GLADly Chat is coming soon. Tune in for Episode 3 on Friday, December 23 featuring special events celebrating the holidays. Don’t miss it.
—Image desc: blue and gold gradient background. On top upper area, white text shows “GLADly Chat” with GLAD, CODIE, OC DEAF, TCGLAD, B-GLAD logos underneath. In center, one photo from each agency’s holiday event with each logo. Lower area, white text shows “Episode 3: Children’s Holiday Celebration Special” with a picture of the date: Friday, Dec. 23 and white text “Coming soon!”
MAISHA: Hi Sarah!
SARAH: Hi, thank you for having me here today.
MAISHA: We are happy to have you here at CODIE for GLADly Chat. We were looking forward to having you here.
SARAH: Yes… I feel honored to be here today too.
MAISHA: This month is special, why? I feel you have read my mind. Perhaps you can explain why.
SARAH: Why is November an important month for us? It’s Native American Heritage Month. We celebrate our rich culture, our languages, and our traditions. We educate the world about us, to remind them that we are still here. Because sometimes, I’ve met a few people who actually thought we do not exist. Do you know that? That has a great impact on us. Or people will be shocked, like I’m the first (Native American) they’ve met and try to hug me. They would ask, ‘Can I touch your hair?’ Wow! That’s not proper way to ask if they can touch my hair. I’m not an animal. I’m a human being. But I actually experience that. Oh wow. I think about it. So I feel so importantly about November but it should be 27, sorry, 24/7. Native American Heritage is important and should be celebrated daily. It’s who we are. And you do your homework, research, and learn more about us. I encourage you to learn. We are not going to bite you. You can ask me questions regarding Native Americans.
MAISHA: Yes. I hope someday that this month will become a year-round celebration with established days to honor all of the many Native American tribes. Now here comes our first question: Since you’ve been selected as Chair for Native Americans of Iowa Democratic Party (IDP), can you please describe your duties and your role with the IDP?
SARAH: Yes, I’ve a rich experience as a chair. In 2020 – 2021, I was vice chair of Native American Caucus for IDP, for two years. Then on June 2022, last summer, there was a vote and they have selected me as Chair of the Native American caucus for IDP. I felt so honored as the first Native American Deaf woman to be in this position. Wow. I still feel honored.
MAISHA: Yes, very. I caught you fingerspelling caucus. Can you explain what this word means? A lot of deaf people don’t understand what caucus means regarding the vote.
SARAH: What does caucus mean? Did you know, Iowa is known for the presidential election year to gather for long-standing and strong political campaigns in Iowa. Anyway, we have a lot of caucuses, or groups of people. For example, Native American Caucus where I am Chair, and Latinx Caucus, Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus, and many different groups. Guess what? In year 2020, a caucus was formed for ASL users. That’s far out!
MAISHA: Wow! That’s awesome!
SARAH: I went to ASL caucus. I must go to have this experience. So I showed up and it was wonderful because all of us used American Sign Language, getting involved in discussions on why we support this person or other, with an interpreter to speak for the hearing people to understand us. But most of us discussed and voted in ASL. We also vote on who which candidate to contribute our points in support. I had a good experience and I think joining a caucus is worth it.
MAISHA: Now there’s a follow up question from this. Please share your insights on why Deaf people, especially Deaf Native Americans, are encouraged to register to vote. You recently explained a bit, but some deaf people are discouraged to vote and did not realize that their absent vote can have an impact on others. Can you explain why it’s important to register to vote?
SARAH: Why do I encourage them to sign up to vote? Let’s focus on the data. This year, a high number of women voted because of new abortion laws. Many of them screamed no, to keep abortion. So they voted. The ballot has shown that there’s an increase in women voters. For example, minorities’ votes are so important because they are small groups. We look at groups, like women, men, youth, ages 18–25, or 25-35, all the different age ranges. We can see the data on which group has the lowest voter turnout so we can do research on this, analyze it, and try to improve it. Our caucuses have the data. That’s why it’s so important to register. When you register, we can gather data on your name, your race, age, and gender so we can continue to research voter turnout to include everyone. That’s why voter registration is important. I encourage you to sign up to vote.
MAISHA: Why was it important to start Gathering of Deafatives group on Facebook?
SARAH: I founded (Gathering of Deafatives) in 2013. Growing up, I felt like the only Native American Deaf girl in my world. I didn’t see anyone like me. Two of my cousins are deaf, but they’re boys. Where’s a girl like me? Where? Later in my life, while I traveled, I met more people like me. That inspired me. I’m always thrilled to see other Native American Deaf people like me. During my travels, I met many groups and learned they weren’t active on social media. None of them were updating on social media. I saw that Indigenous Communities had events and gatherings, but that information and resources did not reach other Indigenous Deaf communities. So I set up a Facebook group and shared my vlogs to make sure people knew what was going on. For example, during Standing Rock Protests (Indian Reservation in South Dakota) in 2016, Deaf Indigenous communities weren’t discussing and didn’t know what was going on while Indigenous communities stood up for themselves, sending a message to the world. Deaf communities were so quiet and I felt disturbed by that because they’re both my two worlds and I wanted to bring them together. So I made vlogs and set up the Facebook page as a space for everyone to get involved. Since creating the page, I’ve posted a lot to share awareness with other people. Anyone can see the posts. The point is, I feel it’s important to have a Facebook group to encourage people to join and learn about our rich cultures.
MAISHA: Can anyone join the Gathering of Deafatives group on Facebook? This group is not only for Native Americans. Can anyone in general join?
SARAH: Anyone can join our group. Anyone who wants to learn about Deaf Native Americans is welcome. We welcome everyone to join our page to learn more about us.
MAISHA: You just explained how Gathering of Deafatives helps communities. Now, how can we participate and support your communities?
SARAH: Some Deaf Native Americans will post about their own businesses, and we share on the page if they want to let people know. For example, November is important now because it’s Native American Heritage Month. I’ve been posting to show Native Deaf Americans with short bios and pictures of them. I make flyers for all of them, people from different tribes. It’s cool to see. Come on, join us!
MAISHA: So the page shares Native Deaf-owned businesses and shares resources, correct?
SARAH: Yes, and for example, sometimes I ask people to join us to support our activism. For example, there’s a hot topic going on now with ICWA, which stands for Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA. It’s a hot topic because the supreme court is thinking about removing it. We screamed NO. Because this is about us protecting our children. If ICWA is removed, where is protection for our children in the future? It will hurt us. The reason for this mess is how two white parents from Texas are upset because they cannot adopt a Native American child. They got angry and took it to court. Now their case reached the supreme court. Removing ICWA will have a huge impact for 574 tribes. Yes, it will affect all of us. This is wrong and we need your support to spread awareness about ICWA, it’s important.
MAISHA: This concludes our interview. Thank you. We appreciate it. We’ve learned a lot from the interview.
SARAH: It’s a honor to be here today. I’m so thrilled. I love CODIE. I think it’s a cool organization. You’re lucky to work here.
MAISHA: Thank you!
(short ad: 3rd Annual Deaf’s Got Talent coming February 2023!)
MAISHA: Did you know that all our agencies: GLAD, B-GLAD, CODIE, OCDEAF, and TCGLAD are having Children’s Holiday events! Look to find one near you.
ROY: ASL Social Skate Nite is at Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale! B-GLAD and GLAD are hosting this event together, on the first Thursday every month from 8 to 11 PM. You have to buy tickets online.
(text on screen: b-glad.org/ASLRollARama
ROY: The price includes admission and skate rentals ready for you! If you have questions, contact us. We hope to see you there!