It was just over a month ago when I wrote my last post. I’d been thinking then that I’d be starting to write at least a couple of times a week again, but something happened something I’ve been asking myself whether it’s okay to write … Continue reading Just a Few Seconds
Category: rural life
My Mother’s Diary
My mother had a diary. She wrote in it quite often during my childhood. I don’t know if she wrote every day, but quite often. She was the inspiration for me to get my first diary, the inspiration for years of journaling. Her entries were … Continue reading My Mother’s Diary
Save A Walleye, An Ongoing Lie
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.
A New Beginning
It’s been over a month since my last post. A lot has happened since then. I got laid off. My last day at the Center for Small Towns was yesterday. I found a new job. I’ll be moving back to Wisconsin in a few weeks to direct Kinship Mentoring of Columbia County. I’ve found a place to live. I’ve been doing all the pieces that it takes to move from one place to another. All of this on top of my VNS implant, dad’s death, and just living in the reality of the COVID pandemic made for a very intense summer.
It’s been a challenging three years here in Morris. There are good people here, definitely some that I’ll miss. I loved working with my students and the community partners. But, the Center for Small Towns had been getting less and less university support for years. I was too optimistic thinking that it could be anything but frustrating to work in that type of situation. It feels freeing to be done and like I really am starting off on a new adventure and new phase in life.
It feels important to me to treat this moment like I would a new year and to name the things that I want to hold myself to as I launch this next phase. I don’t know that this list is complete or how long any of these things goes for. But, these are the things I’m thinking about to do for myself in this next phase.
- Getting back on track with my healthier eating habits (cut out that sugar)
- Getting the phone and computer out of my bedroom
- Learning guitar
- Learning Anishabemowin
- Becoming seizure-free
- Cutting my social media time and increasing my fun stuff time
- Keep my new home in a comfortable order
- Becoming an active part of my new community
I’m sure there will be more to add and to change as time passes, but that’s the list for now that I want to focus on for now. It feels good to be starting again.
Wishing you all good adventures!
It’s been almost two weeks now since my VNS device was turned on and nearly a week since my first increase in voltage. There will be six more increases in voltage until I reach my full dose that will, hopefully, significantly decrease if not stop the seizures that have been a part of my life for so many years.
Already the little device seems to have become a natural part of my being. This is so much different than medication. Sometimes I can feel the little buzz in my throat. I think of it now as a frog in my throat and it reminds me of Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie, one of the first movies I ever went to see as a child. It brings me good memories and comfort.
Where almost every medication I’ve tried has brought me rashes, tremors, fogginess, and just a general feeling of malaise, I am slowly feeling the curtain lift with this treatment. Buddy and I are back to walking about 2 hours a day. My focus is returning at work. I’ve been feeling good enough about myself and my direction to get myself a few household gifts, things I’ve needed for quite some time but just never got around to purchasing. I’ve returned to actually reading, not just listening to audio books. A lot of little things, good little things. I feel the world turning in a good direction.
I am once again beginning to move toward bigger questions. Walking through the small town where I live I’ve been seeing lots of Black Lives Matter signs. I have one in my own yard. There are very few Blacks who live in the community. I find myself wondering who the signs are for. Are they here in support of Black people facing discrimination and racism or are they here to make White folks feel good about themselves because they put up a sign? I don’t know. I keep puzzling and have found no easy answers, but it does seem to be a question worth pondering.
One Week In On The Fruits and Veggies Challenge
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.
It’s Been a Fair Experience
One of my favorite parts of summer as a child was fair time, specifically going to the Sheboygan County Fair at the end of August. It was a family outing every year. We’d do it all. Wandering through the barns, riding the rides, eating the best of the funnel cakes, ice cream, and the simple plethora of fair food. The best, to my memory was the building with the school exhibits. It was filled, floor to ceiling, with the works of school kids across Sheboygan county. If I was lucky, I might find a piece that I’d created.
Fair time was also a time for a bit of jealousy. Who could help but be jealous of the 4-H kids? Girl Scout camp was great, but these kids got to have horses and cows of their own and got to spend nearly a week going on rides, eating fair food, and hanging out with friends in the barns!
Years later I still love a good fair. Sadly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Sheboygan County Fair, but these days I’ve become a visitor to Minnesota’s fairs. It started with my work at Toxic Taters. Each year I’d go to Becker, Wadena, Hubbard, East Otter Tail, and Perham. One year I made it to West Otter Tail too and another year it was Cass County.
My time being employed with Toxic Taters is over, but my love of fairs continues. Already this year, I’ve been back to Wadena and today I was off to Todd County. I’m hoping for at least three more this year.
It’s a joy to watch those 4-H kids. I never realized when I was busy being jealous of them for their freedom and fun as a kid, that the reality was that they were learning, developing a base for themselves to work from into the future. I suppose the same happened in Girl Scouts, but I was too busy having fun myself at the time to notice.
Each county brings something special to its celebration. Today in Todd county, I saw their strengths in showing cattle and doing the barrel runs with the horses. Last weekend’s highlight in Wadena was definitely the tractor pull. Becker county is strong in the midway offering lots of rides and games for the kids.
None of the fairs have quite energy that I remember from those days at Sheboygan county. Today, I actually saw a large list of disbanded 4-H groups in Todd county hanging on a wall. It made me a bit sad. I wonder if 4-H might rebuild as we, as a society, come to recognize our need for healthy foods, the necessity of working toward environmental and economic sustainability if we are to survive, and if there might come a day in which we truly recognize our need for community such as that which is offered through groups like 4-H and events like the fairs. Could we become that dream community again that I imagine from my childhood? What would it take? What does the fair, the 4-H of the future look like? How do we continue to provide that base of learning and that simple freedom and fun?
Meanwhile, I’ll just keep going to the fairs we have and having fun with the simple things from wandering among the animals to checking out the demo derby!
Changing and Staying the Same: The Struggle Goes On
When I last wrote on this blog I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I was in the middle of the progressive haven in the midst of the crushing regime of the man considered by many to be the worst governor in Wisconsin history, and I was tired of being an activist and organizer. I was taking a break and mostly just being a pessimist and trying to get through a diagnosis of epilepsy.
I had to get away. After months of searching I came across a position with the Toxic Taters Coalition in northern Minnesota. I had been looking at Minnesota, but I hadn’t thought I’d move so far north. Still, I was drawn to this group with the name that made me laugh. I got the job and suddenly I found myself living less than an hour from Fargo. Who would have ever thought I’d go to North Dakota when I need to go to a city?
I find myself organizing again and enjoying it again. My work is bringing together Native and non-Native people in a fight to cut the use pesticides by RD Offutt, the largest potato producer in the world. The work is growing by the day. I love to see people who aren’t daunted by the idea of taking on a huge corporation. They’re just doing what they need to do to keep living, quite literally.
My growth here is in bringing together people across the divides and understanding who I am. I’ve worked with Native people for a long time, but until now I’ve always lived far away. Now, my office is on the White Earth reservation and my home is about 13 miles away from the reservation boundary. The racial divides are clear.
Generations of genocide have destroyed so much of the family/ community structure and created such a sense of despair. I have met some very strong people who are working so hard to rebuild and foster the seeds. There’s a lot to do. I ask myself what role I play. I am not Native. I can’t be that nor do I want to. I have my own history. I do think I have a role as an ally to act as a bridge connecting people who otherwise do not meet and understand each other. It is a role that requires both delicacy and strength and a lot of figuring out.
Which brings me back to Madison. It was just a few weeks ago that the one who has been considered the worst governor in Wisconsin history won again and people started talking about leaving and moving to Minnesota or other more progressive places. Yes, Minnesota’s government is currently more liberal than Wisconsin, that’s true. I will give you that. But, I wonder, to what degree does it matter? I’m working with people right now who are fighting for the air they breathe. They’ve watched the insects, birds, and frogs die away. They all know someone who is sick or they are sick themselves because of the pesticides. The other night I went to a meeting and learned about elders heating their homes with their kitchen stoves. I’ve heard many stories already of families struggling with addiction in their midst. I wish my home state could have gotten rid of Walker. I hope to god he doesn’t get any further in politics. But, someone else in the governor’s office isn’t the answer. I wish it were that easy.
Those are my thoughts for the moment. I hope now that the winter is upon us that I might take up this writing assignment more consistently again. I look forward to developing my thoughts through it and to reading yours.