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.