We recently sat down with Adrian Jawort, a Northern Cheyenne author and journalist for Indian Country Today to discuss the recent article titled “Native American ‘Rednecks’ and Colonized Anti-LGBTQ Conservativism”. Adrian shared with us how their article was received by the public and the self-discovery that had inspired the article
Hi Adrian, please tell us where you're from.
Grew up in Billings, Lockwood actually, but I've always had strong ties to reservations. Of course. Busby is where my family's from. I was back and forth from there and I actually lived on the Crow rez for a couple years there and even lived in Fort Belknap in my early twenties.
Tell us about your work as a writer and journalist.
My primary job is journalism and I also do literature. I do these literature anthologies. Hopefully I have another one out this year, called Off the Path: Three, that is going to be out and I'm promoting Indigenous literature. It's got tapped into writers from New Zealand, so that's cool and cross cultural things. Indigenous literature and fiction writing, it's important to me and a lot of it's based off of reality. I call it beautifully bleak. I always want to go for tears. If we're not crying ourselves then it's not ready.
Adrian, what inspired you to write the article and in particular, where did you come up with the title?
That title alone I can see is pretty problematic. That's why I put the rednecks in (quotation marks). It was based on something Sherman Alexie had said and even quoting him nowadays, with all his controversy surrounding him, that's problematic too. Reading that quote is an apt description. People are baffled about that. I gave a brief speech about LGBTQ people and Trans at a Not In Our Town thing. The next thing you know, in Fort Peck we had an anti-trans bathroom bill and people were like, just shocked by that. That’s a thing we don't talk about, that's like airing our dirty laundry. No, we don't do that. Then even if you do the response has been, well, you're being divisive. It’s easy for someone online that lives in Minneapolis or in Seattle and tell me I'm being divisive when I live in billings, where we voted down a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people. You see the stuff evolving and more and more young people even are buying into this stuff. Ironically, they think it's being rebellious to not be a social justice warrior and they're sitting there adopting these beliefs from old white Republican guys. A lot of people are just in straight up denial and that's because history has been so whitewashed. There was a quote from George Catlin who expressed it best. Being an artist, he was observant. Being a Christian, he was painting a ceremony of a two spirit person, I think from the Sac and Fox tribe, and he was just totally disgusted by it and everything. He said the one thing we have to do is make sure this is erased from the records. They really did try to do that. There's not very much record of it, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist. They didn't record the history of women either. They're always a background character, but that doesn't mean, they weren't important to the tribe. It's a straight up denial. “No, no we weren’t like this.? The other flip side reaction is always the “well that’s lateral violence” from the more liberal Natives, which I'm kind of used to because I just dive straight at topics. I did one called “The Native Role in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women”. People were like, “Oh wow..you're not..we don't talk about our role.”
When I did it, it was the 80 percent statistic and a breakdown of that. It was basically debunking that statistic not to show that we're bad, but it's acknowledging the problem. That's the thing. Like this LGTBQ phobia, etc., in Indian Country. The first thing you have to do is acknowledge it. If you don't see the problem there, how are you going to fix it? Something that spurned (the article) too is people are baffled that you see tribal chairmen sitting behind Donald Trump and people are just like, “wow, why would they do that?” They just can't fathom it.
Did you get any positive feedback regarding your article?
Like I said, there's a lot of people that are saying that this is divisive, of course. I shouldn't be, as I said, airing our dirty laundry. At same time I'm getting inboxes and messages from people I didn't know. This Apache was saying, “thank you, thank you for writing this. This needs to be said, we need to say this.” That Apache person opened up and told me his whole experience. This is how I grew up. He actually had an exorcism performed on him He thought he was going to go hang out with a group of kids, and then it was a setup where they held him down. A lot of people have been opening up with stories like that, saying it really needed to be written. If people don't like it they should learn to be empathetic to that because in the article it says, imagine this, imagine that, and I was deliberate in doing that. Imagine living the reality of what they're going through. They don't have to imagine. They’ve lived it.
There was an email, I got from some guy who said, “it takes courage to return to a time when such a thing did not take courage. I admire that.” That's what he said about the article.
Your article mentions the introduction of non-indigenous religion as a source of the “colonized anti-LGBTQ conservativism”. Would you mind going into more detail?
I'm always empathetic to their point of view. Even if I don't always agree with it because I actually grew up in the church. I still go to church so it's not like I'm just like throwing the middle finger o