Monday, March 29, 2010

Further rantings on the roundball

It's a fact, Kansas University shockingly fell in the NCAA basketball tournament.  Why?  I don't know.  Maybe it was punishment for something they did in a previous life.  It was a time of remorse and licking the wounds, but  I became truly amazed on how many people jumped off the band-wagon and became KSU fans. Merle Green and Lance Wiskeno were the only ones publicly claiming to be Kansas State fans prior to that event.  But, of course, flip-floppers aren't new to the sports world.  They are like fence-riders in politics.

Unlike humble KU fans, KSU fans weren’t beyond rubbing it in.  Sometimes its hard to be a die-hard KU fan.  People hate it when KU wins year in, year out and KSU rises to the occasion once in a blue moon. One KSU fan told me “If you're an orphaned KU fan, maybe you could go for Baylor, our bandwagon is full!” I told him “Glad your bandwagon is full, and I decline the Baylor one. I might jump on my hero’s bandwagon – Butler, though.”

I said that because the bubble burst for K-State, shortly after this trash-talk started. They lost to Butler, bleedin purple everywhere.  It was a horrible sight! They were just inches away from the Final Four, so close yet so far. They almost put Manhattan on the basketball map. KSU was so close to love and redemption for being an also-ran, but wasn't meant to be.

There were stories circulating that the Governor had dispatched grief counselors to Manhattan Kansas, but I think that was only a vicious rumor. The details were sketchy, but we understand there was a lot of crying and carrying on in the little pear, so it could have been true.  Shortly after the loss, we asked for a moment of silence, and asked people to bow their heads.  In that momemt of reflection. we mourned those dead cats and what could have been. 

Oh, I didn't change my status as a true KU fan, but in the fairy tale world of bracketology, I got some change riding on that Indy horse!  He is known by the name Butler.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

If I were a carpenter.....or Hotel Potawatomi

I recently finished this three birdhouse set-up.  It is ready for the purple martins.  They dropped in last year so I decided to expand their pad.  There is a total of 34 apartments.  Right after me, Nyeh, Shane, Hooty and Felix set the 14 foot pole the rains hit so it was a good thing we didn't put it off and get lazy. 

I worked on the big birdhouse after KU lost and I figured this was my therapy to deal with the loss.  Also I always wanted to do some carpentry work and so far I made 2 benches, one for my yard and the other I gave to my daughter Martie.  Some cynical guy asked me when I had time to do this work.  I told him "I make time."  Sometimes I work till 9 or 10 doing these little projects.  It's fun for me and will give me something to do when I hit retirement.

But to explain the title of this entry:  Johnny Cash sang once "If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway."  Well she married me but I wasn't a carpenter but maybe in my old age I might get close.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Garden time on rez

Well we have survived over 42” of snow this winter. The ground is pretty saturated and Spring rains are causing the creeks to get high. All of this translates to a late garden planting time. I’ve had a garden now for close  to 32 years. Oh,  I didn’t start to garden because Michelle Obama suggested it yesterday.

Sometimes I had good crops and sometimes I didn’t ,but it’s something I enjoy doing and I reckon I will continue till I can’t anymore. It is really something to get a garden ready, have your grandchildren help you plant it and watch it grow. I tell my grandchildren “if you help, you can help eat it.” That is the biggest reward to get help from them and oh, did I forget to say also to eat the result.

Potatoes (did I spell that right Dan?) are usually in the ground by now but wet ground has prevented this from happening. It will get done though. For the longest time I didn’t grow any potatoes in my garden because my mother-in-law said it was cheaper and easier to buy tators in the store, so i didn’t plant. A few years back I put in a couple of rows and now I plant more each year. I think potatoes out of the garden are hard to beat.

I must have learned something along the way because I cleaned up my garden good last Fall, brought in some more compost and tilled it up so the garden is ready for planting. It must be a Republican bone in me to help myself , but a Democrat bone says it easier to have somebody do the work for me. Sorry for the political injection.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Observations of one aspect of Indian Life

Over the course of history, a great amount of book space and media time has been devoted to the conflicts between Indians and non-Indians, and while some of it is true, this magnification fails to highlight some important elements of the relationship. What are often overlooked are the many genuine friendships made between the two races, especially when it comes to living side by side for a lifetime.

As the life experience shows, the color of a person's skin is often forgotten when children grow up playing in the school playgrounds, going to school for many years, playing sports and living in close proximity to each other. In that time, people learn to care for one another to a certain degree and to look out for each other. Both races learn they share many things in common and have the same concerns about life. It's not true today, but in past years white farmers brought food to Spring ceremonials because they wanted the same thing as Indian people - rain for their crops. Gestures like that are forgotten by a new generation.

One value prevalent over the years is the ability to help when help is needed:  Over the years, I’ve seen large and small turn-outs at our funerals. It is a time of grief, sorrow and feeling s of hopelessness for the people involved. We are lucky that we have people willing to help during these bad times. It isn’t just one but several. And there are no expectations of something in return because those same people will help you if necessary.

And it isn't unusual to see white neighbors, landowners and old school friends show up at the funeral to pay their last respects.  Maybe they don’t understand Indian ways, but they still show up. They will bring food, kind words and prayers for the family. It is the way of neighbors and will never be reflected in social statistics. Words can never express the gratitude Indians feel when they are treated right during these times. 

Granted these visitations aren't true across the board, but this shows a commitment of a community.

Last thoughts on basketball

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a hangover but it sure feels like I’ve had an extended one since Kansas University fell to somebody named Northern Iowa in the NCAA basketball tournament. Talk about a bracket-buster!  I don't even know where NIU is located.

On this day, we had over 6 inches of snow fall.  That should have been some kind of warning, since it was almost Spring, things weren't going to go our way in Kansas. I decided to work on a wood-working project.  As I sometimes do, I lost track of time trying to get some work done. I get obsessive at times. My grandson Hooty came to my work area and said the KU game had already started. I said, no it isn’t suppose to start till 4:40, but I had failed to set my clocks forward so I was way off. I stopped everything and hustled off to the house.

I watched the game in disbelief. KU couldn’t seem to do anything right, but I fully expected them to whip off one of their patented 12-0 runs.  It never happened. I thought when they threw a rare full-court press on NIU that they would unravel and it was close to that, but it wasn't meant to be. Some little gutsy guard shot a long, long 3-point shot with a lotta seconds on the clock and it swished through the net and then I knew it was over.

I did say a few words that aren’t meant for publication and I truly believe I went through a spell of shock. I never thought for a second that they would lose. They were destined for greatness, but there were tell-tale signs throughout the year. KU would create huge leads and then go to sleep and other games they would only play half-hearted. Collins struggled more time than not. Aldrich had his ups and downs. Henry looked like a monster player one minute and quite ordinary the next. Am I painting you a picture of inconsistency because that’s what it was this year. Yet, I remain a KU fan.  A 33-3 record isn't bad by anybody's standards.  Somebody said "now it's only babies and memories."

So now in my hurting stage,  I choose to not watch anymore NCAA games this year. I don’t care.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basketball thoughts!

It’s time for all the experts, and not so experts, to start putting together NCAA basketball brackets to win that elusive office pool especially for those who couldn’t win a world series pot. The final determination on who win will depend on where you’re from.

Here it’s a given that most people will put Kansas University as their heavy favorite. They were given the toughest bracket with Maryland, Georgetown, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Ohio State laying in wait for them, but to be the best you have to play the best sooner or later, so bring them on. It was a fun season watching the Jayhawks play all year, and it became a ritual for us to watch them on our television. I like their chemistry and would be damn surprised it they lost out. Oh, wait a second – let me bite my tongue for even thinking like that.

Maybe in Lexington they are figuring on winning the whole shooting match, but I look for West Virginia to upset them and go to the Final Four and then John Wall can go on his merry way to the NBA. Why did I pick West Virginia – it’s a gut feeling with Bob Huggins coaching there. He knew what he was doing when he took that midnight train out of Manhattan, Kansas a few years back, plus Kentucky didn’t play anybody this year anyway. Overrated!

That leaves Syracuse and Duke as the other #1 seeds. Syracuse is struggling and I look for them to fall against Pittsburgh like they did earlier in the year. Duke was handed the easiest bracket and Texas A&M and Baylor will work them over in the South Regional,but they will survive. They have to in order for the t.v. ratings to go up for the NCAA, which means more money for them.  That's business though!

In my estimation, which is not worth much in today’s peso, I have Kansas and Duke playing for the national championship.  KU will give Bill Self his second championship ring and win by 12 points, if not more. Oh, I was going to invite my friends over that day to watch the big game on my big screen t.v. but I forgot I didn’t have any friends and most of all I didn’t have a big screen t.v. Oh, well you can’t win them all.

After that, it will be transition time for us here and it will go down-hill because the Kansas City Royals will start their baseball season.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The songs go on!

Somebody once said: if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. This is maybe true, maybe not, but what difference does it make?

For me, Larry and Eddie we might have grown up dirt-poor in the ‘60s, but we still were able to get a small radio and we played it all night long literally. We listened to what they call “oldies but goodies” today, CC Revival, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix to name a few.

The last two superstars have been gone for over 40 years now and you can still hear CC Revival in the war movies. Hendrix and Joplin lived some hard lives and didn’t survive long, but their music goes on. A recent article quoted Ernie Isley:

“He was trying to put an apple in your mouth, roll you over a spit for five hours — turning up the heat ever so slowly — and slow cook your ass until you could feel what he was playing. That was the main thing about Jimi. He wanted you to feel him.”

I guess he knew Hendrix in the early ‘60s when Hendrix played with the Isley Brothers. I thought it was a funny, but appropriate quote. That guy really could play the guitar. My brother Eddie had all his records. It was the same way with Janis Joplin – she could belt out those tunes, knock down ‘southern comfort’, party and live life to the fullest. Back then, she was top-of-the-line.

As time went on, we evolved too, we bought a record-player,  later a 8 track, eventually graduated to the modern-day ipod, but I still have a turn-table to listen to old albums. You can get them for a song at garage sales, so to speak. Eddie collected them for years. We enjoyed music. When Larry died, in the funeral procession my grandchildren had some oldies playing on the radio. I said, “that’s alright, Larry liked music.”

Maybe the ‘60s were an aberration, but I remember the music. Can you hear Elvis singing in the background?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A 9-year old Potawatomi boy

This is my grandson Pat ko shuk.  He is my partner or maybe my shadow.  He is always with me and his grandmother and the only time he gets away is when he goes to his Aunties to play those games or to swim at the Boys and Girls Club.  Somebody said if you colored his hair grey and put on a mustache on him, he would look like me.  I enjoyed hearing that.  Isn't that what it's all about?  In life, you want your likeness to go on in your children and grandchildren, right?  You hope and pray your children and grandchildren don't have to go through the same hard times, and make the same mistakes we made and I guess they are all works in progress, works that we have some conrol in the making.
Well anyway, I reckon he'll be my best friend until the day he discovers girls!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words!

This is picture of three of our tribal members, Irma Pequano, Mike Jackson and Elizabeth Hale.  All three are gone now.  I always liked this picture.  I had the utmost respect for Irma and Elizabeth and Mike was my friend for a long time.  I guess we're all lucky they invented cameras to preserve the good times we encounter in life.  From time to time, I will put pictures on my blog and tell you a little about them.  This picture belonged to Mike and I'm glad he shared it with me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Basketball on a Wednesday night.

I came home from work thinking about the big game that night between Kansas University and Kansas State that would start at 7:00 p.m. I had in my mind the things I could do before the game and it mostly revolved around keeping my grandson, Pat ko Shuk, busy. I took him to the Boys and Girls club so he could swim and I later picked him up at 6:00. I thought I still have an hour to go and I didn’t want to sit in my favorite chair just yet, because I might fall asleep. I instead went to my daughter’s house where she invited me to have “wildcat” stew. It was good. And when I got back to my house, my wife had hamburgers ready and I ate those too. In this neck of the woods, you don’t tell your wife that you won’t eat her cooking - it just doesn't work that way.

I thought it would be good to be able to afford tickets to the big game, but most of us had to stay home and watch it on television, where there is something called replays. KU started out tough, they attacked the basket, made their free-throws and generally passed the ball well. They lacked that in the loss to Oklahoma State. I said before the game Sherron Collins didn’t have to do it by himself because there was a guy named X. Henry playing too. I think Henry could be a monster player if he was given the green light, but on a team of all-stars who need their points too, he has to show his greatness in spots.

Henry started out on fire and ended up with 19 points. Collins started out slow but was a big factor at the end. He had 17 points.  It was Collin’s last home-game at KU. I guess it got a little emotional at times for him. I always thought the kid from the streets of Chicago wouldn’t ever break down, but he did.I always thought the ghetto and/or politics toughened people up so much that tears were impossible.  I was wrong.

KU played some tough, tough defense. Much has been written about how KSU has the best two guards in the country but I disagree. I think KU has the best guards and can put four top-flight guards on the floor at once. That’s Collins, Taylor, Morningstar and Reed. KSU did get 42 points out their guards but not much from anybody else. When KU attacked the basket early this got KSU big men into foul trouble and they weren't much of a factor after that.

KU won 82-65. They were ready for Kansas State and it was a certain amount of redemption for the loss at Stillwater. Now it’s on to listen to those crybabies in Columbia Saturday. The real loser in this game besides KSU was the rest of the country. It was only televised locally. I guess ESPN didn’t think a #2 and a #5 team were worthy of their  coverage.  Poor decisions are made everywhere.  Oh, if KU stumbles and they don't win us a national championship again, we will live with it, but at least KSU didn't win on this night.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A road-trip for the Potawatomi

On occasion, it doesn’t hurt to reminisce about the past journeys of the Potawatomi. One such experience took place on September 21, 2004 when over 60 Prairie Band Potawatomi took part in the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. Most of the Potawatomi rode a chartered bus to Nations Capitol. The 2,000 mile round-trip wasn’t a magic carpet ride but enjoyable if a person likes to read or watch videos or just to rest.

The trip wound through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and we passed by old Civil War battlefields, into Washington, D.C. on the way there and back through West Virginia, and the Appalachian Mountains, Kentucky and through Missouri on the way back. Both were very scenic routes. Some of the land resembled Eastern Kansas, such as the many corn-fields, until the bus got into the Pennsylvania area where it seemed like it turned into a gigantic forest. The towns and highways seemed like they were carved out of the woods and were a testimony to man trying to conquer Mother Nature.

News reports said there were over 20,000 Indians in the parade and it well could have been that many. Most of the Indians there dressed in their traditional clothing. The Potawatomi women wore Indian dresses in our unique style and the men wore Indian shirts, vests and beaded medallions. Our veterans group We Ta Se and the tribal council led the Potawatomi through the long parade. They looked great and represented our tribe well.

It was interesting to see so many people lined up to watch the parade, many taking pictures of the Indians in the parade. Some people asked our group if they knew how to talk English, which we thought was funny.

The museum is four stories high and it’s near impossible to see all the 8,000 objects in a two hour tour. The entire collection has over 800,000 objects collected from North, Central, and South America. Many children were seen watching a small television screen, which told traditional tribal stories.

Some tribes were mad because they had very little represented there. Others were mad to see sacred drums and other objects displayed. Personally I thought there was little to represent how the Indian people lost their land, how the Indians were killed by the thousands and how our people were treated in the removal period. I always thought the Jewish people did it right when they built their museum. They displayed all the atrocities because they didn’t want the same thing to happen to their children and grandchildren. It’s early in the museum development and in time the whole story will be told at that level.

The next day, many of the Potawatomis went on tours to see the U.S. Capitol; The White House; and all of the veterans memorials. One amazing fact about D.C. is the extreme poverty and the large amount of homeless people living there. Some homeless people were seen eating out of trash-cans and sleeping on park benches - all of that in a city of such power and riches. It makes you wonder what the politicians think about this situation or even care, when they ride by in their limousines and fly by in their helicopters.

It was well worth the time to ride the bus, get lost on the subway twice, do all that walking, participate in the parade, to see some of the nation’s capital, but above all, it meant a lot to be part of such a grand event.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sometimes you run into interesting people in life

In my younger days, I tried to become a serious baseball card collector and of signed baseballs. I used to go to baseball card shows with my brother Eddie, my nephew Clint and also made my daughter Martie go along with me at times, because that way, we could get 2 autographs instead of one. My other brother Larry did the same in the city of Minneapolis and we would exchange autograph baseballs. I had autographed baseballs from Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson and many others. I shook hands with many of those people. I was in awe to see somebody like Mickey Mantle standing in front of me. It's hard to describe what it was to see a great man like that.

I thought I'd never experience that again, but did, after I got involved in tribal politics, and ran into some interesting, if not great, people on the tribal political road. In the 1980's, I had the distinct honor of meeting Roger Jourdain, Wendell Chino, and Joe De la Cruz at different times. They were in the twilight of their political careers, but they still had a bunch of fight in them. Their political delivery was close to the fire and brimstone preachers you once saw in old movies, but their message wasn't about the Lord, it was about Indian sovereignty. They were set in their ways and believed in defending the sovereignty of all tribes and didn't hesitate to voice their opinions on the subject at the local and national level. I guess, you could say they refused to slow-dance in the political fast-lane. I was impressed on how these old tribal leaders stood up for Indian rights. I was a fairly young guy then, and those old guys would go out of their way to introduce themselves and to shake hands with me. That, too, made an impression on me.

First of all I need to identify how I met these leaders. I jumped into the political fires of the Potawatomi Nation in 1986 and have survived until the present year of 2010, but it's best to go from day to day.When somebody says you have to have a thick skin to handle politics, rest assured they’re not lying to you. It seemed like the attacks start when you enter that political door and don't stop until you leave. Or maybe it's like  what Woody Guthrie said, "I'm going to stick around to see what the hell happens next."

During those earlier years, I finished the unexpired term of chairman after the position opened up because of a political upheaval. I didn't want to take the appointment because I was between college and graduate school and didn't know if I wanted to take time off from that. Eventually I gave in and accepted the position. In less than two weeks, I was on my way to Washington, D.C. for a Tribal Leaders Summit at the White House. There were 322 tribal leaders in attendance. It was a true honor for me to be part of the summit and to see so many leaders in one place. The newspapers said it was the first time a sitting president met with the Indian tribes since James Monroe did so in 1822. That day we rode buses to the White House, from the hotel and took a tour. We were escorted to a large tent in the Rose Garden, which is located on the south side of the White House, and were seated in sections.

After about an hour of waiting, President Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary and Vice-President Gore and his wife came out to sit on the stage. It was truly a magical moment to see the most powerful man walking out there to see the Indian leaders. The MC announced the agenda. It started with Chairman Wallace Coffey, in his tribal regalia complete with a war bonnet, singing an honor song. It was so impressive to see Coffey sing that song. I felt so proud to be an Indian and be to a part of that event. After this, several speakers spoke about Indian issues and then President Clinton addressed the crowd.

He may have been a much criticized leader, but for me, Bill Clinton was elevated to new heights that day. After all the speeches, he stood there and shook hands with all 322 tribal leaders. Some had on their tribal regalia and others had on business suits. I was in the latter group and still could kick myself for not wearing our tribal gear. Well, anyway, I stood in the line waiting to shake hands with the President and thought, "Oh, he's going to get tired of standing there and leave," but he didn't. I got closer and closer and could see the secret service personnel around him. One guy looked like a man you wouldn't dare mess with. He had that no-nonsense look about him - a cold, hard look with eyes that reminded me of that shark in "Jaws."

I finally made it to the front of the line and could only mutter, "I'm honored to meet you, Mr. President," and shook hands with the President of the United States and just like that, it was over. I know the old leaders in the 1800s met the President before, but up to that point I was the only Potawatomi leader in modern times to shake hands with a President. So this experience was similar to the accidental fame of a guy named Gump.

Back to the tribal road over the years I would meet Congressmen, BIA bureaucrats, and many other tribal leaders. I did the usual photo-ops and have them hanging up next to my children and grandchildren's pictures. Most of those experiences would be from National Indian conferences on gaming or politics, but not everyone was friendly like Chino, De La Cruz and Jourdain. Those guys had down to earth values and didn't act like they were better than others. Everyone wasn't like that because I've seen people with the titles that wouldn't  give you the time of the day.

In retrospect, meeting people like old baseball heroes, Roger Jourdain, Wendell Chino, Joe Del la Cruz, President Bill Clinton, and some modern leaders will always hold good memories for me. Anymore, in my old age, I rarely get impressed with anyone, but it did happen to me a time or two.