Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Don't be Phoney. People don't like that kind a shit"

My deceased cousin Ernest was a good man. He was funny without trying to be. We were at this Gathering and Ernest got up to speak to the people. Lot of Traditional Native people were in the audience. He spoke of Teachings, but started off with "Don't be Phoney, People don't like that kind a shit". He was like that, not politically correct or muted.  He made a good point though. We need to be a little more real in our lives. Many people say they live by the Seven Teachings (love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, truth, wisdom). That is a good thing. It is a great thing if that is practiced in their everyday behaviour.  In some circles that is not always the case. We see some hard people that dress themselves up in Spiritual rhetoric but fall short when it comes to actions with other folk. I guess Ernest didn't really like those kind of characters. I bet some people are coming to your mind, eh? 

It's a bit hard not to feel like a phoney sometimes. I mean, we are fragile creatures, prone to make mistakes. We are emotional and act out in ways that don't make sense or are not right or not good. Sometimes we do things and say things that are just plain wrong. Man, I have made so many mistakes in my life. Been afraid so many times. Been really angry so many times. And have acted in ugly ways so many times. So now, today, how can I act like a good person? How can I make statements about practicing kindness when some of my own actions were horrible?  Isn't that the act of a phoney?

I think there is some redemption in most of us. I guess some things you just can be redeemed from. If you are trying in earnest to make right the wrongs, perhaps you can speak without being phoney?  I don't know me.

Growing up I seen lot of violence, seen alcohol abuse, been part of abuse, violence, criminal activity, have been dishonest. Have my actions of late erased my wrong doings?  Am I redeemed?  Of course not. I wiill never be free of guilt, regret and remorse. All I can do is try to make a real attempt at being a better person. I will never get to be a good person, but hopefully become a reasonable facsimile of a good person.

I think that is what my Cousin Ernest was saying, when he said, "don't be phoney balloney".  Try to be true to what you are saying and doing. That is what I believe he was saying. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Native Beadwork: Artistic Creativity, Beauty and Tradition. A piece of Tradition worth seeking.

When I was a teenager we used to go to some Native events in other Reserves. It was fun.  There would be dancing, live music, Jigging, Pow-wow, baseball games and food. I have fond memories of those times. The constant that I remember at these
events were the craft tables. People would have their wares for sale. Most of it was bead work. Necklaces, and all sorts of beading adornments. Lot of different styles and they were stunning.

The time it takes and the work that goes into the making of the Beaded necklace is evident in the work. 

Great Design. 
 As kids we never tired of seeing such beautiful designs and necklaces.  The other popular beaded item was the belt,  the watch band and of course the head band. It think the Hippies made them popular in the 60's and 70's.  I don't believe there are worn much these days. All though they sure look good on the hat bands and beaded brims of hats.

The style and type of beadwork being done varies throughout North America. There are the geometric styles of the southern peoples, the floral designs of the woodlands and northern peoples. The different and various ways that beading is being used; form the necklace to the track shoe.  All creative and beautiful.
If you want to see masterful beadwork just go to a Pow-wow. Unreal the skill that is displayed at those events.

Some of the type of beadwork is quite sophisticated and intricate. While others are very stylized or simple. In any case the work that goes into the beadwork is skillful.
When the rise of Native political groups in Canada started to become more active, the Leaders of the day, tended to wear beadwork (and of course Turquoise). The most common things were the medallion necklace, the bolo necktie, the watchband or wrist bands and sometimes the belt. That style sort of disappeared in the 1980's. But you now see it making a comeback. I think it started with the youth. Lot of youth started sporting the beaded medallion.  Of course the style of medallion wasn't your typical 1970's Thunderbird, it was different. You see some youth wearing logos of designer apparel, like the Nike Logo or Channel and Dolce Gabbana.  Many people are beading up a storm of professional sports teams.

One of the things that is starting to develop is the introduction of "not authentic" beadwork.  Your key chains, ear rings, and lanyards have started to become a mainstay in some of the Native crafts and art stores. This is of course reflected in the price. Many Native items have been appropriated over the years; moccasins and mukluks being the best known items.  You can get moccasins made by anyone or of any kind of design. ("Note: Non-Native American Made But Hand Made" is a note on some ads) In the United States there is a law or custom to label items as Native made, if it is in fact Native made.  I don't believe that is the case in Canada. However, what bothers me (and I imagine the artisans) is the effect of cheap replicas coming into what is already a "niche" market.  I mean there are no "hippies" around to wear these beaded necklace?  The only people I see wearing this works of art are Native people. The market is small.  The work is hard and is done by a group of dedicated people. So the time and effort put into these beauties must be reflected in the cost. You would think?  But as my cousin says, "people are cheap".

What you would rather wear?  Something that is not authentic; or something rich in Tradition?  Or something that is produced in some place that has no connection to the history of the symbols or the meanings behind the work?  Would you be willing to purchase the authentic because it is worth it or would you rather purchase a pretence of the art?  I guess the old adage  is true, "you get what you pay for". I am very glad that there are still many artists and families out there that are keeping up with Native art and craft (for me its all art). It is too bad that some folk don't see or recognize the value in the authentic work. They would rather buy something that is a "reasonable facsimile" of the real deal.  Me, I like the history and Tradition tied to the item.

I think the Powwow people are keeping the Tradition strong.  It will be a shame when their regalia is imitated in wage poor countries. I was over visiting my cousin today and they were showing me the new beadwork that their son has for his Dance outfit. Just stunning.  He is hoping to wear his new Beadwork at the Painted Hand Powwow.  So to all of you that are interested in the real deal, head out to a powwow or ask one of your Indian friends, they will steer you to a Native seller of "authentic" Indian made items.nAnd remember don't be cheap. The art is worth it.

If you want mass produced, go to Walmart, Target lot of adornments with no Tradition or connection.
Woman's Crown, You won't find that at Walmart. 
We are lucky here in Winnipeg because there are a few shops that carry authentic hand made Native made items.  My cousin has Red Cedar Gifts; hand made star quilts and other items. Creeations is a Native owned shop on Main street. It is not difficult to find the real artists and crafts. Remember these are works of art.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

We are Givers or Takers

I went to the washroom the other night. I was surprised. I came out and said to my wife, "I don't remember eating corn?".  She said "that was me".  "Oh, okay" I said.  She looked at me and started laughing.  I am very dumb.  What does this have to do with Givers and Takers?  Absolutely nothing. (If I have to explain the little story, you are in my group)

I was at a Feast the other day. A good feed for us that went. It was a Feast to honour those who completed a Treatment program for drug alcohol abuse. After the Feast I sat around and visited. People started to clean up. They started to re-arrange the chairs and started to take down the tables. I got up and started to help a little bit. We finished putting the tables away and putting chairs back to where they were supposed to be for workshops.  The ladies who were doing most of the work laughed together and were talking. They said "where did all the men go?"  "They ate and left".  They were speaking about some of the male staff and male members of the program. All of them seemed to melt off with the crowd.

That is something isn't it?  The ladies laughed about it, but it did highlight the way things go sometimes. You have to be smart and take off before you are the only one left to do the work. 

Actually, it is about Givers and Takers. There are those of us that take things for granted. We go and accept all sorts of kindness, generousity, rewards, perks, food, Ceremony Blessings and don't think about reciprocity. In other words Giving back.  We are glad to Take what is out there. We go to the Sweat Lodge and don't even bother to bring a small offering or Tobacco. We let the volunteers take our kids to hockey games. We take it all in.

Sometimes as takers we even get upset with the Givers. We say things like "how come its always them coaching the kids?"  Why don't they get some else to sit on the Board?  We resent those damn people who are always volunteering or are always willing to speak or give a hand.  That is the weird way we take things.

I like Givers. They make a lot us have easier times. They are always willing to chop wood, go and pick Grandfathers for the Sweat Ceremony. Stay up at the Sacred Fires for Wake services.  They are the ones that will show up and bring food to your service or Gathering. They will come sing at your event, Wake or Ceremony. Man those Givers can't seem to stop giving.  They will stay and help clean up after an event. They will take their own trash of the tables and go put them in the garbage bins or cans. Us takers even leave our half full cups of cold coffee on the table for someone else to pick up. 

I was speaking with my brother the other day about organizational culture. He is trying to change the culture in his work place. He wants people to be conscientious about their place of work and what they are doing. We talked about "how when you work for people you are working for the Creator".  We talked about being a good citizen in the work place and what that entails. You know the type of person who will do what is not expected of him. Like the person who will pick up a dirty cup someone left in the board room. Or the person who will help another co-worker with out expectation of recognition. Those are the types of things that make a good work place, when people become more of a Giver than a Taker.  You know the type only there to exchange labour service for purely financial reward or recognition. 

I guess you know which category you may be on. But you know what?  Being a Giver can be in all of us. Not just Giving for those that are close to us and when we are being watched, but Giving even when no one will know we are Giving.  Isn't that cool? 

There are many Givers in our community. The many that take the time to come to the Wake services (no matter whose Wake) and sing for the families (Gospel and Traditional). There are the Fire Keepers like Radford Courchene who volunteers unselfishly to watch the Fire at your Service Wake. I really appreciate those people and I know our community (Sagkeeng) is a better place because of those Givers. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Dad: Henry: 1930 - 2013

Dad was 80 here in this video. He was forgetting by this time in his life.

I miss him.  We miss him.

Spirit Road Funeral:  Natasha.
Dad left and had a Traditional Burial.
Dad resting.  Nice Moccasins for his trip. Given to him by his son in law Smiley
Dad and his visit with Auntie Therience.

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...