Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time away from the Reservation!

I took off a few days of vacation time last week and made my way into the Canadian wilderness to visit my sister-in-law, Doris Zyganiak and her husband Alex. She has laid a guilt trip on us to come visit her and she’s right since the last time we were there, eight years have passed and she has made numerous trips here. But first of all, I went into fear mode, and then I had nightmares, waking up in a cold sweat dreaming that my garden/flowers would be overrun with weeds and my yard would look like a jungle upon my return. It took me three days just to get over those thoughts and nightmares, to say nothing about the guilt of not doing my daily work routine, but that lazy inner self emerged and I was alright for the remaining days.

We arrived in Buffalo, New York where my sister-in-law picked us up and we made a stop for food at a little dive. I read a local paper that said Creedance Clearwater Revival was playing a free concert in a local park on the following Tuesday. Damn life got harder for CC Revival after the break-up with John Fogerty. Some divorces are gruesome. After this, we crossed the border. I fully expected to get shook down and be treated badly. I fully expected to get our bags to be checked out good, after all we are Indians and they might think we were smuggling contraband cigarettes into the country, but we were waved on through. Damn, I was surprised because when I fly I get semi-fondled every time because I had a knee replacement that sets off all the bells and whistles and a guy in a cheap blue suit is thinking "terrorist" and sees me as a chance for some kind of fame.  But, the simple gesture of being waved through the check-point made me feel better about mankind.

We did the tourist thing and looked at the Falls and took pictures. Many of the houses had clothes lines, whereas in the USA that is kinda rare. Later in Toronto, we did the bus tour thing and it was interesting to see the people, hear the commentary about different areas of the city and its landmarks. The bus took us by the Indian Center there and a couple of effeminate types waved at us in a dainty kind of way and although the song “I’m in love” by Wilson Pickett played in the background, I remained focused and acted like they weren’t there - what could I do? We later took a boat ride and seen the Toronto skyline in the distance and oh, we didn’t get sea-sick. If the opportunity ever presents itself again, I will take the bus tour of a city to learn more about its origins. You never know it might be an educational experience.

I played a round of golf the next day on a local course, a beautiful course with a lot of water and trees lining the fairways – a tough, tough course. I had bad shots at times, a rusty guy since I hadn’t played in 15 months but excuses come dime a dozen. My irons were fair and my short game was horrible, which is usually the case in long lay-offs from golf. I hit the sand pile twice and got out both times in one shot. I practiced that at my home 20, so it paid off on this day. Let me tell you, no matter how bad my game was, I enjoyed the day. After it was all said and done, I was tired from playing and after filling my belly, I went to bed fairly early, but now I’m ready to play our course.

On most “vacations” the days go by fast, but I don’t think it was that way this time. I enjoyed seeing the area, playing golf, played the slots to no avail and got to hear my grandson talk about the fish he caught on a boat trip on Three Mile Island. I have the pictures of him holding a 5 pound bass hanging in my workshop - a place where I ponder the mysteries of life and do occasional woodworking.  Seeing him happy like that is what they mean by the term “priceless.” I enjoyed staying at my sister-in-laws house by the water, getting up early and watching the morning sun hit the bay, eating the fine meals provided and the time off. And God was willing and the da creek didn’t rise, so we made it home. It was a helluva ride!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 Prairie Band Potawatomi Pow-Wow Pictures!

 The 2011 Pow-Wow is over for this year and goes down in the books as another successful event.  I don't know how many dancers and drum groups there was, but it was a bunch.  They come to our reservation from all over the United States.  I don't know if its cause we are so friendly on this reservation or its our top-of-the-line park.  It could be that, but I suspect it's the prize money that draws them.  What does it matter though and I have a good time going there to watch. 
 I like watching the dancers -mainly because I can appreciate good dancing since I can't at all, I especially like watching the fancy dancers.  Those guys have to be in shape and are probably ex-jocks since it takes a lot to do that dance.  I also like sitting around visiting with people and occasionally I take a picture of people walking by.  I did get a copy of a couple of these pictures from others. We don't make many pow-wows.  My grandson Pat ko Shuk likes to dance.  He enjoys pow-wows especially since he can work his Misho for cash for this and that. Another great aspect of pow-wows is testing the food and the fried bread, which is bad for us Indians, has to be eaten.  We never want to insult our cooks.  Also we have to buy a t-shirt to prove we was there.  Most people don't give a damn if we're there or not, but the t-shirt validiates our presence. 

Pat Ko Shuk
Wallace Coffey.  He's an battle tested politician and now does the pow-wow circuit and tells jokes as the MC.  Indians like to steal other jokes when we can and pass them off as our own.

Fancy Dancers

Derek Otero in some type of Indian pose

Martie Ann Mitchell in full pow-wow pose

Tug Wamego and Gubba Hale
My brother Eddie Joe and some young Potawatomi girl named Cham

Friday, June 3, 2011

A basketball story for the ages!

Let me swerve off into the sports world for a moment. The National Basketball Association looks like they will have a labor dispute that could affect the 2011-12 season. The industry is making $4 billion a year and the player average salary is $5 million a year. When is enough enough??? They can join the ranks of greedy football and baseball players, but it isn’t limited to the pros. Some say some college players take a pay-cut when they turn pro, could that be true? Let’s look around:

 Ohio State could be looking at a death sentence (remember SMU)in football for player trades. They traded OSU championship memorabilia for free tattoos, drinks and heaven knows what else. The coach, loved by everybody in Ohio, became a sacrificial lamb was fired and the university is praying that is good enough to escape SMU treatment. He claimed no knowledge of all this stuff going on under his watch, but we know winning comes first and he looked the other way. Oh, those football players pocketed very little from these transactions, whereas the beloved coach received $3.5 million a year.  Most of these guys who go to schools like Ohio State have to be damn good football players and it is an unacceptable standard to be less. Most are coming from poverty-stricken backgrounds and all of a sudden they are wearing fine threads, sporting expensive jewelry, drive fine vehicles and have apartments off campus. Rest assured their mamas who might work at McDonalds, don’t send that kind of cash to them. One national writer commented on this affair: “players skirt the rules, coaches skirt the truth, and the NCAA tries to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun. It’s not pretty.” Another said the Ohio State coach cut corners and gamed the system when nobody was looking. “Either a rule is a rule, or it’s not,” said the writer.

But don’t think for a New York second that it’s limited to Ohio State. I read an article about Alabama football players driving SUVs, but Alabama said their rivals were jealous of the team and was making trouble for them. Cam Newton’s daddy was trying to get a six-figure payment from Mississippi State, but he went to Auburn instead. Maybe Auburn paid more, but don’t think for that new jersey second, that his daddy invented an idea like that. It just might go with the territory. Southern Cal had Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo and their stories are similar and it goes on and on….

Locally, a KU basketball player got in the news with some irregularities, but we know that was a lie. Kansas State provided new threads to the players and we know that’s true. Those farmers are the same as Ohio State, but I imagine the clothing line is a little more stylish in Columbus than the lil apple.

Stuff like that happens, my friend! These universities make a bundle of money off these jocks and maybe they ought give them a little more than the normal stipend, but that will never be enough because they got it into their heads they are going to turn pro any second and make millions, which would get their mamas out of McDonalds, so they don’t really give a damn what happens to the U. The coaches have to win or it’s hit the road Jack. The alumni expect a winning program or they won’t donate their extra cash they got laying around. Maybe the answer is blowin in the wind, but don’t expect to catch it anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meeks Jackson

In the early morning hours of May 29, 2011, most people were asleep and outside it was pouring rain and the thunder roared like an oncoming train, but inside a Topeka hospital the circumstances were much different. The life of Meeks Jackson slowly slipped away but she was surrounded by the people she had influenced in her life and that had to mean something to her, some way, somehow! She was 88 years old.

I suppose in the grand scheme of life and history, her role will be minimized, but a closer examination has to be done before a conclusion like that is reached. I imagine we make suppositions like that all the time and it is a fact that it’s the same everywhere - some people make a difference, most don’t or some choose indifference and then life is soon over, no matter what. For me, you have to really understand the dynamics of a reservation to fully understand the loss of a tribal member of her magnitude.

In my day, I was heavily influenced by three people: Meeks, Maynard Potts and my Mother. All three are gone now. Again just as when we lost Maynard and Mom, the death of Meeks has to go down as a tremendous loss. All three of these old folks could have kept their knowledge of our ways to themselves but they didn’t. They shared their stories and it was up to us to listen. I have talked and written about Maynard and my Mother’s contributions and now I will relay some of Meeks work:

Meeks meant many things to many people and here is some commentary:

Venita Chenault said "she was indeed one of our most valued elders and both generous and patient with those who were learning.....

My Texas cousin Dianna Payne said “I will always remember Meeks and her kindness and patience. She never made me feel dumb or ashamed for not knowing traditions and was always willing to answer questions and share. She taught me to make traditional clothes so a part of her teaching will continue thru me in that way, and for that I am very thankful.

Robert Lara said “She was a treasure to us all and loved by us all. I remember her and my Grandmother talking Potawatomi and sewing all the time when I was little. I always felt safe and at home at Koya's house. She treated me so good my whole life and told me to do good for myself. I am trying my best. And I have her and all our other elders to thank. Megwetch!”

Ruta Mendez also commented on her time with Meeks “ She always reminded me of my Grandma Blanche and I know they were family also. So soft spoken and caring. My son, Gabes, worked at the Language Dept for 2 summers on youth program. Gabes really enjoyed working with Meeks and he learned a lot from her

And for some it was lighter moments with Meeks that they remembered as noted by Nathan Hale when he said “I think what I will remember the most is her humor....I loved joking around with her."

Joan Rebar told of some of her early life: “Meeks, Marjorie Wapp, Alberta Marshno used to all ride a horse to Sonny Brook (an old one-room school house) and they would sleigh ride together and do everything together because they were all within months of being the same age and live close. Mother is the oldest and Alberta was the youngest. We both have good memories of Meeks.”

Meeks believed in Potawatomi language and the value it has. I sat there with her and my mother for hours at a time listening to them talk the Indian language with each other.  I thought "they make it sound so easy." Eventually  I learned some of their words. I’m no fluent speaker, but if those two, along with Maynard, didn’t feel like telling me some of their beautiful language the loss would have been mine. My brother Eddie and I chose to learn prayer words from them, knowing we didn’t have time to learn more. We kept the scope narrow. We teach our kids and grandkids the words we learned from them. Maybe the language will be chumped off and go by the wayside, but why? Those old people believed in what they were doing and it's our faults for not learning sooner, now the opportunities are fast slipping by. Nowadays, some people value language and others couldn’t care less, but that is modern day life.

Nonetheless, Meeks wanted the language to continue. Now it's up to all her pupils to carry some of it on. If they do, it only cements her legacy. Will they? Only time will tell. If it doesn’t work out like that, we will still remember her for all the positive she brought to this patch of earth called the Potawatomi Reservation.