Azie: When you’re talking about anti-Blackness in an Indigenous community I, my, my tribe is anti-Black. So, so this is this is a deep thing that that is is very much a part of my family now and has been for longer than I even knew that I even understood.
So I grew up in Philadelphia. And when I was born, my mother was still in, well, she had just finished college. And so she ended up going into law school and then to graduate school and my grandparents decided to take to take me so that she could focus monitor studies and I lived in Philadelphia with them and my grandfather. I have my grandfather’s last name. So the Dungey family has roots in, in Indian country in Virginia. And when you read books about there, there are very few books about the Black native experience, but the Dungey family is in all of them, because we have some of some of the more clear stories of native and Black relationships in Virginia.
One being John Dungey, who was a pilot, of a ship, his own own shipping company on the Chesapeake Bay. And he was he was Pawmunkey which is my tribe. And he wanted to marry a woman who was enslaved and this was in the early 1800s. I think he was born in like 1780 or something. And I think her name was Lucy. Anyway, the law at that time was because Virginia did not want any more free people of color, free Black people just running around. Virginia had actually a very large free Black population in Alexandria, and Arlington and so they didn’t want any more And so, if you freed your slave, the master , it was very hard to free your slave first of all, there’s like all these like weird laws and fees and stuff. But if you did, you had to pay for them to leave the state of Virginia.
So my ancestor John Dungey wanted to stay in the state of Virginia because that’s where his business was, and that’s where his homeland was, and so he had to go to court in order to make it so that Lucy could be freed. Her father was her master by the way her she was half white. Her father was her white master. I think her last name was Littlepage, I want to say. But anyway, he was willing to free her for the price and everything. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t allow her to stay in the States. So basically, my ancestor had to take her father/ master to court and get the court to allow for Lucy to stay in the state. In order to do that he had to get a petition signed by white people in the area saying that, you know, that his business was essential and they couldn’t let him move. You know, he, he was willing to move for his love, but that couldn’t happen because the white people needed his ship.
Patty: Is that not always the way?
Azie: Yeah, I mean, I think in Virginia as an older person, you couldn’t even like go to court and Speak for yourself. I think you had to have a white person speak on your behalf. But anyway, he got his signatures of I want to say 77 white businessmen. And so he was allowed to stay in the state of Virginia and marry his beloved. So that isn’t a lot of books about Black native relations. It’s showing that, you know, we’ve that this has been going on for a long time. However, my tribe had a law. It was actually the first law on their books for many years. That is now called the Black code. And it was put into effect I want to say around the Civil War.
It said that if you married a person who was Black, if you married anyone who wasn’t native or white, which was Black at the time in Virginia, right? Um, then you lost your enrollment status and you lost your land. And you had to leave Indian Town, which was what the reservation was called in Virginia. And you were just basically, not only disenrolled, but no one was supposed to talk to you anymore.
Like you, you were basically banned from your family and your community. And the reason they did that was because a lot of tribes had in the south east had actually lost their land, because the one drop rule was starting to become an effect. So if they look too dark, or they were known to associate with Black people, or anything that the neighboring whites could say, in order to say these people are actually not native anymore. Their land was taken, and they were disbanded as a tribe and their land was actually sold to neighboring whites. And so it was a really easy way for white people to land grab. And so the Pawmunkey were really protecting themselves. And I understand that, but obviously that affected my family. My family actually wasn’t. Besides that one relative who married Lucy Littlepage. My family wasn’t actually mixed from what we know any more than any other family in the Pawmunkey nation.
And we were mixed with white. We do know that but um, but I do have an ancestor who after the Civil War, decided that he was going he was a he was a legislator in Virginia. His name was Jesse Dungey. He was one of the first non-white people on the Virginia State Senate. And he helped create a school for newly freed slaves. And after that, it was so have like okay, well whose side are you on? And so my family was pretty much disenrolled. And some of we bought land like literally that border the reservation so that we could continue to be in contact with the people because I think those were our that was our family and everything but we weren’t allowed on weren’t even allowed like, on on the actual land.
And so most of us went to either stayed in Virginia in that area, we still have that land. That’s where our family reunions are. And we or we went to Philadelphia, which is where everybody in Virginia went was. Other families also went to Philadelphia because that was like the place to go to get like a job.
Kerry: And what time if you don’t mind me just interrupting quickly what would have been the timespan you started to see the filtering out. I don’t know if you might
Azie: 1880s I want to say nothing. I mean, I think that they the law started in the 1860s. But you really saw was what people call the purge. Yeah, and like the 70s and 80s when things were getting kind of confusing because white people wanted to just call everybody colored and not deal with you know, these people are Black and these people are native and these people are mixed and these they’re just like mulatto, wouldn’t even deal with mulatto anymore. “You guys are all the same.” And it was I like I said it was a scary time there was a particular chief who was actually part Black himself, so but anyway, who was very like, you know, he was actually trying to entice other natives from other tribes to marry in like he was really on a mission to make sure that we stayed native enough in the eyes of these white people.
So, my family has for a long time tried been trying to get reinstated. And my cousin Jasmine has really made it her life’s work right now. She has a lawyer who’s actually a really good lawyer when it comes to native issues. This was the first tribe of contact with the English the Powhattan, the Powhattan confederacy which the Pawmunkey are a part of. Pocahontas’ people. So we’ve we go all the way back to Jamestown.
But we we our treaties were with the English crown. So we didn’t have treaties with America. And so we weren’t recognized as a tribe until two years ago, finally. We had a reservation since 1636. And because we don’t we never the US government only recognizes tribes that they have treaties with. So we had to go through or they had to go through the record recognition process. So while that was going on, the chief told us, you know, we can’t add anyone to the rolls, because they’re all being closely looked at. So it was closed while they were going through the process of recognition, which we understood. But then, but he was very much like we know who you are, like, we know we’re all related to you know, that you should be. You should have enrollment and the CDC actually is that what it’s called? the CDC? Oh my god, I’m so COVID my brain is blank.
I actually found out about that law that that law was still on the books while there were under, you know, under research investigation or whatever for for recognition, the Black Law was still on the books. So the CBC told, I guess, was the Obama administration, um, you know, they were like, you can’t give them recognition because this is illegal. You can’t say you can’t ban interracial marriage in 2015, or whatever. So they, they, they were adamant we don’t go by this law anymore. It’s just, you know, archaic, it’s just still there. But basically, our legal , so basically we’re using that to say, Well, if you don’t go by this law, then you can’t go by the 1910 census because the 1910 census was after that law was enacted.
Patty: Because the 1910 census excludes all the people from this law
Azie: Yeah, and we think you purposefully are doing that, because there’s no other reason nobody uses the census that late. And, yeah, so. So we’re in the middle of that, and just talking about it personally, you know, that’s always been a struggle for me knowing one. I mean, I have my mother saying, like, why do we want to be a part of a tribe that doesn’t want us like, hmm, and has treated us like this for generations now? What’s the point of pursuing that? Now she’s on the other side of things. Now. She’s just mad.
But that was kind of as I was growing up, that was kind of what I heard. And my grandfather it was clear to me that there was so much that wasn’t talked about and that was painful. And that he didn’t even understand you know, because he, he was very clear that we were Pawmunkey. And my great grandfather had married Black or Mulatto or whatever the woman and my grandmother’s Black and like so we’re all were mixed, obviously, obviously, look at me, but, but he knew that that was his heritage. And and our our like I said, our family reunions are on the reservation. And our family. We have cousins and family members. We know our family on the rez, that was allowed to stay, you know, family that wasn’t Dungey. And so it’s been for me like an ongoing kind of reconnecting . One reconnecting with that part of my family because I was in Philadelphia wasn’t in Virginia. And they, a lot of them grew up a little more connected to because they were there.
And then also getting over anger, resentment. Which was easy because I’m like, it was Virginia in the late 1800s. Like I understand, but it is not that time anymore. I think we have to be better than this now. And It’s amazing to look at people that are enrolled, like you were saying who are blond, blue eyed, and don’t really, honestly care very much about this part of their history, whereas my family is like, so, so invested in it, and we want to honor it, and we want to live it. And so it’s like, if they can look like that, why can’t Why can’t Why isn’t it? Why isn’t it obvious that some people would look like me? You know, it’s America like, doesn’t make it just it’s, it’s so it’s so infuriating, um, but the local papers have actually picked up the story and like we’ve been featured in the Richmond papers and hopefully more than that later, but
Patty: oh, that’s neat. I mean, I, when I was when I was in child welfare, I had a young man who was Black and Indigenous. And I was always trying to get him connected to his community because, you know, his mom was native. You know, and so there was community and that he could be connected to and one day he just says to me, so when people look at me, they don’t see an Indian, like, why would I go to any of this stuff? And it just, and I knew that that was coming from, not from when, when he’s out in the community who people see, but when he’s at Indigenous events who people see. Right, I knew that that’s where that was coming from. And it just made me so sad for him because he was struggling and looking for a place to belong. And here there was something that was available to him, and yet it wasn’t available to him because of you know, kind of the ways … and what you said about Virginia like that makes sense. Historically these entrenched ideas that we get, because the closer you are to whiteness, the closer you are to safety. Right? The war, especially in the south, the darker you are, we talked with Kerri Leigh Merrit. And you could be picked up and re-en slaved. And then you had to prove you weren’t Black. How are you going to do that?
Azie: I was actually researching the different side of my family and found all these records of um, what’s it called when the when the masters were looking for the slaves? Runaway Slave ads. And they a lot of them were like, they probably went to Indian town. Yeah, because they would they in Virginia in that area of Virginia, or Pawmunkey town, they would call it and they were like, he’s known to go to Pawmunkey town when he doesn’t feel like working anymore. Like they would just run away to the reservation. And some of them yeah, and some of them even said he’s got Pawmunkey wife so he’s probably an Indian town. But I can’t get to him.
And it was interesting to me that just a few decades prior, which is probably why they got nervous because they had this reputation that you know that they were a safe harbor for people who they probably felt weren’t in very different of a situation than they were. Most native people were working in white homes, either as bondage servants or free people of color that were getting, you know, a little bit of money, or they were, they were also banned from just like free Black people, they were banned from hiring and employing white employees. So they so they probably didn’t feel very different than these Black people. And frankly, in that part of Virginia at that time period, these mixed race Black people, they were also probably this brown the same complexion because they were mixed with white at that point.
So they, it’s just we were all just caught up in a racist system that pitted us against each other. And now it’s really hard to untangle all the resentment people have toward each other toward like, well, you have more than I do. And they’re letting you do more than I mean, I’ve seen on the internet people saying things like, well, they got casinos like they were given, like native people were given casino. Yeah, they got they got they were given land. They were given casinos. And I was just like, that’s not what happened. So there’s Black people that are like, where are our reparations, Native people have reparations and like, there’s native people that are like, Why doesn’t anyone pay attention when we get killed by cops? They get all the you know, they get the attention they get. You know, they have money, they have education. They you know, So it’s a very it’s a very messed up situation.
Kerry: A lot of fingers being pointed on both sides and yet the disparities are so real on both sides. What I what I recognize, especially because we are in the times that we in right now. Thank you for sharing your story by the way, it’s quite incredible. There are a couple of things that really touched me when you were speaking. But what what really comes to mind is how we are we’re, we’re both sides, whether you’re Black, whether you’re whether you’re Indigenous, whether you’re even poor white, we are coming out of a common pain. Everybody has experienced, our ancestors have experienced some agonizing and traumatic experiences that have just you know, come one over the other and one over the other. And instead of us being able and because we’re still in those pain, those traumatic spaces, there’s still not been a way to level up yet to see how the commonalities are completely stronger to some degree then what what’s the the traumas are that you know,
Tere was a book I there was a colonial book that was just kind of rinsed and repeated. And I think that when we can collectively move through enough of that traumatic fugue that we’re all still in, we will then be able to start to create the alliances to really shift the system.
I think it’s so powerful. And I really commend your family. Because you guys have a real understanding of your history. You can trace the lines back. And as frustrating as it may be, I know that as I was listening to you speak, I come from West Indian heritage, and my people, my mother’s Antiguan from the island of Antigua, and my father’s from the island of Barbados. And for us, it stops there. You know, what I mean? Where and how the origins of us and what the flow through was for us is so lost. And it was it struck me how powerful knowing that those intersections ,knowing where you come from, knowing that you have the land that sits where right beside the reservation, knowing that is such a powerful force and a way of reclamation of sense of who you are, and who you are as a family.
Azie: And don’t take that for granted was all
Kerry: I and I, I think we those of us on the outer side can can really hold that as an inspiration. You know, as Black people, you know we can we can hold that as an inspiration because it is such a strength in you. It allows us to be able to hold on that some of us got that You know what I mean?
Azie: I do. Yeah. And I, I’m very humbled by that. I mean, even when I did my mom’s mother’s ancestry and I was able to take that all the way back to the 1600s like, one of her ancestors was one of the, you know, he got into Maryland in 1636 and was able to, was able to purchase himself on a on a, it’s insane, but it was a rent to buy situation. Basically, he rented himself where he paid, he paid a certain amount of tobacco every quarter until he was paid off.
I also found I also found a family member on her side, who also did a rent to buy and that was in the early 1800s. But what happened was, he couldn’t afford it, really. So his wife was still a slave. So his wife had kids, and then the kids so that he bought his wife, but then the kids were still owned, but so then he had to rent to buy on the kids. And then by the time his son, his son was purchased, his son had a wife and kids. So then it was just perpetual. And I remember reading that and being like, there’s just no, there’s no like it. We couldn’t get a leg up. It’s just like even when you were free, it was just like you’re saying you could be stolen back you could be but it was also just economically impossible to move forward. And so yeah, they’re just it’s just crazy.
I have a lot of stories from like, but I but to go back to what you’re saying. Like I don’t take that for granted at all. I’m very I find that it’s very important to me to honor the fact that I can name my ancestors by name, and that I can, that I can know some of their story, and that I can help illuminate that to other Black Americans and also other Native Americans, because native people don’t know, I was gonna say the other thing we’re caught up in besides dispute is this like, cycle of bad education.
So the education we have about Native people is terrible education we have about early Blackness and the early Black experiences were terrible and so and the native people are getting a bad education about Black people. Black really zero to bad education about Native people. So that keeps us in a state where we’re just confused. And then we have you know, Black people that come up with all these alt-histories to try to make themselves feel better and say that they’re the real Native Americans, of Native people that that have all sorts of crazy things that they believe about Africans. So it’s and that and a lot of people don’t even really know much about ..
I lived on on Standing Rock years ago when I was in college, I did like a sort of like a study abroad, but I lived. I did work at South Dakota State University. I went to NYU, but I did the study abroad because I wanted to do American Indian Studies. And so I lived and worked on the Standing Rock Reservation. And I never even told anybody about being Pawmunkey because no one knew. I think I mentioned it like once and no one knew what I was talking about. They had no idea what that tribe was.. And so
Kerry: Because that was because it was not acknowledged.
Azie: I mean, that’s part of it. But also because East Coast tribes people don’t know like the tribes we hear most about are the ones that were
Patty: the plain tribes
Azie: were quite Yeah, that were that are about the the the Wild West, right? Because that’s the part of history that all of a sudden, Native Americans appear in.
Patty: Yeah, I was an adult when I found out that there were still East Coast Indigenous people. The Mik’maq, the Innu. I was an adult, Pawmunkey, the Lumbee, any of them. Any Indigenous, I thought they were all gone.
Azie: You would know about the five civilized or being the sorry, the Six Nations. You know about them in New York. And that’s it. Yeah. So nobody can write. I just was Black. I mean, I was just like, it was really frustrating, because I was like, I’m coming here. Kind of to part of my learning about where I come from and what I come from and who we are now and also, I couldn’t talk about it because I was too young to really be able to articulate and explain and I was didn’t I was already explaining Blackness so I wasn’t also going to be there trying to be like no but really there’s a tribe in Virginia and you remember Pocahontas, like I’m related to Pocahontas. I wasn’t gonna try to explain to people I was related Pocahontas.
I ended up working for an aide the native voice newspaper for a summer as like an internship. And I wanted to do I wanted to do an article on the Pawmunkey people and trying to get recognition. And I wanted to also talk about the movie The New World and how, which was a movie about Pocahontas. And how some of my relatives who lived on the reservation were asked to help, to get background actors for the movie, but the idea was that they would be cultural, like cultural liaisons, and they would give like cultural, but they there, they weren’t utilized in the way that they were at. They were just utilized to get to get background actors, and to get like native people on set. But their cultural knowledge wasn’t used at all. And I wanted to talk about that. And I was also going to bring in the hole and these people are still fighting for it.
And the editor in chief was like, well, they’re not recognized because they don’t have enough blood quantum, so, the end they didn’t want me to do the article because they just were like, you aren’t legitimate tribe. And I was like, and I had to say they don’t look like me, which is so awful. But I had to I was like, oh, by the way, I know I’m Black and I’m explaining this as you know, I’m related to these people, but they actually aren’t. They look like Native Americans. Like, I was like, can I show you a picture? Like I was trying to, like, prove? No. And everybody just looked at me until they let me finish and then they were like, no, because they’re not real. They’re not real.
And I felt like it was my fault. I honestly was like, Well, it’s because they look at me and I should I shouldn’t have told them that. I was like, if I had just said cuz I’ve ever said that before. So if I had just said, um, you know, this there’s this tribe that I happen to know about, it’s like, maybe they would have looked at it differently. Um, apparently our tribes not real because I’m too Black. That, that newspaper no longer exists, but but at the time, it was like the it was it was Indian country Today and Native Voice. Those were the two Native newspapers.
Patty: Oh, yes. But it’s all those messages that we internalize about ourselves, right? Because I remember growing up wishing that I’m old. I’m Ojibwe. And we’re a big ass tribe. We’re huge. Like, lots of people, tons of geography. I mean, we’re, in Canada, we’re stuck on these little bands, but like our unceded territory is immense. You know, probably one of the larger land masses of native tribes. You know, but I always wished that I was like Cherokee or Apache or somebody real, that somehow the Ojibwe weren’t real, because I didn’t know any right. Like I grew up down here far away. I didn’t know any. Man. These are ideas that we have, because these are the ones that Hollywood says is real.
Azie: Yeah, definitely
Patty: riding horses and wearing feathers. And that’s what real Indians do.
Azie: And they and there’s a little bit of a complex there with them to being, having the more blood Yeah, like I I have noticed that, you know, we’re, we’re real tribes and, and, and there’s a lot of pan Indian. I mean, the pan Indian movement that happened in the 60s and 70s was a resurgence of native arts, culture, dance language, all that stuff, but a lot of tribes were borrowing from other tribes. And at the time, that’s when their 60s and 70s that’s, I mean, you know, Blackness was becoming one thing, like, everything was kind of common, you know, and so, but now, they’re saying, Well, that was our dance. And that was our, you know, those are our songs and you don’t have your own. You’re not a … . And, you know, you’re, you have to take from us to have anything. And it’s like, just because you were, you happen to be contacted by the Americans 100-200 years later, does it mean, doesn’t give you the right to, you know, I even had one person say, Well, if you guys on the East Coast had been better warriors, none of this would have said, Well, I’m sorry, we had malaria and yellow fever to deal with that was all over the time they got to you.
Patty: We were a little busy with smallpox
Azie: by the time they got to you guys, they had a vaccine for that. So like what it’s like there’s it’s so complicated. It’s so complicated, like native people are already so many different things. We’re not a monolith monolith. We’re not any of that. You know,
Kerry: I was gonna say and I would I’m so curious. As you were speaking once again, what comes to mind is how then do you couple that against what it is to be Black and dealing with, you know how our common phrase is, you know, we got Indian in our family, you know when you got that good hair and how that presents in the Black community because I recognize how for us, there’s this and where we all want to be Indigenous we all want to claim that we’ve got some sort of Indian in our family. And so you actually do and can can, you know, point it right out? How does that translate for you?
Azie: I remember the first time that happened in school. The teacher asked if anybody was part Native American. I don’t know why,she was a white teacher. I don’t know why she asked us. And this was in Maryland, and a little Black girl raised her hand and was like I’m part Cherokee, my grandmother’s Cherokee. And I was and I knew because when, whenever I whenever the Cherokee came up in conversation for my grandfather he he made a face and so I had this like, feeling that we were enemies to the Cherokee, like there was something going on which is true. Apparently they were apparently the Cherokee used to steal from the Virginia Algonquin and sell them into slavery. So like there was
Kerry: There was some animosity there
Azie: We were like, allies, but then when the Cherokee got into the slave trade, they were like, Oh, those people look like mulatos we’ll just sell them. So there is some beef there, but I always just like, I guess we don’t I don’t think I’m not supposed to like the Cherokee. But anyway, um, this girl said she was Cherokee. And I raised my hand and I said, I was Pawmunkey and everybody laughed and a little girl said, Did you just say, the same girl, said did you say You’re part monkey and I was like, Okay, nevermind. And I was a to feel a shame because I couldn’t explain like, no one had heard of it. They knew what Cherokee was and yeah, let’s be real
Patty: everybody’s Cherokee.
Kerry: Every Black person’s got Cherokee in their family.
Patty: Okay. Yeah. In Canada everyone is Metis, in the US everybody’s Cherokee
Azie: That’s true. and so you know, but I think what helps is like you’re saying like I know I know the tribe, I have the record like you know, I’m over it like when it comes to, I shouldn’t say I’m over it I do get I do get nervous the first time I explain it to people, but usually, because it’s such an unknown tribe, it’s like, oh, it must be true because like, why would she make that up?
Kerry: Why wouldn’t you claim Cherokee?
Azie: Why don’t you justsay Navajo? I don’t think. So that helps. But yeah, it’s I think there’s this idea that everybody wants to be some something that’s not Black. And everybody wants to be mixed with something. And that Blackness because we’re ashamed of our Blackness, I think I’ve proved pretty well in my career up to this point that I’m not ashamed of being Black. And that being Black is really important to me. And I, and so I don’t, maybe other people have feelings about it that they don’t share with me. I don’t know but I don’t feel insecure any more about that. About being both also.
I think it’s so important for me to be bold because I think it’s, I think it’s important for me to, to take up that space. Because like, most people don’t know, I’m, I’m very proud of both legacies. And I’m also extraordinarily proud of my family for, for insisting on, on loving who they wanted to love and, and finding commonalities and solace in these two deeply traumatic experiences on this land and being able to say, Okay, what do you bring to this? What do I bring to this and how do we How do we get through this together with all of all of what we are?
And so, I’m really I’m also really proud of, you know, pre Black Law Pawmunkey who were saying, okay, you know, come just come to us we don’t know what they’re doing like, we know it’s messed up like we’re all going through crazy stuff but if you need some time off from whatever that is, you can come on our land for a little while. They’re going to take you back, but you know, we’ve got for now we know who you are Jim or Joe or whatever and, and for them holding that space even though they don’t anymore.
And that’s, I think that’s so it’s so important to see like, these pockets of all not alternative history, but like, these pockets of history that we don’t know about that were really, that were just like sustaining. And I don’t know, I want to say, just the fact that we were able to live in that way was a fight against white supremacy.
Kerry: absolutely. And I so agree with you. It’s a personalization of history. It takes it out of the textbook, and brings it in front and center and real life. It’s those kinds of stories that really allow us to see the humanity and gives it the texture that I think is so lacking, if we just see it from that academic space, right? Because we all know that you know, the conquerors write the history, and they’re going to skew it to their side. But that’s a victory. You know, that is a very human and tactile space of humanity and that survival that has happened amongst us as we continue that’s resiliency at its best. So I agree 100% I love hearing this story.
Azie: Its resiliency at its best, that’s a good way to put it. But also, like, I just feel like it’s a really important space to occupy because there are strengths and weaknesses in like, the Black point of view, and strengths and weaknesses in the Indigenous view. And I think that they there’s so much to learn from each other.
Like, for example, Black people don’t have the same commitment and understanding of the land, they just don’t and it of course, they don’t because they’re not from here, right. We’re not they’re not from this land. And because land has been like our understanding of land has been in our labor, right? So it’s, it’s not we don’t feel that connection as easily. I didn’t grow up going camping and stuff like that. You know living in a tent and eating beans was not what most Black people wanted to do. But I get that from the native, my native side because this is our land. We are stewards of this land, we are protectors of this land. Because we’ve been here from beginning and we have the technology we have the engineering, we all we have everything about our, our, our culture is about place. And, and, and that’s important.
For the Black side, our ability to go within and our ability to go into white spaces, like academia, like you know, places because we were used to it, you know, we had to assimilate in a different way, I think there’s a strength in that, too. We don’t have what native people have is all of we’re still in the same place. We want to live the way that we’ve always lived. And we have this alternative that keeps pulling us back. Like we want to live like this. No, we don’t want to live the white man’s way we want to live the our way and Black people don’t necessarily have that because we’ve been assimilated from beginning we don’t know, like you’re saying where we came from in that way. So we’re trying to make something new. And that is really important. We’re trying to make something new. And I think sometimes we are caught in a weird way because we don’t necessarily want to do things this white way. You know what I mean, but we don’t have the same type of alternative. Like we don’t know
Kerry: That’s what I think it is. There’s like, I agree with you. There. Yeah, there’s a gap. There’s like we sit we there’s like a almost like a chiasm. I imagine, you know, we don’t necessarily want to do it the white, we don’t want to do that necessarily, but we’re not sure how far to go back. We don’t know what that really means to go back. Well,
Patty: Or what that would look like, because if you went back to Ghana now, Ghana now isn’t the guy you left behind. It’s not the
Kerry: and has not been for so long. Right? Where do we even begin with that?
Azie: That feeling of loss is is, is incredibly, actually traumatizing and difficult to deal with. So but because of that, the resiliency that we have of being able to create something new, that’s still our own. Like, for example, and I use this example, a lot, which is hard. It’s hard. It’s a hard example.
But Black people changed the Christian church. And people don’t even give us credit for that, like Black people literally gave the Christian church a soul. Like I, we made them actually confront what Jesus was actually saying, which was like everyone should be free. Everyone is loved by God, um, and suffering. I’ve done all the suffering you don’t you’re not supposed to have to go through suffering and liberation, we created liberation theology. And so that was taking because we didn’t have the alternative. We didn’t have the spiritual, that was gone. So we took what was there, which was the Bible, which was to church, which is what we had, and we create we, we made it, we made it more. We corrected it. We really did. There’s nothing really corrected. I’m not saying you know, not that we, but so it’s interesting.
So when I’m in native spaces in there, so adamantly against the Christian church, and I’m like, Okay, bye But you’re talking with the white Christian Church. What about Martin Luther King’s church? That’s a different church. And they’re like, Oh, yeah, you’re right. And I’m like, yeah, and like there’s also African, you know, the Ethiopian churches is actually older than the Roman Catholic Church. Totally different way of looking at. They didn’t go around the world conquering people they you know, they haven’t they didn’t use it for imperialism, they had a whole different way of understanding that religion.
I was just so I’m like, it’s, it’s but at the same time for a Christian Black Christians, I’m always like, okay, but is this you know, how much of this is white supremacy? You know, how much of this is imperialism? How much of this is capitalism? How much is this is, you know, so it’s like being in between is helping me the good to balance because I do think that we balance each other and I think we get different things by being in this insane situation. And we bring different things to the table on if we if we ever got together in a real way it would be probably devastating, too
Kerry: Ah, powerful.
Azie: It was you look at like the goodness what’s the tribe in in Florida
Azie: Seminole, the Seminoles with the Black people that would escape to Florida. You know that they were able to, to fight against the Spanish and the English and it’s free for a really long time.
Kerry: Right? It worked out.
Azie: yeah, it worked out and it because they work together. And I think that was why I mean, I really think that was one of the main reasons why after the Civil War the government set the Black soldiers out west, because they wanted the first interaction between Blacks and those tribes to be warfare Because if that had gone a different way, you have Black people that had been in the war and had actual guns. And then you had native people that had a lot of land and weren’t and weren’t, weren’t racist. And that would have been a very different it could have been a that’s a good movie.
Kerry: Cuz what if, what if we had been able to just kind of come together with some guns and, and some open land and very open ideas? You’re right, that wouldn’t be a great movie.
Azie: I used to think these things and be like, but people couldn’t be that. That evil. But then I was reading about I found Okay, so I have another, keep talking my ancestors.
Jesse Dungey. He had a son. He works at the school, Norton, Hampton, in Norfolk, you know, the Hampton Institute, that he was a professor there and he taught, they had an Indian program. And the man who started Hampton Institute was a white man who was like, Okay, now that there’s now that there, that the slaves have been freed, like, we need to figure out a way to educate them. Black people had already started their own kind of schools and things like that. And so this was a school of higher learning, but that guy was actually quite racist. And he wanted to just he wanted to just educate Black people enough that they could go into industry. He didn’t think that they should be thinking about academia. He was not WEB Dubois. He was a he was the other guy.
Patty: Booker T?
Azie: Booker T, yeah, Booker T Washington. He and Booker T Washington actually worked together. Anyway. Hampton Institute had an Indian program. Interestingly enough, they didn’t take any of the tribes in Virginia, or the neighboring , they took the young people who had been captured in wars in the West. Because he wanted to show the most dramatic improvement of the native people because people on the East Coast were already assembly we’re already wearing, speaking English, going to church wasn’t the same. Yeah. So he’s captured kids were sent to the Hampton Institute. And he actually said, in his writing, I wish I had it with me.
But he said, basically, that he wanted to put the natives and the Black people together and he thought it would be a good idea, because the Black people would look at the Native Americans and be thankful for what they had. Think because they weren’t as bad off as the Native Americans. And the Native Americans would look at the Black people and resent them for being better than them in certain ways so that they would never. In other words, he really was saying this is going to make them not like each other, which I was like, What? It was so evil and it was so like methodical, and the way that we can talk about it like that where he was like, you know, and then the native kids will be like, Oh, the Black kids can speak proper and they know how to know which fork to use and they’ll, they’ll be compelled to assimilate more because out of competition and that kind of thing.
And the reason why in the end, so that only so my my ancestor, John Riley was his name and he taught the he was a lawyer and he taught at the Indian School and then they actually ended the Indian School after only like 10 years or something because the native kids were getting with the Black kids. And that was they had separate and they kept all the classes separate. They had them separate. And then they were there all these letters that people were writing, like, I don’t know if we can continue this because the native girls are really looking sideways at the Black boys, switching their hips around them and all that stuff. Like, I mean, obviously, there’s like 19 years old, of course, they’re going to start to and they were like, this is gonna stop. And so they stopped the Hampton Institute’s native program because they might actually make families and I just read this and I was just like, oh, so they were that evil like, and methodical and like we don’t want Black and Native people to like each other.
Kerry: Yeah, we like who we like love is love,
Patty: I was listening to you talk about land, you know, and your family having land. And you know, and Black people really being landless, you know, the contribution being the labor. And it just made me wonder because something that Tamara had said last week about, about Indigenous, you know, we’re fixated on land, right. It’s not land back, we want our land. You know, we’re very, you know, we’re very, we’re very fixated on that and I think to a certain degree rightly so. I mean, it’s, it’s not that many generations removed that we had access to it right.
Azie: Also, there are treaties that people should be actually legally held responsible to, right.
Patty: It made me wonder if if, you know, Black people Black, you know, hear Indigenous focus on land as rejection. As this is ours and not yours.
Azie: Oh, Yeah,definitely.
Kerry: I definitely, I think that makes a lot of sense. And also, when you were when you were talking about, you know, our relationship with the idea of land and our space being in labor, it also that in itself is painful. Because we have, we have had a relationship where our blood sweat and tears have spilled, but that acknowledgement of that space has no bearing in the picture at all. So it is it’s like a double rejection on both sides. And so I do agree with you that it for us. I know as a Black person who’s worked the land in, in, in, you know, in the West Indian lands my people did. It holds that space of, of tragedy. There’s an element or a feeling or a sense of that tragedy that’s ingrained. Because it’s still not ours, we still can make no claim.
Patty: Hmm. Because that’s also relationship. Yes, all of those centuries of work is still relationship.
Azie: I was gonna say I shouldn’t have said that we don’t have a relationship with lamb because that’s not true. I mean,
Patty: no, but I know I know what you meant, we talk about thousands of years of ancestors, that’s not the same thing.
Kerry: I actually thought it was profound. Because what how you how you how you spoke was it’s true, that it’s the it’s this. It adds another dimension to the relationship that we all hold together in relation to the land. You know what I mean?
Azie: I guess I’m also talking about when we think about things like climate change, and why that hasn’t necessarily been the focus for Black activism. It’s, I think part of that in the way that it is for Indigenous activism. And I think part of that is our disconnection to the land. And the ways that it’s been filtered in this white world is about ownership and money making. And it’s like, well, we’re not that either because you haven’t made. We haven’t we haven’t made it in that way.
The other thing is that there’s so many Black migrations, like even when I think of, if we are we you have a very strong connection to any land, it would be the land that our grandparents and great grandparents left to go to the cities because they were literally being terrorized on the land that they probably did feel very connected to. I mean, when I worked at Mount Vernon and I would walk out on out and look at the Potomac River. I thought so many times about how I was looking at the site that the person that I was supposed to be portraying had had seen all her life, and how it must have been. And it was incredibly, almost painfully beautiful. And how she must have felt so attached to it in a very real way.
But at the same time, people would say things to me as this character, right? Why don’t you just run away? And I and that is so interesting, because it’s like, why should I have to. I love this place. This is my I grew up here, my family’s here, that tree over there. I remember when it was just a little seed and now it’s a big tree, like, we did have real connection to land. But it was constantly under attack because we’d either we needed to escape it, or we if we needed to escape it. That’s the only way. It wasn’t ours. We were thrown, we were given to someone else. So we had to, you know, find it was new land that we had to like feel attached to. I mean, it’s like the trail of tears kind of a thing, but constantly over time, these migrations that Black people have had, and then going into cities where I mean, you don’t want to be connected to that. It’s just nothing. There’s very little for that.
And our spaces never had, we weren’t we didn’t have beautiful parks. Right? We didn’t even have projects. We Yeah, so it was so the outside world is always, I think, in a lot of ways been a contentious relationship as opposed to a relationship of reciprocity, and, and feeling safe. Because I think land where you live is where you feel safe, but we’ve never we’ve not felt safe here. So how, how can we have that connection to this land?
And then when I think about things like reparations, and people saying, well, we were supposed to get 40 acres and a mule, but that was never their land to give. You know what I mean? So the other day I was thinking, it’s like part of me as a refugee here. And part of me is, is Indigenous to here so and I now I’m in California. So literally, I found myself talking through the trees like I don’t know you.
So when we think about, like, what it would mean to when people say settler, and they also include Black people in that. That’s wrong. Yeah. If people but at the same time you know, we went out west and settled things, too, I mean, we but we had to, like we didn’t have like, it’s like, it’s like I’m saying it’s a refugee situation. We didn’t come here on purpose.
Kerry: It’s like, it’s almost like we almost have to develop a new, or reframing and almost like a new language and not that that may be one of the avenuesthat we take as we begin to have these dialogues is to really go into these stories give it the personal senses, understanding what it was like, where we come from, as on each side, you know, whether you’re Indigenous, whether you’re Black, what are the interconnections out of that individual pieces, out of the senses that have happened? And I I’m this this conversation for me is really opening up so many possibilities. So many.
Patty: There’s always opportunities, right? Where there’s always these moments like, like, you know, like you were saying, Joseph Brant, you know, as a Mohawk owned slaves, but Mohawk communities also housed runaway slaves, and were places of refuge and safe places, and our relationship is complicated. And what made it complicated the colonial regime. The colonial regime continually complicates our relationship and continually, every time you know, whenever there these flashes of cooperation come in and they stir things up and they make things sound different and they pit us against each other. And and that only helps the colonial state, that only helps the government. And so as Indigenous people, our sovereignty has to include Black liberation. If our sovereignty does not include Black liberation, it’s not worth it.
Azie: Well, I also feel like Black people have to figure out a way to be less invested in, in these systems, this economic system, maybe because we, you know, once we figure out we can be some of the work we can be capitalists, because
Patty: there’s no liberation in capitalism.
Azie: Yeah, and a lot of people see making it in the in this set in the settler state sort of in a way of mimicking whiteness as a as, as winning, and actually, it all needs to be dismantled.
I have Depression. I have panic disorder, because I got a lot of problems. But my therapist is a native woman. She’s Navajo, Dine and she runs a a, she runs a counseling, I guess company counseling called Indigenous wellness certain circle. And it’s a godsend because I honestly I had so many the last person I had told me I shouldn’t be with somebody else with, I was dating somebody, he also had depression, she was like, You can’t be with that person because then your children will have it and I was like, are you a eugenicist? And also, I’m Black like, whoever I date is going to have mental like, that’s native like,
My first boyfriend was native. He was bipolar. Like, you’re all like,
Kerry: we got issues.
Azie: We are not finding a guy that’s not that doesn’t need help. So the fact that You’re like but then your kids and then you’re like I’m asked her for her opinions on. She would also be like you can’t give money to your family and I’m like why do I have money then because that’s in my culture you if we don’t we’re not it so that’s that’s having somebody who is has the same like ideology values and she has beading circles like on zoom if they used to be in person but now it’s like we do we do beadwork together and as part of our therapy ..
Kerry: We so have to continue this conversation
Azie: yeah sorry I’m still talking
Kerry: Oh no it’s you, not at all I it’s in its flavor and you freshen up where we go next.
Patty: Thank you so much Azie
Azie: It was great talking to you guys
Kerry: Thank you guys so much. Have a happy dinner.
Azie: Bye bye
You can find Medicine for the Resistance on Facebook and the website http://www.med4R.com . Don’t forget to rate share and support us by buying us a coffee at https://www.ko-fi.com/medicinefortheresistance. You can also support the podcast and so much more by going to https://www.patreon.com/PayYourRent. You can follow Patty on Twitter @gindaanis and at daanis.ca You can follow Kerry @kerryoscity and find her online at kerrygoring.com Our theme is fearless.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai