I had an interesting conversation with my mother the other day and brought back some memories from high school. I went to high school with a very energetic, engaging, creative, thought provoking, and down right drive you crazy at times person when I was in high school. He was a true light to the classroom and the way he challenged me made me a better person, his name was Freddy Outlaw, and he was amazing. When we were sophomores we were learning about the concept of the United States being a "melting pot" and what did that idea mean to us. Now, I have had several classes on cultural diversity, but my true learning about diversity did not come until I went to Oklahoma for graduate school. Freddy wrote this amazing essay about the land of milk and honey, and the fields of gold (now I was a sophomore in 1996, so I don't know if Sting stole Freddy's idea or if Freddy stole Sting's idea), and how there was a place for everyone. I still remember the essay, sadly, because it was one of the final essays that Freddy wrote shortly before he was killed in a car accident.
I was remembering the conversation because I was telling my mother I was blogging about scholarship opportunities and she reminded me I needed to tell everyone about minority scholarships, and benefits available to Native Americans. Yes, Freddy was of Native American descent, but the funny thing is, I am as well.
Now we get into the interesting part of the conversation. It took a little bit for me to be able to go to Oklahoma State, and most of it fell to my mother, who is half Cherokee. She had to provide tribe information and be able to name the last of the descendent's that was one hundred percent Native American. I have to say, it took a long time for her to find it, which surprised me. So the conversation continued. Here in the twenty-first century many take pride in the fact that they are of mixed heritage and how they fit into America as a whole. I asked Mom why it took so long to find out the last descendent was, and she said in all honesty, "Because, when my Grandmother was live, it wasn't something you bragged about." When my grandmother was born, her mother had a choice, she was technically married to a man who was of Native American descent, but, according to everyone he was white, so my grandmother was white (now my grandmother was like six of thirteen children so this happened about five kids before she was born). So when my Mom was born, she was white, because in 1933, and in 1955, it was not something to be proud of. So I continued with the conversation, so why are you proud of it now. She said her friends always new, and as she said, it was not hard to tell. My mom was 5'11 at her fullest height, and had long, long jet black hair, and the skin tone that most would kill for. Now, black hair, and height does not make you automatically Cherokee, but as she said, growing up, it was something that people knew, but she was "white" on her birth certificate.
As I come closer to my point, our conversation continued. My Great-Grandmother's name was Pull Tree. Yup, that was it, in its fullest form, Pull Tree. When she married, she married a man with the last name of Barton, and she became Pull Tree Barton, and her children were never given a Native American name, because, they were no longer Cherokee. Now, as I said I had a point. While at Oklahoma State, my mother found enough of the necessary information to qualify me for a little bit of money for school, when I say little, I do mean little. Not that they did not believe me, but when the math works out, I am far enough removed, that I am a little higher than a sixteenth, but now quite a quarter, and you had to be at least a sixteenth to get some funds. So here I am 5'4, blonde, and blue-eyed, with a great-grandmother named Pull Tree. To be fair everyone else on my Mom's side of the family is six foot or higher and has more dominating characteristics that align to Great-Grandma Pull Tree. So the question is, why did it take Mom so long to find all of this out, because, you had to have the Native American name to identify your tribe, and all my mother's life she knew her grandmother as Pearl.
I believe that diversity is something to be celebrated and honored. I believe that we forget that we are descendants of someone and that it should be celebrated. Everyday people cross over with visas in hand to begin new jobs, school, careers, some will stay and raise their families, some will return home after enjoying the experience of living abroad, but we need to celebrate the differences that we bring. As I said my biggest lesson on cultural diversity came while I was at Oklahoma State, not because of Great-Grandma Pull Tree, but because I started OSU in 2003, with 30,000 students, and over a third were from out of the country, half were from the Middle East. At twenty-three, I was young and naive, and believed everything I had heard on the news for two years, but I learned more about the real world in thirty seconds then the four years prior. So, I believe that cultural diversity is something that we need to talk about and share. We need to be proud of who we are and where we come from, and if you have never been out of your town before, then we need to take advantage of the technology that we are surrounded by and take a virtual field trip. The world is changing at such a rapid pace, that we are to a point that we have to get on the train and hang on as tight as possible.
So, in summary, take advantage of your heritage and find out if there are any scholarships available or if their are organizations that help fund first generation students going to school. For everyone else, we need to talk about how being different is okay, and learn how to communicate
My name is Kelli Muncher. I a wife, mother, and school counselor. My children keep me grounded and running everyday, and when I say children I mean my two girls plus the 300 or so I try to serve during the week.