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Mothers

Gyasi Ross
5/6/11

I love my mom. I mean, who doesn’t love their mom, right?

Still, I probably love my mom an unhealthy amount. See, like most men raised by a single mom, Native or not, I’m a mama’s boy. I was an oversized baby with a HUGE head (which I still have, by the way) and my mom is a tiny, beautiful Indian woman—she literally almost died having me because my head was so darn big.

She always reminds me that she almost gave her life to give me life—so I better be good to her! You know how Indian moms give you those eyes and make you feel really guilty? Yeah, that.

Therefore, in return for loosening her loins up a bit, I write something for her on Mothers’ Day pretty much every stinkin’ year. I used to write her profound poems and graffiti and sing her songs that I penned. Like,

“?thank you for spitting out my big ol’ head
on the hospital bed?”

and

“?you make great pork chops and rice
that go on my fork so nice?”

Really, those were the lyrics to a song that I wrote for her. Now lately, I’ve turned to writing columns to honor my mom and Native women generally—moms and moms-in-training alike—on Mothers’ Day.

In fact, writing for Mothers’ Day has kinda become my “shtick,” my gimmick of sorts. I tend to not be quite so cynical, however, choosing instead to think about it practically and call it my tribute. “A yearly sappy and sweet article and maybe a footrub in exchange for major amounts of blood and almost dying? Aho—good trade! I’ll take it!”

This year, however, I’m not feeling quite so sappy about the moms in my life; I’m feeling proud.

I’ve watched a whole lot of Native moms get healthy and take control of things in the past year. In fact, Indian moms showed their super powers in many ways—both great and small—in 2010 and early 2011. Now, I don’t give a whole lot of credence to “End of the World”-type theories, but maybe moms are getting ready to fight a battle for the souls of Indian people in 2012 (it is election year, after all—maybe they’ll give Sarah Palin a wedgie or slap The Donald silly)?? I don’t know. But they are flexing superpowers. For example, I watched my mom lose about 40 pounds and turn into something of a health nut. I’ve secretly joked that she’s either 1) got her eye on the UPS man, a handsome fella, or 2) getting ready for one of those Native-themed calendars. After all, she looks good in turquoise. Either way, her weight loss was only coincidental to an overall arch of “getting healthier” for her—she’s taken control of her life in many other small and subtle ways as well. To wit, she learned the value of regularly servicing her car—which seems trivial, I know, but judging by the massive amounts of defunct cars that we’ve historically had parked in front of our house, maybe it’s not quite so “trivial.” Also, she’s maintained her spiritual faith and continued to set a remarkable example of a spiritual Native woman.

I think this year she’s really learned the value of maintenance—her body, her car and of course her soul. Get those oil changes, mamas!

Still, it wasn’t only my lovely mom who flexed her muscles in 2010-11—not at all. In fact, there were many, many others. One happens to be one of my heroes, Elouise Cobell, a beautiful Blackfeet woman who spoke up on behalf of many, many other Indian people years ago. She took on the U.S. government and won a huge and unprecedented settlement for Indian people. Now, that’s a real Indian mama! The settlement wasn’t perfect—nothing ever is—and perfection is even rarer when you’re talking about something of this magnitude. Therefore, in true Native fashion, some other incredibly proactive and brilliant Indian women—Angelique EagleWoman and Kimberly Craven—once again took the initiative and rightfully said that perhaps the settlement that Cobell bravely initiated was not for everybody. That seems to makes sense—one size, with Indian people, usually doesn’t fit everybody (after all, have you ever seen a Hopi standing next to a Blackfeet?).

Thus, these strong Indian women presented some options for Native people, as Indian women often do. And in all these instances Native women led the charge.

There were women who took huge strides in politics. Jodi Archambault Gillette, from Standing Rock, took a job at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ and continued the BIA’s incredible transformation into a governmental Bureau that actually represents Indian people. What a thought. In other superwomen news, Niimiipu Loretta Tuell was appointed as the Staff Director/Chief Council for the Indian Affairs Committee.

All good stuff. Still, Indian women’s accomplishments were not limited to weight-loss, car maintenance, lawsuits and politics.

For example, Native women also did incredible things in sports.

Tahnee Robinson became the first Native woman drafted into the WNBA. She was a McDonald’s and Gatorade All-American and averaged 22.7 points per game. Oh yeah, she’s a mom—having her child as a teenager—and set an amazing example for all girls who feel that they have to give up their dreams because of motherhood.

Also, non-mother freshman (fresh woman?) Shoni Schimmel also kicked major oosi in college basketball. All she did in the past year was sign with a major NCAA power, play in the NCAA tourney and played a HUGE part in a couple upsets, and averaged double figures in her first year. Oh yeah, she also has a movie coming out.

In the words of Adam Sandler, “not too shabby.”

Indian women, mother and non-mother alike, had a million other accomplishments in 2010 and 2011. They will continue to, as well. My point is simply to say that Native women fully, unabashedly and amazingly ROCK and that I think it’s important that we acknowledge them. At a bare minimum we should do so on Mother’s Day, if no other day. Therefore, this is simply to say “thank you” to Indian women, and “I love you” to my mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Have you witnessed any amazing accomplishments from Native women/Native mothers this past year? What are they?

Talk to me.

Gyasi

Gyasi Ross comes from the Blackfeet Nation and his family also comes from the Suquamish Nation. His Blackfoot name is "Oonikoomsika." He is a proud father, a lawyer and a writer; he is the author of the series "The Thing About Skins" in the former Indian Country Today. He is also co-owner of Red Vinyl Records working with inspiring Native talent, and plans to finish his book, "Don't Know a Lot About Indians (But I Wrote a Book About Us Anyway)" very soon.

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cdahmen's picture
Dear Suzie, I was just wondering how the family reacted to the DNA results when they found out that you were indeed related. Otherwise I can't understand your struggle with being accepted in the tribe. I feel that as a close family friend this is a tad bit suspicious. Or did you refuse to do a DNA test? What concerns me is that there are a lot of con artists who take advantage of family members, and I certainly hope you are not one of them. Please clarify.
cdahmen
suziefedorko's picture
I found out in 2003 that my Birth Mother was the first Native American Super Model. I never knew her in life, because she died in 1997. I missed knowing who she was in life. Left behind are 100's of beautiful photo's of her gracing Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and other peridocals. I am very Thankful for her giving me life.. There could have been other options.. Happy Mothers Day Cathee Dahmen! Love your long lost daughter Cricket/Susie
suziefedorko