Friday, December 21, 2007

Jodi Rave: Youth a part of Big Foot Memorial Ride

287-mile ride a rite of passage

BEAR SOLDIER, S.D. - When Donaven Yellow of Wakpala, S.D., joined the Spirit Riders, he pledged to ride four years in the Big Foot Memorial Ride, a nearly 300-mile journey dedicated to the Lakota ancestors who died in one of the nation's most horrific massacres.

On Saturday, he began the fourth journey across the South Dakota prairie with 44 riders who will spend the next two weeks on horseback en route to the Pine Ridge Reservation, picking up others along the way until they number 200.

"Riding for two weeks isn't easy," said the 15-year-old Donaven. "A lot of my friends made the same commitment. It gets really cold. You've just got to ride it out.

"A couple of times, I didn't feel my toes. And my legs were shaking. I had a Gatorade in my pocket. I tried to take a drink, but it was frozen solid after a couple of hours. I was really thirsty that day, and I wasn't warm enough to keep it thawed out."

The Spirit Riders were established in honor of a young man who went to the Spirit World on Sept. 21, 2004. The 16-year-old suffered from mental-health issues, said his father, Manaja Hill.

Before he died, he found some peace with horses after riding in the Big Foot Memorial Ride. It was his introduction to the horse culture.

"With his mental issues, that horse turned everything around," said his father. "Here was a kid who was in constant trouble when he was in school. I got called every day. After he got with horses, the calls seemed to have lessened."

Started with 7

So Hill and a friend started a horse program to help youth. In 1998, seven young men from Standing Rock became the first group of Spirit Riders to join the Big Foot Memorial Ride. They've been riding ever since. Adults now credit them for keeping the ride going.

The Big Foot Memorial started in 1986 after several men in different tribal communities shared a common vision to honor the ancestors who died in the Wounded Knee massacre on Dec. 29, 1890.

More than 350 unarmed men, women and children under the leadership of Chief Big Foot, a Minneconjou Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservation, were shot after making an attempt to seek safety on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Big Foot's band started its journey after learning of the death of Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota. Today, the memory of the slain is honored as horseback riders retrace the trail of the slain Lakota.

Riders now participate in the Big Foot Memorial ride annually from Dec. 15 to 29. They end their 287-mile ride at Wounded Knee, where Big Foot's band was buried in a mass grave.

Keeping a vision alive

In 1992, after adults fulfilled their vision to honor their ancestors' memory in four consecutive rides, they felt it was time to let the vision go, following a wopila ride.

But the youth didn't want it to stop.

"The younger people kept it alive," said Ron His Horse Is Thunder, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a 12-year veteran rider of the Big Foot Memorial Ride. "For many youth, it has become a rite of passage. They want to say, 'I've done that trail. I've ridden 300 miles.' It's good that they do. It teaches them fortitude, to go forward without complaining. It's so much a part of who we are."

"Now I come to support the young riders more than anything else," said His Horse Is Thunder. "It truly has become a ride for the youth."

Adults contend that youth and horses are a natural fit.

"There's no barriers," said Hill. "There's a natural rule out there - you be nice to me, I'll be nice to you. It's about respect. My son had all these rules. Be still. Don't talk. With a horse, you don't have those rules. A horse will listen to what you have to say, as long as you pay attention to him. They accepted one another. A lot of our kids respond to that."

"Watch the actions of horse," said Hill. "And then watch the actions of child. They mirror each other. When you get them together, they're going to figure out which one's which. If you put a herd of horses out there, and put the kids with them, they're going to find each other."

The horses help build the traditions, or lakol wicohan.

"It's a good foundation to give to our kids," said John Eagle Shield Sr., who has provided that foundation for his own son, John Eagle Shield Jr. "He's 16. And I haven't lost him. He was 6 months old when I'd be holding him in my arms and singing at Sun Dance. He knew ceremonial songs long before he knew powwow songs or round-dance songs."

Carrying one's self

It's a matter of how you carry yourself with all these values, beginning with prayer, respect, humility and generosity, said Eagle Shield. "The youths that follow these ways, I doubt very much they'll have some of these problems ... belligerence, discipline, lack of respect for authority. If they had this foundation, it would teach them how to live their lives."

Donaven Yellow has made the traditions of a horse culture and the values that accompany it a key part of his life as he matures into adulthood. He's embracing values important to being a good human being. It's a way of life that steers him away from being self-centered, said his grandfather.

"His birthday is Dec. 25 - Christmas Day," said Pat Yellow. "He hasn't been home with me for three Christmases now. It will be the fourth one coming up. I don't mind that as long as he's doing his job there on the ride and helping out the other youth."

Reporter Jodi Rave covers American Indian issues. She can be reached at 800-396-7186 or

Abourezk: A Tribute to Floyd Red Crow Westerman

We Must Give Back What This Minstrel Gave Us

A gentle but forceful critic of his people's assailants.

A strong, proud vision of Native people as we were.

These are the gifts Floyd Red Crow Westerman has given Native people.

These are the obligations and responsibilities we are left to carry on in his absence.

To the public, he will be remembered as Ten Bears, the wise Lakota elder who gave fireside counsel to Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves.

But Westerman was much more than a movie character to those who knew him.

So much more to those who loved him.

For Gwen Westerman Griffin, he was and will remain uncle Floyd. The man who would tease her and call her his "magic butterfly."

A smiling, mischievous minstrel who always had time to lend a hand to someone in need.

"Anytime anybody called on him he was there," said Westerman Griffin, an English professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato. "He would bring his guitar with him. He would talk."

This week, Westerman's lifelong endeavor to set the record straight for Native people ended. As an actor, musician and activist, Westerman fought until his final days to educate non-Indians about the trials his people have had to endure.

Born on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation in South Dakota, Westerman had plenty of his own trials with which to contend, including boarding school abuse and an alcoholic father.

As a man, he would carry the lessons of his youth into his activism.

In 1973, when his old classmate, Dennis Banks, and other Native activists took control of Wounded Knee, S.D., sparking a 71-day standoff, Westerman crept past a military cordon around the village to make his way to his friends.

He went on to become AIM's voice in song, traveling the country to raise funds for the group's cause.

His career took a slightly different path when, in 1987, he answered a casting call for an episode of "MacGyver." Westerman landed the role and went on to appear in a number of supporting TV and film roles.

In 1990, fame came calling.

Appearing as Ten Bears in Costner's epic "Dances With Wolves," Westerman instantly became one of the most recognizable faces in Indian Country.

"He was the picture of the Lakota," said Wilmer Mesteth, a longtime friend of Westerman's and spiritual leader of the Oglala Lakota.

And Westerman worked hard to present a proud and honest portrayal of Native people in the movie, said his niece. Many Native people hailed the movie for using real Indians and using the Lakota language.

"It was an incredible opportunity to put forward Indian people during that time period as Indian people, not artifacts," Westerman Griffin said.

Westerman did not take for granted his newfound fame, she said, offering his name and weight to any cause he found worthy.

In his final years, he had begun work on a six-part documentary called "Exterminate Them: America's War on Indian Nations." With the help of his niece, he had completed the first part, "California Story," and had begun work on the second installment, "Great Plains Story."

Westerman Griffin said she doesn't plan to let her uncle's death end efforts to complete the documentary.

Nor does she plan to let his relentless efforts to improve the lives of Native people die with him.

"It's going to take a lot of us to fill in the void that this one man is going to leave," she said. "It's going to take so many of us to carry on his work."

Kevin Abourezk, Oglala Lakota, is a reporter and editor at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. He is a reznet assignment editor and teaches reporting at the Freedom Forum's American Indian Journalism Institute.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rain and Rain in the Face....

My oldest son Rain, Magazu, is going to be 9 years old on December 15. I am sad that I will miss celebrating his birthday this year, since he and his brother Remy, and sisters Colleen and Amber are living with their dad at this time. He is growing so tall! He is standing on the left in this picture in the red, white, and blue coat. As I am here today in my office, I can't help but wonder what happened to all that time since he was born.  I am adrift in a time without my kids...

This photo of my children was taken by their father, Charles New Holy. They are standing in front of the gravesite of their Grandfather Rain in the Face. He is the one my son Rain is named for.  

Rain in the Face was of the Hunkpapa Band of Lakota and was believed to have killed Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

My son looks just like him.  Smiles like him.  My Rain is so sweet, extremely intelligent, and always helpful.  When he was born, the doctors told me that he would grow to be very tall, at least 6'5", they said.  I believe it, he already looks like he is 14 years old.

My children are preparing to ride on horseback beginning this weekend at Standing Rock for the Future Generations Ride hosted by their dad and other members of the Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride. They will be journeying for the next two weeks in prayer for Native youth.

I will be praying for my children throughout and thinking of how they are riding with their relatives and ancestors.  The thought brings tears to my eyes.  

Found this poem by Longfellow, which doesn't equate to the description I've heard from the descendents. They say that Rain in the Face was tall, charming, and humorous. I believe that rather than this Longfellow person's words. But this is just one's man's words after all...

The Revenge of Rain-in-the Face
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In that desolate land and lone,
Where the Big Horn and Yellowstone
Roar down their mountain path,
By their fires the Sioux Chiefs
Muttered their woes and griefs
And the menace of their wrath.

"Revenge!" cried Rain-in-the-Face,
"Revenge upon all the race
Of the White Chief with yellow hair!"
And the mountains dark and high
From their crags re-echoed the cry
Of his anger and despair.

In the meadow, spreading wide
By woodland and riverside
The Indian village stood;
All was silent as a dream,
Save the rushing of the stream
And the blue-jay in the wood.

In his war paint and his beads,
Like a bison among the reeds,
In ambush the Sitting Bull
Lay with three thousand braves
Crouched in the clefts and caves,
Savage, unmerciful!

Into the fatal snare
The White Chief with yellow hair
And his three hundred men
Dashed headlong, sword in hand;
But of that gallant band
Not one returned again.

The sudden darkness of death
Overwhelmed them like the breath
And smoke of a furnace fire:
By the river's bank, and between
The rocks of the ravine,
They lay in their bloody attire.

But the foemen fled in the night,
And Rain-in-the-Face, in his flight
Uplifted high in air
As a ghastly trophy, bore
The brave heart, that beat no more,
Of the White Chief with yellow hair.

Whose was the right and the wrong?
Sing it, O funeral song,
With a voice that is full of tears,
And say that our broken faith
Wrought all this ruin and scathe,
In the Year of a Hundred Years.

Obituary for Grandpa Elmer Blackbird...

Grandpa Elmer always had words of encouragement for me. My memories of him are good. He was there for me when I graduated from UNL. I invited him as a guest of honor to my graduation reception at the Lincoln Indian Center in August of 2002. Grandpa Elmer offered a prayer and smudged my family with cedar that time to help me along my path.

I will always be thankful for that...


Elmer LaFlesche Blackbird, 86, of Walthill died Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, at a Sioux City hospital.

Services will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Omaha Nation School auditorium in Macy, Neb. Burial will be in Omaha Tribal Cemetery. A Native American church service will be held Friday evening at the Native American Church in Macy. Arrangements are under the direction of Munderloh Funeral Home in Pender, Neb.

Elmer was born Feb. 16, 1921, the son of Charles Blackbird and Suzette LaFlesche. He was the great-grandson of Chief Joseph LaFlesche, one of the last principal chiefs of the Omaha Tribe. He graduated from Walthill High School and received a bachelor of science degree in education from Wayne State College. He received a master's degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff. He received an honorary doctoral degree from the Nebraska Indian Community College. He was a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

He began his teaching career at Lynch (Neb.) Public Schools and continued to teach in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools in Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota and North Dakota. He retired from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., in 1975, after serving as the head of the guidance department and director of residence halls. After retirement, he returned to the Omaha Indian Reservation and continued work for the tribe in the area of education.

He served twice as the Omaha Tribal chairman and once as a Nation chairman of the Native American Church. An academic scholarship in his honor was established in 2001 by his son, Dr. Russell L. Blackbird, and is presented to a Walthill High School senior each year.

He married Mabel Veaux of LaPlant, S.D. in 1947. They later divorced, He then married Nancy Miller Springer in 1972.

He is survived by three sons, Kenneth Blackbird of Fort Duchesne, Utah, Russell Blackbird of Lawrence, Kan., and Gene Blackbird of Tama, Iowa; a daughter, Ida Blackbird of Walthill; two stepsons, Tim and Leonard Springer; two stepdaughters, Connie Kirkpatrick and Tammy Springer; two sisters, Francellia Clark and Maxine White, both of Macy, Neb.; 37 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Ida St. Cyr; a brother, Dale Saunsoci; a son, Ray Steven Blackbird; and grandchildren, Memory Blackbird, Jerome Springer and Natavia Parker.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Omaha Tribe's Stabler, WWII vet and author, dies at 89

Sioux City Journal

WALTHILL, Neb. -- An Omaha Tribe member whose autobiographical book, "No One Ever Asked Me -- The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian," chronicled his experiences as a soldier in that conflict, died Monday at his residence.

Hollis Dorian Stabler, 89, was born in Hampton, Va., and grew up in Walthill, Oklahoma and Kansas. His Omaha Indian name is Na-zhin-thia, or Slow to Rise. He enlisted in the Army in 1938 after a stint in the National Guard. He remembered being a cavalry man when that still meant horses, but he later became a member of the 67th Armored Regiment under Brig. Gen. George Patton.

In July 1943, Stabler's 2nd Armored Division saw action in Sicily. With debilitating heel infections, he was left behind in a Naples hospital while his division went to England. It was then he volunteered for the legendary Darby's Rangers. He fought a number of campaigns with the Fourth Ranger Battalion in Africa, Italy and France.

He was wounded at Anzio in Italy. His brother, Robert Stabler, a soldier with the 3rd Infantry, was killed nearby.

Stabler earned the Purple Heart, the French Freedom Medal, Bronze Star, American Medal, the Combat Infantry Medal and others.

His final campaign was along the French Riviera where his 1st Special Services Force liberated Nice and Monaco. "We called it the champagne campaign," he told the Journal with a wry smile several years ago.

Stabler saw 28 months of combat during his seven-year enlistment, and more agony and death than he will tell of, said his daughter, Wehnona St. Cyr. "He's very proud, not just of his military service, but because of the culture he comes from. It's so important," she said.

In "No One Ever Asked Me," Stabler recounts some horrific battle scenes, telling his tales matter-of-factly. He also tells of bigotry and how he dealt with it, but he doesn't dwell on those incidents. He told a Journal reporter in 2005 that he didn't mind that his fellow soldiers called him Chief. But, one time, a soldier from another unit noticed Stabler's new corporal patch and said, "'They must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.' I hit him. It made me mad all of the sudden," Stabler recalled.

He handled other racial confrontations with humor.

Many of Stabler's "war" stories tend to favor the humorous events. When stationed in Monterey, Calif., he said, future President Ronald Reagan was a Reserve officer with his unit. Reagan's wife, Jane Wyman, beautifully dressed, would drive out to pick him up. "We would wave and wave, you know," Stabler said with a wink. "He thought we were waving at him!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Finding the Beauty....

Went to a really good sweat last night! With several new, good friends. Thanks to all of you who were in there. It was most helpful to me. I am bringing this poem back again. I just can't help it! Everything moves in circles, you know! Hopefully, this will also help others who are making their way on their paths, to understand that there is beauty all around us. We just got to find it.... We all go through stages of death and rebirth in various ways.

And, as always, this is dedicated to my friend, brother, muse, and fellow teacher/artist, Robe Walker, member of the A'aninin, or White Clay Nation of Montana.

Finding the Beauty

The search began a few years ago.
A question that arose continually in mind,
Where is the beauty?

Surroundings that were once familiar
And loved became unbearable intimations
Of all that is inevitable.

In such there is no reproof.
Only a certainty that what has ended
Is akin to the origin of a new sun.

There is the sacred in that.
Because we come from the stars.
And there lies the beauty.

Like the Sky People who arrived long ago
Then emerged as the Earth People.
So too will always be the Sacred Circle for us.

A Rapid Walker once responded,
That beauty is found in that there is no
Separation between the Earth and the Sky.

Indisputable understanding and knowledge.
This answer has helped to settle a wonderer,
Who now finds the beauty everywhere.

- Renee Sans Souci

Life Just Keeps Getting Better...

One of my favorite songs by Staind that I like to listen to from time to time. Just serves as a reminder for me to keep in mind about where I am at and what I need to do...

SO FAR AWAY by Staind

This is my life
Its not what it was before
All these feelings I’ve shared
And these are my dreams
That I’d never lived before
Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping

Now that we're here,
It's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes,
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we're here its so far away
And I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today

These are my words
That I’ve never said before
I think I’m doing okay
And this is the smile
That I’ve never shown before

Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping

Now that we're here,
It's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes,
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we're here its so far away
And I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today

I'm so afraid of waking
Please don't shake me
Afraid of waking
Please don't shake me

Now that we're here,
It's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes,
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we're here its so far away
And I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Feedback about your beautiful Poem...Breathing in the Here and Now

Hi Renee,

I would like to share your poem that you shared in
Macy, Breathing in the Here and Now ... the students are working on learning about
America and the western frontier and of course the
Indian Policy of that time...then they thank God are
studing what is happening in Indian World during these
modern times...

What I would like to do is share your notes for how
you wrote your poem...then the poem...this way they
get a chance to do two get to know you a
little bit...and get to know a Indian person in there
sheltered, narrow experienced life...two they get to
understand how people produce the work that is
produced...and maybe this will inspire them to also
produce poetry from what is happening in their unique
life and life experience...

Let me know what how you feel about this and your
feedback...I have 130 students and I need to copy the
material and get in line for the copy machine...

much love to you and your Bahai

- Blair Nichols, Tennesee


Hi Renee,

Let me say, thank you for writing your poem and for
sharing something so sad, and powerful...and making it
a means for healing for many.

I asked the students how did they like it... out of
the five classes, the reponse was the same... they
were awed...quiet, and appreciative...they were very
quiet, as I presented it with appropriate music
playing in the background...and I tried very hard to
let my self be free and let the words fly and express
the emotion that is there...since you cryed and prayed
while working on the poem...the spirit was there...

the students seem to sense the message and some came
forward and said they liked it...they felf it was the
easiest poem they had ever read...they liked that they
could understand all the words...that they were not
fancy and beyond meaning...they said they could see
the pictures... and could feel the words...and
understood the message...and felt a man or woman could
say all these words...they expressed gladness they had
a chance to meet you through your words...they liked
the story of Mack the frog too. One well read student
expressed that you were in his opinion an excellent
writer. Mine too.

Again thank you very much. I did also share your bio..
after we finished I have a set of 40 poems left.. so I
decided to share them with the English Teacher...who
knows where that will lead, this was a history class.
God Bless you Sweetgirl...Sacred Horse Woman...

much love

- BLair Nichols, Tennesee

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Latest Poem...

When we had the Honor the Youth Spiritual Run in June. I stayed in contact with Kevin Abourezk (Lakota) of the Lincoln Journal Star after he'd written an article about the spiritual run. He suggested to me right after the run that I write a poem about the issue of Native youth suicide. I told him that I would do that...

I spent much of this summer contemplating how I would write this poem. In particular, since this is such a topic close to my heart, how do I really write such a poem?

First of all, I interviewed several women. All survivors of sexual abuse and suicide attempts. I started out well enough, but I came to a stop when I realized that I didn't know how to describe what was happening. Instead of forcing the poem, I let it rest for several weeks, until I made a breakthrough on Friday night after meeting underground hiphop artist, Felipe Coronel, better known as Immortal Technique. After hearing Immortal Technique's message in one of his powerful songs, was I able to come to terms with what I needed to do next...

This was not easy to write. I prayed throughout and cried often as I finished it...

For all our Native youth...

Breathing in the Here and Now…
By Renee New Holy

Each day as I awaken anew
I give thanks for this time that I’m living safely
On this earth, our Grandmother
Breathing in the Here and Now…

But I can look back in the years,
When I was young and every moment was a battle to survive…

There were days and nights that often made little sense
Because I was drowning in the onslaught of degradation
Praying for oblivion from any mind numbing substance
And I held together remnants of myself seemingly

With safety pins and duct tape
Old standbys even for the soul…

There were no boundaries respected
How could there be?
When all that we once believed in as a people
Was torn away with little regard for our humanity.

No thought was ever given for the consequences
That all our generations have paid for in blood.

The rapes began with our nations, first.
Our lands, our spirits, our minds, and our dignity
Were stripped away like so much bark from the fallen trees.
This violent legacy continued on, unchecked, unstoppable.

And was passed down from generation to generation in lateral degrees
Like unwanted heirlooms hidden away in shame…

Shame! Because of the shame!
A code was maintained while innocence was blamed!
And silence reigned under more threats of injury
That was held over my head like an executioner’s blade!

Who was there to hear my screams anyway?
When any protest I made was looked upon in mute agony shared by us all

Is there anything akin to rage and despair?
They are familiar friends in impossible moments such as this
A deadly combination that requires darkness for completion
And all the while I danced as my spirit caved in on itself…

I swirled with bright blue lights down into midnight
Where I lay in an abyss of being that had never felt the day…

At last, I thought, with a shiver of relief
I’ve found an escape from the pain and the question
That plays over and over and over, relentlessly asking…
Do I matter to anyone in this life?

There were no responses to this non-rhetorical question,
That caused me such misery just for its very existence.

But my answer came slowly when my eyes blinked open
And the realization that I was still alive confronted me
In this hospital room,
where my tears ran like the River Nishude.
Unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t share the sight.

Doctors came and went in my room.
Then a therapist arrived along with a social worker.

And they began to ask why I tried to take my own life?
Wasn’t I doing well in school?
What was my home situation like?
Was there abuse?

I turned away from their probing questions.
Cutting into me like utility knives, which is what they were to me.

Then I lay in solitude for quite some time under lock and key.
Where solutions to my problems were being discussed
Between all interested parties and others who held a stake in my life.
All I wanted to do was go back to sleep and dream.

Drifting…in a dream of another time, of a voice full of love…

“Return to your life now and get what you need.”
Echoed this voice clearly into my left ear. “Washkon! You’re going to be alright!”

I knew that there was no one else in my room
And only one person in this world ever spoke that way.
She was my aunty who used to always take care of me.
Before all the desolation and destruction entered my life.

In that moment I realized that love exists in any time.
And can heal it healed me...if you allow it too.

A new understanding was given to me that night.
So I made the decision to step back onto the path of life
Knowing that my journey is just beginning
That good health and happiness exists in every breath.

But only if I want it to…when I breathe...breathe...
Breathing in the Here and Now.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Monologue to tell tale of Standing Bear, tribes
By Travis Coleman,
Sioux City Journal staff writer

Four years ago, Christopher Cartmill was no more than a curious outsider interested in the tales of Nebraska's American Indian tribes. Now, he's being trusted with telling the story of its members and one of its most heralded chiefs.

That transformation is documented in "The Nebraska Dispatches," a monologue based on journal entries Cartmill wrote while researching a play he was set to write on Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

Standing Bear successfully argued in U.S. District Court in Omaha that an American Indian is a "person" deserving of certain rights. The decision allowed the Poncas to return to their land in modern day Knox County, Neb., that had been previously taken from them by the federal government.

But before he could write that play, Cartmill said he needed to learn more about the area's tribes, which led him to Renee New Holy, an Omaha tribal member from Macy, Neb.

"I felt that it was vital," said Cartmill, a playwright originally from Lincoln, Neb.

But after first meeting on the Omaha Indian Reservation, New Holy questioned why Cartmill, a non-Indian, would be interested in the stories of Standing Bear and other tribal people.

"(I told him) to tell this story, you have to understand what we've been through as Native people," New Holy said. "I saw myself as a gatekeeper. If you make it past me, you may have a chance to do something pretty awesome."

Cartmill wanted to write about the "powerful" story of Standing Bear's desire to go home, Cartmill said. But "Dispatches" details the changes he and New Holy went through in the year they spent together, also featuring the "bad use of cowboy boots and a very small car," Cartmill said.

"I was pretty ill prepared for the journey," Cartmill said.

"The Nebraska Dispatches" can be seen for free at 4:30 p.m. today at Valentine Parker Jr. Center in Macy. Following the performance, New Holy is set to perform a poem on American Indian youth suicide.

"Dispatches" is the first of three plays, with the last two using actors to tell Standing Bear's story. Those performances are set to be performed in the Omaha and Ponca tribal languages, Cartmill said. Cartmill has performed "Dispatches" in Lincoln and shows are planed in New York City later this year.

While those plays are still in production, the lessons Cartmill learned on American Indian life over the past year continue.

"It will never be done now," Cartmill said. "It's too much a part of my life."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So Much to Write, So Little Time...

There has been so much going on this summer. Each day has been totally amazing. I have received so many gifts in the people I 've met, in the experiences, and in just being alive! I will be writing down more and sharing photos. Today is a beautiful day where I am in Lincoln, NE. The sunlight is streaming through windows that sit at a rounded corner of the house. I want to be outside...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

While in Minneapolis...

Still going strong here in the Twin Cities.

Enjoying all the sites and sounds. I've taken up bicycling again after 17 or 18 years...I am so glad that I trained before the HTY Spiritual Run. This is what is enabling me to ride a bike!!! I cannot describe how enjoyable this is. Unbelievable!!!

I went bike riding with my friend/sister Betty Martin the other night and we were flying through the bike trails at Nokomis Lake. It was to say the least exhilarating. Made me feel like a young girl again. It took me back!

What more can I say?

I am enjoying the ride more than anyone will ever know...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Run brings honor, awareness

MACY, Neb. -- Its been awhile since Barry Webster was asked to run so far.

The 40-year-old used to run full-court fast breaks and relays as a junior college point guard, but that was two decades ago. On Thursday, though, he agreed to shake away the rust so he could lead more than 20 American Indian runners from the powwow grounds here to Omaha for the first leg of the fifth Honor the Youth Spiritual Run.

"Its important for me to be involved. It's a great cause," said Webster, vice chairman of the Omaha Tribal Council in Macy.

Webster and other participants want to raise awareness of American Indian youth suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, tobacco abuse and violence.

From Omaha, the runners will pass through Lincoln, Neb., on their way to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation in Mayetta, Kan., more than 200 miles from Macy.

Webster was asked carry a 10-pound eagle staff akin to the Olympic torch shortly after arriving at the grounds around 6 a.m. The staff had been blessed by an Ojibwa elder before the first spiritual run, from Minneapolis to the Red Lake Indian Reservation, in 2005. On Thursday, Webster ran with the staff for a few yards before handing it off to Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain, who had driven 10 hours from his home reservation in northern Minnesota to run in the event.

"We think these are very sacred and significant runs," Jourdain said.

Before the eagle staff arrived in Red Lake in 2005, Jourdain said, the reservation suffered from a rash of youth suicides. Since, there hasn't been a single suicide on the reservation, he said. The spiritual run sparked an awareness of youth suicide on the reservation, and together, the community was able to begin to fight the problem.

In 2006, the Omaha Reservation was much like Red Lake. There were four youth suicides that year, but after runners bearing the staff arrived in Macy from Rosebud, S.D., there hasn't been a suicide.

But on both reservations, there still are numerous suicide attempts. That's why the run continues each year.

Ricky Saunsoci runs for those who have taken their own lives, but he also runs to represent his Omaha Tribe and his family. His niece, 11-year-old Colleen New Holy, said the suicides on the reservation were hard to deal with. But the run helped the community heal, when it arrived in 2006 and again when it left on Thursday, she said.

Saunsoci jogged out of Macy on U.S. Highway 75 with a group of runners from the Honor the Youth Organization in Minneapolis, the sun already popping out sweat on their backs and faces.

Saunsoci said he'd probably stop in Decatur, Neb., nine miles from Macy. He hopes that's enough, he said, to "honor the youth."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Incoming Thoughts on the Extraordinary...

Whatever that means! Ha, ha, ha!

I am visiting the lake country of the Anishinaabe people. I must admit that I am rather fascinated by all that I am learning. Just seems that as I go along I find that there are many similarities to the Omaha people. We share so much of the same philosophies...such as the Four Hills of Life.

My friend and sister (who is my spiritual twin) Terri Drift-Hill lives near and works for her tribe the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Nett Lake, Minnesota (check out the link to their website). If you've ever been to Nett Lake then you know that this is one area that is immersed in beauty. I always respond to such places with a huge sense of awe and a feeling akin to obsession.

This is probably the best place for me to be at this time in my life. Since I am so full of contemplation (snort) and am seeking a personal revitalization and rebirthing process. It's almost too much to contemplate.

I want so badly to write, especially my poetry. I am at a loss for words right now. That's why I thought I'd blog today to get my juices flowing so to speak. At least in the words arena. Documentation often begins with our thoughts and feelings. And living the way I do, which most people don't seem to realize about me, has led me to the most extraordinary places and events. I am no coward and have usually been up to any adventure.

This morning I woke up with the memory of being in the Fichtelgebirge Mountains of Bavaria, Germany. It must be the air here in northern Minnesota that brings back those memories of the summer I spent in Germany years ago. The Fichtelgebirge Mountains are very beautiful and captivated me much like this area does. Sehr gut!

Fichtelgebirge mountains
"Nature - culture - leisure - history" - the Fichtelgebirge mountain holiday region in a nutshell. Around 540 million years ago, these mountains were higher than the comparatively young Alps, stacked up by powerful natural forces. They are still impressive today, but over the millions of years the power of nature has again changed their shape. What remains is a very fine, flawless, polished gemstone, a range of scenically attractive mountains arranged like a lucky horseshoe. Everywhere there are reminders of the area's dramatic evolution - piles of granite blocks, fields of boulders, rock labyrinths and rock formations like heaps of mattresses or wool sacks. Entire forests cling tightly to the rocks.

My love affairs with natural places began long ago when I was little. I grew up in Lincoln, NE and though my family moved around, even to Montana for a little while, I always had the desire to see places that were still in their natural state. Places without boundaries so to speak. Places that had no fences to impede movement. I longed to see these places and sought them out whenever I could just so I'd know that there were such places that existed in this world.

I don't like fences and would probably live out in the wild if it were all possible.

There are no coincidences as my sister Pat Shepard always likes to say. There are reasons why I am called to such places as this. My spirit has been called here to the woodlands and the lakes of the Anishinaabe people. I am spellbound.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Ralph E. Preston Jr.

WALTHILL, Neb. -- Ralph Edward Preston Jr., 69, of Walthill died Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at a Sioux City hospital.

Services will be 2 p.m. Saturday at the Alfred Gilpin Building in Macy, Neb., with Mr. Sam Moves Camp officiating. Burial will be in Omaha Tribal Cemetery. Visitation will begin today and continue until service time Saturday at Our Lady of Fatimah Catholic Worship Center in Macy. Arrangements are under the direction of Munderloh Funeral Home in Pender, Neb.

Ralph was born Dec. 31, 1937, in Winnebago, Neb., to Ralph Edward Preston Sr. and Lucy W. (Cline) Preston. He lived most of his life in metropolitan areas including Wichita, Kan., Omaha and Lincoln, Neb. He attended college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was an alcohol counselor and concluded his working career as a Native American Spiritual coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Corrections. He took great pride in his work and received much satisfaction from helping a great many people.

He is survived by his daughters, Debra Harlan and her husband, Walter of Denver, Colo., Rochelle Preston of Kansas City, Mo., Kimberly Preston of Omaha and Anna Preston of Winnebago, Neb.; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph Sr. and Lucy Preston; and three brothers, Adrian, Henry and Johnny Preston.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

View from the Holy Fire Place

This poem is dedicated to
my Omaha Relative and Woptura Sundance Brother,
Ralph "Rocky" Preston
Who passed away today…
May 29, 2007

I had to write this because I did not know how to deal with his passing. I couldn't make it out to the Holy Fire Place because of the weather but in my mind I could imagine it and that made me feel a little better. Just thinking about this place in relation to Rocky and where he is at.

May you have a good journey, Rocky!

View from the Holy Fire Place

Amidst the hills of the Omaha People lies beauty that few people know about.

There are other places like this in the world.
I know…I’ve seen a few.
And then there is this…
The view from the Holy Fire Place.
Rising high above the river, Nishude, and a forest of perfect green.
A scent like that of bear root medicine drifts hypnotically through the afternoon air.
Blending in with the green and blue of the Earth and Sky.
Soothing to my center that’s taking in the healing breeze.

Clearing away my sorrow.

This is a place that the Omahas have always held sacred.
As it was where we fasted for our understanding
To unite connections between our past and our future.
Our ancestral energy is quite strong here still.
Even though no one has fasted for some time in this area.
I can sit here for hours seeking answers on the side of this hill.
A beauty that is found in every sound, leaf, stone, and drop of moisture.
Aware that there is no other place like this on earth for me.
My spirit recovers it’s strength each time I come here.

I am thankful for that.

--Renee New Holy

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sky and Earth, Blue and Green...

Sky and Earth, Blue and Green
By Shonge Xube Wau, Renee New Holy

What does it mean when we see no separation
between the Sky and Earth, Blue and Green?
I walked with this thoughtfully
in the past year of change.
Journeying through pain and understanding in order to find this...

The sun makes a sacred circle through the four seasons
Giving off energy that makes it possible for all
Of us to live on this planet, Mother Earth,
On this continent, Turtle Island,
And on our sovereign lands bequeathed by the Creator.

Blue always flows throughout the Sky and the Universe,
Carrying our spirits homeward.
While Green will remain on the Earth,
providing sustenance for our physical bound selves.
The two are joined in us, as long as we draw breath.

And understanding

That though we are each on our own path.
People of the Rivers, Lakes, and Oceans.
Of the plains, woodlands, deserts and mountains.
Our paths always lead us home through the Milky Way
As one nation...once again.

There is no separation between the Sky and Earth,
Blue and Green.
If we look within our own centers,
We shall see the truth of these teachings.
Good health awaits us there.

- For my Ojibwe Relatives, the Red Lake Nation

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mom is a Powerful Word!

Listening to my mother, Alice, speak last night at a wake for one of my aunts, I was overwhelmed by what she said to all of our relatives who were there. She was asked to speak to everyone earlier by her aunt, my Grandma Susan LaMere.

So, during the wake when my Grandpa Milton Miller asked if anyone had any words to share with everyone, first to speak was my Grandma Sue, and then my mom went next after her.

For those who don't know my mom, she is of medium height and beautiful. She always wears her long hair in a braid. She has a very strong presence and grace of movement which I strive to emulate. And, she is also extremely confident in her manners and speech.

She said "Mom is a powerful word! I, myself, have never known a mother's love because I never knew my own mother. I was raised by my great aunt and uncle. My mother died at a young age and I never got to know her.

Yet, as a mother, I have raised all of my own children. And when they say 'Mom, I need help.' I get around and try to help them because I love them and want to make things easier for them. This evening I saw one of my grandsons cry for his mother. And, he made me cry because he kept saying Mom, over and over!

Mom is a very powerful word! The word Mom is magic!"

As my own tears flowed, I understood what she meant!

When I hear that word, "Mom!" I am at attention. The most powerful words to ever be uttered in this universe are when my kids say, "Mom, I love you!" Those words make me want to take on dragons from any direction.

So, yes I agree with my mom. Mom is a powerful word! And, I am happy that I have a mom.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Now Is The Time by Hafiz

Yesterday evening, I received an email from my friend, Christopher Cartmill, who has been at the Art Institute of Chicago, this week. One of the poems he read was this one by Hafiz, a 14th Century poet from Persia.

When I read this poem yesterday, I felt that it truly fit with my thoughts and where I am focused at this time...

Now Is The Time
by Hafiz:

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong

Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside

When you can finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

Blizzard Aftermath...

This is truly a Minimum Maintenance Road!

I always find snowdrift sculptures one of the Wind's most beautiful creations on this Earth.

My son Rain loves the snow, of course...and so does our dog, Ska.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Father's Voice...

Me, Mom & Dad

This poem is one I wrote a few years ago for my dad, Frank Saunsoci. It so happened in 2003, on this very same night, I could not sleep. I was stressed out from work and in a lot of emotional pain. And, I missed my dad terribly. I stayed awake all night crying and wishing for his comfort. Before he got sick, he always knew what to say to make me feel better. Well, I realized that night that it was up to me now to comfort myself. So, I started to write and as I finished this poem, I felt a lot better.

My Father’s Voice
Take a moment to imagine my house…
My house has four children, Colleen, Rain, Remy, Amber
Plenty of animals…
At least four dogs (would you like one?),
A calico cat named J.P. (for the painter, Jackson Pollack),
And a turtle named Shellshocker, after a Pokemon of all things.

My house is always so loud with my children’s voices,
laughing, crying, arguing, and yelling for attention
"Mom, I’m hungry!" says Colleen
"Mom, Colleen took my blocks!" says Rain
"Mom, Remy hit me!" says Amber
And the dreaded…
"Mom, Amber needs a diaper change, again!

There are some days when I want to slap my hands over my ears
Just to be able to hear my own thoughts!
And, I always have to yell for someone to turn down that TV!

As each day arrives, it is another adventure into motherhood,
And, I've wondered for the hundred thousandth time, how…
Did my mom and dad do this with seven children as well as other family members?

Then I realized that what is most important to me is that my children are happy
…No matter that there is a ton of laundry to do
…No matter that toys are scattered from the living room to the bedroom
…No matter that there are letters, reports and memos to finish for work
…No matter that the phone is ringing again
…No matter that there is so little time to get anything done

As long as my family is happy, then I am happy too.

But there is always a day, a rare day like this one
…When I hear a voice that is no longer a part of this world
…So well known, so familiar
…It slices through all the other voices in my house, in this universe even…
And, I have to stop whatever I am doing and look around
I search for that person with that beloved voice

Then it hits me painfully...

And it always surprises me to see that it is one of my own children,
Speaking clearly with my father’s voice.

Then I remember the times I spent with my father…
Riding in the back seat of our car, safe and content
Visiting his mechanic friends in their garages
While I drank my Pepsi mixed with peanuts sitting on old tires.

To this day the smell of grease and oil is as nostalgic for me
As the aroma of baking bread is for many others
I remember that my father always took the time to explain how things worked
Because I always had to know…
How things worked.

I knew I could always count on him to listen patiently
And to dispense his wisdom with clarity
But the best thing he ever taught me was how to take care of my family,
This he showed me each day with his love.

So, now when I hear the echoes of my father’s voice
I know that he is still here with me in the voices of my children.

--For my father, Frank Saunsoci who passed away on February 28, 2001

Written by Renee New holy, February 28, 2003

Sunday, February 25, 2007

American Indian Millennium: Renewing Our Ways for Future Generations By Darrell Robes Kipp

Okoyi: To Have A Home

Banishment was the strongest punishment my tribe, imposed on a member unable to abide the tribal ways. Without realizing it, I had banished myself from my tribe.

Every person’s lifetime is a relationship between the time our life covers, and the space our bodies occupy. There have been countless lifetimes within my tribe and many to come. My lifetime as a tribal member is where past, present and future exists for me. This view allows me to put imposed tribal definitions aside. For example, in our language we are Pikuni; in English speaking America we are the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana. Today many tribal names are not their true tribal language name, but one imposed on them. One of the horrors Indians endure is having outsiders define us based on one-dimensional studies. It is better we define our tribe, and ourselves.

I am one of many lifetimes existing in Pikuni time, and therefore am part of the tribe once and forever. The Pikuni language is my teacher now, and is in my view the truth keeper for future Pikuni generations. This is my vocation and belief. I believe loss of tribal languages diminishes the truth of Indian ways, and dishonors the lifetimes within the tribe.

We should remember imposed tribal identification is insignificant compared to the biological, linguistic, religious and historical continuum tribal essence possesses. Understand this, and imposed definitions of tribal membership become inadequate.

Words such as half-breed, full blood, mixed-blood, and the myriad of others are fragmentary and inflammatory. Don’t use them regardless of any circumstance. Instead seek your home language and use it for knowledge. Allegiance to tribal languages is at present hard to come by, and many people have yet to find the way to embrace the notion. It is difficult because allegiance must come to you through the heart and mean something. Yet, it is the way home, and can still be done.

Historical circles divide Pikuni history into elementary periods such as days of the dog; introduction of horse and gun, and reservation days. It is a weak, biased method, since my tribe is not limited to life in the dog, horse or reservation period. True Pikuni history is identified by stories extending back (and forward) thousands of years, and retold out loud in the tribal language. The archeologist recounts thousands of years of Pikuni People, but only our language remains the accurate recorder of our secrets. Learn the oldest word in a tribal language to realize how it speaks the truth. The true challenge facing future generations, as well as the present one, is revitalizing our languages in order to keep our memory viable for future generations.

Tribal languages contain the tribal genesis, cosmology, history, and secrets within. Without them we may become permanently lost, or irrevocably changed. I am a Pikuni and know why. In our language, I am a nizitapiwa, a real person. It derives from how my language treats the form for I or me spoken as "niz" a derivative of nostum, or my body. When I speak Pikuni my body and spirit speak to kizitapiwa, another real person. My Pikuni name is Apiniokio Peta translated as Morning Eagle, and I belong to the Pikuni translated as Far Off Spotted Robes. I know my family, chiefs, and heroes names (both women and men) from long ago times. I know Apistokiwa, the Maker, placed us on earth in what is now called Montana. The reservation is what is left of our home ground, yet I take comfort in knowing points off-reservation named in our language are part of our heart’s country. This is knowledge we should possess, yet I was not fully informed until studying my tribal language.

The one-room school I attended had a map of the world on the wall. As a schoolboy I learned about distant places. In high school one teacher repeatedly told us to move to one of these places and stay there. He called it the American dream. A small number of classmates and I did go to college, and learned of more distant places. The United States Army drafted me into service in l966, and sent me to a distant part of the world. In time I graduated from Eastern Montana College, Harvard University, and Vermont College. For years I lived and worked in what might be called exotic places, and traveled a lot.

One quiet weekend morning, in the hush confines of a tall city building, I experienced a longing to go home. At first it seemed childish, but the feeling moved deeper into my thoughts during the following days. Banishment was the strongest punishment my tribe delivered to a member unable to abide the tribal ways, and without realizing it I had banished myself from my tribe. My pursuits up until then had been a journey away from my people, my ways, and my quintessential self as a Pikuni. On that morning I began a journey home. For some it may be difficult to find where true home is, but it is there. Relearning, or studying your tribal language is the ultimate pathway home, and it is important to start before the first sign of longing appears. You may misinterpret your feelings and miss the calling.

I have been home now for many years. I share my happiness with those I pray with at our medicine pipe and Okan lodge ceremonies. As Pikuni we thank the Creator for our good fortune and luck, and are glad to share it with others. I learned through language study my original band was called Moxamini within the tribe, and is translated as Those Who Camp By The Lakes. It is meaningful to me since I live most of the year next to a mountain lake in a home I built years ago.

I still travel to many of those places school taught me about. Last year I made a documentary in the remote mountains of Bulgaria, and have visited the people of the Arctic Circle. This year I filmed a documentary about an early day Pikuni campsite where a city now stands.
My first documentary, Transitions: Death of a Mother Tongue, was about Pikuni children in an early day reservation mission school. It was there our language was brutalized and deemed worthless. It won national recognition, but was more important to my tribe’s healing process and paved the way for us to respect our language again.

In my work in Native American Languages revitalization, I visited over 30 tribes throughout America, and met with countless others. Often at training sessions people were thrilled at speaking even a small part of their language. They would recount when their language resounded throughout the community, and emotion would overcome many to the point of crying. The deep emotion came from their love for those past lifetimes we wish to be part of.
I also know when people relearn their language the first thing they wish to do is pray in it. I have been at the deathbed of several tribal languages, and know most are weak and fragile. On behalf of the tribal languages of this earth, I share this dream with you. The dream has a question in it, but I do not know the answer except the one I gave years ago. The answer is in your heart, and belongs to only you.

It goes like this: you are walking in a place you know and love, and come upon your grandparents sitting by the path. Do you pass them by and abandon them, or stop; embrace them, and carry them to your destination? It should be an easy choice, but it isn’t in this day and age.

Tribal languages are the grandparents in the dream, and only the uncaring, unknowing, and those too busy pass them by. If you stop and embrace them wealth and a kinder world will be bestowed upon you. Tribal languages can be revitalized to sooth our children’s hearts again if people stop long enough to embrace them. Our Pikuni language, and yours, can produce healthy kids with choices, and therefore parity.

To embrace our grandparents we designed the Pikuni Nizipuhwahsin (original language) K-8 school for 50 children as our grandparent’s home. No government funds were used to build or operate it. It is the sanctum sanctorum, and sanctuary of the Pikuni language.

It is a beautiful place, and I wish there were such places for every Indian child in this land. Maybe you will build one for your children. My language was a calling I heard years ago that I mistook for loneliness. I cherish every word learned, and my prayers are to be granted time to learn more. I learned a great deal through this calling. I utilize the formal education taught me, although it no longer dictates my definition of knowledge.

I can only tell you this: You do not need permission to study your language. Make your prayers to the Creator for strength, and trust in what is provided. Do not debate with people who question your journey. Make use of the process of self-discovery and follow your Indian heart. It is a difficult, but truly rewarding journey home.

Apiniokio Peta
Darrell Robes Kipp

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Poetry by Jennifer Ashawasegai (Henvey Inlet First Nation Ojibwe)

Today, I am publishing this poem by my friend and relative, Jennifer Ashawasegai, who lives on the Henvey Inlet First Nation Reserve in Pickerel, Ontario. We have been a part of the same sundance circle for many years.

I am Here

People do not think of me often
they do not realize
the many things I know
they need to be still
to hear and listen
For I have been
present throughout time
Think of me
look inside my heart
and you will see
All that I have
seen, heard, felt
then maybe you would
wish for better
think before you act
Because your harsh words
hurt and have
a powerful resounding echo
throughout the universe

At times,
I have felt
such immense Beauty
It would make you
to feel just a fraction
of all
that I have seen
You would always
for the good
the betterment
of your kind
…you need every
Prayer you can get


I have seen
the world come alive
I have had animals
walk across my back
I watched
the birth of the people
Yes, I was there
I have been witness
to the sorrow
of the People
and have cried for them;
with them

I have felt their anger
during their wars
hurting each other
and themselves
I have mourned the many
meaningless deaths

I was there
when man and wife
professed their Love

I have experienced
the profound Beauty
of the changing seasons

I am always present
I will never go away

I do not pass judgement
on human beings

I am Immortal;
Except when I choose
to give my Life
for Divine Purpose

I will exhale my last breath
and carry your good words
to the Ones above

I am a Grandfather; Old

I am a rock

I am Here for You…

- Jennifer Ashawasegai

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Voice of this Place by Renee New Holy

Today is my relative, Alex Gladstone's birthday. I wanted to wish him a very Happy Birthday. In July of 2003, several of us attended training at the Piegan Institute in Browning. In the early evening, after the workshop, Alex took us out hiking. He shared so much of his knowledge and gifts of spirit. In turn, I wish to honor him with a gift of writing for what he has done for me and many others.

Vida Stabler, Title VII Director, Omaha Nation Public School (July 2003)

The Voice of This Place

You led us to this place of unimaginable beauty
where light streamed through summer clouds
that also beheld your Blackfeet ancestors…I am certain.

You spoke of the past and the sacredness of these mountains
And your voice beckoned like smoke from burnt cedar.
Indeed we were surrounded in idyll that was nearly painful to our deprived senses.

You gave us a chance to experience the wonder of earth and sky.
Perfect examples of that balance of life and universe.
Neither of which we can live without…

Looking back I realize that what was restored that day
Was a link to my spirit that I’d thought destroyed.
It was a time of healing that began that day
with the voice of this place…

Thank you, Alex…And, Happy Birthday!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fix You by ColdPlay

I like these lyrics to the song Fix You by the band ColdPlay. I actually like the entire album which is called X & Y. I play this song for my daughter Colleen, especially when she is feeling down, missing her dad. I have also shared this song with other friends who are feeling the loss of someone or something. Just so that they know that I am here to support them...

Fix You
by ColdPlay

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you,

High up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down on your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down on your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Views on Indian Education (Part Two)

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that my perception of everything changes over time. Since last year and the beginning of this year, my perceptions have shifted 180 degrees. And I’ve realized that I have outgrown so many of my old beliefs. Perhaps it’s a sign that I am finally growing up or just growing old-er. But nah!

Back to Where I left Off from Part I in Fall of 2004…

Five days after I withdrew the Nebraska Department of Education lawsuits in November of 2004, I attended an Indigenous Justice Seminar sponsored by the Omaha Tribal Court and the Weed & Seed Project. The trainer was Ada Pecos Melton, (Jemez Pueblo), President of the American Indian Development Associates, out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What drew me to the seminar was the whole concept of Indigenous Justice. I wanted to know what that meant because I was searching for a way to come to terms with my experiences with the NDE, etc.

The training centered around youth issues such as status offenses and juvenile delinquency, and the ways to combat these issues through our cultural traditions and self-esteem building. I enjoyed Ada’s workshop because she exhibited total confidence and knowledge in this area. Her presentation style was based on a Native outlook and was holistic, and she also tied it to a logic model example, which I was quite familiar with through my previous work.

Throughout the day of the workshop, I gave my input and made several suggestions. I even said that I was available as a cultural consultant, if they were interested in hiring me part-time. Three days later, I found myself working for the Weed & Seed Program and Omaha Tribal Court as the Juvenile/Community Restorative Justice Specialist. The other one had resigned the previous day.

I worked for the Omaha Tribal Court for about four months. Part of my duties were to research traditional tribal forms of conflict resolution and to develop an alternative tribal court system based on the Omaha culture. All this in order to create a tribal sentencing process that would be more binding than the Western one. It was a lot to do and I was expected to put it together in such a short space of time. At the outset, I was very interested in seeing how this would work and I did the best I could do, however, life has a way of intervening and changing one’s path…

February, 2005…Conflict Can Often Serve As A Catalyst

My children are my mainstay. They’ve grounded me more than anyone or anything else in my life. Yet, for five years, I had hardly had a chance to spend time with them in the way that I wanted to. I was either studying or working long hours. I believed that this was natural because we had to make a living for them, right?

It was right at this juncture when I was still feeling blistered by events from the previous year and when I was investigating further into the process of victim/offender and community mediation, especially as it dealt with the tribal circle process, that I faced another test.

My son Rain was in Kindergarten 2004-2005 and was having a challenging year. Very challenging. He is very intelligent and he always has to be doing something. So, during his first year in school, he was having difficulty transitioning from one subject to another. When he'd start working on something, he had to finish it before he'd move onto something else. Or if he became bored, he would just get up and walk right out of the room and wander through the halls. Then he would get into fights and he was getting suspended from school.

I was unaware of all that he was doing in class. But the suspensions were definitely drawing my concern. I wondered what was going on here?

About this time, my perceptions of the public school system were changing. I was looking at the school more critically. I began to develop very different views of what school should be like for our kids.

One day, I was late bringing Rain into school. As we were walking to his class, his teacher and classmates came bustling around the corner. I was not feeling well and had a doctor's appointment scheduled that morning. So, the last thing I expected was a confrontation with Rain's teacher.

She walked right up to where Rain and I stood in the hallway. Her body language presented her anger before she said anything. Then once she opened her mouth, that was it. I reacted from reflex. I no longer saw her as a human being. I just saw someone who was another government official out to burn me. And I went off!

At my best, I am usually very amiable...but at my worst, I can be just like a maddened horse that is rearing and kicking. So, let's just say that this confrontation did not go well and it was very public.

Conflict can often serve as a catalyst for improvement. On that particular day, I made an important decision, which was to remove my kids from school and homeschool them. I was a teacher after all, so how difficult could it be? It was something I'd thought of doing for two years because I was dissatisfied with the public schools in my area. But it suddenly hit me that I could no longer wait for anything to change in the school system. Instead, I had to change. And, so, I did.

I talked to the Elementary School Principal and told him what I was going to do. Then I went home and began to plan. But, of course, I had to cry first to get out all the left over emotions. I realize now that what I was actually dealing with was left over trauma.

Catching My Breath...

The feeling I had that day was relief mixed with a lot of anxiety. There was a feeling of reaching a point of no return.

For a few more weeks, I continued on with my position as Restorative Justice Specialist but for some reason after that confrontation, I didn't feel that I was the person to take on the task of developing a peacemaking program because I was not feeling very peaceful at all.

I then made the decision to leave this position in order to be home with my children. Once I was home, I rested for several days, catching my breath. I realized that I hadn't had any time to relax in years. It was quite a change in pace. I began to work from my home as an online instructor and cultural consultant. And I also began to plan for my children. The possibilities were open for exploration.