It Ain't Easy Being Indian

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Last month I ended my column talking

about the removal of my ancestors’ – and many others of my tribal

nation – remains from a cemetery dating to the 17th century, to a

burial ground in a Catholic cemetery. What is so awful about that you

ask? Well, I’m gonna tell you.

A village once thrived on Wisconsin

Point inhabited by Indians. It was and still is a remarkably

beautiful and peaceful place; it had everything. Plenty of manoomin

(wild rice), and all sorts of delicious and nutritious animals,

vegetables and berries were in abundance. To me it sounds like what

is now called an eco-friendly, sustainable resort town. However, it

was home for many generations of families who buried their loved ones

in a sacred cemetery.

Then in 1908 the United States

government began proceedings to condemn a portion of Wisconsin Point

for “development” (I despise that word) by U.S. Steel. The

objective was to construct docks for railroads to make easier the

cargoes of minerals from northeast Minnesota mines.

I know this sounds like a grade school

history essay thus far but believe me that is not my intent. To

further understand why I think this is so important is because the

entire story of Wisconsin Point is personal for me. I have been

grabbed by the spirits of my ancestors to bring awareness, light and

humanity to what happened not so long ago; the desecration of Indian

graves and the consequences of that action.

During the past 13 years of my

residence here in Rezberry, I have questioned why am I here? The

number one answer is my beloved Gramma Rose and I thought that was it

cuz I still don’t fit in. So rewind to the 1980s when I lived in

Duluth, Minn. for a bit. One night after bar closing I went with some

friends to Wisconsin Point to continue the party. All I really

remember about that night is the soft lap of the waves on the shore

of the bayside. I knew nothing of the point’s history at the time

so I wasn’t aware of the tragic events that had taken place there.

Fast forward to the year 2001 and the

trip my Gramma and I made to Wisconsin Point after my having been

told stories of what transpired there. Long story short, when I drove

past the original cemetery I waved out the window and said, “I’ll

be back.” Then Rose said, “Did you see those people? They waved

back at you.” I looked at her puzzled, and she went on to say,

“They were wearing brown (clothing).” I’ve never forgotten

that, I never will.

See now, a lot of the women in my

family are psychic, or sensitive, which is how I describe my own

intuitive feelings. Therefore I have no doubt whatsoever that Gramma

had seen what she saw; nor have I denied my own experiences since

then as anything but real. Just this past June while I was learning

how to be a nature-knower, the class visited Wisconsin Point on a

field trip. When I stepped out of the van I immediately felt extreme

pressure in my ears, I can only describe it like when I go down a

hill or up in an airplane. I put tobacco down and the sensation eased

a bit, but I was left with a question “what do ‘they’ want from

me?”

A few days later, while not even

thinking of that, it came to me that I am supposed to write about it!

To write about what happened there! I was like, whoa! I also felt

that my purpose was not to do a clinical chronological narrative but

bring compassionate humanity to what happened at the time, for me to

tell their personal stories as best I can.

Then, as if I had any lingering doubt

in my mind this happened; SMH. My friend Christine Carlson,

researcher extraordinaire, loaned me a huge binder of her painstaking

research about Wisconsin Point. I know, right? I had been wondering

how to even begin to write their story and everything I needed was

given me. Wow!

If you are wondering how I’m doing

(and I like to pretend yooz do) my life is still mostly cartoonish

and full of absurdities. A refresher: I re-named my kitten “Purrince”

and Mitzi’s kitten THE RZA. FYI: two of my other cats have musical

superstar names too. Pink is the mother of the kits and Tupac thinks

he’s still a kitten, albeit an enormous one. My friend Melissa

asked me once why I named my cat Tupac. I shrugged and answered that

I just like shouting Tupac!

In other news my van’s wiring is

shorting out, I lost most of my check at a casino, and The Mitz is

nursing kittens. So yeah, it ain’t easy being Indian.

Ricey Wild can be reached at

riceywild@hotmail.com .