Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Family events, presentations and basketball news.

The last week or so has been a whirlwind of family events, presentations and sensational basketball news.  It's just now calming down and I'm glad because yard-work, gardening and chores await. 

The PBP Tribal Court asked me to give a historical presentation to a group from the Republic of Zambia and that is a long way from here, by anybody's estimation. They represented their Supreme Court.  Zambi is located in Southern Africa for you geography buffs.  I imagine that is one hot country. One, Matthew Zulu, asked me if I would go out of the country to give presentations.  I said yeah, I will go to Topeka once in awhile.  Our Royal Valley Drummers and Singers gave a dance performance and that is always good to watch.

The next day, we all loaded up our vehicles, all dressed up in our going-to-town clothes and went to witness my granddaughter, Tara, graduate from Haskell U in Lawrence, Kansas.  The same town where the Jayhawks are located.  We had to endure some long-winded speeches, gift-giving, long periods of name-dropping and a whole lot of back-slapping and I imagine the graduating class was sitting there wondering if it would ever end so they could make the walk they had waited so long for.  Tara started out at KCK on a basketball scholarship but later transferred to Haskell. She wanted to be around her friends and did well there. I was glad to see her accomplish this milestone in her life.  Tara was the first of our grandchildren, and they were my second-chance gift from God to get it right. Afterwards, we contributed to the local economy by going to eat at a local restaurant starving after all the drama of the graduation.  I asked the waitress if she would call Bill Self and ask him if he was available for a meal with us. She laughed. My nephew William Gary Mitchell also graduated on this day.  He's a good kid, too. 

After a day of rest, if you call working in the yard all day, a day of rest, we geared up for our next family event - watching my grandchildren Hooty and Kek graduate from Royal Valley High School.  Unlike the Haskell speech-a-thon, this was a fast moving event and just like that, it was over.  I enjoyed watching my two grandchildren graduate.  It wasn't easy at times.  Hooty struggled with some health issues and Kek didn't apply herself at times but both did what they had to do to finish.  It seemed like they were little kids not long ago running in and out of the house, so it is true that they grow up fast. We had a big meal after the graduation where many of our family and friends showed up.  The highlight was a band hired by Hooty's dad.  The sang to the group.  I, too, enjoyed that. These graduations will always remain a great memory for me, not just for the event but what they accomplished. I have no regrets with my grandchildren, except they took a lot of my disposable income away from me, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Oh, what was the basketball news, you might ask.  KU pulled off the biggest recruiting coup of the year by signing Andrew Wiggins, a guy everybody wanted. Now KU will be knocking at the Final Four door again.  Bill Self is one great recruiter, hence the term "in bill, we trust."  They later picked up a guy from Memphis and along with the rest of the class this will be keep KU in the limelight for  a good long while. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Basketball in 2013

Before I watched the girls from Louisville play last night, I watched a special called "Off the Rez." It covered  Shoni and Jude Schimmel basketball journey from the rez to the city of Portland, 200 miles away.  It wasn't an easy life, starting with their parents.  The father was white and the mother Indian and many of his friends shunned him, as did his dad for getting with an Indian woman.  In a way we hoped that racist behavior stopped long ago, but not so. It is alive and well and something we have to deal with on a daily basis, as they did.  

It is a tribute to how hard work paid off for the girls despite so much poverty and hardship. Often times it is hard to leave home for young people, whether you live on a rez or not, but they took up the challenge and went to Louisville, Kentucky to play basketball.  I went by Louisville one time, a long time ago and don't remember much about it. No matter, it was a long way from home for the Shimmel sisters.  The girls had a big following in Portland including their two 80 year great grandmothers who drove to all the games and would get home at 3 in the morning. Of course, that's what family is all about.  Their mother pushed them hard to be all the could be and the rest is history.

By getting to the National Championship game, they have fired the Indian nations up and it is great to see them receive recognition and to create so much positive news. Indian people need this. They will be Indian rock stars for years and will serve as inspirations to young Indian kids across this country - this is what can happen if you use your talent the right way and rise above a petty world, if not down-right vicious at times. 

Maybe the young girl in this picture, Shuggy, will see that special and hear about the Schimmel sisters and what they have accomplished and she will pick up a basketball and put in the necessary hard work and if she doesn't, that's alright too.  For that matter, any Indian kid can learn from the Schimmel journey.  Nonetheless the Schimmel sisters have made the Indian people across this country proud.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A weekend trip to Southeast Kansas

Photo: Patkoshuk won 1st place in the grass dance category in Coffeyville, Kansas
Let me tell you this story about a short trip into southeast corner of the State of Kansas and you have to have a reason to go there and for us it was to watch our grandson Patkoshuk dance at a pow-wow.

After crossing Potato and Opossum Creeks and driving through many failing towns, we arrived in Coffeyville, Kansas.  As we all know, food on the road leaves a lot to be desired.  If you want to make it to your destination on time, a sit down breakfast is pretty much out, so that leaves McDonalds or junk food at gas stations as the only real options.  Once we arrived and drove around town, we bought some tamales from some old white guy who swore up and down his wife was Mexican. The food was good, though.  

Patkoshuk took first place in the grass category.  He is doing well with his dancing and we try our best to support his efforts, plus he expects us there. He rode the bus down.  I think he prefers to be with his friends on the bus rather than us old folks.  I told Voncile on the way, that we have been doing this for a lot of years –supporting our kids, and now our grandchildren by going to just about every event they had. We’ve seen a lot of pow-wow dancing, softball games and basketball games all over, far too many to list.  But looking back, there was nothing wrong with that.

On the way home, we were fully intending to hit the nearest Indian casino to help the Indian economy, but decided against it since we would be home late and we don’t do well driving late at night.  You know the routine, arguing over who is going to drive, etc. We took a county road toward Independence, Kansas and this area had some might big churches along the way.  Bible Belt, I guess. And there were also some huge homes, so there must be some wealth in the area and we saw the other side of the spectrum, too, when we saw a man with a huge backpack walking down the train tracks. Two young boys, probably his sons were walking with him. A scene like that should make us thankful for having a roof over our heads.

 I drove a bit faster than normal going home since I wanted to see the end of the KU game.  I even passed up some old folks. The draw-back was we had to listen to KU radio announcers Bob Davis and Greg Gurley.  Davis has a good voice and is a top announcer, but this Gurley guy tries to overcompensate his weak voice by acting like he knows everything and that is so distracting.  We arrived for the last 10 minutes of the game. I should have taken my time since KU took a first class beating reminiscent of a routine police brutality scene, but they will learn from this loss and do what has to be done in the future.
And as I always say, I will return if God’s willing and the creek don’t rise and we did make it home, safe and sound from another road trip supporting one of our own

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mrs. Wamego

This is a picture of my Mother, Alberta.  She's been gone for quite a few years now but I won't ever forget her.  My mother was a fluent speaker who was never given the credit for what she knew and did.  Her and my mother-in-law were never honored for the hard work they did in their lives which was raise a large family with love and care and overlooked the faults of their kids and was always there to hear their kids problems of the day.  I know because I went to her when things were wrong and I learned some Potawatomi words from her in the good moments.  She sat in her chair and I would sit on her couch and she would tell me how to say this and that and would give me hell if I said the words wrong.  She was a hard teacher.  Her approach wouldn't work today because of the sensitive nature of people but it worked for me.  People dont want to hear the Potawatomi words much anymore.  That's their problem though.  My grandson Pat ko shuk is learning her words today.  He had done invocations when he was 10 years old.  she would have been proud to see that, as well as my nephews who talk at times in our religion setting.  Oh, I'm sorry for not writing much here anymore but I spend way too much putting my commentaries on that other social medium.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Review I did once on a book by Russell Means

A few days ago Russell Means died in South Dakota.  I met him once many years ago.  I read his book and wrote a review on it, so people could understand the political climate of the times. Usually when someone dies people will buy up their songs or books so this will tell you a little about his book in case you might want to order it.

Book Review on Russell Means

  R.I.P.     Whether we agree with the politics of the American Indian Movement or not, a new book entitled Where White Men Fear to Tread, The Autobiography of Russell Means (New York: Martins Press 1995) gives an important perspective on a form of Indian leadership in contemporary times.  Additionally, the book gives Means a venue to tell his side of the story on how AIM operated during a period of reawakening for Indian people.  Modern writings such as the Means book are needed to give a balanced account of the turbulent years of the radical 1960 and 1970s.  It was a time where life changed drastically for all Indian people.          

    Means, no doubt, was a much criticized man of his generation.  He was criticized not only for his revolutionary tactics and grandstanding but also his perceived ego-trip at the expense of the masses.  These charges, warranted or not, are addressed to a degree in his book.  Personalities aside, the book covers a critical time in the lives of Indian people.  The movement opened up the eyes of many Indian people and more than a few closed doors.  It was a time when Indian people decided they were no longer satisfied with the status quo and were ready to follow anyone to change society.           

    The Indian people had long been acclimated to years of exploitation, racial prejudice, blatant BIA politics and poverty so rampant that it defied explanation.  It was a time for change. All of these numerous factors extended to the reservation and the urban Indian.  In fact, one of the original purposes of the AIM group was to stop the terror tactics of the Minneapolis police force where beating up a drunken Indian was considered a sport.

  This scenario was comparable in towns bordering Indian reservations where the treatment was the same from narrow-minded, racist police forces.   

  Changes started to happen elsewhere in America when groups such as the Black Power and Woman’s Liberation Movement decided to stand up for their collective rights, which started a chain reaction in minority circles.

  In Indian country, people like Russell Means too decided they had enough of the daily mistreatment.  Thus, Russell Means was viewed as a reactionary, but was he really?  Or was it the only method?  Whether we can give Russell Means, Dennis Banks or Clyde Bellcourt any credit for this dramatic change because of their often confrontational politics, it nonetheless happened.

  Means’ early life was not much unlike that of many of the rest of Indian people—a roller coaster ride, for sure. He grew up poor on an Indian reservation where he encountered racial prejudice, lived in poverty and in an alcoholic home, and attended schools where teachers did not care if Indians learned or not.        

  Means experienced several divorces and openly admitted a problem with alcohol.  Later he experienced all the frustration of trying to work in the white world where he found advancement was a word that did not include Indians.  Sound familiar?  All these factors played a huge role in Means’ political evolution.

  But, the whole book was not all about Means.  One strong area of this writing was the coverage of the bits and pieces of different tribes’ oral traditions and history.  This alone made the book worth reading.  Starting with the creation of the Indian Center in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1960s, Means used his organizing ability to get a center established that provided needed services for the Indian people in that city.  Shortly afterwards, Means met the leaders of AIM, “all dressed up like Indians” at a conference in San Francisco, and his life changed forever, both at home and in his career. Means joined the ranks of Clyde Bellcourt and Dennis Banks and soon became part of the inner circle of AIM.

  In the book, Means described what AIM stood for:  they spoke out against the injustices of the past, especially all the land grabs; they challenged Christianity, colonialism and pointed out how the BIA had achieved a slightly privileged class of colonial administrators.  In his indictment of tribal councils, Means referred to them as “hang around the fort Indians” and “to live a better life than the rest of the people, they would do literally anything the BIA told them to do.”

  Sometimes the truth hurts and this message was met with severe resistance from the BIA, tribal governments and many Indian people.  The book gives an in-depth analysis of his experiences in this regard. Since the message was often delivered in a militant manner, many Indian people did not want to listen or enlist in the cause.

  This didn’t prevent AIM from recruiting a good following of Indian people who believed it was the time for change, and it was.  Indians from all over the country followed Means and AIM to protests in small racist towns in South Dakota, large cities, the takeover of Wounded Knee, and to the top of Mount Rushmore to deliver the message that Indians were not going to take unfair treatment anymore.  AIM grew in strength over the years but not without internal power struggles, which was a drawback for the needed united front of a movement.  The book describes the antagonism between the leaders of AIM.  For instance, solving an argument with a gun was not out of the question.  And the many other power struggles, no doubt, prevented more goals from being reached.

  As expected, the leaders of AIM had to put up with persecution from tribal governments, local police and the court systems. If it were not for lawyers like Larry Leventhal and Bill Kunstler putting in long hours in their defense, the AIM leaders would have sat in jail for years. But getting “pro-bono” work from top notch lawyers is not an option available for the rest of Indians.

  Another aspect of the book gives Means’ side of the story in Longest Walk of 1978—a protest to bring national attention to Indian problems—to counter the charges that he only participated at the end of the walk for publicity.  Means may not be the most popular Indian to ever come down the trail, but the book is a must read to get one version of Indian leadership in modern times and how obstacles are thrown in the path of change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Politics, Shuggie and more politics!

It’s that time of the year where the political ads and sound bites are getting the best of us.  I, for one, get real tired of it.  Some people can’t suppress racial leanings or feelings toward women, but that’s a problem they have.  One guy said everybody is not like that and you can’t hold it against a whole party and hell he might be right to a certain extent.  Who really knows? Obama should win, but not by that much and just think if the Republicans could have rousted out a decent candidate they could have controlled the world and Mars for the next eight years.  But I don’t get paid to advise anybody.  Keep in mind, no matter who does get in there, nothing will get done – there are way too many agenda’s going on today and the last time I checked pissing contest don’t add up to results or sustainable progress. Term limits could possibly solve some of that mess!  There are way too many Demagogues and power mongers who make their way to the halls of Congress and political discourse deteriorates into an ugly exercise of self-importance and underhanded tactics. Plus, I may not vote at all because I don’t want to show an ID to some old diddy  at the polling place -who probably thinks I’m a Mesican. I'm too old to be deported while they figure out I'm Indian. For you folks who do vote, sometimes the chain of low-expectations needs to be broken, nationally and locally. Good luck!

We are due for a quarterly General Council meeting this Saturday.  Those are some hum-dingers, entertaining and hurtful for some at times.  It’s time for elected officials to pay for their sins of the last three months. I’m a long-time attendee and participant and after the first rush of tears it becomes alright. 
On the home-front, my great granddaughter Shuggie is walking now, she started a few days after her birthday.  When I get done with my work day duties I have to get my Shuggie fix, hold her, kiss her and baby her. She makes my day. 

I have my garden plots ready for Spring planting. It took some work but it’s done.  I’m also working on a couple of wood projects and that’s always fun. I also track KU basketball recruiting and they are getting the big dogs for the future.  In Self we Trust!


Monday, October 1, 2012

One account of Chief Kack Kack

I recently read a book called  Willie Whitewater. It is the story of W.R. Honnell’s life and adventures among the Indians as he grew up with the State of Kansas. As told by him.  A teacher at Royal Valley High School let me read the book.  Her name is Lana Dillner.  I hadn’t heard of the book before I seen this one.  I always said that some of my historical work lacked the non-Indian perspective and this book does some of that.  I sometimes regret not interviewing some of the non-Indian farmers and people who lived around our reservation to add more depth to my body of work.   

The only real contact I had was with Sam Calderwood who recently passed away and he would talk about some of his contacts on the reservation.  He owned some land in the middle of the reservation, but we didn’t really sit down and discuss the details of his time out here.  He wanted me to stop by his house in Topeka. He said “Gary when you go by and you see me sitting outside, stop and we’ll visit,” but he never was out there when I went by and that’s how first-hand accounts are lost. It was the same with many farmers here who rented Indian lands, they could have added more to the story.
But back to this story:  W.R. Honnell was appointed Indian agent for Kansas by President McKinley and he worked among the Kickapoo as well as the Potawatomi.  With the Potawatomi, he dealt with two chiefs:  Shough nes see and Kack Kack and two headmen:  Masquah and Pis hse dwin, along with an interpreter, Jim Blandin.  Honnell told them in a meeting, “The buffalo have gone, They are not coming back.  The Indian is no longer able to go out on the prairie and hunt his own meat.  He must take up his share of the white man’s burden, learn to follow his customs and accept his ways.”  Soon after Indian kids were going to school to learn this way.

Later he convinced the Potawatomi leadership to use proceeds from land rentals to have a Christmas party where the Potawatomi had a tree, decorations, apples, oranges, candy and some small gifts for the children.  It was well-received among the people.
Most of the focus of this book was devoted to Chief Kack Kack of Sak descent, but he was adopted into the Potawatomi Tribe.  He married Martha, a daughter of the Chief Shobonee.  In the early 1900’s Honnell took a trip to visit President Teddy Roosevelt and took Kack Kack along, as well as the interpreter Jim Blandin.  The old Chief  had only one request and that was to see Niagara Falls.  Honnell agreed and soon boarded a train eastward.  Along the way, Kack Kack fell into a deep sleep and somebody clipped off some of his bear claws he had around his neck.  It was a disappointment to the old man since he had killed these bear and mean’t something to him.  Yet, the old man did his best to forget the shortcomings of another.  After seeing Niagara Falls, Kack Kack could only stand in awe of what he had seen.  Honnell asked him what he thought and Kack Kack said it was beautiful and ended by saying  that it also would be a good place to start a saw mill.

From there the group proceeded to Washington D.C. and with Kack Kack dressed in full regalia brought many a stare.  At the White House, Roosevelt asked them what tribe they belonged to and they replied, “Potawatomi.”  He said “you Indians massacred a lot of white folks at Fort Dearborn,  Why did you do that?” Kack Kack said “Mr. President, why is it that when the white man conquers the Indians, it is a great victory, but when the Indian wins it is a massacre?”  The President was amused at his reply.  His encounter with the “Great White Father” was brief but a memorable occasion for Kack Kack.  He was impressed with the President’s knowledge of his tribe and being gracious to the old chief.  Earlier Roosevelt had completed his “The Winning of the West” which was published in four volumes, so he had a wealth of knowledge about the Battle of Dearborn and other battles. Upon his return to the reservation, Kack Kack shared his eastern adventure with the rest of his tribal people.
In time the old chiefs and headmen died off.  Shough nes see died first of the four and Honnell went to the funeral, as was his custom of attending every Potawatomi event he could.  It used to be that the dead were wrapped in a buffalo robe or their favorite robe and carried to the Burial Tree and much later the bones would fall to the ground and then were buried.  But by this time this practice stopped and a regular ground burial took place.  The friends of Shoug nes see built a stone wall around his grave with a large hole in the middle of the wall.  This allowed the spirit of the chief to pass easily from his body to the better world.  Soon after his brother Pis she dwin took sick and Honnell offered medical help but he wanted his brother Shon osh, the tribal medicine man to take care of him, but in time he died  of pneumonia and was buried on high bluff overlooking Big Soldier Creek. 

Pis she dwin had told Honnell of his vision of the other world:  “It is a vast and undulating prairie lying somewhere to the West, well wooded and watered.  Over its grassy swells roam and feed countless thousands of buffalo, deer, antelope and mountain sheep.  The streams are filled with many kinds of fish; and fowls of various sorts are so plentiful that at times they will appear as clouds against the sun.   When I reach the border of this beautiful land, I will see stretching out before me the villages of my people who have gone to the other world before me.  I will see men and women moving about, busy and contented.  I will hear the voices of children laughing at their play.  And after a little while, someone will look up and behold me and will come running to greet me with joyful shouts of welcome to my new home.”
The third leader to die during Honnell’s time on the Potawatomi Reservation was Masquah and his burial rites were similar to those of the other leaders and only Kack Kack remained.  Honnell  asked the old man if they could take him to the county seat and get a picture taken of him and the old chief agreed.  Kack Kack and his wife Martha went to this photo shoot In Holton, Kansas and they brought back a copy for Honnell, who had it enlarged and it was placed in the offices on the Potawatomi Reservation. Shortly after, Kack Kack died at his home five miles west of Mayetta at the age of 85 years old. 

The funeral was “the most elaborate ever seen on the reservation.”  It was well attended by 300-400 people, a tribute to the old warrior.  He was dressed in his best clothes, beaded mocassins, leather leggings, a beaded belt, several strands of beads were around his neck and he was painted with many bright colors in the designs he had specified.  He wore a turban of dark fur on his head.  His family had a large meal of corn and fried bread for all of the visitors.  After the meal, speeches were given about him and his life. The next morning the process was repeated.  He was buried about 300 yards from his house.  Inside he had four day’s supply of food for his journey to the other world.  His burial place overlooked the Little Soldier Creek.  He was buried with his face turned to the west, the direction of the other world.
 At the burial site four men talked about his life, one old Indian man mentioned the bravery of Kack Kack and his battle exploits.  One talked of the winter months when he would gather the young children and would tell them about the Great Spirit and would implore them to do the right things in life and walk in the ways of goodness and truth.  After the talks, his wife Martha stepped forward and gave away the old chief’s possessions.  One speaker received his pony, his ceremonial beads and those scalps had taken from the heads of enemy Indians. Others were given bundles of assorted treasures of the Chief and many others received small gifts.  Some were given tobacco for nailing the lid on the box.  In total, they spent two hours at the grave site.

Soon they all left the site and Martha knew when she walked away that Kack Kack had successfully ended his search for the Great Spirit and would soon find his new home.
What was so interesting to me it that these men in the story were my relatives.  My Mother’s dad was  John Nagmo,  His father was Shon osh (Sha nash today) the “medicine man” in this story.  The Chief in this story was  Shough nes see (spelled Sha ne si) and he was Nagmo’s Uncle.  Pis hse dwin, was also Nagmo’s Uncle.  There were also two other brothers not mentioned in this story and they were Marshno and Naganbi.  My brother Larry had the Indian name of Sha ne si  for 56 years and now my nephew carries that name.  My Indian name is Sha nash.  Interesting, huh?