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A Closer Look

Lauren Hurley

Two truths and a lie: I have never been stung by a bee; I’ve never been on an airplane; I am part Native American. Can you guess the lie? Growing up these were my standard phrases when playing the social icebreaker game “two truths and a lie.” I thought my propositions were particularly tricky because, given my fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, my peers always giggled in surprise when I confirmed that I was in fact part Native American.

My Native American heritage comes from my dad’s side of the family. When my grandmother was young she was sent to the Eufaula Indian Boarding School where she was forced to abandon her language, dress, and customs. Despite losing the apparent characteristics of her culture, my grandmother held strong to her identity and values.

American Indian Heritage Month stirs up mixed feelings for me. It makes me feel proud to be an enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation and to have known my wonderful, loving grandmother. It makes me feel thankful that, despite having endured unimaginable hardship, she instilled in my family the need to have forgiveness and love for all. The month also makes me feel humble when I think back on my visit to the chapel in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma bearing my grandmother’s maiden name where the service was performed solely in the Muscogee language.

However, for all the reasons I feel proud of my heritage, I also feel some remorse. For being a tribal member, I wish I felt more connected to my culture and that when I was young I had not used it as a quizzical fact. While I am incredibly thankful for the lessons and stories my grandmother taught me, I wish I had pushed her to teach me more before she passed away, like, for example, what she remembered of her language. Maybe with some practice, I could have understood even a couple words of the church service at Haikey Chapel.

Although I feel this internal struggle with my culture, I appreciate that it has taught me to approach everyone I meet with an open mind, knowing that everyone has his or her own inconspicuous traits and internal conflicts. I hope that in sharing my story readers are reminded to do the same. Despite the current divisiveness in our society, we might all be able to add some empathy by remembering that there is more to everyone than meets the eye.