Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
My name is Selu Kateri Vargas and I was born April of 1986 in Wichita, Kansas. I come from the Ramapough Munsee Lenape, Tuscarora, Mohawk and Shinnecock Nations.
My family came to Kansas from New York and having left our culture behind, we had to adapt to Southern Plains tribal culture. As a child, I was not actively involved in the Native community outside of attending powwows but as I reached high school age, my mother allowed me to attend the Mid America All Indian Center for community night every Monday and Wednesday – that is where I began learning to sing southern style powwow music. As I became more familiar with the songs I would approach the drum and sing behind the men with whom I had formed friendships. When I turned sixteen I was honored to be asked to sing as a lead chorus girl for Medicine Park, a local southern style drum group. Those singers taught me the art and spirituality behind powwow music as well as the importance of language. We sang in Pawnee, Kiowa, Apache, Ponca and various other languages of the Southern Plains peoples. I started writing my own songs a year or so later but of course never had the courage to share them with others until recently.
Growing up in the Southern Plains put me at a disadvantage when it came to acquiring knowledge of my own cultural practices because there were very few Eastern Woodlands gatherings in Kansas. Consequently, I had to learn learn those traditions much later as I made my way back out to the East Coast. Over the past several years I have focused intensely on Eastern Woodlands culture in hopes to not only revitalize my family’s heritage, but also to pass down everything I learn to our younger generations.
I am now a member of the Woman’s Sacred River Drum Society which is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the woman’s importance in Eastern Woodlands and Coastal Tribal traditions. Being involved with these women has given me the strength and knowledge to become more actively involved in our community. I can only hope that one day my music, beadwork and crafts will be true reflections of the gifts that these women have given me.