Friday, April 30, 2010

Earth Day on Rez

I wasn’t doing community service work ordered by tribal court last night when me and Voncile was picking up trash south of our house, the road by Aaron Hale’s. Oh, first, I’m sure it wasn’t all Aaron’s trash. This was part of the Earth Day events. They scheduled a trash pick-up of roads on the reservation.

The tribe let gave their employees a couple of hours of admin leave to pick up trash but our schedules didn’t allow for that, so we picked up trash after hours. They had a meal cooked up at the park for all the participants, so we went out there yesterday at noon. I got attacked right off the bat telling me “I didn’t see you picking up trash so why are you eating with us.” My mouth dropped and this was repeated one more time, but I’m no stranger to disrespect and I stayed and ate. Usually Indians share their foods but I guess we are in new times. I did say we were going to pick up trash on our own time, not the tribes though and I told them thanks for making me feel welcome.

Outside of this the experience was enjoyable, the food was good, some of the company was good and the picking up trash was a new thing for me. Heck, I’m not even running for election and I was out there. The walking was good and it felt good to do something for the reservation and make it look good. I was probably picking up some of my own trash, which I will stop doing. Don’t throw that paper out the window, please! Now we are going to make this a weekly thing and pick up trash along this same route and the road that goes by our house.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No statue of liberty in Arizona

For you darker skin people out there, you better think twice about traveling to Arizona because yesterday Governor Brewer signed SB 1070. The bill would require that police officers ask for proof of citizenship should they suspect a person of being undocumented. Although the measure is meant for illegal immigrants especially those from south of the border, it has other implications.

Can you imagine the grief an Indian can get by going to Phoenix and not have some type of citizenship papers? It might not be pretty for that Indian! They have a sheriff in Maricopa County who takes law and order to another level. Can you imagine sitting in jail there and wondering why the hell you ever wanted to go to Arizona?

On a less serious side, the whole situation reminds me of the movie “Born in East L.A” –can you imagine getting deported to Mexico? I guess it would be another way to get rid of Indians.  I thought dark-skin people had gone through that once already. 

Arizona might be tough guys in this case, and cheered in many parts of the country, but just think what it will do for their already shambled economy. I thought a greenback would look good no matter who threw it on the counter. A lot of the jobs held by the people targeted in this bill are jobs nobody else will do and it is racial profiling in the first degree.

It seems to me that some other measure would have been more appropriate than a wholesale clamp-down on those dark skinned people.  If it works for one race who's to say it won't be tried on another!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The buffalo

I’m a lucky guy and I sure don’t mean that in the gambling sense, but because I only drive four miles a day to work. I’m a creature of habit. I take my trash to the local dumpster, located right north of me, and I start my route to work and that requires me going by our buffalo herd. It’s the same route day-in, day-out. The fenced in buffalo area is only one mile south of the house where I have lived the last 33 years.

The tribe started this buffalo herd way back. The first buffalo was called Mr. Majestic. If he wanted out he got out. When the tribe started the herd, they would get out and ended up miles away. It was always an interesting time to get them back. The tribe got Mr.Majestic from the Kickapoo Tribe. They were no longer interested in having buffalo. And over the years the tribe picked up other buffalo from the Sioux tribes. I called Hardy Eteeyan early today and he said we have about 120 in our herd now. Friday, I saw two newborns and they are pretty little things.

The buffalo herd is quite the tourist attraction. Some places charge you to look at their herds, but we don’t. I see cars and a bus one time with tourist-like individuals taking pictures. The buffalo is one beautiful animal. A few years back during a harvest, I was given the chance to shoot one, but I couldn’t see doing that and I didn’t. My hunting days are pretty much over. I used to enjoy hunting squirrel , rabbit, coons and deer, but now you have to have a tribal hunting license and I can't accept that. Why? We grew up living on those animals and I couldn’t see having to get a license to hunt on our own reservation. They probably would send me to prison for the rest of my natural-borne days for shooting a rabbit today.  I'm too old to learn new habits in jail so it's easier to not hunt.

A long time ago, we hunted them for the meat and used the hide for warmth. Not one part was wasted. Potawatomis mostly hunted them during the migration years since there were none in the Great Lakes area where we lived originally. It’s great we can look at such a great animal up close and I do every day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Old farmers and waiting rooms!

The other day I had this appointment and I was sitting in this waiting room, reading magazines and drinking their coffee, but I also was listening to these farmers talk. One old farmer was holding court giving his opinions on every subject under the sun and seemed to know his stuff. Some of his oratory:

He said he told Senator Brownback that he couldn’t understand this big bailout of these gigantic corporations. All they do is turn around and give themselves big bonuses, and in his opinion, what should have happened was for the government to give everybody a million dollars apiece. They would then go out and buy cars, televisions, and fix up their houses. Brownback said that was crazy talk, but was it? The guy said spending would stimulate the economy and would benefit everybody, but politicians can’t see beyond their noses. He talked about the economy and how we owe some much to China and he’s right because they are involved heavily in buying up some of our debt. We owe those Chinese folks and the bill will come due someday.

But the old guy also told a funny story. His neighbor put up his house for sale and moved to Missouri. He said he could mow the yard for a fee, but the neighbor said no. Well anyway, the local thieves saw nobody living there and broke into the house and stole all the copper out of the house and broke the water lines. The water flowed over to his yard and he checked It out and the water was coming out of the basement window and had ruined the water heater and furnace, plus he would soon have a heckuva water bill. The old farmer laughed and said “all he had to do was pay me to mow his yard and he wouldn’t be paying for all those repairs.”

They carried on about fertilizer cost, farming in general and how people do crazy things when “they get broke.” The only thing they left out was Indians, maybe because I was sitting there. I had to leave but it was sure an interesting time listening to those old farmers.  Hopefully I won't have to go back to a waiting room anytime soon to hear more cowboy logic.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Veteran's Booklet

In the few spare moments I have these days, I put together an updated version of a veterans booklet. My friend Frank Shopteese asked me to do this for their Post 410 Veterans group. This is a group of Potawatomi veterans who travel here and there and post colors at pow-wows and other such events.

I’m no war correspondent by any means, but it seems like I put together a good body of work on this subject. It evolved over time. The first article I wrote for the Topeka Capital Journal in the mid-1990s was about Maynard Potts time in the South Pacific in World War II. His story is an eye-opener, because I couldn’t imagine going through those constant bombings that he experienced. Sometimes old veterans tell their story so people will partially understand what war is like.

Later I interviewed several veterans, including my twin-brother Larry. All of those guys had a helluva time during their combat time and the years after weren’t any better. Some couldn’t bring themselves to talk about any of it and often took their combat experiences to the grave.

Frank, a U.S. Marine veteran, moved here from a place called Texas and soon become an advocate for the veteran. He works in the veterans department and hauls many veterans to their appointments in the surrounding towns. One time, we were standing around smoking and he mentioned how we needed a veterans wall to let everybody know of how many Prairie Band Potawatomi had served in the military. I was on the tribal council at the time and I said we can talk about it or do something about it, so we pushed for the wall to be built in our park. The tribal council backed the idea. It was great to see it come about. Now our veterans will be highlighted for all time on our reservation. There is enough room to add more names as needed. 

Now Frank wants to have the booklet done this year and it shall be done. It covers the early years of our warrior society, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the modern day conflicts. It’ll be a keepsake for them and whoever else can talk them out of one. For me, I just wanted their story told and that is necessary.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Old Pictures Again

Talking about jogging down memory lane.  One of our tribal members, Sharon Walder, sent me this pictures from high school.  The team on the left is the team that took 3rd in the state in baseball.  We had these old itchy suits and when we went to the state tournament, we looked likethe 1940s St.Louis Browns and these other teams had on more of an up-dated look, to say the lease.  The Indians on the team were Henry Pahmahmie, Eddie Mitchell and that's me on the front row trying to avoid a bad hair-day.  Eddie, who has a better memory than me, said we went 15-1 that year.  The picture below this is a picture of the homecoming one year at Mayetta.  Memory tells me that I was the homecoming King and Eddie was selected the following year. I guess we were popular once, but it was no big deal to me. I try and not regress too much in my old age but I thought I would share this with the readers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Break

In my job, I rarely travel much anymore due to budget constraints, but I did take the opportunity to attend the National Indian Gaming Association meeting in San Diego last week. I always welcome the opportunity to learn more about my chosen field and to hear first-hand accounts of other people experiences. All of us Indians share the same frustrations and same expectations.

It gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my Granddaughter Tara again. She is married to a Ho Chunk Indian named Dawson McAndrew and he is stationed at Camp Pendleton. In the evenings Tara drove us around the crazy traffic that is California and we played the role of tourists but I didn’t have the Hawaii garb on, you know the routine. I did have the camera though.

We walked along the pier in the early morning hours getting in some needed walking and when you factor in conference walking and tourist walking it translated into some sore feet and legs. This meant an early bed-time for the old folks, plus the time change played hell with the old body.

All of the California experience is new to an old country boy such as myself and it takes some getting used to seeing such a hectic lifestyle. We checked out the local casinos. There are ten Indian casinos in San Diego County, but of course we didn’t have time to see them all. We enjoyed the fish and chips a couple of times, Mexican food another time so the food was excellent.

One night we watched Duke beat Butler. I only watched because I had some change riding on a bracket pot. When that shot bounced off at the end for Butler so did my chances for immediate financial gratification and it also ended a damn disappointing season of basketball.

Tara said some people are awful racist there and call them awful names thinking they are Mexican, so it’s like that no matter where you go. I think Mexicans are treated worse than blacks and Indians. She has to adjust to that kind of behavior. It shouldn’t be that way but it is like that everywhere. I rarely run into that kind of stuff anymore and if I do I look the other way. Change is not in the cards for some people.

The workshops at the conference were informative and I got to see many old friends from past meetings and heard there were others there but I didn’t see them because the event is so huge. It was well worth the time to attend for me. It too was great to see my Granddaughter, who we have had hanging around our house since she was a baby. It was also great to go home, too.