Recently, I took a journey to two cities that thrive with political and social relationships that are so defining to the ways of people in the USA. I went to Washington DC and New York City. In many ways these cities represent this country in ways that are both grounded in the best of intentions and in the most difficult of circumstances and behaviors.
As Native people we have a long history of venturing in and out of Washington DC. It has long been the place of America’s greatest political power. In the early days of colonialism, as Washington was established and began to attract the good and bad of this country’s politicians and justice seekers, we came to understand that in order to navigate the new world created by the founding of the United States, that we must go visit this city, our ancestors went by walking, on horseback, later in trains, and cars and now we fly. We go there into this seat of political power looking for the next chapter in the stories passed down from our parents and grandparents – the stories of our nationalism as tribes, the stories of our negotiations, the stories of our sacrifices and our hope. As tribal educators, we are often hopeful that by some miraculous intervention, the resources will come from Congress and the President to fully fund our early learning programs, our schools and our colleges. We wish for the fulfilled promise of the makers of our treaties. I wish we didn’t have to go there, I wish for us to have everything we need, nestled in the heart of our homelands.
I visited friends at the National Congress of American Indians. The embassy sits nestled among row houses on a shady street. Our most powerful political leaders go in and out of those doors, leading us. We are working on developing a better, more public understanding of financing of tribal higher education both for institutions and students.
A gathering of educators and social leaders to discuss how to creat a social movement in support of the importance of a college education was the reason for my trip to DC. The tribal colleges are a social movement created through our story-telling and now we are part of a larger movement supported by social media and flashy slogans.
I made my first trip into New York City, into Manhattan, where I actually stayed several days instead of just overnight. I was pleasantly surprised at the adventure. There really are concrete canyons and millions of people. One article I read said that over 800 languages are spoken in NYC, that it is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. I even had the dubious pleasure of riding in a NYC cab with thedriver weaving in and out of spaces that were inches away from the cab.
Besides visiting with supporters of the College Fund, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/08/bite-big-apple-american-indian-college-fund-raises-awareness-contributions-tribal , several of us attended the annual conference of the Independent Sector. This organization advocates for and educates both non-profits and the public.
This was a good trip, I saw the doll exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, browsed a street fair outside my hotel in NYC, ate at corner deli and had that adventurous cab ride. I appreciated the privilege of travel and the fact that I could share pictures on Facebook.