Back Home with Chad Charlie

September 30, 2020 Nia Tero Season 1 Episode 1
Back Home with Chad Charlie
Show Notes Transcript

Seedcast Episode 1 out now. Listen to our interview with filmmaker and poet, Chad Charlie, Ahousaht First Nation/Black. We started this podcast as a platform to introduce you to the lives of #Indigenous peoples from around the world. We have an amazing group of folks to introduce you to over the next couples of months. They all bring a range of diverse perspectives on what it means to hold Indigenous identity and just like me will always be in a learning process. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. 

Jessica Ramirez (00:00):
Hey everyone. My name is Jessica Ramirez us welcome to seed cast made by Nia Tero coming to you from the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples

Music (00:35):
["Rooted" Music by Mia Kami]

Jessica Ramirez (00:35):
Platform to introduce to you the lives of indigenous peoples from around the world. Our guests today on our very first episode is Chad Charlie. He's a filmmaker, comedian and poet who identifies as black and a house at first nation.

Chad Charlie (00:53):
I want to be able to give the audience, gives the viewers the actual experience of what it means to be in my shoes, because it's filled with anxiety, It's filled with stress, but, it's also filled with humor.

Jessica Ramirez (01:06):
That's coming up in a bit and I can't wait for you to hear it.

Jessica Ramirez (01:12):
Nia Tero is a nonprofit organization. We provide support to Indigenous peoples protecting their homelands from colonization and destruction. We share indigenous methods of care for the land with non-indigenous communities. And we support storytellers to elevate Indigenous knowledge systems and rights. A big part of us wanting to start this podcast was to create a signifier around indigeneity and Indigenous people that we are contemporaries amongst this world. And we are not, you know, history in terms of what you see in a museum or what you read about in a book we're not over there far away. We're living and thriving in places all across the world. And so it felt really important to interview people whose indigenous identities are not only rooted in place, but also rooted in how we spend our time, how our identities inform what we do. So when I got the opportunity to be your host, I realized I'm going to be interviewing other Indigenous peoples
and wow, did this create lots of internal dialogue for me?

Jessica Ramirez (02:20):
I thought, okay, well this will create an opening for me to continue exploring my own indigenous identity, but why me am I the right person? Am I Indigenous enough? The questions went on, but in holding this role for this creative endeavor, which explores the stories of Indigenous peoples, my Indigenous identity is one in which I am still growing into growing up in South Texas. I am a product of assimilation. What I grew up closer to was a proximity to whiteness that was deemed better. So I didn't know Spanish as a, I grew up knowing I was Mexican, but I didn't know I was indigenous also, and only very few of our traditional practices were celebrated at home. It wasn't really until my late twenties, when I recognized I had a longing for home, but not in the physical sense, it was the cultural feelings of home.

Jessica Ramirez (03:21):
So I was studying at the university of Washington here in Seattle, and I decided to join the
MECHA club. It's a student club for folks of the Latinx diaspora. It's history is rooted in the
United States, Chicano movement of the 1960s. So this was 2013. I had read about a story of 43 Indigenous students who disappeared from their hometown of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. This is in Mexico, and it was in learning about their stories that I started to read more about Indigenous Mexicans, that they maintain Autonomous governments and schools and various institutional systems. Despite the Wars, the land stolen, the borders drawn, the people murdered. But it was in the chaos of the news about these students that propelled me to do something. So I suggested to this group that I was in, that we have a walking visual through the university campus to bring awareness.

Jessica Ramirez (04:22):
It would be the first community action I created. And I really didn't know what to expect. I was in awe when so many indigenous Mexican community members and students showed up with billowing clouds of copal wearing traditional clothing with beautiful, ornate embroidery. I didn't know I would feel this way, but it reminded me of home visiting my great grandparents, celebrating holidays, going to border towns. What I had realized in that moment at this protest was that Mexico has an Indigenous past. Mexico has an Indigenous identity. And this is where my family is from my ancestors, whose cultures and traditional knowledge continue to sustain those beautiful traditions. There are so many places, too many places in Mexico and along the border, and even beyond it, where people keep up these practices. It was profound to know that I had found my cultural home, that in creating this one place for people to organize under the umbrella around this topic, I found people who have been nurturing their Indigenous identities, but you don't just wake up one morning and say, okay, now I reclaim my Indigenous identity. While it's been five years since that protest for the missing 43 students from Ayotzinapa and I've learned and will continue to learn more about myself, my lands and traditions.

Jessica Ramirez (06:01):
What I do claim at this moment in time is that I am the seeds and the hopes of my ancestors that colonization capitalism and white supremacy could not destroy these violent systems created and continue to maintain immense barriers for people like me to not understand and our field claim to indigeneity. I am a fourth generation, Mexican American from a family crossed by the border from our Indigenous heritage before my family was Texan, we were Mexican, and before the Spaniards named our lands Mexico, we were Indigenous from the rich ancient traditions, rooted
deep in the soil. This is what I claim and I am challenged and honored to continue to explore this with you all. I hope that as you listen to this podcast, you can find the curiosity to do the same for yourself, to open to your heart, to explore what is difficult, push back on narratives that do not serve you and celebrate what you bring to the world. That is good. We have an amazing cast of characters to introduce you to over the next season, they all bring a range of diverse perspectives on what it means to hold indigenous identity. And just like me will always be in a learning process. Saludos to you all and keep listening. I hope you enjoy.

Music (07:47):
["Rooted" Music by Mia Kami]
essica Ramirez (07:49):
I'm so excited to introduce to you our very first guest on Seedcast someone who also knows
about exploring the complexities of Indigenous identities.

Chad Charlie (07:58):
My name is Chad Charlie. I live in Seattle, Washington, but I am originally from Ahousaht First Nation, which is off the coast of Vancouver Island. And, uh, yeah, currently currently occupying Duwamish territory right now.

Jessica Ramirez (08:15):
As a Black and Indigenous filmmaker, continuing the tradition of storytelling in a contemporary format. Chad's directorial debut is called Uu?uu~tah. It made its premiere at imagiNATIVE film festival in 2019, and continues to be accepted into festivals around the world. Chad is a 2020 Fourth World Indigenous Media Lab Fellow. He is currently directing his short documentary "Firecracker Bullets", which explores his personal journey at standing rock in 2016 before Chad was a filmmaker, he was a standup comedian and actor.

Chad Charlie (08:53):
I look at poetry as my, like, it's always been something that's healing for me. Yeah. I try to use it as a healing practice. I try to use it as like my outing, right. So like in order to get emotions out, I have to write it down or I have to speak it out loud. And then my poetry is it's to me, it's really emotional. So it all comes out. It all comes out in my poetry. You could feel me healing from trauma.

Jessica Ramirez (09:22):
Let's get into my conversation with Chad. We start by hearing him reading his latest poem.

Chad Charlie (09:32):
What does it mean to be Black and Indigenous in America? It means that the grass is never
green. It means that I have a trauma that stems from two very different bloodlines. It means that I have to consistently search for peace in a place where peace cannot be found. It means that I have two different skin colors and the world hates them both. It means that I am both a little native boy and a little black boy, and I have to wonder which one of me are you going to be afraid of today? It means that I will get shot for eating Skittles in the wrong neighborhood. And then I'll be hunted down by a farmer for walking in the wrong field on my way, home from school. It means that my father and my mother, an Indigenous woman, and a black man are two very different, but very beautiful plans in the same garden. And the gardener is a system that continually feeds them poison to prevent them from growing to their full potential.

Jessica Ramirez (10:40):
Thank you so much for sharing with us. Welcome Chad.

Chad Charlie (10:46):
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jessica Ramirez (10:49):
Well, thanks for joining us. I'm really glad to be here, chatting with you. And as someone who
identifies as indigenous, tell me more about your relationship to where you live now or where you are from originally.

Chad Charlie (11:09):
So originally from the Ahousaht First Nation, I grew up within my culture, Nuu-chah-nulth
culture. My family has always been very rich in culture, and I grew up as a singer and a dancer living in Seattle, coming from such a culturally rich environment. No, my tribe is, from
Vancouver Island. I wish I could be back home all the time and all of the gatherings and all of
the events where I can practice our culture and sing more often and dance more often and just speak with our elders more often, but living in the city, hasn't really taken away that identity from me. I do try to get out into nature and just be in practice our ways, you know, going into the mountains and then like my brother's down here, you know, every now and then we'll sing or we'll go to some of the events down here and hang out with, hangout with our friends, from all the tribes in Washington and share some of our songs.

Chad Charlie (12:16):
One of the main reasons why I stayed in Seattle and in the United States was because of the
opportunity out here. They don't have Film School in Ahousaht. They don't have comedy clubs all up and down the Island. They don't have the same opportunities that I have out here. So if I have an idea that I want to bring back to my people, um, then I have to be able to succeed out here and then bring it back, you know?

Jessica Ramirez (12:53):
Yeah. So tell me more, how do you involve, um, community and some of the creative goals that you set.

Chad Charlie (13:00):
I try to involve my community in as many projects as I can, especially like it, especially if I'm
going to be back home, you know, like, and it started, it started with comedy and it was like,
even if comedy clubs never hired me, like I would, I would find a way to create a comedy show and then just invite all of my audience. Or like, if I, uh, you know, I, I did a few films back home as well. So when I filmed Uu?uu~tah, I want to say like 95% of the entire, uh, crew on that film that worked behind the scenes and on camera was all family. And it was all members of our community. And like, even, even when it came to the location, like I was like, where am I going to shoot this scene? And my auntie came through, she was like, go to the dock down, like down by my backyard.

Jessica Ramirez (13:53):
Have auntie doing scouting locations for you. So when you talked about involving your
community, like you really, you really bring them into the fold.

Chad Charlie (14:04):
Yeah. So back on our Rez, quick story back on our Rez, we still, um, like run off of VHF radios. And, um, I remember I was on a boat on a, on a water taxi to get to the islands and somebody was calling one of the boat drivers and the boat driver had answered and the driver was like, Hey, I'm just leaving Tofino right now on my way back up, picking up, um, Chad Charlie. So once like somebody speaks on the VHF radio, all of the households here. Right. And then like, and then I got into a house and then my uncle had told me, and he was like, man, once that boat driver said that you were coming back home, like everybody started asking what's Chad, whats chad doing back home? What is he doing this time? Because every time I come back home, I'm doing something. Right?

Chad Charlie (14:57):
So if I'm back home, like when people hear my name, it's like, it rings, um, opportunity in
people's ear. I remember when I came back home and somebody, somebody reached out to me and she was like, I heard you back home. And if you're working on a film, like I, I was thinking about getting into acting. And if you, like, if you have any opportunity for that. And I was like, yeah, I mean, that's why I do this. I do all of this just so I can inspire youth back home to be able to do something more than the opportunities that they have right now,

Jessica Ramirez (15:42):
You are in the middle of creating a documentary called firecracker bullets. Can you tell us more about what that project is to you and where did it come from?

Chad Charlie (15:54):
Firecracker bullets is it's a, it's a short documentary about my, you know, my story and my
transition from like a world of, of humor into a world of trauma, which is, you know, being
Black and Indigenous in a world of activism right now. And transitioning from that trauma and PTSD that I had dealt with.

Chad Charlie (16:19):
Yeah. It's just like an inside look at what, like what, what it means to be Black and Indigenous in America today. For me, at least from my experiences, it's very stressful. It's exhausting, it's
nonstop. It's like people look at, look at everything that's happening right now as a movement and everything is activism. But to me it's not just activism. It's, it's our lives, you know, like the truth, the truth.

Chad Charlie (16:55):
There's so much truth behind the line. Like our existence is our resistance is because like this, this activism stuff, like we're not just protesting, like we're, we're fighting for our own rights, for fighting for our own lives. And when it comes to being Black and Indigenous, for me, it's just, I feel like it's never ending because one year we could be, we could be talking about what's happening in Ferguson. And then a few months later be in standing rock. And then, you know, like directly after that, like I got to go home and heal from what happened. And then next thing you know, like another black man gets shot and we're in the streets for that. You know, it's just like, it's, it's never ending. I want to be able to give the audience, gives the viewers an actual experience of what it means to be in my shoes, because it's filled with anxiety is filled with stress, but it's also filled with humor. You know?

Chad Charlie (18:08):
Do you guys want to hear a poem? Yes. Okay. Um, is there like parental advisory on this

Jessica Ramirez (18:18):
This can be the parental advisory.

Chad Charlie (18:20):

Jessica Ramirez (18:23):
You know, if you have little ones this is the content warning.

Chad Charlie (18:27):
This poem, I want to share this phone because I haven't shared it with anybody. And this one, I think this one kinda like changed my life. Cause like it was something that like helped me motivate myself. Um, and it's called, I won't let it beat me.

Chad Charlie (18:47):
I won't let it beat me. These are the words I tell myself. After allowing the statistics to condition my mind into believing, I am stuck in a system where I can't win. I won't let it beat me. Colonization. I took the loss. Assimilation. I took the loss. Gentrification. I took the loss. When will my people win? I'm fucking tired of having something to prove. I'm fucking tired of having nothing to lose.

Chad Charlie (19:12):
I'm fucking tired. I'm fucking tired. I'm fucking tired. No longer will I hang my head down in
sorrow, wiping my tears up. I deserve so much more than a daily motivational speech in the
mirror. I can write poetry that doesn't have anything to do with the system built to defeat me. I won't spend my days off fighting the power that is built to mistreat me. I have a heart and the last thing I need to do is waste my time, convincing myself to believe me. I refuse to allow it to beat me. It's time to fucking win. It's time for my people to take the dub. If time had anything to do with love, my people would be systemically trained to be late for love. This is why I look up to the being that created us. I thank her for the life that she gave to us.

Chad Charlie (19:58):
Pray for love, aim for trust, train my lungs to inhale her love and offer tobacco before I take
anything that she made for us. I don't need your pity. I don't need your PowerPoints to convince me that I was raised in shitty circumstances, but somehow have the DNA of warriors within me. I don't need that. I already see that gentrification hit my people so hard. Rock bottom is where we be at. Soon enough they be putting whole foods under the bridge for white people to eat at raising the rent. So even the homeless, ain't got nowhere to sleep at. You can see that. Fuck displacement. Fuck colonization. Fuck gentrification, fuck anything and everything you built on the lands that we hold sacred. Yeah, you call it development. I share with you some water and you start selling it. Allow you to live in my home and you've charged me rent with embellishment.

Chad Charlie (20:43):
I won't let you fucking beat me. Not no more. I to beat you at your own game. This time I'm
keeping score. I'll read your fucking books. I'll take your fucking tests. I'll start my own
businesses. This time I'm writing the fucking checks. I'm rewriting history. I'm rewriting the
texts. I'm taking anything and everything that you have to offer except the blankets and the
fucking Rez. I'm the boss. Now I make the fucking rules. I came to fucking win and longer will I fucking lose. I won't let you fucking beat me. I won't let you defeat me. No more asking for
visibility just for you to fucking see me. This is the end of the road. Yeah, this right here is it. It's time for you to pack up PS. Don't forget all your shit.

Jessica Ramirez (21:26):
Chad, take care friend and keep your body and your heart and your mind healthy.

Chad Charlie (21:36):
Thank you. Thank you guys for having me. And thank you guys for listening to a little short
piece of my story.

Jessica Ramirez (21:43):
Yeah. Is, uh, it was a pleasure. I appreciate it.

Jessica Ramirez (21:57):
Thank you for listening. You can learn more about Chad Charlie's work on Instagram and
Twitter to learn more about our work at Nia Tero visit our website and big thank you to the Seedcast team. Executive producer, Tracy rector, senior consulting producer, Jenny Asarnow co producer Felipe Contreras. Edited by Jenny Asarnow and theme music by Mia Kami. I'm your host and co-producer Jessica Ramirez, subscribe today to catch our next episode of Seedcast, you can find us on Apple Podcast, Stitcher and Spotify. See you soon.

Music (23:10):
"Rooted" Music by Mia Kami