I come from the Kiowa tribe. In our creation story we originally came from another world in a log; the Spider Woman led us out of the log through a hole into the light. Only so many tribal members made it through the hole before a pregnant woman got stuck in the hole preventing any others from coming through. This is why our tribe is so small.
I was born an urban Indian so I’ve experienced a kind of reverse assimilation. I frequently was the only American Indian outside of my brother or father in the community. When I made it out to Arizona to go to school, I was surrounded by Natives. I had to learn what was socially acceptable, learn how to behave and how to interact with other Natives, some of whom had the exact opposite experience of me.
I totally think I “look” Native. My skin is light brown and I have long straight brown hair, brown almond shaped eyes, and high cheekbones. I also have very wide child bearing hips. I look like a combination of my dad and mom. I have my mom's nose and lips, but my dad's body type. I am most often mistaken for being Hispanic or Mexican. Even the Mexican's will come up to me and speak in Spanish and then get offended that I have no idea what they are saying. I have also been mistaken for Asian, Polynesian, and Brazilian.
Being Native means that I will put my community before myself that I will think of the generations to come and not only of my own. It means that I view the world differently than the typical American who immigrated here or whose family immigrated here years ago. It means that family is a big part of my life, and that if they need something that I have I am supposed to give it to them. Being Native means that I am on an endangered species list. Being Native means that I am tied to this land, it is in my blood. Being Native means that I will constantly be educating others who don't know about all the injustices and atrocities committed against Natives. Being Native to me means having a good sense of humor.
I hear all the time from people that it is our duty as Native students to take what we’ve learned back to the tribe. Now that I am going for a law degree, it seems like there is even more of an expectation that I will work for tribes and fight the injustices that occur on a daily basis.
In the non-Native world, there is an expectation that I am a poor Indian from the rez who has no education or worldly experience. I think I am constantly challenging the perceived expectation of what an NDN is because I am not those things.