Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Review I did once on a book by Russell Means

A few days ago Russell Means died in South Dakota.  I met him once many years ago.  I read his book and wrote a review on it, so people could understand the political climate of the times. Usually when someone dies people will buy up their songs or books so this will tell you a little about his book in case you might want to order it.

Book Review on Russell Means

  R.I.P.     Whether we agree with the politics of the American Indian Movement or not, a new book entitled Where White Men Fear to Tread, The Autobiography of Russell Means (New York: Martins Press 1995) gives an important perspective on a form of Indian leadership in contemporary times.  Additionally, the book gives Means a venue to tell his side of the story on how AIM operated during a period of reawakening for Indian people.  Modern writings such as the Means book are needed to give a balanced account of the turbulent years of the radical 1960 and 1970s.  It was a time where life changed drastically for all Indian people.          

    Means, no doubt, was a much criticized man of his generation.  He was criticized not only for his revolutionary tactics and grandstanding but also his perceived ego-trip at the expense of the masses.  These charges, warranted or not, are addressed to a degree in his book.  Personalities aside, the book covers a critical time in the lives of Indian people.  The movement opened up the eyes of many Indian people and more than a few closed doors.  It was a time when Indian people decided they were no longer satisfied with the status quo and were ready to follow anyone to change society.           

    The Indian people had long been acclimated to years of exploitation, racial prejudice, blatant BIA politics and poverty so rampant that it defied explanation.  It was a time for change. All of these numerous factors extended to the reservation and the urban Indian.  In fact, one of the original purposes of the AIM group was to stop the terror tactics of the Minneapolis police force where beating up a drunken Indian was considered a sport.

  This scenario was comparable in towns bordering Indian reservations where the treatment was the same from narrow-minded, racist police forces.   

  Changes started to happen elsewhere in America when groups such as the Black Power and Woman’s Liberation Movement decided to stand up for their collective rights, which started a chain reaction in minority circles.

  In Indian country, people like Russell Means too decided they had enough of the daily mistreatment.  Thus, Russell Means was viewed as a reactionary, but was he really?  Or was it the only method?  Whether we can give Russell Means, Dennis Banks or Clyde Bellcourt any credit for this dramatic change because of their often confrontational politics, it nonetheless happened.

  Means’ early life was not much unlike that of many of the rest of Indian people—a roller coaster ride, for sure. He grew up poor on an Indian reservation where he encountered racial prejudice, lived in poverty and in an alcoholic home, and attended schools where teachers did not care if Indians learned or not.        

  Means experienced several divorces and openly admitted a problem with alcohol.  Later he experienced all the frustration of trying to work in the white world where he found advancement was a word that did not include Indians.  Sound familiar?  All these factors played a huge role in Means’ political evolution.

  But, the whole book was not all about Means.  One strong area of this writing was the coverage of the bits and pieces of different tribes’ oral traditions and history.  This alone made the book worth reading.  Starting with the creation of the Indian Center in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1960s, Means used his organizing ability to get a center established that provided needed services for the Indian people in that city.  Shortly afterwards, Means met the leaders of AIM, “all dressed up like Indians” at a conference in San Francisco, and his life changed forever, both at home and in his career. Means joined the ranks of Clyde Bellcourt and Dennis Banks and soon became part of the inner circle of AIM.

  In the book, Means described what AIM stood for:  they spoke out against the injustices of the past, especially all the land grabs; they challenged Christianity, colonialism and pointed out how the BIA had achieved a slightly privileged class of colonial administrators.  In his indictment of tribal councils, Means referred to them as “hang around the fort Indians” and “to live a better life than the rest of the people, they would do literally anything the BIA told them to do.”

  Sometimes the truth hurts and this message was met with severe resistance from the BIA, tribal governments and many Indian people.  The book gives an in-depth analysis of his experiences in this regard. Since the message was often delivered in a militant manner, many Indian people did not want to listen or enlist in the cause.

  This didn’t prevent AIM from recruiting a good following of Indian people who believed it was the time for change, and it was.  Indians from all over the country followed Means and AIM to protests in small racist towns in South Dakota, large cities, the takeover of Wounded Knee, and to the top of Mount Rushmore to deliver the message that Indians were not going to take unfair treatment anymore.  AIM grew in strength over the years but not without internal power struggles, which was a drawback for the needed united front of a movement.  The book describes the antagonism between the leaders of AIM.  For instance, solving an argument with a gun was not out of the question.  And the many other power struggles, no doubt, prevented more goals from being reached.

  As expected, the leaders of AIM had to put up with persecution from tribal governments, local police and the court systems. If it were not for lawyers like Larry Leventhal and Bill Kunstler putting in long hours in their defense, the AIM leaders would have sat in jail for years. But getting “pro-bono” work from top notch lawyers is not an option available for the rest of Indians.

  Another aspect of the book gives Means’ side of the story in Longest Walk of 1978—a protest to bring national attention to Indian problems—to counter the charges that he only participated at the end of the walk for publicity.  Means may not be the most popular Indian to ever come down the trail, but the book is a must read to get one version of Indian leadership in modern times and how obstacles are thrown in the path of change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Politics, Shuggie and more politics!

It’s that time of the year where the political ads and sound bites are getting the best of us.  I, for one, get real tired of it.  Some people can’t suppress racial leanings or feelings toward women, but that’s a problem they have.  One guy said everybody is not like that and you can’t hold it against a whole party and hell he might be right to a certain extent.  Who really knows? Obama should win, but not by that much and just think if the Republicans could have rousted out a decent candidate they could have controlled the world and Mars for the next eight years.  But I don’t get paid to advise anybody.  Keep in mind, no matter who does get in there, nothing will get done – there are way too many agenda’s going on today and the last time I checked pissing contest don’t add up to results or sustainable progress. Term limits could possibly solve some of that mess!  There are way too many Demagogues and power mongers who make their way to the halls of Congress and political discourse deteriorates into an ugly exercise of self-importance and underhanded tactics. Plus, I may not vote at all because I don’t want to show an ID to some old diddy  at the polling place -who probably thinks I’m a Mesican. I'm too old to be deported while they figure out I'm Indian. For you folks who do vote, sometimes the chain of low-expectations needs to be broken, nationally and locally. Good luck!

We are due for a quarterly General Council meeting this Saturday.  Those are some hum-dingers, entertaining and hurtful for some at times.  It’s time for elected officials to pay for their sins of the last three months. I’m a long-time attendee and participant and after the first rush of tears it becomes alright. 
On the home-front, my great granddaughter Shuggie is walking now, she started a few days after her birthday.  When I get done with my work day duties I have to get my Shuggie fix, hold her, kiss her and baby her. She makes my day. 

I have my garden plots ready for Spring planting. It took some work but it’s done.  I’m also working on a couple of wood projects and that’s always fun. I also track KU basketball recruiting and they are getting the big dogs for the future.  In Self we Trust!


Monday, October 1, 2012

One account of Chief Kack Kack

I recently read a book called  Willie Whitewater. It is the story of W.R. Honnell’s life and adventures among the Indians as he grew up with the State of Kansas. As told by him.  A teacher at Royal Valley High School let me read the book.  Her name is Lana Dillner.  I hadn’t heard of the book before I seen this one.  I always said that some of my historical work lacked the non-Indian perspective and this book does some of that.  I sometimes regret not interviewing some of the non-Indian farmers and people who lived around our reservation to add more depth to my body of work.   

The only real contact I had was with Sam Calderwood who recently passed away and he would talk about some of his contacts on the reservation.  He owned some land in the middle of the reservation, but we didn’t really sit down and discuss the details of his time out here.  He wanted me to stop by his house in Topeka. He said “Gary when you go by and you see me sitting outside, stop and we’ll visit,” but he never was out there when I went by and that’s how first-hand accounts are lost. It was the same with many farmers here who rented Indian lands, they could have added more to the story.
But back to this story:  W.R. Honnell was appointed Indian agent for Kansas by President McKinley and he worked among the Kickapoo as well as the Potawatomi.  With the Potawatomi, he dealt with two chiefs:  Shough nes see and Kack Kack and two headmen:  Masquah and Pis hse dwin, along with an interpreter, Jim Blandin.  Honnell told them in a meeting, “The buffalo have gone, They are not coming back.  The Indian is no longer able to go out on the prairie and hunt his own meat.  He must take up his share of the white man’s burden, learn to follow his customs and accept his ways.”  Soon after Indian kids were going to school to learn this way.

Later he convinced the Potawatomi leadership to use proceeds from land rentals to have a Christmas party where the Potawatomi had a tree, decorations, apples, oranges, candy and some small gifts for the children.  It was well-received among the people.
Most of the focus of this book was devoted to Chief Kack Kack of Sak descent, but he was adopted into the Potawatomi Tribe.  He married Martha, a daughter of the Chief Shobonee.  In the early 1900’s Honnell took a trip to visit President Teddy Roosevelt and took Kack Kack along, as well as the interpreter Jim Blandin.  The old Chief  had only one request and that was to see Niagara Falls.  Honnell agreed and soon boarded a train eastward.  Along the way, Kack Kack fell into a deep sleep and somebody clipped off some of his bear claws he had around his neck.  It was a disappointment to the old man since he had killed these bear and mean’t something to him.  Yet, the old man did his best to forget the shortcomings of another.  After seeing Niagara Falls, Kack Kack could only stand in awe of what he had seen.  Honnell asked him what he thought and Kack Kack said it was beautiful and ended by saying  that it also would be a good place to start a saw mill.

From there the group proceeded to Washington D.C. and with Kack Kack dressed in full regalia brought many a stare.  At the White House, Roosevelt asked them what tribe they belonged to and they replied, “Potawatomi.”  He said “you Indians massacred a lot of white folks at Fort Dearborn,  Why did you do that?” Kack Kack said “Mr. President, why is it that when the white man conquers the Indians, it is a great victory, but when the Indian wins it is a massacre?”  The President was amused at his reply.  His encounter with the “Great White Father” was brief but a memorable occasion for Kack Kack.  He was impressed with the President’s knowledge of his tribe and being gracious to the old chief.  Earlier Roosevelt had completed his “The Winning of the West” which was published in four volumes, so he had a wealth of knowledge about the Battle of Dearborn and other battles. Upon his return to the reservation, Kack Kack shared his eastern adventure with the rest of his tribal people.
In time the old chiefs and headmen died off.  Shough nes see died first of the four and Honnell went to the funeral, as was his custom of attending every Potawatomi event he could.  It used to be that the dead were wrapped in a buffalo robe or their favorite robe and carried to the Burial Tree and much later the bones would fall to the ground and then were buried.  But by this time this practice stopped and a regular ground burial took place.  The friends of Shoug nes see built a stone wall around his grave with a large hole in the middle of the wall.  This allowed the spirit of the chief to pass easily from his body to the better world.  Soon after his brother Pis she dwin took sick and Honnell offered medical help but he wanted his brother Shon osh, the tribal medicine man to take care of him, but in time he died  of pneumonia and was buried on high bluff overlooking Big Soldier Creek. 

Pis she dwin had told Honnell of his vision of the other world:  “It is a vast and undulating prairie lying somewhere to the West, well wooded and watered.  Over its grassy swells roam and feed countless thousands of buffalo, deer, antelope and mountain sheep.  The streams are filled with many kinds of fish; and fowls of various sorts are so plentiful that at times they will appear as clouds against the sun.   When I reach the border of this beautiful land, I will see stretching out before me the villages of my people who have gone to the other world before me.  I will see men and women moving about, busy and contented.  I will hear the voices of children laughing at their play.  And after a little while, someone will look up and behold me and will come running to greet me with joyful shouts of welcome to my new home.”
The third leader to die during Honnell’s time on the Potawatomi Reservation was Masquah and his burial rites were similar to those of the other leaders and only Kack Kack remained.  Honnell  asked the old man if they could take him to the county seat and get a picture taken of him and the old chief agreed.  Kack Kack and his wife Martha went to this photo shoot In Holton, Kansas and they brought back a copy for Honnell, who had it enlarged and it was placed in the offices on the Potawatomi Reservation. Shortly after, Kack Kack died at his home five miles west of Mayetta at the age of 85 years old. 

The funeral was “the most elaborate ever seen on the reservation.”  It was well attended by 300-400 people, a tribute to the old warrior.  He was dressed in his best clothes, beaded mocassins, leather leggings, a beaded belt, several strands of beads were around his neck and he was painted with many bright colors in the designs he had specified.  He wore a turban of dark fur on his head.  His family had a large meal of corn and fried bread for all of the visitors.  After the meal, speeches were given about him and his life. The next morning the process was repeated.  He was buried about 300 yards from his house.  Inside he had four day’s supply of food for his journey to the other world.  His burial place overlooked the Little Soldier Creek.  He was buried with his face turned to the west, the direction of the other world.
 At the burial site four men talked about his life, one old Indian man mentioned the bravery of Kack Kack and his battle exploits.  One talked of the winter months when he would gather the young children and would tell them about the Great Spirit and would implore them to do the right things in life and walk in the ways of goodness and truth.  After the talks, his wife Martha stepped forward and gave away the old chief’s possessions.  One speaker received his pony, his ceremonial beads and those scalps had taken from the heads of enemy Indians. Others were given bundles of assorted treasures of the Chief and many others received small gifts.  Some were given tobacco for nailing the lid on the box.  In total, they spent two hours at the grave site.

Soon they all left the site and Martha knew when she walked away that Kack Kack had successfully ended his search for the Great Spirit and would soon find his new home.
What was so interesting to me it that these men in the story were my relatives.  My Mother’s dad was  John Nagmo,  His father was Shon osh (Sha nash today) the “medicine man” in this story.  The Chief in this story was  Shough nes see (spelled Sha ne si) and he was Nagmo’s Uncle.  Pis hse dwin, was also Nagmo’s Uncle.  There were also two other brothers not mentioned in this story and they were Marshno and Naganbi.  My brother Larry had the Indian name of Sha ne si  for 56 years and now my nephew carries that name.  My Indian name is Sha nash.  Interesting, huh?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The big election, visiting, and operations!

Well, the November election is fast approaching.  Although Obama won’t capture the  six electoral votes in Kansas, he should win the over-all Presidential election. A man of color has little chance in Kansas. They brought some national attention to Kansas by attempting to keep Obama off the ballot, which makes no sense because it is an entrenched Republican state and the six votes will go to Romney.  Yet, like him or not, it is rare for a sitting president to lose a reelection.  I personally may never vote again in these elections with the new restrictions in place:  “show me a driver’s license guy of color or we won’t let you vote in our election.”  I remember covering stuff like this in my political science classes at Washburn, but all of that b.s. was directed at the black folk.  They had all these literacy exams and other hurdles for them to fight through and for years they never got to vote. It’s history revisited. Oh, well my vote wouldn’t mean anything anyway. 
I recently drove to a meeting north of Minneapolis, so I stopped by to see my brother Larry’s final resting place at Fort Snelling Military Cemetery.  It is only the second time I went there since he died in 2007.  That was because of my own internal confusion.  I think sometimes I haven’t accepted his passing, but by going there it is working out.  It’s pretty damn hard to not have a twin brother around anymore and it sure took the fun out of golf.  I stopped playing that, too.  Somewhere along the line, I need to move on and I will.

My grandson, Hooty, had his third eye operation in less than six months.  It is a stressful time for all of us.  My girl has to constantly worry and deal with other people's hate and on top of that, she has to think about her son and his health.  We were there after the operation and will always be there for him and my other grandchildren. I would much prefer these things happen to me than them.

That’s why I never worry about racism from the outside. I don't say that lightly because I've seen some horrible conduct in my life.  In fact, I can understand that better, but it makes me shake my head to see Indians go after their own with a vengeance in our current system.  That goes against our value system in a big way.
This weekend we have our veteran’s pow-wow at our park.  It is usually well-attended and the weather is going to be great.  I may go or not, but the three-day weekend will be a break from all this stress and a chance to spend more time with Hooty and of course my great-granddaughter, Shuggie.  She is the star of the show for our family.  Hooty loves her, I love her and the rest of the family loves her.  Hard to beat that, huh?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It never stops in Kansas!

Kevin Yoder has brought the fine up-standing state of Kansas into the national spotlight.  But that's nothing new for these local politicos.  Now keep in mind when you are reading this that Kansas is part of the Bible-Belt.

Yoder swam naked in the Sea of Galilee. Most people would say:  the nerve of the guy to swim naked in the area where the Man walked on water.  True, he did have some nerve, but he also found out that politicians can't walk on water. Some say he should be crucified on the cross of politics and sent back to the farm.  Maybe he is not worthy to be in the sinful halls of Congress or maybe he is, only time will tell. A Republican today, a Democrat tomorrow - somehow they fight for that 15 minutes of fame.

Yoder brought further attention to Kansas by making David Letterman’s top 10 list, titled "Congressman Kevin Yoder Excuses."

10. "What's the big deal, I was naked the whole trip."

9. "It was spring break; chill out."

8. "People in the Middle East are pretty easygoing about nudity."

7. "In my defense, I had been drinking heavily."

6. "Trying to take the focus off Mitt Romney's taxes."

5. "It had been days since a congressman did something embarrassing."

4. "It's Obama's fault."

3. "Putting the 'junk' in 'congressional junket.'"

2. "I can't swim naked, but Barney Frank can walk around like this?" (Picture Frank in a blue sweater and jacket.)

1. "That's how we party in Kansas."

And in the comment section of the local paper, a guy said “Kansas has arrived, when we made Letterman’s top 10 list.”

Another was a bit more concise, he said:  Forget nude swimming, we should be asking why our elected officials are taking these trips which are paid for by lobbying organizations in the first place. Do you really think that this was a "Fact-Finding Mission?" No, this is a luxury leisure tour meant to buy influence. 10k per person is what the AIEF paid for this "Congressional Delegation." Heck, bring the wife and kids and a entourage of staff members too! 10k per person is a bargain compared to the BILLIONS Israel receives as a result of these lobbying efforts. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date,the United States has provided Israel $115 billion in assistance, -all with the help of some well orchestrated lobbying efforts.” 

Oh, don't ask me why the U.S. gives them that much money.  I took a history class "The History of the Middle East," while I attended the local U and when it was all said and done, I still didn't know what they were fighting about over there. As for this incident, this swimming adventure happened August 18, 2011 and it's just now making the news.  Um, wonder why?

I guess what he’s done isn’t worse than that Moss guy did in Topeka.  He is a principal of a high school there and on this particular day, he spent the day working with the kids of East Topeka and when the  school bell whistled, he promptly went on the prowl looking for a woman of the night to satisfy his illicit desires, but the gal just happened to be a cop in disguise.  So much for his career of teaching kids! He is now at home wondering how he didn’t know she was a cop.  One consolation for him:  he is on leave with pay. 

I'm not passing judgement on either one of these fine gentleman, I'm just telling you the news of the day! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday rides, politics and the heat, of course!

I took a Sunday drive to the Kickapoo Reservation for a birthday meal.  All of the fields were burned brown and many trees looked like they were dead or dying.  The experts say this is the hottest summer since 1934 and that Missouri and Kansas could lose up to a billion trees (my yard looks bad also which shoots down years of work.  In other words, the blood, sweat and tears were to no avail).  Plus the pond levels have dropped a bunch and some have dried up entirely.
On the way back, we drove through Horton, Muscotah, Larkenburg and one other small town.  These places used to have several businesses on their main streets, now the only thing left is a post office.  Times have changed for the little town in this area.  I guess they are victims of migration to the big city, the economy and Wal Mart. They will never recover!

Although they rate only a passing thought for most of us, one can only be amazed at how our reservation had been transformed.  Ours, like so many other reservations were poverty-stricken. Who would have thought we would have a green plush golf course, a big casino and hotel, black-top roads, and jobs.  Yet with this new wealth, there is political unrest.  A case in point:  Look at how I reacted to voting in our run-off election this coming Saturday.
I laid out my ballot.  I looked at it long and hard, my hands kinda shook, sweat broke out on my forehead, a tear developed but never quite went over the proverbial high Indian cheekbone, then I called the local holy men to smoke my ballot but they were still asleep so I said hell I will wait till my nerves calm down. That night while sitting on the front steps,, one candidate, T. Wabnum drove by my house and honked at me, so I will probably vote for him because he acknowledged my humble presence in this life,  plus he publicly stated he was going to treat us Indians right. I hope he continues to wave and honk after election day.  Okay, that’s one down. I rarely see the other candidates. They don’t look at me or talk to me. I just don’t know. I may have to pow wow with the holy men here for guidance. I will keep you updated, and while the actual election is still a few days away- the fate of our fine tribe hangs in the balance!  But somewhere in all of that, I found the courage to do it and the voting dilemma is finally over: I filled out that paper and only I will know if I made a mistake, but we have such low expectations anyway that we shouldn't be disappointed at all. Sorry tribe, after Saturday: forever hold your peace! (you can't see it but tears did make it over that proverbial high cheekbone).

Today had my mother lived, it would have been her birthday.  We would have had a big meal, had cake and bought her a gift for being the best mother possible.  It ain’t going to happen, but it would have been great to have that meal with her.  It would have been better yet to learn a few more Indian words from her. We had to move on and learn to live without her loving and caring ways – such is life.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's a Heat Wave!

We are in a humdinger of a heat wave.  It almost prevents any outside work, maybe early and late in the day but not in between.  I still say we are being punished for non-Indians making fun of Indians doing a dance to make it rain.  We all have to suffer now.
My wife had her birthday on Sunday.  My girl had a great meal for her.  Her day was one spent in pain because she had slipped on the steps and fell.  We are both so careful, but accidents happen and she was in pain all day and that’s not the way to spend a birthday.  Voncile enjoyed the meal though and to see her kids, grandchildren and Shuggie come to our house to celebrate.  I said that she was traditional before it became fashionable and that is true.  I probably would not have gone to our tribal ceremonies but because of her dedication, I tagged along and pretty soon I became almost as dedicated as her.  My role is diminishing every year, but I will still go and sit in the corner by her.  I was beaten so many times in boarding school that I didn’t think I would ever go back to any church. 

We will have two action packed weeks here.  On Saturday it’s “General Council Time” and that is always an adventure, but we keep democracy by scrutiny.  A friend of mine said once that these political beatings only last eight hours and it’s over.  Our meeting usually only goes five hours so anybody can take it that long, I think. And the week after, it’s election time.  Many said they want change.  Somebody said there’s no tyranny like petty tyranny, so elections are mean’t to correct that problem. That’s another aspect of politics –people get tired of looking at somebody and then it’s time for them to hit the pavement running – running as fast as they can back to where they came from. Sometimes people aren’t legends among mere mortals, like they think. 

It’s getting late in this political process and I haven't voted yet. I need to find the local holy men to smoke off my ballot so I won't vote in evil! Or maybe I should just give up and say the hell with it, after all one vote don’t mean anything, does it? Nonetheless,It will be an interesting two weeks if we survive the heat.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The weather, religion, politics, elections and gatherings!

Here is another picture of my great-granddaughter Shuggie.  She was sick for awhile there but as you can see, she is much better and that makes me feel better. The weather is blazing and the humidity  can take your breath away.  In fact, I went to Topeka with my daughter and she drove her truck.  We had intentions of picking up some lumber that I needed for a project of mine, but the heat was so oppressive that we just ate and came on home.  It was 103 degrees. She had no a/c in her truck so I learned humility too.  Heck even with the windows down and going down the highway at a 70 mph clip, it was still blazing hot.  In the near future there is hope.  The weather people say we will get a break in the weather about Sunday.  I won't complain.  We had a couple of days of rain in this spell and boy I was like a little kid, I had to sit outside and watch it come down.
In the last few weeks we've concluded our various services:  namings, adoption and our Summer Dance.  My grandson Hooty will have surgery toward the end of the month.  He will be alright after that.  Now we have a quarterly General Council coming up soon that will also be hotter than a pistola, it always is, sometimes it's best to figure on it, take it and move on.  It makes you wonder how some politicians are so sensitive after listening to these sessions all day, but of course it's a quarterly thing and many things said are forgotten the next moment. Oh, and there is an election, with bright futures promised by all the candidates, in three weeks. It will be worth watching from the sidelines. After that it will be brotherly and sisterly love at the Potawatomi Gathering.  We are going, hopefully the weather will be good there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A scorcher update!

I had the opportunity to speak at a conference yesterday at Kansas University.  I enjoyed talking about our history, language and gaming to a crowd of about 40-50 people.  I guess they were from all over the place, this state, that state, this country, and that country.  The session lasted about 45 minutes and I welcomed the change in a work week, plus I got to meet some new people some who were right friendly.

Trying my best to be “country,” I went to the wrong building and the people said I need to climb this mountain of a hill to get to the right location, so I did.  I’m lucky I left a little bit early because I made it to conference only a few minutes late.  I thought this is why KU has such great athletes because they have to fight these hills every day, but of course they are a lot younger and in hell of lot better shape than I am.  To make it worse when I got done, I went back down that big hill, but it wasn’t as bad as climbing it and I tried to get out of the parking garage but it only accepted Visa credit cards, not Discover, but a Visa card.  I had let my granddaughter use my Visa for a gas purchase and the little girl hasn’t returned the little evil card.  Well anyway I finally found a machine that took cash and I was able to get out of that parking garage, but not before I had gotten completely flustered over modern technology.  Geez, we don’t have that on the rez.  After all this, I passed go and proceeded directly back to the reservation where I belong. 

Speaking of KU, they added another guard, 6’4 Milton Doyle from Chicago.  I’m so looking forward to watching this young team in the coming year.  KU reloads, they don’t rebuild and watch for that to happen this year again.
We are absolutely burning up here on our reservation.  I said in the past those idiots making fun of Indians doing rain dances should have to pay for those stupid remarks and not get any rain until they apologize.  Maybe we should all ask for rain and forget those transgressions.  I’m lucky I moved some of my garden closer to my house so I can water it more or it would have all burned up.  The ground is cracking up and it’s like the blazing hot days of August.  Oh, well we will hang in there, because what other choice do we have?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The heat, the pow-wow and a good weekend!

The 2012 PBP Pow-Wow has come and gone. As usual, it was a scorcher. I didn’t dance or sing or volunteer for anything, but I came home tired every night. I should have just camped and I could have rested there during the day or hung around there during the slow times.  Oh, well maybe next year. The pow-wow was well-attended and some said we had 427 dancers, a bunch for sure and a new record.  Rest assured when you offer $100,000 in prize money, they will come. The whole pow-wow was an organized event, but the specials can take up oodles of time which can cause things to go late into the night.  Also when you offer that much cash, people don't come to see you, or your grounds or really give a damn on how it's run, it's all about the cash. That too is the name of the game these days!
We sat behind the bleachers under some small trees, and it was good shade but it wasn’t good for watching the dancers.  It was good for watching aspiring politicians work the crowd.  We are having an election this July and the campaign is on and the pow-wow was the time to catch voter attention. Some said what they hope to do, others didn’t say, evidently confident in the final outcome.  Some gave gifts away and they weren’t incumbents.  And the candidates did many acts of kindness throughout the weekend.  It’s too bad that can’t last for four years.

Our seating, although not in the front row, also gave us a chance to visit people as they went by.  I must have looked hungry because my niece Soga brought me a plate of catfish - top of the line cooking and Larry Cole, the man from Texas brought me 12 Cd's of all kind of music. They made my day!
At the end, an elderly lady started to tear down her vendor tent.  We were right there and she was working away and at first we thought somebody was going to help her, but that never happened so we got up and did our good deed for the week.  My brother, me, my wife and my sister helped her.  It was a struggle at times but it got done. Many young people just watched us without offering a hand, that was troubling, but it was more troubling that a candidate didn’t run across the arena to lend a hand.  Geez, I hope that isn’t an indictment on the work we will see out of them for the next four years. Flip Wilson used to say “what you see is what you get.”  Sometimes politics is like that!

I hang around the pow-wow to watch my grandson, Pat ko shuk, dance.  The boy loves to dance.  He doesn't win, he is disappointed, but just moves on to the next pow-wow and dances again.  He's a winner in my heart though. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ceremonies, pow-wows, old singer and Shug!

We are winding down our Spring ceremonies here on our rez. We had our 4 day dance, a baby-naming and an adoption.  It is time-consuming but I’m glad I got to witness all of this.  It takes dedication for sure to fulfill our religious obligations.  Dedication is what it takes to keep a religion going strong, that’s for sure. We are tired after it’s over, but our batteries get recharged and we go again. 
This week we have our annual pow-wow.  I’m not into this too much, although I like watching my grandchildren dance and visiting people.  They used to get me to do invocations but I guess they got tired of hearing Potawatomi prayer words and got others to do it. It’s less for me do. Also it’s a good time for candidates to fall over themselves to get a vote or two.  Speaking of candidates, we hardly see them at any of our events so they must have chumped our votes off, in fact, only one person asked me to vote for them.  Usually we get rain at our pow-wow but this year there is none in the forecast. 
My garden could sure use some rain though.  I use my hose in times like this.  Since I moved my garden closer to my house it is easier to water.  

On another note, we hate to lose musicians who we listened to while growing up.  A case in point is Herb Reed, the last surviving original member of 1950s vocal group the Platters who sang on hits like "Only You" and "The Great Pretender," recently died. He was 83.  I saw the Platters perform locally once  and often wondered how it would have been to see them sing when they were young.  This guy said in an interview that he spent his money made from singing frugally and bought homes.  Others in the group spent money like it was going out of style and ended up with little. 
I like music of all kinds and watching old singers perform was a treat.  When I was young, we had no opportunity to go any concerts since we were poor as the proverbial church mouse.  I remember my Mother and her husband Al Wamego asked Voncile and I to go to a Johnny Cash concert in Topeka in the 1970s.  It was a good experience.  I became a Johnny Cash fan for life after watching the man in black sing that day. Yet, it was much later that I attended more concerts.  The local casinos and ours have singers come through and we try and make it over to hear them sing.  Merle Haggard came to our casino once and although I heard he didn’t care for injuns, I still went to listen to his songs.  He is a good singer but you could tell it’s hard for him to sing because of his age. 

Gracie Slick said once that it was stupid to perform after age 50 and she quit altogether, but I would have went to listen to her sing in a heartbeat.    
And no writing is complete for me unless I mention my great granddaughter Shug nob go kweh.  She is a jewel and is starting to crawl and has a smile that can melt this old guys cold, cold heart.  Damn I’m a lucky man to see five grandchildren and now this.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer is here!

Here lately I was asked to give the commencement speech at the Kickapoo Nation Indian School.  For me, this was a great honor to talk to a group of graduates,  I didn't want to do the speech because at times I can get real reclusive so I had to think about it but did accept and I'm glad I did. It will always be a positive memory for me. 

It might be time to get the old hose out and water your garden.  Why?  Us Indians are tired of hearing remarks about doing a rain dance.  You hear smart talk from the mayor of Topeka and people at ball-games. They think they are cute, but they are just sarcastic and stupid in my eyes, plus it seems like old beaten down politicians get away with racial remarks in Kansas. 
A long time ago prior to having our seasonal prayer services, local farmers would bring food over to our church because they wanted the same things Indians wanted, rain.  For us, we would pray for rain for our gardens, for them it was rain for acres of produce.  It was a respectful gesture on their parts. People have lost respect for nature and what it has to offer and for each other. 

So we are holding back the rain till we get a damn apology.

The weather is weird though.  It seems like mid-Summer here with the grass getting kinda crispy.  I cut back and relocated part of my garden so I can run hoses to it during the dry times.  I put in some hours getting my garden moved and hopefully it will pay off.  I enjoy working in my garden but really don’t have time to take care of a huge garden. 

I pulled a leg muscle and have been hurting for two weeks now.  I had three knee operations and I learned to live with pain so I didn’t think anything of the pain, but my wife noticed how swollen the leg was and ordered me to the local clinic.  They put me on some pills that didn’t agree with me so I quit taking them.  I just want to get well enough to get my yard work done.  I guess when you get older the body starts to fall apart.  Hopefully the pain will go away soon. 

I have a three day holiday and I will stay home and putter around the yard – work, take a break, work some more, take a break and hopefully I will see some results. 

Oh, thanks to all the veterans past and present!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Great-Granddaughters Big Day

On May 6, the birthday of my girl Dumplins, we had a baby-naming ceremony for my great-granddaughter Julisa.  We have called her JuJu ever since she was born seven months ago. When this little girl entered this world she immediately captured the hearts of everyone in our family.  I said several times I'm a lucky man to live this long to see her born.  Her Indian name is Shug naab go kweh or if you wrote it the way it sounds it is Shug nob go kweh.  She is named after Voncile's relative from way back, in fact the lady owned the land we live on today. Our entire family attended the ceremony and family support means a bunch.  She was a trooper throughout, didn't cry at all but she is used to being around large crowds.  We had her ready and adjusted because we hold her and spoil her constantly.  The day was great and the Great KU fan in the sky smiled upon what took place on the Potawatomi Reservation.  Now the challenge is to change gears and call her by her Indian name instead of JuJu, a name I had become attached to.  Another point is when she was born, I said we were getting too old to watch babies but do you think that panned out?  No, we watch her when they go do laundry or go the local parlor where sinful gambling takes place.  In the group picture, taken after the ceremony was concluded, is picture of four of the babies named and the ones in the back jumped into the picture, including me.  There were 16 named, including babies and young adults.  The names used are from their relatives from the recent past to long ago and a  sense they will be never forgotten that way.We were all tired when we made it home, but all the hard work and sacrifice paid off and in fact, it was sad to see it end.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to Kansas, the 3rd Rock from the Sun!

It’s old hat around here:  Our Kansas Jayhawks will be traveling to the Big Easy for another Final Four.  Yesterday they smoked Roy Williams roster of McDonalds All-Americans, mostly through sheer determination, mixing up a tough, tough defense with some timely shooting.  The score was KU 80 North Carolina 67, with KU scoring the last 12 points.  The future lottery picks of Carolina couldn't buy a bucket, but isn't that what memories are all about?

It was a masterful job of coaching when Self switched to a triangle and two defense, which means two players played man to man and the other three played a zone. John Henson, one of their future pro’s said “they switched it up on us and we couldn’t figure it out.”  Prior to the game, all the scouting reports/ news analysis said KU's defense would bring the mighty Tarheels down. They were right, plus there was another factor:  you could see the determination in the KU players faces,  and  this will help but talent can take you the rest of the way.  The score was 47-47 which reminded me of the score in the 1988 championship game.  In that game, KU didn’t have the talent level of OU, but ran up and down the court with them with the half ending tied 50-50.  Larry Brown also did a masterful coaching job.  In the second half, he slowed it down and OU didn’t know how to act and KU ended up National Champions.  KU also had a young guy named Danny Manning playing for them, who now in his spare time shows the KU players the moves and footwork necessary to excel.  He is one top-notch coach.

In the second half, the score was 58-53 at the 14:12 mark and at the 4:19 mark it was 68-66 and the bottom fell out for North Carolina after that.  At one point, Tyshawn Taylor shot an ill-advised 3 point attempt and it missed horribly.  This reporter described Self as having a look on his face that was like seeing his dog run into traffic.  I, too, was screaming and cussing at that one, but KU overcame and for once things went their way.  We made it to the Final Four when nobody expected it.  I remember the disappointment in the past when they failed to reach that level so this makes up for those short-comings.

KU will play Ohio State in the opening round.  Ohio State cried around earlier in the year when KU beat them, they said Jared Sullinger was hurt and he would have made a difference, so now we will see who is the big dog on this basketball block:  Sullinger or Thomas Robinson, who at times is a legend among mere mortals.  Kentucky lays in wait on the other side of the bracket and the experts say only a pro team can beat Kentucky, but they may have their collective hands full with Louisville.

 It was a helluva ride this year, one helluva rebuilding year. I'm sure glad I stayed on the bandwagon. I sat in my chair watching every game cussing when they messed up and watched them grow as a team. A great experience!  The guy in the picture is Ralph Tecumseh, who recently lost a battle with cancer, and he along with Maynard Potts were two stand-up KU fans.  They were watching!

Monday, February 27, 2012

March Madness is getting closer!

As we wind down the mildest winter of this guy’s 61 winters, it makes you wonder why we have received so little snow fall.  I think I have more snow on my head then what we received this year.  With that said, we will probably get the hardest snow-fall of all time in March, but we have experienced that before too.  One year we went to the Denver March Pow-Wow and we hit a blizzard and had to sleep on the floor in a National Guard Armory in Western Kansas.  That was the last pow-wow we went to in Denver.

And this is the time of the year we’re we are heavily involved and invested in KU basketball.  This is the big event of the week for me and my family.  I sit there in my chair and cuss up a storm at times.  Before this season started, I said this will be a down year for KU, but still should win 25-27 games.  They have surprised me by winning the Big 12 title for the 8th year in a row.  They lack depth and concentration at times and are darn good when they are on their game. 

A side-note first:  We hit the jackpot the other day.  I bought four tickets for $12 apiece and add in tax, the total cost was $60.00.  Oh, these tickets were to the KU woman’s game against # Baylor -to make a long story short, the seats were right behind the KU bench.  We could see the coach diagram plays and see the players up close.  At one point in the game, Thomas Robinson and his entourage sat down a few seats from us, but I couldn’t get a good picture since I was boxed in pretty good.  Baylor has a gal named Brittany Griner who is all-everything and is destined for stardom in the woman’s pro league.  She is all that and more.  We are couch tators, but ventured out into the world to see her play.  Baylor beat KU pretty bad. Angel Goodrich of KU, who is part Indian and went to an Indian school in Oklahoma did well in the game.  She is fast and can shoot the 3-pointers.  Sitting behind the KU bench made me feel like somebody and some one saw us on television, so for a few seconds I was a star.  Just kidding!

The next day we had some religious obligations to take care of and made it home in time to watch KU men play Missouri.  This game had the hype and Missouri is good as they come.  They are an excellent team.  Some hate Missouri with a passion.  I don't.  They are good, but so is KU.  Yet, I sat in disbelief when KU fell behind by 19 points. I thought "not in our house." They missed so many free throws and showed the bench is lacking but they fought and fought and start doing things right. I called it a miracle but it's our right as a jayhawk nation.
But I did indulge in selfish prayer when KU was behind by 19 points I said "please, please let my KU come back and win because that Merle guy will never let me live it down" Merle is a guy who lives on the Kickapoo Reservation whose claim to fame is that he’s a KSU fan.  I don’t know why.  It’s hard to explain, kinda like the lack of snow we have received. And Taylor decided to be the hero and make those 2 free throws at the end.  He was due for this break.  Taylor plays so hard and his hard work paid off!  Coach Self said it was the 2nd greatest game he was involved in, the other was the Memphis State game! KU rose in the national polls as a result of this game, getting up to 3rd in the AP poll and could be looking at a #1 seed now.  We have seen this movie before and it hasn't ended well when KU is a #1 seed, but this could be the year that changes.

 I never indulged in the drug culture (I never inhaled), but this KU win has me still flying. I watched it again late Saturday night and woke up talking about it. What a game. One of the best come-backs u could ever witness. I think the guy watching over us ungrateful humans has to be a KU fan!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Weather, KU, Super Bowl and birthdays!

I want to tell you about the weather, KU basketball, the Super Bowl and a birthday event happening soon.

It took until February 4 to see some snow accumulation on our Potawatomi grounds, but it was only a small amount and it melted fast the next day. Up north of us in Nebraska, they had over a foot of snow, so I guess the storms have hit Denver and decided to go around us. Having so little snow isn’t something we plan on here, but it is too early to say we stayed in that pattern.

I don’t know if my expectations are way too high when it comes to KU basketball or not, and I know this is a rebuilding year of sorts, but I get so mad to watch them get beat and it’s already happened five times this year, more than normal. I think the biggest problem KU has is a lack of depth. The starting five can hang in there with just about anybody.  Look at the games against Ohio State, Kentucky, Duke, and Baylor as a testimonial, but when it comes time to substitute, the drop-off is way too huge. When the starting five plays upward toward 30 minutes a game, they get winded and tired at the end and errors happen. Yes, I get mad at Taylor for throwing the ball away or for missing free-throws but giving him a breather on occasion could only help at the end of games. I predicted they would 25-27 games this year and they can, but they will have to work at it to reach that plateau.

I watched the Super Bowl 46 last night. It was a good game although I don’t watch pro sports much anymore. Both teams were good and played very well. Too bad somebody had to lose. I thought about how I watched the first Super Bowl on t.v., when Vince Lombardi’s Packers smoked the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. I was a great admirer of Lombardi and in the past year I was able to see their home-field and a huge statue of him in from of the stadium, it was a fitting tribute to a great coach.

Also this week, I turn 61 years old. To be truthful, I never expected to hang around that long. Some people go into depression at this age, but to me this is just another milestone and I’m more like that guy on the Gladiator movie when he said “All you can do is look death in the eye and laugh.” What else can I do?

For all those years, I just did normal Indian things – tempted fate on more than one occasion, lived hard at times and eventually slowed down, stayed married to the same woman for going on 41 years – a gal who added balance to my life and gave me the right instruction I needed. We raised a family, saw the good and bad of life which caused a whole bunch of highs and quite a bit of lows, but I let it all bounce off, kinda like that duck we read about. Longevity enabled me to see my two girls grow up, start a family of their own and to give us five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter Ju Ju. That was all good and worth sticking around for.

Throughout this journey, I saw many of my friends leave this neck of the woods, including my twin-brother Larry. That wasn’t enjoyable to see at all, but it is part of this thing we call life. Also, I included a picture of my other brother Bubs.  He left this rez back in 1984.  I sure liked him too, he was one good sheet-rocker and one hell of first baseman.

My birthday is going to be a low-key event -  I told my kids I don't want no big meal, and no gifts but If I get a couple I will be a happy camper.  Instead, I will take my wife to eat somewhere, maybe we will go and look for a giving and caring slot-machine that might hit over and over, and when we have had enough of pursing the gambler dream, we will go to bed and I will give thanks I made it this long.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An eventful weekend in January!

My grandchildren danced at the Battle of the Plains in Bartlesville, Oklahoma this past weekend. It’s a school sponsored event. It’s always a big deal to the kids to go there and dance, eat and stay in a motel. We try our best to support them. In years past, the event conflicted with our quarterly general council meeting, but not this year – that doozie is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Enroute to Bartlesville, I swerved off the beaten path and drove to see the Lucky Star Casino, which is located nine miles south of Wichita. It seems that their claim to fame is to save the state from themselves and to hurt our casino business, but only time will judge that one. The property has its own turnpike entrance and ramp to get off. In the parking lot, I noticed Geary County tags more than any other, which is the Wichita area.

It is a building under construction and they have the machines and table games set up in horse arena for the time being, but don’t get me wrong it is a gambling environment. They have seats already in place for future horse-shows and they are located about the temporary gaming floor. I don’t see the connection between successful gaming and horse shows, but it must have some draw there. There is lot of room in this section and the crowd was fairly good for a Friday afternoon. All the table games were full and the mix of gaming machines were mostly dollars and penny machines with few quarter machines. The seating was comfortable and it was easy to get around.

I think this casino is a convenient drive for Wichita people and will cut into the business of Indian casinos further south in Oklahoma. I don’t see how they can impact our operation because of how far away this casino is away, the average person probably only drives here only occasionally, anyway. I, personally wouldn’t drive to Mulvane just to gamble, maybe yes, it I was going by to some other location. It doesn’t have the atmosphere or the ambiance yet and thankfully they did not take advantage of me at the machines.

After this diversion, we made it to Oklahoma, saw a beautiful Golden Eagle perched in a tree close to the road, Indian casinos on every corner, saw some friendly folk, and saw the country-side, mostly cause I took the wrong turn. I thought I was going to Deliverance, Arkansas. Yes, I went into a cold sweat when I saw that Deliverance sign 80 miles.

My daughter said “Who goes n takes a gravel road thinking its a shortcut? Felt like i was gonna be n that movie wrong turn! ONLY GM,” but we made it to Bartlesville. It’s always an adventure riding with me! But let me tell you this isn’t the first time this old guy got lost.

They had a honor song for Anita Evans who has worked with the Indian kids at Royal Valley for a good number of years and it is great when people are recognized for the hard work they’ve done. Anita is retiring from teaching.

I got to visit my family and a bunch of friends, we pigged a bunch, gambled a little, and we spent some time with Jennifer and Teddie my first cousins. Poor things- they live in Oklahoma full-time! But all fun and games must end sometime and it soon became time to head back to the cruel, cruel world of our political life on the Potawatomi Reservation. The road trip ended at 2:00 pm Sunday, and my dog was happy I made it home! He doesn’t give a damn if I get lost!

On this trip some of the white folk were friendly, many Indians weren't. They must have a general council meeting next week too! I tell people our general councils are a time when elected officials have to pay for their sins, real or perceived and a tongue lashing happens for 4-8 hours. After this purge of emotions is all laid out on the table, a general shock comes over some, and for some it serves the purpose of making people feel better about themselves. We have a slug of non-Indians and non-tribal members who work for this tribe who don’t have to go. They are lucky to have those jobs, but don’t have to see the dynamics of how a tribal structure or tribal politics really work. Damn lucky!

Monday, January 9, 2012

January, 2012

Let’s look around us at the developments of the day:

The weather here on the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Reservation has been close to tropical, but I wouldn’t plan on it staying that way. These unplanned days have allowed me to get more work done in the yard. I had some branches cut in my back-yard and I hauled them off over the weekend and one big branch decided to whip back at me and it cut me above my eye and knocked off my glasses. I had my grandson, Pat ko shuk, administer first aid to stop the bleeding and I went on my merry way. Some day, I will cut back on this labor, but don’t know when!

With the National Championship game being played tonight at 7:30 between LSU and Alabama, I bet those Cowboys from OSU will be kicking the proverbial rock down the street for losing to Iowa State,  which goes to show you can’t let your guard down at all during the regular season. OSU ended up with a 12-1 record.

A local political observer told me the other day: “The federal government wasn’t meant to run everything. That’s why we have local government.” Well let’s see how that plays out in Wichita. Boeing is leaving Wichita after a million years being there and 2,160 employees have lost their jobs. Politicians pushed hard for pork and they were awarded all kind of contracts and given numerous tax concessions to stay, but they left anyway. This is a blow to that city, and now Kansas politicians and the D.C. delegation are under fire for not doing more.

Speaking of politicians if you want:

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal on Thursday apologized for an email that made fun of first lady Michelle Obama’s hair style and mockingly called her “Mrs. YoMama.” According to the Lawrence Journal World, O’Neal forwarded from his personal computer the email that said, “I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Mrs. YoMama a wonderful, long Hawaii Christmas vacation — at our expense, of course.”

The O’Neal incident comes just weeks after U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, apologized to the first lady for commenting on the size of her backside.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Sensenbrenner referred to Obama’s “big butt” while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar. According to the newspaper’s account, Sensenbrenner thought Obama was a hypocrite for undertaking a national initiative to fight obesity. Politicians don’t have to worry about racial comments, I guess!

But in the business world, last month an employee cashier reportedly used "Ching" and "Chong" in the customer identification line on the receipts. He was dismissed for violating operating standards. In another incident, Papa John’s terminated an employee for writing “lady chinky eyes” on a receipt in New York City. Customers said “Your employees are your brand,” Yet, politicians can make remarks like those two yahoos against the first lady of the United States with no consequences. This is another case of stupid politics and a lack of respect.

An a lesson to us all: A 58-year-old man accused of drinking while driving a lawn mower has been charged with assaulting a southwest Missouri law enforcement officer in Willard, Missouri. And what was that message:  Maybe don’t’ drink and drive while you mow your weeds.

Oh well, it makes for interesting reading !