am still confused and frustrated and embarrassed by my reaction. I hope that it didn't show on my face, but he did look a little pissed off at me. Maybe it was my fear seeing it, but I so wanted to run...and now want to apologize.

I have since then read more, learned more, and more importantly, met and have become friends with more NDN people. I understand their mindset so much better than I thought I had. I was only learning of things in the past. Now I am involved with the issues and people of today. It doesn't matter your percentage of Indian Blood... that is the US governments way of controlling and thus killing the Red race. Besides, all NDNs feel as if there is only one race - Human. We are all of the same blood. We are all of the same Mother, the same Father, and we are all related. I hope that we get to go to Powwow this year, and that I can feel the change in my reaction. I now know that it was a deep ingrained reaction that broke out of me that day - something I was taught in public school in Michigan - where they taught us racist school songs about killing Indians, praising the day that they would all be dead. I felt it was wrong then, and I didn't sing them...but somehow they got something into me...something that came out that day at the Powwow! I have never felt "other" or the need to be fearful until that day...and people don't deserve to be treated that way. I just didn't know that that was in me, or that is something that I would feel!

I want my children to be free and clear of that. But How?!?!? I think that is the next question to be asked...
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