It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with school and frankly I had nothing to write about. I had meant to do some blogging while attended the Midwest Sociological Society’s annual conference the weekend of March 28th, but the hotel did not have free wifi and I refused to pay $10 per day to use what they had. It was the best time I’ve had in years.
I’ve gone to a couple of conferences before for the Student Government Association when I attended O.T.C., so the general format I was prepared for. It’s quite simple; people present their research for review to an audience. Sometimes it is under the umbrella of a theme and other times it stands by itself. What I was not prepared for was how open and willing to talk to me everyone was. It was an atmosphere thick with legitimately intelligent people who wanted to talk to other intelligent people about their passion. I was like a kid in a candy store. I talked to as many people as would talk to me and I had such great fun.
The highlight of the conference for me was twofold. First I attended a session titled: Research in American Indian Communities. First, a woman by the name of Susanna Carlson presented her paper about how “agents of the law have interacted with Native Americans in reproducing identity,” then Mrs. Carlene Sipma-Dysico presented research on “education and the juvenile system in South Dakota’s Indian country,” and finally, Dr M. Kayt Sunwood presented research on “culturally responsive curriculum in Alaska native schools and communities.” Fucking brilliant from beginning to end. This session just hit home for me and refocused my attentions. Ms. Carlson started discussing a historical view of how the image of the Indian has been formed through a semi-symbiotic relationship with authority, and then Mrs. Sipma-Dysico began speaking of how Indian children in public schools are treated with institutionalized racism and are being groomed into the Indians the whites want them to be, and finally Dr. Sunwood brought it all together by presenting the research she co-authored in Alaska about using Native cultural icons to help teach children the basic units of school. Take note that none of these women had planned this or collaborated on what they were going to present or how it was going to be presented; in fact there were supposed to be five presenters and two never showed up. But there it was: from the historical roots of the modern Indian as created by white dominance to the tree of institutionalized racist policies that grew from them and ending with research that showed a more than promising solution to the problem! Just writing it down almost two weeks after the fact gives me goosebumps. It was a very moving experience, but the second, and ultimate, highlight came when I was able to talk to one of the presenters from that session several hours later.
I went to another session, the last round of them that day, and saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico walk in and sit in the back. The last presenter to this session had shown up late and had just started to talk when I saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico head for the door. I knew seeing her was providence and so I excused myself from my companion and bolted after her. What followed was the most fascinating conversation I have ever had with another human being. I had wanted to talk to her about an idea for a paper I was working on to present next year, and since it was on the image of the Indian I thought she would be an invaluable source of information. Not only did we talk about my paper but we talked about everything else you aren’t supposed to talk about with a stranger: religion, sex, and politics. It was the best three hours of my life. Yeah, we sat outside the conference room on a rather uncomfortable bench for three hours laughing and talking about everything. My only regret was I never had a chance to see her again before my group had to leave.
More than ever I am confident in my choice to go on to grad school. I’m looking forward to the summer intersession when I am going to drive to the west coast to step foot on some of the schools I’m courting for my masters degree. The first week of June I’m going to Washington State University in Pullman, the University of Oregon in Eugene, and then Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It’s going to take me about 5 days of driving time and I’m giving myself around 7-ish just to account for whatever might happen. I’m really looking forward to it as the farthest west I’ve been is Salina, Kansas.
This is the route I’m planning on taking:
Eventually I will be able to append Dr. to my name. This makes me giggle internally because even if it takes me the maximum time, about 7 years, I will still get the degree before my ex-girlfriend does. I know that is horrible, and it isn’t the reason I’m going for the degree, but it will give me a small sense of satisfaction when I get to mail her letterhead from the institution I’m teaching at with Dr. appended to my name in the salutation. It is the small things in life that make me happy.