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Interview with Letha Strickland

Interviewee: 
Strickland, Letha
Interviewer: 
Gardner, Susan
Date of Interview: 
2003-10-27
Identifier: 
NAST0008
Subjects: 
Lumbee history; Native American history; American Indian; women’s history; gender roles; racial fraud; Native Americans in urban environments; Central Piedmont Community College; mixed race marriage
Abstract: 
Letha Strickland, a Lumbee Indian, describes issues surrounding gender that she and other Native American women have encountered, as well as some of the important areas in which progress has been made. Particular emphasis is placed on Native American women in urban environments, their adaptation, and their growth as cultural leaders in the urban environment. The interview also focuses on the presence of women in local government organizations and their efficacy in comparison with male counterparts. During the discussion the issue of ethnic legitimacy and fraud is explored, including the phenomena of mixed racial marriage and its implications for child rearing.
Coverage: 
Robeson County, North Carolina; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; late 20th century - 2000’s
Collection: 
Native Carolinian and Indian Elders Collection
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
SG (Susan Gardner): Yeah, that moves so slowly, that counter moving. I think coming at the end of the day Saturday--and let me have this mic closer to you.
LS (Letha Strickland): OK.
SG: The coming at the end of the day on Saturday when they’ve already been meeting on Friday and Saturday and giving reports from the various centers that it would probably be just boring if I then went on and said, “Well, I’ve talked to women who are directors of Native American centers here and there, and this is what they do.”
LS: Right.
SG: Unless there was something that was really, really, really different. But one of the things that I did want to ask about first of all-- I’m not sure if I’m right about this but--it seems to me that the urban centers do have a lot to do with sustaining, maintaining ethnicity when people are removed from either their reservation or their hometown and it has seemed to me that women have played a very large role in this. I’m wondering if that’s correct and secondly, I’m wondering if this is simply what they have been doing all along but in a new context which is urban or if there are also--, I was going to say, let’s put it this way, new ways of doing what they have always done. And some of what they’re doing quite innovative wouldn’t necessarily make it to what they always done. Does that make sense?
LS: Yeah, it makes sense, it makes a lot of sense.
SG: How would you describe some of these activities that help to maintain people’s sense of being Indian even though they are spatially disconnected, from where they come from and the roles that women are doing now.
LS: From coming from places like Robeson County and relocating in Mecklenburg County, Guilford County or whatever; so the question you’re asking is how do we as Indian women maintain our cultural, or how do we maintain it? I’m just speaking for me, you know, and probably all the other Indian women also, we’re looked upon, I feel like we’re looked upon just like women in the job with men, competing with men in their job area. So I think that we look at it, we maintain our self in our heritage that we may be, you know, just as much as the men does. And you how it is nowadays--and I don’t know whether this is what you’re looking for or not with, I guess sort of prejudice over men and women but with different job positions that a man would get it over a woman or even non-Native American would get a position quicker than a Native American.
SG: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
LS: Does that help?
SG: To a degree it does, yes. Have you encountered, did you personally encounter when you were applying for this position, did you feel you encountered resistance either from natives or non-natives as an Indian woman applying for the job.
LS: Right, yes, yes.
SG: And which would you say is the most significant, if one was more significant than the other? Your predecessor was a man of course
LS: Right, right.
SG: Did you find that, that was any kind of hindrance?
LS: I feel like it was simply because it was a man and actually mostly the organization here had been run, the directors were men. I know Robin was in here, Robin Strickland for a short period of time but basically she was here until they could get someone to fill the position. And when the position was filled it was again with another man. You know? And since I have been in this position I’ve been faced with situations that they felt like, the board of men felt like I may not be able to handle it simply because me being a woman. So that was one of the obstacles that I’ve had to overcome and to show them that I could do the job and do it just as well as a man or better.
SG: Better. [laughter]
LS: Yeah, better, so. And I have come to, to make them realize that and to see that I can.
SG: I noticed when I was going through the various programs of pow wows, sponsored at the urban organizations, that overwhelmingly the staff seemed to be women and the directors were very often men.
LS: Uh-huh, exactly.
SG: Why do you think that has happened? Surely there are as many senior Native American women in the city, or are there not, or when you’re looking at the board are you looking for people in the position to raise funds and those might more likely be men? What do you think it is; that there is that disparity there?
LS: Between the men and the women?
SG: Yeah, and the men on the board and the women running the place.
LS: Exactly, exactly, because I think that’s basically the way--and it’s like that in a lot of organizations--and in organizations you know you’ve got your women here and pretty much whatever thing you go at, a women’s going to put more into it, I feel like personally, than a man. And she’s going to see--just like we were talking about Ms. Ruth--the long hours that she has put in and I don’t know anybody else, actually I don’t even see another woman going in, taking that position to put those long hours into the organization as she has. I don’t know whether it’s being here at Metrolina and seeing the board, we do have more men on the board that we have women. [phone rings] Actually at one time we only had two women on the board and all the others were men. I don’t know whether they didn’t go out and target to try to get more women involved much and there were more men or, to be honest with you, it’s politics. I mean these men could go out and say we need more men on the board to sort of overpower these women and I don’t think maybe the women have ever took that and went with it to say, “Well, we’re going to get some women on here.” And then I also look at it, that I feel like some of the women felt like they didn’t have the qualifications to be on the board and actually we just put, or they just voted a young lady on the board now, she’s like thirty-three maybe and she wanted to get in here and learn. And she admitted to them that, that she knew a lot but she didn’t know enough. You know, she wanted to learn more. And actually they had a vote on it and she, she got the forty seat, which I was very happy to see, you know.
SG: Who is she?
LS: Tonya Oxendine.
SG: Oh yes, I know.
LS: You know Tonya?
SG: Yes.
LS: Tonya Oxendine, you know, she’s a probation officer so, here in Charlotte so.
SG: That’s wonderful. .
LS: Exactly. So, and you know regardless of what board you’re on, I know I went down and sit in on the county commissioner’s and the city council board, especially the city council board. Of the men that’s on that board verses the women that are on the board and the very same way with the county commissioner. But I really admired, I admired Becky Connie on the county commission. I admire--what is her name--Pam Seitz.
SG: The city manager?
LS: Yeah, I admire her too because she, even though it looked like they were really coming down on her, she held her composure, she held herself up and she explained why she did what she had done definitely with them. So and it’s the same way then and like Metrolina here, when we go into the board meetings I admire Patrick and Ms. Staxby ‘cause they’re going to speak up and what they feel like is right against all the men. And it seems like the men come together as to go with conflict with the women. And I think they look at us as being a weaker vessel. You know, that we can’t do it as good as they can, any position or any job whatsoever. And I think us being Indian, all women and non-Indian women I’m pretty sure is faced with the same problem in job positions. That’s going to make us work that much harder to let them see that we can do it.
SG: Well one thing I’ve wondered about is the kind of, of sexism that you were describing, is very much that is the kind that is pervasive, characteristic of the white culture and yet I think that from what I’ve read of traditional, some traditional Indian cultures and especially the matrilineal ones, that although they were very sharply gender differentiated tasks and social spheres, there wasn’t the idea that one was more important than the other, that it was more gender complimentary. And I’ve also read about--of course this can only be speculation about the Lumbees and their origins--I’ve also had the impression in my interviewing in the county is that if the social organization of the various groups who came--, or some of them who came to comprise the Lumbee had been based on naturally real clans and if they still exist in however mapped or invisible form then it seems to me that when the acculturation began in the seventeenth century the invaders were of course patrilineal and patriarchal and sometimes I find it a bit stifling when I’m in Robeson County because I feel like taking several steps backward as a woman, that’s it’s viewed as extraordinary--by the men, not by the women-- by the men that I will come there along for example, that I am not married and I get somewhat trivialized and patronized. And I keep thinking, “What a pity! I don’t believe you guys were like that originally but now look at this.” The influence of the pastors, the influence before World War II with the Blood Committees, of the Red Men’s Lodges. And so this led me to one of my speculations, whether or not in the cities perhaps with women doing so much work with the earth and organizations I wonder if it’s not offering them an opportunity to reclaim some authority in the public sphere, that back home they may have laughed. Does that make any sense?
LS: That makes a lot of sense.
SG: Does it?
LS: It does. It makes a lot of sense, what you’re saying. So how they even going down now, how you still get back--.
SG: It depends on how well you interact with. I find it very much in the church for example.
LS: Yes.
SG: And then I also realize that I’m an outsider; that people won’t necessarily respond to me in a particularly open way so I have to arrive with all of that.
LS: And you’re exactly right there because--. Actually native people, they’re much, it’s much easier for them and they’re more comfortable talking with another Native American about certain issues. They’re more--. But to be honest with you, and even with myself, I find it easier for me to, if I’m going out and applying, just take for instance trying to get a loan or if I need money, I would rather--, and actually years back the Native Americans, you know they hung together, they pulled together, if this family needed this, definitely the other family was there, you know to help out. Where I’m more comfortable if I need to make a loan or whatever, to be honest with you, I am more comfortable going to a non-Indian than I am an Indian.
SG: How do you account for that? Is that a kind of internalized--, yeah, how do you account for that?
LS: I think it’s because, you know, I feel like since native people are so close tied, I feel like, just take for instance if I would go somewhere and maybe a loan didn’t pass or something like that, I feel like if a non-Native American’s not going to go and talk--
SG: Tell everybody else. [laughter]
LS: Exactly. Where native, our people, and it’s sad to say but our own people is so bad for that. So things that they are comfortable with talking with to their own race would be any family issues or things like that, but then there are other things that, just like I said me personally, and I know other Native Americans feel the same way, but we can relate to a, we can relate to a Native American more easily than a white. Just like you were saying, going out, talking with them, you might, they would feel comfortable maybe talking to a Native American as opposed to talking to non-native. And you probably felt that in some of the interviews that you’ve done.
SG: In some of them. It depends upon the circumstances. And I’ve found that in the beginning stages because I’ve interviewed some people several times--if, by working with them, you know, that helped them out. I think people were talking more freely than they would just to me. But then if I came back, sometimes we could pick up where we had left off. But I am wondering if, you know, when the Lumbees realized that to survive they would have to adapt in crucial ways.
LS: Exactly.
SG: The part of that adaptation was granting men a larger voice than they might have had originally.
LS: Exactly.
SG: And you know that’s been one of the things I’ve sensed. It’s difficult to phrase it any more precisely and yet I’ve always carried away the impression of being one strength and power of the women, which might not be easily grasped in the public sphere, but that it’s there. Is that so?
LS: Yeah. Does that sound--?
SG: Reasonable?
LS: Yes.
SG: And one of the issues that I’ve found in the cities has been this issue of a kind of transformation of the churches. And I’ve been to several meetings at the Methodist church on Shamrock Drive and I’ve been there both when they’ve had the white pastor Jimmy Howard and then they had Gary Rebels. And the kinds of meetings I’ve been to haven’t been the actual services although I’ve been to a few of those. And I’ve been to two of the conferences of late General Mutska as well. But meetings for--, they were talking about traditional spiritual beliefs and then how it might be possible even if just symbolically to Indianize the actual service. And I was astonished at one meeting--in fact it was Ruth and Rosa--were talking about what seemed to me relatively minor issues like could you have feathers on the choir robes for example, or be ( ) during the service and the resistance of the Indian men was I mean voice and palpable and verged on insulting; and so that the women then found themselves with ( ) gave us a lengthy defense of the trinity for example, you know, as if they had to establish that they weren’t being any less the Christians simply because they wanted to make it somewhat culturally ( ).
LS: Exactly.
SG: But the men were pretty brutal. Do you find that
LS: Uh-huh.
SG: characteristic?
LS: Yes, exactly.
SG: And I can see how they’d be invested in this highly patriarchal religion ( ).
LS: Right, right.
SG: So that struck me as one sight of both innovation and resistance. Have you seen any, I remember Ruth also saying my grandmother would be appalled if she could see me advocating these things.
LS: ( ).
SG: Yes.
LS: Definitely, because actually it used to be that men--, the women is not supposed to say anything. The women sit there and let men be in control whereas the years past, you know, Native American women such as Ms. Ruth and Rosa, look, or Ruth Dowelwoods
SG: Yes.
LS: you know we need a voice in this. And over the years they seem, if we’re going to get out and work where as used to the women didn’t work. They stayed home and took care of the house and took care of the children. As now, women get out and work, and being an Indian woman too I look at it that I get out and work also. So I’m not going to be like my mother and my grandmother, sit and not voice my opinion; whereas in the past, in years past the men, the decision that was made was the man. Whether the wife liked it or not that decision passed and she said she did nothing, regardless of how she felt inside. So now things have changed from that where women having get out and work and bring in the money also. So they look and say you know we’re working too so we need to have a voice and we need to be heard, not just the men.
SG: No, no.
LS: And it’s probably like that in other, I would say probably like the same in other nationalities, races or whatever.
SG: And it leads to a lot of problems. We find that social problems, like one of the programs by Asian women say, or Korean-American women, Hispanic for that matter, what seems to be an increase in domestic violence than, you know. And that’s a very real concern. Is that the men are finding their roles somewhat attenuated, their traditional roles and women are moving out and expressing themselves more and also sometimes suffer for having done so.
LS: Right, right.
SG: Another area that interested me was--and I think that’s through knowing Jennifer in part--has been the development of art galleries and expressive arts and contests and so on, and when I’ve interviewed older women like Ms. Thelma for example and we Kroger about recreation when she was young in Robeson County, story telling and so forth, she would say, “There wasn’t any time. We were too tired.” And she describes the kind of, what I would called, rough gender equality among the sharecroppers and the tenant farmers where the girls did as much farm work as they did farm work.
LS: As the men.
SG: Yeah, absolutely. And then this resistance to relocation with the husband came first. You know there was absolutely no possibility for her to work back in the county. And she didn’t want to come and she speaks very movingly about how bare she was when she finally arrived. She said, “A grown woman with seven children and I was crying every day.” And yet in the end, of course, it led to her flowering as the kind of cultural leader. And again I’m wondering if that is a relatively typical experience that the city wanted or not, offered her opportunities for cultural leadership.
LS: Right, right. Yes.
SG: And in Robeson County--and I think writers to, which of course is where I come from, if you’d see in an English department--that I’m seeing women developing along those lines: expressively and creative form. Would you have seen that so much before?
LS: No, but much more so now with Native women doing right. I was trying to think of a young lady’s name down in Robeson County that is a writer but she normally, she’s at the Unity Conference.
SG: Julia Rumstein? Or is she younger? [pause]
LS: I know Delores Cunnis is an artist. I can not think of her name. But they’re definitely getting into the writing now more so than in the past. Is that what you’re saying, that you’re wondering?
SG: Yeah, came to me that I’d been observing that in all art forms really; except I guess for the drum.
LS: Right, right.
SG: And I see so many women working with children different now, children of wholesale, someone like Barbara Locklear here. And I’m thinking the role of Barbara Braboy Locklear in Robeson County collecting the oral histories, curating the photographs and that sort of thing, is that--. But then I’m asking myself, “What opportunities were there for that kind of creative expression for either gender, say after World War Two?”
LS: There probably weren’t many.
SG: Yeah.
LS: They probably weren’t, because just like Ms. Thelma said back in Robeson County, you know, they was no time hardly for play. We thought on Saturdays and Sundays was a real treat, ‘specially Sundays for us being able to have some time to play, whereas like she said during the week working on the farm and everything you were too tired to even do anything but eat and go to bed, you know, back then, so.
SG: Yeah. [pause] I think my overall question about this is that the more I think about it I’m not terribly surprised from the standpoint of my own culture to see what kinds of opportunities are available to Indian women in the cities, because they seem to be in some way extensions of traditional roles. A Lumbee woman very often could be a teacher back home and the teaching then diversifies. It’s not only within the school system but the various sort of cultural activities the center sponsors for example; an extension of nurturance, an extension of sustaining the community, whether it be the literal reproduction of children or maintaining constant habits and so forth. And this would be paralleled, as you say, by the experience of many others. And I keep reminding my students, my women students a hundred years ago you wouldn’t have been in college.
LS: Oh no.
SG: [laughter] So it’s true of my culture as well. And I’m wondering if we aren’t trapped within our traditional female roles and now we’re just finding more exhaustive ways, to exercise them than ever on a public stage rather than in a private stage.
LS: Yes. I would say that also. [pause]
SG: Would you see that that situation could be enumerated somewhat? I’m asking such leading questions and I don’t like to do that. I was wondering if centers were staffed more equally by men and women. What kind of difference would that make if any?
LS: You’re saying just like the Indian organization here, we would have equal men working as women? [pause] Actually the way I look at it, at that point is a lot of men, they’re not that interested in the culture part of it as the women are so they would say, we could say don’t see eye to eye even here when we have a function. You know, it’s like working in an office and working in here. Actually it’s been more women than it has men. But now in the past, as far the director or anything like that like I said before, it has been men. But from my understanding from this center here, even though they have a man director the woman was, the women were the ones behind him doing pretty much all the work. You see what I’m saying?
SG: So they might be physically there but they didn’t necessarily affect what kind of work was being done.
LS: Exactly.
SG: When you said they don’t necessarily see eye to eye in the functions, what would be an example?
LS: I would say, just take for instance at our pow wows, actually the pow wow that’s coming up. Now we’re going to have some men out doing like the real manual but the women will be out there doing manual work too to get everything set up. But where we’re more important of how the pow wow is going to go, the cultural part of it, they--, they’re not that interested in it. But they will be over here like in the cook, the t-shirt booth, the fund raising part of it, but the traditional part of it they’re not. So I see men as not being as interested, as concerned as the women is trying to hold on to our cultural; very few men. Now there’s some men but not as many men as there are women.
SG: And that leads to another observation. I went to hear Rosa and one of the Carters speak at the light factory and one of the comments was made almost in passing was that she was flaunting that association needed Native American Woman. And so I immediately asked then what would their concerns be. And one of them, catch me off guard but it doesn’t anymore, especially in view of what you’re seeing. She said she found they were two concerns. One was that she was surprised to find how many white women were asking for assistance with their native children because the man had decamped.
LS: Right.
SG: And the women wanted the children to grow up knowing their native heritage and of course didn’t know how to do it. And so they were asking for some assistance there, which led me to think, “I wonder why the men married white in the first place?” Maybe it was an attempt to leave the county behind, the past behind and so forth, then for whatever reason the marriage didn’t work. And the woman who the least qualified to bring the kids up as native, none the less was hoping to do so.
LS: Right.
SG: So that interested me a lot. Have you seen anything like that?
LS: Where the women would marry, those Indian men would marry the whites, would marry white.
SG: Yeah. And then if the marriage failed the woman was left with the responsibility of ( ).
LS: Yes. And that’s, you know true. Because even like with, with coming here we have a--actually think two--two white women, maybe three that have been in marriages with Indian men and they would, the Indian men would just go off and say they’ve got a child here that’s part Native American. And they’re really interested so the responsibility is really left, is sort of put on them. But I keep telling I admire them so much because they want their children to learn the Indian culture. As opposed to their daddy being Native American and he could only care less whether they learn it or not. So yeah, I’ve seen that and it happens, you know.
SG: And so what is the center able to do then, in that position? And then you make them aware of programs for children?
LS: Exactly, and then we have the culture class here on Thursday nights [recording interrupted] [recording resumes] there and do surgery on that and then they had to go back and open her up. But she was our main one that was going to classes. So now, since Barbara’s sick we have Darrel Bird. He works with the Catawbas. Do you know Darrel?
SG: Oh yes. Uh-huh. I love him.
LS: He’s doing our classes for us.
SG: Yeah, what about Reggie? Has he been--?
LS: Reggie has moved down, back down to Robeson County.
SG: Has he really?
LS: He has moved back down to Robeson County. He remarried and has a little girl.
SG: Really? Is it an Indian woman?
LS: Yes, yes.
SG: He used to talk about that all the time and how there weren’t that many around. [laughter]
LS: Right. And that’s full of things I want to say too as far as Indian men marrying white. When they left out of Robeson County--and the same with Indian women marrying white--whey they left out of Robeson County going to--, ‘cause I went to Springboro-High Point and there’s not that many Indian men and so the men looked at it as there’s not that many Indian women. And I would say that’s one of the reasons that they really married white.
SG: Yeah, uh-huh, yeah.
LS: Was because of that.
SG: And intuitively I’ve speculated again that if an Indian woman marries out as Jennifer, Rosa and Dell have done so forth, the positions the children will be relatively safe though because the Indian women want the culture to be learned
LS: Exactly.
SG: and that’s almost, I think the condition of their marrying. Women know perfectly well they’re going to have Indian kids. [laughter]
LS: Exactly, exactly.
SG: Or Linda Oxendine, whatever. But when it’s the other way around and the mother is not Indian, that’s when they danger of loosing the culture
LS: The culture --
SG: -- you know, can be really --
LS: Exactly.
SG: they become more possible, you know. But that’s just; you know again it’s just a purely intuitive observation. The other issue Rosa said that they were confronting was ethnic fraud, people pretending to be Indian, whether white or black, but being recognized as such. Like at the public library for instance hired as story tellers and so forth. Does this urban center have a position on that? I don’t suppose you want to function as identity police exactly but has that been an issue you’ve run up against?
LS: Yes, it has been an issue but--and Rosa’s exactly right and I’m glad that she’s working on this little committee to see what they can do about that but yes, we’ve been confronted with it. And I’ve even, we’ve had people to come in, just take for instance the pow wow, with competition, you know they have the trauma card. And if we feel like some does not have a tribal card and we do not have a record on them, then no they can’t really enter the competition in the pow wows. And we’ve had a lot of people to come in and say that they are Haliwa-Saponi, Coharie or something in that area, that that’s what they were. And you know, you know, where’s your card? Basically we have our tribal card. And I’ve even had one Waccamaw-Siouan. Sabrina even had one investigated and by doing that she went to the Haliwa-Saponi, said this guy is coming to our pow wows, he’s dressed out, he says that he’s Haliwa-Saponi. Well he could not give no history or anything so he had her to call me. He danced here in competition. And when she did that I said, “No he did not.” I don’t even have him registered here, because they have to fill out a form when they enter competition; their tribe and everything, their name, address. I said I don’t even know this guy, I don’t even have a form on him. So yes there is some non-natives going out into, even into the school system teaching or saying that they are Native American when they’re not. And actually I think the commission of Indian Affairs is working on something in that regard also; actually supposed to pass in April. An organization cannot be formed, no more organizations unless they’re from a tribe. So that’s-- and it’s becoming more and more of a issue.
SG: It seems to be. And that, again seems to be more possible in the cities. If we were back home there wouldn’t be related to anybody, nobody would know them, it wouldn’t be an issue. Whereas, in the city that’s possible. And so I see that as a real threat again to the transmission of culture and maintenance of culture. I had a man call me once wanting to organize a meeting on campus and he said to me, I’m calling from one of the Indian organizations in town and I thought, “Wait a minute.” [laughter]
LS: Not but one Indian organization.
SG: Exactly. And he wanted to organize a speaker on campus and wanted to use campus facilities and so forth. And I immediately started checking with all the Indian people. And of course he was also a phony. And I guess he just assumed that people like campus and certainly white people wouldn’t know any better and could get away with it but he couldn’t because we have a Native American academy and a Native American student association and we knew to check that out. And I hate to say this because I’m just appalled that it should have happened and I fought just as hard as I could against it but my department, the English department has hired a man who is going to arrive in August who claims to be Abenaki and has yet to demonstrate a genealogy that would get him onto the tribal rule. But my position, which members of my department just apparently could not get was--. I said it won’t matter if he managed. And he’s I would say my age, in his fifties. It won’t matter if he manages to establish some 17th century ancestor or 18th century. He did not grow up Abenaki, he has never been linked to the community that he’s now claiming to be related to. All of his education has been as a white person. And we did some background checking too. We went back two and a half decades and never once in his life, personally or professionally, did he say that he was Indian. But this job was for an Indian and he was desperate for work. And, you know, I pulled up the webpage of the Association of Native American and Alaska Native Professors with their statement on their ( ). The university didn’t care, they just wanted to bump up their statistics and say they hired a Native American.
LS: Oh wow.
SG: I am sickened by it and I think this isn’t over with yet. I think he’s going to walk into a mare’s nest when he arrives and discover the first thing native people will ask him is who are your people and do we know any of them?
LS: Exactly, you’re exactly right.
SG: So I’m very keenly aware right now of the possibility for getting away with it. And that the University Administrators didn’t even listen to us, because they wanted that statistic. And, you know, I’m extremely disillusioned. Let me just see if there’s anything else here I wanted to ask. Another thing I found by the way in teaching Native American women’s writing which is wonderful and there’s so much. Indeed when I teach an undergraduate course just in contemporary Native American literature, I always have to scramble around trying to find good male authors, I’m trying to get a gender balance there. [laugher] And it’s difficult, there are some. But I frankly don’t think they’re quite as good. But was I was looking for was depictions of Native American women in cities and I will find the occasional poem or short story or whatever and I found one novel. But that basically urban native women are not very well represented in the literature and I’ve been puzzling out why that would be. Have any ideas about that? Why they just haven’t made their appearance and there are plenty of urban Native American male characters. And the whole novel will be about them and how disoriented and alienated they feel and they’re often a veteran; whether World War II or Korea or Vietnam, usually addicted or psychologically disturbed and the whole novel is how they reconnect with their culture and become better and often go back home. But I haven’t found any that center on Native American women characters in cities and I’m curious as to why that hasn’t happened.
LS: I don’t know.
SG: And one thing that crossed my mind here is who would be writing them? And I guess we’d have to find an articulate educated woman and that articulate in almost all Native American women I know are articulate and educated and are sucked up in jobs like yours or in Indian education or whatever or they don’t even work--I mean as Wanda Carter for many years worked at Duke Energy. She wasn’t working directly, although voluntarily she was working very very hard with Indian concern--that those women would be your natural writer.
LS: Exactly.
SG: But writing also requires leisure. And I don’t see native women in cities as having an abundance of leisure.
LS: They don’t.
SG: So I’m just wondering if that might be one of the reasons.
LS: And it could be.
SG: You know, that the creativity would be there but not the opportunity to write ( ).
LS: Because of like you said being caught up in the jobs we’re called up in. Exactly.
SG: Well I think I have actually touched, and very conscious of how little time we have [laughter] I can see you’re all morning and chat. I know you have so many other things to do. I was just wondering if there was anything you wanted to comment on that I haven’t actually asked about because this is taken the form of me following up some intuitions that have been gathered from more from random comments that native women have made to me than from any systematic study. How do you see the future of native women in cities for example?
LS: I see--, well I know we’re growing, I know we’re growing; and I see it as an opportunity and a growth with Indian women here in the urban areas, that we’re going to be seen and heard more, but it’s going to take us as a team and working together to help make that happen. But I see, I see, growing. I mean it may not be just all of a sudden and it may take time but I see it--especially women like Rosa or Wanda Carter, Patrick ( )--women like those women to make sure it happens. ‘Cause what I always admired about Patrick is a position that she was in, in her job, she, even though she was not working in the Indian Organization, she was downtown for the city, she would let them know and even now with her working in the census programs since 2000--
SG: Oh is she doing that?
LS: She’s doing that. She’s well, they’re well hearing the voice of Native Americans.
SG: What is your attitude toward the 2000 census? I know it’s often been difficult native people or they’ve been reluctant to be counted.
LS: Right.
SG: Is this organization doing anything in particular to ensure?
LS: Basically yes; and working with Patrick, working in that area with us, that she is on our board of directors. And it’s finding a more accurate number this time because the last time the census was done they don’t think that there was an accurate count of it. But this year with her working with it and working with all different other tribes also, that the Native Americans is definitely counted. So that’s the way that she’s doing it.
SG: I am glad to hear about that because one can feel ambivalent about the census but it is the basis for entitlement.
LS: Exactly.
SG: What were you doing before you came here?
LS: Well since I--, when I lived in High Point I worked with a company, I was a purchasing agent with a company, then I remarried and moved here. I did volunteer work for Guilford Native and did a lot of volunteer work with her, and I served on their board of directors for I think about a year until, you know, I had some more health problems and stuff. And so I came here, I had worked all my life and my husband says well for the next two years, you know, don’t worry about working and go to school. So I started to school at Central Piedmont, in Human Services Technology. I went into that there. And, so this position came open and I came here to work END SIDE A BEGIN SIDE B
LS: until they hired someone. And my plans was not to be here, continuing school so then it got time going to school full time as demanding as this job is here, so I quit school. And I hate that so bad ‘cause I had already went a year, I didn’t need but another year. So that’s how, that’s how I got here, in this position here. And it’s took a lot of work and studying because I came into a position with the JPPA that I knew some but I didn’t know all that I needed to know so I had to come in here and read and research and call and do all of that plus not counting all the other things that this job here entails, you know being such short staffed, you know.
SG: I’ve also had the impression from time to time that in various organizations--and this is hardly typical only of Indians but the previous management was mismanagement and so there’s a lot of damage control to do and a lot of cleaning up before you begin to.
LS: Exactly! And that’s what I had to do here and still having to do, you know here. I’ve learned a lot and I have to say I enjoy it. I enjoy what I do, I’m a people person and it gives me the opportunity to interact with, with like with you; to be able to interact with other cultures and with other people and other organizations, it give me that opportunity.
SG: Well unless there’s anything that you wanted to say?
LS: No.
SG: [laughter] You might think of something. I find I always do. [laughter]
LS: [laughter]
SG: “Why didn’t I ask her that?” Oh there is one other thing, factionalism. I’m not sure what my question is here. Let me think about it. I suppose as soon as you get Indians in cities but this can also happen back home. Do you think women respond to political factionalism any different than men do? Or do they tend to side with whatever group is currently fighting with another group? This is a very ill formed question. I’m not quite sure what I mean. It just crossed my mind. Is there some level at which women of otherwise varying factions manage to keep on communicating or not? I don’t know if this is a relevant question.
LS: Communicating with other women or?
SG: Across whatever might be the divisive issue at the time.
LS: Right, right.
SG: Or do they tend to get caught up in it?
LS: Personally I think they get--that’s just me and the way I see it--I think they allow themselves to get caught up in it. And it’s sad, it really is sad because you know I look at so many brilliant Native American women and if they could just work together and put their minds together, just think what we could do. I tell them that all the time, because there’s some here and some there and I know them both and friends with the both and I look all of ‘em’s strengths, you now their strengths. And I tell them all the time, I said, “If you guys would come together, just think what we could have, what we could accomplish.”
SG: An unstoppable force I think.
LS: Exactly, exactly. ‘Cause all of ‘em’s just so brilliant. I hope I, I hope that’s.
SG: Yeah, it’s just, you know as I said it was off the top of my head. In fact I can see too in your position, you really got to be above and beyond. [laughter]
LS: Exactly. Exactly.
SG: In order to keep the whole ship afloat.
LS: Exactly.
SG: Well thank you so much!
LS: Well you are welcome and trusting.
SG: And I will--, I’ll tell you about.
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