Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We Hold onto People Not Things - Standing Rock Edition

Growing up, you hold onto the things you love most, but sometimes you forget. You forget the things you love most, but that keeps you in line. It keeps you in check

When I was little, my mother made me a buckskin doll. It was made of fine buckskin -- hand tanned buckskin. The dress she wore was also of buckskin and was beautifully beaded. One day when I was playing with her, I decided to make her a new dress. The new dress didn't work out. I didn't put the original dress immediately back on the doll... In fact, I lost the beautifully beaded dress. That broke my tiny heart.

After a while, my mother took pity on me and made me a new, even finer dress for my buckskin doll. And I made the tiny doll a cradle board and baby out of leftover hand tanned buckskin, buffalo wool, and trade cloth. This was the first doll I ever made. I've made many since - but I no longer have hand tanned buckskin, buffalo wool or trade cloth. I use commercial buckskin and store bought fabric.

Fast forward to today. I was too lazy to look under the hotel bed before we left Nebraska and I left this doll's tiny baby behind. We called the hotel, but the doll is lost. I felt my heart break again, but this time I know - I can make another doll. I can make a tiny baby even better than the one I'd made before.

Just like in the story of the Dun Pony, each horse Dirty Belly got after the Dun Pony was finer than the last. Sometimes in order to move forward, we have to let go of the past.

-- Guest Blogger, Naji Haska Oha Iyage

Monday, December 26, 2016

It's All I've Ever Wanted - Standing Rock Edition

We are on the road, and I am filled with gratitude.

I am thankful for my family - extended, by blood, by friendship, and by progeny. These are the people in my life who make me a better me. I want to thank Joy, Merilee, Sharon, Jill, Gary, Beau and Miki, Katie, Britt, and Amanda and Nolan. I want to thank everyone who has written us words of encouragement and hope.

Today we started with Sunrise in Utah

We had Sunset in Wyoming

It was well after dark before we made it to our stop in Chadron, Nebraska. Siri (in her best English Accent) estimated our trip at 9 hours. With a 45 minute lunch break, we made it in 12. 

When I first proposed #DokshaStandingRock to my family as an alternative to Christmas, my youngest had "reservations". He could do without the Christmas gifts, but what would he say at school when asked, "What did you get for Christmas?" And worse yet, what if he were asked to write an essay on what he got for Christmas? 

My response was, "You'll be able to write the best essay ever!" He didn't seem satisfied with that answer. so I acknowledged that our #DokshaStandingRock plan was not in the realm of normal, "But," I said, "Do you want to be like everyone else?"

His voice was soft, but sure, "It's all I've ever wanted."

Despite his common middle school complaint, he took the road less traveled with his family. Some of this road's conditions were sketchy. The worst was Wyoming Highway 20. The road had snow pack and ice. And to make it even more of a challenge, the blowing snow took visibility down to zero in places. 

I was riding with my eldest son and his wife as we ironically passed Martin Cove and crossed over the Sweetwater river.  The irony being, we would have stopped it the wind hadn't been so biting cold. (For those who don't know the tale, the Martin Handcart Company was holed up in that cove for five days trying to wait out an early October blizzard. This was after they were soaked from crossing the Sweetwater river.) My daughter in law told me the story of three young men who died carrying pioneers across that river. Her story reminded me of a folk song written around that time involving men from Sanpete County (my parents hail from there).

Today is December 26, 2016. I am remembering the past. I am thinking of the Dakota 38 who were executed on this day in 1856 in Mankota, MN for protecting their homeland. I am remembering Big Foot's Band at Wounded Knee and the massacre of old men, women and children on December 29, 1890. I am remembering those who lost their lives crossing the great plains because the First Amendment protection of religious freedom did not apply to them. Remembering these things does not make me anti-American. 

It makes me a better American. It helps me understand who I am, what I have come from, and where I am going. It helps me understand that as America listens to the voice of those who have gone before -- as remembered by those who remain, she will gain strength in her honesty.

On a trip like this, it is the simple things like complimentary water and free public bathrooms that remind me how grateful I am for America and how my hopes and desires are wrapped up in her future.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Delight Song For Naji Haska Oha Iyage

He is
A shimmer of water on a cold mountain stream
The golden leaf of winter refusing to fall
A sunburst of light through dark thunderous clouds
A flat pebble skipping, skipping, skipping 'cross
the still mountain lake
The red earth drenched in a rare summer's rain
A breeze of sweet grass blowing in from the east
The greasy yellow of pony beads, the cheyenne pink of shells
A shaking of bells and twirling of shawls
The crackle and leaping of a flame from a fire
A plume of smoke curling upward from sage
He is the searching, searching, searching of
the skyward eagle's eye
The watery path of a loon lit by the sun
A mountain in the north, snow capped and tall
A quaking aspen in a forest of lodge pole pine
He is a dream and a waking a future and a past

You see, he is a son and a brother, an anchor to his kin
He stands tall in his spirit
He stands tall in his pride
He stands tall with his family
He stands tall in his life
You see, He is a son and a brother, an anchor to his kin

Happy Birthday Naji! (Nope, you're not even half-way done)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Chipmunk's Tail - Standing Rock Edition

"He had laughed at that and said he wished he, too, had a tail. His mother had said, "When you are a man you will have a tail, though you will never see it. You will have something always behind you."

Now he understood. Now he knew that time lays scars on a man like the chipmunk's stripes, paths that lead from where he is now back to where he came from, from the eyes of his knowing to the tail of his remembering. They are the ties that bind a man to his own being, his small part of the roundness. (When the Legends Die)

Not all memory is personal. N. Scott Momaday wrote an essay, "Man Made of Words." In it he discusses racial memory.

And in the racial memory, Ko-sahn had seen the falling stars. For her there was no distinction between the individual and the racial experience, even as there was none between the mythical and the historical. Both were realized for her in the one memory, and that was of the land. This landscape, in which she had lived for a hundred years, was the common denominator of everything that she knew and would ever know -- 
and her knowledge was profound. Her roots ran deep into the earth, and from those depths she drew strength enough to hold still against all the forces of chance and disorder.

Three of my seven children have never lived on the Fort Peck reservation. Three of my seven have never roamed their ancestral lands. And yet, even far away from culture and influence, their tails lead back to where they came from.

My youngest walks backward through life, like a heyoka. He studies old family photos of his siblings at powwows. "Whatever happened to that beadwork, that fan, that shawl, that necklace?" He creates items to replace those that were lost. He repairs regalia that is way past its prime.

His siblings bristle at his questions and tell him he doesn't know. He wasn't there. He missed out on so much. But he is not alone in his looking back.

We have all missed out on so much.

The tail of our remembering leads us back through our relations. Turnip Digger, Lodge Pole, Duck Head Necklace, Walking Cyclone, Gray Face Woman and her brother Crazy Bear.

All of these lived, loved, created -- prayed, always in the hope of a better life for their young ones.

We are not solely tail, we have eyes as well. Balanced, grounded by our remembering, we focus the eyes of our knowing.

Mato Witko, Crazy Bear, my kids grandfather, became head chief after the Gauche -- He Who Holds the Knife. Crazy Bear was not of the Gens du Gauche. He was a member of the smallest band, the Gens des Jeunes Filles.  The Nakoda Nation (Assiniboine) was asked to send representatives to the signing of the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty.

The treaty signing was to be held in Sioux territory. The Sioux and the Assiniboine were warring tribes. In between Fort Union and the Sioux lands were marauding bands of Blackfeet. Any Assiniboine traveling alone would be killed. No one would go.

Crazy Bear determined that he would go alone. Soon he was accompanied by warriors who vowed to follow their chief even to certain death.

They rode to Fort Laramie. Crazy Bear signed the treaty which promised land and goods and services for his people. He and his party returned home in safety.

Things had not gone well in their absence. The Blackfeet killed Crazy Bear's son. Crazy Bear's wife, in her grief, hung herself. Crazy Bear mourned, but he stayed tethered to this earth and raised his granddaughter, Sweet Grass.

The government did not keep its promises. No goods came. Crazy Bear's people were hungry and angry.

Crazy Bear looked forward in hope. He held his people to the promises they had made. When the government goods finally arrived, six months late, the tribe rejoiced and again praised Crazy Bear.

In two weeks, our family will travel the lands Crazy Bear traveled. My youngest will be with us. As we entrench ourselves in racial memory, we will also create personal memory. We go to ground ourselves in the past and pray for the future.

Like the chipmunk's stripes, we have paths that lead from where we are now back to where we came from, from the eyes of our knowing to the tail of our remembering.

In this way, we are a small part of the roundness.

#MendTheHoop #DokshaStandingRock

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

He Who Holds the Knife - Standing Rock Edition

The Assiniboine had a head chief by the name of He Who Holds the Knife. He was also called Left Hand or the Gauche. He Who Holds the Knife held much medicine. He knew when people were going to die. He knew when he was going to die. He was wica wakan, and he led his people in battle. Because he knew the hour of his death, he did not fear going into battle. In battle his only weapon was his medicine drum. When he beat his drum and sang, his people were victorious.

Edward Denig, the colonial in charge of Fort Union, wrote that the Gauche must have acquired poison from some white man. Denig claimed that the Gauche could predict death because he himself administered the poison - even to himself. In Denig's book Five Tribes of the Upper Missouri, Denig describes Left Hand as an "arrant coward" who sang while his warriors fought. But there was much Denig could not explain away.

How did He Who Holds the Knife always know exactly where the enemy was camped? How did He Who Holds the Knife survive small pox and so many battles? What about the battle where a great fog rolled in hiding the Assiniboine from the Gros Ventre? The Assiniboine warriors were separated one from another, and when the fog cleared, they found their chief wrestling on the ground with an enemy warrior. In the chief's hand was the Gros Ventre warrior's knife. That is how he came to be known as He Who Holds the Knife.

"Who lives, who dies, who tells your story." This is a lyric from the musical Hamilton. Nowhere is this more true than for Indigenous Americans. But spirituality is spirituality is spirituality is spirituality is spirituality (ok, that doesn't have the same ring as "love is love is love is love."). God, the creator, the higher power does not bless one people and leave everyone else on their own. Gifts of the spirit are available to all.

I believe in the power of prayer. I have felt its healing influence in my life. We go to Standing Rock to pray. We join our prayers to those of ten thousand more. We will pray for the earth. We will pray for the water protectors. We will pray for this nation. And selfishly we will pray for ourselves -- to be a little stronger, to be a little more serviceable, to be better citizens of Turtle Island.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Battle Hymn of the Sea Otter Mom

Some years ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix. I don't really care for documentaries, and I don't spend a lot of my time in front of the TV anymore. But there I was, watching a documentary on sea otters with my family. The documentary focused on a young female sea otter about to have her first pup.

She gave birth on a pier amongst some ropes and nets. Volunteers stood guard, keeping tourists and locals a safe distance away from the pair. The documentarians then detailed how the mother taught her pup to wrap herself up in seaweed so as to not float away, how to hit shells on the hulls of boats to break them (the shells) open, and how to find shell fish under the pier. It was interesting to see the mother adapt her training to urbanization.

Suddenly, in a M. Night Shyamalan turn of events, the mother was gone. The narrator told us she had been killed by an aggressive male otter! The baby sea otter was on her own. The narrator asked, "Did this baby sea otter's mother, in three short months, have enough time to teach her baby what she needs to know in order to survive?"

The documentary had our full attention as we rooted for this little otter.

Full disclosure: I cried. I looked at my children and cried. I'd been their mother for much, much, much longer than three months - but have I taught them enough?

As a young mother I spent too much time teaching them what not to do -
Don't pick your nose
Don't touch that
Don't ask so many questions
Don't do anything risky
Don't expect too much and you won't get disappointed

Child number four opened my eyes.

He insisted on taking risks - and his crazy risks were rewarded with success and opportunity. He opened our family up to yes, to dreams, and to hope. By eight he was somersaulting out of the big bowl at the skate park. By seventeen he was off touring Europe with the high school band. Since then, his brother has lived abroad. His sister has toured Europe, I've traveled overseas. And four of my kids took took a crazy trip to New York to see Hamilton on Broadway. My default answer is no longer "no" but "how". This has been a better way to raise my kids.

My kids are now mostly grown, but I look at them and know that there is so much more I can teach them. I can teach them to serve others, to be aware of the world around them. I can teach them the power of prayer and faith.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sam he am - Standing Rock Edition

This is Sam. Sam he am.

That Sam he am, that Sam he am - he grew up quick to be a man.

He's a father now, with his own family tree

He dances with his kids at the wacipi
He's got a wife to complete his life, but deep down inside he feels anger and strife.

It's worser now that he's a dad cause he wants for his kids better
things than he had. 
He wants his boys to have a say, like clean water and air wherever they play. 
He wants them to be able to wear their hair long and not be told their way of thinking is wrong. 

Sam wants for his boys to inherit an earth that's not worse off than it was at their birth.

His boys are more than a cartooned mascot. They're worth more
than that NFL jersey you bought. 

They are worth clean water and promises kept. When he told me this, Sammy wept.

Sam used to be a rebel in search of a cause. Now he's a dad. He's Santa Claus.

But he's more than that. 

It gnaws at his heart to leave others to fight
a fight that protects everyone's right

And so Sam knows
its time to stand in the snow
with frozen toes

and make some noise.


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Ballad of Doksa and Oskate

Minot, North Dakota is cold. When my family lived there, we had a block heater installed in our Mazda 323. A block heater is an electric appliance that keeps your engine oil warmish. It comes with a little electrical plug.  Every night we pulled our car into the garage and plugged in its heater. One
 morning when the engine turned over, the drive shaft sheared. That's how cold it is in North Dakota. The car was under warranty, but the same thing had happened to so many other vehicles, it took two weeks for our car to get fixed.
From Minot, we moved to Oswego on the Fort Peck Reservation in North Eastern Montana. We had a house there but no garage. We plugged the car in, put blankets over its hood and got up every four hours to run it.

One brutal winter, everyone in the house got sick but me. We'd been to the IHS clinic, and strep cultures had been taken. A couple days later, the phone rang and IHS told me that everyone tested positive and needed to come back in for treatment.

I went out to warm up the car, but apparently the block heater hadn't kept it warm enough. It wouldn't turn over. I made a little fire in a metal bowl and slid the bowl under the oil pan. I waited 5 minutes and tried to start the car. I waited 10 minutes. I waited 15. I waited 20. Finally the car was warm enough to turn, but I'd worn out the battery.

I went to the neighbor's and asked if she could give us a jump.

"My husband took our good car to work," she said, "All I've got here is an old Oldsmobile 88. We haven't driven for a couple of months. I don't even know if it has gas." She pointed to a car shaped pile of snow in her yard. "I guess I can try and start it."

We both laughed pretty hard when it started right up.

Later we bought that car even though it was a most hideous pink. When she gave me the title, I said,

"Hey this says the car is gold! Why did you paint it pink?"

"We didn't. When Mount Saint Helen's erupted, the car got coated in ash and the paint changed!"

We took a can of spray paint and colored it matte black. The finishing touch was the vanity plate, "Doksa". Doksa means "creator willing". When we drove in that 1978 Oldsmobile 88, we'd get where we wanted to go, Doksa - creator willing.

Our Mazda 323 got smooshed in an accident and was replaced with a black Chrysler Lebaron with the license plate Oskate. The Lebaron was our pow wow car. Some people call pow wow's "Wacipi" - meaning dance. The older word, "oskate" means celebrate or play.

Pretty soon we weren't the only ones on the reservation calling our cars by name. Once my sister-in-law was driving Doksa and ran out of gas by the railroad tracks. She walked the rest of the way home. Later a police officer showed up at her door and said, "Hey, somebody's gotta move Doksa."

I thought of Oskate and Doksa today as the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not be granting an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The word to describe the Oceti Sakowin camp is "Oskate". Play, water protectors. Celebrate this win.

The word to describe my family is "Doksa". Creator willing, we will be there soon.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A little bit racey - Standing Rock Edition

Two anecdotes to start off this blog - just so we're all drawing from the same Runs Through family cannon.

I was flipping through Netflix looking for a show to watch when I paused on "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness." I'm an old movie buff, and I love Ingrid Bergman.

"What about this one," I said.

My youngest replied, "It looks a bit racey."

"At bit racey, with Ingrid Bergman?" I said, "Never."

"Look, at the hat she's wearing."

"Wait a minute." I looked at my tweenager, "What does 'racey' mean to you?"

I grew up in Montana in a family with seven children. I have a sister who is twelve years older than me. She was away at college and married by the time I was eight. But I have a distinct memory of her living at home. I remember the family sitting around the dinner table (something families did in the 1970's). As my sister talked about her school day, she told a story of her English teacher explaining racism.

"How many of you would date a black person?" The entire class raised their hands.

"How many of you would date an Indian?" My sister's hand was the only one in the air.

I hate to explain a punchline, suffice it to say, racism isn't about the unknown. It's about the perceived known.


Twenty-five years ago I lived in Minot, North Dakota. I liked it. Minot has a zoo near a wonderful park. I remember pushing my first child in a stroller through that park and through that zoo and loving it. I also have memories of North Dakota being a little bit racey.

Example 1: My in-laws came to visit. We went to the KFC. Each of us stepped up in line to place our order. The order was then repeated back to me - which I found odd. When my then-husband placed his order, he ordered two Pepsi's (this was back before bottom-less cups). The clerk repeated his order back to me as 1 Pepsi. Hubby repeated 2 Pepsi's, Clerk repeated back to me 1 Pepsi. This cycle continued until I finally said, "He wants two pepsi's. He'll pay for two pepsi's. Can you give him two pepsi's???" As the only white person in the group, was I really just assigned the role of translator/babysitter?

Example 2: My husband was the Sunday School teacher for a bunch of teenagers. He studied hard each week to give thought-provoking lessons. He would often bring reference books in with him in case anyone had questions deeper than presented in the lessons.

One day a student said to him, "Why do you bring in so many books. Is it 'cause you're proud you can read?"

Another followed up with, "Do Indians have to go to a special school to learn how to read?"

The rest of the class soon followed suit.

Needless to say, when this event reached the ears of the parents, I received a handful apologetic phone calls (ie. I got the calls, not my husband). Remarkably each mother said virtually the same thing, "I heard what happened in class. I am so sorry your husband had to go through this. My understanding is that my child wasn't involved."

Example 3 (The punchline): I finished my Bachelor's degree in Minot and was licensed as a teacher. Shortly thereafter I was hired as a substitute teacher. Once I was assigned an English class where they were studying Huckleberry Finn. I walked into the class and observed the students being unkind to one another. The class had segregated itself into townies and air force brats. The most pronounced aggression was toward an air force child who spoke with a southern accent. I caught the class's attention and told them how excited I was to teach Huckleberry Finn.

"It's one of my all-time favorite books. It deals with themes of humanity and racism."

"Whoa, stop right there." The class was not having any of that. "Why do we have to learn about racism? There's no racism in North Dakota."

"Ah, correction," I said, "There are virtually no black people in North Dakota, there's plenty of racism."


Now, you may think I bring all of this up to point a finger at North Dakota. Not at all.  Each of these events was a learning experience, for me and for the others involved. Our eyes were opened to the judgments all around us and how these judgments influence our thinking.

Once when I was studying the Leonard Peltier case, I came across a wonderful story. The Peltier case was the first high profile case to use jury profiling. The lawyer writing the questions for the jury pool would listen while the lead attorney asked her questions and then she would slip him additional questions as needed. 

The question was, "Have you had any positive interactions with Indian people in this area."

The potential juror said, "Sure." She proceeded to tell a story of how she grew up on a farm. Once during a blizzard, a Native American family knocked on their door and told them their car had broken down. The juror's father allowed the Native family to spend the evening in the barn."

The lawyer writing the questions quickly wrote, "If it had been a white family, where would they have stayed?"

The potential juror was dismissed. But here is the ringer. The question writing attorney was unhappy that the potential juror was dismissed. That conversation had opened the juror's eyes and she was now ready to listen to Leonard Peltier as a human rather than a stereotype.


None of us are born racist. We develop prejudices through our life experiences and we can just as easily dispel our racist ideologies.

Right now there is a backlash against political correctness. "PC has gone too far! Why can't Native Americans just see that team mascots honor them? Why do all these crybaby millennials get offended so easily?"

Political correctness is this century's manners. It is how we help ourselves be aware of those around us. It is how we open our eyes to kindness and humanity.

At Standing Rock our indigenous brothers and sisters are finding their voice. #invisiblenomore 
Let's pray we are #readytolisten

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Little Pigs - Standing Rock Edition

Once when people lived in lodges, a Native leader wanted to help his people. They were having a hard time. They didn't yet know how to live a good life. The leader looked to the animals that lived in the forest. They lived without wars or hunger or illness. This leader thought that if he could talk to one of the mighty animals of the forest, he (or she) could teach the people how to live a good life.

Early one morning he set off into the woods alone to find an animal spirit that could guide him. Soon he came across the tracks of a mighty deer. The tracks sunk deep in the forest loam telling the man that this was an old and mighty buck who had survived many harsh winters. As the man tracked the deer he became oblivious to where he was going, and he walked right through a spider web.

The leader flung his arms and brushed his face to rid himself of the webbing. He said some words in anger. 

"Why are you angry?" asked the Spider. "I am the one with the ruined home."

The man tried to hide his blunder in a bluff of importance, "I am tracking a Grandfather deer. The people are struggling. They need a spirit animal to show them a good way to live."

"What about me?" said the spider. "can show the people a good way to live." The man wanted to laugh, but the spider stopped him. "Look at how I live. I plan. I build. And I wait. and good things come to me."

I was surprised when I heard this spider story. I was used to farm animals being the heroes in stories. This spider story helped me rethink some of the fairytales I tell my children and reinterpret them to more closely align with their Native values.

Culture is passed on through stories. It is our stories and our actions that teach our children the values we want them to hold. Through the eyes of culture the same event has many different interpretations.

Once lightning struck my backyard. That is an event. To make sense of the events of our lives, we spin them into stories.

Here's a short story from the State of North Dakota.

"Forty below keeps the riff raff out."

It seems the state forgot that the Standing Rock Sioux have always been there. The first winter storm hit and instead of running, the Oceti Sakowin camp played. 

There is a Gathering near Standing Rock. That is an event. The stories of Standing Rock will be told for generations to come. The odds are stacked against us, but we are determined to join those at Standing Rock with more than just words and money. We will travel to Standing Rock where we too can stand as stone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Police State - Standing Rock Edition

I am pro law enforcement.

I can't help it. I blame it on my job. I work in Dixie State University's Computer Crime Lab where day in and day out I analyze digital devices like phones and computers and write forensic reports for investigators from rural county sheriff's to the FBI; from SLC homicide to the Secret Service. I've done phones for the BIA, the military, the DOJ, the DEA, the SBI, homeland security, airport security... And I love assisting these investigators. I love it so much, that I work overtime. I volunteer my time on holiday's and weekends. When I am told, "Can you rush this? We have a hearing on this on Monday. We'll overnight it to you!" -- and I am examining the phone of a suspect in an officer involved homicide -- how can I say, "Sorry, I have next week off. You'll just need to wing it."

I am also an instructor in DSU's criminal justice department. Like it or not, I think about criminal justice a lot. I think about it when I travel overseas.  I meet with law enforcement agents from around the world. We talk and compare.

The United States does not have a national police force. We have jurisdictions over geographical areas and a myriad of different agencies with different missions. Clearly defined jurisdictions and missions work for the most part, except when it doesn't. And it has never worked on reservations.

Reservations are jurisdictions on crack. Tribal lands are sovereign so state police have no jurisdiction there. Unless an agreement is made, county sheriff offices have no jurisdiction there. Because reservations don't pay state taxes,  sheriff offices have little interest or motivation to help.

To make matters more difficult,  reservation jurisdiction isn't about geographical area - it's about people. Tribal and BIA police have jurisdiction over the the members of the reservation's specific tribe. So if a enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa is living on the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux reservation, the tribal police have no jurisdiction over her. If a white guy and a Sioux guy get into a fight, the tribal courts can only deal with the Sioux guy.

Remember when Trump said that a hispanic judge with Mexican heritage couldn't be non-biased in his university fraud case? American's still believe Native American law enforcement is inherently biased and therefore cannot be trusted to enforce law to all people in a geographical area. #TrumpsAmerica

Let me give you an anecdotal example. When I was living on the Fort Peck Reservation, I lived out in the country. It was a housing development with three houses. The middle house was a party house and change occupancy every two to three months. The house on the other side was home to a family. The father was Assiniboine. The mother Turtle Mountain Chippewa. She told me this story.

"One night in the middle of winter, I came home to find my back door open and my new washer and
dryer missing. I could clearly see the tracks in the snow where the washer and dryer and been dragged from my house to the neighbor's. I called the tribal police. They came out, but when they found out I'm Chippewa, they told me that they couldn't take my statement. They suggested I call the BIA police. The BIA police came and took my statement, but told me they couldn't do anything about it as I am not enrolled here. They suggested I call the sheriff. I called the sheriff, but they told me they couldn't spare anyone to come out to the reservation."

The Federal government is aware of this problem. That's why they assign FBI agents over the reservation. Reservations are federal not state. The problem is, FBI agents
are trained to only take on a select few cases. These cases are generally high profile with a preponderance of evidence already established. Agents therefore are not motivated to work reservation crime. Crime happens, people suffer. The Oceti Sakowin camp has developed a traditional model for grassroots law enforcement.

The governor or North Dakota recently indicated that the state will no longer be providing services to the Oceti Sakowin camp. This is nothing new to the Standing Rock Sioux, or any other tribe that joins their cause. They've gone without state help all this time, and judging how the State of North Dakota has treated the camp up to this point, they'll be better off without North Dakota's emergency services.

The Oceti Sakowin camp is on federal land. The dispute over the land is between a federal level sovereign nation and the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency. It is unfortunate that Morton County and the State of North Dakota feel it their responsibility to step in. They need to take a cue from the USACE and take a step back.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Yopp - Standing Rock Edition

Almost 15 years ago, my kids danced in the Salt Lake City Olympic opening ceremonies. We learned many valuable lessons from that experience. We learned that pioneer dancers get costumes and jackets and tents with kerosene heaters and Native American dancers wear their own regalia ("make sure you wear something warm underneath it") and are given hand warmers to fend off the January SLC weather. We also learned that Natives are tough and hand warmers rock!

Not only did my kids get to dance to 5 amazing drum groups, they got to dance while Robbie Robertson sang, "Making a Noise".

The SLC Winter Olympics was the largest gathering of Native Americans I had ever seen - and my kids played a part! It was empowering. My kids made a noise, and  I've been encouraging them to do so ever since.

Right now, Standing Rock is making that noise, and it is louder still.

 Edward S. Curtis called Native Americans, "The Vanishing Race." That was the United States' official policy for a very long time. Native Americans should assimilate and intermarry. By 1950, it was predicted, there would be no full-blood natives left, and the quintessential American would be able to  claim a little Native American blood in their veins (most likely from a Cherokee Princess).

Everybody knows Anglo-Americans make better Indians than Indians anyway. All you have to do is watch a Man Called Horse or Dances with Wolves or Little Big Man to figure that that out.

Sixty-six years past 1950 and Native Americans are still here. They still exist. They have out lasted 500 years of colonial occupation. Each nation has a culture that shapes how members think and feel. First Nations have a past as long as a squirrels tail and a future as wide as the Milky Way.

My native kids interact with people who don't either don't believe indigenous people still exist, or who think Native Peoples should conform to given stereotypes.

 Once when we were doing a cultural exchange at an elementary school, a student looked at my son dressed in his Native regalia and said, "Are you a real Indian?" My son replied, "Yes". The student then said, "No you're not. I can see your visitor's pass!"

Just as my children can be both Native and visitors, First Nation people can maintain both a rich heritage and promising future. Recently we participated at a Stand for Standing Rock Rally in Salt Lake City where my son Mason, AKA Wounded Knee, was asked to perform. On the fly the rest of the kids were asked to sing a traditional drum song. They sang Baha Sapa and dedicated it to Standing Rock.

When it was Wounded Knee's turn to perform, an Anglo-American approached my son Joseph and asked him to join her drum circle, playing near the street. When he politely declined, indicating he'd come to listen to Wounded Knee, she informed him that Wounded Knee's style of Native Rock was not really cultural -- inferring that her drum circle was?

Native Americans have been defined and pidgeon-holed. Native history has been construed and rewritten by oppressive forces. It is time for Indigenous people to make a noise. It is time for them to be seen. And this Christmas we will be adding our Yopp to Standing Rock.