Oral Histories

Interview of Debbie Standingwater

Member of the Cherokee tribe. Student in sociology and criminal justice at University of California, Irvine.
The American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Came
American Indian History
Biographical Note:
Member of the Cherokee tribe. Student in sociology and criminal justice at University of California, Irvine.
Coates, Julia
Standingwater, Debbie
Persons Present:
Standingwater and Coates.
Place Conducted:
Standingwater’s office in the sociology department at University of California, Irvine.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Julia Coates; interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., American studies, University of New Mexico; assistant professor, Native American studies, University of California, Davis; and visiting professor, College of Liberal Arts, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Citizen of the Cherokee Nation and served on its tribal council. Coates did extensive interviewing of Cherokee Nation citizens as part of her dissertation and post-doctoral research.Coates prepared for the interview by listening to previously recorded interviews in the UCLA Center for Oral History Research American Indian Relocation series, rereading Indian Country, L.A. by Joan Weibel-Orlando, and reading Reimagining Indian Country by Nicolas G. Rosenthal.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Standingwater was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions. and Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
1.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Came survey some of the diversity of tribes and experiences of American Indians who have immigrated to the urban area. Over 205,000 American Indians live in Southern California, almost 73,000 of them in Los Angeles County. In fact Los Angeles County has the largest population of American Indians in any county of the United States.
Birthplace, family names, where family members were from -- Parents’ employment -- Parents often split up and father often left -- Family moves to California -- Grandfather was already in California -- Parents' first move to Tulsa, their common-law marriage, children born -- Father spoke Cherokee -- Mother’s reticence about traditional practices -- Grandmother spoke Muskogean -- Feels she missed out on many things -- Didn’t stay in touch with father’s family -- What home was like in Tulsa and later in Southern California -- Grandfather ultimately returned to Oklahoma -- Father had a job waiting for him in California -- Description of packing the car to move -- How Standingwater and her sisters felt about moving -- First impressions of Southern California -- Mother’s brother already lived here -- How they found a house -- Doesn't make connections with other Indians -- Goes to school in Fullerton -- Mother’s employment after father left -- Mother hired at Southern California Indian Center -- Mother remarries, gets pregnant -- Standingwater gets pregnant at an early age and returns to Oklahoma -- Marries her boyfriend, father helps them to return to California -- Moves in with husband’s mother -- Husband works at oil refinery -- Husband was divorced with three children -- Goes to predominantly white school -- Teased about her name -- Mother becomes more involved with the church -- Father only makes one more trip to California -- First husband takes her kids away -- Doesn't see her kids for ten years -- Remarries, has two more children -- Drinking and using drugs -- Looses her youngest two kids -- Gets involved with Alcoholics Anonymous -- In and out of jail -- Goes to prison -- Meets Indians in prison -- Fascinated with Indian spiritual practices she encountered while in prison -- Gets a job after release -- Starts to reconnect with kids -- Relapses, goes back to prison -- Sent to women’s home after release -- Gets jobs but is laid off -- Returns to school -- Reconnecting with kids -- Volunteers with Orange County jail, Heritage House -- Visits Hopi reservation with professor -- Searching for ways to help other Indians -- Mother only returns to Oklahoma for family funerals -- Hasn’t been able to reconnect with Oklahoma -- Has made Indian connections at University of California, Irvine -- Difficulty of making and maintaining family contacts -- Kids not interested in Indian identity -- Attends pow-wows with a friend -- Vague memory of attending stomp dances -- Hopes for the future -- Feels guilt about leaving Oklahoma -- What might have been different if she had stayed in Oklahoma -- Life is amazing.