Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Letting experiences change us?

Your values don't change only your attitude does! Believe it. Let's say you have a generous nature. You would literally give your shirt off your back to help someone. I know people like that. Heck, I'm someone like that. But what happens if someone burns you? Someone takes advantage of your generosity? This happens all too many times. You most likely have been used by someone at one time or another. So what happens? Do you change who you are? Do you some how become a cheap person? No, you don't. But you change your behaviour; your attitude on things. That is not the same as changing your values. Look at it like this, why let someone's bad ways change you? I do admit that you can get jaded by repeated actions that hurt you. Things like having your house broken in that you always lock your doors. It may not change your values but it does alter your attitude that's for sure.

The reason I speak of this is because I have been at that road a few times. Actually I have been down that road a number of times. You may think I am a fool. Or I have a big "M" on my forehead as the sign of a mark, a sucker. Or like my Mom use to say, I'm like my Dad, generous. That's okay too. In my past I have done a lot of good things and of course a lot of bad things. If something happened bad to me, perhaps I brought it on to myself, but not sure?

A couple of guys from my Reserve asked me to help them sell their art. This happened at different times. I did try to help them. This one guy Perry G. asked me if I could market his art. Go around and try sell his pieces of work. I told him I wasn't going to do that. Instead I sat with him and developed a plan trying to get him some exposure. He was to develop a portfolio; finish a number of art pieces, have some shows, and a slide show of work for submissions. Perry was like most Indian artists, making a painting and taking it around trying to sell it to make some cash. The problem we had with him stock piling art work for shows, was that Perry needed money. He had to have money to be able to live. Perry did large water colour paintings. His painting was time consuming. We decided that to supplement his income and keep the large pieces for his showings, we would get him making smaller items for quick sale and faster to paint. My friend Earl had agreed to make a number of small items that Perry could paint, like drums, mandellas and other items. I bought a number of Buffalo skulls for Perry to paint in a hope to capitalize on some of the Traditional Indians.

As time went on, things were going as we planned. We had a few small shows. Even having a show in an atrium of a Bank at a downtown mall. We made prints of a couple of his paintings. I made proposals for funding for Perry and got a commission for one of his works from our Band. I set up participation at the New York Art Expo for Perry. I borrowed an old mini-van that had over 300,000 kilometers on it for the trip to New York. I rented a top carrier for the stuff. My Dad and Earl's dad were still trapping so they gave us some Lynx pelts for our display. We had a number of skulls, bear, buffalo, beaver that were painting up by Perry as part of our display. The trip went well. Leaning Tree Cards was interested in one painting by Perry called Devoted Mothers. It was a water colour of an Indian mom and her daughter along side a Wolf and her cub. The woman was a mistress of Perry's.

We came back feeling pretty good about our trip. We had another showing at a small local gallery. The owner of the gallery was Mike ManyEagles. We put up all of the original paintings in his shop. The tripods for the paintings and the carrying cases for the paintings were all left in the gallery. Guess what happened? We came to the gallery to find it closed. What the heck? We keep coming back and coming back and the gallery was not open. We finally got the owner of the building to open up for us, so we could collect our stuff. The gallery was bare! Turns out Mike ManyEagles sold the paintings to the owner of Gemini Fashions. Scourch!

We took ManyEagles to court and got judgement but no means for collection. It was a hollow win in the court system. I confronted ManyEagles a number of times. He always ran away? He stole Perry's chance at the Leaning Tree card opportunity, and set him way back for further shows.

Helping Perry was something I enjoyed doing. I made no money from this activity. I was working full time and helping out Earl. Earl was the person who brought Perry to me. Interesting side note, Earl took a number of the drums, skulls and took off before our trip to New York. That guy. Perry was starting to take more and more pills and kept asking me for more and more money. I would lend Perry money all the time. I even lent him my car. Perry broke down with my car and never brought it back. I had it towed to my home after a month. There was a rotting cow skull in the trunk. I could not get the smell out. Got the car fixed and gave it my nephew, but could never get rid of the smell.

Perry ended up in a car crash that took his life. His family acted awful. A number of the brothers were selling his prints (the prints I paid for) on the streets, in bars for any amount they could get. His mother was even friendly with ManyEagles? His older brother was going around saying I was going after Perry's estate? What estate? These people asked me to be a bearer at the funeral and then do that after his death. Perry didn't receive any help or support from his family when he was trying to get a name in the art world. I was upset because Perry's brother Randall and Perry's wife didn't take up for me. I shrugged off the actions due to grief, but now I know better. Would I do it again (spending up to ten thousand and not receiving anything for it, except for a call down)?

I have done it again. Guess what? Similar results. This time the gallery closed up and most of the stuff was mine. I was getting my friend some exposure and put up art that I purchased. The lady Linda N. ran a gallery with her husband in a trendy area (the exchange district) of the city. She ran off with another Indian guy from Roseau River. I actually know that guy. Linda's real husband (a non-Native)paid me for a few of the paintings (less than what I paid for them) but I did not get my carvings back. He actually contacted me, how about that? That was very good of him to try make amends. I am not sure who took the art, but I suspect it was him, but who really knows? I lent money to another artist and he didn't pay back, instead he got mad at me because he owed me money? I still see him and talk to him but our relationship has never been the same, sadly. That has happened to me on quite a few occasions. Sent money to some fellow who needed bail in Alberta. Never heard from him again. And so on and so on.

I do have to tell you it does make you think about helping folks. In the end we really can't change our values, but maybe we can alter our behaviour a bit. I forgot to add that people in New York were not keen on the animal pelts. It was the age of anti-fur in the U.S. I got into a few arguments. It is very difficult not to get upset and lash out in anger. Still  if let the actions of others change who we are then that's too bad for us. 

The personal story is nothing compared to the treatment we Anishinaabe have endured from Canada (and the United States, not to mention the treatment of Indigenous people the world over).  So when main stream society questions the behaviour of the Indigenous people it upsets me. They have no right to criticize the folks they have tortured. Colonial societies have changed our behaviours. We try to not let it affect us, and many are successful at not letting the whole colonial genocide acts turn us bitter. Still many of us can not help but be affected. The pain of the ugly treatment is reflected in their acts of self harm.  The behaviours have changed but not our values. You see Indigenous people the world over still loving, still kind, still generous, still caring for their community, for the water, for the forests, for the Earth. They haven't let all the abuse change their values. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Indian Art is Art

What makes Indian Art or any art for that matter, a piece of art? I love art. it is one of the things I enjoy being around. Not just Indian art but all sorts of art, even bad art. Like the Voice of Fire by Barnett Newman. You know that work for sure. It's the three lines of paint on a big piece of canvas (could be plywood) that sold for almost two million dollars.

Me, I am too damn simple to get the "full effect" of this abstract piece. I have no doubt that there is merit in the Voice of Fire, after all two million reasons of merit are placed upon it. I do like things that are considered "folk art". You know the simple stuff. Even things that are labeled crafts. For me, one person's craft is another person's work of art. Who would consider a Hand Drum a work of art? Many people would not. Most would call it primitive example or contemporary forms of a craft object. Why does cost become the measurement for what is art? The higher it costs or the higher someone is willing to pay for something makes it more of fine art object. That's another thing, labels put on art make it more or less respectable. Whether it's Fine art, folk art, contemporary art, Tribal art, and of course commercial art.
Malevich's Black Square is an iconic painting by Kazimir Malevich 1915

What makes art, Art? I am like a lot of people, I like Morrisseau and Odjig. I like their art because we are told they are good. In this case it happens to be true. You look at the colours and the shapes and the stories told and you know that the artist is trying to bring you along for the ride in the story. However, some art work is just nice. Pleasing to look at, with nice colours and a representation of something that we may or may not recognize. It is still art. But it's really all subjective. Subjective to what we judge it to be. It's all about judgment. We are told not to be judgmental but art is one area where we have to be. I like the Voice of Fire actually. If I wasn't told it was a piece of art, I would have thought it was a representation of a flag. Some country that I was unaware of. But with the two million dollar price tag attached, I like it for its worth. For some reason it looks better now that it is worth something. I like to tease my wife that way. When I win the lottery I will somehow become instantly handsome. That's what we say when someone wins the lotto, "look who just got very pretty."

I love art, did I tell you? My friend is a Road Chief, he conducts Peyote ceremonies. His ceremonial fan and Gourd are great pieces of art. The fan has Macaw feathers and a beaded handle. Someone took great care in making this fan and gourd rattle.
It's like that with many ceremonial items, moccasins, dancing sticks, dancing bustles, Shawls, beadwork, you name it. That is what I like about Powwow, the opportunity to view all of this art work. It's like being in one big art gallery and seeing all the artists.

Art work can vary in style, medium, colour, subject matter, and context.  It can bring joy, sadness, anger, pride, longing, wonder, many emotions, and even disdain. Art can be political; making a statement.
We have on our wall a Tikinaagan, a baby cradle board. It was made by this woman in Island Lake. I bought it from her at four hundred dollars about 30 years ago. A lot of money. It's a real cradle board that can be used. So it was meant to be used and not hung up like a piece of art.

I have some West Coast art carvings. This one West Coast artist, J. Joseph is infamous. He was in the news for selling Eagles. Yep, this guy is a good artist but he is also a Windigo. A greedy monster. He tried to make a living selling feathers. They would leave fish around a tree and wait for the morning and shoot the Eagles sitting in the tree. That's greed for you. Didn't matter he had talent, he wanted more and more. That is the Windigo, it's appetite just grows and grows, can't stop it, and it consumes you. That is why it is never good to want something too much.

I know that about art. You collect it and you want more and more. You see your friend has a piece and you want it to. You get so that you must have it. You lose sight of what is important. Art is lovely but it is not the most important thing. My family had a giveaway to celebrate our daughter's life, so we gave away our art. You give away things you like and not things you don't like. Art is meant to be shared. What good is art if no one can enjoy it?
Calling the Night - Jackson Beardy 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Indian Gangs

Join a gang to be part of a family. Join a gang to seek protection. Join a gang to be part of a group. What a load of crap! Gangs are nothing more than an attempt to have power and control. That's it nothing more. It's not because Mom didn't love me or Daddy wasn't there. It's not for a brotherhood or sisterhood. It is simply a place to get some power. I get sick when I hear people trying to talk about how the gangs show respect by not breaking into a car that has an Eagle feather hanging from the mirror. Tell that to the husband and kids of the woman shot on Saturday for being at a wedding social. Tell them how gangs are a symptom of a wider social problem. Tell them that there is function that gangs serve.

In jail some people just thrive. They get to be somebody in jail. Whatever that is. But on the outside they are just like everyone else. Either someone just making it or someone invisible. What has selling poison to your own people or selling someone's daughter have to do with being a part of Tradition? I know of this lady who was working at one of the local Indian agencies and was not a drug user. Her husband was a drug user. The drug dealing gang members went after the woman for the man's debt. I don't know who is worse, the husband or the gang member. You know what is bad? Some people are proud of their kids being in a gang. That is just awful. How sad is that? What's even worse is that our leaders meet with these guys. Lot of the gang members want to be respected but they have no idea what respect is. I think people should more than despise gangs, people should loathe them and threat as the pariah that they are.

I worked in a job where we did advocacy work. Indian gang members were in jail and saying all sorts of things (actually those big gangsters were whinning alot), like they were alone, being discriminated against and so on. I went with an Elder to have a Pipe ceremony with them in the Remand Centre. They asked me to go to watch them in court. I did. You know what that got me? Later on a few years later, they took me for a ride and wanted money for one of their lackeys. He was a guy from my Reserve and we had a disagreement. Long story but I kicked him out of a business venture I was starting. He didn't like it and used his connection to the gangs to exact his revenge. One of the older gang members from the Reserve always threatened to kill me every time I would see him somewhere.

The gangs make it hard for the everyday Indian. My son was arrested as a teenager. He was labeled a gang member by the police because he is an Indian. The police do that because there are stricter bail conditions if you are a gang member. My son had never been in trouble in his life but he spent 16 days in jail and was on a strict curfew for 2 years before his court case found him innocent. The police would come to the house at all hours and harass us. The everyday person sees an Indian and assumes that he is a gang member. It is difficult for a young Indian not to be labeled because of the gang life.

I look at the gang members I had dealings with 10-15 years ago and they are still in the same sad life style. It is a loser existence but yet it draws people in? Standing around outside some run down bar, riding stolen bicycles, living at a woman's Manitoba Housing complex.You know what is appealing about the gangster life?  It's the appeal of laziness. Look at what they do. Sleep endless hours of the day. Go out at night, hanging around, sitting in bars, or going to different places and picking up money at people's places. Nothing to do but drive around (in many cases bicycle around or bus it) see people, visit and that's it.  Stand or sit around the malls food courts trying to sell shit to people. Just lazy lives that is gangster shit.

My cousin's were partners of gang members. When the guys did time, so did the girls. They had to be by the phone waiting for the call from their man in jail. They were stuck. If they were not home and the guy phoned, well it was not a good thing. These tough gang members all "shaking it rough" when their woman is on the outside. So what do the gang members do? They make the women do time. The girls do time in their own home, trapped to the phone. That is it, power and control. Nothing more.

Watch around the remand centre in the city, girls will come there and bring their babies and wave at the windows way up at the concrete building. Waving at some window where their dad may or may not be looking. What a life for a child. That's gang life for you. Old guys still trying to fight, mean while some of them  need diapers (Depends) because they are close to that "I shit myself" age.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Moms are the Best

Everyone's mom is the best. Except those that are just no damn good. What makes our mom the best? My Mom passed away from Cancer March 16, 2005. She was the best person I have ever met. Not phony in the least bit. She was kind, and always thought of others. It is those characteristics of a good person that we should try and carry forward. But what distinguishes her from others? I guess it is really not that uncommon that women, specifically Mom's are good people.

My Mom was a janitor since I was a little kid. She worked hard all the time. She was traditional in the sense that she was the care provider. My Mom didn't learn to drive until she was in her late 30's. She told us of the story when she got my older brother Poncho to drive her to work. Poncho was to young to drive but Mom didn't know how to drive. A police officer stopped them on her way to work. He told my Mom that she had to give him ten dollars or he would take Poncho to jail. My Mom said she was lucky because she did have ten dollars at home. So the cop followed Mom and Poncho back to the house to get the ten dollars. Poncho then drove Mom to work. She laughed because she always thought that was how the cops were. She knew I was not the best kid or most honest, so she used to say "don't give them a chance to catch you". She didn't say "don't do anything wrong", but don't let them catch you. I used to call her crazy old lady. She sure was a lot of fun. She had these Teachings that you remember and carry with you. She always wanted to make sure you fed people. She would get upset if you ate in front of people without giving them food. In her last statements when she was wasting away from the cancer, she still took the time to tell us to make sure to feed people. In one of her Teachings she would say "be like this", showing a finger straight up, and"not like this", showing a bent finger. She said that you give someone your word you try and make sure to keep it. She said it was Mishoom that gave her and Dad that Teaching. Mishoom used to say that if you say you are going to meet someone in town, you make sure to get there. It is a long walk and if someone goes there and you are not there, you have wasted their day. Make sure to do what you say you are going to do.

That police story reminds of the encounters I had with police back in the Reserve.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Language Bastards, But.

In many Reserves the original languages are dying out. That is a sad thing. Many people say there is no utility in those old languages. They couldn't be more wrong. Language carries a your history, your parents, grandparents, your community and your understanding, your connection in this world.. It's sad because in two spans it can be gone. My parents are fluent. They were both taught in school to speak English. They spoke broken English or heavy accent English because their teachers were French speaking. Isn't that funny. (If you look even further it's ironic that French speaking people tried to kill a language but go to hell and back to save theirs) Lots of the older people speak with no "h's" in their English. My parents didn't speak Ojibwe to us growing up. So we only heard them with other old people. We can understand most of a conversation to answer back in English. To try and get our tongues to say the words is a work out. We can put it together in our heads but it gets tied up when it reaches the mouth. Anyway, I can understand but my kids won't even be able to understand because it's not spoken. That is how fast the language can get lost. If languages were wildlife they would be in the endangered species category.

Language is such a powerful animal. It can make the ugly look beautiful and the innocent look guilty and ugly. We use language to soften things that we see as ugly or as hurtful. Take the word Welfare. In itself welfare is a good thing. It means that we are trying to care for something, for someone. But use in the context of standing in line for a handout and it is not a good thing. It is degrading. So we use language to change that ugly thing. In the Reserve we say things like farewell or ish. "You get your farewell? You going for your ish?" Short for issue of welfare. Takes the sting out of welfare and makes it a comedy, even a dark comedy. That is the thing isn't it, even a word like Welfare is ugly. Weird because welfare is a kind act, an act of caring. But yet we have poisoned that word to make us think it is ugly, obscene. Like if you give welfare or get welfare it is degrading. You care for the welfare of your family, your child and that is  a great thing. But used in a different context it ugly, repugnant. See even using the word repugnant makes something even uglier than ugly.  Language even tries to pretty up or make the obscene seem cool. "Steve was a rock star this weekend." This is a reference to my crack binge episode, the use of crack Rock ( I never have used crack but this is illustrate how people talk). Instead of acknowledging how vile crack use is, it is dressed up to be something funny. You mostly likely heard a number of words that are used to soften or even make the ugly look nice. We see it everyday to make things acceptable. Today the Meth use is at crisis levels. Language is used to change the stigma and to try hide the meth; like Jib. You see Jib-heads and zombies now rather than meth-heads. Sometimes there is a purpose and use of language to soften harshness or things that are in your face. Look at Homosexual. A number of people are prejudice to this way of life. So language is used to soften it; like using gay or Two-Spirited. While other language is used to make it ugly: Queer and Fag. So language is powerful. We see it in categories of people, of events. We must be aware of how language is used.

Recently in December 2014, the word racism has been changed to "compassion fatigue". There was an inquiry into the death of a homeless man, who was left to rot in an emergency waiting room. He was later found to be dead and with Rigamortis. Now that is how we can use language to soften, even clean up an ugly act. This man died in part (or solely because of) to racism. The Judge didn't want to label it correctly so he came up with a nice way to clean it up. He called it compassion fatigue and not racism.

I believe that the Creator gave us different languages to ensure we are unique. Our languages help define us and with out that we kind of get lost. We become somewhat less than what we are. The shine gets a little tarnished. But you know what, there is a lot of chance for us to learn. It takes work and generally we are lazy but it's worth the effort. Now that my Dad is getting way up there in age, he is forgetting more of the English and speaking more Indian, so we answer more in Indian as well. Get's the tongue practicing.

Now why language bastards. It's for those smug Arseholes who are fluent and ridicule those trying to speak. They make fun if you mispronounce or use a wrong tense. You know who is going to be successful at speaking and learning, those who are not shy. I like that in people, not shy to speak or try. The smug people make it hard on those that are trying. Instead they should be encouraging rather than shooting them down. They are beneficiaries of environment, those smug buggers.  Those lucky bums.

I have a story about a friend. This guy he is really smart, but kind of quirky. He was dating these two girls at one time. Yeah I know, it happens. Anyway he asked me one time what do I think of Kelly. "Well she's pretty skinny, doesn't say too much, she looks old and..." He says quickly, "well, I like her!" Okay then. :-) This other girl he was dating had two children but she was very good looking. That nice dark Indian colour and the whole works. For some reason he asks her, "If you were to come back as an animal what would it be?" She thinks for a while and says, "a Swan." He replies, "A swan? Why a Swan?" Her reason was that "a Swan mates for life!" He said in surprise, "You don't have Swan like qualities, you have two different kids from two different Dads." He made the mistake of telling me his story and all of our friends knew the story of the stick (someone said the ugly stick) and the swan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

First time!

There are first times for everything. I remember my first day in school. My first elevator ride, my first time getting a gun pointed at me, the first real girlfriend. I don't remember my first kiss. The first time I went into a Sweatlodge. It's that first time that we all want back or to not have at all. Like the first time we see a man we hold in the highest regard, our hero, become weak with the drink.

I remember well my first Sweatlodge Ceremony. It was in Roseau Rapids for the Sunrise Ceremonies. The Elder was a gentleman named Herman Atkinson of Roseau River Reserve and he conducted the ceremony. I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I lined up with a bunch of first time Sweaters. Let's say the experience was one of the best feelings that I had had up to that point in my life. That is a first that I would enjoy having again.

Another first that I had was walking into a classroom at the Residential School. I saw the greatest toy I have ever seen in my life. It was a plastic farm set, complete with barn, the animals and the silo. Up to that point I only remember ever seeing them in a catalogue. I don't remember if I ever had the chance to play with that farm set. I don't think I ever got to play with it. I also remember receiving my first strapping from the Nuns at that school. She used what we called beaver tails; a long thick black leather strap. Six times on each hand. I also got it on my arse. One of the firsts that I remember at that school is having some older kid tell me he was going to touch my pinjik. I am not sure of the exact word he used at the time ( I know it was penis :D )  I thought he was trying to tease or scare me, turned out he wasn't. He chases you and you try to run but he's too big too fast. I remember my thoughts of if I had clean underwear.

Yes, there are a lot of firsts we have in life. Some are pretty damn good and some are pretty damn awful. For me I would endure all of the awful first times if I could do away with one first. And that would be the loss of my boy. I would be able to get out of my head the first time I saw him lifeless, and the first time I smelled the smell, the smell of decay. The first time I cried out no, no, no, no! The first time I knew it was real. The first time I gave up living and started existing. Yeah, I tell you that is a first I would not want for anyone.

But you know there are first that do come later in life that almost make up for all the awful firsts. The first Grandchild. Holy smokes I can not explain how this one little person can keep you going and wanting for more. For more firsts like that. For the first time she tries to say Granpa, but says mon-mon. The first time she runs to you and wants you, (yes you!) to pick her up.

Those are the first you tell your friends and strangers about.

First time for everything.  Some are monumental and some inconsequential.

Hoping all your first times are good nice beautiful and special.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Goat is dead, I want my neighbours Goat dead.

Recently in Greece, there have been riots. A lady spoke of the saying, "my goat is dead, so I want my neighbours goat dead". This is a common trait or thinking in the world. We like to see misery in others if we are going through misery. 

My Romanian friend Sorin told me about the goat farm in his region. I guess there were these two neighbours, goat farmers they were. One of the farmers had trouble, his goats got sick and died. The other farmer still had his goats and worked hard to keep them fed and healthy. The dead goat farmer, him, he wished and he wished. He wished the other farmer's goats would die! This story reminds me of home.

Kind of the same type of thinking that goes on in the Reserve. I call it the "Indian Factor". The Indian Factor is where we are hardest on ourselves. Old Steve has a business in the Reserve but I'm not going to spend a penny in his place! Ron has a new shirt on, boy that guy thinks he's good. Jennifer is the head of the social services and she is a bitch. We can call down with the best of them when it comes to our own. How come we save our biggest smiles and friendliest handshakes for strangers? How come that is the way it is? Ask any Indian who has started a business in his or her own Reserve and they will tell you about the Indian Factor.

The Indian Factor is not all about being our own worst enemy. Heck no. It's also about being so damn generous. You ask any Indian and they will tell you. The Indian Factor is an enigma. I like that word. You can be mixed up about things and say it is an enigma. You should see the people when there is a crisis in the home. People like to help. Have a stranger drive up to a home and tell them they are lost and you will get help. Most people will gladly visit with you and have some tea. I remember I did that in Rocky Boy Montana. Pulled up into a home where a fire was going and there was a Sweat Lodge. The people were just getting out and were friendly as all heck when we told them where we were from and who we were. I kind of like that about the Indian Factor, you never know what you're going to get.

Speaking of Rocky Boy, this guy, William Windyboy told us a story over tea. He told the story of Nanabooshoo or in Cree they call him Waasakejak. How old Nanabooshoo was standing up on Sweat-grass Hills over looking the area and his people. Way out in the distance he could see someone walking. He didn't know who that was. The person kept walking and getting closer to Nanaboosho. As he got closer it was clear that this guy was beat up. Holee, he looked like someone had really beaten this guy up. As he got close, Nanabooshoo recognized his relative. "Ho, Jesus, what the heck happened to you?" Jesus said, "It was my people. They were not satisfied. I fed them. I healed the sick. I made the blind see, I walked on water for them. And still they were not happy. They beat me! They fought me. They hanged me. They killed me!" Nanabooshoo was sad for his relative. Jesus said, "my people are not satisfied".

I thought about this story and what it meant. I can guess what it means and how it has played out. The symbolism if you will of the story and what it means. Want me to give you my take on it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Got to love Indians

This old lady in BC told me a story about Alert Bay. Rita is her name. I got to visit her for a period of time. She has her quirks like anyone else but she also had some good stories. She told me about the Potlatch. The Potlatch is a big big give-away ceremony. When her grandfather was a young man, his Band had to put on a Feast and Potlatch. The Chief was to put on a Potlatch and take care of some business. In those times there was a law against ceremonies such as the Potlatch. As the government had said "it goes against Victorian values", you know, accumulation of goods. The Indians also had to get permission from the Indian agent or the government to leave the community. This was done to keep track of ceremonies being conducted.
The Indians needed to get the ceremony done so they decided to erect a Totem Pole for the King. Dignitaries and other government officials came out to Alert Bay to see the raising of the Pole for the King. Other Indian communities were allowed to come to witness this great occasion. Many people came. There were no places like hotels for people to stay, so all the dignitaries and police left after the honouring of the King. All that was left in the community were all these Indians from various communities.
Once all the non-Native had left the REAL ceremony began. The Chief was able to do the things he was suppose to do in ceremony. Rita said the Pole is still there. Smart eh?
That's why you got to love Indians, despite all they have been through their still here and they still laugh and love.
I am not sure if I should have shared that story on here. There are some things that I don't know about. But what the heck, the water is too wide and I can't fly.

So, I will share one of my own. I was 17 years old, and I was in my bedroom. I had gotten my older brother's room as they were all gone from our three bedroom house. My Mishoom, my dad and uncles built that house. Anyway, I was drunk. Not drunk falling down, or not knowing what was going on, but still under the influence. There were several rifles on my gun rack. I took a 22 Cooey rifle, loaded it, put it to my chest and pulled the trigger. And then...
Nothing. Nothing happened. I was kind wondering what happened. I opened the breach and took out the bullet. A 22 is rim fire round and this one had a dent in the rim. So it miss-fired. I guess my mom must have heard me messing around in the bedroom. The living room was outside the door, no hall separated the living from the bedrooms and sound traveled easily. She came in and said "what you doing?" I had the gun in my hands so she took it and put it back on the rack and told me to go to bed.
My mom was an amazing woman. She was very kind hearted. She always prayed Rosary for her kids. I guess I always knew she had me safe. I know I should have been killed a few times over.
So you go to love those people, Indians. That was what my mom was... a kind Indian and a good Mom.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cultural Prostitutes

You know what a cultural prostitute does? He or she will sell themselves as Medicine people, Traditional Teacher or Elders. Cultural prostitution is not a new phenomenon. People have been doing it forever, and it's not just the Indian. Every Japanese Karate Association is guilty of prostituting themselves. The famous Guru for the Beatles back in their day. Even the Dali Lama is guilty of selling his culture beliefs. Everyone does it. I may not be a big fan of the cultural prostitute but I can understand it. After all, zhooniyaake! He makes money.
It is a complex thing these days. People get upset that some Medicine people expect to be compensated for their time and effort. People expect that an offering of tobacco is sufficient payment for a Medicine person to help them. This is because you are gifted with Medicine and it is not to be your lively-hood. Tobacco is sacred and it's worth should not be quantified. People should use their Medicine to help because they have been asked. I get that! However, (no one ever likes to hear the however word) there should be weight on both sides of the equation. There should be some worth in what the Medicine person does for you. If you want a Medicine person to pray for your sick child and perform a miracle with the Creators gift, shouldn't it be worth anything you could possible think of? You are asking someone to cure your child but yet you only give them a cigarette. Of course tobacco is sacred but what does that say of what you think of the person's gift and what you think it is worth. You are seeking help with Life, and there should be no river you would not cross, no mountain you wouldn't climb and no cost you would not pay for that help. So why is it okay to pay a pharmacist for Tylenol and yet you wouldn't consider giving something to a Medicine person?
I say it is complex, because there are those that benefit financially from the promise to help with their "gifts" (I like those quotation marks) and those that benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from receiving those gifts. Yet there are those that don't benefit from sharing those gifts and those that don't benefit from paying for those gifts.
How do you go about reconciling what to offer and what you can ask for?
Here is a story from our Reserve. We have Thirst Dance or Sun Dance in our community. If you were not from the Reserve you wouldn't know the ceremony was taking place. It is not like a Powwow where you advertise. People just know to come. There is a lot of Church presence in the Reserve. It has been like that for years. It has come to the point that there are those in the community that don't like the Traditionalist. Ever year the Sundance ceremony leaves behind the Dance arbor with the Tree of Life. One person for whatever reason went to the Tree and took a dump at the base. Can you imagine that! One of our own. What has happened here is that we are literally shitting on ourselves.

Be my guide

Lot of people out there are very good hunters. I am not one of them. Oh, I did my share of hunting but it is not what you call real hunting. You know the kind of hunting where you trek all over the bush, tracking big animals and stalking them, until you get close enough to touch them. No, I had a spotlight in hand while one of my friends drove down some bush cutting dirt road at night. That is not hunting, that is poaching and slaughter of innocent animals. Sure I gave meat to old people, but still it wasn't right. When I was a kid my dad would take me out trapping. Now he was a real hunter and trapper. He was hired as a guide up north at Thunderbird Lodge. He took Americans out for moose. Me, I was asked to take out these 3 Greek guys to hunt deer. I was to flush deer out of the woods into a clearing for these guys. I went, being Indian and all, but what the heck did I know about flushing out deer! For heck sakes, I was scared; I was all alone in the woods trampling around like who knows what and looking for deer. Well guess what? I did manage to spook one deer into the field clearing for the Greek guys that were suppose to be waiting for a deer to come out. As I came out into the opening the deer was already across the field and the guys were sitting in their car having coffee! An adjacent road had a car moving through, and it stopped. A man got out and shot the deer. We went home empty handed and that was the end of my guiding career.
I see that is the way of the Reserve now, a lot of guys hunt from the back of pickup trucks or on ATV's. There is no real thought of conservation. I was young stupid and like that. Now I don't hunt at all. I haven't gone fishing in a long time as well. But I think that's because I am lazy and not for some moral reason or some sacred aspect to my feelings towards fish.
I wish there were more people that would consider the sacredness of animals. Perhaps the hunting expedition would have more meaning and become more of cause rather than an evening of fun. Perhaps the animal would be treated with more consideration before, during, and after the hunt.
A story from home: Speaking of hunting, my cousin is one those guys that loves the bush and he goes out all the time. Not just for the hunt, but just for the feeling when you go into the bush. There is nothing like have hot tea boiled over an open fire in the bush. The smell of smoke, the crackling of the sticks burning, ahhh. Oops getting a little lost there. Anyway, my cousin likes to go up to Bear River rapids. Now one time when he went out there he came up to the rapids. I guess another fellow from the Reserve had the same idea. Didn't my cousin come up into the clearing of the rapids when he sees two naked people running through the rapids. They didn't hear my cousin until he made his way into the clearing. They dashed or at least the woman dashed as fast as she could into the woods on the other side of the rapids. This guy was caught him, so he strolled up to my cousin, naked as the day and says "so, what's happening?" The woman was not his wife. :-0 Of course being from the Reserve, the story went all over.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Do you Fish?

I was taking an electronics course when I was 25. Of course many of the students were younger than 25. There were no 'ethnic' or people of colour in the program. One day at lunch time one of the guys was making jokes. He started in on the ethnic jokes making fun of Asians and doing the no 'R' accent. I decided that was enough and told him I didn't like jokes about other people. In telling him I didn't like ethic jokes I explained that I was Indian. He stopped, looked at me with a bewildered look; he said "you're an Indian?" and then he asked, "do you fish?" I laughed and said "yeah I do fish".
That is one of the things about looking like 'them', people will act and say things that are comfortable to them and their group. I tell my relatives and other Indian looking Indians that they will never truly know how people are when they are not in the Indians company. Me, I look like them so I do know what they are like when no one is looking. :-0 LOL. That's laugh out loud.
I also tell my friends who have married 'one of them' that their spouse could still be prejudice against Indians. My friends usually get pretty guarded and protective of their spouses.
I tell them of course it is natural to be prejudice of people out of your group. I am somewhat prejudice towards white people, but have white friends. The thing is I exclude them of my general prejudices and views of the group as a whole. So I could be married to a white woman and still have prejudices against white people in general. But not my wife because I know her and have excluded her from the rest of the group. That is just an example in truth, my wife is Indian.
In reality everyone is prejudice but when it goes beyond the generalizations it becomes ugly.

The story of the day: This one is not from my Reserve but a Maori friend told it, and it would apply on the reserve. This young Maori guy went on a date with an older woman. They hit it off and ended up in bed together. The young guy wanted to be romantic with the older woman so he looks at her with his eyes all dreamy and says "I love you, ... Auntie". :-0
Get it? In Maori culture and in Indian ways, you call an older woman Auntie. Not real old, than you call her Granny. It might have been even wilder if he called her Granny. Not a good story if you have to explain it, but I just ate a whole bunch of Thai food and my belly is rather full.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yeah I get it! :-0

You don't look Indian! Tell me about it. Growing up on the Reserve with fair skin was not that bad actually. When I was a kid my Mom's uncle said I would get a good job because I looked white. In his way he was being kind. It was hard for those old people. Some people got out of Treaty so they could go into licensed establishments. In any case I do look white. Not my fault, honest! I think the first time it was brought to attention was in Residential school, one of the nuns called me that white looking Indian. All the kids laughed in class. I guess in the hierarchy of Indian-ness I am lower on the ladder rung. Funny I don't feel that way. I was lucky in the environment aspect of things; I was raised on Reserve around my relatives. I have met many Brown skinned Indians who have no clue about their identity and that is the way it is.
I used to carry a chip on my shoulder about my identity, being Indian and making people know I was an Indian. It got so I was kind of an A-hole about it. I remember this one time in University I asked this Indian guy where he was from. He said he was from Winnipeg. You ask where someone is from to get context of who his people are and go from there. I scolded him about what he said about being from Winnipeg. "Where are your parents from? They're not from Winnipeg!" He replied he didn't know as he was adopted out.
I felt like such a bad guy. This poor guy was a product of the child welfare system that scooped up kids and shipped them away. From that point I tried to be a little more understanding.

Let me leave you with a story from the Reserve.
My friend had gotten caught fooling around on his wife. She decide that was it, no more. So she packed his clothes in garbage bags and threw them out. He was really lucky as a lot of women would just burn his clothes. Anyway, as he was leaving out the door, she throw him down the stairs. He got up and with all the conviction he could muster, told her, "just for that I'm not coming back this time!"

Aniin - welcome July 13, 2009

Welcome to my first attempt at the blogging thing.
As you may have guessed from my blog title, I am an Ojibwe from the Fort Alexander Indian Reserve, also know as Sagkeeng First Nation. I am just about fifty years old; born in 1960. Wow! That was a great time to be alive. Before I get into juicy posts from the confessions of an Ojibwe let me begin with a brief background and a some proud Indian rhethoric.

Growing up in a Manitoba Indian Reserve was a great experience that has made me very proud of my heritage, my family and my community. I have seen a lot of changes to the community and the people since I was growing up in the sixties. It's funny though, I am very comfortable in how I grew up, but I am quite sure that I would not bring up my kids in the same community. Weird I know. I have 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. Now I have two grandchildren, a 2 year old girl and 2 week old boy.
One of my sons has passed on. He took his own life in August 2005. It has been the hardest thing to come to grips with. I lost my mind and am slowly recovering.
Usually I joke, laugh and tease to keep going. If you didn't know my background you wouldn't know I barely make it through the day.

Let me leave you with a story from one of the guys in the reserve.
Seems these guys were having beers at Clarence's place. Clarence was playing his role in front of the guys as the master of the house. He loudly says to his wife, "get me a beer before I give you the Nine!" She quickly replies, "That's not Nine, I've had Nine before and that's not Nine!"
From there the party was broken up with Clarence and his wife exchanging barbs and other unfriendly gestures.

"They who shall not be Named"

 Been watching news a bit too much these days. Carnage is happening everywhere and everywhere day. A relatively young Indian guy murdered f...