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Indiana Historical Bureau

American Indians > American Indians in Indiana Exhibit: In Their Own Words > Debra Haza Debra Haza

Name: Debra Haza

Tribe: Odawa Indian

Tribal Position: None

Profession: Social work/Native American Indian Activist.

Education: High school/leadership classes/cultural training classes/training on security.

Favorite Sports: Just because I live in Indiana does not mean that I play sports. However, I do like auto racing.

Hobbies/Special Interests: Indian issues in the state of Indiana. I helped create the Native American Indian Affairs for Indiana, and music of all types.

Religion: No specific denomination, just the Indian way.

Ways you celebrate being an American Indian: Pow wows and Native American Music Awards programs and attending Native American Indian concerts, and the concerts happen more than you know or that you are aware of. And, of course, getting together with all of my Indian friends and we work on issues to help other Indian people is immensely satisfying.

Ways you preserve your culture and heritage: By fighting for the rights of the Indian people in a state where we have been virtually ignored. But by helping create the commission, I would like to think that I have helped in bringing awareness to the state and its citizens.

My father was not comfortable at being who he was and now I feel that it is my duty and right to help bring back the respect to him, even though he has passed on. I know that it would have made a world of difference to him and me if he had lived to see what I have helped accomplish.

Do you speak your tribal language? No, it is not lost and I do not live close to my tribe. I do know a few words but I do not speak it fluently. I do connect with the people that my people have been connected with throughout time and I have picked up a few words by being with them. I do have language tapes, but I guess I do procrastinate a bit.

Misconceptions: That all Indians live in teepees and ride horses and that we have some kind of cosmic experience when they talk about our faith and worship practices. It's because they do not understand, and some people that try to explain it, get it all misconstrued with reality. If they don't know, then they should not be talking and giving seminars. That is why it's always best to leave that to the Indian people because we live it.

Offensive words/actions: Tomahawk chop, squaw on restroom doors of Indiana elementary school restrooms, the baseball team of the Indians, the teepee that sits in the outfield, non-Indians sitting in Indian seats on the commission, teachers dressing up like Indians to portray the Indian people at Thanksgiving, the state of Indiana not recognizing the Indian people because of casinos. It's okay that non-Indian people have casinos but the Indian people can't have them. Heads of departments for the state of Indiana saying that they will not seat an Indian person in the seat of higher education because they do not want that seat to be biased, even though it is an Indian commission. I could go on and on, and we would be here all night and I got things to do. Oh yeah, pow wows that are basically a sponsored Boy Scout event and it is listed as a pow wow. That disturbs me. It should be listed as a Boy Scout event putting on a pow wow. People in Indiana really need to start getting it right, because it [Indiana] has a very serious damaged reputation throughout the nation as being a bad state for Indian people and some people will not even participate in pow wows in Indiana for some of the reasons listed. Now, I think you could say that Indiana has some racial problems with the Indian people of this state, wouldn't you?