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It Ain't Easy Being Indian
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.

Ojibwemowiin
Friday, October 02 2015
 
Written by Ricey Wild,
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This month’s theme is language. Ahem! “Boozhoo! Ozaawanakwadookwe indizhinikaz. Niin doodem Ma’iingan.”
There! I just introduced myself to you in my own language; Ojibwemowiin. It’s my real name, not Ricey Wild – which is Manoominikwe or the name on my checks, which is Kristine Shotley. My name in Ojibwemowiin is how the Creator recognizes me. That name is the essence of my being and what the Medicine Man dreamed for me. No, I will not divulge any more than that, you don’t need to know. I regard it as sacred and not to be bandied about lightly because in my name there is also my purpose, the reason I’m here. Miigwech Gichii Manidoo!!!

My Gramma Rose has always told me stories and then repeated them, but not in the annoying way at all. It was more like our oral history culture where repetitive stories are passed down through generations, so that we know our history, so we know our environment and spirituality. Gramma told me a few times, “I was a bright little kid! When my folks talked Indian to each other I would sit underneath the kitchen table and listen to them. I knew what they were saying!”

Wow. So many particulars to this story. First, Gram called it “Talking Indian” not Ojibwemowiin, but her generation has always described the language as that. “So and so knows how to talk ‘Indian’.” She was not spoken to in ‘Indian’. Her parents wanted their children to speak English because they thought it would be better for her. So then was it in her bones, her skin or spirit that she understood what her folks were talking about? That boggles my mind.

There is direct evidence that we Native American Indians carry traumatic DNA from centuries of horrific, savage genocidal tactics from European Immigrants who saw no wrong in brutally murdering our ancestors. Well, as we know, the European immigrant savagery didn’t stop at all. It is still a very real entity but they are using less blatant ways to exterminate us. Incarceration, illegal drugs and medications to keep us numb and unmotivated, plus racist legislative policies that continue on from centuries ago, aka “The Indian Problem”. We experience daily suppression by the continental usurpers not acknowledging our legitimate history and rightful place on our own lands; read Howard Zinn and Jack Weatherford. Yes, I know there are Native writers and authors, but I cite these men in this case precisely because they are white.

Oppression of our cultures and our spiritual practices by European immigrants has been relentless since they got here. Here we were, living the good life in a clean environment, lots of natural resources and freedom to move about as we pleased. There were no demarcation lines between the US, Mexico and Canada; those are recent and made up. The immigrants think they won. Hah-hah!!! The majority of Americans don’t know that every day of their lives they speak a little “Indian”.

Oh yahhhh!!! Over half of the States are Native-named, as are places, animals and the flora and fauna. Too many to list here but I encourage you to Google “Native American place names” and “Native words we use today”. Long ago one of the most interesting things I found out is that there are no swear words in Native languages. Yep. Swearing was unnecessary. I suppose we had better things to say. So now I don’t feel bad when I swear in English or Spanish because…well…I just don’t.

These days it is critical to the survival of our collective Native cultures that we revive, speak and preserve our languages. It is more than just a thing; it’s who we are as a distinct people. In the government boarding schools children were horribly abused and punished for speaking their own languages. The children’s hair was cut; they were made to wear European-style clothing and were traumatized to the point of believing they were bad, sinful beings. Because that’s what they were told by the Churches or administrators whose job it was to kill the Indian to save the man. Talk about sinners.
The lasting effect of the spiritual scalping of Indian children resulted in decades of malevolent pervasive dysfunction in Indian families. How well can people who didn’t grow up in their own homes know how to be good parents? It has been generations and we are now addressing the violent sickness that happened to us; it has left no one unaffected or immune.

I know well that life is not static, nothing stays the same. So when I read my dear friend Nikki Crowe’s post on facebook that said, “Feeling miigwechful” Ojibwe/English meaning thankful I LMAO’d! I called the word ‘Ojiberish’ and it made my day. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

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