Who is Garrett Brantz?
Garrett Brantz grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Hes has three siblings and a large extended family. His parents are both educators in the Cheyenne school district. Garrett moved out of the state of Wyoming when he was a teenager to travel the U.S. for a time, but returned to Cheyenne six years ago. He's studied English and art in college but has yet to finish a degree. He's been employed mostly in the food industry.
Excerpt from interview with Garrett Brantz by Whitney Dow, 2018
Q1: How did you find out about your Native American heritage?
Brantz: [01:05:33] Because my biological grandfather died not that long ago, and that never was a person that I was ever attached to or even really recognized. That, like, the guy that I called my grandfather is not related to me at all, but that I never once has been that he is my grandfather as far as I’m concerned. I don’t even really know where it came from, but found we out that I was more related to this guy. Like I could probably get some casino rights if I wanted to, and that never once been a real—been really a thing that I’ve wanted to pursue at all.
Q1: Did it change the way you felt about yourself when you discovered you had a good portion of Native American in you?
Brantz: [01:06:38] No. No, not really.
Q1: And can you put my question into your answer because my voice won’t be on the tape.
Brantz: [01:06:45] Oh, got you. No. That pursuing my Native—my Native American ancestry was never really a thing that I ever considered because I don’t identify as such. And that I feel that Native Americans, that they have a lot of trials and tribulations that they’ve had to deal with for a long time. And that was never anything that I had to deal with myself in growing up, that— so, I don’t feel like I should get the benefits of having Native American ancestry when I’ve never had to deal with the trials that they’ve also had to deal with.
Q1: How do you—
Brantz: [01:07:28] Does that help?
Q1: Yes, it totally helps. I’m just trying to understand all that. How do you identify yourself racially?
Brantz: [01:07:35] Pretty much white [laughs]. That I’m Native American enough that I’ve got cheekbones and that I don’t burn all the time when I’m out in the summer, but beyond that, that I’m pretty much white.
Q1: And what does it mean to be white? What makes someone white?
Brantz: [01:08:00] That’s a good question. I would say that one of the main things that makes somebody white is just the fact that you’re Caucasian and, like, somewhere from Europe at least ancestry based and—For the most part, that if you’re—
Q1: I know it’s a weird question, right? I mean—
Brantz: [01:08:57] It really is.
Brantz: Like I’m trying to sit and think about ways that I can make this not sound like I’m just being a shithead [laughs].
Q1: What would you say that would make you seem like a shithead?
Brantz: [01:09:20] Well, I mean, I’m white and from America. That, kind of, seems like the genetic lottery to an extent. Plus I’m male. Then like all those things at once, and I’m just like, “Fuck, I had all the chances.” [Laughs]
Brantz: [01:24:36] Wyoming is a very white state. And so that whether or not you want your personal life to be monochromatic, that it will tend to be just because there’s not that much—there’s not that much variety here. There really isn’t.
That was a big chunk growing up here is that, like even if you wanted a Mexican friend, good luck finding one [laughs]. And that it was never anything that I was opposed to or never anything that I wasn’t looking for, but that yes, it tended to be when I was growing up here that most of my friends were white because almost everybody in the state is.
Q1: When you heard about the project and we knew you were coming in to talk to us, is there anything specific that you wanted to talk about that you thought would be important to talk about in the context of a conversation like this?
Brantz: [01:26:00] One of the things that I thought would be important about talking in this project or just in general to anybody is that not everybody from Wyoming is some—is just some corn pone, white-bread mother fucker. That was the important part to me about coming and being a part of this project is trying to let people know, believe it or not, that we can—you know, we can be diverse, and that we can be—we can be accepting of new ideas, and that we can be more than necessarily where we’ve been in the past.
Brantz: [01:27:36] That we don’t hate our gay cowboys, I guess [laughs].
Q1: Do you feel connected to that cowboy culture, that history? In the past, you said most of your family has been here a long time, lots of generations.
Q1: So, do you feel connected to that, that—
Brantz: [01:27:56] Very much so. My grandad was a cowboy up at Montana for a really long time, and that I went and spent a summer with him doing some ranching. And basically, I learned that a real man rolls his own cigarettes and drinks beer for breakfast. That like not the best example that my parents wanted, but that, yes. No, I very much do feel a connection to the Wyoming history. That my mother was in rodeo, most of my uncles were in rodeo. That cowboy lifestyle is a real thing, and that it really is a lifestyle. It’s not just a thing that people do for money, but like it really is a lifestyle. And so, I do feel that connection to this place, and I always have. Like I love the history of Wyoming. That I love the heritage that comes with it. It’s like, hell, not far north from here, that we had an outlaw fortress that was here up until, like, the 1920s. It’s like that’s kind of cool. I don’t care who we are.
Q1: And how do you feel like that that culture manifests itself in you?
Brantz: [01:29:57] Wyoming is very big on individuality and a person trying to make their own way through the world. And I feel that that is something that is very serious in a lot of people from out west, and then, like, Colorado has it too. Utah, Nebraska, it doesn’t matter where you go, anywhere out west, that like a lot of those places, kind of, pride themselves on being isolated and very individualistic. I feel like that that is something that all these places try to emulate in everything that they’re doing.