(for sadavis, who has admired these wonderful folks…forever)
Please relax, and allow yourself to become a Lakota time traveler for just a bit, perhaps aided by the auspices of a Time Lord in the fashion of Doctor Who, or even by way of the dreams of the stories woven for you by the many oral histories passed down through the generations by the grandmothers and grandfathers whose chosen jobs were to keep the memories alive.
You are riding your pony across the vast reaches of the high plains, scouting for a new site for your people’s next camp. The grass-scented wind in your hair lifts your spirits on this bright day in moon of falling leaves, the play of shadow and light caused by the plump clouds overhead makes you feel more alive than you can almost bear. Your spirit soars as another scent wafts over the air: cottonwood leaves, their fragrance enhanced as they turn golden in preparation to fall to the floor of the river bottom, at which waterway they stand as sentinels, emblematic of the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, the hoop circle of life. You are already imagining them budding again in the moon of the tender grass, after a season of blood-run-down in their stark, bare forms … In prayerful gratitude to Wakan Tanka, you cry: ‘Hoka hey! It’s a good day to die, Grandfather! Life is good!’
The buffalo scouts have seen a great host of them traveling not far to the north of you, and your thoughts turn to the people behind you, their travois loaded with the tipis, poles, and supplies that will soon become a village near this river you sense will be a comfortable base for the coming hunt. You picture the children’s gleaming eyes, excited to prove their worth as helpers in this undertaking that is so essential to their families, and more importantly, to all of the people.
As you approach the might cottonwoods, and slow your pony a bit, your eyes see glimpses of the shining water through the trees. But your mind is half on the images of your first Sundance one moon ago, and the many days of prayer and intentional suffering that you were proud to have endured for the well-being of your people. Vestiges of the pain from the sharp and thin bone skewers the holy man had pierced through your chest, then fastened to the Great Tree in the center of the circle…praying to the spirits of the four directions, until you fell backward, releasing the bone from your flesh. Aiiy, such hard and sweet misery it was. But the people will have meat and robes this winter, and the children will grow strong with the berries and plants that the river’s moisture provides, and the white man’s sickness will not reach us here this far to the south!
The white men were killing the buffalo for robes and tongues, leaving their skinned carcasses to rot in the sun. The white men kept coming and coming, rivers of them wanting to fence off the land…and kill you. You were herded like beasts into smaller and smaller ‘reservations’, where your people starved because the food they promised you in exchange…never arrived. Some warriors left the reservation to hunt for food for the people; sometimes they killed white people who attacked them, sometimes they were killed. We knew that they wanted us gone. They’d stolen your children and carried them off to white families and Indian schools, where they were forbidden to be Lakota, and turned into white children with no families to succor them.
But one night at the Sundance during the moon of red cherries, knowing of the plans for the soldiers to force your people into small plots of land, Sitting Bull had a vision: soldiers would fall into their camp like grasshoppers from the sky. He and the other tribes organized the warriors who refused to die like penned cattle, and made an alliance with several other tribes. They camped by the Little Bighorn River.
You can see the battle that ensued when George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry came to annihilate your people, not knowing how many you were, nor of your firm resolve to live another day. It’s the stuff of legend that you witness, and will only know later how flawed and poorly executed Custer’s plans had been. But what you see is your warriors in splendorous attire, painted with the symbols of the visions, fighting as though they were all Crazy Horse, who believed bullets could not pierce his flesh! Ah, you smell the gunpowder, see the blood…and can’t help rejoicing when the white soldiers die in massive numbers. You may or may not have seen Old Yellow Hair go down to his death, but if you had, I reckon that you would have cheered. The white man’s belief in God-given Manifest Destiny was in tatters… for now.
The tribes scattered, knowing that the army would seek vengeance. The ensuing chases of different clans and tribes you can see as though from a vantage point in the sky. You witness the privations, the capitulations, the pain of the decisions thrust on the leaders. Nothing pretty came of any of it; the soldiers and the government were determined to end The Indian Problem once and for all.
Whooosh; the times are now so very hard. The people have been herded onto lands decreed by the Great Father in Washington, and are starving and threadbare with broken promises. The Sundance has been forbidden, so your spirits are weak. In secret, some are beginning to practice the Paiute Wovoka’s Ghost Dance, sent to him in a vision; the hope it brings is spreading throughout the plains. Wovoka had said that if the people practiced it in an impeccable manner, the white man would be vanquished from the lands, and the buffalo and all the Ancestors would be brought back to life. In addition, carefully sewn Ghost Dance shirts would make the wearers’ flesh impervious to bullet fire.The 60 million buffalo (Tatanka) that had roamed the plains were now all but extinct now; fear of Lakota Oyate extinction must have permeated the air.
But now, sensing that the dance spoke of a major rebellion, the anxious white settlers had convinced the government to initiate a program to rid your people from the lands that they coveted. The shining metal, gold, had been discovered in the sacred Black Hills Paha Sapa), and they had stolen it back from you…since your people would not sell it to them. For who can claim to own the land that the creator has given to all of us, providing food, shelter, water and holy sites?
Officers were sent to arrest the ringleader Sitting Bull; he and several of his band were shot dead in the ensuing struggle. The rest fled to various encampments, then fled again… One day 350 of your Minneconjou cousins were surrounded by soldiers, disarmed, and driven to Wounded Knee Creek (Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála) under Porcupine Butte, and wrought a furious vengeance on your people, murdering 300 of you in cold blood: women, children, and men. Women and children, fleeing the battle, some with infants in their arms…were gunned down like dogs.
When civilians were hired by the army days later to bury them, they were loaded into a mass grave on the hill above the battle site. Several live infants were found, wrapped in their dead mothers’ arms. Perhaps you are seeing yourself as one of them, feeling yourself as one of them, and are wondering what may have become of you later.
Or perhaps you are watching those few still left being loaded onto wagons, being sent back to the Pine Ridge Reservation. You may even be among them, grieving and defeated, stunned into silence. Hoka hey; it’s a good day…to die…You certainly don’t ask to be shown the arguments among the military afterward, nor to see the several Medal of Honor recipients whose awards were for chasing an murdering those escaping women and children. Or perhaps you do; who am I to say? Did you ask to hear of the callous and ugly support offered by so many notables of the day? The newspaper editors for whom whole cities and counties in the West have been named?
A simple form of Abracadabra magic brings you to the gates of the prison on Alcatraz, and you are shown those doughty American Indian Movement folks who had decided to Occupy it as an example of what they claimed your people were promised in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, granting the Lakota and associated tribes the rights to property abandoned by the federal government. One notable Occupier was poet and musician John Trudell, who broadcast a daily radio program from inside the prison, the pesky devil. That bold move was one of the early harbingers of the First American roots movement to reclaim their languages, spirituality, cultural traditions, and above all: pride.
Now I can see that you are being whisked of in time to a second Wounded Knee time, this one the iteration of AIM and associated activist tribal members Occupying the church near the site of the original massacre. This daring feat, Alcatraz, and other instances of Native American and the Lakota, having stood up to The Man, demanding rights and sovereignty, helped to spawn COINTLEPRO, whose evil doings were meant to crush dissidence of any sort, but special attention was paid to uppity Blacks and uppity Reds. Danger: ‘wild people of color rising up’ caused white America to quake in their boots. White man fear: what is its origin? That question has launched a thousand ships, erudite essays, and psychological treatises. Never mind.
The Occupation was spurred by the failure of your tribe to impeach and remove from office one evil BIA-backed Richard Wilson, under whose rule began a reign of terror on the traditionalists at Pine Ridge, over 50 of Wilson’s enemies were shot and killed, with absolutely no legal consequences. Dickie’s private militia, called the GOON Squad (Guardians of the Ogallala Nation) was closely allied with the FBI, who had brought them weapons to use against their own people. Use them they did. Was one of the murdered possibly your grandmother or grandfather?
Ah, I see you are nodding in remembrance of those hideous days. They culminated in the killings of two FBI agents who were on the Rez helping Dickie. Yes, Leonard Peltier was convicted of their murder, and will die in jail, even though the trial was crap, exculpatory evidence was withheld, in another show trial travesty of justice. Someone had to pay; he has.
I feel your nose quiver with the scent of the Indigenous sovereign rights and determination movements that are wafting through the air; what a glorious and refreshing spirit it brings! And the sounds that accompany it: drumming. One heartbeat…da-dum…one heartbeat…da-dum…the simplest song of freedom: the rhythm of the drums…the round dances of Idle No More, their calls to a Sovereign Summer. The Lakota Grandmothers Tour, culminating in their failed attempt to deliver articles of Genocide against the US government to Ban Ki Moon just last month. See now the Lakota training sessions to block the Tarsands pipeline, and the marches to force the closing of the liquor stores in White Clay, Nebraska, just off the statutorily alcohol-free reservation’s boundary. ‘You will not profit any more from keeping our members saturated in alcohol!’ the Bravehearts cry.
‘Arise, Lakota Oyate! Rise up, all Turtle Island Indigenous! Teach the young about the Old Ways, and remind them of their power to change the world, and bring health and peace to our people! Remind them them of our cry: ‘Mitaku Oyasin!’, or ‘All of us are relatives’. And teach them, and people of all races and creeds these great words of the holy man Black Elk:
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka , and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.
With the memory of all you have seen on your travels, please enjoy this bit of a new documentary made in conjunction with the Lakota Grandmothers Rising! Alliance.
You can watch the two hour version here, and read more about their group and its aims here. Samples of letters to write or email Ban Ki Moon are here.
Thanks a lot for this.
welcome, mafr. mitaku oyasin!
One thought I had (and it’s a teeny one) is that like the western areas experiencing drought right now so severely, our many native cultures diversely rooted have seen such privation in the past that they are like those surviving junipers and pinons, the ones not up on the high dry ridges that begin to turn to dust and blow away, but those in the clefts of the mountains the wildfires pass over like God passing over Elijah hidden in the cleft of that ancient other land.
They have seen these times and their like before. It is good to turn to them and learn from them.
Thanks for this, wendye.
The survival instincts of the natives of North America are remarkable. In Eastern Canada, there was a bounty on a certain group of indians at one time not that long ago.
I had to look up that native language phrase, I believe that is the case.
Anyone read the “memory of fire trilogy” by Eduardo Galeano?
poetic history of the Americas, in three brilliant volumes.
I think it’s my favourite book.
@ juliania: yes, an apt metaphor. sadly, along that theme, so many were worn away by constant and unrelenting sociocide, privation and illness, at pine ridge, the average life expectancy for a male is 41. that may be higher than for utes and many other tribes. illness includes alcoholism and diabetes, which i think will prove to have the same root cause: an inability to process sugar, and their genetic propensity to find both addictive.
humor, great humor, has been one of their important adaptations and strengths. and the fact that the women who’d been robbed by the bia-mandated governments of their historic leadership roles. and again, to your metaphor, some seeds take fire to be able to sprout and grow strong.
this may prove their time to burst for with renewed life and vigor.
the elaine miles charachter’s ‘pony’ is stuck in reverse. john trudell is on the radio. “you guys got your passports?”
no, mafr, i’d never heard of Eduardo Galeano or his work.
bounty: not that long ago? speechless. but around here, rednecks killed utes in the park…for sport, and were never arrested. it took a lot of community support for that to change.
one day i told my singing partner that our friend terry knight, who led the sun dance for a long time, had seen her at safeway where she was working, and that when he tried to get her attention to say hello, she did not seem to notice.
‘oh, i never look at the indians’, she said. we broke up not long after that, not surprisingly.
Cross-posted from fdl:
In case anyone reads this thread later:
Mr. wendydavis just came in from a visit to the Ute Mountain Ute Bear Dance. As a wee giftie since I wasn’t able to attend, he brought me a cup of posole soup accompanied by a piece of *Fry Bread*, and a sprig of Rocky Mountain juniper he’d liberated from the dance arbor. He described an amazing probably 8-year old child dancer: long black hair, skin even darker than most Utes, a pretty dress and lovely dance shawl with long fringes, dancing to beat the band. On her feet she wore high-top sneakers without laces, but still high-stepped dance after dance. ;~)
One great tent at Bear Dance every year is the one where the handgames are held. Never learned the rules, but clearly it’s a game of misdirection, and some serious money seems to change hands with the bets laid down. The stars of the show are the transgendered, whose regalia is always a delight to behold: and abundance of silver and turquoise jewelry, flamboyant satin clothes, beadwork of the finest order, and…they wear their constant laughter and banter like part of their threads.
Dunno about other tribes, but both the Utes and Navajo revere transgender people, and call them ‘two spirits’, not to be confused with ‘two-hearts’, which are Navajo witches, malevolent as hell, and are believed to spread their evil by tossing corpse dust on unwitting victims. But I really like it that in these tribes, the two-spirited among us are thought to have a special status, and are treated with deference and respect.
That’s looks like Alberta, in the video, one of the two guys is Adam Beach, from Wpg.
Don Burnstick is from Winnipeg, he’s hilarious. APTN is the aboriginal people’s television network, Canadian TV network.
idaho, apparently, but the same high plains, yes? yep, adam beach; he’s played so many different kinds of roles, and plays them well. i forget the name of the actor who plays thomas builds the fire, but he’s just sublime in the role. great cast altogether, really.
thanks for the video. we used to get ntv and cbc here, and i loved all the comedy festivals, and ‘this hour has 22 minutes’ and those other programs.
but come on now, mafr. are you printing your avatars in disappearing ink or somethin’? and here i’d been worried that i’d screwed things up! ;~)
(is it because you’re not logged in sometimes when you comment? i’m never logged out, at least on firefox.)
Not sure, about avatar…. disappearing ink, maybe that’s it. trying ageing
were you logged in for this recent comment? your name in the upper right corner? it’s all i can think of since your other comments in the list still have the solar generating station…
too many stories to track right now: gmo wheat ‘appearing’, neoliberalism gaining ground in bolivia, but this one shocked me, but perhaps mainly due to my ignorance. thoughts welcome; i may poke around and write it up. as i said, so many choices…
Hi, yes I was logged in. don’t know what is wrong. I haven’t changed anything.
odd bodkins, then. this page is about the avatars, and the ‘further discussion’ at the bottom is by way of trouble-shooting. since yours wasn’t x-rated, dunno what could be going on. have you tried again to make it stick? is that what you meant upthread by ‘trying ageing’ (maybe a typo?)
i haven’t change anything, either. if we can’t solve it soon, i’ll try contacting the wordpress Hug Team again, lol. sorry it’s such a hassle, mafr.
have you changed your designated email address, perhaps? there’s a section about that…
I don’t mind… I’ll just use the one they assign… but, I changed nothing; I tried updating it, but it did nothing. It appears on my profile, but doesn’t get from there to my comments.
that’s very accommodating of you, mafr, but i need to find out how to fix it. each glitch helps me learn things about this software version. i took a look at the recent comments thread in order that i might describe the problem to the wordpress forums people, and saw something i hadn’t noticed before. when your comments are designated as ‘mafr1’, the photo is there. but as simply ‘mafr’, you have a generic one. and that may be part of what’s going on…
i wonder if you log out, then log in again as mafr1, if it will change things. of course i can’t see what you see when you’re here, but since you’re registered as mafr1, i wonder which version of your screen names you see in the corner. the log out button is at the top left under Meta.
I think that wordpress links me somewhow to firedog lake. Ilogged out of there and here, then into here, see if that works, I can see my logo up there now, I’m logged in, but it’s still asking me to log in, as I type this comment. and it shows “mafr” although I above in the right corner top, I see mafr1,, which is what I logged in as. and the solar power pic is there as well. It’s got it’s wires crossed.
and I see it’s calling me mafr, with no image, (firedog lake name) even though I have logged in at cafe babylon, as mafr1, and have logged out of firedog lake. maybe they can explain why.
in the comment box, after making my comment, (even though I have already logged in at your site, using the icon at the upper right corner,), I have to log in again, at the box provided, underneath the comment I am making. that fixed it. if that’s not clear, let me know.
trying again to make sure, yes, that works.
how confusing, mafr. when i log out (under Meta on the left, which is where i log in again later), i see no name or avatar in the upper right corner. when i log in, i do of course. at least on firefox, i am usually permanently logged in both here and at fdl, although here..i had to add an ‘e’ between my first and lasst names.
do you ask to be permanently logged in, or ‘remember me’? i really am confused by what you’re reporting, and it may be that you could explain it better the the wordpress folks.
what i’ve done, is type a quick subject in the box here:
then when i see no answer is comin’, type a longer question, in this instance: disappearing gravatar image, and what happens… then submit it with my email address, and wait for help to contact me. then we kick it around. otherwise, if you could say more…clearly to a lunkhead like moi, i’ll try to do the contacting.
i’m just so sorry i don’t know the answer.
looks like I fixed it, I logged in under Meta, and it got it right.
I guess it my particular settings weren’t working, I did a few things, and now they are working.
What I did to fix it, if someone else has a problem is log in using my wordpress account, which is an option under the comment box, along with Facebook, and some other outfit.
but logging in under Meta made your avatar show up, too? guess that the ‘log in with wordpress’ and the others are just there in case we haven’t noticed that we’re not logged in (no screen name and avatar image on the right). in the end, mafr1 was the key. i am sorry i hadn’t noticed that earlier.
anyway: whew. glad you’re in, lol.