It’s one of those mornings when I feel I ought to write but am unsure of the topic. I sit with the blank page for a bit and it comes to me. I am turning fifty in three days. My god, how is that in … Continue reading Compost Time
It was in 1974 that two brothers went fishing. Mike and Fred Tribble, two Anishanabe men from the La Court Oreille reservation in Wisconsin had called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to inform them of the fishing trip and then went out on Chief Lake, crossed the imaginary reservation line, cut a hole in the ice, and speared a fish off the reservation.
This small action would lead to more than decade in the courts resulting in the historic Voigt decision which acknowledged the Chippewa’s (name used for Anishanabe in legal records) right to 1) harvest fish, game, and plants off-reservation on public lands (and on private lands if proven necessary to provide a modest living); 2) use both traditional and modern methods in the hunting and gathering; and 3) barter or sell the harvest.
The decision took the hood off a long simmering Klan-like hatred in the Northwoods. The boat landings were filled with protesters like those in the photo above. Still, despite threats to their lives the Anishanabe stood strong and fished. Over four years, a Witness for Nonviolence made of allies from around the state grew to stand a peaceful guard along the landings.
Over time, the protestors drew their Klan hood back over their being and things quieted. Many who weren’t Anishanabe started to believe that the struggle was over, that it had become safe again. That wasn’t the reality. Whether the protests are small and quiet, not magnified by the media or loud and in the light of the cameras, they are there and they are threatening.
Just yesterday I learned of a family who were out spearfishing and attacked by white men. The men threw things and harassed the family with racial slurs and threats and one of the white men pulled down his pants exposing himself to the children who were fishing with their father and other family. This is nothing new. Some fishers can tell stories of being shot at every year. Yet they continue because they are Anishanabe and they must be who they are.
When will we learn? The Anishanabe have hunted, fished, and gathered here since the great spirit guided them to this place. Their harvest is miniscule in comparison to that of those who sports fish and the tribes work hard to care for the environment and replenish the fishing stock. This isn’t an issue about fish. This is Wisconsin’s version of the Klan and it is simply wrong and needs to stop.
Want to really save a walleye? Support Native spear fishers and keep the racist freaks off the water.
I came across an interesting character in science today, or some would say pseudoscience. I was listening to a meditation video my friend Ivan was doing and he mentioned studies that were done back in 1990’s by a Dr. Masaru Emoto. Emoto believed that water could be structurally changed by the way that it was treated. He had people actually speak kindly or cruelly to the water and then would freeze it with the idea that the ice crystals of the water that was treated cruelly would look different, more “ugly.”
There were multiple problems with Emoto’s studies and few scientists considered them to be scientifically viable, but the idea does make me wonder. Afterall, most ideas are foolish until they are accepted.
There are many cultures who have spoken to the water over thousands of years. They’ve prayed to her. They’ve thanked her for the gifts she’s given. They’ve watched her, paid attention to her messages, planned their lives based on the things she’s told them and she treated generations of people well.
These days not many listen to her. Not many speak to the water with kindness. Most of us, in reality, use her and abuse her. What happen then? Well, it seems the storms are growing while she is dying and we’re losing our food, our drink, and our way. I wonder what would happen if we spoke to the water with kindness?
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the US as the most obese country in the world in 2019. The World Health Organization tells us that we are one of the most depressed countries in the world.
The US is among the highest CO2 producers in the world. We continually are dumping poisons everywhere. We are continually putting poisoning our own food and the water we drink. Why?
We have a fascinating opportunity right now. At other times people might pay thousands of dollars to go on retreats to step away from their regular day to day lives and step into something new. We’ve all been given the opportunity for free. Sure, maybe it doesn’t come with an exotic vacation spot or maybe we’re still doing a lot of our work from before and some new jobs too, but we’ve got something here. How can we use it?
I keep thinking of something a friend use to say. He’d be presenting to groups, talking about all sorts of important environmental issues of the day and he’d tell people. “Don’t worry about protecting the earth. The earth, she’ll be fine. It’s us that we need to that we need to be concerned about. We’re the ones who will no longer be able to drink the water. We’re the ones who will no longer be able to breathe the air. We’re the ones who will no longer have food to eat.”
He was right. I suspect that this virus is simply another warning. The warnings are getting bigger and more intense each one after the other. We need to figure this out. What can we do?
You are there in your personal retreat. How can you take this time to care for yourself body, mind, spirit, soul? How does your relationship to this place where we live, this earth change? How do we show her respect? How do we stop poisoning her and poisoning ourselves in the process? When we walk together again who will you be? Who will we all be?
So, the schools are closed. For some this is a challenge and it might even mean that learning is lost. For others I suspect it could the best thing that’s happened in 500 years.
I was just thinking this morning about some of my Native friends whose kids and grandkids aren’t in school right now, thinking about where those kids are instead. I realized they’re out at the sugarbush. They’re helping cook food for the family. They’re listening to their grandpa tell stories. Heck, some are even talking with their moms in their Native languages. It made me wonder what will happen to these children?
For over a hundred years Native children were stolen from their families and placed in boarding schools where their language, culture, and traditions were forcibly taken from them. When the boarding school era was winding down the federal government tried another tactic, taking funding from tribes and, in some cases, revoking the recognition of tribes making it impossible to maintain schools equal to that of predominately white areas. Yet, somehow the people survived. A great deal was lost, but much was retained.
If cultures can survive when children are torn away for generations and kept by their captors, what might happen if children can be held close and held with love and told the stories by their families? I can only hope that this illness that has struck the world might help us find the medicine we need.
I suspect the same is true regardless of who we are, Native or non-Native. Our children grow strong when they know their history, when they know who they are. Tell them the stories. Show them the way. The time out of school may be the best time to learn.
Well, if I made six cups of fruits and veggies today, it was just by the skin of my teeth. I took a trip to South Dakota this afternoon. It was the 152nd annual Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi (powwow) and it felt time to go. I am glad that I went. Powwows, however, are not the place to find nice, healthy fruits and vegetables. They are though the place to find the best fry bread known to humanity and that’s reason enough to go.
So, my food at home was good and healthy; yogurt with strawberries, mango, and banana, fresh green beans to snack on, things like that. At the powwow though I enjoyed a delicious Indian taco and some nachos with cheese. The day wound up a bit under 1600 calories, so not too bad even with some high carb indulgences which were well worth it.
The food was just one piece of the powwow. I’ve gone to many before and they are always good for the heart. There’s a special power in the drum. It’s good to feel the music. I find myself watching the dancers, thinking it’s probably nearly time for me to step away, but I can’t just yet after all it’s men’s fancy, my favorite dance. Then a few minutes later I think it’s near time to go, but I can’t right now, it’s women’s traditional, my favorite dance. This goes on through all the different dances. Each has it’s own strength. Each holds a role in teaching the children to be proud of who they are. It’s a gift to get to sit there on the sidelines and witness what remains, how the strength of generations continues forward never to be squelched by the colonizers.
I sat today on the sidelines when the older man sitting in front of me turned to talk with me. He asked where I was from when I answered and asked where he was from he told me, just down the road and then proceeded to speak to me in Dakota. I looked at him confused. He translated what he’d said for me. He told me he’d learned English when he went to school and asked me if I was surprised that he was Native. I was a bit, but I’ve known a fair number of blond haired, blued eyed Native people in Minnesota, so it wasn’t too big a surprise. Then he went on and told me stories of his life. He must have talked for at least an hour talking of his family, ancestors, speaking in both English and Dakota. He shared so many bits of wisdom. It was one of those life moments that cannot be anticipated and reaches in to do amazing things.
It was a good day and has been a good first week. Let’s see where next week goes.
I thought I’d start with dreaming the night before last because of my brainspotting appointment, but apparently I was even more worn than I thought. The dreams didn’t begin until last night. I am strong believer in looking at dreams to learn. For myself, I find that in dreaming is where I put things together that I don’t let myself think in my waking hours. I can learn a lot if I listen to my sleeping self.
I was awoken by a dream last night where a student of mine had committed suicide. In waking life, I don’t know the person, but in the dream world I knew them well. I spoke at their ceremony to a crowd of many, a lot of young people there. I told them, “I am honored to be here, but I don’t want to be a giver of eulogies. I don’t want to see any of you here in this same place as our friend. I want you to remember that the best way to honor those who have passed is to live.”
I was thinking on this dream this morning and pondering how we treat death. I grew up Catholic. The first funeral I remember was of my Uncle Clarence. I must have been six or seven when he died maybe. He was a WWII veteran and his casket was draped with a flag. I remember a solemness and honoring. I knew he was an important man from how he was being honored. I don’t remember any more from there.
A few years later was when I really started seeing dying– my mom, my grandma, my Aunt Florence, my cousin Mary Sue, a classmate Steve, and other older relatives. I also sang in the church choir for our small rural congregation so I sang at funerals. I once counted it out, I’d been to 13 funerals in just a few short years. It’s funny now that I remember it was 13 funerals, but I don’t remember for certain how many years.
In my tradition people are expected a time of mourning, but honestly I don’t know how long it is. I know that shortly after the passing of the person there’s a funeral, a wake, and a burial. All this happens really quickly, just a day or two. All sorts of people shake your hand, maybe share a hug, and say “my sympathies”, a phrase they’d never use in any other part of life. Then everyone moves on and the dead person is gone forever. They’ve moved on to a perfect world called heaven, but how can it be perfect if the love you knew together isn’t there and they can’t reach you and you can’t reach them?
My adult spirituality has been influenced by many forces; Quakers, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Anishanaabe and other Native peoples, a variety of Christian faiths, and of course Atheists.
I learned quite a few years ago that the traditional folks among the Anishanaabe light a fire for four days and nights upon the passing of someone. This a time to honor their lives and the light helps guide their way into the spirit world. I learned more recently that the journey isn’t over at the end of those four days. For a full year people don’t speak of the person. This isn’t a hiding away. This is in respect. As the person travels to the spirit world, when they hear their name they’re called back. We honor them and let them move forward to let their spirits head home. At least that’s the way I understand it. I am a white girl just saying what I think I understand. I welcome those who know to tell me better or to tell me it’s time for me to hush.
I appreciate this. The beings who pass on aren’t whisked away to some pseudo perfect place and they’ve not lost contact with us. Even after that year, maybe even more so after that year, they are still there just on the other side of the river. That year, it isn’t a silencing. It’s a time to gather ourselves. I grew up in a world in which you grieved for some unknown period of time and then you were supposed to accept that the person was gone and move on. There was no more reason to grieve. You could remember on special occasions, but then let it go. Life isn’t that way. Those who’ve impacted us, impact us forever. Even when their bodies are gone their spirits remain and that’s o.k. that’s good. Carry those beings in a good way and honor them by being alive.
Those are my thoughts for the day.
I was reminded today of a most wonderful and valuable gift I received as a child. I’ll call it mustriepen. It was, and remains, the most awful stuff known to the human digestive system. My Uncle Tom is the only person I am aware of on the planet that can make any that is reasonably enjoyable. For those not familiar with the food, mustriepen is a form of sausage ring made of pork remnants, cabbage, onion, breadcrumbs, blood, and spices. It came with my people from Luxembourg.
So why call it a wonderful and valuable gift? I work at university where we have a large population of Native students. Today in talking with one of those students I got to listen to a story that isn’t uncommon. The student told me about not getting to spend much time with relatives on the reservation growing up because the reservation was someplace not to be because poverty and addictions. Staying away kept them safe from such things. There’s value and truth to that. But, it also did something else. That student referred to themselves as white. It’s only now as a young adult that they are starting to look at who they are in their Indigenous heritage. We have many students who are blond haired, blued eyed Native Americans. When they grow up in their cultures and you ask who they are they will proudly say “I’m from Red Lake” or Leech Lake or wherever. Many will know how to introduce themselves in their ancestral language, maybe they even speak more. They know something of who they are. Now a reservation is simply a place, but it is one place where culture and history stands. It’s not the only one. There are many ways to grow up knowing who you are.
The thing is those blond haired, blued eyed Native kids who feel some connection to who they are speak with a sense of strength and grounding that the other kids don’t have. There are other Native kids like this one who want to know the way home and it’s a hard way to find.
I’m not Native but I grew up with mustriepen and a sense of identity that is unusual for white people today. My people had lived in Wisconsin since the mid to late 1800’s, but still identified as Luxembourgers. My dad and some of his generation could still speak the language. My grandma grew up speaking it. In the process of becoming white identity is lost.
I am thankful for that gift of mustriepen and I, once again, find myself asking– how do I support and guide these young people who want to know who they are?
I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the 1970’s and 80’s in an all white town, except that it wasn’t, all white that is.
I don’t know exactly when I realized that little bit of information. I just know that even today I hear about rural communities being “all white” and I wonder. I know that was the story of the area that I grew up. That’s how we, at least we who identified as white, spoke. “Those people” whoever “those people” were lived somewhere else, maybe in Chicago or Milwaukee or up north on the reservations, but certainly not in our area.
While I was busy living in that White Town fantasy world, some of my friends were living the reality of being bi-racial, Latino, or Asian in a community that didn’t, and probably still doesn’t really recognize them for who they are. Instead, it asks that they pretend to be White or better yet, just be invisible or don’t be.
Well, these days I hang my hat in west central Minnesota. I’m still in a small town and I work with small towns around the state. Our rural communities are changing. The White population is slowly shrinking and the population of people of Color is growing. It’s going to continue that way into the foreseeable future. It wasn’t ok for us to expect people of Color to pretend to be White or to try to be invisible or to just not be thirty years ago. It’s absolutely unacceptable today.
Do we want rural communities to survive? If we do, then we need to take a look at ourselves and ask some questions.
- Am I seeing everyone who lives here for who they are or am I asking them to reflect me?
- What am I doing to honor the experience and gifts that People of Color bring to the table?
- How am I perpetuating racist systems and how am I tearing them down in my every day?
- Who do I welcome and how?
- What do I want my community to look like in twenty years? What will it take to get there?
I am sure there are many more questions to consider, but these give us a starting point. The key thing is that the fantasy White Town has always been a nightmare for some and is becoming a nightmare for all. If we want the nightmare to end, we need to look racism in the eye and tell it no more.
My friend Walt used to tell a story. He’d tell people of an Anishanaabe elder who spoke of the fire at the beginning of the world, “No” he’d say ,”before the beginning.” All the people sat together around that fire with the creator. One by … Continue reading Who Am I?