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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Worthy Of Telling Your Own Story

PC bro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club and my name is Freddy Gipp.

I am born and raised in Lawrence, KS and currently head a small community development firm called Lead Horse LLC. I am an enrolled member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, my Indian name is “T’san T’hoop A’hn, meaning “Lead Horse” in the Kiowa Language, and I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in strategic communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism.

In the book “Neither Wolf nor Dog”, author Kent Nerburn embarks on a journey that encompasses cultural perceptions, struggles and parallels between him and an unlikely source, an Old Indian Man named Dan.

Nerburn, living in Bemidji, Minnesota at the time, spent his career working with Red Lake Ojibwe students, collecting the memories of their parents and grandparents, forming two books.

His books, describing many accounts, all vastly different and some disparaging, while others found “old wounds opened and familial feuds rekindled”, and frequently received phone calls from frustrated relatives trying to revise his stories on their own accord.

However, it was one call in particular that stood out to him and when they asked if he could meet her grandpa, Dan, The Old Indian Man, and he immediately obliged and that is How Neither Wolf nor Dog begins.

When Nerburn arrives to Dan’s house, they have a deep conversation about each other’s people. Dan isn’t fond of the White people who aren’t well-intentioned, claiming “White people that come around to work with Indians, most of them want to be Indians. They’re always wearing Indian jewelry and talking about the Great Spirit and are all full of BS”.

As an Indian in today’s society, we are constantly fighting for the basic components of our treaty rights and trust responsibilities with the federal government. It’s worse when you have to fight a multiple theater conflict while simultaneously  challenging narratives that deem you as not worthy in telling your own story.

This is a constant theme in today’s society and is prevalent in areas such as academia, business and politics. We’re invisible, always have been and will be. It takes the work of author’s like Nerburn to gain notoriety amongst Indians because he understands this dynamic and isn’t afraid to call it what it is amongst his own people, gaining Dan’s respect and trust and laying the foundation for this story.

From the Radio Reader’s Book Club, this is Freddy Gipp signing off.