APEX Hour at SUU

11/05/20: Taté Walker - activist who "Writes, Rights and Riots"

Episode Summary

Writer and activist Taté Walker joins host Lynn Vartan to talk about Indigenous Peoples' topics, definitions of feminism, the art storytelling and the writing process! Join us to learn more and share in the discussion!

Episode Notes

Video and other resources from this presentation can be found on the A.P.E.X. website at: https://www.suu.edu/apex/2020/11-05-walker.html

Episode Transcription


Lynn Vartan: Hey everyone, this is Lynn Vartan and you are listening to the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1. In this show, you get more personal time with the guests who visit Southern Utah University from all over, learning more about their stories and opinions beyond their presentations on stage. We will also give you some new music to listen to and hope to turn

you on to some new sounds and new genres. You can find us here every Thursday at 3pm or on the web at suu.edu/apex, but for now, welcome to this week's show, here on Thunder 91.1.




Lynn Vartan: Hello. Hello and welcome in everyone, hope you're all doing great. Today, this is Lynn Vartan, the host of the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1 and it is November, and it is 2020 election week. Wow. Well, we're not going to get too much into that, but we are celebrating Native American month on campus. But more than that, we are just celebrating the author that I have in the room with me today. So I would love to welcome in right away Taté Walker, welcome. 



Taté Walker: Thank you, appreciate being here.



Lynn Vartan: It's been so great to have you on campus. And just to kind of dig right in. I would love for you to just tell our audience listening, just a little bit about yourself. 



Taté Walker: Sure. Well, in traditional indigenous societies, a lot of us introduce ourselves and our language if we're able to do so, so I'd like to do that. *speaks in Lakota* And that just identifies me as Taté. I am from Cheyenne River, South Dakota. That's the Miniconjou folks. So I'm a citizen of that tribe up there and I greet you with a good heart.



Lynn Vartan: Thank you so much. That is so great, introductions are a huge part of the culture. And I feel like it's such a beautiful way to sort of open your heart right away. And is that sort of the impact of it? 



Taté Walker: Right, and especially as the speaker or the communicator, it really grounds and centers what I'm trying to do and if I can incorporate that community right away, which is what I'm trying to do right I'm part of this community and this is who I am and I'm taking you into my heart. I think that really shapes how the messaging comes through and then for me, but also for the audience as well. 



Lynn Vartan: Wow. Well, thank you for that. I love it. Can you talk just a little bit about your background and I mean you are so many things. You are a writer, blogger, a poet, a designer. I want to get into all of that. But just to give people a little bit more background on on how you came to be where you are today. 



Taté Walker: Sure. Well, I'm a hustle baby. That's sort of where it comes from, right, the folks who were willing to pay me for certain jobs. That's sort of how it started. But I studied in undergrad journalism and I went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, which isn't unlike the environment here in Cedar City, lots of beautiful mountains and great student body and that was the career field I chose. So I spent several years as a newspaper reporter and a big part of that was my indigenous identity. So that really came through in college. College is a great place to find yourself. And for me, that meant finding my indigenous self and being part of the journalism crew. Opened up realms within the native communities who said we need storytellers, who are like us who can tell our stories. Because as Native people were relegated to like crime sections or like the latest powwow, right, very surface level stories being told. And that's where I started. And that really got me into again that community space. So it wasn't just about telling stories and reporting them. It then became more important to participate in those stories. So, and be part of the stories. So that's where sort of the activism kind of comes into play. And I did social service work for Native youth and families in South Dakota. I was also a teacher for a couple of years, middle school teacher, worked for the ACLU and Headstart. There's, there's a lot of things, but it all came back to Native community. And that's always sort of led me to the places I've been no spaces. I've been but writing and storytelling kind of my kind of vibe. I really enjoy what the written word can do just in terms of like getting out messaging. 



Lynn Vartan: What is it that you think is so powerful about the written word for word or such a powerful vehicle for you?



Taté Walker: Right and the potential that the presents because you know, indigenous communities, a lot of us didn't have written language and there was purpose to that right very much allowed for our histories to be the lessons that we learned from those histories to be evolutionary right that could grow with us as a community versus, you know, something that's written down and canon, right, cannot be misused. Well way back then, this was done this way, therefore it must also be done this way now. And that's not true for a lot of stuff. I mean, society evolves and recreates itself. And it's possible to do that with our histories. And I think with the written word as somebody who struggles with anxiety. First of all, and also as somebody who I feel like the written word allows me to structure. What I want to say in in the in the best way possible. And it's really important to me that I get the message across in appropriate ways because so much can be lost with them, you know, just speaking or like, like the reactionary stuff that can happen online, you know, broadcast news, right, like how do you think about this? No, it's great, you know, right, but I really wanted to say this, and the written word can let me do that and beyond that poetry and, in particular, allows that written word to be just express way more emotion than say like a news article can.



Lynn Vartan: Tell me a little bit about poetry and I've seen your poetry, a bit online, but, um, tell me a little bit about that process a little bit about your poetic message and will we ever see a book of poetry from you?



Taté Walker: I think so. I've been approached by a good friend who just started Indigenous Publishing House, who's also a published poet themselves and for my query. So keep an eye out for that. But I actually do have a full manuscript of poems. So over 100 pages which for some posts and so that's called "The Trickster Riots." We have played on the riots. So poetry has you know, I think a lot of us come to poetry from like an academic standpoint, where it's very formulaic right you have to have, you know, the sonnets. And you know the pentameters and the rhythms. What do you think there's definitely a place for that? And I do challenge myself or trying to challenge myself to stick within sort of like a rhyme scheme but man, again the written word is so vast, like I love finding words, like Lakota words, specifically, like what is a word that we have for, say, the sun, right, which is we and then when you kind of play with that, you know, we, as in like the rural we W-E. And we in Lakota is W-I. It, you know, there's something that can be done connecting those two, right and I just kind of fun to look at that. But poetry is that emotional connection with people used to be something I did for myself. I definitely had a bad experience with poetry in high school, very much shamed for not following what the teacher set aside for it. And so I internalize that and only had poetry for me, but I think it is a testament to how much it meant that I continued reading poetry for myself. And I liked it. And then someone got a hold of it and was like, "Hey, you should present this." And so my blog. I think I, I took on J.K. Rowling in a blog. And it was fun to write but folks got a hold of it and beyond that, other poetry that I did in sort of an activists sphere really took hold of folks. And so they wanted me to present it, so there you are.



Lynn Vartan: So there you are. And I was just curious, are there threads of Lakota storytelling and pacing and timing in your poetry? Because I when I think of Native American literature or storytelling, I think of it as being very much an oral tradition, and I wonder about, you know, Lakota poetry is not something I'm very familiar with and do you have inspirations in that? Does that come through in your writing? Is that a part of it?



Taté Walker: That's a great question. And I think yes, when you listen to Lakota language and I think this kind of goes into perhaps other foreign languages, but it's very lyrical like there's the purpose and intention behind the words used has a flow, especially when you hear like fluid speakers and I am not that, but it's beautiful, it's beautiful language and it's very, it takes your entire body to use that language. From your hand motions to the grunts to use and your eye movements right, all goes into a statement and so that poetry that comes forth and I'm blessed to be part of a group out of Pine Ridge. It's called the Center for American Indian Research and it's Carnes We do an exhibit every year on a Lakota topic. So for instance, we've done White Buffalo Calf Woman, and a massacre site in South Dakota. We've done some origin stories. And what's cool about it is the curator who was also Lakota will take all the quarter artists from like painters or sculptors, so like physical art and then also poets. And part of that poetry piece and also musicians and together where we take the narrative that's being presented the story, if you will. And then we each take a section of that and write or create from that and that's been going on for years now. And that's sort of how sort of my poems been published and if you read my poems you, I think the thing that comes across, first is the walk, but they're also meant to be performed and so like the language, how it spoken or even just like the timing of course. I, one of my poems is kind of revisits a woman who, the story is very patriarchal and how it's told like it's about the sun and the husband mostly, but it centers around this Lakota woman. And so I took my poem and sort of made her the center in which she gets to choose, you know, her, her path. But one of the things I do in Lakota is take a Star Wars familiar line so, you know, when Princess Leia says "I love you" and Han says, "I know." So I did that in Lakota and I had to have elders helped me with the translation. And they were so confused as to, like, why would she say I know versus I love you too? And I was like, "It's a thing." But so we're able to like contemporaries. Yeah, you know, these traditional languages and I just love the possibilities. 



Lynn Vartan: Yeah, that's beautiful. I just want to, I know I started out, I want to talk about activism and we're getting there. But I'm one of the other things that you just said that. I just think it's so beautiful. I mean, I, I love language. And also we've been talking about expression, especially in the context of wearing masks and you just mentioned that you know in in the Lakota language, you know, maybe movements or grunts or things or whatever I sound the nonverbal and verbal sound. And I wonder if you just could talk a little bit more about that, because I think that might be unfamiliar to a lot of people, and some people might be curious about it. 



Taté Walker: Sure. Well, and I think you can take this from mostly historical lens because a lot of our languages were lost writers of colonialism and things like boarding schools and genocidal policies so not cool, but when we look at the history of our languages. You have to remember, we're on Turtle Island, which had thousands of tribes represented right and we had interact and so a lot of our languages incorporate a sign language, which has been studied and use it a lot of, I think like ethnography stuff, to figure out what we're saying and translate those into English. But a lot of how we connected with outside tribes was through body language, so things had to represent other things that were well known and widely known and it is pretty cool because the elders. I've been part, you know, been exposed to always use big gestures when they're speaking, especially when they're passionate about something. So there's a lot of movement and a lot of you know head nods and like you understand me. And they're making sure you're following along, and you know someone's really serious if they don't say something right like they're silent. So yeah, probably in trouble now. So yeah and and you know that stuff that some when you talk about reconnecting with community, you know, that's. Those are learned behaviors of communication, and when you're not when you're not part of the community, and I was not raised as part of like my entire childhood. We had some, we did live on the reservation when I was really young, but then my parents divorced. So then I wasn't part of that until college, actually. So the, what I would have not been exposed to that language took me a long time to like sense, teasing, right, is a big part of our culture. And if you've not been exposed to it can sound really mean and bullying, right, someone teasing you. But it's a it's how you are incorporated into the family and takes time, but is well worth the learning for sure. 



Lynn Vartan: Cool, thank you for that. Well, we are going to talk about activism. But first, I have some music to play. And I love, I asked Taté for some suggestions of some artists that I might be less familiar with and I really wanted like showcase and so the first one is Frank Waln and the song I have is "Runaway." But I was wondering today. Can you tell me a little bit about this artist and how you came to know them?



Taté Walker: Frank is amazing, he's Lakota and fantastic I he's younger artists and like a lot of folks on reservations use on reservations, a lot of their outside knowledge comes from pop culture and rap is very popular on a lot of reservations. He found his voice through rap, he actually went to school for medical for medicine to be a doctor and actually found that his medicine was through expression and music and so he's really made a space for like just flute and drum, but also he plays guitar. You know, how that kind of expression can be healing and his is just fantastic very, very uh one of those people who make you just jazzed for the future.



Lynn Vartan: Oh, I love it. Well, this song is called "Runaway." The artist is Frank Waln. You're listening to the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1.




Lynn Vartan: Well, welcome back to the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1 and that song was called "Runaway." I love that last chord. It's so rich and so deep and so intense. And the artist is Frank Waln. And if you want to check out more of his music and also just a reminder that if anybody's interested in the music that gets played on the APEX Hour, you can go to our website, which is suu.edu/apex. And then click on the podcast button and you can find the podcast and also have a Spotify playlist that's open to the public, Spotify playlist called Played on APEX Hour. So the song and many others will be in there. Welcome back into the studio Taté Walker. 



Taté Walker: Thank you, loving it.



Lynn Vartan: Taté is an author and blogger, communications presence. You've been a poet, designer, all different things and we're in right now I would like to ask you, do you identify as an activist? How you would describe because I know people have different relationships to that word right?



Taté Walker: I do identify as an activist. Um, but it goes into like that role responsibility piece that's so important within community building, then like other people have identified me as that. And so I accept that responsibility which includes things like speaking to legislators about visiting murdered indigenous women legislation, for instance, or marching alongside you know in solidarity with Black Lives Matter or, you know, making sure you know my kids curriculum is is inclusive or whatever it might be. I think activists can kind of have like a lot of folks can I use it as like a derogatory thing that activists you know and as someone who may be is just doing it for likes, I would hope folks would know that that's not my intention. And again goes back to that community building with, you know, it's not for me. It's for the people to come.



Lynn Vartan: And you mentioned some of the topics that you have been, you know, an activist for and about on including Black Lives Matter. But I'd also like to mention a couple of the others. You've been very active in the mascot change movement and also in the Pipeline Project. I think as well so if you were to define true activism, or the best kind of activism, or the activism, you would like to see kind of universally right now? How, what what does that look like? What does that definition look like for you?



Taté Walker: Great question, but I don't have an actual definition for but it goes back to the community building, because that's the best way I identify myself specially that indigenity. I have to have to be doing and working toward a better indigenous future. Otherwise, what am I doing it for? And so if the things that I'm pushing don't go back to, you know, the Wellness of indigenous people. I don't feel like the activists title is mine to claim, then, but this also goes into see my role as Two Spirit. So that's, um... 



Lynn Vartan: Could you define, I mean, I think a lot of people know, but a lot of people don't know also.



Taté Walker: So Two Spirit is often seen as sort of an umbrella term for indigenous folks to identify with in the LGBTQ plus, plus, plus spectrum. Which isn't necessarily wrong, but it's also not the full picture without getting too much into the history. A lot of indigenous folks who are LGBTQ will say they're Two Spirit, but just as many folks who are indigenous folks who are LGBTQ do not identifies Two Spirit. A lot of its, of course, dependent on the tribal community. They come from. We're not monolithic. So not everybody you know addresses or identifies the same way within my community. Two Spirit is a role and title that you're given. right, that you earn. Um, and that's not to say that there are people in my community who maybe haven't actually earned that but who do identify as Two Spirit, and I am not here to be like shooting them and be like you haven't done the work. Um, but that is more meaningful to me as an identity to be to say like my elders have gifted me with this role, and that's how they claim me and so I have work to do. So in that goes into that activism that I so meaningful to me. 



Lynn Vartan: Do you mind if I ask what is an only as much as your company or what kind of work is involved in in gaining that title and that designation? I don't know much about it. 



Taté Walker: Right. I think it's different for dependent. I mean, you could ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers. For me, it started with, I mentioned college was a place where I reconnected with my indigenous identity because it was something that was I was displaced from, especially my teen years. And it starts with coming out as a teenager as queer. I didn't have words for what to, you know, gender non binary might be then so I just said I was gay. I didn't know what that meant. And that was not an accepted thing where I was living but when I was reclaiming my own ingenuity, Two Spirit was a concept that was brought up and it resonated with me. So when I was reclaiming or reintroducing myself to my community and asking elders about it. It started you know they were telling me about it. And what for Lakota what that is. So, you know, Two Spirit is the colonial words right for Lakota the which today is often recognized as sort of like a queer person specific to like a masculine presenting person presenting, claiming like a feminine role. So we say it's literally woman, man. Let's like the words that are there. But for me, and the elders that I spoke with when I had to prepare for Sundance ceremony, which is sort of like the ultimate ceremony of sacrifice within Lakota culture part of that learning and it was a full year process like no drugs or alcohol, you had to learn language to be able to pray, you know, there's lots of elements of responsibility inherent within this ceremony. So with Sundance, you know, and after I completed it there was sort of this acknowledgement that you know you are, you have sacrificed for the people and now you know your real work begins. And so with that, and knowing that you know identified, you know, within a queer framework, you know, bisexual, but also now more gender non-conforming. The elder said, for lack of a better term, it's crazy, but it's beyond so it's like the idea of seeing beyond is that's the crazy. It's not like crazy, isn't right health. It's crazy, like, wow, I had no idea that was something that we could think about right? Um, so one of our leaders look for the leaders famous look related is this Crazy Horse and so being we always was very meaningful and it was only leader. Doing some ancestry work with my relatives that we found our my great great great grandfather is Chief Hump, who was mentored to Crazy Horse. So like the connections that were made within just finding Two Spirit for myself, I've just been phenomenal for like giving me purpose, purpose that I felt like was really lost especially, you know, teenagers are so pivotal for identity development and just not having, you know, the Lakota presence there just right after troubles. I'm still kind of overcoming some of those with therapy, but that Two Spirit will that was presented to me, was always presented with okay. It's not just that you're queer, right, like that's its own thing. Two Spirit isn't necessarily a gender identity, it's, it's that responsibility that you have to your people in the in the traditional times or olden times back before colonialism. It was a healer's role right, somebody who could see beyond you know just sex and gender. So we're in there were like medicine men and medicine women. There were Two Spirits who could heal and work with anyone. Yeah. You know, it wasn't relegated to a certain you know, gender, and it was pretty cool because there were also leaders and warriors who incorporated, you know, this Two Spirit responsibility and then we're treated with this honorific, and I think that's pretty beautiful. 



Lynn Vartan: Yeah, it's really enlightening. I mean, and and I don't know if if the tribes are similar in that, but at least in in what you're saying about the Lakota culture that's that's very, you know, just at a higher level in terms of, you know, seeing the queer community is as just having this power that's really beautiful.



Taté Walker: And of course that's not to say that we don't have homophobia, or transfer topia in our communities. You know that genocide and assimilation and boarding schools really messed with our understandings of things like Two Spirit. So we're still trying to reclaim that even within our communities, but I'm blessed to say I have family and relatives that have always supported that element.



Lynn Vartan: How about the feminism side of it, feminist feminism? I know you've been described as a feminist or a feminist writer these kinds of things. How do you feel about that term? And how do you, what does that term mean to you?



Taté Walker: Definitely. I claim feminism. I think this idea that we can make the world better by rematriating it is you know, I not work the other way. So, um, but it also again harkens back to how a lot of our traditional indigenous societies were run and there was a lot of justice that served when matriarchy takes hold, the feminist title can be problematic for sure. In fact, if, you know go into women's studies in college, you know, the feminist is very much a badge of honor. You know those classes. Anyway, some other classes, but you know, I really rallied with that because it gave me again that purpose that I was seeking, you know, of course we want people period It was actually Wynona LaDuke, who I think visited here a couple years ago. Wider Ojibwe and former vice presidential candidate when when but has done lots of books and it's very good with like food sovereignty and like anti pipeline work but I listened to her speak once about feminism and how the ideals of, like, we call it like first wave feminism and like third wave feminism, those ideals are very much set in a white supremacy culture. So this idea that it's not about making space for all you know women of color or, you know, people of color. It's a or genders in general, right, like this idea of inclusion right. Feminism is often from a like white feminist lens were said about dismantling the plantation. It's about owning half of it. Right. You know, and so that's that's super problematic and Winona put it in this great way of saying, you know, in the mid century 1900s, the feminist movement was like anti work early like you know you, we wanted to move away from like farming are called like it made the idea of dirt dirty, like, Yeah, where are they wrong and bad, right, like, oh, you, you can have it all you need to have these products and you can, you know, be a working woman. And, you know, wear the clothes and have the whatever, you don't have to have kids. You know, make sure that- not make sure, but like, you don't have to be the the caregiver right and it sort of put these like negative spins on things that were very traditional like wellness roles for women for indigenous women anyway. And she you know them that really kind of opened my eyes to, like, oh yeah, there's kind of some issues there are a lot of issues, um, feminists, Wave feminism feminists in particular seek something they've never had were in Indigenous people are reclaiming things they had and were taken from.



Lynn Vartan: That's a very important and clear distinction.




Taté Walker: And it's and that was again something, Winona really helped me come to because yeah like you know feminists were like, "We want this." And for a lot of natives, it's like, "We want this back," like we had this and and that distinction is often left out because you know what we talked about, like equal pay. know, we're like probably want to do, we're on 70 cents on the dollar. So we need that extra 30 cents and you know Native women are like we're like, we need extra at since before we become even remotely, you know, equitable and that scheme so like where does that come in so I do identify as feminist, as long as the inclusive feminism is either Allah Kimberly Crenshaw. But yeah, I think there's definitely space for indigenous issues within feminism as long as that space is made and you know so "Fierce,"

the essays buying about dauntless women-



Lynn Vartan: Yes, for sale at the bookstore. That's right. We have it in our bookstore. It's available online and your essay in there is awesome. 



Taté Walker: And I talk a lot about that. So if you're interested in learning more about indigenous feminism I do approach, a lot of the things that I care about activism wise everything from say pipelines to mascots yes or even missing a murdered indigenous women. To, you know, feminism in like indigenous feminism of like reclaiming versus just, you know, making space for. 



Lynn Vartan: So yeah, I highly recommend the book. All of the essays, I think, are fabulous in it and I was I really enjoyed yours. I mean there's just such a broad spectrum of, you know, great history great things about the culture that I didn't know the power of women in in the culture and also how it applies today so yeah. That book is called "Fierce" and then we're going to talk about your upcoming book. But before we do that, we have another song to play. So you gave me also "Land Back" by A Tribe Called Red and why did you include that one in our list and listening for today?



Taté Walker: So I think it goes to the theme of my topic today when I was presenting for the APEX event about land acknowledgement and how those can be very useful for institutions of higher learning, especially when it comes to the visibility of your Indigenous students "Land Back" by A Tribe Called Red, which is a indigenous group out of Canada. I want to say Cree, but I'm not sure. So I'm not going to say the tribal name on it, but they do some awesome just like digital beats, but they often incorporate like actual power groups or drum groups or singers into their into their work and always have a message. "Land Back" is sort of a sort of a new- well, it's not new, we've been wanting our land back for a long time, hundreds of years. Um, but this idea of land back is sort of new, they've been hash tagging it for the last year or so as a way to teeth into things like acknowledgments, and if you've ever seen things like "Oh we acknowledge the people of these lands and you know, the Paiute people for instance, of these lands and their contributions." You know, past and present, and usually ends there. "Land Back" is sort of this idea that we can go further than just recognizing people right we can actually put forth policies that even actually hopefully the end game of giving the land back and the benefits that would happen because of it. So this song that sort of or this. This music is giving credence to that. 



Lynn Vartan: Cool. Well, this is "Land Back" by A Tribe Called Red. You're listening to KSUU Thunder 91.1.




Lynn Vartan: Alright well that was "Land Back" by A Tribe Called Red, and this is Lynn Vartan, you're listening to the APEX Hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1. Welcome back into the studio, Taté Walker. That song "Land Back." We were just talking in your presentation today. We were talking about land acknowledgement and while the song was playing, we were chatting a little bit about that and I was just curious if there are any models out there in other countries or other places in the world where they are acknowledging or moving towards land back or land acknowledgement and in a way that is something we can use as a model. And I mentioned it, because I was saying I have spent the last couple summers in Australia and before concerts and before events there would be a you know, a native person, indigenous person to come and say either a prayer or a poem or a dedication of some kind and and I know that in Australia, they've they've made quite a movement in the last 20 years to to acknowledge or move towards great acknowledgement of their indigenous people and I was just curious if if you think that's a good direction? Is that moving in the right way? Is that a model we can follow? What, what are your thoughts on that?



Taté Walker: Yeah, no, a land acknowledgments became invoked, I would say, you know, trendy and things that were sort of wider, wider used. Not too long ago, I would say maybe within the last decade, but probably more so within the last five years where before presentations or conferences, whatever it might be that you have a big group of people, you would pause at the beginning and acknowledge the land you're on. And the caretakers, past and present of that land indigenous people, for instance, big part of that was the idea that the lander on his native land and it's always important to remember that because it's easy to forget. Right. And we don't make space for the histories, but also contemporary issues Native folks are experiencing, which means a lot of our issues we're experiencing don't get noticed. So things like oil pipelines or climate change is numbered indigenous women, which we talked about before language revitalization so many things and just by having a small statement at the beginning of presentations, concerts, whatever it might be sort of grounds the work kind of akin to a prayer. I would say it's different from a prayer, but and you mentioned, you're right. I think, you know, the experiences you had in Australia, fantastic. I think Australia has done a lot in terms of its reconciliation with the indigenous people there. And that's not, that's no more apparent than, say, the government system. I mean, I think they just think was New Zealand. Actually, though, that just elected one of their parliament folks as a as a mediator from my retrial and like, that's fantastic. Like we need that and we're not super there yet here I mean we have some representatives now who've been elected. I think we have, if I'm not mistaken, and I don't want to be mistaken here, but in know the representation we have now in Congress, both Senate and House is better than it's ever been. I just said, because I feel when you look at, like, you know, the seats that are there. Then you put like dots over the ones that are native it's still pretty dismal, but at least something, which is sort of land, the land acknowledgments. Right. It's not where we want to be. 



Lynn Vartan: But it's something if that's something you'd like to see, like, I mean, you know, if you could make one quick change. I mean, I know it sounds so pedestrian to say, you know, quick change that would have an impact, you know, is something like having some sort of a dedication or benediction and any public event. And I know it had an impact on me when I was witnessing. And I wonder, is that like if you could do one quick and easy thing to for the cause, do you think?



Taté Walker: That's, that's a great starting point and something that my conversation today. I really wanted to hit home was is that it's not enough just to do a recognition. "There are indigenous people here. They've been here. They're still here." Thank you, like, okay, great start. Yeah, we have to put some teeth behind it. And that's sort of been the conversation and indigenous communities where we have these sort of toothless land acknowledgments of just like, "Okay, well, what are you gonna do with that?" It's an enterprise, be like, look, there's a two people like we know that right, isn't it, we could do that without their knowledge, but what's better, is when we can put some oomph behind it. And that's not hard to do either. Mentioned, you know, have you seen examples I'm part of the Two Spirit Power Planning Committee in Phoenix, and one of our land  acknowledgement incorporates, you know, we don't have gendered dances or bathrooms restrooms, you know, like everything is sort of, you know, you make the space for yourself, because that's an identifying which is great because there are still powers that are like, "Nope, this is a men's only dance" or "This is a women's only dance, we're not gonna let you dance and if you don't identify as one of those or even if you do, we're going to make sure that whatever is underneath is proven" and like what? Like, that was never that was not a thing back you know traditional are you when you put those gender binary is on us. So anyway, so this powwow in our land development. His friend center it's posted printed and it's always said, of course, but it's so great because the kids that are there, which usually is the majority of our audiences, younger people are seeing what's of stereotypically you know, the quintessential native experiences powwow but so gender inclusive that you know, something we in my generation and beyond never really saw I think is just kind of magical and then to have it printed and posted you condense or you feel like you want. Well, so amazing. So I like that because it's, it's not just recognition, it's action. Yeah, that can be. You can hold people accountable to the action. They're stating right so what I was trying to get across today is that having a landing knowledge because there isn't one for the full institution itself a lot of colleges to have a land acknowledgement, building a land acknowledgement with your Indigenous students and faculty, that alone I think would be a great starting point for some of that reconciliation to happen. But making sure that land development also includes the kind of teeth I'm talking about the accountability measures, action items, things like we will try to increase native enrollment or we will try to incorporate more indigenous thinkers into our curriculums right easy stuff. That can be done in very simple kind of basic ways, but then you learn in progress and you grow from there and a lot of acknowledgement is never supposed to be. You know, a stagnant thing. It's supposed to grow with your organization. Right, so yeah, if you if it's done right. It's definitely a great place to get some of those changes made. 



Lynn Vartan: Yeah. Cool. Well, I know you've said, as long as you have a pen change can happen. And in one of the things that I really enjoyed is I've been, you know, reading a lot of your words online and I was telling you how much I loved your the way you handled your beef with JK Rowling and especially the adorable - oh my gosh -  video with you and your daughter. The letter to J.K. Rowling video and if you haven't seen that everyone, it is just really wonderful to see you and your daughter and just, you're just, your daughter having that wonderful space to share her thoughts and opinions and and that vibrancy but the writing continues and you have a new book coming out and I would love to take some time and talking about it so tell me all about the book and tell me when it's coming out and also kind of what your intention is with it what you want readers to get out of it? 



Taté Walker: For sure. Thank you. I'm so excited. Yeah, this. I've been published as part of anthologies in the past, or you know so poetry or magazines, things like that. But this is my first book, which you know for me in a personal space is like, that's my maiden moment. I feel like I've done some great stuff for community building, but this is my selfish thing. I'm so excited about this. Right, original publication was November 2020, so it was- 



Lynn Vartan: I know! We were hoping it was gonna be out for your talk!



Taté Walker: It definitely had some mourning period when my publisher was like, "Look, we're small and you know we've been hit hard by COVID." It's Mango Publishing out of Miami, so they're small. And I'm so grateful that they, you know, given me space and time of whatever so 2021. They haven't put a date on it, but it will be coming. It's nice because they're also letting me update a couple of chapters I mentioned, you know, Indian mascots is a big deal for me, that's, that's how it was politicized, if you will, as a younger person. So it's a some of the advancements we've made this summer. Summer 2022, the mascot issue. Which is huge for Indian people and so we, they're going to let me update some of that, which I think is great because it's crucial to the story of that. Right. Um, but the book itself, so "Thunder Thighs and Trickster Vibes"-



Lynn Vartan: It's such an awesome title. 



Taté Walker: Oh my god, I love it too. And in fact, when I was first, so I had the manuscript and I was pitching titles, because they're like, "Well, give us a couple things that you think." So I had a couple. I probably listed like 10, but "Thunder Thighs and Trickster Vibes" was my top that's always something I felt like trickster was always going to be part of it. But, um, you know, my identity as many people have multiple identities right we're multitudes in our who you know experience. So one of my other identities as a fat person and having an acceptance of my body and what it's able to do and how its able to do say like the activism work that's so important. This body does that yes and out of the body. Um, and that's taken me a long time to come to terms with and a big piece of that is that trickster aspect of like breaking down barriers to bodies like mine. And so it sort of fit and it was a sort of like I think everyone sort of resonated with us. So yeah, its subtitle is "Storied Advice From Your Fat Two Spirit Auntie." So yeah, I'm pretty jazzed. 



Lynn Vartan: And you were saying it's kind of a guidebook, in a way.



Taté Walker: It's the book I needed as an indigenous, not necessarily like a kid, kid. But definitely in that teenage college age, you know that identity finding stage that we all go through and having a book like this, which is my writing. If I'm proud of anything in my writing and what I've heard from others in terms of feedback, is it's approachable words, but I also like words that people can grasp.



Lynn Vartan: Your writing's very conversational. You know, it feels like you're talking to a friend and that is awesome.



Taté Walker: It's purposeful and intentional. I definitely want it to be something where I could speak to you in the same way that writing comes across. So I even know the sides that I put in, or like the italicized. Um, those come through and I think it works. So, and I'd yeah I do try to make it accessible, you know, put my kids through some of the chapters. How does that sound? But it's looking at how to reincorporate the philosophy of, in Lakota is a is is recognition that we're all related. It has various translations, but that's the general concept is we're all related and that we, as humans, but we as an everything non human entities, which includes land the animals and the plants and and of course people too. But I mean, as we learn to explore the cosmos to yeah the stories I relatives. And so how do we incorporate that philosophy to today's framework. And so I use the things that I'm most passionate about the activism, if you will. Everything from say food sovereignty to mascots to even just indigenous motherhood and what that looks like it's man if you don't live on a reservation, right, or just connected in some way. How do you do that? How do you incorporate being a good relative within all those again, different identities, fears that we have. 



Lynn Vartan: And we should say that though, though you do it in a way you intended as a guidebook for the book you needed. I mean, if these kinds of topics. I mean, I, I've read on your blog about you writing about parenting and I needed it resonates all over. I mean, you know, and so it's it's a certainly anybody could read it. 



Taté Walker: I mean, that's the hope, of coyrse. So yeah, then do want it to get out there, you know, but it is important to me that my my audience is, again, those indigenous young people who yeah wouldn't have that right universal concepts. I mean, and that's sort of always been what indigenous people I think are known for things that people can appropriate like, ideas and concepts that like oh, that sounds really good. I would love to be more connected to the land. I would love to you. Right. You know, this kind of adornment or whatever, for my wellbeing-



Lynn Vartan: And including that of radical love, right, which is a beautiful one that we have all appropriate, but is the centerpiece of it right?



Taté Walker: Right, like what does that look like? Like that's kind of like bizarre radical evidence. I mean, it's literally like the simplest form of love is like making your daily practice ceremonial so we tend to think of ceremony, especially with an indigenous communities as there's like gatekeepers to that. I mean, anyone with non native community is the gatekeepers of ceremony, you know, you're not enough of something until you therefore can participate and that's just BS. So if we can turn, you know it's radical love can be ceremonial in your daily practice. So, you know, caring for your land or came for your relatives, wearing a mask. Like how, you know, how much better could our world be if we incorporated some of those just basic ideas into our daily lives. And again, it's not about you, it's about the relatives you're making and connecting with.



Lynn Vartan: Well, that is such a beautiful sentiment to kind of bring our time to a close, but I have one last fun question that I ask everyone and the question is what's turning you on this week? And it could be anything. It doesn't have to be academic or anything like that could be a TV show. It could be a movie. It could be a comic book. It could be a book. It could be your favorite lipstick. It could be it. We've had it, it runs the gamut. So it's just kind of a fun sort of, off the cuff extra thing for people to know and you know just something extra about you. So Taté Walker, what is turning you on this week? 



Taté Walker: I love that. So like there's the rule books I'm looking at us like prohibited language of sexual. So take that in its philosophical format, um, the need to vote is really turning me. As someone who lives in occupied space in Arizona, we have traditionally been a very conservative state and regardless of what your politics are, that conservatism has translated to really harmful things for Indian country. And that's not okay, so regardless of what your partisanship is the fact of the matter is harm is being done to indigenous communities and has been done. We have put up all the stops to get the native vote out and I am so proud that we have, I mean, regardless of how the state turns and we're still counting ballots. The fact that we had some of the best voter turnout for Indian country is just, it gives me chills because we've got power even though there are some media corporations that would call our demographic something else. You know that's that's sort of expected. I think for a lot of indigenous people like no, they don't really see us. And again, where the land of knowledge by could come into play as a beneficial thing but with the news to turn out. I mean, we see that we've got some of that power and power that was never like ours, really, to hold. I mean, when everybody else had sort of dream job and the voting rights even you know 1924 was when we had forgiven citizenship United States. And it wasn't until I mean here in Utah, when I was looking up some research here. It wasn't until the 60s that tribes here in Utah actually had the full fledge right to vote and so much, so many barriers were put into place against natives two votes that have the turnout. We did totally turn me on. 



Lynn Vartan: Great. Oh my gosh. Well, thank you for sharing that. And thank you for spending this hour with me. It's been such a pleasure and "Fierce" is the book that you can find on today's writing and of course also online as well, your website is-



Taté Walker: Jtatewalker.com. 



Lynn Vartan: Awesome. And all of her writing is accessible through there and then the new book "Thunder Thighs and Trickster Vibes" is coming out in 2021. And with that, we'll say goodbye. Thanks for listening.




Lynn Vartan: Thanks so much for listening to the APEX Hour, here on KSUU Thunder 91.1. You can find us again next Thursday at 3pm for more conversations with the visiting guests at Southern Utah University and new music to discover for your next playlist. And in the meantime, we would love to see you at our events on campus. To find out more, check out suu.edu/apex. Until next week, this is Lynn Vartan saying goodbye from the APEX Hour, here on KSUU Thunder 91.1.