Friday, July 30, 2010

Baseball thoughts

I’ve been watching recent baseball developments. On the major league level A-Rod has gone six games without hitting his 600th homerun, but who really cares. All those homers were enhanced by steroids, maybe not at this moment, but in the past this is true, by A-Rod's own admission. It’s hard for me to recognize his accomplishments and Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds too because of the steroid issue. Mickey Mantle didn’t have to use steroids to do what he did, neither did Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron. Andre Dawson was inducted into the Hall of Fame the other day and he made it there because he did it right and he implored kids to do it right too in his acceptance speech.

Another baseball issue is aluminum bats used by young kids and others up to the college level. It used to be nothing but wooden bats. Now the ball coming off the bat sounds different and the ball has more speed. Kids are getting hurt with some going into a coma from the hit. This is happening all over the country. They need to get rid of aluminum bats before more get hurt. Can you imagine a major leaguer using these bats, people would get killed. It isn’t old school, its common sense. But what happens is the big companies that make these aluminum bats have big money and can lobby for their concerns and nothing will get done because politicians listen to big money not common sense!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gathering 2010

It is in my immediate plans to attend the 2010 Potawatomi Gathering held this year in Shawnee, Oklahoma and hosted by the Citizens Band Potawatomi next week.  I haven't been there since the mid-1990s.  The heat has held me back from going since.  I've been to the other sites over the years.  It is enjoyable to see people from the other bands, plus I have some first cousins who live in Shawnee.  We rarely see other so we plan on having a cook-out and see who can tell the most lies.  It should be a good time.  My wife and grandson, Pat ko shuk, are going.  He is a guy with a personality and makes friends easy.  My other grandsons have promised to guard my homeplace and keep my weeds down.

There is a full schedule with some discussions about gaming the first two days.  I will try and try throw in an opinion but sometimes that is hard to do when you have a room full of politicians.  They have a golf tournament. The tribe owns their own course and it will be fun to try it out.  I might try and get to their language sessions and listen.  They are talking about "namings, prayer circles, ghost suppers, funerals, weddings, and seasonal feasts."  I know a little about that but I just want to know what others do on their reservations. They have a museum that is well put together and well worth seeing for anybody. Our tribal paper wants me to write an article but I don't know.  What can you add after writing about so many other gatherings.  This blog is the extent of my writings anymore.  Sometimes I add some stuff into my book, plus pictures.  I figure somebody will want to see that some day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A 1998 Channnel 11 interview with Jim Mckinney and Gary Mitchell


Gary Mitchell: I've done a lot of traveling in my time. I go to a lot of reservations. I see a lot of Indian people in the cities -- they have no connections. They don't know what the religions are; they don't know what the traditions are; they don't know their language ... and they're lost out there. And we have that here. So the answer isn't out there. It was always here. Any number of people can tell you -- that they've went off and they've looked for things, and it wasn't there; it was here.

Narrator: Although he was sent to an off-reservation boarding school when he was young, Gary Mitchell has lived on the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation in northeastern Kansas most of his life. A few years ago, as he pursued a college degree at Washb urn University, he became inspired to write about his tribe's history, eventually publishing a book on the subject.

Mitchell: I guess what happened was I was studying all the politics and history of the white civilization, and it occurred to me one day, I said "well, I don't even know anything about the history of my own tribe." So that was another reason that I got i nto that -- I wanted to do it for my own benefit. As I started writing the book and the articles on the tribe, I wanted my grandchildren some day to be able to read about what happened to our tribe.

Narrator: In his book, Gary tells about how his people once lived in small villages around the southern reaches of the Great Lakes.

Mitchell: The Potawatomi Tribe at one time owned 28 million acres ... or controlled 28 million acres in the Great Lakes. Then when the Manifest Destiny policies started kicking in, then we were pushed westward and our land started diminishing.

Narrator: In 1833, the Potawatomi signed a treaty giving up claims to their ancestral lands in return for 5 million acres in northwestern Missouri. That treaty was soon followed by another that moved them on north into Iowa.

Mitchell: Well then they had another treaty where we came to Kansas in 1846. Then we had 576,000 acres. So all the way through the process, we lost land.

Narrator: Within fifteen years, still another treaty reduced the size of the Kansas reservation from a 30 mile square down to a square of eleven miles on each side. Although the boundaries remain the same today, the Prairie Band and its members control only about a third of this area. Most of it was sold to non-Indians long ago as the federal government continued to implement policies that separated Indians from their land, if not from their traditional culture.

Mitchell: That's been one of our strong points -- we've always been able to adapt to a situation. When we were in the Great Lakes area, when we started to move westward, we've always adjusted. We've tried to keep our traditions, our language. A lot of tribes -- they don't have what we have here. They don't have their languages; they don't have their religions; they don't have any of their traditions or their culture, so we've been real fortunate in that area. That's because of those older people and what they've done for us.

Narrator: Like Gary Mitchell, Jim McKinney was born on the reservation and sent away to a boarding school when he was young. He now lives in a country home not far from the reservation, following a career in the Air Force and a number of years as a Metho dist minister. He continues to work on a Potawatomi language project that he initiated several years ago.

Jim McKinney: I don't remember exactly when it was; I didn't write it down -- I'm thinking about six or seven years ago, I approached my son about the project -- with our speakers fast disappearing, that there was a need to preserve it somehow. And I tho ught, well maybe we can get it on tape or get it written down ... better yet, get it on videotape. So with that idea in mind, I approached my son and said 'with your expertise' ... because his master's was in rhetoric and composition. So with his expert ise in the language, perhaps we could get together and with the fast disappearing of our people, because I think once the language is gone, the culture pretty much is gone with it.

Mitchell: The language is the basis for our prayer. And that's how we communicate with our creator. And that's how we look at it. That's how the elders have always looked at it. And that's I think the key ingredient to all of this. We have to teach t he language in order for us to improve our lives or improve the lives of our children . That's why I've always believed in that strongly .... that we have to maintain those traditions and our language is part of that.

McKinney: We talked about a name for the project -- what would be a good name for it -- preservation and propagation or some such. I hit upon the idea of a Potawatomi word. And that word in Potawatomi is Bwaka. Bwaka means a person who has specific kno wledge in a given area. Also it is used as an acronym for our project here -- Bringing Wisdom and Knowledge About.

Narrator: Jim's son -- Smokey McKinney -- has been his partner on this project. They've taped conversations with native speakers and collected various written materials, with the intent not only of preserving the language, but perpetuating its use. Wit h a small core of collaborators spread across the country, they've established a site on the Internet, which includes such things as an online dictionary. They also intend to develop multimedia software that can be used to teach the language.

McKinney: Then eventually as we teach our children, then we find that there are other folks who have not had the exposure to the language because of the relocation efforts of the early '60s, where they were relocated into the urban areas ... relocated the m just like they relocated us into the boarding schools. Some of them have not had access to their native roots. Some of those are third generation Native Americans or Indians or Potawatomis living in the urban areas that have no idea at all ... about t he language, about any of that. All they read is what has been written in the history books.

Mitchell: A lot of them are coming back now because of a lot of the economic development that's happening. But ... now that the perceived riches of the casinos are coming in, now you have a lot of people wanting to migrate back to the reservation, wherea s before, they all wanted to leave because there was no jobs here.

Narrator: After Congress approved an Indian Gaming Act in 1988, the Potawatomi and other local tribes entered into compacts with the state to bring bingo and casino gambling onto their reservations. In January of 1998, Harrahs opened a new casino and hotel complex on the Prairie Band Reservation.

Mitchell: A man told me once -- he said "I wish we could do it another way." But we've had all these years -- nobody's ever come up with a solution to some of the problems that we have on the reservation. We've never been able to make any improvements to our roads or our buildings cause we never had the money. But now we have that opportunity. And if we do those things, it'll help. But it's not the total answer, again.

McKinney: Many of our people see casino gambling as the panacea -- that's the cure-all; that's a Utopia. That's going to solve all of our problems. It is not.

Mitchell: I don't think that's the answer to all our problems. The answer's always been here. It's been our religion and our tradition and our people. That IS going to be one of our answers in the long run ... not money. So, it'll be a short-term sol ution, and somebody needs to come up with a vision of what are we going to do after? That has to be done -- our vision, however you want to say it. That's what we need to do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Work Story!

The oppressing heat drove me indoors the other night so I watched a t.v. show called Dateline. This particular show was about migrant families, who were legal citizens, but went north to follow the harvest. They picked blueberries in Michigan and cucumbers and got paid by the pound.  This led to putting their young kids to work. More pounds, more pay. Other times they landed work howing out weeds in middle of acres and acres of produce, but with the introduction of “Round up” this part of the work experience dried up. No weeds, no work. I guess child labor laws don't apply to farm work. 

This nomadic life is dictated by the economy in southern Texas. These folks lived on small farms and they had to hit the road for more income. Often times they would sell a cow at auction to finance their 1,500 mile trip to Michigan. They loaded up the family truck with food from the farm and this helped them eat along the way.

It was an interesting story because of the struggle people deal with on a daily basis. These kids would learn how to drive tractors at age 6 and would work all day picking the crop of the day.  There was little choice if they wanted to survive. I did say this was in America didn’t I? I can only say I’m thankful my grandchildren don’t have to get out there and do that kind of work. These kids would leave school in early May and return a month or two after school started up again and their schooling suffered. One 11 year old boy was tested and the teacher said he was a full two years behind the rest of his class.  One girl in the story did graduate from Michigan State and her motivation was the memory of those long hours in the fields.

Here on the reservation, we grew up dirt poor too, but thankfully we didn’t have to leave home for work like these migrant families had to do in the summer. Around here we found work with local farmers throwing hay for low pay, but did we ever get a big meal at noon time. We weren’t used to that much food.  It was something usually associated with a Sunday dinner, but we earned it.  As we got older, we worked at Skinner’s Nursery in Topeka for $1.00 an hour on Saturdays.  One summer we somehow landed a job at the Post Office in Topeka. Larry worked in East Topeka; Eddie worked at the main post office and I worked at the North Topeka facility. We mostly helped the janitor with cleaning up the place. It was a good experience and it sure beat the heck out of working for farmers throwing hay in the heat. As I said we were pretty damn poor so this money we earned helped us buy clothes and that was one less worry for our mother, so I can understand to a certain extent why those kids worked in those fields.

But getting back to the story at hand, it is a sad story in a lot of ways.  These kids don't have much of a childhood and it shows how bad the economic picture is in some parts of this great land.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Work Update

I take a lot of pride in going to work everyday and try hard to do my job right.  But one day in my early morning reading of the local rag somebody quoted Charles de Gualle, of French fame.  He said the "graveyards are full of indispensable people." So I said damn I better take a few days off - 3 to be exact.  Some call that a mini-vacation.  I didn't go to any exotic location, hell I didn't even go to Topeka.  I stayed home and caught up on some work in my yard, garden and did some carpentry work.  In my old age I'm trying to build things.  Some turn out right, others not.

I also slept in.  I woke up a 5:45 a.m. every morning.  Lazy, huh? I mowed my yard which is my number one priority in the summer-time. I got a lot of those weeds out of my garden, and picked new tators for immediate consumption.  I build some new steps in my workshop area and a small wall and put in a door.  Being a wanna be carpenter is hard work and time consuming.  And after this spurt of manual labor, there was  a mess to clean up.  It took several days to do these projects, but now I freed up some time in the future for some small woodworking projects.

On Saturday night. we had a rain storm and boy did it every come down.  This is the most rain I seen come down in such a short time.  In fact, the creeks were almost overflowing the banks.  I've never seen that much water in the creeks for a long, long time.  My daughter and two of my grandchildren had gone to a movie in Topeka and narrowly missed getting hit by a tornado, just south of of the casino on Hwy 75.  I'm glad somebody was watching out for them. It was strange because there were no warnings and this tornado came out of nowhere.  Our weather has a tendency to be unpredictable.

It turned out that my work place went on without me so it's true being indispenable is only a figment of the imagination.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Potawatomi Golfer

Golf sure isn't an easy game which may explain why I don't get out there much.  In fact, I've gone once in three years, but this isn't true for every Potawatomi.  Steve McDonald has  made the time to get on the course and has done well lately. He is on the verge of realizing his life-long dream of playing more on the pro circuit.

He recently qualified as the 1st alternate for the U.S. Senior Open and will likely get to play in this prestigious event.  Getting to this point for Steve has been hard.  He played in many tournaments over the years winning some and losing some but now if he does well in this tournament it could mean big things for him.  These guys at this level by doing well attract the big sponsors.  This means he won't have to struggle getting to tournaments, will have the pick of all the new technology and get more exposure. You never know - if he puts together some great rounds...I hope he does well!

Steve is the golf pro at a local Topeka golf course and comes from a family of athletes.  His dad John played the golf game for years.  His brother Mick was a big guy on the softball fields and now shoots in the 80s in golf.  His son Alex recently made all-city in golf and his daughter Emily was all-city a few years before and it earned a golf scholarship.  The game goes on. 

Steve is a Prairie Band of Potawatomi tribal member and once gave me some sound golf advice.  He asked, after seeing me play golf,  if I would consider working more on my yard and garden, so I took his advice!