Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reflections on Healing, Renewal, and Living with Vows...

I have been on a healing journey to the heart since the day I was born. As a mother of four, a writer, and teacher, I am continually challenged to find new ideas and connect those ideas with our traditions. This is what has led me to the great state of Minnesota.

The first step to my own healing was the realization that I needed to be healthy. And, that meant I had to change! Quite an undertaking, I tell you. I mean, I have been alcohol and drug free for many years but that wasn’t enough. I was missing an important ingredient that had to do with my own self-determination and spirituality. My life became a disaster two years ago because I had just gone through separation and I was struggling to hold my family together.

So, I worked on myself--physically at first. I lost a lot of weight, adjusted my diet, etc. Then I worked on my mental attitude and began to see results from the shift in my consciousness reflected in everyone around me. I also went through therapy and traditional ceremonies to begin my emotional and spiritual healing as well. I dealt with issues of intergenerational trauma and faced them head on for the first time in my life.

Most of my trauma, I saw, centered on the concept of shame. Much of which wasn’t even my own. This was shame that had been passed down through generations from the time of first contact, I was certain. This element of shame coated everything in my life. I really believed that I had to hide my problems from everyone (and not air my dirty laundry so to speak). So I struggled to maintain a fa├žade of success, while inside I was in so much pain. There were many times when I had the urge to just give up and start drinking again or to take anything just to feel numb. Ironically, it was only when I actually faced the ruins of my world that I was able to identify what I was really feeling. Then I saw the shame slide off my body like water draining from a basin. When it was gone, I felt so much lighter and free.

The renewal came when I actively sought out the ways of our ancestors. I began to ask questions that pertained to our identity as Native people and to our traditional practices. Some questions kept me awake night after night pondering: What does it mean to be Native in this contemporary time? Are we Native only during certain times of the day or week? Or is this something that we are 24/7?

People thought I was crazy and asked me why I even worried about such things. “Of course, we’re Native!” they said, “It’s in our DNA! Right?”

Well, once I started down this path, I couldn’t stop. It became my obsession and I wanted to find out if it is truly possible to live as a Native year round, without compromise. Where no one would actually question our inherent right to practice and develop our traditional ways in accordance to Native beliefs. Is this possible? I had to give it a try. My experience was quite challenging and revealing. Challenging because many people were opposed to the thought of how I was living. Revealing because I found out that in order to live by Native values, I had to let go of my own misconceptions of what that meant. But I did it for nearly two years. During this time, I homeschooled my children and worked from home part-time. And, I lived without many conveniences.

I spent two years examining the values that shaped me. From all of this self-examination, I posed these questions. How did our ancestors maintain their honor and conviction in everything they did? What did they do and how did they do it? I knew that the answer to this was the key to my own sanity.

The answer is that our ancestors walked with honor. That honor was held binding through the making of vows.

So, I decided to make vows to the Above, to the Grandfathers, to the Creator. These vows were to serve my people in the best way that I can. Now I became committed. My honor was called upon. And my honor became my shield…one that I walk with each day.

As I began to put my life back together as a single mother, I saw patterns. More realizations came that if we could all make our own vows, whatever they might be, wouldn’t this make a difference in the way we walked our own life paths? Particularly in maintaining our own sobriety and how we teach our children?

Living with vows means subscribing to principles that must be adhered to day and night. That’s how our ancestors lived.

Extremist that I am, it’s what I strive to follow. And, teach. And, of course the most important lesson for me in all of this is that I do so with my heart in my hand.

Ewithai Wongithe! All My Relations!

- Shonge Xube Wau (also known as Renee Sans Souci)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Return of the Thunders...

My latest poem I read on Friday, April 25 at the Spring Feast hosted by the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center.

Return of the Thunders
By Renee Sans Souci

This is a sacred time!
Where life begins
In the balance of the universe
Blue for the Sky, Green for the Earth
Then all around us
The Life Givers dance and sing...

Our life circles began as one
Energy that is unending
Surrounding us with Beauty
Renewal time known as Spring
When the Thunder Beings come home
To remind us still...

That life and death are one
Ancient miracles that balance
The budding of the trees
And the falling of the leaves
Echoes of voices singing
Songs of Red and Black...

Our life circles breathe
Inhaling a new beginning
Exhaling to honor the past
Sacred Breath a gift to us
From the Thunders, Bringers of Life
Returning. Returning.

This is a sacred time!
Where life begins
In the Return of the Thunders
Red and Black,
Reflected everywhere
Welcome them! Welcome them!
They are home.

Happy I've Got My Kids Back!

My kids came back to me two weeks ago, after spending nearly a year with their dad, Charles.

Our marriage broke up two years ago and the divorce was finalized in September of 2007. We had no disputes over any property. My only request to him was that he make sure that his kids inherit his land in Pine Ridge.

The kids said that they enjoyed their time with their dad. He also said that he enjoyed every minute with them. It was a special time for all of them.

I can honestly say at this time that I hold no rancor toward their father. We spent almost four days together as a family again (just for clarification for certain parties, we made agreements as parents not as husband and wife) here in the Twin Cities before he returned to North Dakota and to Canada (where he has remarried).

So, it is back to me and my kids again. I have my work cut out for me here. I love my kids so much! I missed them greatly while we were apart. Now I feel whole once again.

I do have lots to work on. I work for the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center. I am also becoming more serious about my writing. People are taking me more serious too! It's amazing how this is all working out now. I actually get paid for writing! Not much...yet. But I am getting there!

I have a mini-van for my kids. Yippee Skippee! And, I am looking for a place to live at this very second. Last Friday, I was approached for the second time by an Ojibwe woman from Augsburg College. She is recruiting for a Tribal Special Education Cohort Master's Program. I gave it a lot of thought over the weekend and have decided that it's time to go back to school! I've got to keep moving forward. I feel energized...