Friday, August 14, 2009

Pow-wows, Everyday Life, and Twilight Dreams

Returning home is always a blessing. Last weekend I went home to the Omaha Tribe's Harvest Celebration Pow-wow in Macy, NE. This years pow-wow was rumored to have been canceled due to funding issues, however what I seen upon arrival was a full celebration going strong.

Found my mother, Alice Saunsoci, who was sitting behind my brothers' drum group, Rock Bottom. She looked beautiful and relaxed in her light colored regalia and she was extremely happy to see me and the kids. She gave me a hug and kiss and told me to set my chair next to hers.

I sat in my star spangled pow-wow chair for a time mesmerized by the dancing and singing. Kids took off right away to see whatever there was to see. I had told them, as we were traveling back to Macy, about my escapades when I was little. I used to run all over the pow-wow grounds with my cousins chasing the Moore Boys from Pawnee, Oklahoma. So I knew the entire place like my own palm. Lots of good memories there. Heh-heh.

After a time, I became thirsty and got up to go in search for something to drink. I stopped suddenly when I heard someone call me name. My cousin/sister Mary waved me over to where she was sitting. She stood up and gave me a hug as soon as I walked up to her.

"What? No famous writers with you this time?" she asked playfully.

"Nope. No writers, actors, or producers came along with me this time around!" I responded with a smile, "Just me!"

I let my eyes roam the crowd as we stood and talked. Everywhere I looked were familiar faces of my Omaha relatives, with a few unknown ones scattered here and there.

The atmosphere was so very warm and carnival like. It felt good to be amongst my tribe once again.

Mary's question, though said in jest, sent me into a contemplative state. As I walked the midway, continuing my search for some thirst quenching concoction, I realized that the last time I'd been to our pow-wow was in 2007. And, yes, I was accompanied by Christopher Cartmill, the writer/playwright, Mary was referring to. Chris and I had forged an unbreakable bond of friendship and understanding that year. He became my brother.

2007 was about change. Then 2008 was a blur. And 2009?

Contemplation #1: This year has been about rebuilding a life...

We've been in Lincoln for little over a year now and have a comfortable little home in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by good people. It's exactly what I had hoped for.

I heard the M.C., Chiefy, (everyone knows Chiefy!) announce that there was going to be two intertribals before the next special. I hurried back to my mom and we went out to dance in the arena. One of the intertribal songs was sung by my brothers, Omaha Lodge. As they sang, I felt my spirit fill with happiness so I started dancing with a lot of energy. I even felt some tears slip down my face at some point. This was exactly where I needed to be in that moment.

When the song was over and we found our seats again, my kids came bounding over to me smiling like big puppies. They all had snow cones that their Aunty Alison had bought for them. They each said that they were having a good time, then they bounded off once again to who knows where.

Contemplation #2: My kids' happiness is the mainstay of my life...

I have been totally focused on helping my kids adjust to all the changes in their lives. I have been relentless about building resiliency in them and within myself. Standing strong no matter what. A description of resiliency goes like this:

"Resilience is a term used to describe a set of qualities that foster a process of successful adaptation and transformation despite risk and adversity (Benard, 1995). Persons who are resilient have the capacity to withstand, overcome, or recover from serious threat (Masten, 2001). Simply put, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity."

My kids and I have been through some extreme test of adversity in the past year.

A year ago, we stood in a place where we had no home. We faced a situation that held a great threat to our well-being. And we survived it.

Contemplation #3: Our family resiliency is based on our spirituality...

As the pow-wow wound up for the year, the endnote was on a happy one. Everyone was happy! Seeing my kids happy and having fun at our pow-wow brought me great joy, which I am very thankful for! Spending time with my mom also brought us happiness.

This year has been all about building our resiliency through our spirituality. I have been dedicated to going to sweats and sundance, and to learning the Lakota ceremony songs and then singing them to my kids. They are Lakota. They frequently attend sweats and ceremonies with me. They know what I pray for...just as they know what I work on everyday.

In everyday life, I strive to exemplify those virtues that Native people hold dear: Humility, compassion, respect, and fortitude. There are others, of course, but I just wanted to mention those ones right now.

I dream at times when I am still awake. Twilight dreams between the night and day. Glimpses of the strands of time, if there are such things, though I've heard that they are called "strings."

We drove home the next day after pow-wow. Refreshed and ready to began anew. Our little home was waiting for us just as we had left it the day before.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Journey to the Heart...My Home

Many have heard me recite this poem in the past year. It is an epic about the migration of many tribes from the East but it is also my own story. It took me many years to find it and by doing so, I am continuing to walk this journey to the heart, it's unending...

A Journey to the Heart…My Home
By Renee Sans Souci

Dedicated to Bawdwayidun (Eddie Benton-Benai), Grand Chief of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge

It actually began millennia ago…that journey
Brave ancestors walked these pure paths unbridled by self-doubt or shame
We knew as Midewiwin people even then that there was no beginning or no end
And anything was possible we were told…

My grandmothers and grandfathers once trod those sunrise shores
Known as the Atlantic in this new language we speak now
We lived in the hills and the mountains amidst unquenched beauty
Rooted like medicine to a way of life that beheld all of Creation

Our lives were filled with the wonder of the Earth and the Sky
That swirled around us like the protective aroma of cedar and sage
The days were redolent with the offerings of our sacred tobacco
A gift from the Creator for the intercession of All Our Relations

We thrived during this quiescent time at the height of our splendor
Until the seven prophets arrived to prepare us for the coming flood
They sent out a call in urgent proclamation up and down the coastline
Beseeching us to leave our beloved homes for the inland breathe of life

Many were importuned to join this Great Migration to follow the Sacred Shell
So we poured out from the land of the Morning Star People tribe upon tribe
And like a surging river we flowed together with one mind, body, and spirit
Destined to reach the grounds of Manomin the food that grows on top of the water

Out of the woodlands we heard the reverberations of the Little Boy Water Drum across the Great Lakes
Then it came to pass that my people chose a route south of the streaming movement
So we took up the Little Boy and pooled in the Ohio Basin for several generations seeking the plentitude that was offered there
During the era of the lively multi-tribal trading complexes known as the Angel Site and Cahokia

Eventually we proceeded onward through the magnificent Michizeebee along with our Ponca, Quapaw, Osage, and Konze relatives
Where we emerged as the Omaha or those who traveled upstream against the current
Adopting new ways of life we absorbed knowledge from our relatives the Iowa, the Arikara, the Lakota, and the Pawnee
Interspersed in our lives were especially the teachings of the Midewiwin and the Little Boy

Always in motion the people of Turtle Island reflect the teeming movement of the stars
Our energy pulsed in time with the Cosmos, the Four Directions, and the atomic subparticles of the earth
The Omahas referred to this lifeforce energy that permeated everything around us as Wakonda
In this way Wakonda helped us to discern and develop relationships with all the first beings who are the natural elements

Our new source of life was our relative the river Nishude aka the Smoky Missouri
Moving downriver along this watercourse we became known as exemplary peacemakers and agrarians
Experts in settling conflicts and in harvesting corn, squash and beans, the Three Sisters treasured by us all
Earth People, Sky People, our tribal circle was our law, our homes, and our relatives

Generations marked the passage of time with the turning of the sun and the appearance of the moon
Until the light skinned race arrived as was foretold by the seven prophets in the land of the Morning Star People
The first were the Voyageurs, traders from the French Nation, who came bearing gifts of good will
They married into the Omaha and assimilated with an ease as if they had always been a part of us

The others who came after the French brought diseases that ravaged our villages and brought us to the edge of obliteration
The few who survived witnessed their proud lifestyle vanish in the smoke of meaningless words
Millions of acres of land were ceded through treaties made with the United States in false promises of the reservations
Only to find that as wards of the government we were no longer in control of our very breath of life it seemed

The following are words from the Omaha, White Horse:

“Now the face of all the land is changed
and sad. The living creatures are gone.
I see the land desolate, and I suffer
unspeakable sadness. Sometimes I wake in
the night and feel as though I should suffocate
from the pressure of this awful feeling of

So said White Horse on August 13,1912.

My Grandparents and parents lived through the aftermath of such devastation with great resiliency
They were products of an education that strove to silence their beautiful voices and break apart our unending traditions
At a time when we lost so much including the heartbeat of the Little Boy Waterdrum
We were visited by the Sounding Voice, Bawdwayidun, of the Lac Courte Oreille Ojibwe Nation in 1958

My Grandmother was a member of the Shell Society, our midewiwin lodge that began in the time of the Seven Prophets
She was one of those who feted Bawdwayidun and offered him gifts to hear the voice of the Little Boy once again
In those songs were contained the history of our migration which had been dormant memories in my elders’ hearts
Rivulets of my Grandmother’s tears ran unchecked down her face in longing for the original teachings of the midewiwin

Tears are as strong as prayers and leave a trail in unborn hearts that have yet to beat in the future lives of our children
In 1962, I was born, four years after that historic meeting between the Sounding Voice and the Shell Society
What was forgotten by the time I grew up were the connections between all Native people of this land
Unawakened as I was for many years I wondered why I was living in such a barren state of belief

I felt isolated in my own unbearable sadness living through such heartbreak that I thought would never end
But a sound from a distance came my way and I heard my name addressed in a language unfamiliar to my ears
Yet the drumming was quite familiar and it spoke to my wounded heart through ancient beats from earlier times
You belong to me, he said in a young voice, come this way and I will show you the lifeforce of your people

So I followed this calling without hesitation to the woodlands of the Ojibwe Nation
And there I was introduced to Bawdwayidun, the Sounding Voice of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge
Through Bawdwayidun I learned that for 50 years he kept the tears of my Grandmother close to his heart
Our tears mingle together now and mark my journey to the Little Boy who has welcomed me home to the Way of the Heart that is mine…

- Manitou Ishta Duhmoo Quay (Sacred Horse Woman)

“I’m just a human being trying to make it in a world that is very rapidly losing its understanding of being human" - John Trudell (Isanti Dakota)

“Find us Spirit Horses and teach us how to ride! With Seven Generations of promise at our side!” - From the song Spirit Horses by Annie Humphrey (Ojibwe)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Golden Feather...

One of my favorite songs by Robbie Robertson. Found this video on youtube. Lyrics are below...

Golden Feather by Robbie Robertson

I think I'll go on back to Shenandoah
she said that she'd meet me by the fork in the road
I jump start my one eyed Ford
I'm heading for the pow-wow
follow the red path that leads to you.

I gave my love a golden feather
I gave my love a heart of stone
and when you find a golden feather
it means you'll never lose your way back home.

Should I paint my face
should I pierce my skin
does this make me a pagan
sweating out my sins
we ate the sacred mushroom
and waded in the water
howling like coyotes
at the naked moon.

I gave my love a golden feather
I gave my love a heart of stone
and when you find a golden feather
it means you'll never lose your way back home.

In the autumn night
when there's no wind blowin'
I could hear the stars falling in the dark
when you find out what's worth keeping
with a breath of kindness
blow the rest away.

I gave my love a golden feather
I gave my love a heart of stone
and when you find a golden feather
it means you'll never lose your way back home.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Love Remains the Same by Gavin Rossdale

This song suits my mood today. As I am understanding that love really knows no boundaries. Remembering the past as well as what is in the here and now...because I know that no matter what...there is always still love.

a thousand times i've seen you standing
gravity like a lunar landing
make me want to run till i find you
shut the world away from here, drift to you, you're all i hear
everything we know fades to black

half the time the world is ending, truth is i am done pretending

i never thought that i had any more to give
pushing me so far here i am without you
drink to all that we have lost, mistakes that we have made
everything will change, love remains the same

i find a place where we escape
take you with me for a space
a city bus that sounds just like a fridge

walk the streets through seven bars
i had to find just out where you are
the faces seen to blur they're all the same

half the time the world is ending, truth is i am done pretending

i never thought that i had any more to give
you're pushing me so far here i am without you
drink to all that we have lost, mistakes that we have made
everything will change, love remains the same

so much more to say, so much to be done
don't you trick me out, we shall overcome
cause our love stays ablaze

we should have had the sun
could have been inside
instead we're over here

half the time the world is ending, truth is i am done pretending
too much time to love defending, you and i are done pretending

i never thought that i had any more to give
you're pushing me so far here i am without you
drink to all that we have lost, mistakes that we have made
everything will change, everything will change

oh, i.........

this could last forever

oh, i........

we could last forever

love remains the same
love remains the same

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Peace by Colleen New Holy

My daughter Colleen wrote this last night because I was overcome suddenly with such a longing for my former life in the Twin Cities and all that I had gone through there. I have found my peace through her and everything that I do in my life.

For my Mom, Renee...

By Colleen New Holy

Sunshine is gleaming like dewdrops
On a warm spring day
Untouched by wind and protected by light
The breeze is slow and gentle

Peace is hard to find but when you do find it...
Like your one with everything
The tips of grass, the tinkling of leaves on a tree
The warm feeling of the sun

Drifting like snow or blossoms, one by one
You miss your friends, family, and parents
Feeling the calm of day and the dreaminess of night
The warmness of sun
The cold of moondrops

The dew shines like small moons in the moonshine
The leaves shift and sing the birdsong
Trill and twitters of love and kindness

Love is a mystery
but so is the warmth
Of someones love and the love to you back
The slow rhythm of breathing
The rise and fall of waves in the ocean.

In the darkness, a loon calls out
Lake Superior with it's swiftly tilting bowl of water
The calmness of waves on the red shores of the earth
Peace is a measurement of ecstasy

"Give me a small measurement of peace and ecstasy."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Thunder Crib...

The Thunder Crib
By Renee Sans Souci

When we were born
The Sky cradled us in
Blankets of Thunder
While lightening danced
To Creator’s heartbeat
The Earth shared in echoes
Far and wide announcing
Us to the universe
Beginnings are raindrops
Which graced our smiles
In joy through
Our flashing eyes
We knew one another
Before we were sent
To walk with our Mother
As our steps lead us
Back to the Thunder Crib

For the Thunder Dreamers…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Omaha Nation Water Walk Benefit Performance Program

Omaha Nation Water Walk
Benefit Performance

An Evening with:
Renee Sans Souci, Native Poet/Spoken Word Artist

Diane Robinson-Kerr, Flautist/Songwriter
Fran Collier, Guitarist

Welcome: Clair Guthrie

Opening musical piece by Diane Robinson Kerr and Fran Collier

Intro of Renee: Diane Robinson-Kerr

First Reading by Renee, Accompanied by Diane:
Return of the Thunders (spring drum)

Second Reading by Renee (Solo):
Finding the Beauty

Third Reading by Renee, Accompanied by Diane on Big Flute:
Sky & Earth, Blue & Green

Intro of Diane & Fran: Renee
Storytelling by Diane

Fourth Reading by Renee, Accompanied by Diane:
View from the Holy Fire Place

Fifth Reading by Renee (Solo):
Water is Sacred, Water is the Life (Written especially for this event)

Final Reading by Renee, Accompanied by Diane & Fran
A Journey to the Heart…My Home

Final Performance by three women and audience

Omaha Nation Water Walk Benefit Concert Tonight!

Omaha Nation Water Walk Benefit Concert
Raising funds and awareness for Omaha Nation Water Walk

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

7:00pm - 9:00pm

Unitarian Church

6300 A Street

Lincoln, NE

Spoken word artist and poet Renee Sans Souci, songwriter and storyteller Diane Robinson-Kerr, and guitarist Fran Collier join together for an evening of poetry and music to raise awareness and funds for the Omaha Nation Water Walk. E-Coli contamination of water on the Omaha reservation in northeast Nebraska is a continuing problem. The Water Walk, to take place in April, will be a prayer for healing, and will draw more awareness to the problem and possible solutions. Percussion will be provided by the audience!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Letter To The Community...

Ewithai Wongithe! All My Relatives!

Good Morning to each of you! I am forwarding a message that I received today about the National Day of Action for Water in Canada on Monday, April 13, 2009. This event is being co-hosted by the Native Women's Association of Canada in support of the Mother Earth Water Walk started by Grandmother Josephine Mondamin.

The message I would also like each of you to consider here is this: What can each of us do to support this effort in our own communities and in Nebraska?

There is a lot of concern at this time for the contaminated water problem on the Omaha Indian Reservation here in Nebraska. Many families are effected by the contamination such that there are unable to drink any water from their taps out of fear of the E-coli bacteria. This has been on-going for the past several months.

I visited my mother two days ago and saw the situation first hand. She has been drinking bottled water from the one gallon plastic jugs that have been provided by the Omaha Tribe, which is a very good thing. But I am still concerned about the water in those plastic jugs after all the training I've been through last year on bottled water contaminants.

We are all busy, I know, and we must all pick our battles each day as we arise for work. Yet, in this work, is there room to help support an effort that will shed light upon an on-going battle to have safe drinking water in our Native communities?

I propose that we sponsor a Water Walk here in Nebraska not only to show support for our sisters in Canada but to also bring attention to what is happening right in our own backyards. I have heard that it takes a single drop to start a wave...

Contact me via email if you have any more questions! Wibthahon! Thank you!

Ewithai Wongithe! All My Relations!

- Renee

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Congressional Hearing on Native Youth Suicide Rates

Congressional Hearing Explores High Suicide Rates Among American Indian Youth

Eight policymakers, tribal members and health care experts discussed the high rate of suicide among American Indian youth on Thursday during a...

To read the full article, please go to:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Moving Forward...

Moving forward.

I've been working on that this year. Come through a lot these past several months since leaving Minneapolis/St. Paul. I made so many mistakes and have experienced the guilt that goes along with those mistakes. Huge lesson for me in humility.

It's true I had never really intended to live in Lincoln. Wound up here with my kids. Struggled to survive every single day since arriving here.

I thought I had accomplished something by starting to work full-time. That was short-lived. Not long after I started the new job, my youngest son began to unravel. I had just gotten to work that morning after getting everyone off to school. About mid-morning, the school called me and told me to get there as soon as possible. It was an emergency. My son was threatening to kill himself.

I had no car at the time. It hit me so hard that I could hardly stand or think. What was I supposed to do, run over there! I told my supervisor and he recommended that I talk to one of the women upstairs, which I did. Jacinda agreed to drive me to the school.

When I got there, the assistant principal led me upstairs where they had my son. He was being held in a small room with no furniture, windows, or anything. Only bare walls and carpet. He was lying on the floor. Holding his neck with his hands. Every so often he would squeeze himself really good and I could see his fingers turn white.

What had I done wrong? That's all I could think. What am I supposed to do? All I could do was sit down beside him and ask him what was going on. Then I took him into my lap and held him tightly. After a while, he relaxed into my arms and just hung onto me.

I cried as I held him and I kept telling him that I loved him over and over.

The assistant principal asked to talk to me. She said that she had called the children's psychiatric unit and that they were prepared to take my son in for observation. Since he had been saying to everyone how he wanted to hurt himself and had been hitting his head against everything and choking himself, they thought it would be the best thing for me to do.

What was I to do?

I felt totally helpless with no where to turn. So I made several calls. Made arrangements for my other three children. Called my brother, Tony to pick them up after the youth program. And, then I rode with my son the hospital.

We went through a lengthy process of filling out papers. There was a police interview and then an interview with a social worker. I was filling so numb. My son clung to me the whole time. We both just sat in shock holding each other.

Once he was admitted the police then escorted us to the psychiatric unit. Everyone in there was extremely polite and scrutinized me from head to toe. My every move was recorded no doubt. It was so terrifying.

They checked my son into his room. Went over all his belongings and then interviewed me about what led up to his breakdown.

Yes, I thought, that is exactly what has happened. He's had a breakdown and I was unable to prevent it.

My son liked his room immediately. He liked that he had all sorts of toys to play with, especially legos. He liked that he had a TV to himself. His own little bed and his very own bathroom. He seemed to just relax.

When it was time for me to leave. I didn't want to go. How could I leave me son in such a place? The nurses and their assistants more or less pushed me out the doors. So there I stood in the lobby of this hospital. Not knowing which direction to go. In shock. Where were the nurses, psychiatrists, and social workers for me?

When I got out onto the street, the feeling was even worse. What the hell was I supposed to do? I didn't have a ride to go anywhere, so I made my way over to the grocery store. If nothing else, I would just buy a sandwich from the refrigerated section and find a place to sit down.

My friend Nancy called me at that moment. So I poured my heart out to her. She was so supportive and helped me to calm down. Then I called Christopher. He, too, was extremely supportive, even though he was over in New York. Still just to hear his voice was a relief.

I didn't get a sandwich but wound up with some chicken instead. Then I returned to the hospital to find a lounge area where I could sit and think for awhile.

I only knew that I did what I had to do. Not what I wanted to do. I would much rather have had my son with me at that very moment instead of having him in the hospital. What did I do wrong?

Life had been quite rough for us over the years. We saw the break up of our home. We went in separate directions for a time, when my kids went with their dad for a time. We came back together so that we could start over. Rebuild.

So how did it get this bad? I didn't see it coming. Yet, I realized that I had seen this coming. But I had no idea how to prevent it. What was I supposed to do?

I sat in the hospital lounge for an hour or more and then returned to the psych unit for visiting hours. Then I stayed with my son for three more hours. We just held each other and breathed.

Again, when visiting hours were over, I was ushered out. This time, it didn't seem so traumatic but still the feeling that I was abandoning my son was overwhelming. I went downstairs and waited in the lobby for my brother to pick me up. When he did, my three other children were in there and we returned to the family shelter where we were living for a few months.

After my brother dropped us off. I took my children up to our room and got them settled. They had all their snacks and were quite content to just sit back and relax. So I went downstairs to talk to one of the staff members on duty. She was my counselor for the evening.

There's nothing like having someone there just to hear your crying. She listened carefully and was very sympathetic. Prepared to do anything that was called for. All I wanted was to be comforted. When I felt better, she asked if it would be alright to say a prayer for me. I told her that I respected all prayers and that I would appreciate it.

When I returned to my room. I looked at my other children. They asked me what happened, so I explained to them that their brother was in the hospital and that he would be there for several more days. Then we smudged off and went to bed.

In the following days, we fell into a routine. Kids went to school and I took this time to reflect. Then we went to visit my son in the evenings. My brother picked us up each evening after visiting hours. Then we'd return to our room and start over again.

I felt that my faith was being tested to the limit.

The day came when it was determined that my son could be released from the hospital. And as we left that day. He looked up at me and said "Mom, I don't want to go back there again! I just want to be with you!"

How do we shield our children's fragile minds from the onslaught of challenges that threaten to swallow us mind, body, and soul? All I could do was pray.

This traumatic experience has definitely left me on edge. I have not worked since this happened and am not so willing to just accept any position, especially if it would require long hours away from my kids. Just not willing to go there...

Moving forward can be a challenge. We can make it as difficult or as easy as we would like it to be, so I've been told.

Me, I'd just prefer it to be easier for a change. I want to be happy as much as the next person.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Remembering my Father...Frank Saunsoci

It's been eight years since my father made his journey home. Things have changed considerably since he's passed. Kids are older and we no longer live in the country with all our animals. We're urban dwellers now with no pets.

This is a reprinting of a previous blog two years...

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 Sans Souci, February 28, 2003

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Do We Actually Heal?

On a healing journey, when do we actually heal?

While talking to a friend yesterday, she related to me some of the most painful incidences in her life. The physical and mental abuse she endured in her relationship. I listened to her with understanding because I know in many ways what she has been through. And, I can only pray for her that she will come out of it in due time.

In presentations I have given on Native Women and healing, I speak about identifying what has hurt me in the past, confronting what has hurt me, and then letting it go. Forgiving the past. Healing those memories, or more specifically, those cells that carry those traumatic memories.

Not everyone knows that I suffer from a form of Social Anxiety Disorder that stems from childhood incidences of abuse. Particularly from physical and mental abuse from a teacher when I was in the second grade.

My family had just moved to the reservation in 1969. After spending an idyllic summer playing in the countryside of my mother's home. The time arrived for my first day in school. All kids are anxious about the first day, especially when they are new to the district. Being only seven, I had no idea what was in store for me.

The second grade teacher, I was assigned to, was an elderly white woman. She had been teaching on the reservation for years, I'm certain. Probably retired from there, as well. I don't know what it was about me that caught her attention but it seemed from the start, she sought to humiliate me.

I often felt like I was on trial for a crime I didn't even know I had committed. There were times when she would make me stand up in class to answer her. The questions made no sense to me so I often gave her answers which she found unsatisfactory. Her response to "my mistakes" were to shame me and put me down in front of all my classmates. And what made it so bad was that my classmates reveled in my humiliation and laughed at my torture.

As the days continued on, I became more resistant. I did not want to go to school. I fought and cried and begged my parents not to send me into class. It didn't work.

I found myself in the middle of a nightmare that continued for months.

When I refused to respond for this teacher, she would then come over to my desk and drag me out of it and force me to stand up. Often times she hit me with anything that was handy, books were most often her choice.

Then I had to stand in front of the class once again, sobbing my humiliation and hurt, while they laughed openly at me. I had no defenders come to my rescue. And the ultimate betrayal in all of this was that most of my classmates were also my relatives.

I don't know what finally got through to my mother, maybe one of the students from the other classes said something to her. But she came to my class with me one day and confronted the teacher. Whatever this teacher had said to my mother must have set her off because the next thing I know, my mom was chasing her around and around her desk.

I can still see that clearly in my mind.

My parents removed me from that school immediately. But by then, the months I had spent in that teacher's company had left a mark on my spirit.

Children are resilient and heal quickly, they say. I believe that is true for most part. Yet, there is still healing that must occur with the hurt inflicted upon us as children. Many of us adults are still carrying around such hurt that is not healed.

I avoid almost any situation that resembles having to stand up in front of a classroom to be ridiculed. Even the most innocent social interaction sets me on an edge where I don't care to be. So instead of welcoming such interaction, I flee, much to the consternation of friends, colleagues, and relatives.

So, over the years, I realized that in order to heal that part of me, which is that child that still carries those memories, I had to confront those fears and anxieties. I forced myself to stand up in front of classrooms by becoming a teacher myself. Only I am hopefully, one who is more considerate of the young spirits in my charge.

The other thing I have done is to become a performance artist of the spoken word. The poetry I create and read to others is based on the hurt, the healing, and the spiritual relationships we have to one another and to the Earth and the Sky.

And, of course, I write.

And I champion those whom I feel need my support. Especially the children. Since I am also a mother of four intelligent, sensitive souls.

I am still learning to heal myself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

King Without A Crown by Matisyahu...

My brother Chris Cartmill turned me onto Matisyahu about three years ago. I just love his song "King Without A Crown." When I hear it, it makes me happy because this is how I feel about the Grandfathers everyday...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

25 Random Things About Me...Taken from Facebook

I'm addicted to Facebook! This list came out over the last few days and many of us, bravely decided to fill it out. Then I thought I'd add it to my blog. I still haven't figured out how to link my blog to Facebook. See how that goes!

Anyway here is the list:

25 Random things about me:

1. One of my Indian names is Sacred Horse Woman, which mostly all my friends and relatives know me by. (I have two others.)
2. I grew up hearing the Omaha language all around me but did not speak it!
3. As a result, I advocate for Native language revitalization.
4. Studied 4 foreign languages: English, Spanish, French, and German.
5. Studying 3 indigenous languages: Omaha, Ojibwe, and Lakota.
6. I have designed a Native language immersion school.
7. My goal is to bring it into existence as I was instructed to do by the Tunkasilas, Manitous...
8. I love reading and writing poetry.
9. One of my poems, "View from the Holy Fire Place" was read in the Sacred Sites Production last year. (Credit to Sheila Rocha who did a wonderful job in creating an amazing show!).
10. I saw and touched the Berlin Wall a year before it was torn down.
11. I have actually sat in a beer garden with singing Bavarians (But I forgot to wear lederhosen).
12. I climbed the steps of one of the spires of the Cologne Cathedral nearly to the top but couldn't make it because I'm afraid of heights!
13. I love skydiving...just kidding, I'm afraid of heights, remember? Checking to see if you are paying attention.
14. I love riding my bike because when I do I feel like I can do anything or go anywhere.
15. I love singing (no, not with the Bavarians, I just love singing, with my bros, especially).
16. One of my favorite songs is Native Dance Hall by Native Roots, a reggae band.
17. A few years ago, I became a spiritual runner and ran for the youth and for sacred sites! (Am still on call for all spiritual runs.)
18. Heyokas are attracted to me or I am to them. (So what does that make me?)
19. Last year, I became a danzante (Aztec Dancer). I love Danza.
20. I used to smoke.
21. I long to live in a home that is more aligned with our Native traditions, like an earthlodge with a contemporary twist.
22. I only watch t.v. for about 15 minutes a day or less.
23. I love the mountains, the badlands, the deserts, and the woodlands, and any place there is water.
24. Water is sacred. I am a protector of water.
25. My kids are my anchor, without them I don't know where I'd be, probably living out in the wild somewhere...ferally.

Jim Main, Sr. Being Laid to Rest Today...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Jim Main, Sr., takes flight to Spirit World

Found this posted on another blog entitled Censored News...

By Tia Oros Peters
Photo of Jim Main, Sr, at home by Brenda Norrell
Dear Seventh Generation Fund Relatives and Friends,

With a heavy heart I share with you the news of Jim Main Sr., (Gros Ventre) passing to the Spirit World. As many of you may remember Jim Main, he was a steadfast and unrelenting warrior for Indigenous Peoples and especially for our homelands and sacred sites. In fact, his words and guidance helped inform our Sacred Sites Protection Campaign – including our memorable person Sacred Earth Summit in 2001 in Seattle, WA, and again, in 2002 in San Diego, CA.

A member of the White Clay Society, Jim was a treasured leader to Seventh Generation Fund for many years. He will be sorely missed by our organization. We trusted Jim. We were honored when he attended our convenings and shared his great wisdom, wit, and generous spirit. He taught us through his conduct and his dedication. We looked to him often to help us. And, he was always generous.

Jim was a true and consistent warrior, to be sure. And, as such, he was also a gracious, kind, thoughtful and honorable leader that set for us a clear pathway of how to continue work on behalf of our respective peoples.

Jim would be so pleased to know of recent sacred sites victories in places like Panhe in California, and just a couple of days ago in Zuni, New Mexico. It would have been great to march with him in Redding, in the struggle to protect Hatchet Mountain (Pit River Country) from (so-called green) windmills that will damage a sacred area, and severely impact golden and bald eagle habitat. He knows, where he is now in the other world, that we will continue the good fight for our peoples. Today, in mourning, and reflecting on how much we have learned from Jim Main Sr., we carry forward – heavy hearted but as determined as ever to strive, to fight, to honor our ancestors, as he did.

It is always so hard when we lose one of our elders. The world seems that much emptier, bigger, more difficult to travel through. Jim’s presence meant a great deal to so many of our community and projects. SGF sincerely hopes that our work continues to carry forth the great legacy and integrity of Jim Main Sr., a warrior of character, determination, and outstanding leadership. On behalf of our organization, board, staff and the Indigenous communities we serve throughout the Indigenous World, I extend a heartfelt condolence to Jim’s family, community and Nation.
May he be in peace.
All Our Relations,
Tia --Tia Oros Peters, Executive Director, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Development, Office Ph: 707-825-7640 x111
Supporting Social, Environmental and Cultural Justice for 32 Years (1977 – 2009)

In memory of Jim Main, Sr., the following interview is posted, written while I visited with him and his family at home, on Gros Ventre land two years ago. Sincere condolences to his family. Jim was a true warrior, arising with courage in his lifelong fight for the people, Brenda Norrell

In Montana, Indians are guilty until proven innocent

By Brenda Norrell

HAYS, Montana – James Main, Sr., Gros-Ventre and longtime advocate of Indian rights, said some conditions have improved for American Indians in Montana, particularly the treatment of Indians by government officials. Ranchers in north-central Montana often get along well with
Indian cowboys.
However, the treatment of Indians by the Montana Justice System has not improved its treatment of Indian people.
"We've got a long way to go with the Justice system. I'd like to see a handful of radical attorneys come over here and shake this place up, attack the system," Main said.
Main, known internationally as a voice for Indigenous Peoples, now in poor health following open-heart surgery, has a personal view of the state system.
James Sr. laughs remembering how Bill Means said Jim Jr. should be a comedian because of his impersonations of John Wayne and others. Jim Jr. was the caregiver of his mother, Vernie White Cow Main, who lives on the homesite where she was born on Big Warm Creek on the Fort Belknap Nation.
James Sr. said, "Jim took care of her. He almost had to be a nurse for six months. He trained himself to take care of her."
James Sr. spent his life traveling for Indigenous rights, helping those who needed him. "I decided to do some good," he said of his decision to live a life in service to humankind.
"I learned a lot about different people and different cultures. I never knew there were other Indians in California. I thought John Wayne got them all," James Sr. joked.
"It's good to travel, travel around."
Seated at home in the community of his childhood at Hays, James Sr. is surrounded by memories and the passing of time.
"I don't know how long I'm going to last. I have got a lot of people praying for me. These Mayan Indians went up on a pyramid in Guatemala.
It must have been a very powerful ceremony. I knew; it was in my mind."
On his living room wall, there is a huge poster of a Gros Ventre man. It reads, "Sits on High, EK-GIB-TSA-ATSKE, of the White Clay People A'AH'NI NIN."
James Sr. looks at the poster and says, "He did what they wanted him to do, settle down. Then, they took his land."
Speaking about those who took the land here, rich in gold, water and forests, he says, "They make a fortune and they die."
These days, James Sr. teaches his grandsons the philosophy that he has lived by. It is the philosophy of pride, self-esteem and honoring the culture.
"Go back to your old ways, traditions and culture. That is what I teach my grandsons. Try to get the language back," he adds. There are only a handful of speakers left.
James Sr. remembers the harsh years at St. Paul's Mission School.
During second grade, when the children went to pray during Christmas mass, the nuns told them Santa Claus would come if they had been good.
If not, there would be willow switches waiting. When they returned, they expected presents and instead found a stack of willow switches. There was also writing on the blackboard.
"I recognized the writing. It was a priest's, telling us how bad we were."
The little children were often beaten. James Sr. remembers, "They would slap us around for nothing."
Remembering his father Tom Main, James Sr. said, "He was a humanitarian, a real leader. He did things for nothing. He could have amassed a fortune, but he didn't."
James Sr. said Tom Main served as an interpreter at a time when few White Clay People spoke English. Tom served on the executive committee of the National Congress of American Indians.
"I learned a lot from him, he was honest to a fault," Jim Sr. said of his father.
"We had a pretty rough upbringing, we were poor and we had to haul water a long way. We burned wood, so we had to saw wood. My mother used to wash on Saturdays, all we did all day long was haul water."
James Sr. grew up with three brothers and four sisters. Today, all of his brothers are living and the oldest is 86. He served in the Air Force in Japan and was there when the Korean War began in 1950.
James Sr. also worked in the copper mines for 15 years. "That's where there was never racism, a melting pot."
The happiest days of his life were spent during his high school years. "We rode horseback, we rode bucking horses; there were lots of wild horses. We had powwows during the holidays, I really enjoyed those. We had bone games, hand games, we would sing songs and have a guessing game. We tried to guess whose hand the bone was in."
The men and women played each other. Kumeyaay have similar games, he said. During their travels, both Jim Sr. and Jim Jr. earned the respect of Indian people.
Read entire article:
From Indigenous Environmental Network: Jim Main Sr., elder and warrior was an intregal part in the founding and creation of IEN, and was a long term National Council member for IEN. He was also a member of the International Indigenous Treaty Council and the Grand Governing Council of the American Indian Movement. His teachings of wisdom and the memory of his humor and traditional songs will stay with us.Ga-a-woo-wuss (Coyote Bear), a.k.a. James Main, Sr., of the White Clay Nation died peacefully in his sleep at approximately 4:30 a.m. on January 29, 2009. His hard-fought battle with End-Stage Congestive Heart Failure over the past several years finally took its toll about two weeks ago. Like a true warrior, he did not go down easily, but went with honor and dignity. To the end, he maintained his humor, making those around him laugh…and cry as he used his dwindling strength to sing, talk Indian, pray, and tell of old times. Always at the center of his heart and spirit was the survival of the Red Nations. It is an overwhelmingly sad day for his loved ones here on earth, but truly a victorious day for a warrior who is so deserving of the peace, love, and acceptance he will meet as all our relatives take him to his rightful place in the spirit world, known as the “Big Sands” to the White Clay people.Wake services will be held Saturday, January 31 beginning at 5:00 p.m. at his residence in Hays, Montana.
Traditional services will be held Sunday, February 1 at 1:00 p.m. followed by burial at the family cemetary in Big Warm, Montana.

If you would like to make a contribution to the family at this time -
Please Contact: Rose Main: 406.390.5350 (mobile), 406.673.3013 (home)
James Main, Sr.'s residence: 406.673.3813
William "Snuffy" Main: 406.945.7349
Harold "Jiggs" Main: 406.262.3041

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rest in Peace Steve Casanova...

SCSU prof dies of cancer

A well-loved leader in the Hispanic community and St. Cloud State University associate professor died Thursday.

Stephen Casanova died after a short battle with cancer, friend Eduardo Martinez said. Casanova taught in the Ethnic Studies Department at St. Cloud State. He was a frequent speaker around Minnesota on topics of immigration and ethnicity.

Martinez said Casanova was a model in the Hispanic community and acted as a mentor to many students.

“We lost a role model and true leader within the Hispanic community,” Martinez said.

Each summer, Casanova took students on service-learning trips to Mexico. They helped build houses and irrigation channels. Martinez’s son Dan went on six or seven such trips with Casanova.

Casanova earned his bachelor’s degree in 1978 from Southwest Texas State University. He then moved north, earning his master’s degree in 1987 and his doctorate in 2001 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Martinez said the news of Casanova’s death broke his heart.

“I’m going to miss him very much,” he said.