I am the Only American Indian

The Lunch Table

I am the only American Indian sitting at the table during lunch.  Its awkward but I am used to it.  There's a group of White kids over there.  A group of Black kids over there.  Congregation segregation.  A few stragglers, weirdo's, hippies and nerds on their own.  Congregation bifurcation.  This college makes me feel out of place.  I congregate alone. 

We are so divided by race.  But I feel comfortable, as an American Indian on my own.  I've got some jewelry to represent my culture.  Long beaded earrings, a beaded barrette, my Native student organization bag.  The beat of the drum in my soul. Ancestors all around me.  I just talked to my last Ojibway grandparent yesterday on the phone. She's way up in the UP on the rez.  I feel lifted up and empowered by our talk.  Most of the time people confuse me as White.  So I sit at this table alone, at lunch.  My fork hits the plate.  I eat macaroni and cheese, drink chocolate milk and think about getting dessert, sooner rather than later.  I touch this plastic orange tray.

Shifting in my seat I pay close attention to the birds outside.  No one else is paying attention to them.  That is how city folk are.  They are moving and going and walking and talking non-stop.  So I tune out the loud conversations, laughs and gossip going on all around me and listen to the birds.  They land on branches, hop, skip and perch.  They peak inside the window and look at me.  I feel secure for a minute.

Traditional, Hair

I adjust my long hair.  I have it half way up.  Letting it down and showing my pride.  Sometimes us Natives see each other across campus.  We might not talk when we see each other but we just nod as we walk by each other.  Some Natives wear their hair long and stand out from other cultures.  We shun majority culture influences.  It is like our hair shouts activism, rebellion and reclaiming our culture, heritage and identity. It has to shout because otherwise no one would listen to us. 

I deal with this conversation in my mind of getting gently but oppressively scooted out of the discussion of race in this colonized country.  So I continue to sit at the table at lunch.  I am almost finished eating. I am at this table alone.  I am scooted out of the discussion of race in this country.

Invisibility, Visibility

I've finished my lunch.  I walk alone and place the orange tray in the tray collection area.  I walk away out of the dorm cafeteria.  The smell of fries and other processed foods lingers in the air.  The dimension between the door of this cafeteria and the hallway is surmountable.  I succeed.

I walk out the door, our of the building and down the paved sidewalk to my next class.  I have achieved success in surviving invisibility.