More than Something Else
By: ASU’s Spring 2021 Native Narratives Cohort
Andra Gutierrez (Akimel O’otham & Mexicana) | Major: Sustainability
Elena Morris (Diné) | Major: Psychology
Chael Moore (Diné) | Major: English — Creative Writing
Shauntel Redhouse (Diné) | Major: Nutrition (Dietetics)
Tally Totsoni (Diné) | Major: English Literature
During the 2020 election, CNN’s live television coverage of the election aired a graphic representation of the voters participating in the presidential election. The graph showed a category for “white,” “Latino,” “Black” and “Asian” voters. The only representation of Native voters was “something else.” This treatment of Natives as “something else” instead of being fully themselves and a foundation of society in the United States isn’t new, but it was especially stinging in light of the fact that Natives were one of the last “groups” to receive citizenship and voting rights in this country, as well as the fact that Native votes impacted the election in big ways. In Arizona, for example, the Native vote was so great that it helped turn the state from red to blue.
This year, our ASU Mellon-funded “Native Narratives” mentorship cohort decided to engage this phrase for our entire semester. Rather than our conversations and work being simply a “response” to the disrespect and erasure CNN showed us with this phrase, we decided to focus on the many, multiple, myriad ways we “are” in this country and beyond. One iteration of that conversation was to create a variation on a “Renga,” which is a Japanese form of poetry. Our Native Narratives cohort, in collaboration with Turning Points Magazine, collaborated to collect 100 lines of poetry from 100 Natives across the world. We asked each person to give us a single line of poetry that began with “I am….”
We are proud to present this Renga as a collective imaginating of who we are as autonomous and collective peoples, in relationship with our lands, languages, families and waters. We are so much more than something else. — Natalie Diaz (Akimel O’odham, Mojave)
I am a Verb, an act of Creation.
I am the seeds growing through drought and piercing through concrete.
I am what my ancestors prayed for.
I am planting seeds like stories in the decolonial elsewhere to feed my spirit and train my body to take back what is owed.
I am an important piece of the universe.
I am swimming in a river of Ancestors, dreaming of the open sea.
I am the girl who sits at my grandmother’s feet as she weaves stories.
I am Bitter Water, Edge Water, Towering House, Into the Water, a son, a father, a warrior, a child of the Holy People, I am Diné.
Shí éí Nahasdzáán, Tó, Níłch’i, dóó Shándíín, Diné nishłį́.
I am a mother of two precious children.
I am Hante, named after my great-grandmother.
I am aware that in the 21st century, the Native American battle against the colonists is still very real.
I am growing my hair out because my ancestors were forced to cut theirs.
I am urban, I am rez, I returned to the land of my ancestors, they said it’s time to heal.
I am Haudenosaunee. I am “else” only if “something” is defined by someone else.
I am a child of a farm worker.
I am the lines in my great-grandmother’s hands.
I am strong with courage.
Blood quantum doesn’t define me.
I am a Diné woman, a five-finger being living in harmony.
I am valued and relevant, individual and communal; I am our history and our future.
I am a dreamer of impossible things.
I am the edge of the knife, my ancestors the belly of the blade, we have been subjected to heat and pressure, I am a good knife.
I am undefined because you haven’t caught up to me yet.
I am everything my ancestors fought and prayed for.
I am a weaver of knowledge for our head start children.
I am a reminder of failed genocide.
I am the child who chooses to be what I want to be.
I am a thought made true by those who envisioned I could be unapologetically Diné.
I am the next in line.
I am the one that is the Stopping Place.
I am the one who broke the high school dropout cycle.
I am like a raindrop; unnoticeable by myself, unstoppable with my Native Nations!
I am a mother finding my way in this world to keep our traditions alive for my children.
I am the protector of my culture.
I am yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I am an Indigenous early childhood educator, helping children acknowledge the potential they have in this world regardless of how society views them.
I am a feminine deity who protects the voices of those who don’t speak, a hero to some, and a villain to others.
I am one strand, among many.
I am more than someone because I am what my ancestors prayed for.
I am resilience and strong leadership, humility and tradition.
I am the son of Gladys and grandson of Vera; matriarchs of the Water’s Edge clan.
I am a soft star that shines in the night sky.
I am blue, with no clue.
I am adrift and untethered, searching for “home.”
I am a strand in the forever developing design of the Bitter Water people.
I am not my mental illness.
I am where I stand on my reservation.
I am my mother’s and father’s son… AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY!
I am of upper village.
I am singing horse songs, I be a medicine man.
I am a dog mom of six rez mutts.
I am Custer’s last barber.
I am one they call warrior mouse.
I am all that I am and more– a happy, independent and healthy Diné Woman.
I am The People, not Something Else.
I am nature, connected to all of life on Mother Earth.
I am a unique, charismatic Indigenous leader.
I am the voice of our language and culture.
I am that for which I am… strong, residual, everlasting.
I am from the best of two worlds on grandma’s land, I am from the teaching moments.
I am the voice and advocate for our children in foster care and grandparents raising grandchildren.
I am 500 years of resilience.
I am Lakota and Navajo.
I am a spotted horse dancing to the falling rain.
I am an arrow, shot from the bow of my ancestors.
I am a nizhóní Diné Asdzáán.
I am a girl who loves kitties.
I am still here.
I am my mother’s son, she is her father’s daughter, he is his mother’s son, and she was here before Arizona was a state.
I am of my beautiful islands mother, and of my sacred blue water father.
I am from a place where there is no farms, but it’s called Many Farms.
I am all my ancestors couldn’t be.
I am the voice of healing the intergenerational trauma of Indian Boarding Schools.
I am a storyteller of my culture to the future generations.
I am the proud daughter of a boarding school survivor.
I am daughter of Tsiiłchin Bii’ Tó (Sumac Spring) and Bit’ahnii (Folded Arms People clan).
I am thankful for those who have lived before me.
I am a teacher, giver and protector of life– I am a Diné father.
I am breaking the intergenerational cycle of historical trauma.
I come from the past, living in the present, striving for a better future…
I am a sewa, rooted in the desert. I am grounded, I belong here.
I am the daughter of matriarchs who passed down family stories of strength, love and laughter.
I am an interconnected part of the all life and I support regeneration and Indigenous gardens.
I am waking up, again, in a country that has wanted me dead since before it was born, and maybe this is why all my breaths feel like choices.
I am the courage that ran through my ancestors’ veins.
I am strong.
I am a young Indigenous woman who holds the strength of my ancestors who fought and sacrificed themselves for our lives and cultures’ existence today — now that’s something else.
There are currently five Indigenous women architects in North America, I want to and will be the sixth.
I am the first First Nations woman to become an architect in Canada.
I am the alphabet spelled out numerous ways.
I am ogichidaakwe, a woman of boats and canoes and kayaks who sings for water.
I am nourished by the land, the waters, and grateful for the work of my ancestors; their courage and tenacity lifts my spirit.
I am the blood, sweat and tears of warriors.
I am a sage burning, elderberry cleansing, turtle shell rattling, Nakwaánish (songs of death) singing, prayer offering, carrier of a traditional practice, and a son of Payómkawichum, People of the West.
I am everything else; the water, the wind, the land, and the daughter of strong Chumash and Ohlone brujas who survived your genocide with intellect, magic and a connection to this land.
I am a jar of my mother’s tears that shape-shifts in the sunlight.
I am the living definition of resilience and the proud descendant of thousands of ancestors standing behind me.
I am dreaming.
This renga is a collective authorship of the following people:
Rose B Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo). Andra Gutierrez (Akimel O’otham). Joshua Hathaway (Anigilohi). Maria Hupfield (Anishnaabe, Wasauksing First Nation, Canada). Tosa Two Heart (Oglala, Húŋkpapȟa Lakota). Deborah A. Miranda (Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation). Rosa Frutos (Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs). Lance Morris (Navajo). Earl Morris Sr (Navajo). Tria Blu Wakpa (unenrolled Native American ancestries). Hante Blu Wakpa (Cheyenne River Sioux). Darice Sampson (Seneca Nation). Mathis Quintana (Jicarilla Apache). Davina D. Morris (Diné). James Thomas Stevens (Akwesasne Mohawk). Cecelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham). Marisa Elena Duarte (Pascua Yaqui Tribe). Valenda Catha (Gila River Indian Community). Savannah Jacobs (Oglala Lakota). Victoria Morris (Navajo). Dyani White Hawk Polk (Sicangu Lakota). Bryan Brayboy (Lumbee). Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota). W Tsosie (Diné). Davina D. Morris (Diné). Veronica Green (Klamath Tribe (Cuban). Kimberlie Beeson (Colorado River Indian Tribes, Hopi, Diné, Akimel O’odham). Martha Ludlow Martinez (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community). J.R. Claw. Chael Moore (Diné). Trinity Neskahi, Miss Fort Mojave (Fort Mojave Indian Tribe). Lorene Sisquoc (Fort Sill Apache, Mountain Cahuilla). Liz Willcuts (Yankton, Rosebud Sioux). Keenan Leanord (Diné, Zuni). Skyla Wakole (Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas). Ladainian Morris (Diné). Jessica Montoya (Mescalero Apache Tribe). Lexus Allen (Navajo). Sgt. Juneau, Tiffany (Blackfeet Nation, San Carlos Apache). Sarah Bruce (Akimel O’odham). Angela Marianna Burks (Pascua Yaqui Tribe). Cherise Lukacs (A-wi-i-na-ge-e-hi). Colin Ben (Diné). Richanda Whiteman-Davis (Navajo, Northern Cheyenne). Melaney Tso (Navajo). Roshelle Wagner (Navajo). Deborah Teller Tsosie (Navajo). Brittany Leonard (Navajo). Ashton Tso (Navajo). Sgt. Darrell Whitman (Gila River Indian Community). Shynelle Tallman (Hopi). Tryan Morris, 7 years old (Navajo). Sydney Joe (Navajo). Carrie Calisay Cannon (Kiowa, Oglala Lakota). Isaiah J. Johnson (Navajo). Shauntel Redhouse (Diné). Jesse Crabtree (Navajo). Triston D. Anthony (Diné). LeAndra Madalena (Diné). Akimel O’otham (River People). Jerrod Rosson (Chickasaw Nation). Derrith Watchman-Moore (Diné). Elisia Manuel (descendent of the Apache Indians, Hispanic American). Otakuye Conroy-Ben. Dineyah Ben, 5 years old. Chance Begay. Christina A. Rodriguez (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe). Delilah Gilmore (Navajo). Wayuwita Ben, 8 years old. Loretta Salazar (Tohono O’odham Nation). Donald Jacobson (Southern Chiricahua Apache). Stephanie Mushrush (Washoe, Filipina). Tally Totsoni (Diné). Marissa Armstrong. Lushanya Echeverria. Melissa Yazzie (Pima, Navajo). Nora L. Cherry (Payómkawichum, Luiseño, Mission). Tasheena Upshaw, she/her (Diné). Alexis Ustariz (San Carlos Apache Tribe). Henry Moore (Diné). Maleena Deer (Onk Akimel O’odham, Kiowa, Creek). Sylvia Rios (Pascua Yaqui Tribe). Savanna Castorena (Yaqui). Cynthia Soto (Sicangu Lakota, Puerto Rican). Brook Colley (Wasco, Eastern Cherokee, Japanese, Irish, Citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee). Arianne True (Choctaw, Chickasaw). Dina de León (Pascua Yaqui Tribe). Philip, 7 years old (Muckleshoot). Nina Polk (Sicangu Lakota, San Carlos Apache, Navajo, Quechan). Cheyenne Moore (Diné). Wanda Dalla Costa (Saddle Lake Cree Nation). Celeste (Muckleshoot). Kimberly Blaeser (White Earth Anishinaabe). Stasie Maxwell (Iñupiaq from the Village of Unalakleet). Ian Teller (Navajo). Charlie C. Devers (Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians). Christine, Howard Sandoval (descendant of Obispeno Chumash, Chalon Ohlone people of California). Billy-Ray Belcourt (Driftpile Cree Nation). Martha Redbone (Cherokee, Choctaw, African American descent). Hubert McCord (‘Aha Makav).