Disjointedness within Native Spirituality   Leave a comment

It’s been a long while since I have written anything for this blog. My life has been changing significantly. During this time of many changes, I lost sight of many things that have become rather trivial to myself. Writing posts for this blog being one of those trivialities.

Since ingashiban’s passing in 2011, I finally began walking back to and engaging my ancestral Native traditions. This journey has been long and difficult. An extremely confusing journey, as well.

Since my childhood, Sundance has always been a ceremony that frightened me. I, as well as many other Native children I grew up around, were always told, “behave or we’ll throw you in the Sundance”. Back in 2012–when I had my first dream of sundancing–I was a bit uncomfortable. I had always been told, “if that other world calls you to Sundance, you answer that call…”. There I was waking up from that dream of thousands of migiziyag and Binesi-nimikii, knowing I had to answer the call to the one ceremony that always frightened me the most.

I answered that call. My first Sundance was at a controversial ceremony. Many people outside of the ceremony said, it was a bad ceremony and evil surrounded it. Truth is, a lot of people involved in this Sundance and a few others were voicing their long held grudges against one another and used a ceremony as the vessel to propel their attacks at one another.

Support of the dancers during Sundance is important during ceremony. At my first Sundance, I had support. During my second Sundance, a different Sundance run by different people, I had no support. This Sundance was difficult. Though it was also my first time “Eagle Dancing”.

I have since accomplished and finished my first entire commitment (four years of Sundancing is one commitment). Three of those ceremonies were “eagle dances”. An Eagle Dance is being pierced during second round of the first day, being attached to the tree, and staying hooked up to the tree for all four days. Eagle dancers are always the last dancers to break from the tree, just before the chiefs pierce and break from the tree.

In these past few years, I have met many spiritual leaders. I have been introduced to many different attitudes, regarding following the traditional ways. Many of our traditional spiritual leaders have created an air of confusion in this way of life (my own opinion).

I have been told I’m not a real Ojibwe because I Sundance, even though my ancestors the Aaniibiminani-ziibiwininiwag Ojibwe (Pembina Band of Chippewa) were not only Midewewin, Waabanowin, and Big Drum, but also Sundancers. Many of the Ojibwe people I have been surrounded by were born to bands that have lost the history of Sundancing for us Ojibwe Anishinaabeg. Thus they don’t know much about us “Plains Ojibwe” who first left the Sault Ste Marie area as Sundancers, before any of them ever migrated into Wisconsin or Minnesota.

As a Sundancer, I am a pipe carrier. I had to make my own pipe, though. My pipe was never given to me. Due to my making my own pipe, I have been told I am not a true pipe carrier, as well. I have also been told I’m not a real Sundancer, as I am not Oceti Sakowin or any of the other “Great Plains” tribes.

I have been told, to become a true Ojibwe man, I need to start attending Midewewin ceremonies, since I have been attending Big Drum ceremonies for the past couple of years. I would attend Mide, but too many Mide lodges are in conflict with one another as there are Sundances conflicting with one another.

In addition, we have people who “follow” tradition but do not fully believe in what they proclaim to follow. This results in Natives trying to be Native because it’s expected of us.  I have never believed in Christianity. I attended Catholic church for a long time because ingashiban was forced to accept Catholicism as a young girl by violent force in a Catholic orphanage. I was encouraged to keep my mind open to Native ways and beliefs, by many akiwenziiwag (literally old men) of other Nations outside of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg. I have done this, and the old ways are the ones that have always felt right in my heart.

I have had dreams telling me things, though not always clear. Some of these dreams have been quite vivid. The most vivid have turned out to become real events in my life. Though many of the elders I have told these dreams to, to ask for spiritual help, have not believed my dreams.

I have come across Native elders who’d prefer to teach non-Natives the old ways, and elders who try to use my being half-white as a reason to not teach me or help me at all. When I was much younger, those akiwenziiwag told me that our people would be like this and worse. Things had been moving in that direction since most of them were young men during the late 1880’s and 1890’s, but some of them knew things about me and my family that my own family did not know. A couple of the younger ones even introduced me to my first sweat ceremonies.

Those akiwenziiwag also told me to hold on strong to the old ways if they come to me. That is the only way to survive in this world. My life has been difficult. A life trying to be open and faithful to the old ways, but tolerant of Christianity’s strangle-hold on Western Society. Literally living life with one foot in one life and the other foot in the other life. This has not worked out well for me. I’m meant to live a fully traditional life, and not one of just putting on the show of being traditional, but truly living according to the old beliefs and teachings, most of which are completely opposite of Western Society’s beliefs. This is how I live. This is how I will die.

Even though the phrase has become cliched in popular/contemperary Native life, today is a good day to die. Everyday I wake breathing, is a good day to day. Good because Gichi Manidoo and all the other Manidoog have worked to bless me with another day of life in this world.

I have needs in my journey towards becoming completely traditional. Needs such as going on my first vision quest. The problem is, those around me believe I don’t need to, since I Sundance and have visions during Sundance and have dreams. Others won’t help because I am not Mide, Oceti Sakowin, and various other reasons… some have even used my Irish ancestry as a reason to not help me go on vision quest. Most of these reasons could very well be due to jealousy. I am completely faithful to my Ojibwe traditions, though. I was born Ojibwe, I will die Ojibwe. My journey to become completely traditional Ojibwe will continue.

 

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Posted February 7, 2016 by DJ TR-O.N.E./Fly Joint Productions in Uncategorized

My Return to Pine Ridge Rez   Leave a comment

I have a friend, whom happens to be a phenomenal writer. She’s Oglala Lakota and Filipino. I can’t I’ve read much of her writing for the Filipino community, but I know for a fact she speaks beautifully for gakina’nishinaabewakiing (all NDN Country). Because of the strong voice she gives our Native community, I felt she’d be a perfect individual to carry a sacred opwaagan/canupa. She does not speak out of turn, nor arrogantly. She’s above and beyond compassionate to others feelings and situations. She’ll also stand up to any amount of ignorance in her and our way. For this, I decided to make her a pipe. In return, she invited to a ceremony back on Pine Ridge.

The ceremony, I won’t say much other than it is a Heyoka ceremony. I’m doing this to respect the sacredness of the ceremony–absolutely no other reason. The ceremony was held in Porcupine, SD at the Pedro Bissonette Prayer Grounds. Pedro Bissonette being one of the strong young ogiiichidaag (warriors) murdered for his involvement in the Oglala traditionals’ resistance to Dickie Wilson’s corrupt regime, back in the 70’s. Pedro was also a member of my friend’s family. My friend Dana Lone Hill comes from a long line of strong people who stood up for their people–she’s a strong person who stands up for our people, now.

This trip to ceremony was more than experiencing something important to my friend, it was also a return to one of my former homes.  I lived in Kyle, SD–on Pine Ridge, between ’99 and ’01 or ’02. Kyle is actually one of the few former homes, I’ve actually missed. I’m not entirely sure who got the better end of this bargain… me or Dana.

I enjoyed the drive out there. I had fun. Not sure Dana enjoyed my goofiness, but that’s who I make the long hours and distances dissipate. I can say, I made the official Northern Cree remix of a BeeGee’s classic, to which Dana chanted her new mantra, “I will finish this trip without killing Tommy Rattles”. If Dana wasn’t entertained by my antics, her daughter certainly was. Was a good drive to South Dakota. We arrived in Porcupine around 1 am, I think.

Next morning, we drove to the town of Pine Ridge to pick her son up. I got gorgeous pictures of the canyon/valley the Manderson and Wounded Knee are situated in. The natural beauty of Pine Ridge is something I can never get over. Anyways, in town, we were listening to KILI radio, and turns out Quese IMC was in town doing a show. We never made it to the show. Had too many preparations to make for ceremony.

At the end of the day, the lead singer had arrived and helped us finish many of the preparations. Dana made us soup over an open fire. All of NDN Country knows, the best way to cook soup is over an open fire outdoors. After dinner was finished, Binesi-nimikii paid us a visit with a pretty bad storm. Me and the lead singer made our way back up to prayer grounds to camp for the night. Dana’s father followed us. With the three of us up at the prayer grounds, seems it only rained really hard. All the lightening and thunder went around the gully the prayer grounds are in. As I fell asleep to the sounds of Binesi-nimikii and the rain, I kept seeing the image of a German Shepard looking over the grounds we were in.

Morning of the ceremony, Giizhigad-giizis woke me up–shining brilliantly into my eyes. Later that day, after we finished preparations and before ceremony began, I found out two tornado funnels touched down just beyond the prayer grounds while we were getting settled in to our camp. I also found out the dog I had seen when I closed my eyes, was buried on top of one the hills surrounding the prayer grounds. Was a very good ceremony. I met some really great people, too. Everyone seems to have read Dana’s book, “Pointing with Lips”, too. I haven’t, yet. I will be buying a copy very soon, though.

The day we left was kind of melancholic. I needed to make a trip to Kyle, so I could see my old home. I didn’t go look at the two houses I stayed in, because there have been changes to Kyle I’m not comfortable with. Those changes are a great number of fences all over town. The Kyle I remember had only two fences–one around the elders’ lodge/nursing home, the other around the high school’s track/football field. Now, seems everywhere in Kyle had a fence. The freedom I remember and cherished in Kyle is now gone. I’m not sure how to come to terms with that, either.

We traveled on through the Badlands and into Cedar Pass. The first time I have ever been to Cedar Pass… wow. I have no words, only the pictures on my phone of how beautiful the landscape was. This was also the part of the trip where I came up with the idea to expand the 1491’s “A Day in the Life of a Pow Wow MC” series, with “A Day in the Life of a Pow Wow MC turned Tour Guide”. To me this was a hilarious idea, but Dana side-eyed me to within centimeters of my life. Yes, the Ojibwe/Lakota wars are still raging in this day and age. 😀

I didn’t get home til a lil after midnight. Was a good trip and experience for me. Something I will carry with me forever.

PRESS RELEASE: REZ SENSATION Pointing with Lips   1 comment

Pick up Dana Lone Hill’s book! Do it! Now!

Mitch: Pre-Indian Child Welfare Act Fiction   4 comments

Mitch’s life started out quietly. His sister Izzy, loved him. She referred to him as her “mitchy-boy”. Izzy wanted the world to know who her most favorite person in the world was. Why wouldn’t a lil 4 year old girl want everyone to know her brother meant everything to her? Mitch was happy. Though, his rambunctious sister would get him in trouble several times each day, he was happy that he was somebody’s favorite person.

Mitch’s happiness existed within the midst of absolute hatred and poverty. There were 9 children in the family at the time. All 9 kids and both of Mitch’s parents lived in a small one room shack next to the iron and copper slag piles, on the outskirts of Anaconda, MT. There was no running water, plumbing, sewage disposal, nor electricity. This was the only place the sole Native American family in Anaconda was allowed to live. The year was 1951.

Izzy and Mitch didn’t have many choices in where they could play. The trip to the city park was dangerous enough that they preferred the dangers of the mining slag piles over a lush green lawn. If they weren’t playing on those slag piles, they were walking down the railroad next to the shack they lived in. They braved the danger of being hit by a train and the slicing sting of metal cutting their skin on the slag piles, because it was much safer than venturing into town.

One day walking home from school, a cop car kept slowly passing Izzy and Mitch. Mitch said, they should run down this alley and hide. Mitch made Izzy hide behind some trash cans. He placed some extra lids on top, to make sure the cop couldn’t see his little sister. Izzy could see anything going on, from behind the trash cans and under the lids. All she heard was a car slowly rolling up the gravel in the alley, as Mitch climbed into a dumpster and slammed the lid shut.

The car came to a stop not far from the big dumpster full of rats, that Mitch had jumped into. As slowly as the car door creaked open, a rat bit into his ankle. Mitch’s ankle was numbed to the pain of the rat bite, after having played so much on the slag piles. The crunch of the gravel, under the cop’s feet is what frightened Mitch the very most. That crunch echoed a billion times inside of Mitch’s ears, bouncing off of his mind and heart. He knew something bad was about to happen.

CLANG!!! The hardwood billy club shrieked on top of the steel dumpster’s side, piercing through Mitch’s own protective shield of silence. His fingers were pinched between the dumpster’s lid and the sidewall he hung onto. The pain surging in his knuckles caused Mitch to scream. At that moment, the lid was flung back and the cop grabbed Mitch by the neck. Unable to do much to protect himself, Mitch just held his hands close to his body as the cop dragged him back to the squad car. Izzy watched everything through the tiny crack between trash cans, never once making a single sound.

After the cop sat inside of the car and unzipped his pants, he yelled at Mitch, “open your fucking mouth!” Mitch refused to. The cop then took the butt end of his club and shoved it inside of Mitch’s mouth, breaking several teeth. As Mitch finally opened his mouth, the cop began slamming Mitch’s face into his crotch repeatedly. All Mitch could do was gag, each time his mouth was violated. Wasn’t long before he could feel a squirting inside of his mouth. The thick slime coated his entire mouth, and was dripping down his throat.

The vomit all but power washed Mitch’s mouth, as the cop pushed him away. After zipping his pants up, the cop kicked Mitch in the side and billy clubbed him in the kneecap. The cop warned, “don’t you dare tell anyone about this. You’re just an animal and I’m an upstanding citizen. No one will believe you, ever”, then got into his car and drove off.

Izzy climbed out of hiding when she knew the car was gone for good. Mitch was still on his hands and knees vomiting. Izzy felt helpless. Mitch felt dead. As Izzy tried to help her brother who sacrificed his own soul to keep her safe, they both fell over. Mitch forced a laugh, which confused Izzy. On their long walk home, Mitch made Izzy promise she’d never tell anyone what happened. She said, she’d promise as long as she could. She kept that secret for several decades.

After this attack, Izzy and Mitch no longer wanted to go to school. In addition, their older sister started running away from home. This caught the attention of Montana’s Human Services Department. As the living situation of the family was investigated, all the kids were taken away from Mitch’s parents. They were nothing more than another pair of “unfit injun parents”, as far as the state of Montana was concerned.

Both Joe and Charlotte—Mitch and Izzy’s partents—were uneducated. Struggling to make do with the abyss Montana society allowed them to have. The hatred of Natives in Montana built many unfair obstacles for any skin to survive, simply because whites still believed in Manifest Destiny, and that all Natives are less than human. In this climate of hatred Joe and Charlotte struggled to provide food, clothing, and shelter not only for themselves but for 9 children as well. Both struggled violently with alcohol and depression. Thus, Joe and Charlotte were labeled unfit parents by the state of Montana. As a result, all 9 children were seized by the state and placed in custody of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage outside of Helena, MT.

After arriving at the orphanage, all 9 children—ranging in age from 3 to 16 years—were ordered to take all of their clothes off. Once all the children stripped down to just their undergarments, the priests and nuns tore the undergarments off each child by force.

Mitch tried to protect Izzy from the nun, but a priest hit Mitch’s hands with a large wooden spoon. Soon, Mitch and all of his siblings were standing in line, completely naked, and shivering. Their shivering was half from trying to keep from crying and half from the cold of the late autumn afternoon.

One by one, each child was checked for bugs and then “cleansed”. Cleansing for Mitch consisted of having all of his hair shaved off his head, being fondled in between his legs for several minutes by a priest, then sprayed with a hose and sprinkled with bug powder, then rinsed off with the freezing water from the hose. Before he was allowed to dress, the priest commented, “My—you’re quite the handsome little critter…”

One day, Mitch was having a difficult time sitting in his desk, during class. The nun walked over to him and jerked him out of his seat. She saw blood pooling in the concaves of Mitch’s chair. Horrified she demanded, “What on earth have you done to conjure up such evil???” Mitch had no idea what she was talking about. He simply looked blankly at the nun. She backhanded him across the face. Then she ordered Mitch to pull his pants down, in front of the entire class. The nun almost passed out the moment she saw Mitch’s entire backside drenched in blood. Again she demanded, “What have you done to yourself to cause all of this blood???” Again, Mitch did not answer. The nun then hit him with a ruler on top of his head. All Mitch could think was, “I’m not going to let anything happen to Izzy”.

The head priest of the orphanage just happened to walk by the classroom and saw what was going on. He gasped, “What on earth has happened here!?!” The nun gave her explanation of the situation, of course Mitch’s side of the story was never asked for. He just continued thinking, “I will not tell. I will not let anything evil happen to Izzy.” The priest glared, “Such insolence will not be tolerated here! We will force Satan from your soul by any means!” Next, the priest punched Mitch in the face, which knocked him out momentarily.

When Mitch came to, he was bent over the desk top, getting paddled on his bared buttocks by the priest. The blood was splattering onto the other NDN kids sitting in desks around him. Still Mitch kept thinking, “I will not let anything happen to my sister.” As the priest finished paddling Mitch, he was sent back to the source of all this trouble, to be cleaned up.

As the priest—who first “cleansed” Mitch, when he arrived at the orphanage—hosed down Mitch’s anus, he fondled Mitch’s privates even more. The priest continuously whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, or else the most evil of all evils will consume your precious little sister, Izzy.” Mitch kept thinking, “I will not let anything happen to Izzy.” Tears, streaming down Mitch’s face, washed the anger and hatred away. All that was left, was Mitch’s love of his little sister, Izzy. This love is what enabled Mitch to endure the uncivilized tortures he experienced in the care of the most civilized of civilizations in this world.

Several months later, Mitch was torn from Izzy’s life, to live with the first of many foster families. For six years Mitch would go from foster family to foster family, experiencing a generalized maltreatment and contempt that did nothing more than germinate a distrust and hatred of whites inside of Mitch’s heart.

Mitch was now 11 years old. He’d been sent to a new foster home—one which had recently adopted an older Native boy. The entire home was really just an old woman, whose parent immigrated to the US from Austria. They’d left the small rural Montana farm to their only daughter, who now needed men to work the land for her. Of course, she figured adopting young Native boys to be her slaves would be the answer.

This woman worked Mitch and his new foster brother well over 12 hours a day. Routinely, she starved them for not finishing up work she wanted done. Daily, she beat them both metal pipes for doing things different from how she told them to do everything. For an entire year, both boys endured the beatings and days of not being allowed to eat any food.

Finally, Mitch and his foster brother had enough. During the night, as the lady slept, the older boy snuck into her room and took the 12-gauge shotgun, the 30-30, and some shells. Later the next day, as Mitch and the older boy were working in the fields, the old lady came running out to them angry as ever. She was cussing, kicking things, and carrying a metal pipe to beat both boys. That’s when they pulled out both rifles and shot the lady multiple times. After shooting her body full of bullets, both boys proceeded to bludgeon her body with the metal pipes she had intended to beat them both with, for leave one crumb of toast on the kitchen table from breakfast.

At the age of 12, Mitch was officially a convicted murderer. After spending 2 years in a mental institution, Mitch was sent to an adult prison at the age of 14 years old. He’d spend the next four years being raped, sodomized, and introduced to drugs—while serving out his sentence until he became an adult. The day Mitch was released from the old State Prison of Montana in Deer Lodge, he was 18 years old. No longer in the care of the state of Montana. Mitch decided to leave Montana for good.

Since Mitch had never been raised, but rather shuffled through the system, he’d never been exposed to—nor taught how to really interact with other human beings. He had no idea how to be a friend, a brother, or how to even love. Love was nothing more than a lost thought from when he was 6 years old. He’d even forgot the name of the little girl he’d loved back then. He’d forgotten she was also his little sister. All Mitch knew was how to get high and just forget.

Mitch eventually found a woman who made him clean up and settle down with. He got himself a good job and tried his best to be a good husband. Mitch and his wife even had a baby. The problem was that Mitch just never knew how to show love. Not long afterwards, his wife left him, taking his only son with her.

No longer having much to live for, nor wanting to remember anything, Mitch fell back on drugs. He would eventually die from cardiac arrest from drug overdose. His lifeless body laid in a hotel bed for two weeks before anyone knew he’d passed into the spirit world. Coincidentally, two weeks after Mitch passed away his own son passed away from a drug overdose in the hotel across the street from where he’d passed.

What You Truly Deserve   1 comment

A different time in my life, I was living in a different place. I knew a young lady. Beautiful, she was. Everyday, I saw how she’d look at me with that look that screams, “I want you in my life”. She had a man, though. We became friends. Good friends. She babysat her nieces and nephew who all lived across the street from me. This chick would come running over to my stoop everyday, to sit n talk… listen to music and dance… just enjoy the beauty of what was growing between us. Everyone could tell we were both highly attracted to one another. Not just physically attracted, but we really cared about one another.

Eventually, I left town. I left for a grand total of 2 months, while I got my mother relocated to her new job for IHS out in AZ. Somebody got her phone number to me, while I was out of town, so I called her. She flipped out. She told me how much she was in love with me and she missed me, and wanted me to move back to NY. I told her, I was coming back. She screamed so loud on the phone… I dropped it.

Couple of weeks later, I was back in NY. I made my rounds to see everyone I could, then I called her. She dropped the phone screaming and yelling about how I’m back home… her cousin had to pick the phone up and tell me their new address and what bus to catch to which block. I got to their place. She came running outside and hugged me so tightly, I could feel myself passing out.

She took me in their apartment and led me to the sofa. Told me to lay my head on her lap… Yeah, I was feeling good. She was gorgeous about 5’10”, 152 lbs, DD’s (they were sitting on top of my face, as I was laying in her lap). The feel of her fingers through my hair was so damn soothing. I swore up and down, I was home. Then she said, “we have to talk…”

The first words she said were, “You’re like coke to me… and I can’t have you.” I had no idea what she was trying to say. I asked, “what?” She said, “you make me feel so beautiful, so wonderful, so damn high all the time. I’m addicted to you. You’re too good, too nice, too perfect to not be some kind of horrible drug. I can’t let myself get strung out on you. I’m sorry.”

I got up and walked out for good. I was angry. I was confused. I was hurt. I was hurt very deeply. I had no idea how to take what I had been told. I was honestly wondering if it had actually happened at all… I got to a friend’s house and asked him to hit me and wake me up. He replied, “Nah nigga, I ain’t putting shit on you. You good.”

How does a woman think a man is “too good” for her? Why would a woman ever think a man is “too good” for her? That just didn’t make sense to me.

I was really depressed for a few months. My job at the time was DJ’ing in clubs and parties, so I had no shortage of meaningless hookups with any chick I wanted. To run from my depression and broken heart, I jumped face first into this long line of party girls. I liked it. I had fun. My heart was still broken by a woman who felt I was “too good” for her, though.

As that spring went on, her cousin eventually saw me out and about and wanted to talk. We got lunch in a mall and she told me everything. My friend had a rough life. She was abused in her childhood by many men. She grew up thinking that abuse is what love was. The guy she’d been dating the entire time we were hanging out, enjoying everything about one another, was highly abusive to her. She got pregnant by him and he stabbed her in the abdomen 7 times. She lost the baby, but she still stayed with this guy. She was caught saying “hello” to one of my friends, in a club. The guy threw her down the stairs of their old apartment, just for speaking to “another nigga” out in public. Still, this woman stayed with the guy.

I sat there listening for close to 3 hours, to all of these gut-wrenching details of the abuse my friend had gone through. That still was only the beginning… The cousin stopped. She told me that she understood how much I was hurting. She said, she saw how I still looked at my friend everytime they visited her sister on my old block. She said, “You need to let go of her. She’ll never let herself love you. She’ll never see how much you love her. All she’ll see is how you don’t hit her or treat her like trash, which is what she thinks is real love. All she wants in her life is all the alcohol, weed, violence, and arguing. That’s all she thinks she deserves. She doesn’t think she deserves some who really loves her… someone who makes her laugh, who makes her feel beautiful, who listens to her, who doesn’t talk down to her… she doesn’t think she deserves you, at all.”

To hear that this wonderful girl, who could sing the hell out of any old soul classic, who could dance better than more than half the dancers in any rap video on MTV or BET, who was silly enough to enjoy Rocky & Bullwinkle or The Angry Beavers… didn’t feel she deserved me was shocking. Honestly, I felt like I had been judged. I felt like I wasn’t good enough… but at the same time, I didn’t understand how I couldn’t be good enough. I still don’t understand. I wondered if I wasn’t deserving enough to be loved.

Truth is, I was deserving of love–I still am highly deserving of being loved. Years later, I checked to see how this old friend of mine was doing. I found out she’d killed herself. She’d got so drunk she drove her man’s car into a light pole, after a really bad fight. By that time, all of their kids had been put into the foster care system. I don’t know whatever happened to that guy. I don’t know that I really want to know. I feel at a loss having found out what had happened to my friend.

Too many women are stuck in that same hell, today. I don’t understand why other guys feel they need to mistreat women to the point of obliterating the spirit inside of these women. I will say this; only real men protect, love, cherish, appreciate, and adore women. Any other treatment by a man, is coming from a child inside of a man’s body.

Posted August 16, 2013 by DJ TR-O.N.E./Fly Joint Productions in Uncategorized

The High Cost of Getting Drunk   Leave a comment

The drums from last night’s 49 were still echoing in Lachelle’s head.  A good 49 was always something this young Cree woman could never refuse. She was humming her favorite 49 with her eyes closed–enjoying the dark while she could. The brightness of the morning she knew would intensify her hangover, so darkness was a welcoming embrace at this moment. Boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… the drums echoing in the very back of Lachelle’s mind. A smile eased across her face, as she noticed other voices joining her humming.

Last night was the first time Lachelle had been out, since getting the wire taken out of her jaws three weeks ago. The anxiety and excitement increased each day, over the past 2 months. She couldn’t believe an entire year had passed since the day her jaw was wired shut. An entire year slowly passed by, since she was able to eat whole food. One full year of aching jaw pain, bland mashed potatoes, Cream of Wheat, and milk shakes. Twelve incredibly long months since Lachelle had been out socializing or drinking with any of her friends. Fifty-two wonderful weeks of babysitting her little Ojibwe cousin, Tommy, down in Bozeman.  Three hundred and sixty-five days since Lachelle  and her boyfriend were in that car wreck, after the last 49 they attended. BOOM, whappa-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… Even more voices joining in the humming.

Finally, dinners consisted of more than mashed potatoes and milk shakes. Yesterday’s pow wow was Lachelle’s first time eating an NDN Taco in over a year and she savored every single delicious bite. She did bite her lip and tongue a few times, but that’s to be expected–after all she hadn’t chewed solid food in a year. Oh but the taste… the texture… the experience of savoring each bite to it’s fullest extent without any pain from her broken jaw.  Finally, a meal Lachelle could enjoy more than just the rich thick aroma of her mom’s chili beans and bannock. She could finally eat some, too!  This meal lasted her an entire hour.  Ba-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… A couple more voices joining the roundy humming.

Early in life, alcohol became a close friend of Lachelle’s– that simple, yet easy escape from her troubles with life in Montana, she stumbled into the warm embrace of at her cousin’s party when she was only 10 years old. All her life she was uncomfortable with the way little boys and older men–especially the white ones, would look at her and try to touch her. The lil white boys in Havre and Great Falls always trying to rip her shirts off, or pull her skirts down. Always touching her in uncomfortable ways. Her dad, brothers and cousins always getting in fights to protect her… Her mother even getting beat by a white man on downtown Havre, just for scolding a one of those little white boys after tearing Lachelle’s dress. Alcohol dulled the sharpness of these pains–warmed the winter building inside of her blood. Her very own warm, fuzzy, blurred heaven of absolutely nothing what  so ever, to escape away from everything and hide. A personal body armor to disconnect her from her feelings and protect the world around Lachelle from the growing anger inside of her soul. This was how intimate a confident alcohol had become to Lachelle. BOOM! Whappa-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… One voice stands out from all the others singing along to Lachelle’s humming.

Tommy.  When Lachelle was younger, she’d had a dream of a little boy whom would mean something to her. She didn’t know exactly what this little boy was to be to her, but she knew him and that her would be the whitest looking little Indian boy she’d even known. Tommy. By chance, her father got a temporary teaching position at Montana State University in Bozeman. The family moved down from Rocky Boy to Bozeman for two years. This is when she met her cousin Tommy for the second time. Lachelle knew him instantly. Shy, bashful, almost afraid to reach out and connect to anyone. Lachelle knew that exact feeling, herself. She grabbed Tommy into her arms, picked him up and hugged him. Whispering into his ear Lachelle said, “I already met you in a dream of mine. I know you. Don’t be afraid. I’ll always be here to take care of you when your mom can’t.” WHAPPA-BOOM! Whappa-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… Lachelle recognized that voice from the others, now.

Considering Lachelle’s experiences with boys and men, it was a miracle that she ever found a boyfriend. Tony was known for being the most violent Cree from Rocky Boy Rez. What brought these two together was fear and loneliness. The only real friendship either had, was at the bottom of a jug of Ocean or case of beer. This mutual fear and loneliness is what prevented Tony from ever raising his hand against, Lachelle. Lachelle knew she was safe with Tony. Even after driving head on into a semi-truck on I-15, heading up to Lethbridge for another pow wow, Lachelle still felt safer with Tony than anyone else. This car accident is why her jaw had been wired shut. Boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom, whappa-boom… All of the voices singing with such pain, Lachelle keeps humming her happy song.

The wonderful smell of sweetgrass, sage, cedar, and tobacco saturated the air. Lachelle wanted to open her eyes, but she knew the brightness of the sun would cause her hangover to hurt so much more than it already did. She was happy and content with laying in bed, remembering everyone and everything special in her life. This past year had been perfect. She graduated high school, was getting ready to go to college, was going to move in with Tommy and his mom and help them out while her older cousin was still going to college, as well. Tony got a good job, finally. He was going to save up enough money to build a nice house for him and Lachelle out on his family’s land, just south of Azure, on the rez. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. The drumming slowed, the singing slowed. The melody of the singers completely changed.

Lachelle thought about yesterday. The pow wow. Everyone was there. Tommy and his mom even made the trip up from Bozeman, for the pow wow. Tommy’s great-grandparents even came down out of the Bear Paws for the pow wow. Everything about yesterday was sharp, brilliant, and vivid… but nothing of last night was remembered. Harder she tried to remember last night, but still nothing. She started to feel like she was floating… released from everything. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! The pain in the singers’ voices piercing through Lachelle’s heart. The more she could smell the four sacred medicines, the higher she felt herself floating. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Lachelle finally opened her eyes. She was looking down at herself, wrapped in the most beautiful star quilt she’d ever seen. She saw the smudge bowls, she saw the sacred pipes, she saw the spirit plate… Lachelle knew the song everyone was singing. That one mourning song she’d always abhorred. Lachelle now understood why she could not remember last night. Last night was not last night, it was several nights ago. That night was another car crash, after another party, after another pow wow. Only this pow wow was the most beautiful pow wow she’d ever been to. Now, that memory was gone. Now, Lachelle Little Boy was gone.

 

Ogitiziima’ gaye Gikaawinag (Parents and Grandparents)   Leave a comment

I was raised to respect and honor the safety and well-being of elders. Some of my earliest memories in life are being with my mother as she volunteered at a halfway house for Native elders as well as the Butte, MT Indian Alliance. Other memories are of being with ingashiban (my late mother) while she was doing whatever she could to help all 3 of my grandparents who were alive. Though my father vehemently protested us having anything to do with my mom’s parents, she still persisted in making trips up to Chouteau, MT to check in on them and help out any way she could. Regardless of the absolute hatred my father’s mom held toward ingashiban, she’d still go completely out of her way to make sure my father’s racist mom was well cared for and comfortable. Still other memories are the trips to the nursing homes just to visit lonely elders and keep them company.

I learned a lot from all of these elders–some good things, some not so good things. I would always listen to them. You could see just how important somebody being there was to these elders. The happiness jumped right out of their eyes, when we’d come around to spend a few moments talking, listening, just physically being there.

When I got to be in my early 20’s, I was living on my own in NY. Life seemed to be opening up for me to do many of the things I wanted to do for myself. My apartment was small–just one room with a kitchenette and a full bathroom. I also had a crap load of records, DJ equipment, recording equipment, and old photo albums & sketch books of my days from writing graffiti. I had a full life… full of fun, money, women, and did I say fun? Yeah!

The day came that I received a phone call from ingashiban, down in Arizona. At the time, she was a supervisor dietician at the Chinle IHS hospital. I was proud of her. She was incredibly happy and I was happy for her. My mother struggled many years to get her degree in Food & Nutrition Sciences. I cannot tell you all of the hard time we experienced while she was in college and I was in school. For her to get only her bachelor’s of science degree, almost over a decade passed. She started 1980, graduated finally the same spring I graduated high school–1991. Same weekend, in fact.

That day she made that phone call… she asked me to give up my life, relocate to Arizona, and start taking care of her. Ingashiban’s reasoning was that her house had been broken into, all the Navajo rugs she’d bought were stolen, and she no longer felt safe living alone so far out in the middle of the Navajo Nation rez. She then explained to me, “either I can quit my very high salary paying job, move to NY into your 1-room apartment, and let you support me until I can find a new job in NY that’s less satisfying since it will not serve NDN Country… or you can pack up, move out here to Navajo Nation, stay in my spare bedroom, and make me feel more comfortable and secure in life.” Yeah… I moved to AZ.

The first so many years were not bad. She was happier than you could believe. Ingashiban felt safe and I got to see many communities I probably would never have seen, had I stayed in NY and just went back to college as I had been planning. I cannot say I regret the decision in the slightest.

Life became difficult when she began getting really sick, though. 2001 she had two bouts of Ghillian-Barre Disease, both of which she was hospitalized for. She was also hospitalized for a few days because her iron blood levels were about depleted. Apparently due to these one pills she’d been taking for years. She survived and regained her health and was back to being her old self. Something she realized, though… she had over time came to depend on me for more than just security in her remote places of work… Ingashiban realized, had I not been there she could’ve easily died since she had no one else to look in on her. Eventually, 2008 came along which lead to pro-longed hospitalizations and of course her passing in the spring of 2011. I did all of this completely on my own. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for much of anything. No matter how rough situations were at times, I would never change any of my decisions to sacrifice my life to take care of ingashiban. These experiences made me the Ojibwe man, I am.

What I learned from ingashiban was a sense of survival, decency, compassion, family, importance of tradition, and a sense of identity. No matter how hard time become, I will survive. Nothing can ever break me. No matter how easy it is to opt out for the easier/quicker way to material accumulation, I will never be happy unless I do the right things, the right way. No matter bad things are for me, I will always feel the urge to help those whom are in need, rather than helping myself. Now that I am truly alone in life, I want a wife and children to come home to. Passing Ojibwe traditions on to the younger generations is the only way to guarantee our people culture and language continues to exist. This existence of my people and inclusion within the Ojibwe community of NDN Country is what makes me who I am. All of these lessons I learned from other elders prior to my mother, but she definitely reiterated them–ingrained them into my psyche.

The decency, compassion, family, and tradition are what truly stick with me. My current job (praying it becomes fulltime and permanent) is working as a nursing assistant at an elders lodge operated by one of the Ojibwe bands in Minnesota. This job has me interacting with elders on a daily basis. I often see how lonely they can be. I understand their children and grandchildren have busy lives. Often these lives are over an hour’s drive away–if not farther.

I spend what time I can visiting with each elder, every day I’m at work. Many times, this is nothing more than watching tv in the community room. I also spend a lot of time just listening to the elders talk. Talking about their kids and grandkids, their past lives, things they would love to experience, etc… Everything I learned alongside my mother at the Butte, MT Indian Alliance Center and halfway house I do with these elders. Everything I learned to do for my mother, I do for these elders. In return I learn so much about my people’s heritage, culture, and tradition. I even get to practice speaking my language at times.  I’m being invited to ceremony, as well. This all reinforces my identity as an Ojibwe man. These gifts I will treasure until the day my life ends in this world.

I don’t know what really happens in that next journey, so I really cannot comment on whether I’ll take these wonderful gifts with me, or not. I do know, we as a people need to stop and care more for our elders. We do need to listen calmly and patiently to our elders more often. They have lessons to teach all of us. They have gifts to give to each of us.

Our experiences taking care of our elders will ultimately fill our souls with more happiness than we could ever imagine. These experiences build, inside of us, a strength nothing else can build. These gifts and experiences do so much to solidify the eternal existence of our people in this world–a world that continues to try and exterminate us from existence. Please gekina’nishinaabewaki (all NDN Country), care for our elders! To those of you who do, know you are incredibly blessed. To those of you considering giving up your life to care for an elder–a world of immense beauty is at your foot steps. To enter, all you have to do is take that step.

I loved and continue to love my experiences caring for our elders. I would nor could ever find a reason to regret any of my decisions to journey down this path. Should the woman, meant to become my forever partner in life, have elders to care for–I’d accept these elders as my own inside of our home and give them that treatment I gave my own mother and currently give the elders in my care at work. We all need to do more to love, cherish, care for, respect, honor, and learn from our parents and grandparents. Our future generations depend on it.