I have this very clear memory of my Dad coming up to the pitchers mound at one of my softball games and telling me "It's not that we need to have a time out, it's that we want to make them think I'm telling you something really important so they get scared. After this you're going to strike this girl out because I'm going to lean in and whisper to you and make it seem like I'm giving you all the secrets to the greatest play in the world."
I wouldn't normally post on my vote for Tribal political positions, mostly because I grew up with that whole "oooo you better not tell people who you vote for" and "You never talk about politics and whether or not you like or hate the grumpy cat. You obviously like the grumpy cat. EVERYBODY DOES." (No pressure)
But this year my Dad is running for Tribal Chair. And I'm voting for him.
Of course people will say "well you have to vote for him because he's your Dad" and also "well you obviously have a little bit of a biased opinion in this case." Although I would respond, I know a lot of people that would not actually vote for their own parents and I think my long association with my Dad actually provides me with some insight into just why I think he's the person to be Chair. (Take it as you will though, there are other candidates for the Chair position as well, research will probably help you make the best decision. I offer here my two cents and my fully thought out, whole hearted endorsement for your consideration).
First, random people have walked up to me on the street to tell me how much they like my Dad. They like to tell me about how hard he works. He's a worker. He likes to work. He probably got this from his Dad, who also liked to work. Sometimes in high school this would make me crazy because mostly in high school all I wanted to do was sleep. People respect him because he's always going to do a good job. I once went to a conference and this guy asked me if I was related to Steve Baldy and I said yes, and he said "congratulations." And I said "thanks. I would highly recommend being related to him."
I don't want to say "he's the best person for the job" because I don't just think of the Tribal Chair position as a job. It shouldn't just be a job. Part of it is the day to day work that it takes to be the Chair of a multi-million dollar tribal nation and the other part of it has to be something else. It has to be the thing that makes a person be conscious of the many issues facing our tribe who still believes that they can make a difference. It has to be about more than the bureaucracy of a government position. It has to be about knowing that Hoopa is a place of incredible importance that deserves a good Chairperson who listens, is thoughtful, is respectful, and who believes in our valley. It has to be a person that doesn't just want a job. And it also has to be somebody who doesn't just want to feel important, but somebody who has always wanted to see Hoopa doing well and being balanced.
I love that word balance and it makes me think of my Dad. My Dad taught me a lot of things. He taught me how to catch a fly ball. He taught me how to gut a fish and filet and smoke it. He taught me how to clean a net (not the hardest thing to teach someone, but I can remember spending what felt like hours and hours picking moss off of the net with him.). He taught me how to write a grant. He taught me how to over cook chicken, how to order pizza after over cooking the chicken, and how to make really good abalone.
And he taught me about Hoopa. He taught me that Hoopa was the center. That no matter how far away I went or how far away I might feel sometimes from my family or my home, that Hoopa was there and that when I came back, my center would know it. I respect our valley. I respect the river that runs through and nourishes us. There was a reason that we fought a war to keep our center. And sometimes it might feel like we're still fighting. There are drugs and there is violence. Sometimes there are bad things that happen. But we are still here. For many years, many BIA agents, and superintendents, soldiers and settlers, they thought one day we would all be gone. They thought they could break us apart. But here we are. We dance. We sing. We love. We are.
When my Dad told me he was running for Chair I thought about the time we went down to the river together to check out the place where he used to go fishing below his house. I asked him what he thought about Hoopa and he said "Hoopa is home." He told me about how important it was to understand that. It's the reason why we did ceremonies and sang for the fish and danced. It's also the reason why we voted in the elections.
I'm voting for my Dad because he does things in a good way. Because when I listen to him he doesn't talk about what he wants for the tribe, he talks about finding ways to help our tribal members be more involved. He talks about listening. He talks about building a nation and finding ways for all of us to work together. He doesn't talk about himself, he asks questions and he listens. And then he tries to find solutions that will work, that he can implement, that will make a difference. He's practical. He's smart. But he's also creative. He's open, he's honest, he's accountable, and he's also funny. He also has the experience. He's built institutions from the ground up and he did it because he wanted to help Indian people.
I love him because he's my Dad. But I'm voting for him because I have watched him work on a grant to help rehab houses for Indian families. I'm voting for him because he works hard for Indian country. I'm voting for him because he will work hard for Hoopa -- because Hoopa is home.
Vote-- April 30, 2013 (or like me, via absentee)
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, volunteer Executive Director for the Native Women's Collective and is currently re-watching My Name is Earl...
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