Native American Portraits - The Series - Amanda Starr
This past year I got to go to Mt. Juliet Pow Wow and do some photographs with some of the dancers for this Native American Portrait Series. I'm still working on connecting with everyone that I photographed that day for their interviews, but recently I got to chat with Amanda a little bit about her story. I hope that you enjoy it.
Ricky - What is your nation?
Amanda - My mother's family is Eastern band Cherokee and my father's is Western band Cherokee.
Ricky - That's really cool! What is the the dynamic between the Eastern & Western bands? I've heard various stories. Is there still tension somewhat or not so much?
Amanda - You mean like the difference between them?
Ricky - Like the inter-band relationship. I've heard some people tell me that some of the Western band has been somewhat upset at Eastern band because of the removal and the Eastern band stayed. I've only heard a few people say that and I was curious.
Amanda - I honestly don't really know. I have heard that in the past the 2 bands did not get along for various reasons.
True be told I'm only in the last few years been able to start really learning about the Cherokee culture. It's been hard because a lot of people look at me and question if I have the right to be there.
My parents weren't raised native so I have had to fight really hard to learn what I know and earn my place in Native society.
Ricky - I can understand that. I've heard that story a lot from Native people who have been kind of lost out in society and are being called back and trying to learn. The important thing is you're out there trying to learn and do it respectfully. When did you become interested in your heritage?
Amanda - I was a little kid about 10 I think and there was a powwow going on in my town so my parents decided to go check it out and I feel in love and wanted to learn how to dance too. So my dad started talking to some of the people that were apart of the powwow and the rest is history.
Ricky - That is awesome! So you started dancing soon after? At that point, your parents weren't really part of the community in your town? What changed after that Pow Wow?
Amanda - Yeah the following year I started dancing. Unfortunately there's not really a native community were I lived just a few people here and there. We became good friends with a couple of people that were close by and by the time I was about 13 I was traveling around to powwows with them. My parents really couldn't afford to travel so going with friends was the only way i could go to powwows with the exceptions of the few that were close by.
Ricky - That's awesome that it meant that much to you at that age to become so heavily involved. When did you start learning more about your culture beyond the dancing and trying to become more a part of the Native Community?
Amanda - Once I staring getting to know people I started asking questions trying to learn as much as possible but I was an adult before I started getting really involved in the community and more traditional aspects of the culture.
Ricky - That's cool. What inspired you to go deeper in learning?
Amanda - Because it's a part of who I am and I truly believe you have to know where you came from to get to where you're going.
Ricky - I agree! How is it being a parent and bringing your son up knowing being involved in the culture?
Amanda - It's great! I also have a daughter that is almost 20 years old. It's amazing to be able to watch them learning and grow with knowledge of their culture more so than I got to. For my son who has high functioning Autism, real ADHD, and sensory deficit so I think being involved in powwows helped him tremendously with his social skills and to over come some barriers that he otherwise would not have been able to do.
Ricky - That is really cool! And dang dude, I would not have guessed you have a 20 yr old daughter. I know your son dances, does your daughter?
Amanda - She did up until 2 years ago when she started working her job really wouldn't let her have weekends off to powwow, but she has decided she wants to come back and dance again. So I'm going to be making her a couple of new dresses and new beadwork for her to come back in. So maybe sometime next year.
Ricky - That's so cool that you guys dance as a family. What does dancing mean to you?
Amanda - It means the world to me, it's a part of who I am. It makes me feel good to dance because I'm carrying on a tradition and helping to insure that it stays alive.
Ricky - What is it like being Native and living in our society these days?
Amanda - It can be hard because the people I'm around on a daily basses aren't Native and have no idea about it. So I have to listen to ridiculous questions and comments. I sometimes even feel out of place. On the flip side I've been able to teach people what it really means to be Native. The truth of what our ancestors went through and our people still go through. It has it's good days and bad one.
Ricky - That's awesome that you've been able to really help bridge the gap a little bit and help teach. What is some thing you wish more people knew about being Native in this day and age?
Amanda - That we're real people and we're still fighting some of the same battles that we've been fighting since Europeans arrived and it's time to stop.
Ricky - Amen! Very well said! So much of what's happening today is still being so quiet and not talked about. I want to thank you for taking the time to do this. One last question. What can people do to learn more and see what is going on today and help First Nations people in their fight?
Amanda - Take the time to ask questions and actually listen to the answers. Pass the information along to others don't just pretend it's not happening. Stop cultural appropriation.
You very welcome I enjoyed doing it.