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