"The United States has always been a figment of some white folks' imagination." - Chip Livingston
When I first started this project, I would share it with the world in passionate spurts between my usual introverted and insecure moments of slowness. When I was pulling myself out of one of these moments to share this onesey project, I happened to see a former classmate, who is Native, post on Facebook a beautiful photo of a beaded project she had finished for her husband. I awkwardly asked her if she knew Salish and if she was interested in beading the message "I am the future of the United States" onto one of them. She responded with a terse message about how she didn't have time and accused me of appropriation. I didn't know how to respond. I was defensive. I try to do so much for others including those who are "marginalized" and this is how I am treated? After I heard that question come out of me, I knew that she had a point. I was hurt and fragile, but she had a point. I wrote back and said that the last thing that I wanted to do was appropriate and that if she was willing, I would like to know what in my message made her think that that was my intention. You can't expect a person to respond when you ask. Just because you are a hurt white heteronormative person does not mean anyone has to respond.
She did respond and we started a short conversation that has had a lasting effect on me. As I explained the project, she understood it more and in turn shared with me how she did not recognize the current borders within our region and that her people also considered parts of Canada home. She said all of this much more eloquently, but it is very important that I try to repeat it in my own words. I had also made the assumption that she might know Salish when in fact, she does not and does not identify as part of a group that would. I fumbled around just as much as someone with little knowledge of LGBTQ normenclature would. But let's face it. I struggle with "him," and "her," and "they" too.
I have been struggling with the worry of appropriation ever since.
It is nearing time for the first installation to get organized and I realized that there still wasn't a onesy stitched in Salish. Considering the fact that this language has been a part of the place where I live much longer than English or any other language has, I finally reached out to the Salish School of Spokane and asked them for a translation. I went on in my email about how the original message was "I am the future of the United States" but that it may not be suitable and that "I am the future" would be fine too.
Within an hour, I received "in̓cá kn̓ kscaw̓tət I am our future (way of being)."
Loving language, I can note and appreciate the use of the first person plural "our" and the fact that the future involves "our" whole way of existing with it.
I have nothing that isn't sappy and trite to say in response and so I will work on stitching the words. Loving my type and onesy color. It is blue but the photo is much warmer. Now I just have to decide on the color of the thread.