When we first moved here, I remember walking through WalMart one day, and I saw this young woman, maybe early 20's. She had a unique look, tanned, but something else, slender features, big eyes, and incredibly shiny black hair. My first thought was 'What in the world is she doing in Durant, Oklahoma?' I was convinced she could have been a model, or a movie star or something.
I'm serious, she was probably one of the five most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life.
It took another few moments, and I realized she was a legit Native American, even after all these years, they still exist.
Durant has been another chapter of my life, that I've learned shouldn't ever be categorized as 'good' or 'bad', instead, it's been a series of experiences.
There's a lot of value in that, and an opportunity for growth.
What you may not know, unless you've lived in a similar location, is there there is another world that is real and exists just out of your sight. It may be that it's not a world for you, and maybe it's for you if only you'd look for it. It took me years to realize it was there, but I've only ever caught glimpses of it. I think I like that.
Natives provide others with free medical care, did you know that? You can walk into a Native clinic, and see a doctor, or a dentist, have a procedure, a surgery, anything. Sure, you can't go into one of those places and ask for a tummy tuck, or a boob-job, but if you have a typical medical need, it'll be taken care of for you.
Natives are helped with housing, and the housing I've seen is really nice. Natives have their own police force, that handles law enforcement on Tribal Lands. We live on Tribal Lands, it's curious to me that there are multiple police departments that somehow figure out which department handles which issues.
There are cultural centers, that work to both educate and perpetuate their histories. I had no idea for example, that Choctaws dressed the way you see in the photo above. Maybe that was a thing that happened after Missionaries came to 'civilize' them, but the clothing is surprising to me.
There are casinos, yep. But there are casinos in other states that aren't run by Natives, and to me anyway, it feels like those casinos demand some additional degree of legitimacy, after all, how nice could an Indian Casino be, right?
Actually, very nice. If you're into casinos I suppose.
It's a bit uneducated of me to observe this next bit, but I'll just come out and say it. To me, it feels like there are a lot of White folks here taking advantage of some potentially nearly-untraceable level of Native blood. What I mean is, I see a LOT of folks lighter-skinned than I am, running around with Native license plates. I mean a -lot- and I really wonder how the Natives that live here feel about that. Maybe I'm just a stupid White man that is thinking about it all wrong, that's definitely a possibility, but it feels like a system that is demonstrably taking care of each other, is being taken advantage of.
I hope I'm just looking at it all the wrong way.
So I've been thinking about all of this because we're closing in on the day we move away from here. I've said many times, I don't like the area here, but it's never been because of the Natives that live here. I feel like it's been the White people that live here that have made this little town the kind of place I want to take my family far away from. I pause a moment, think about that thought, and wonder how accurate that may be for the entire country.
Not all of my memories of my time here will be bad ones, instead, as I said, I'm trying to simply call them 'experiences' and find lessons in them where I can.
I do know that I'll always question of the tribes are able to take care of their people, and seemingly do a really good job of it, with likely, fery few resources, and yet we have this incredibly powerful national economy, and we still have old folks that can't afford their medication, and kids that aren't getting enough food to eat.
It feels to me, like we could learn quite a bit from the Natives.