Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Potawatomis look at 2009

The Year of 2009 had it's ups and downs but isn't that true on most Indian reservations?

In a semi-political sense, I was reelected to another four year term on our gaming commission. Elective positions are what an old guy called "here today, gone tomorrow jobs." I think those are wise words because you never know. On the positive side, I enjoy working in the regulatory field, I'm near home, my religion and my family which is a gigantic plus. At the end of this term I will be eligible to retire. Maybe I will do that or maybe it's best to keep your options open. If I retire I can work in my yard and garden and I might be like the Godfather - be working and suddenly keel over. Oh well, I could think of worse ways to die, right?

My granddaughter married a U.S. Marine and moved to San Diego. Tara has been with us since she was a baby so her moving is a big change for all of us. But, we have four other grandchildren to keep us occupied. The beat goes on and there is no time to get lonely.

Our tribe started building a 18-hole golf course this year and I watched them work on it every day on my way to work. It will be a tough course. We toured the course in a golf cart and there are several holes where the creek meanders through, so it will be decision time - lay up or go for it. Most hard-heads thinking they are Tiger Wood clones will go for it, but there is only one guy like that and he sure doesn't live around here. Oh, the chronic cheaters will come up with their transgressions and have consistent low-scores, but for most it's going to be tough. I guess everybody can't be honorable like Tiger Woods on the golf course.

I'm a political animal and political events watcher and every financial initiative is worked over pretty good around here. In one meeting it can be voted in and the next voted out. The clinic comes to mind but for some reason the golf course escaped that fate. Without all that drama, the course moved along nicely and it will be a great addition to the Potawatomi landscape.

Allow me to take a hard right on memory lane for a second. When my brother Larry died suddenly a couple of years ago, I pretty much gave up the game. Before that we enjoyed playing the game and our times together even if it turned into a competitive thing. We both looked forward to playing 18 holes of golf and we got to play some damn good courses and some damn bad ones. Those days will always remain on the positive side of the old memory bank. I'm sure he's working hard on his game for our rematch.

Now with the new course coming on-line and my grandchildren nagging me to get back out there, I will probably give in and get back out there. But I'm sure the yard and garden work won't be allowed to go by the way-side though. Plus I have to get out there with Jim Potts, B.J. Darnell and Frank Shopteese. Frank is a transplanted Texan who saved our team many a time with his great game.

2009 had it's low side though. We lost some really good people. Mike Jackson died in July of cancer as his sister did in the early part of the year. Janell Cadue died in October of cancer. Albert Pahmahmie died in November of cancer and Henry Pahmahmie died of health complications in December. All of them were really good people and were my friends for a good number of years.

Who knows what will happen in 2010, but it's to our benefit to get up ever day and enjoy the ride while we can. When you get older, it's all you can do. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Pictures on the Wall

Our casino has added some old pictures from an era long since past of tribal members. They are attached to the pillars in the gaming area. I think it’s great and the casino people should be commended for this positive action. With the pictures on the front entrance and now these on the inside of the casino this puts our casino up there with the best. Prior to this, I thought Soaring Eagle Casino in Michigan and the Meskwaki Casino in Iowa had done the best job of showing and displaying some of their traditional values.

We have to recognize and remember the old people who stayed here on the reservation through thick and thin. It wasn’t always great here. It is now late December of 2009 and we are bracing for more bad weather with ice and snow in the immediate forecast, but we have more resources to fall back on now. This was not true for some of these people in these pictures. We can make a fast trip into town to get our supplies whereas a long time ago bad weather made that doubly hard. My Aunt Jane said back then, they had to stock up on items when they did get to town, in case an emergency came up or bad weather. If our electricity goes off, we can go to the hotel or some of the tribal buildings that are now equipped with generators, but in the old days they had to have a pile of wood to keep warm. Today we have suitable housing and jobs close to home. The people in these pictures had to travel many miles to work or move away entirely.

Some of the pictures show our traditional dress style and it is great and the beadwork is also tremendous. Some of the pictures came from private collections of tribal members who saw the value of sharing. The Potawatomi would go dance at rodeos, pow-wows and at our old fairgrounds. Somebody understood the value of preserving a great moment in time.

During the Depression and War years, traders passed through the reservation and the old people being poor as the day was long would sell some of their prized possessions, such as beaded vests and dresses, to get by or to purchase needed supplies. I’m sure some were victims of exploitation too. That’s why a person can see some of these items in museums and in personal collections. Those are lost, but it is a chance to copy the beadwork patterns by looking at these pictures and duplicate them. So all is not lost!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


The other night, Henry Pahmahmie died at his home. He turned 59 in August. He’s been sick for awhile with a heart problem and I guess he refused to go to the doctor. So many of us are bull-headed like that!

We’ve known each other for close to 46 years starting back in Pony League days. Larry and I played for a Hoyt baseball team and we won our league and thought we were pretty good. One time we played Delia, in an inter-league game, the team Henry played on and he threw a no-hitter at us. Boy, that guy could throw that ball.

In high school we played football together for three years, he was one grade up from me and our teams did well. During the four years I was there we had a lot of Indians start and we only lost 2 games in that time. One of the losses was to Denison 14-7. I played defensive end and Henry played the other end. They would run a sweep at me but I made the tackle every time so they went Henry’s way and wiped him out and scored. After the game I told him “well, at least they didn’t score around my end.” He was mad at me for a long time after that, but got over it. I always wanted to win. He made all-league four years in football and scored about 20 points a game in basketball.

On one of our baseball teams, he pitched us into the state tournament. We beat a Lonnie Kruger-led Silver Lake team in the regional finals 3-1, but it was because of Henry’s pitching that we did that. It sure wasn’t because of the rest of us. He had the size and the arm to really do something but he didn’t have the drive, but he remains the best pitcher I ever saw in these parts – then and now. I didn’t go out for baseball my senior year because I told the rest they wouldn’t be worth a damn without Henry and I was right.

After school, he joined the army and went to Vietnam but never talked about those days whatsoever. Later on we played softball on different teams and eventually got us a team of local Indians. We were pretty damn good winning 88 trophies over the years. Henry pitched and threw a knuckleball. Man, I could never hit that damn thing either. I don’t want to give you the impression I couldn’t hit because I could, but some guys just had my number.

Our team started to fall apart in 1984 when my brother Bubs died. It took the wind out of me and I eventually gave up the game entirely. Henry named his boy after my brother – Andrew. I watched his kids grow up. They are good kids. His daughter Josie could hit the ball a mile and I used to tell Henry "damn she can hit it further than you."

I guess you could tell that we gave each other a rough time, but that’s the way it was. In an earlier life, when we partied together the football, baseball and softball stories were told every time and they weren’t lies. The others would say “oh not again,” but in time the stories stopped until now. He had his faults, I had mine but we were friends.

It’s a rough go seeing so many of my family and friends dying off. All of us should appreciate life, no matter how it’s served up to us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Kansas basketball team is still rated #1 in the country on the eve of turkey day. I commented on my facebook how I used to enjoy going to my mothers house for turkey every year when she was around. I used to look forward to seeing her, drinking coffee with her in her living room while she watched those damn soap operas. My girl Martie used to call her at 966-2788 and asked her what happened in a particular show that she missed. Crazy, huh?

My mother was the best cook around. There would be no food, or at least that's the way it looked, but she could whip up a great meal in no time. I asked Voncile how could she do that so quick and she said on high flame. Oh, dummy me. One time, my friend Kurt Luger came here to our reservation for a meeting and I told him I wanted him to meet my mother and we went over to her house. She proceeded to make a big breakfast while me and Kurt drank coffee. For years after Kurt would always brag at meetings that was the best breakfast he ever had.

Her house was small, only four rooms but it was "the house' and our home. It's funny how that works. It's the people who make a home. She raised 12 screaming kids and several grandchildren in that house. She could make ends meet somehow. We were poor but who really gave a damn when we had her for a mother. She died in 2001 and I rarely go over there now because she made the home with her presence. I think about her all the time especially during these holiday times.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

George Carlin wisdom

George Carlin said this shortly after his wife died and then he passed on too.

'The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not bett er things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete... Remember; spend some t ime with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?'

George Carlin

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, many memories come rushing back of friends and family who have served in the military. Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal members enlisted and did their part to make this country the great country it is, but war does have consequences as some tribal members lost their lives and other suffered from the after-affects.
In the last post, I wrote about my friend Martin Jim, Jr. He died in Vietnam in 1971. Earlier in that war, his cousin Victor Hale had also died. Later research showed Floyd Nevins also died in Vietnam, May 15, 1969. In World War I, Leonard Tapsee died in Europe during the year of 1918. Later in World War II, Lavernne “Sas-Weh” Thomas, Paul”Wah-mego” Wamego, and William Lasley died during hostile action. During the Korean War, Vernon Mzhickteno died in the Korean Conflict. They, along with many other men during these wars, will never know long life because they chose to defend all the freedoms we enjoy today.
After their service to the country, there was more in store for the returning veteran. Now, they had to live with what they saw and felt for the last few years. Some turned to drinking or drugs to forget their war-time experiences, while others went on living life the best way they could under the circumstances. But, one thing for sure, life was never the same for these Potawatomi men. The Potawatomi soldier returned to the close knit environment of the reservation with a vastly different outlook on life. Don Lovell said “There is a quote that I once heard. I don't know the author. However, it says "For those who have fought for it, Freedom has a taste the protected will never know".”
In the past few years as the veterans have aged, many have died. On November 26, 2003, the tribe dedicated a memorial wall and was called “an expression of the Nation’s everlasting tribute to veterans – past and present.” Now they received some recognition for their accomplishments. Potawatomi society and the country have benefited from the contributions made by all of these soldiers. Yes it is true, by and large, that most have received little recognition for their contributions, but inside they know what they accomplished and that’s all that really matters

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Record set straight after many years

Martin Jim, Jr. was a Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal member who died in Vietnam during the early part of 1971 and by anybody’s calculations that was a long time ago. For the longest time the people here never knew about any of the circumstances of his death then some unusual circumstances happened in 1998 when a man named Jim Jenkins came for a visit to the reservation and in 2009 another man who served with Martin contacted me in 2009. Here is an update to the Martin Jim, Jr. story:

The war was starting to wind down in 1971, but not soon enough. Martin Jim was a quiet young man who respected the many elders on the reservation, respected the religion of the people and enjoyed life with the friends he had around him.

No one knows why he wanted to join the army, but one day he announced to his friends he was leaving and did. He joined the Army, took the training and came home on a short leave to visit his friends before leaving for Vietnam. During this leave, he said he wasn't coming back.

His friends tried to reassure him that everything was going to be alright, but he left the reservation on that January day in 1971, convinced he would never see his friends and home again. And it happened that way.

After eight days in Vietnam he was killed by a booby trap. Many years later, a man from Missouri came to the reservation and told of the circumstances of Martin Jim's death. Jim Jenkins served in the same unit. He said Martin was sent out on point, and Jenkins said this usually didn't happen with new soldiers. And there were booby traps set by the Americans, and Martin walked into one of these. Jim Jenkins was walking three men back, and the bomb killed Martin Jim and badly wounded the man in front of him. These same circumstances happened to another unit close by. It was a deadly accident of war, but that was little consolation to his friends and family.

In 2009, 38 years after Martin Jim died in Vietnam, a man named Don Lovell made contact with me and said: “Martin and I were good Army friends. We went through Infantry training and Airborne training together. We were both assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade and flew to Vietnam on the same plane. I understand that several of the 173d have come to visit with you and family over the years. I just wanted you and Martin's family to know that I thought the world of Martin. He was a good friend and a great soldier. I was devastated when I heard the news of his death. Martin was a very brave man. I still think of him nearly every day. Please tell the family that I still miss Martin and that I still share in their grief.”

Lowell continued “Martin was truly an Airborne Infantry Soldier! I knew that Martin was a special warrior when I first met him. Martin had no fear. Martin was willing to do what he believed was right and honorable, with no concern or respect for his own well being. Vietnam was a tough place. Those of us that survived were very fortunate and we never forgot and never will forget those who willingly paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy in this Nation. There is a quote that I once heard. I don't know the author. However, it says "For those who have fought for it, Freedom has a taste the protected will never know".”

An anonymous author once wrote that people will always live if you remember them, and his friends, never did forget Martin Jim. One man thought so much of him that he named his daughter after him. Her name is Martie Mitchell. Martin Jim was the second Potawatomi killed in Vietnam. Ironically, the first one was his cousin. Victor Hale had died in December 1968.

Life does have some strange twists as evidenced by Jim Jenkins and Don Lovell walking into the lives of the Potawatomi many years after the death of Martin Jim. They helped set the record straight for Martin Jim's family and friends and answered many questions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A dog named Coda

Let me tell you a story about a dog named Coda. He moved in a few months back. My granddaughter Tara bought him as a pup. He will be one year old in November. Coda ain't no little dog, he is a Siberian Husky. She couldn't handle him in a apartment as he start getting bigger, then she ran off and got married and moved to California. She said "Misho, can Coda live with you." I told her, "so you want me to raise him as my own." Of course, I always gave Tara her way and said he could move into my backyard.

Since then my wife has gotten real attached to him. She talks to him like a little kid and makes sure he has all the good snacks. Lately I've been taking him to our park, about a mile and a half away. We've walked 28 days out of the last 31. It's good for him and good for me. One time, these two women drove thru and seen us and said, "pretty." I'm sure they were talking about Coda.

Other times, he will chase the buffalo and the cows, but I just need to be more observant. I feel much better and the stress levels have gone down, but the funny thing is that I haven't lost an pound. Oh well it's still good. Oh, I have developed a real attachment to him too.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I started a facebook but I thought it was too limiting to what I wanted to write so I will try this blog format. I have my writings everywhere and I wanted to start jotting it down in one place. My family and I live on the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indian Reservation. We enjoy our life here and wouldn't trade it for anywhere else. I go to work everyday and in the summer months often work in the yard and garden until dark. It's fun for me. My wife and I have our children living close which means our granchildren are with us constantly and we wouldn't have it any other way. In a few years I want to retire but I will probably work until I keel over. That's a kinda-have-to thing these days. We used to go watch basketball during the winter but my granddaughter graduated and played at the junior college level, but she married and we stopped going to games. It was great though. Now that it's getting toward winter I will work on my wood-working projects. I built a bench and a couple of bird-houses and will do more as time allows.