Recognition of Stillness

10380577_10152161332212307_186872873047761594_o Pic I took fishing on the back channels of the Mississippi River.

A friend from Chicago was telling me about how he watched a coyote carrying her pup across the freeway and thought she was safe when she was only in between the two freeways so she kept going.  A car hit her and it caused a pile up.  He said “Something must be wrong with me, I was more worried about her than the human aspect, but humans are in such a hurry.”  He then went on to tell me how fast people drive there.


People drive too fast everywhere, they don’t appreciate their surroundings, the drive, the world going by.  They want to get from point A to point B to point C without recognizing the way.  There is a belief about the relevance of time, the more you are in a hurry, the faster time goes by.  It makes sense when you think of how in a hurry you are to be a grown up and get away from your parents, (which by the way, you really never do.) Time takes forever to become an adult and have the ability to make your own decisions.  When you get there you realize that comes with responsibilities, namely, bills.  So thus, the rat race from point A to point C to hustle around, break speed limits, pay bills, have children, buy diapers, feed a family.  


Next thing you know you are middle age, sitting somewhere with faint gray in your hair,  staring at the way the sun shines off a single blade of grass as it blows in a gentle wind.  And you are wondering how you never saw something like that before, you never recognized the beauty of sunshine, grass, wind, the world.  No recognition of stillness.  No appreciation for life, because the mistake was the American dream, driving a nice car, making sure your kids had what they didn’t need, keeping up with the Jones, and all that.


When I recently moved back to Minnesota, my brother had told me of three sisters who were bridesmaids in their brother’s wedding.  They were on their way to the bridal shower and were running late.  So in January in Minnesota, they made the choice to speed and pass a car less than a mile from their destination. They were hit by an oncoming car and all three died.  No matter how late they were, they would have still made it.  People are always in a hurry.  I have been in two car accidents in my life, I was never the driver and alcohol was never the factor.  It was ice.  Both my friends at the time had underestimated the ice on the road and their ability to control the car they were driving on ice.  Both were in a hurry and sped up when I told them there was no hurry.  I remember spinning on the ice and the accidents being over in a blink of an eye.  Both times, snow blessed me with a longer life because it stopped me from rolling one time and going over an embankment another time.  Anyone who has ever been in a car accident can tell you that as fast as the accident happens, in the car time stands still almost.  A thousand thoughts go through your head.  Who will take care of my kids?  I’m not wearing my seat belt.  God, please forgive me for all the bad things I have done?  I am so happy my youngest didn’t ride with us.  Who will take care of my kids?  I don’t have my seatbelt on!  I told her to slow down.  Who will take care of my kids? God please help me.  I’m not wearing a seat belt.  I should have stayed home.  Thank God Stephon wasn’t with me, his dad wanted me to take him.  God save me.  I still have dreams.

I remember seeing the snowy landscape fly by and other cars moving out of our way as we spun, I remember seeing my kids faces, and I remember grabbing my friends’ hands as if forgiving them for speeding.  

It was as if in the middle of spinning on an icy road, in the quick minute it took, I had a recognition of stillness, and I have heard others I talked to about being in car accidents describe the same moment.  Don’t ask me how it happened to me twice.  I know I can’t drive on ice.  If you know me, you know I don’t like driving.
We live in a world that spins 25,000 miles in 24 hours, that is 1,042 miles an hour, through space and we hardly ever take time to recognize the stillness by watching the stars, the moon rise, the sunset.  I wrote this just to tell you that our time is precious.  Appreciate every minute, it goes by in a flash so there is no need to rush.  Love life and every person you have in it.  Only you can guarantee that you will appreciate your time here because your time is not guaranteed.  Take time out to recognize the stillness and beauty and drive safe, always.

Go child,

It is bittersweet to leave the reservation.

The home you are so familiar with

You see news from home and feel guilt by association

It is the only place you have ever known

That has been the one place you can call home

There is that feeling when you leave

It is for the best you want to believe

You hope that is what others perceive

You don’t want to be that “City Indian”

That feels guilt within

But then you see your friends dying

You see their grandmothers crying

You see tribal council talking in circles

They wear their Indian print shirts and get real verbal

Break promises like the government taught them

Talk about what can’t be done instead of what can

Yes, you feel guilty when you leave the reservation

But go child, and get that education

Because the only way you can help your people

Is when you learn to fly like an eagle

Home will always be there

Waiting for those who care

Go child, do what you have to do

Generations depend on you

Your ancestors are proud of you







The Other Issues Tribe

You ever notice when someone is fighting for something in Indian country, there are always those who say, “We have more important issues to worry about, like diabetes, alcoholism, etc.”

I call these people “the Other Issues tribe”.  They get angry that people want to protect our water, saying the world is full of water.  They do not stop to think of the water restrictions California is going through or how much water people buy.  Not even thinking is the mni wiconi water that is piped in actually safe to drink with all the fracking going on in North Dakota.

It angers the Other Issues tribe when people are against the Redskins mascot, we have other things to worry about.  People are homeless.  This is true, people are homeless.  We have homeless people in Whiteclay, Rapid City, and on the rez.  These homeless people have feelings though.  They appreciate a warm meal and a hello.  They do not like to be talked down to, stereotyped, or disrespected.  They are human, they had dreams as youth too, something just went wrong in their lives to get them where they are.  I can bet you not one homeless person would take being called a redskins in stride.  It would anger them too.  If we allow ourselves to be characterized and stereotyped as a cartoon and thing of the past, how can we get respect for all of us now?  

The Other Issues tribe also don’t like anyone fighting about costumes or women dressing up in skanky fake leather dresses and chicken feather war bonnets.  We have other issues to worry about, children are being abused and our women raped.  This is true, at a higher rate per capita than any other culture.  If we don’t let the world know our women and children are sacred how do we expect them to respect us with these costumes out there?  This needs to be taught at home also, our own males need to be taught not to rape, instead we teach the women how not to get raped.  If costumes are not a big deal, then I suggest you take your child to that section of the store, see how looking at them makes them feel.  It’s an uncomfortable, ugly feeling.

There are many things we are fighting for in Indian Country.  Many issues, too many to list here.  We are clearly a people powerful enough to fight these.  To say we should focus on one thing is insulting to our intelligence and strength as a people.  We should encourage anyone who takes a stand for something.   I’m starting to think the ones with issues are the Other Issues tribe.  

Be good to each other, we’re all related.  And when a Lakota says that, we mean it.  

We call it Wannabe

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The whole Rachel Dolezal incident blew up over the internet and social media these past few days.  A white girl who tanned herself, permed her hair, and claimed African American heritage so far as to use that status to get jobs.  The country is fascinated with this story, fascinated with how it could happen, and fascinated with the black community’s reaction.  Some people are forgiving and compassionate, comparing her to transexual Caitlyn Jenner a/k/a Bruce Jenner.  They are saying she is “transracial.”  Which many are arguing, does exist.  My only argument is it becomes the term of 2015 like YOLO was back in 2011.  Or was that 2012?

Anyway, in Indian country we have already dealt with these situations, many times.  So many people are fascinated with our culture, they claim our heritage, even without being hunka-ed into someone’s already huge tiyospaye.  There was the chick who got her 15 minutes of fame on Fox and Friends by saying she was a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and speaking on behalf of us saying she was honored to be called a redskin, although she looked like she never saw the light of day.  Until the tribe gave her the big shaft and came out saying she was never a member.  To which point she turned it around saying they rejected her membership.  Apparently her grandfather was a Chief, which must be the new improved version of your grandmother being an Indian princess.  Which is crazy, if they really knew Indian grandmothers, they are queens who rule and can rock the world.

There are also people who assume one person throwing a star quilt on them makes them an honorary member of our tribe, like that Little White Bird chick who tried to get rich quick off writing a book on how horrible our reservation is, how horrible she was treated there, all the while how much she loves our reservation and even has the nerve to go around to small colleges on the East Coast lecturing about our way of life and how it is to be Indian, when she was there for only six months.

There are others whose stars have risen as they were the faces and voices of Indian America, like Ol’ Iron Eyes Cody.  Who could forget his one tear drop as he sees trash blowing on his Hollywood reservation.  Yet, he never once gets off that high horse to pick any of that trash, just lets one tear drop fall in the dramatic fashion of some intoxicated relative who is going away for the night to sit 8 hours in jail.  Then it comes out he was Italian!!  If his needed to shed tears for anything it should be the fact that his Italian homie ol Christopher Columbus is the reason this land is trashed!

Either way, mis-appropriation of Natives is nothing new, there is never national shock over it.  In fact people are shocked at us when we get mad at people portraying to be us.  It happens on a daily basis to us.  Our heritage is by our ancestry, not because we want to suffer or be victims.  Our ancestry is documented and Native Americans are the only ones who can tell you their family tree going over a hundred years back.  We have to because of the rights set in place by our treaties.  This is why we must continue the fight for our treaty rights, so no one can claim what is rightfully ours.  It is not called being selfish, it is hanging onto what we have left in a government that took everything else from us.  Stole everything from us.  So when we are upset by false claims of our culture, it is because it is all we have left.
See in Indian Country, it was never called “transracial”, we call it “wannabe”

Unless you have tasted it

I have never eaten key lime pie.  I probably never will.  I have seen it made on tv, it has a weird testure to me, is it lime?  Is it pudding?  Or like a cheesecake?  I don’t know.  I have seen the recipe but never took the time to notice how it is made to give it that strange texture.  I have seen people order it but I look away because honestly, key lime pie makes me uncomfortable.  So I can honestly say, I have never “experienced” key lime pie.  It may be a flavor of yogurt I buy for my daughter and even though the picture on the front depicts key lime pie, it is in fact, not key lime pie.  The funny thing is I have nothing against limes.  They are great for seasoning and I even like limeade, just not the pie.

So in saying that and admitting that, I can only tell you what I do know.

You can not really talk to people about racism if you never experienced it.  You can not preach to people on how to handle racism if you have only read about it.  There are people, like me, like my children, like my family, like my friends, and relatives, and relatives of relatives who experience racism sometimes on a daily basis, to the point where we get jaded to it.  Where a cashier will throw the change at us instead of handing it to us, or a salesperson will follow us around, or we will be waited on last in a restaurant and being jaded, we will think “Oh that person doesn’t like Indians.”  And we will hold our heads high and walk away knowing that we didn’t steal, we didn’t react, we didn’t give the best tip we could’ve because in the state of South Dakota racism against Native Americans is rampant.

I no longer read the hateful comments on social media pages that add fuel to the fire of racism.  I don’t need to be affected because someone called us “those people” or put our people down because I know how wonderful of people we are.

However racism against our children is another thing and I will speak out, or write about it for that matter.  And when someone living in Hidden Valley Ranch (fictional place), California wants to tell me how racism affects the white people around her because “blacks attack them” or tell me how I should humbly and quietly fight racism by loving everyone, then I will tell her in her blue eyes that she should live a day in the life of a Lakota person in South Dakota.

Do not talk to a people who are being affected by racism, who are looking for solutions, who are hoping for change, who won’t be quiet about it because children were assaulted like you know what is best for them and their people.  We don’t like “crying racism” we do what we can to fight it.

If you even experienced racism once, you have a small, tiny few seconds of a view into our lives.

We will never be quiet about it because South Dakota is Lakota land and we are not going anywhere except up in population and up in doing great things to make lives better for our children.

I don’t even like pie, I love cheesecake though.

My grandma was a warrior.

There is always an uproar when a scantily clad model, celebrity, or even our own women wear war bonnets.  There is always an outcry and I have even stood my ground against this:  You can not do this.  It is wrong.  Women do not traditionally wear headdresses like men, etc.

There have been attacks on fashion shows, Gwen Stefani, Victoria’s Secret,  Halloween costumes, and these social media attacks have been successful.  There re always strong women behind them, giving the reasons why our women don’t wear warbonnets.  Most of the time, because they are nearly naked, the main reason is stereotyping Native women that way.   As if all native women hyper sexual vamps when the rate of sexual violence against native women is higher than the national rate.  The number of missing and murdered Native women is off the charts and rarely does each case see justice.

I have stated these facts as I learned them.

Then I learned that my very own great great great grandmother wore a warbonnet.

She never placed it on her head and it was there but for a brief moment.  It was while posing for a picture.  The warbonnet was placed on her head by Chief Sitting Bull and it belonged to him.  She is wearing an elk tooth dress in the picture and the warbonnet.  He put it on her because he said she earned to wear it.  She fought alongside her sons and husband in the battle at Greasy Grass.  She was a part of a women’s society who made sure, there were no survivors.

My unci, my grandmother was a warrior.   And she wasn’t a warrior only because she fought in battle as a freedom fighter.  She was a warrior because no matter what she did in life she did it as a means for survival.

She walked back from Canada to South Dakota carrying her 10 month old son, Lone Hill.  All the way back she followed a wolf, she could understand him.  He led her to her people.  She walked back from Canada because Lone Hill’s father hit her and she left.  She had no help, no domestic violence rights, no police to protect her, no shelter to go to.  She walked back because she knew she wasn’t going to be treated like that.  Because she missed her family, and because she wasn’t going to raise her son like that.

She found her family and went on to have more children and become a great warrior.

So see, when women wear warbonnets because they think it is sexy or cute, or because they think it is the cool, hipster thing to do, I take offense, on a personal level.  My grandma was a warrior, she lived her life as such and as a woman of strength.  She didn’t even have the nerve to honor herself with a warbonnet, but a great chief did.

Because she earned it.

And I know that whatever I do in this lifetime, my struggle or accomplishments will never live up to or even be half as close as her- but I will try to live my life as I hope she would be proud.  A warbonnet is for those who deserve it.  Warriors, and hardly anyone I see wearing them are.  And that is a damn shame.

My great great great grandmother Susie Shot in the Eye

My great great great grandmother Susie Shot in the Eye

I don’t care

To all the those one Indians who don’t care and think we need to calm down.  To all those Indians that don’t realize part of who we are is caring about the future.  We will always have that fight in us.  Don’t you care?

I don’t care if you don’t care about the KXL pipeline, I won’t bother telling you how much I do.  If you think it will bring so many jobs here, then I hope you get one and I won’t care when they lay you off after they use you up.  I will remember you when the pipeline poisons the only water that we have had since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  I will remember you when the wells run dry and chaos breaks loose.  I will remember you when everyone is fighting over water and I will remember how you had money while people were sleeping in cars protesting the pipeline and going to prison for it.  I will remember you wanted that job when there are no jobs.  I will remember you when wildlife starts to die from people messing with and disrespecting Earth.  I will remember…you didn’t care when you are thirsty.

I don’t care if you are Indian and you don’t care if you are called redskin or you don’t see anything wrong with it. I won’t try to explain to you, if you won’t listen. I do care, however, that my future grandchildren will never know this word.  I will remember you when you act shocked at the rudeness of a people who came to the land we belong to and dishonored us from the beginning by putting our people through hundred of years of genocide.  I will remember that you don’t care when you learn what they did to your grandmother and grandfather in boarding school..  I will remember you when you finally see the shame our people were put through and I will remember that you do not care if they call you a redskin, because most likely one of your ancestors was scalped for a reward.  And you not caring is like Dan Snyder carrying your scalp in his greedy grubby paw like a reward.  Yes, Dan Snyder has your scalp, because you don’t care.

I don’t care that you get ashamed of angry Indians.  It is not my fault you can not see blatant truths and harsh realities when it comes to our sacred women, instead you only see Indians protesting and you are more shamed by angry Indians than by our women being disrespected.  I will remember you when you ignore the statistics of our women being murdered and raped at an alarmingly higher rate than any other culture in America.  I will remember you see nothing wrong with the hyper sexualization of Native women in the land they originate from.  I will remember that you saw nothing wrong with the Pocahontas hottie costume celebrities and models seem to like.  I will remember you didn’t think it was a big deal and we are just a bunch of angry natives who like to fight all the time.  I will remember you because you have a grandmother and mother and more than likely will have daughters.  I will remember that you forgot who builds our nations and who are the hearts of our nations.

I don’t care if you don’t care about our Earth and you don’t care if it gets trashed by trash, by fracking, mining, greed, pure greed.  We need to change, we need to live in this world today you say.  We need to quit hanging onto the past.  The past you are ashamed of is not the shameful past the history books omitted, the shame you feel is for the fight we still have in us.  You are one of those one Indians, colonized.  You are one of those Indians who think colonized means you have an iPhone.

I don’t care because there will be a day, you have to start caring.  There will be a day no one will stand up and fight for you.  I don’t care for your harsh words about angry Indians now, but when you see you have no where else to turn but back to who you are, I will be there because I will care for the future of our people.  And your people will be there waiting for you to come back to who you are.

If I am not there, one of my children will be.  If they are not there, one of my grandchildren will be.

They will know our fights, our rights, our history.  They will care, because all of that time, that is why I care.