Spring, Renewal, and Food Ė Healthy Living
Tuesday, March 14 2017
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Itís Spring time. Yay! Weíve made it through another Minnesota winter. Iím hopeful that you got a chance to hear stories and reconnect with family. This month I want to talk about food.

I realized recently that there are quite a few people disconnected from our food sources. The amount of junk food people buy and eat is astounding. At corner stores and convenience stores, people are buying food-like-substances (junk food).

Hereís the deal Ė your body needs nutritious food. It is essential. Vegetables and fruits are crucial to our body. Chips and soda are horrible to your body and for your body. Please stop. If there is anything that you take away from this monthís column itís this Ė garbage in, garbage out.

We Natives experience high rates of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and depression. These diseases are because of our diets. We are eating our way into misery. We must stop this.

Itís that time of year that we should be planting our foods. We need to teach our children, our friends, and our families the importance of having a healthy, productive relationship with food.

We must first understand our relationship with food. I grew up in a household that served quick and easy food. No seasoning. We were not forced to eat something we didnít like. I had teenage parents who enjoyed junk food so that is what our diet consisted of.† †

What did I learn? I didnít learn anything. I didnít learn to value food. I didnít learn how essential food is to my well-being and how it impacts my health. I donít blame anyone for this. As an adult, I had to learn about food.

What can you do for yourself?† Here is a list of tasks that you can begin with.
ē Learn about food: schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietician. Call your local clinic to find out if they have one. A Dietician can help you learn about food and meal planning. Iíve used their services and learning quite a bit. It was an amazing experience.
ē Eliminate bad foods: Iíd like to challenge you this month to eliminate a food that has no nutritional value. If you eliminate soda from your diet, then youíll be making huge strides in healing your body and improving your dental health.
ē Water: Drink more water. Our bodies are mostly made up of water. We are continually eliminating water so we need to replace it. Caffeine and sugary drinks do not replace it. They make us thirstier. Get a reusable water bottle, fill it up, then drink away.
ē Gardening: Get involved with community gardening. Ask questions about plants. Donít be embarrassed if you donít know something. Knowledge is power. Reconnect with food. †
ē Traditional foods:† Connect with community Elders and Spiritual leaders to learn about traditional foods. They have a sacred knowledge that we need. Learn about how we hunted and gathered foods. Many of the plants are still readily available. And, no, Frybread and Indian Tacos are not traditional foods.
ē Meal planning: Itís important to sit down and plan your meals for the week. Spend some time looking for new and healthy recipes. Meal planning will also help you budget your money.
ē Prepare meals together: My favorite memories are in the kitchen preparing food. It is a time that I sit and talk with friends or family. We catch up. We share information. It is an incredible bonding experience.
ē Being poor is not an excuse: Living in poverty can make it difficult to learn about food. Itís not an excuse, but when the only food available near where you live is horrible, you donít seem to have much choice. If itís cheap then you buy it. Hunger is real. We need to put food in our body, no matter if it has nutritional value to us or not. Affordable, nutritious food is available if you look for it.† †

As an adult, Iíve learned to appreciate food. I can honestly say that Iím not that adventurous in food, but Iím willing to try different foods. Iíve learned that Iím sensitive to the texture of food. I dislike slimy food.

On the other hand, my son is a Foodie. He is the one who is willing to try different foods. He is the one who wants to try a new recipe. Annually, we go on a food adventure to the Minnesota State Fair. Our latest adventure was a road trip to New Orleans where he tried different foods, but I stuck to hamburger and fries.

Remember this, ĎGarbage in, Garbage outí. If you want to feel better and experience better health, then eat food that helps your body to thrive. Make small changes. By this time next year, if you eat better, I bet youíll feel better. Happy Spring.

What Families Teach Us About Love
Wednesday, February 08 2017
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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February has become my favorite month. Why? Because LOVE is everywhere. The commercial symbols of love are plenty.† Red hearts. Valentineís. Flowers. Everything that symbolizes love is everywhere. †

The art of love is difficult and confusing. This is what Iíve learned, learning to love yourself is essential. Love must always begin with you. Also, families are the first places where we learn about love. We watch it demonstrated around us.† We watch our parents.† Our aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents embody love. What happens when that doesnít happen?† †

My parents fought hard to protect us. As a child of parents who were not supposed to be together, it was hard. My Mother and Father did their best to shield us. My parentís families hated their union. Their ugliness seeped into the crevices of our life.

When we were left alone with either of our families it was then that the adults would find the opportunity to chastise us. They reminded us that our parentís union shouldnít have happened. They told us how dirty we were. They shared how unwanted we were in their lives. They laughed at my parentís hope. Ultimately, they found ways to emotionally terrorize us children.

According to my Fatherís family, my Mother was a City Indian. She was less than. He could have married better. She wasnít enough for him.

I remember many family functions in which my Mother would physically fight my paternal Aunts. They would beat her Ė sometimes one, sometimes all three of them. My Mother fought. She went toe to toe with my Fathers family. She went down fighting. All because she fell in love and had children.

They terrorized my Mother until the day she died. They found any opportunity to remind her she wasnít welcome. Even at my Fatherís funeral, we were referred to as Ďthe other childrení. There was no mention of my Mother. We didnít exist.

Even after her death, my Fatherís family speaks horribly of her. They call her a whore. They donít lay claim to us.† They look past us. Everything my Father left to us, theyíve taken, or continue to take.† †

My Motherís family are good Indians. Some of them left the reservation during the height of relocation. They stank of Uppityness. Class. Privilege.

Many of them spend a great deal of time looking down on those people. You know over there. You know them ones.
My Mother and Fatherís family were amongst them.

Yet I found solace amongst my Motherís family. They were the ones who gave hugs. They were the ones who were gentle with me. They were the ones who made sideways jabs that I didnít understand at the time. I lived amongst them as a charity case.

Do I wish for something different? Honestly, sometimes. Yeah, sometimes. It would have been nice to have been a part of a family that embodied appreciation, love, devotion, kindness, and the value of children Ė a family that fundamentally knew that families are safe places for children to thrive.

We donít get to choose our families. We are born into them.

Do I carry the hurt from feeling unwanted as a child? Yes. And, Iíve reconciled the reality of my childhood. I spent the time healing. I had to sort through what happened. I let go of what was. I let go of my longing for something different. †

As an adult, I choose what part of my biological family my son is exposed to. I make sure he knows how much love he has. I remind him how much he was wanted before he came into this physical world. I tell him often how much hope he bears.Ultimately, I remind him how much majesty there is in him being here.

I choose who has access to my life now: who has the ability to influence me as an adult; whom I allow my kid to know; when I experience joy; and where I am at in the world.

Iíve come to acceptance. From my families, I fell in love with politics. They taught me about public service. Both sides of my family love community: loved the people; ;oved Sicangu Oyate (The Burnt Thigh People). They spend their lives working to make a difference for them.

Thatís what Iíll take from them. Iíll leave the rest of all that other ugliness. Itíll die since Iíve spoken it into the Universe. Itís not mine to carry any longer.

By writing this I hope that people realize how critical healthy, safe families are for children. Children know when they are loved. Love them regardless of how they came here. Remember, families are our first teachers when it comes to love. Be that safe place for them to thrive. They will thank you for it.

Change and Transformation
Monday, January 09 2017
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Itís that time of year that resolutions are made and resolutions are broken.† Our resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, saving money, finding another job, pay off bills, spending more time with our kids, finding love, dressing better, and on and on and onÖ We want change. We crave it in our life. We want to be different. †

This month I want to talk about change and transformation. There is a moment in all our lives that we have an opportunity to change, or grow, but sometimes we choose to remain where we are. When you live long enough, you must learn to accept the consequences of those choices or make a different choice. Sometimes, being trapped in a circumstance can be soul wrenching, soul-draining, soul killing.†† †

My maternal Grandmother, Bertha Kills In Water, was a part of relocation in the 1950ís.† The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 encouraged Native Americans to leave reservations, learn a vocation, and assimilate. My Grandmother moved to Denver, Colorado. I grew up with my Grandmother until I was 4. †

I have many memories as a kid in the city of Denver. I remember her and my Grandfather, an elderly white cowboy, walking us to the playground. I remember playing with kids who didnít look like me. I remember the excitement of it all.

Iíve watched many people in my life transform themselves. Iíve also seen those who are trapped Ė trapped in their own mind. Trapped in their own circumstance. Itís as though free will and choice have been taken away. Itís as though a message is told to them every day,

ďThis is it. This is all youíll ever become.Ē Somehow this message sinks deep in their bones. Eventually, the shine in their eyes disappears. The youthful zest is gone. The hopeful stride vanishes. These people shrink into themselves. I look at their body. Shoulders slouched. They carry too much weight. The weight hides who they are. They wear too much make-up to hide. They pretend a confident walk. They speak loudly and disrespectful to their children, to other adults, and to themselves. †

It really is the saddest thing to witness when a person loses hope.† There is a bleakness about them. Their nature disappears into an abyss. They have no interest in themselves. They disappear.†† †

Ultimately, theyíve forgotten the hope they manifest. They forgot this truth, their ancestors longed for them.† Someone dreamed of them. They are the light that their ancestors held onto during a very dark time in our history. They are a manifestation of everything that is good. They longed for them.†† †

How do we get back to finding our purpose? It is with soul searching? It is with soul healing? It is reconnecting yourself to your soul? †
We all have a dark day of the soul. The day when it feels as if the odds are stacked up against us. When we feel the loneliest. When it feels as though God is gone. This is the day you are most connected to yourself and are called to be fully yourself. It is a turning point in your life.†† †

Leaving poverty is the most difficult task that Iím undertaking. I come from generations of poverty. Upon reflection, Iíve realized it was the women in my family that kept us together. It was their yearning for more that inspired me. They created space for me to grow. They held space for me to be who I was. They encouraged my transition off the reservation. They let me go. It was with their courage that I ventured forth.†† †

If it wasnít for me leaving the reservation, then my siblings would not have left either. My leaving provided them an opportunity to escape poverty, as well. Donít get me wrong, I have family who lives and thrives on the reservation. †

Sometimes being trapped is of our own making. It is fear that immobilizes us. We make assumptions about the world around us. We accept our circumstances as unchangeable. But, they arenít. †

If there is anything that Iíve learned is this, the power to change is ours.† Change belongs to us. If we want to change, then we can have it. We must accept responsibility for our own life. †

My Grandmother ventured out into the world. She wasnít going to be trapped by her circumstance. †

It is from her example and the many people in my life that Iíve learned that change is possible. I see the possibility.† I consider my distant future and see my grandchildren and their children thriving. †

As each of us begins 2017, I wish that for you, to remain hopeful and to be bold, to be daring, to be everything our ancestors dreamed of. You are a manifestation of a dream. The choice to change belongs to you. I believe in youÖ

When Politics Become Personal
Tuesday, December 06 2016
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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As many of you, Iíve been sorting through the reality of a Trump Presidency. Iím mostly still in shock. This month Iíd like to talk about when politics become personal. Politics are always personal. And, throughout this election, it was all personal, very personal.†††† †

The day after the election I was stunned.† I avoided social media and the mainstream media for a few days.† I couldnít listen to the mean-spirited, newly elected President celebrate his victory. Part of me thought that if I didnít see anything then it wouldnít really exist. Part of me craved denial. †

I donít recall, in my lifetime, ever hearing such hateful speech during an election. I canít recall a candidate in a campaign make fun of disabled people, scream about jailing their opponent, make outlandish statements, and spew unfounded statements as fact. It frightened me to my core to watch audiences support this.††† †

Once I began to re-engage with people. Most of the comments I heard were of people who were surprised and confused that a racist, sexist, homophobic, bigot got elected. I heard anger. I heard disbelief. I heard people afraid Ė deeply afraid of what may be coming. Our President-elect has clearly stated his beliefs throughout the election.†† †
Ultimately, I had to figure out a way for me to sort through what was going on with me and around me. It was a therapist friend of mine who commented how everyone was experiencing various ďStages of GriefĒ.† I pulled out my college textbooks to recall this. Iím grateful for my friends because they helped ground my understanding.†††† †

The Five Stages of Grief is a psychological model created by a Swiss Psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.† Kubler-Ross introduced this model in 1969 in her book ďOn Death And DyingĒ. She developed these stages from her work with terminally ill patients. KŁbler-Ross later expanded her model to include any form of personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, and even minor losses. †

The Five Stages of Grief Ė Kubler-Ross Model are: †

  1. Denial Ė The first reaction is denial. In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.
  2. Anger Ė When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: ďWhy me? Itís not fair!Ē; ďHow can this happen to me?Ē; ďWho is to blame?Ē; ďWhy would this happen?Ē
  3. Bargaining Ė The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise.
  4. Depression Ė ďIím so sad, why bother with anything?Ē; ďIím going to die soon, so whatís the point?Ē; ďI miss my loved one, why go on?Ē During the fourth stage, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.
  5. Acceptance Ė ďItís going to be okay.Ē; ďI canít fight it, I may as well prepare for it.Ē In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality, an inevitable unwanted future, the death of a loved one, or another tragic event. People dying may precede the survivors in this state, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable condition of emotions.

Knowing these stages and growing up with a family that is active in tribal politics has helped me move through my process. My parents, my cousins, and a sibling have served or are serving as Council Representatives on our tribal council. †

Iíve witnessed the triumph of winning and the bitter loss of defeat. Iíve seen the countless hours of work.† Iíve known the countless number of people who stopped by the house whenever they needed something. I listened to the constant barrage of ďI need thisĒor ďmy family is having a hard timeĒ.† Iíve heard open criticism of the people I love. †

As much as I want to cower in the corner, it is now that my voice and your voice is needed. What has been said during this election was frightening, it is scary. Iím not going to diminish this. †

You are needed, you are necessary.† Stay active. Stay engaged in all civic matters.†††† †

What I know is this, we can not perpetuate a ĎUS versus THEMí thinking. Hate never wins. If you witness discrimination, intervene. If you experience discrimination, speak out. Be bold. The time is now to dig deep and demonstrate courage.

Home is where the heart is
Monday, November 07 2016
Written by The Circle,
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Home is where the heart is. Yes. This month, I want to talk about home. Itís that time of year that the holiday season begins and there are some of us who long for a home. Some of us hold onto a time in our life that represents home. Some of us have created a home, but we have to defend it against the ravages of trauma. Some of us are searching for home. Some of us are lost.
When I left the reservation in 1990 for college, I was devastated. I didnít know who I was. I yearned for home. Like many other people, poverty, addiction, abuse, and trauma, was a part of my upbringing. It was my familiar.

I was lucky to have parents who were supportive of me in my transition away from that life. Each time and every time I tried to whine or talk about coming home, they intervened. They brushed away these lies I told myself. They reminded me of the desperate circumstances that still exist. They would encourage me to try a little bit harder to make it better. They would come to visit me. They helped me.

My parents understood the limitations of where they raised me. They loved me, but they wanted more for me. That is something every parent wants for their children.

I know for myself, I want my children to go further than I have. I want them to do better than I have. Iím thinking itís instinctual. It is about survival of our species.

Ultimately, my pursuit for education and my experience have provided opportunities for my siblings to follow. Itís amazing how this worked. I have siblings who came to live with me off the reservation to attend school or pursue work. Many of them are doing quite well for themselves now. Our parents would be proud.

Yet, there is a sickness that festers in our community. Addiction. Addiction is ugly. I hate meth. I hate alcohol. I hate pills. I hate that some of us sedate ourselves to the beauty of living.

ďWhen you allow the wrong people in your house stuff will come up missing like: Joy, Peace, Love, Hope, FaithÖ(Yes, people steal those things) Ė Peace & BlessingsĒ online meme.

Our family has dealt with addiction. We are no different than many families. As this country was colonized, alcohol was fed to us freely and some got caught up in that cycle. Many of us had a front row seat in watching addiction destroy the lives of the people we love. We had to create healthy boundaries with them. Yet, we want to embody our Native values of kinship and family. Itís hard loving someone from a distance. Discerning enabling an addict, and disabling an addict, is difficult. But, we must do it for the safety of our family.

Home still calls to me. I yearn for it. I visit as often as I am able now. Both of my parents have passed and many of my siblings live away from the reservation, so going home is different. I have many first cousins, aunts, and uncles who remain, but they are all living their lives.

A few years back, my son wanted to spend some time on the reservation, so I let him. It was an experience I wanted him to have. I wanted him to bask in the warmth of family everywhere. I wanted him to experience our language being spoken. I wanted him to see people who looked like him, people who thought like him, and people who believed like him. It was an incredible year for him. He also saw the limitations of living on the reservation. He understood why some of us left.

We suffocate our children. We keep them so close they donít grow. They donít learn the skills to be adults. They donít fail. They donít learn how to be adults in America. Itís important that we allow our children to do this. One day we will not be here. I know for myself, I want to be there for my kids to help them through adult experiences. Iíd hate for them to do it when Iím dead and gone. Preparing them to be adults is essential.

Home now is Minnesota. The land of the Dakota and the Anishinabe. Iím in my third decade here and I still love it. But I still yearn for the vast prairies of South Dakota. The rolling hills of golden wheat. The ability to see far. When I can, I go visit. Home is where the heart is. My heart has the ability to stretch across hundreds of miles and distant places. Home is where my family is. My blood family and my family of choice.

Home is a safe place where I can grow. Iím nurtured. My kids grow. And, they are nurtured. Thatís what home is for me.

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