It is still my story

 

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Sunrise from a hospital room.

They say you live and you learn, in my 45 years, I have discovered this is not true.  You are never too old to screw your life up.  I can screw up a garbage bag, but don’t ask me what that means because I just screwed up my analogy.  I had not recently turned back to the bottle.  Instead, I invited it willingly into my life again.  I was so loving my sobriety but, a few drinks at the bar led me to cutting people out of my life, pitying myself, and thinking everyone hated me.

 

Any reason to invite that evil back into my life. It reached a point where if I wasn’t asleep, I was drunk.  Finally, my son said he had watched his dad watch his mom die, and they all had to bury her.  He said, I am not going to bury you; promise me, I can take you to the ER.  I opened my eyes and said, yes.  I wanted to cry, but I had no tears to fall.

 

So I went to the ER, which I kept thinking was jail.  Just let me sleep, I kept thinking.  After admission, the nursing staff (poor girls, I was so sick) were the most helpful nursing staff ever. I had two great doctors; I was hoping people “got me.”  No matter what part of life I am in, even when I found out it was “the end” in a way, I am not going down crying, my humor got me through it.   But the most important part was my family.  I hurt them, I could see it in their faces.  I told them not to get mad at my sons, because I begged my sons not call my family.  I didn’t want my family to see me like this.  Which of course, after I called my mom, meant they all showed up at the same time.  My dad even traveled to see me.  I cried, and he held me and called me his baby girl..  Your grandpa is sending help, he said. We are here for you.  Ancestors will doctor you, too.  In the end, my doctors here and my doctors there said the same thing: You will be fine; it just takes time.

 

I am so thankful. I have been up to watch every sunrise now.  How many of these have I missed?  I grew up in an alcohol culture on a poverty-stricken land and the U.S. government already hates my people.  I grew up in a time and place when you kept quiet if men touched you and you were only 5 years old.  You were supposed to keep it secret while he lived without the guilt. You clung to any man who said he loved you, because that is all you wanted, thinking abuse was love.  I grew up in a time where you couldn’t have sex with your husband without triggering flashbacks.  

 

I grew up where the biggest thing on my people’s mind, is hunger.  Not the people working in offices in poorly funded programs set up to help us,  but those in line at the commod house, those freezing in the winter, walking in the summer to sell earrings at the corner.  These are my people.  We will find excuses to drink, I did.

 

Alcohol is susceptible to us all. Some of us are better at hiding it, like we are at hiding our pasts.  Some of us don’t care anymore, and lie around in the streets in Whiteclay, not remembering who we were once upon a time.  Some of us are better at hiding it behind Instagrams for the conferences in Vegas where we learn what is best for our people.  

 

Alcohol was never part of our culture, but it moved in like a fat tractor – butt settler.  It is here to stay and God, I hope that one of those conferences the “per diem tribe” goes to, will tell us how to deal with it, like maybe putting more money towards treatment centers?
This is me, and this is still part of my story.  I am not asking for sympathy or forgiveness.  I just hope it helps someone else who may need help, too.

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Arrivederci, George

I listened to George Michael yesterday with a bit of a broken heart.  I knew every word and beat and remember wailing the songs at the top of my lungs in my double cassette player.  I wore his first solo tape out and had to buy another but I used to do the 12 tapes for a penny thing about once a year, si I was ok.  They probably have some bounty hunter looking for me for all the cassette tapes I felt I legally bought for a less than a quarter in the 80’s.

I listened and wondered if my broken heart was really for George.  I was sad he died.  I wasn’t shocked that he died at 53 of heart failure because my step father did.  I know it is too young but when you come from one of the most poverty stricken lands in this great nation, you get used to people dying young.  Like my little cousin James who died just 3 weeks ago of heart failure and he was 22 years old.  He played with my sons.

Anyway, so I was wondering as I lay there medicated from being sick for the 5th day in a row and wondering if I was ever going to feel normal again, whether I was really a fan of George Michael or a fan of my youth?

Did his passing make me feel like that time and place was farther away, not even will I be able to grasp it with the fingertips of my memories someday because icons like him whom I chewed my Bubblicious too, swung my ponytail around to, sprayed my Coty Wild Musk around, wore my cherry lipgloss to, had his poster from Tigerbeat hanging on my wall where my array of colored jelly shoes were proudly lined up by my book shelf made out of milk crates that held my shoebox full of neon earrings and rubber bracelets and hairbows sat next to my double cassette boombox while it thumped out “I Want Your Sex”  or mournfully cried for a “Father Figure?”

The answer is yes, I was a George Michael fan from the minute he wore his Daisy Dukes and huge T shirt with Wham and yes I know every word to every one of his songs and yes my youth is getting farther away and my age creeps closer to the death rate of my tribe.

I watch those around me leave while they are young and pray someday things will change.

I know it has to start with ourselves.

No Water Challenge

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When I read comments from non Natives regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is kind of shocking to me how much people disregard water.  In fact, a few online friends of mine shocked me last year when they said they don’t even like water.  They hated the way it tasted, etc.  I of course, after getting over my disbelief went into a rant about how someday water will be more precious than anything.  That is something that was taught to me by my grandfather, taught to him by his grandfather.  The Lakota prophecy that dates back at least 300 years talks of all the water turning black someday.  It says by the time white people realize how precious water is, it will be too late.  People in North Dakota are so quick to defend oil and disregard water, as if oil is needed more than water.  They are quick to throw their railroad workers under the train in order to put pipeline down without once thinking what they would do without water, how they would live.   As Native people, we know the power of water, we know water can save our lives.  Water can also in huge force take a whole village out in a flood.  There is power in water, we are made of water which is why when it is sacrificed in ceremony for 4 days by Natives, it is done in a constant state of prayer in the hot sun.  Water is used in every aspect of our lives, we know that it is our first medicine.  Which is why hundred of tribes have come together in this fight for water.  This is the challenge I issued on facebook.

~~~~THE NO WATER CHALLENGE~~~

There have been many challenges on Facebook and in social media that have gone viral. This one doesn’t involve water. Being that so many politicians, corporations, and the average caucasian North Dakotan thinks that water is not important, here is the challenge. You can not have anything to do with water for 24 hours. This means no flushing a toilet, no washing your face, no drinking anything with water. No eating any portion that needed water to sustain it, no eating any crop that had anything to do with water. No drinking anything that needed water to make, being that everything has water in it including soda, about the only thing on this list is oil. No brushing your teeth, showering, or even going fishing. No going on a boat, no going swimming, no washing your clothes, no water in your life for 24 hours. I realize this is impossible for mostly everyone. Mostly everyone does not know that water is given up for 4 days and nights in the summer time during ceremony by the very same people who are fighting to protect their water. Not everyone participates in that ceremony but even those who don’t are in the prayers of those that do make the sacrifice. If you think you are ok without sacred water, then take this challenge. I realize not even the strongest man or woman can do this or even the richest, however, should you decide to take it, post it. Let us know truthfully how many minutes or hours you lasted. It is impossible. Let’s hear it North Dakotans, you think water is nothing, do it.

#NOWATERCHALLENGE #NODAPL #WATERISLIFE

Of course I didn’t expect anyone to actually do it.  I only wanted them to think about it.  Then I had a friend of mine step in who is non-native.  I was thinking this was a good thing because most of us Natives know of someone or maybe have sacrificed water on their own in ceremony before.  My own brother did and I remember him telling me the fasting of food for four days is not what got to him, it was the thirst for water.  He said every cell in his body could think of nothing else but water for the whole four days.  So when my friend Brooke said she would try it the one clause, was her cat and if she had plants did not have to suffer her challenge because they didn’t take on the challenge.  Animals and plants already know the importance of water, even more so than most humans.  (This is why one elder told me the plant world stands in constant prayer.)  So Brooke lives in Florida, works in the health field, and decided to do the challenge on her day off.  I will tell you about her day according to her notes.  

Brooke woke up at 9am and her first thought was water.  How normally she would shower and drink water, brush her teeth, etc.  She used the bathroom to urinate but did not flush the toilet.  It bothered her to not wash her hands because she works in the health field she is constantly washing her hands all day.  She thought about breakfast but had nothing to eat that did not use water to make.  She broke down at 1:20 pm and made coffee because of a dependence on caffeine.  Her challenge at that point was over, but she tried to keep going.  Her mind was constantly on water wondering if she could eat the bananas outside but being they used rainwater to grow, they still involved water.  At 2:10pm she started doing laundry for the work week but her electricity went out, showing her again, how important water was.  At 3:00pm she finally broke down and drank a glass of water and tapped out completely.  She lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes without water.  Another hour without needing it to clean and another hour before her thirst took over.  I asked her if she was bored without water.  She said yes, it was such a distraction it was all she could think about, not being able to concentrate on anything else.  She said she felt spoiled by having access to water constantly and she realized why there is a fight for clean water going on.  

I think of the children in Africa who get their water from mud puddles, I think of the power of water in lands that are shrinking due to melting glaciers, I think of the power of water in tsunamis.  I think of water all the time and how the Lakota prophecy predicted that one day it will be more precious than anything.  I think of the people on my reservation who still live with no running water.  I think of the people in North Dakota who are too clueless to realize the fight for oil is about money.  The fight for water is about life.  Because water is our first medicine.  Water is life.  Mni Wiconi.  We can not live without water.

Anpetu wanji mni ki iyota otehinka kte lo!- Lakota Prophecy

(One day, water will be more precious than anything.)

The fight for water, the fight for oil.

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photo courtesy BBC.com

 

Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone and we were all subjected to commercials, tv shows, news stories, listening to the honor ceremonies at football stadiums, all the tearful and sad stories of our young women and men who are overseas “fighting for our freedom.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing them.  Many of my ancestors have gone to war for this government and they all came back different, wounded, and PTSD.  Many died before their time due to these circumstances and issues that happened because of them.  I know the government recruits in poverty stricken areas, I have seen them come to our reservation offering opportunities of a lifetime to our youth when I was in high school and everyone was scared of Saddam Hussein.  Many of my classmates signed up, served and came home.  Some took advantage of the college opportunity but most came back to the same impoverished reservation to live as they had before, poor.

I believe they went over with a warrior mentality.  I believe in our Lakota ways and this warrior mentality is in our DNA.  They deserve thanks and gratitude for serving and being warriors when they had to even though they came home to the same situation and the healthcare with the VA is no better than our IHS healthcare.

The government screwed them over, but I still believe in our warriors.

Even though the “fight for freedom” was really a fight for our oil companies and the whole war started an ongoing war with countries that never had weapons of mass destruction and terror cells and new terrorist groups formed from this.  My children, the oldest age 23 have never known a time of peace.

But there is a new war on the horizon, funded only by grass roots.  It is getting so huge it is now a global movement.  It started growing in April of 2016 as a gathering but the NoDAPL disagreement between the tribe and Energy Transfer Partners out of Dallas Texas has been ongoing for two years over the 3.8 billion dollar pipeline.  It also brought together not only the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) for the first time in a gathering since Custer went down, but tribes from close to 500 nations and Indigenous people from as far as New Zealand, Hawaii, and all over the world.  Not to mention many different nationalities, and people from all different sides of like, cops, veterans, artists, musicians, politicians, teachers, medics, cooks, etc.

The water protectors went to help their brothers and sisters at Standing Rock to fight for water and the sacred land that is being desecrated by big oil companies.  The same big oil companies the U.S. Government protects by recruiting youth in impoverished areas of the country with promise of opportunities of a better life and to join the “fight for freedom.”

The same government who is funding the law enforcement of North Dakota to use military tactics on the peaceful water protecters who are using non violent direct action to protect the water and land.  While the people at the Standing Rock NoDAPL gathering are being funded by crowdfunding that is sometimes a dollar at a time and donations of food and water and supplies.

So while last week everyone remember those who “fought for freedom” everywhere and thanked them for protecting us way overseas.  I would like to thank the water protecters who left their homes and are there everyday, because the fight for water is something that will help us live for many generations and the fight for oil is something that will only help the rich get richer.

MNI GLONUCA WOPILA!!

(Thank you Water Protecters)

The river at Standing Rock, photo by Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, water protecter.

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To get involved or donate please go to http://www.sacredstonecamp.org

 

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.