My submission actually combines two of the topics: My interpretation of the song and what freedom means to me.
I am a member of an indigenous family. My grandfather Paul Whirling Thunder Bullock was the Chief of The American Indian Federation and worked tirelessly on preserving, teaching, and growing our arts and culture. I am the son of his youngest daughter Faith Wildflower Bullock and I was named Yellow Eagle by my godfather. I am my grandfather’s grandson, a connection I treasure and embrace. I have struggled with identity my whole life because I do not look Native American, due to family circumstances my mother and I grew distant from the family, and we have no paperwork, proof, or blood quantum to prove it. When I think of freedom, I think of the freedom from colonial ideas and government structures. My people recorded history and events through stories and songs but colonists won’t believe me about my Indigenous ancestors if I cannot provide proof. Colonists expect paperwork and proof from a culture that never used or valued those ideas. My family history has been passed down for generations through stories and traditions, these are worth more than any piece of paper. For me freedom is the ability to be who you are in your heart without having to prove it by the standards of other cultures. My identity and culture can exist separate from the structures and expectations of colonization.
In Nina Simone’s song she speaks of flying above the world and towards the sun. As my family tells it, the eagle is the messenger between the sun (which symbolizes the Creator) and the animals and it’s the eagles responsibility to teach all living things. I was given the name Yellow Eagle because I am an educator, I dedicate my life to teaching and empowering young artists. It is my honor, passion, and destiny to share my knowledge with all living things. We are The People of First Light, and I will continue to strengthen my identity and continue the work of my grandfather because I am my grandfather’s grandson, I am my mother’s Son, and I am Yellow Eagle.