The Rez Hustle

The rez hustle is something we all know how to do and are capable of doing. Especially if we grew up with poverty. Even if we didn’t know we were so poor. I never realized my rez was so poor, because I always saw the hustle going on. People selling a pair of earrings to get something to eat. People picking cans to get their next drink, or people pawning their lamps to go to bingo. I have seen and heard it all.
The worst thing I heard was someone once tried to sell the blue dot cut out from a National Enquirer magazine. I have never confirmed this rumor to be true nor do I want to know. But I think if you go so far as to try and sell the lucky blue dot from a magazine, it obviously does not work because you are just not that lucky.

But we grew up, all us rezzers with the innate ability to hustle. It was something that comes naturally and is learned. It is like when my auntie used to buy cheap leather coats at the thrift stores so she could use the leather to bead on. Or when my grandma saved bacon grease to cook with later. Or one time I bought some artwork from an elderly lady and I noticed the tin cones on the leather looked odd, in a cool way. So I looked on the inside and she had cut up a pepsi can to make the tin cones. You see people selling stuff all the time. Kids gathering the peppermint tea and selling it at the Common Cents store. People selling food, artwork and botanicals they gather. One time someone even sold a rock to a tourist or I remember hearing when I was a little girl that one of my relatives sold those nasty little stickers that get stuck to your socks to a few tourists as porcupine eggs.

Yes, we know how to get along in a poor world. We can definitely talk the talk then, but what happens when we leave?

Do we take our hustle with us? Do we use all of our innate abilities we used to strive in a poor world in another world? A world that is moving too fast and willing to leave whoever isn’t ready behind?

We have been on the reservation for over a hundred years and we have been one of the poorest places in America for over a hundred years. And we survived. So all this struggle we talk of that our ancestors would probably laugh at us for should be used in a way to show the world what we are made of. We have every ability to still be a great people, to be supportive of each other and to move forward. Our destiny is in our hands, we deserve the life we were meant to live and that does not include struggling. It means to use our ability to survive to make a better life for ourselves. Turn your hustle around and use it in a good way. I didn’t write my book to become rich, I honestly wrote it because I knew of my past and my history and I owned up to my mistakes. I wrote the book so I wouldn’t go down as a bad guy, instead I wanted to be known as an author. Getting paid for the book is a bonus.

Use your rez hustle and make your dreams come true. I just crossed a dream off when I saw the Yankees play.

How Can You Not Be Romantic About Baseball?

It’s a metaphor, supposedly. Right? Or is the reader just thinking, oh no another blog about baseball. This chick! She even had the nerve to put baseball in her first novel, who cares?

Haha, well I do.

And who says it is a metaphor, if you love baseball, really love baseball it is a lifelong affair. I saw my grandma love baseball all her life and so much she passed the love down. Until I went to my first major league game a few weeks ago, I thought I was a baseball fan. I thought I knew everything, well almost everything there is to know about baseball.

then I realized there is a whote other dimension to the way I have been watching baseball. And I can’t wait to learn more. From the swish of the pitch to the crack of the bat. From the faces of the players to the signals from the catchers.

I will never forget this and the person who taught me, another way to watch baseball.

How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Ancestors on Money

$$$

Money stamped
with faces of our ancestors
As if to honor
those whose faces
grace the silver
and gold
As if silver and gold
Did not take the land
of where these men
roamed freely
Money stamped
with the people
who have lived in poverty
once money started being made
Put our faces on your greed
When that money
no longer has value
We will still be here
with our values.

dlh

Find your Independence

Independence Day rolls around once again with the ohs and ahs of the pretty fireworks, the annoying sound of firecrackers, and the into all hours of the night bottle rocket wars. People all over have cook outs and enjoy family time. Some people use it as an excuse to drink.

Many people don’t look at it as more than a holiday to spend time with loved one, a day off from work, or little boys look at it as a chance to explode some things.

I never liked the holiday myself. To me it represented my fear of loud things popping and exploding. Yes, there is such a thing, such as a fear of balloons, and don’t come near me with one. When I was 8 years old I was in the hospital in Gordon, Nebraska because my appendix nearly burst. It happened the day before the 4th of July and this was back in the day when hospitals actually cared about you and let you take time to heal up from even minor surgeries. I had recently been with a friend when she picked her brother up limping from the hospital after his appendix surgery. I asked when he went in and she said that morning. It was as if he went through a drive through surgery, I am sure those are next.Then again this was back when hospitals belonged to the city it was in and not some corporation and doctors cared for you instead of sending you off to a heart hospital or a spine hospital.

Anyway, I remember the nurses feeling bad for me because I would be missing the 4th of July at home. “I don’t care, I said. I hate it.”

“Don’t say that,” the nurse said. “This is the day we celebrate freedom.”

I said nothing back, because I didn’t know what freedom was. I asked around when I returned home. Everyone had the same answers, we celebrate our soldiers fighting for us. We celebrate our independence. I was satisfied with that answer.

Then I grew up.

Now, I realize why people do celebrate the 4th because they want to be with family and enjoy a fun time. But as I see people back home all fighting each other, mad at council. The tribal council very few of the people vote into place fighting each other, no one getting along because of suspicion of funds misused, etc. It makes me wonder, at what point were we Lakota ever “independent?” Sure we can walk off and leave our reservation and home and people behind, but is that independence knowing everything and everyone back home and every job with the tribe is dependent on the government who broke every single treaty with us? Knowing that after all the government took from us, what they give us is being fought over like scraps thrown to dogs?

How do we celebrate Independence Day when we are so dependent on a government who set us up in a system to keep us poor? Is independence living on a reservation with horrible healthcare while the rest of the country has top of the line healthcare they have to pay through the nose for? Is independence being able to say this is your land, and you can sell it back to the tribe, but you can never take a loan out on it because it is in government trust?

Are we really independent when we have to fight for the rights of our land, our water, and everything is regulated even down to what we hunt and fish to provide for our family?

So are you going to celebrate your independence? Or you going to find it?

Our Own

Anytime I tell someone I am from the Pine Ridge Reservation, the most common response is “Oh, ok so I know of that place. I heard of Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Also the most recent case to gain national attention was the FBI claim that members of AIM tortured and killed Ray Robinson. The 40 year old civil rights leader who traveled to the reservation in 1973 to help in the movement. Newly released FBI documents claim he was murdered on the reservation but a body or remains have yet to be found.
While these stories are all sad and I hear the injustice. I want Peltier to feel freedom, I also have to remind people that none of these people are from Pine Ridge. In no way does that mean they don’t deserve the national and international attention their cases have sparked. The constant work on their cases for justice to be served is well deserved. I just wished the FBI worked as diligently and people knew about our own who didn’t make it through that time.
I have to remind people that my grandfather whom I don’t remember meeting was also killed at that time and justice was never served in his case. My grandfather died when I was one year old. His name was Pedro Bissonette, he was my father’s uncle, and his case was swept under the rug with many others right from Pine Ridge.
In the early 1970’s, the murder rate on the reservation was the highest in the nation and those people being killed were our own. Yet not many people know about our own who died back then.
In 2012, the state’s U.S. Attorney General’s office decided to reopen these cases, at the tribe’s urging. After about 6 months of reviewing 4 of the nearly 60 cases the U.S. Attorney’s office reported that determined that “some” of them should be closed.
For those Lakota killed during the occupation and even murders unsolved afterwards on our reservation that remain unsolved, it looks as if they will never see the justice or national attention that those not from the reservation receive. That is not to say that we forgot them.
I should never have to tell a young person that we lost people too, they may not get their justice. The FBI may never care to open or solve these cases, but we do not forget our own.
Rest in Power to my grandfather Pedro Bissonette and all the Lakota whose cases remain unsolved.
Leon L. Swift Bird, Lydia Cut Grass, Byron DeSersa, Lena R. Slow Bear, Edward Standing Soldier, Martin Montileaux, Hobart Horse, Stacy G. Cortier, Edith Eagle Hawk (and her two children), Cleveland Reddest, Jeanette Bissonette, Richard Eagle, Hilda R. Good Buffalo, Jancita Eagle Deer, Priscilla White Plume, Frank Clearwater, Roxeine Roark, Buddy Lamont, Betty Jo Dubray, Marvin Two Two, Julia Pretty Hips, Ben Sitting Up, Sam Afraid of Bear, Kenneth Little, Kevin Hill, Leah Spotted Elk, Clarence Cross, Joseph Stuntz Killsright, Betty Means, James Brings Yellow, Andrew Paul Stewart, Julius Bad Heart Bull, Sandra Wounded Foot, Randy Hunter, Dennis LeCompte, Howard Blue Bird, Jim Little, Jackson Washington Cutt, Robert Reddy, Melvin Spider, Philip Black Elk, Aloysius Long Soldier, Phillip Little Crow, Olivia Bianas, Janice Black Bear, Michelle Tobacco, Delphine Crow Dog, Elaine Wagner, Allison Fast Horse, John S. Moore, Carl Plenty Arrows Sr., Frank La Pointe, Floyd Sherman Bianas, Yvette Lone Hill, Ray McHugh and to all the others that died after that turbulent time whose cases remain unsolved, Wilson Black Elk, Ron Hard Heart, Jon Red Hawk and many others…may your families know peace someday.
Because you were family to someone.

The often ignored role.

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I always hear the term “Warriors eat last” in regards to the huge feast that we Lakota throw. I would like to say that this isn’t true. Before anyone wants to protest me, hear me out.
Every feast I have ever been to I see the forgotten few who really don’t get to eat. People will go up for seconds before these women eat. People will even wateca before they eat. Even the singers and warriors will eat before these women.
Yes they are the few, the forgotten, the servers. I have been a server many a time and by the time I ate mostly everything was wiped out from the wateca warriors. The M.C. never says “Hey let’s all let the servers eat before we run up as if we are starving for seconds.” In fact, I never once heard an M.C. mention the servers.

You see, no one thinks the servers are important, but I recently returned from our spring ceremony and as I stood in the long line behind men, there were no servers. It was a help yourself, buffet style feast, which will never happen at any of our gatherings again. Because as I stood in this long line, I watched people walking away with plates…yes plates. One in each hand for one person. Which I am sure they were taking home to someone, but seriously don’t start a feast off already taking wateca when clearly there was more people than food. I saw someone walk away with a plate of nothing but cake, with a stack on their plates that was five frybread high, walking with no shame as the line was barely moving.
The line began to move as the food ran out. By the time my sons and I got to the food, our plates were no longer needed as the food was gone. There was the smell of frybread in an empty box, there was a couple of macaroni in the bottom of a deep pan which I can only imagine was goulash. There were cake crumbs in four empty pans. Thankfully, my grandpa and cousin made 3 huge pots of really good soup. Buffalo stew, taniga, and bopa soup. We got in on that.
You see everyone, I am standing here with my ladle in hand and asking you to be more thoughtful when you go to these feasts. No one can throw a feast like the Lakota, our value of generosity shines hard then. But colonization takes over also when people take more than they should, greed was never our way. Please when you are an M.C. do not forget to mention that the servers need to eat. When you think you want seconds or want to wateca, do the right thing and ask the servers if they ate.
I know it is a little thing, but as someone who is always ordered with stern eyes by my father to serve the people, I have stood there and served with grandmothers, who never get to eat. Remember everybody and be thankful. Maybe the warriors do eat last because the servers are warriors of sorts.

Because of Anna B

Back in 2005, I worked for a struggling tribal program. I was a temporary employee and it was my second time working for the program. The first time I had been RIF-fed. This time, I stayed employed just long enough to feel what it was like to go to a conference and get per diem. To save money, my co worker Chepa and I shared a room. We ate out the first night at a restaurant and towards the end of the conference we hit up the places that sold dollar sandwiches.

However, we still thought we were cool with our little name tag hanging from a lanyard on our necks and going around to all the freebie tables. It was my first conference, so Chepa was showing me the ropes. Just fill out their form and you get a little book bag, etc. at one table they had to take our blood pressure and we got a coffee cup. They asked us the general questions, height, weight etc. I remember trying to say my weight all incognito and nonchalant and Chepa looked at me and said WHAT? Making all the nurses on the other side of the table giggle. They couldn’t get a reading on my blood pressure with their new thing that strapped around my arm and squeezed me so hard I tried to be a big girl about it and look away. So they put another one on me, pushed a button and off it went squeezing the daylights out of me. All of a sudden I didn’t want the coffee cup.

Finally they had to take my blood pressure the old fashioned way and it was slightly high. As they were taking my blood pressure the old fashioned way Chepa said “Geez all I wanted was a coffee cup and now they are ready to call Flight for Life for you.” He made us all laugh again and I told him to go away. As we were making arrangements for me to get it checked again when I went home, Chepa was wandering around. I also got more than a coffee cup since they kind of tortured me.

Chepa was excited when I was finished and rubbing my arm walking his way. He had found a psychic who was doing free five minute readings. “Nooooo, Chepa.” I didn’t want to see a psychic. I didn’t want to know my future. I had no intention of hearing any sort of doomsday from some funny acting person.
Please he said, or just stand with me.

We stood in line and I started timing her sessions, I don’t think one lasted five minutes. Which was fine because I hate standing in line. She wasn’t what I thought a psychic would look like. She was sweet and had gentle eyes. Her name was Anna B.

Chepa went first and I saw him walking away disappointed. What the hell, I am already in line. I stepped up to her and she looked at me and wanted to do a numerology reading. Taking my name down she noted that my names all had four letters. Dana Lynn Lone Hill. 4 x 4= 16 divided by 4 is still 4 so my number was 4. I don’t remember the significance of that but she asked me if I reach out to people, if I recently started to? Did I write?

Yes, I said. I had just moved to Pine Ridge and started a blog on a website called Yahoo 360 and was surprised because I had a couple of regular readers who read my views on things that mattered to me.

“Your voice is going to go far Dana Lone Hill. You keep doing what you do. You keep writing and telling the world what you want them to hear, you will write for newspapers and many other media outlets. One day you will even write a book and people will read it.”

That is what I want to do, I told her write a book.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“33″

“You won’t write it right away. You have a few hills to climb and some battles to win, but you will. I don’t see you writing this book until you are in your 40′s. But best of luck.”

I walk away from her feeling somewhat hopeful for my blog but thinking she was wrong about my book. Whatever, I thought. I will start it when I get home.

“She was a fraud.” Chepa said “She told me I was going to be a singer and I missed playing basketball.”

“Yeah.” I said “I don’t know if she is right, telling me I won’t finish a book until I am in my 40s. Whatever, man, that’s too far away. I’ll be old then.”

I saw Anna the next year in Rushville, Nebraska and shook her hand. I told her more and more people were reading my writing, although I didn’t tell her that I started a book a hundred times and was never happy with it. She encouraged me to reach out to Lakota Country Times, which I did. I began to immediately write for them for the next three years. And I battled many battles, too.

I often think of Anna and her kind eyes. I thought of her all those years when she told me I would fight my battles and win, that I would face my demons. At the time, I didn’t know most of the battles were within my own self. After everything I have gone through, Anna B was always in the back of my mind. Telling me I would get through this. One of the only people whom I wasn’t related to, pushing me along to get to where I am going and do what I had to do.

And she was there when my book was finally done, in my 40′s.

Anna B, I don’t know where you are, but I would like to think that instead of resting in peace, your spirit wanders, as it did in life, still encouraging gently from the other side. Thank you.