Thursday, January 27, 2011

Give me My Father's Body. A book that should be read.

In the 1950's and 1960's Seven Inuit (In the U.S. the term Eskimo is still used) from Nunavut were taken from their homes to be raised in Southern foster homes. It was an experiment (the term experimental Eskimo comes from the government documents).  It didn't go so well for the Seven children. They have attempted to file a lawsuit, but it does not look like it will be heard. The rationale is that it has been too long. So that's how it goes. One of the interesting things that the government did in effort to track the Inuit was to issue tag's to them. Like dog tags. The Inuit traded the tags with each other, so the information on tracking them was not accurate. Kind of funny trick to pull on the government.  If you think of bird tagging or animal tagging, that is what the government was trying to do with the Inuit. As the Inuit lived in a very harsh climate, lived a sustenance lifestyle and traveled with the weather and season.

This brought to mind a book I had purchased a few years ago. I didn't finish reading it. I did read the beginning and then I  lent the book to this old lady, an Elder and I never had the chance to get it back. But I always remember what I read and how horrible and callus that " pioneer", Robert Peary was. He was heralded as a great explorer. He was a bad man but you wouldn't know it by the press coverage he received. I hope you get to read the book.
Minik in 1897. He was left to fend for himself in New York. This is a short review of the book. Wikipedia article
"At last returning to print, Give Me My Father's Body is the thought-provoking tale of Minik, a young Inuit boy brought to New York by Robert Peary around the turn of the 20th century. Told simply and interspersed with personal letters and newspaper clippings, the book examines Minik's life both as a cross-cultural meeting place and a deeply personal search for a place to call "home." Photographs throughout of Minik give a glimpse into the incredible differences between the multiple worlds he inhabited, and how impossible it must have been to live in these worlds successfully. The title derives from one of Minik's more harrowing experiences--finding his father's bones displayed in a natural-history museum as a "curiosity"--and his attempts to retrieve the bones for a more respectful burial. Author Kenn Harper, while including many facts and articles about Arctic exploration, refrains from sharing opinions about the various explorers or their methods, choosing to share this story--and his years of research--plainly. From the death of Minik's birth father to the financial ruin of his American foster family, the events of Minik's childhood seem like one disaster after another, and his adulthood--the successful return to Greenland, followed by disappointment and a subsequent return to New York--is an unhappy struggle to find some kind of personal fulfillment. Questions of racial and cultural differences make an inescapable larger framework for Minik's life, and the emotions brought forward in answering those questions make reading this book a powerful experience. --Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

When six-year-old Minik was chosen as one of six Eskimos from Qaanaaq, Greenland, to accompany explorer Robert Peary to New York City in 1897, he expected a brief adventure. Instead, he became an orphan and an exile. Treated as scientific curiosities, Minik's father and three others quickly succumbed to pneumonia, leaving the boy alone after the only other survivor returned to Greenland. Adopted by a middle-class family, Minik enjoyed a few relatively happy years until the family suffered financial disgrace. Peary refused to help support the boy or finance his return to Greenland, and Minik languished in poverty for several years. The horrific climax to his ordeal came when Minik learned that his father's body had been put on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Though his efforts to claim the body launched a media frenzy, they ultimately failed. Minik eventually returned to Greenland, where he had to relearn his native language and customs. Feeling marginalized among his people, he returned to the U.S. in 1916 only to die here two years later. Harper, who has lived for more than 30 years in the Arctic and is fluent in the Canadian Eskimo language, tells Minik's story straightforwardly and with sympathy. Yet he adheres so scrupulously to Minik's letters and other written accounts that his narrative is sometimes dry. As a tale of scientific arrogance, however, the book is chilling; as a portrait of an exploited, charming, intelligent, needy, sometimes vengeful and culturally ambivalent individual, it is truly unforgettable. B&w photographs. (Apr.) BOMC selection; rights sold in England, France, Germany and Spain; film rights optioned by Kevin Spacey.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dropping Eagle Feathers at a Powwow.

I am not a regular at Powwows. We went a few times when we were kids. Up to Piapot when we went to visit my cousins the Anaquods out in Muscowpetung Reserve in Saskatchewan. Our parents used to take us to visit our relatives.
I remember camping out at the big 1971 Treaty days powwow that was held at Lower Fort Garry Manitoba. It was fun and crazy. As an adult we went to a few powwows and we even helped organize a few powwows. Now I haven't gone in a couple of years.

There are people that do not like the Powwow, they believe there is no Sacredness or Tradition to a powwow. They feel that it is an exhibition and that money has corrupted it. I like the Powwow and recognize the history behind the Powwow and the laws that were in-acted in the 1800's to outlaw Native Spirituality. Powwows were a way to hide the Give-away and prayer in plain sight. In any case there is a Spiritual or Traditional component to Powwow. You just have to recognize the history and look beyond the glamour in the festival of beads, bells and whistles.

I went to a Powwow held in Norway House around 2000. It was a nice event. They have their York boat days there along with the Powwow. The York Boat was vital to travel and trade for the northern communities. 
The Powwow has a number of elements to it that the casual visitor would not know about. I am no stranger to a Powwow but I do not know many of the in's and outs of a Powwow. So when something out of the ordinary happens at a Powwow I am kind of lost as well. For example it is not that common for someone to drop an Eagle Feather from a head roach or an
Eagle Feather Bustle.
When this happens. The dancing stops and an Elder is called out to pray for the Feather. The Feather drop represents a Warrior being dropped, passing on. So a Drum Group is asked to sing an Honour song for the Warrior. The person who drops the Feather must seek out the Elder and offer him some tobacco so that Elder can perform the proper prayer and respect for the Feather before picking it up. In many cases the dancer makes restitution or an offering to the Elder, the Singers and the Powwow committee for the Eagle Feather retrieval. In some cases it is deemed that the Dancer did not take care of that Feather so it is taken from them. This rarely happens. Instead, a Dancer that knows the Tradition will offer to give up that Feather to someone else.
My nephew lost a feather from his dancing stick at this one Powwow. My nephew was just a young guy. In the Junior level about 12 years old. His Dad did the right thing and offered tobacco to the Elders and the singers. He also gave gifts to those involved, restitution if you will for the stopping of the powwow and for the work of the helpers/singers/Elders/dancers. After the Feather was picked up and given back to the boy. His Dad and he talked about the Dancing stick. The boy gave it to someone in the crowd. He was really sad but knows to learn about taking care of a Feather. Many people are taking Feathers for granted. Giving them to anyone and not feeding them. Another Dancer had witnessed my nephew giving away his dancing stick. He knew that this was a humbling experience, so this gentleman gave my nephew another stick to dance with. There are many Teachings to be had a Powwow, regardless if we think it as a Spiritual event or a festival.

At that Norway House Powwow I saw an Eagle Bustle come lose and fall to the ground. The dancer was a young man from Saskatchewan. He might have been Rising Sun, but not sure if that was him or not. He was a pretty good dancer and his Dancing Outfit was spectacular. Orange beaded Traditional Feather Bustle outfit. You could see the Bustle come lose as he was dancing, he knew and walked away in disgust as it started to fall. This was a big thing. Not just a Feather but the whole bustle. A ceremony was held for the retrieval of the Bustle. The young man was handed back the Bustle. People in the crowd lined up to shake his hand, comfort him and gave him donations. This I thought was backward. He did not give up his Bustle and the Elder or the Powwow committee or an older Dancer did not take the Bustle from him. Yet I did not see him give the donations to others in the crowd. That would have been the proper thing to do. I think some people are not sure what to do when the extra-ordinary occurs. It seemed he was rewarded for the Bustle falling to the ground. I was standing by this one adult Dancer, and he said that this was not the first time this young man dropped his Bustle. He went on to say that the young man should tie a safety string to make sure that if the Bustle breaks it is held from falling by to the ground.It was strange as there did not seem to be learning in this case. However, there are cases where the Windigokan could be influencing the situation. And my friend was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and he is a Windigokan. Not saying it was a Windigokan moment at the Pow-wow, but you never know. I still think that the young man did not do right by way of Traditions and the people there and by way of the pow-wow committee.

If you do not know what a Windigokan is, think of Niel Patrick Harris as Barney in the tv sitcom, "How I met your Mother". Or if that is too confusing of an example, take a look at the movie "Little Big Man", where there is an exaggerism caricature example of a contrary. You will know him when you see him (or her). You most likely have a friend or an acquaintance that has the traits of a Windigokan. I think the Lakota call them Heyoka, but I don't know me.

 It is quite a thing to hold an Eagle Feather. Quite a thing to have one. When I went to the U.S. last year, I went looking for car license plates an autowreck yard. There were some Eagle Feathers hanging in the office. I asked the guy where he got those from. He said they are left in hanging in cars that end up at the scrap yard. Holy heck!  I will not say the name of the Reservation but it is not too far in Minnesota. Lot of people from my Reserve go up the Casino there. I was like that at one time too. Did not treat Sacred things with that much Respect. Used them as currency or to buy good will, by giving them out. Like rattles, and other items. I see that it is not that uncommon for Indians to try and gain favour by using items as gifts to people who should not have the items. I stopped at this gas station on the way to our Reserve. The gas station is called the 59'er. Hanging on the wall was an Eagle Feather. I asked the lady where she got that from and she said that the Grand Chief Rod Bushie gave her. She is non-Native. Oh, I see. Guess he liked her or he would not have given something so sacred and coveted by Indian people.
I can't judge (but I am) as I was like that and may have been worse. I gave lots of stuff away. Not always to Natives. I did give pipe stone to a white friend of mine. He is dead now, but the stone lives on in a Pipe and that is good.
There are many people that will never have any of these items because they may not have access to them. I hope not to be so callous about Sacred items in the future. I will pass on things to my kids and Grandkids. My son's pipe will go to my Grandson. And other things of his will be passed on when the time is right.
Windigokan Suit of 1880's. From SwanLake Reserve

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't you wish that... could walk up to Harvey Levin and punch him right in the face?

I know, I know, what the heck does Harvey Levin, the guy who runs that TMZ television gossip show, have to do with Indians? I don't think anything. I just don't like the guy or the show. It's like a car wreck, you can't look, you don't want to look, but you god-damn look. It's like that with everyday life. You just want to kick someone in the crotch. Not because they are bad people, but they annoy the heck out of you. I mean just look at him. With that god damn grin. Making money. Laughing. Joking. Sheesh. Punch him in the face. Yeah that's right, right in the god damn face.
That TMZ is just a bad show. They ambush people with the cameras and no matter how the person reacts, the show people ridicule or try to humiliate them. What is appealing about that?

It's like people, having to talk with the blowhard. The gal or guy that does nothing but brag about this and that. You are mildly happy for them, but it does get a bit much. Or the person who is constantly complaining or spouting racist put downs. Enough already. If I want to hang with racists I will join the Klan or spout out my own junk. Or better yet I will watch a movie with Martin Lawrence. Another annoying god damn bugger. Always with the head slanted. He spoiled that movie Death at a Funeral. What the heck? A good movie spoiled. Punch him right the face too. That god damn annoying as heck actor. That's right I said it, actor.

And some more nonsense:

I went with Suz to see the movie True Grit, the new version. I liked it. I laughed at this one scene. If you haven't seen the movie I hope to not spoil this one joke, so click off. Anyway at the start of the movie these guys are going to be hanged. Each speaks before the hangman puts on their hoods. The third guy is this long haired kind of big Indian. He is about to say, "before I am hanged, I want to say..." and the hood is placed over his head and the bottom drops quickly. I laughed as this was funny. I know that some people, Other Indians, didn't like it. I laughed because it was funny. And if you are looking for some deep meaning, well it's plain funny. You can read a lot into it, but it is funny.
I did see the John Wayne version and I did read the book. This movie is good. Lucky Ned is played by Barry Pepper and he did as good a job as Robert Duvall.

On tweets (twitter) this Indian guy was all upset over the scene of the Indian getting hanged and not being able to finish his sentence. Man that is sad. He don't know what laughter is. And he don't know what irony is. He don't know what caricature is. He don't know what exaggerism is. He don't know what funny is.

There are many Indians that don't know how to laugh. Not because something is funny. But laugh because something is funny that shouldn't be funny. Like the scene in one John Wayne movie where there is a big shoot-out and an Indian is walking around through it all with a bottle, he is drunk and saying where's the whiskey? That was funny. Funny because it was so wrong. We laugh, not at ourselves but how dumb some people are. To put that out there. Enough explaining. When you have to explain, than you know they are not getting it.

I am a fan of the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges. Bridges was great in the Fisher King and Fearless. The Big Lebowski is of course a great piece of work. The dialogue is what sucks you into the movie. It's funny subtle and over the top in some places. I enjoyed it. That is also what is great with the True Grit movie, the characters and they way they speak with each other.

I would like to see more Indians in films. With a bit of controversy brewing about Johnny Depp playing Tonto in the Lone Ranger remake, I would most likely go and see it anyway. Depp claims to have Cherokee heritage. In any case I like movies where you can see Indians portrayed, even stereotypical.

January 17 was called Blue Monday. I guess this is the time of year that people feel the shittyest. You know because of the long winter season, not getting enough Sunlight and vitamin D. For the northern hemisphere I guess.

p.s. In case you didn't know I was fooling around when I was talking about Harvey and the other stuff. ;-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Missing Donovan Courchene

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My boy Donovan would have been 26 years old January 17. I know it is a burden to keep talking about him. That is one of the things I can not and will not do, is to stop talking about my son. I know there is two lives we have, the life before the death, and the life after the death.

My son liked the music I had. He liked the cd by the Chieftains, "the long black veil". It is something that can't leave you, is the music you shared with your loved ones.

Sorry to bring it up about my son but been feeling really really low this past while. My Mom's birthday was also on the 12th of January. She left five months before my boy did.

Take care people and hope you have a good winter. Try get some vitamin D or Sun.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Justice for Nadia. Documentary of predatory suicide pusher.

This seems like a movie, but it is real life. Police did not want to get involved. One police officer said to the woman (who tracked the guy who was pushing kids to kill themselves), "if it bothers you, turn the other way". The man got kids to "catching the bus", his metaphor for suicide.

Watch it and know that people are not always there to help.


Justice for Nadia

"William Melchert-Dinkel, a 47-year-old licensed nurse and married father of two teenaged girls, allegedly used multiple pseudonyms in the hopes of watching someone take their life online. Investigators say he may have convinced dozens of people to kill themselves, over years, contacting more than 100 people on the web.

It's the fall of 2007 and Nadia Kajouji has no way of knowing she is about to fall into the clutches of an online predator when she turns to the web for help. She is just eighteen years old, pretty, self-confident; a talented and ambitious student. Her sights set on a career in law and politics, she's in her first year at Ottawa's Carleton University. Nadia's bright future soon takes a tragic turn. She succumbs to a crippling depression that sparks suicidal impulses—impulses nurtured and fed by an online counsellor named Cami D. Nadia doesn't know it, but Cami D is alleged to be a web predator, a "cyberpath". He pretends to be a young woman, also battling depression, to gain her trust, then encourages her to commit suicide while he watches on a web cam. Driven to the edge by the stranger, Nadia jumps from a bridge and is found drowned in the Rideau River.

The fifth estate follows Cami D's trail to Wiltshire, England, where a 64-year-old grandmother makes an astonishing discovery. The amateur sleuth unmasks the cyber predator's true identity while trying to help another teenaged girl being urged to make a suicide pact. The fifth estate catches up with the real Cami D - William Melchert-Dinkel - in Faribault, Minnesota, where he now stands charged with two counts of assisting suicide. If found guilty, Melchert-Dinkel may be the first person ever successfully convicted for persuading a person to commit suicide over the Internet.

The fifth estate takes an in-depth look at the upcoming trial and the complex legal questions it will address. Can a suicide voyeur be convicted for their online role in another’s death? How do you regulate or legislate against such horrifying web-based acts? What are the implications for jurisdiction when borders are crossed with the click of a cursor?"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

CBQM: National film board of Canada offers films online

 The National Film Board of Canada nfb has some real good videos that you should check out. If they have it online, look for the "last days of Okak". It is a real eye opening account of the "virgin soil" epidemic; the Spanish Flu. How it devastated a hunting and trapping community.  First hand account of the horror of an epidemic. Many different films for many different tastes. Hope you find something to enjoy.

"This full-length documentary pays tribute to CBQM, the radio station that operates out of Fort McPherson, a small town about 150 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

Through storytelling and old-time country music, filmmaker and long-time listener Dennis Allen crafts a nuanced portrait of the “Moccasin Telegraph,” the radio station that is a pillar of local identity and pride in this lively northern community of 800 souls."

big belly

Time for the big belly to be fed. This year For Sure I will get my belly to go down. :d

Here is a beautiful song.

"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...