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It Ain't Easy Being Indian
Ricey on Indian Month and Prince
Thursday, May 05 2016
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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The year: 1975. Scene: Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the month of May. A young chubby brown Indian girl approches the newly opened Indian Center. It is a warm day and excitement fills the girl who was to see wondrous people and events she had never known before. There was a glorious Powwow in the gym and Dine’ (Navajo) Sand Painters in the atrium. Music filled the air while thousands of other people who looked like her were celebrating their own culture and being very proud of it. That, my friends, was the first Indian Month I can recall and I have kept it close to me ever since.

That particular day I saw my own peoples’ resilient strength even though I could not have expressed it as such at my age then. I felt joy and pride and validation as an American Indian female, which I had never had before. That day changed my life and, as I realize just as of my writing this, made me who I am today. My Indigenous culture means the world to me and if you have read any of my previous columns you know this.

Before moving to Minneapolis I lived in Bemidji, Minn., and was always on the periphery of any social circle and at the best of times was merely ignored rather than being actively bullied. After entering public school this was the norm and I passively accepted it because, well, that was just the way it was. It’s a white man’s world and my status didn’t matter.

In May the Spring season explodes again into fresh life, color and hope, and if I didn’t know the Lilac bushes would bloom again I’d have to give up. Indian Month is rejuvenation, new beginnings and the continuation of our Indian culture that refused to bow down and disappear into history books even if “They” would have you believe it to be that way. Nope! We are still here and will be even after the rest of yooz have gone to civilize the Moon or Mars.

This Is Our Land. It always has been and always will be. So I encourage you personally to celebrate with us because we are an inclusive type of people or yooz wouldn’t have made it this far, yanno? Understand that and keep it in your hearts that our Turtle Island, as we know it, has been our homeland for millenia – not merely a few thousand years as the historical liars would have it be.

We Indigenous people claim both continents of North and South America as our collective pan-Indian culture. We were here first and so we celebrate our existence despite the continuing agenda of genocide. We have not merely survived.

My people are the heart and soul of this place and time, and some non-Indians are finally waking up to the reality of the dire situation of climate change and the poisoning of clean water that we all need to live. Ask yourself if moentary profit (not yours) is worth your children’s children’s lives. Think Indian. Get involved in pro-human and -animal and -plant life groups. To me that would be the greatest honor you can do for the first people of this land. For those whom already do I say Chii Miigwech.

At 19 years young a gorgeous young man from Minneapolis made and played and produced an album “For You”. His name was Prince. We Indian girls were immediate adoring fans and he has been a part of my life since, and I have always loved him for him. Prince liked women who looked like me; dark eyes, black hair and an air of sassiness.

Once outside of The Oz nightclub in St. Paul he followed me upstairs and I was too intimidated to go for it. Regrets? You betcha. But I have a 1981 autograph from Prince signed, you guess it, in Purple from a felt pen I had. He said, “It’s purple” and smiled so even then that was his color.

I love that he was signing autographs recently with the tag, “Be Wild”. I take it personally. I will. Since then I’ve seen him perform at many concerts and at Paisley Park where I saw him shred and was brought into another world of genius and pure love.

The day he died I was crying and listening to his “Come” album alone in the dark. At the very end he whispers, “I Love You”. I’ma keep that in my heart. I love you back my Sweet Prince.

My beloved Aubid and LaPrairie Family is suffering another great loss and I give my love and prayers for you all. Biisa, your Old Antie is here for you always. I love you.

Powwow Season
Tuesday, April 05 2016
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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I’m hoping to see dandelions soon because I feel happy when I do. Their appearance means Spring has come and Summer follows. Powwow season will also be here because even if we dance indoors during cold weather I know Indians of this Turtle Island like to feel our Mother under our feet.

Again, I quote a non-Indian friend photographer from back in college, “I have never seen people step so lightly upon the ground”. I treasure his observation and I remember his words every time I see our Native Nations dancing. We are still dancing even though we were to have been exterminated, and erased from history. Dancing for our Ancestors who fought bravely and to the death for our homelands; dancing for the generations to come so they too can dance in their honor.

In Native country there is always a Veterans’ Honor Guard that leads the powwow to show appreciation for the people who chose to serve our country. I could statistics here, but per capita Indian’s have volunteered for military service more than any other ‘race’. I used to wonder why some did after all the U.S. government did to try and kill us, and got this answer: This was our country first. Even before we became legal U.S. citizens Our people volunteered for the military and fought America’s enemies. Let that sink in for a bit.

Of all the powwows coming up this summer I must mention in particular one in Minnesota on the Fond du Lac Reservation. The Fond du Lac Veterans Powwow has been attracting more people year after year, but this one will be different. I don’t have exact dates or time as of this writing, but the Vietnam Traveling Wall will be on display days before the powwows Grand Entry on July 8 at 7 p.m. The Wall itself will have an escort of hundreds of Bikers until it’s placement. The Fond du Lac Veterans Powwow will be July 8-10, 2016.

Having met and know Vietnam veterans I tear up because of the hostile political environment they returned to here in the States. It was undeserved misdirected hate and they deserve our acknowledgement for putting themselves in deadly harm. I have been to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. twice and the magnitude of the loss does not become less; rather it is more relevant considering our current situation in the Middle East.

My own father, Jerome George Charette served in the U.S. Air Force and was on a fuel re-charging plane where his airplane refueled another one in the air. I can’t even imagine. I can only hope I inherited his genes of bravery and resilience.  

I encourage anyone and everyone who has never attended a powwow to find one near them and do please go! Bring your families, eat moose or buffalo stew and the iconic frybread that is everywhere in Indian Country. And acknowledge that this land where you are standing, living, working, playing, hunting, fishing is the land of the First Peoples.

Okay, the powwow rules. When you see the Indians stand up, you do too. When they are quiet you zip it. No filming during Grand Entries or when spiritual blessings are going on. No, that is not and has never been cannabis being smoked in the “Peace Pipe”. We pray to the Four Directions and each has it’s special meaning. We offer the smoke up to the skies and to our Mother Earth in gratefulness for the blessings bestowed so that we may live well.

I offer yooz no other advice, except honor your life-source, which is what we Indigenous peoples call Turtle Island. Hey, we went through The Great Flood also; it’s not just biblical. Before organized religions we were more alike than not.     

As for me, I graduated to using a cane to walk so I don’t imagine myself actually dancing at the powwow this summer, but I can at least shuffle around and get me some hugs n frybread. Now I have something to look forward to! Been alone too long, I need to hear the drums and jingles.

We never left, we are still here and the Revolution has begun.

Surgery, Medication, and Hard Ttimes
Tuesday, March 08 2016
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to write and there’s an awful reason for that. December 23, 2015, I had another lumbar spinal fusion surgery. I’ve already been through a previous one in March 2012 so knowing what I was in for I felt horrible and it was traumatic for me.

Well, having ‘been there’ and knowing what I was in for (or so I thought) I thoroughly researched and cross-listed everything I knew was the most important, like my dog Mitzi and my cat’s needs plus. And, this is critical, my employer’s knowledge of my impending surgery and the NEUROSURGEON’S recommendation that I have 12 weeks of recovery time before I return to work. I know that sounds like a home vay-cay to some folks, but since I was only making cents above minimum wage it was all I had. Not cool.

Before the big surgery I KNOW I had all professional and home pet care stuff taken care, even clean undies and a clear space to roll my new walker through. Me! A walker! Actually, it’s just cute, and has one of those seats with a bag you can put your stuff in underneath.

After I got home I received a visit from an in-home Physical Therapist which I needed desperately so I could learn how to function and walk normally again. Then I got a call from her saying I had been cut off the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and do I have another insurance company? Well, it took me a bit to let that sink in, but no, I didn’t have another one. Not long after that, I got a certified letter from my now former  employer saying I had been terminated from my job, one reason being I had not been in contact with them telling them when I would return to work.

People, that was one of the most important things I did; made sure I had a job to return to, never mind the toxic workplace I was forced to put up with daily. I had a job to do, I did it. Unreal. Then I got a call asking when I was going to come get my personal items, mostly books, etc... and here’s me housebound not allowed to heft more than 5 pounds. I laughed. I am unable to even carry the dust outta there, never mind the other heavy stuff.

Okay then, that kind of vicious, rez-backward idiocy I can deal with, but fate wasn’t done with me yet. Late one night I got a call that changed everything; my Son’s life, my Granddaughter’s life, and my own reason for even bothering to stick around this vile, hateful environment (by that I mean this life).

But hey, I’m still here and gonna stick around to make sure that those who conciously set out to hurt me get theirs. And I’m going to keep writing, on a blog or essays perhaps, to bring awareness where before there was none. Uh uh. That is over because I am becoming an active participant in any way I can. Marching may be out of my agenda right now but I’m there, too.

One other thing I will do is if I say “I’m here for you, let me know” that is exactly what I will do and then some. I’ve never been so alone in my life and it really, really sucks. I even gave money and did favors to someone I thought was my friend, and who I thought would help me and stop by now and then to see if I was alive or dead. Nope.

Then there’s the time I needed stuff and the only person who helped me didn’t have a car at all but he did it to just to help me. We used a taxi. He helped me put everything away and said he will help me, not just leave us to rot. Miigwech. M, you saved my faith in humanity just when I was so done with everything and everyone.

That is the reason I’ve been gone. The pain, the medications and sorrows. I wish you all well and happy my friends. One thing I know for sure we are not alone in our troubles and trials, somehow Creator gives us the strength to go on.

Creator is why we are here so I suppose I take it that I’m here to make a good difference. We can all do this together, our communities are in severe crisis due to drugs. And I don’t know of any Indian family, including mine, who has not been affected. Let’s start with that.

Much Love.

Native American Artists
Thursday, December 03 2015
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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Last month I bragged about knowing a lot of Native artists and how we could support their businesses. It seems to me that everything loops back to the circle and is intertwined. There is our current reality where we need currency to live in this culture and there is this spiritual creativity in Native people that sustain us also.

The selling of our Native arts and crafts is not selling out; that’s the crapy plastic and very racist items that were mass produced overseas. I’ve said it before and will most likely say it again – we Indians can’t ever have anything left to us. They took millions of our lives for our lands, the animals that sustained us, our children that were sent to boarding schools, and our cultural identities and still to this day make mockeries of it.

Art is an everyday thing for Native people. Our clothing reflects our tribal cultures, as do the things we used for day to day living. For instance, my people the Ojibwe used birch bark for pretty much everything from storage baskets, to pots to cook in, to backpacks,  to our housing and the famous birch bark canoes. We consider the paper birch sacred and wrote our ancestral lineage and spiritual texts on them.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I got to see many Indian art show’s that feature contemporary artists as well as historical pieces like Dakota paintings on bison hides that depict events and stories and war shirts. I was fascinated to learn that the dragonflies on some of the shirts were there because of how the insects move and dart about giving the wearer the ability to dodge bullets. Dodge bullets, Yo!!!
In black and white photographs Ojibwe chiefs are wearing very fancy, intricately beaded regalia done in floral designs. As a person who was brainwashed since infancy, I used to think floral designs were only for women. But when I saw the steely eyes of resolve of the men who wore that clothing, no other thought but strength, purpose and pride came to my mind. When I see moose hide boots, leather mittens and other personal attire pieces I gasp at their beauty and construction and want, want, WANT!!! But see now, I would actually wear them as is their purpose.

If you were to visit my home there isn’t anything that immediately beats you over the head that an Indian lives here besides some sheets in my windows. In the permanent state of chaos that is my domicile I do have a few pieces of functional art, like my birch bark baskets that hold plants, a few dream catchers, some cedar, sage and sweetgrass to cleanse the surroundings.

I have very recently purchased a print I’m fascinated with by Steven Standingcloud. I have been gifted a painting by my beloved friend Lorri, and a print by graphic artist Opitchee Bellanger when we connected on our views about Alien intervention. I also won a signed poster from a recent art show opening, I attended and all are going to be matted and framed. I’m so very happy right now and I may have caught the collector’s bug for acquisition of interesting and beautiful pieces of Native art. All within my limited means, of course. Or I will beg.

Then there’s this. I have been thinking a lot about how Native arts and culture has been spread world-wide as the Ojibwe Dream Catcher has. I say they are a phenomenon in that they are now sold everywhere in the world, made by who knows but their cultural meaning has not been lost in translation. Indian mothers would hang small ones on their baby’s cradleboards and we put them above our beds so the good dreams can slip through and bad ones get stuck. That’s the way I heard it so if you differ, go ahead. The larger dreamcatchers are for decoration I’m supposing. Kokopelli, which is Southwestern in origin, has his flute and danced his way into pop culture much like the dreamcatcher has.

One does not have to look far to see how influential Native arts are. Native artists work hard at their crafts and arts. I’ve seen pottery, paintings, graphic arts, photography, jewelry and many other artistic mediums that are so stunning in their intricacy and beauty they literally take my breath away. I believe it is up to us to honor the gifts our ancestors gave us and keep up the traditions that sustain us. To them I say Miigwech.

Then there’s the fake war bonnets. The Poca-hottie costumes at Halloween. The disgusting professional sports mascots, those have to go like yesterday. As long as they persist Native people are not seen as real and deserving of respect.
  

Nov Its Aint Easy
Tuesday, November 03 2015
 
Written by The Circle,
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Native Business. Tch! Most Indians think everybody’s business IS their business. I think it has a lot to do with us having our land stolen from us from under our moccasins like WHOOP!!! Then having a white person snarkily asking us what are we still doing here? So when people act all sketchy our natural reaction is to think ‘they’ are still scheming to take what tiny lands and rights we have left to us, because they are. The thousands of business deals called treaties didn’t go very well for us Indians just in case you hadn’t heard.
Yeah, about those treaties now that you mention it…I, for one, am really angry we did not include damage deposit, first and last month’s rent, and a no invasive species clause. All that would translate into trillions of dollars and what would hurt the European descendants the most because money is what they worship.

For European immigrant descendants money is the force that drives all intent. Everything including lives lost has a monetary value; however, businesses that lose revenue because of natural or man-made disasters are seen as the real sufferers. When the news comes on in America the TV hosts’ eyes widen with horror at the cost of any loss to a major company, for instance Wal-Mart, Con-Agra, the Banking Corporations – you name it. This while the Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 nationally-I make barely above that and am in fact living in poverty. Our veterans go hungry and homeless and the elderly and children are suffering in 4th World conditions.

I ask “where are your priorities America?” The answer is clear. There are no concerns for humanity, only money and how much one can acquire in the shortest amount of time, no matter what or whom one has to kill in the process. One of the saddest things I’ve read is a silly young woman who wants to turn herself into a ‘brand’. Really? Americans need to get over their obsession with celebritys– it’s pathetic.

*Tapping fingers* Now…what will I do with all my share of the trillions that are owed for back rent and extreme violation of the lease contract? Hmmm. I would begin by hiring people to clean up the disgusting mess they inflicted on our environment which was unspoiled before they got here. Find a way to dismantle nuclear reactors and install solar everything. Next, organize and invest in small local organic farms that have minimal domestic animal space. Hey, I like goat cheese, okay?

Then using my trillion, I will build schools that don’t teach the lies as truth about the founding of Turtle Island; that have healthy programs and foods. I would build homes for those in need and weed out the greedy callous legislators and…aw heck I’ll get rid of them completely. Talk about useless as bloated wood ticks.

So, sounds like a good business plan? I think so but until they pay up there are other things we can do to help Natives in the Biz. I would look on the internet for the real Native-owned businesses, but you can do that on your own. I implore that if you are looking for authentic items, whatever it may be – foods, art, clothing – those are available and you can be proud that they are made by Real Indians!!! Yes!!!

I learned how to bead some years ago, before that I was astonished at the price of a pair of earrings. When I made my own beadwork, literally putting on one tiny bead at a time, I understood the time and skill that was invested into each piece. When I was a museum curator I saw pieces of breath-taking beadwork in Bandolier Bags, Regalia, and I still am beyond impressed by current works; out West even the horses wear regalia!

Still I must remind you that there is way more than beads and buckskin to our culture. I am personally acquainted with many Native Artists; painters, musicians, writers, actors, photographers, graphic artists, comedians and farmers, hunters and gatherers; those who carry on our seasonal way of life. I worship those people for their creativity, their dedication and spirituality that resonate in everything they do.

I feel that these People are the Ones who carry on our purpose, the one that our Ancestors gave to this world a deep knowledge of Astronomy, Geology, Mathematics, one-third of the foods we eat today, Medicines and Arts.

So when you go to purchase items from Native-owned businesses, know that you are contributing to the future wellness of people who have already given so much.

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