"Our country's disrespect of native people didn't start with President Trump. It started long before President Washington ever took office.
But now we have a president who can't make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing native history, native culture, native people to the butt of a joke.
The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me.
I get why some people think there's hay to be made here. You won't find my family members on any rolls, and I'm not enrolled in a tribe.
And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.
But I want to make something else clear too: My parents were real people.
By all accounts, my mother was a beauty. She was born in Eastern Oklahoma, on this exact day -- Valentine's Day -- February 14, 1912. She grew up in the little town of Wetumka, the kind of girl who would sit for hours by herself, playing the piano and singing. My daddy fell head over heels in love with her.
But my mother's family was part Native American. And my daddy's parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.
Together, they survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. They saved up to buy a home. They raised my three older brothers, and they watched as each one headed off to serve in the military.
After Daddy had a heart attack and was out of work, after we lost the family station wagon and it looked like we would lose our house and everything would come crashing down, my mother put on her best dress and walked to the Sears and got a minimum-wage job. That minimum-wage job saved our house and saved our family.
My parents struggled. They sacrificed. They paid off medical debts for years. My daddy ended up as a janitor. They fought and they drank, but more than anything, they hung together. Sixty three years -- that's how long they were married. When my mother died, a part of my daddy slipped away too.
Two years later, I held his hand while cancer took him. The last thing he said was, "It's time for me to be with your mother." And he smiled.
They're gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one -- not even the president of the United States -- will ever take that part of me away.
Our stories are deeply woven into the fabric of who we are. The stories of immigrants and slaves, of explorers and refugees, have shaped and reshaped our country right up to the present day. For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials.
So I'm here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family's story, I'm going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities." excerpt