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...