Writing a book has been on my list of things to do for a long time. I actually wrote 75% of a novel in French last year but a few things happened and I got discouraged and uninspired. My book was about my own ignorance and how travel changed me, particularly in my experiences living in Benin, traveling in Togo, and volunteering in Cameroon. But my editor cut it down before he got to the end, the part where the story all comes together. So I lost hope.
My experiences traveling the world began with a trip to Alaska in 2012 for the AISES National Conference. I was already passionate about my native heritage and the health of the planet, but meeting hundreds of other native people raised with the same passions made me realize I’m not alone. Seriously, thinking of these friends of mine can make me cry. I can remember their research presentations, how enthusiastic they were over the most miniscule things (like studying how worms remediate the different horizons of soil, the preservation of sacred turtle species, etc.). I can remember their excitement to learn about other native cultures and how proud they were to share their own. I can also remember how quick they were to cry when they talked about the poverty, the pain, the histories of their own peoples and all of the things that have happened to them in the past.
Those were the people that inspired me back then, and they continue to inspire me now. Now I have studied abroad on four different continents. Now I continue to travel and don’t see myself ever stopping. But what is inspiring me to do this? It’s not to say I’ve been somewhere cool. In fact, it’s to encourage others to realize they don’t know what’s out there, that there’s more to life than what they see in their hometowns or in the media. I want people to take on dispelling their own ignorance and to attempt to even share their stories with the people they meet.
A year after my conference in Alaska, I was in Colorado for the same event. This time, I was repurposed. I had traveled with a professor in India during the summer who inspired me to take the wisdom of the projects we witnessed on the trip and to apply them to US Indian Reservation work. I walked around the events at the conference and shared my thoughts with anyone willing to hear them – and that was everyone. I was amazed by the positive responses I got. It prompted me to generate a survey, and now I am to present to a professional chapter in a month with my ideas.
The more vocal I’ve become (about anything), the more aggressively I’ve been smacked down by people who give unwarranted feedback. It has gotten me so frustrated and I never fully understood why. But, suddenly, it became clear. I wasn’t upset by what these people were saying, I was upset by why they were saying it. And why were they saying it? Well, if it was something about my personal life, jealousy is why. That, I can’t help. But when it comes to the things I am passionate about, when it comes to racism and native causes, they’re speaking purely out of ignorance.
I’m not upset about them, I’m upset for them, for their lacking education, for their poor selves that had no better way to grasp understanding. For their lack of compassion and for their lack of opportunity. For how it must feel when caring people look at them and see them as vain fools. I mean, it must be far worse to live with that much bundled hatred, spite, and ignorance.
I’ve always thought, if only they knew. But how to even begin? How to start from the beginning of the truth, about the histories and the causes and the current experiences? The facts, the memoirs, the photos, the real people with real stories… If I even tried to explain, wouldn’t they just cut me off? But what if I could tell them but they didn’t have to know that I knew that they knew…but they would eventually just know and let it go. Or maybe some would have a total change of heart. Yet again maybe some would feel convicted and become even more aggressive, but then shame on them. But how how how could I make that happen??
Finally, I know what I’m going to write about.