Monday, April 23, 2012

guest blogger: rad rioter & writer natanya ann pulley

socks.  this year she will socks.

 NATANYA ANN PULLEY's maternal family home is near Tuba City, AZ. She is half-Dine of the Kiiyaa'aanii (Towering House Clan). Bicheii is Tachiinii (Red Running Into Water Clan).

i briefly intersected with natanya in an instructor training several years ago, then one day a link to this totally rad hilarious/serious piece she wrote for mcsweeney's, open letter to johnny depp's tonto, popped onto the radar and i knew girls in tight places had found their next guest blogger.  natanya has a slew of cool projects going on:  she's co-editor to the forthcoming good medicine: an anthology of native american humor.  she is currently working on her phd at the university of utah in fiction writing. she is an editor of quarterly west, and her work can be found in: western humanities review, the florida review, moon milk review, the collagist, drunken boat, and the los angeles review.  she just ordered her copy of and is excited to read walking the clouds: an anthology of indigenous science fictionyou can find out more about natanya and her work at gapp's basement.  

in the mean time, hear the words she has graced us with here:

“Colonizer Bunny” by Bunky Echo-Hawk

Red Riot: Emerging Native American Voices and Poetics

I’m still feeling something out. The edges of it, a little like static in my hand. I feel the charge, know there’s a fabric. I want to tell you about it. I want to invite you to feel it with me. But I’m not sure what it will become. Imagine it is very large and we will continue to be warmed by it. Or it becomes heavy? Oppressive? What if it is just a small thing? Rare … or forgettable?

I have held the edge of this fabric for long amounts of time. I have clutched it. I, at times, pull it towards me … and it comes: 

There are many emerging voices from Native American writers, poets and artists.

And the things they say!

The way they say!

The way they are heard! It is something … new.

[Left:  Leather “Indian Chief” postcard stamped: “Oct. 5, 1907 Southbend, (PA).”
Found April 2012 at an antique store near Salamanca, NY (Allegany Indian Reservation)]

[Right:  “Feather Lollipop” (Cherry/Blue Raspberry/Grape) purchased April 2012 at Smokin’ Joes Trading Post near Sanborn, NY (Tuscarora Indian Reservation)
I have always felt there are great voices among my Native American families. But they seemed larger than life (than my life). Steadfast. Honest. Brave. Oh yes, the meme plastered on Facebook! You have seen it. Jpeg: Native Some-Chief in traditional dress. Quote of great wisdom. Over 1,000+ likes.  Shared. Forgotten. This is not to say that our elders were not wise, were not brave or were not steadfast and honest. But that they loom.

To me, they are untouchable.

For many years, I did not confess this even to myself. I did not want to oppose the power of the wise quote next to a sacred sepia (always sepia—antique brown complementing brown-brown) image. Who can defy a poster? It exists in more than one place, on more than one (virtual or not) wall. It is obstinate! And recognizes only the building that holds it up.

Then … well, fuck it. Sorry for the cursing, but truly … fuck it. I can’t feel my self with that poster looming over me. I can’t write my experience and understanding of my heritage when the poster threatens to wrap itself over me. I can’t join this discussion—this landscape of looming figures. And (I will say it) not just the landscape of warriors and chiefs, but the landscape of larger than (my) life Native writers and artists as well. The generation between the weight of the people as they held their traditions and the age of the Internet which speaks to us all from anywhere, anytime and in all ways. The Native American renaissance of the 1960’s and 1970’s, both a call and a threat. They made the images, the language, the phantoms that would tromp through Native American literature for the first time. They exploded the quiet and filled it with our elders’ lives made familiar, strong and solid. Wordspaces that bounded forth, but fell to replication (as all great things do). To tropes.

"redmen" by steve judd
Fuck it. I began to write non-fiction without the pressure to speak to/for a people held in, between or from tradition. I wrote for me: the me that threw my arms up and said, I don’t know how to do any of it! How to recover a heritage—how to speak to a past time—how to hold it all together. My mother left the Navajo reservation when she was five to live with an LDS family in the Indian Placement Program.  There is too much in that one line for any one story, for one book, for one life. There is too much in it and I have learned to respect it. To respect that it is a still-beating thing. That my heritage shifts in color, size, texture. It sings many songs and continually cuts its own legs off to start again. It boils to steam and drifts to airs and comes back to me in rain, wind, in breath. In smog.

And, here is the secret: I am not alone. This, a blessing. The consoler of the racist bullshit, of the lightness of my skin, and the image of my grandmother’s bent spine under crushed velvet as she lie dying in a rest home far from her hogan. The confidantes of my fluxing world, my mis-speaks, my confessions of liking cyborgs, horror movies and the soothing feedback of post-punk shoegazing music while still bound to some of the stories and sands of Dinetah (no matter how cloudy or misheard or mislearned they were).

Tiffany Midge. Layli Long Soldier. Orlando White. Sherwin Bitsui.

My support system when I wrote what I thought was my final word on the matter of my heritage. When I wrote why and where it hurts (not in society or history), but where it slayed me in my home, in my memories, in my losses. My mother’s words even, and often. I wrote an essay to explain why I could never think myself as Navajo, woman, self again. Why I’d split too much in all my ways. I wrote in an effort to say I was done trying; I give up. I was and could only be this mismatched, undone and redoing self. Just a modern, half-breed mess. My heritage pacing inside me or splashed back on me like varied lights from a projector. Spoken, blood, and dream ties within and around me to the rez, to my family, to the land-the people. No two-world being, like my mother’s war and art. But instead, a many-world being, road-worn. And kinda weird. Grouchy, but okay, but fine. Whatever.

The modern Native voices—these ones sought me out. Their names, their work, their invitations and support. Our discussions. We speak of new Native Voices rising. There are many. A Red Riot. They are everywhere. It is brewing—this new (dare I say) aesthetic. It’s not just coming, it is here and, it is not finished. It will one day be made into tropes and someone else’s wooden indian, but for now … these new Native Voices … well, they say … everything. Fuck it. We’ll say it all; we’ll say it new.

Tell us about yourself. What would you like "Girls in a Tight Place"
readers to know about you?

Confession: I watch a lot of late night terrible cable T.V. I know this because I wake with this jingle in my head:

Am in need of a brain scrub.

Are you in a tight place right now? If so, what are you doing about it?

I just got out of a tight space. I didn’t do anything to make it happen other than to let time happen. To breathe; To say, I’m just going to do what I do and keep moving forward. And then the universe relaxed. It was all just birthing pains. I do not know what will come of it. But it is something new and raw.

What do you want to get done this year?

I asked this question aloud to myself and heard myself say: socks. I don’t know what that means, but my goals are too large to speak of just yet. The act of hearing them inside and then out would burst me all open, split at seams. It turns from a goal to a dream to a path to a Life. I want to get done with another year of Life (the kind that adds up to some particular set of songs, to some particular image or motif, the kind of Life that adds up and onwards). And I want to get done with socks. Whatever that means.

What inspires you?

Sound. Rhythm. I feel hollow sometimes. Mostly, I feel heavy with junk. Then there is a song, a tone, a beating and I know I must follow. When I do: magic (writing magic, but also the other kids of magic). When I don’t: it builds to a haunt or scream or croaks and dies. I try to follow the sounds. It can be difficult to do so. 

What is your favorite legwear?

Late 80’s. Black leggings. Ending at the ankle. Black lace. Under cut-off jeans. The Cure’s Disintegration. Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. Lost Boys and Heathers, but Less Than Zero wasn’t the book. Nachos. Slurpees. Love letters to Christian Slater. Black leggings, a dark coccoon.


  1. I love the artwork that Natanya chose to intersect with her topic, I love the tangential energy to this essay.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Art work has had a great importance in our lives. I like your article. It’s a have a great interest and much enjoyment for your site users. I like artwork in all things. Good work and thanks for nice sharing.