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Second day of AISES.  Today is the poster presentations for the students, and I was only there a short year ago.

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The archway announcing next year’s NC in Orlando, like last year’s archway in Anchorage announced Denver.

I started the morning by volunteering at the posters, anxious to meet up with my friends Tylynn and Isaiah from Hawai’i.  I hadn’t since them since we were in Anchorage.  Unfortunately, my help was not needed at the posters.  I ended up greeting people and checking tags at the front of the Career Fair nearby.  I finally got a chance to walk around and say hi to Tylynn, but she had a lot of people interested in her poster so I couldn’t stay long.

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The view of downtown Denver from where I stood at the gate to the Career Fair, Floor 2.

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A panoramic shot of the career fair, the biggest in Indian Country.

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Me wearing the traditional necklace with wampum and family jewels my family gave me as a graduation gift.  It was made by General B. Grant and his wife Ute of the Cherokee tribe in NC.

After I was done volunteering for the day, I offered to give a fellow volunteer, Lee, a ride to his car and then continued north to meet my friends in Fort Collins.  We went to Stumpy’s Cider Bar.  I got to see my friend Amanda for the first time in who knows how many years.  We’ve known each other since we were 6 and we used to play “twins”.  Our moms still see each other every once in awhile, but Amanda has since moved to Colorado for school and now her career.  I met her friend Kyle and the three of us spent a few hours together.  After the cider bar, we drove to the O’Dell Brewery.

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Some cool stuff going on on the way to O’Dell’s.

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The counter in O’Dell’s.

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I awkwardly took this photo in front of the cashier – but it was cool!

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Me and Amanda in O’Dell’s.

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Don’t mind if I do.

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A growler of Cutthroat Porter that I later shared with friends after hiking.

My friend Claire was going with a friend to a Halloween party in Denver.  Sadly, I couldn’t make it because of the Social which I told her I just could not miss.  It was such a blast last year!  So I had to drive back to Golden to pick up Claire’s apartment key.  She gave me a local brew, Coors, and said she wishes the brewery were open Sunday so we could get three free beers each on a tour.

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We then decided to make an elaborate dinner based on what was in the fridge.  And by elaborate, I really mean I sauteed some mushrooms, she mashed some potatoes, and we tossed baby spinach in dressing, baby spinach that was in fact enormous.

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We have an odd tendency to make strange faces when we pose with, well, anything.

Before long, it was time for Claire to dress up and her friend to meet up with them to take them away to the party.  I hung around for a bit, Instagramming and relaxing with tea before heading back into downtown Denver.

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Claire and her friend dressed up for the party.

I parked in town and ran into the convention center, not long after the dance started.  My Menominee friends were pouring out already.  They said it was not that fun and that they were going to a jazz bar, Appaloosa.  I wanted to join them, but I needed to find my Hawai’ian friends.  They were the life of the party last time!  But I’m so glad I did stick around to find them.  I finally found Tylynn and met up with Isaiah, Carlos, and even Frazer, all familiar faces from my Anchorage trip last year.  We may hardly see each other, but they are seriously like my family to me now.  I just feel so safe and happy with them.  Maybe that’s just what AISES does to you.

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Open floor!  It was very dark, but here’s a shot of some students showing off their skills!

Something about AISES just feels so nonjudgemental.  You can just be yourself, and every one is so interesting!  Not only do I actually dance (which I normally hate to do), but I come out of each Social absolutely panting.  I’m also amazed to see Chair members out there dancing right along with us, being just as crazy.  In fact, I remember at one point that song that tells you what to do saying “Do the Charlie Brown!” and the Board Chair Mary Jo shouted, “What?!  What does that mean?” — but I didn’t know either!!

When the dance slowly started winding down (and, let me tell you, with the numbers we had last year, that didn’t happen until its midnight close and later), my friends decided to mosey on out.  We headed across the street to their hotel (the Hyatt) and sat up in one of their rooms, sipping on Coke, apple juice, and maybe a little bit of rum.  It was so nice to see the same old faces, mixed with new, from all over this country.  I finally had some good chatting with Frazer, a native Alaskan who drove some of us up to that frozen lake in Alaska last year.  He’s a good dancer and he has incredible manners.

Isaiah turned on his music to let us relax while some of the girls dressed up for the club they were proposing to visit.  I sat and chatted, rocking my jeans and boots.  I only brought one dress and am saving it for the Traditional Banquet.  Before long, there was a knock at our door.  A familiar knock, like the ones we had our last night in Anchorage when we were crazy loud but the hotel only partially seemed to care.  This night, it was a harsh knock about two songs deep from the hotel manager.  “We’ve had noise complaints…” Isn’t that how it always goes?  But really?  I was shocked by the calm dispositions of my friends.  They merely accepted the state of their accusation and apologized.  Isaiah turned down his music.  We started whispering, except for a couple of us who periodically forgot ourselves.

As the plans drew together and more students began arriving to the room, the noise level raised ever so slightly.  We tucked our rum bottle away just in time.  The door knocked again and Frazer made his way to the door.  Isaiah was completely sober and suggested that he answer it, but it was too late.  “It’s just the hotel manager again,” was the information until the door was opened and several cops stepped in from the sides.  Oh…

“Guys, yet another complaint….and how many people are in here?  Are you guys actually staying here?”

“Yes, we’re just from different rooms.  We were about to leave.  Sorry if we were loud, we really were just meeting to head out.”

“Are you drinking in here?  Are you all 21?”

“Yes, we are, but we were really just leaving to go somewhere else.  Sorry for the inconvenience.”

I became extremely skeptical of these cops.  Were we being targeted?  Why?  Someone then mentioned that an AISES member was throwing up in the elevator not long before.  I began to worry, for several reasons.  One, who was that ill from AISES?  Are they okay?  I heard they were not a student, which concerned me further.  Alcohol is a bit of a taboo in AISES and native culture in general, just because it is associated with a lot of pain and trouble.  But then I wondered, is AISES being targeted?  My mind wanted to quickly accuse the white hotel staff of targeting Indians as alcoholics…but maybe I was being obnoxious.  How could they know we were a part of AISES?  Or could they?  Based off of reservations and appearance?  I should hope not.  And in my defense of my group, I also feared if we were perpetuating a stereotype — and also angered by the reality that no Indian can enjoy his or herself reasonably and within the typical standards of drinking without an outsider labeling him or her as an alcoholic.  Imagine it and you might see, too, how easy that stereotype could transpose itself.

We all went down to wait in the lobby.  At this point, I was just waiting on a text from Claire saying she was leaving Boulder.  I’d have to leave immediately for Golden when she texts me.  I told my friends I might head to Appaloosa where Josh was alone, but just as I decided that I got the text from Claire and had to head out.  The cops were still stalking our shadows and I hugged my beloved friends and made my way out the door.  I got back to find Claire following me shortly thereafter, exasperated by the results of the party.  Hearing her stories, it’s hard to remember that marijuana is legal in this state.  It’s a weird sensation.  We chatted a bit, then went to bed.  I have an early morning tomorrow.

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