This blog is a creative outlet for me—part academic and part rumination, with a dash of humor at any given moment. I write here to ponder what is happening in the world, and my take on it. I compose my thinking here on how we make this world a better place for the coming generations.
I write here to wrestle with Haudenosaunee thinking and culture, and how I see the world differently because of my studies. I write what works for me as a professor of Native American and American Studies and educator. Larry Gelbart (a writer for MASH and other films) once noted, “I need to write to find out what I’m thinking.” Like Gelbart, I write to find out what I’m thinking, and why—so I write here.
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York (and well, Geneseo too). I am a Mohawk from Akwesasne Mohawk nation, with family from the Tonawanda Seneca nation (with a dash of English, Irish, and German thrown into the mix). I am a light-skinned American Indian, with a beard no less. I have continued to challenge and engage people on who and what an American Indian is—like so many others have done before me. I now reside in Oswego, NY.
I began my journey to where I am now, by starting as a freshman at SUNY Oswego. But I promptly flunked out of college, as it wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be—and truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life at eighteen. After a few months at home, I joined the United States Army.
There had been a tremendous build up of US military forces in the Persian Gulf for the first Gulf war. I enlisted in the Infantry, because it made me the fourth generation of my family to serve in the military during a time of conflict. I was about halfway through basic training when the hundred-hour war kicked off and ended. I returned to the Geneseo-Avon area, where my mom and sister lived.
It wasn’t long before I moved out on my own, and began community college at Monroe Community College— where I graduated in 1995. I transferred to St. John Fisher for a year, before I finished my bachelors’ degree in Philosophy at SUNY Brockport in 1998.
It was during my undergraduate years that I developed my vision of what I wanted to do with my life—be a college professor of Native American culture and history. I worked at Ganondagan, and was actively involved with Native student groups at all of my campuses—including AISES (American Indian Science & Engineering Society). I was grounding myself in my own culture, and building friendships and community, while I continued to move towards this dream of one day becoming a college professor. All of these experiences have molded me into who I am today as a professor of Native American and American Studies at SUNY Oswego.
I worked full-time off campus, worked part-time on campus, and did my studies—as well as often becoming overly active in student groups and community organizations—but I finished my degree in 1998. I once argued in an application that my grades did not define me (as they were far from stellar), but that all the other areas that I was engaged in where also worthy of consideration—and perhaps better defined me as a person.
It was in the waning months of my undergraduate degree at Brockport, where a group of others and I were organizing a regional AISES conference in Rochester where I met a man who took a chance on me. Barry White (no, not the singer) and I gave talk together on student led activism for Native students. I still remember the his grin as he said, “Aha! I’m Star Trek the original, and you’re Star Trek: the Next Generation” at the conclusion of our talk together. Thinking of this never fails to bring a smile to my face.
I am forever indebted to Barry, who became a friend and mentor—because he took a chance on me, and encouraged me to apply to graduate school at the University of Buffalo’s American Studies program. This was there I met and worked with the late Dr. John Mohawk, and Oren Lyons as their teaching assistant. John, much like Barry and Oren (and so many others) would go onto become a friends and mentors throughout my graduate career. John guided me towards my dissertation topic: The Iroquois Creation story—and we had so long talks about the meaning of these varied narratives. I also worked closely with John on the Iroquois White Corn Project as well.
I completed my MA at UB in 2000, and my Ph.D. in 2007 in American Studies. By this point, I had been in school and working since 1993—steadily working toward becoming a professor of Native American and American studies.
In 2002, I returned to SUNY Oswego, to work as an Academic Planning Counselor for the Office of Learning Services. Yes, I started my career where I flunked out of as a freshman—life’s little ironies. I began teaching as well in the Native American Studies minor in approximately 2003 or 2004. I have been actively engaged in teaching for the Native American Studies minor, and the American Studies Program since 2008—and will assume the director position of both programs beginning in September 2015.
I struggle to write every day for a variety of reasons. But it is getting better with each passing day—and I’d like to think I have something to offer. I want to thank my longtime friend Zak Becker for overhauling this site, and helping adjust it into what you are reading (*You can find his help at: http://www.1bigwebdesign.com/).
I continue to work on academic articles, my first book, while writing here, and teaching of course—and I’ve been privileged to travel all over the place for community work, conferences, and conversations much to my great enjoyment.
But ultimately, I write here to find out what I am thinking and why.
What have you written today?