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Image: Lummi Nation
So far, the Lummi tribe has reported three Covid-19 cases, but they expect numbers to rise as the pandemic progresses. Unlike many constituencies, the Lummi are prepared.

Here are a couple things we can learn from the kind of people who think about the effects of their actions on seven generations: Be generous; act like a grownup.

Consider the Lummi tribal leaders in this article from the Guardian. They began to prepare as soon they heard about the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and now they are even offering help to people outside their community.

Nina Lakhani reports, “The Lummi nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in the Pacific northwest, will soon open a pioneering field hospital to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a wave of strong public health measures which have gone further than many governments.

“Tribal leaders have been preparing for Covid-19 since the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

“The Lummi reservation is located in Whatcom county – 115 miles north of Seattle, Washington, where the first US Covid-19 case was confirmed in January, followed by the first death in February. …

‘We quickly recognised the need to make sacrifices for the greater good, in order to protect our people and the wider community,’ said Dr Dakotah Lane, medical director of the tribal health service, who is in strict self-quarantine after coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient. …

“The tribe swiftly introduced mitigation and prevention measures such as social distancing, drive-through testing, telemedicine clinics, and a home delivery service for the elderly.

“The tribal council declared a state of emergency on 3 March – 10 days before … the US – and approved $1m to prepare and respond for the evolving pandemic, which includes setting up the hospital.

“A community fitness centre, located next to the tribe’s health clinic, has been repurposed into a makeshift hospital, with beds, protective gear and other essential equipment in place. It will open once the pharmacy is fully stocked. The 20-bed hospital will treat less critical inpatients, in order to free up intensive care units in nearby facilities, and prioritize Native Americans from any tribe. …

“The tribe’s proactive response to the evolving global pandemic has been possible thanks to vast improvements to the quality and capacity of its community healthcare system over the past decade.

“Like an increasing number of tribes, the Lummi nation has opted for ‘self-determination,’ which enables greater financial flexibility and clinical autonomy – as opposed to depending on the federally controlled Indian Health Service (IHS) which has suffered decades of severe underfunding.

“As a result, the Lummi health services raises substantial revenue by treating patients on Medicaid and Medicare. … This extra cash has allowed them to invest in infrastructure and build capacity: the tribe now has eight doctors compared with just three in 2013, including three physicians with public health expertise. …

The Lummi want to help. Dr Lane said: ‘The Lummi believe in controlling our own destiny. We don’t count on help reaching us, but the hospital is something we can do to help the community.’

More at the Guardian, here. By the way, do you read the Guardian? It’s free online. It just requests donations. The US coverage is amazing.

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Photo: Blue Lake Rancheria
The Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid powers a number of buildings on the reservation and helped provide energy when California’s Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power during wildfires.

In the following story, disempowered people lacking reliable services not only took action to help themselves but were generous to more-privileged neighbors who suddenly learned what it’s like not to have services.

This is a story about two kinds of power.

Erik Neumann reports at National Public Radio (NPR), “California’s largest electric utility took the unprecedented step of shutting off power to millions of customers beginning last October. The decision was meant to prevent power equipment from sparking catastrophic wildfires.

“Now a renewable energy microgrid on a tiny California Native American reservation is proving to be one solution to this ongoing problem. The Blue Lake Rancheria is located just north of Eureka, Calif. On the 100-acre campus, just behind the casino and hotel, Jana Ganion opens a chain-link fence. …

“Inside, in an area half the size of a football field, are more than 1,500 solar panels, slanted toward the noonday sun. Ganion is the sustainability director with the Blue Lake Rancheria, which includes about 50 members.

[Ganion] helped build this solar microgrid as part of the tribe’s goal to develop climate-resilient infrastructure and to be ready for earthquakes and tsunamis. But then beginning in October, it became useful in a whole new way. …

“As one of the only gas stations in the county with power, the reservation provided diesel to United Indian Health Services to refrigerate their medications and to the Mad River Fish Hatchery to keep their fish alive. The local newspaper used a hotel conference room to put out the next day’s paper. Area residents stopped by to charge their cell phones.

“Ganion estimates that on that day more than 10,000 nearby residents came to the reservation for gas and supplies.

“County officials had been warned about the utility shutoffs, but they didn’t know they were happening until that day, says Ryan Derby, emergency services manager for Humboldt County, where Blue Lake Rancheria is located.

” ‘Our entire planning model for the last 18 months got thrown out the window,’ Derby says. … ‘Humboldt County prides itself on being resilient,’ Derby says, ‘But I think in light of these public safety power shutoffs we realized how dependent we really are on electricity.’

“The county focused on residents who relied on medical devices like respirators or oxygen tanks. At the Blue Lake Rancheria, Anita Huff was directing emergency services for people with critical medical needs.

” ‘We had eight people here who could not have lived without electricity,’ Huff says. ‘So, we saved eight lives.’ …

” ‘Microgrids are very complex. In some ways they’re kind of like snowflakes where no two of them are the same because it depends on where you are on the grid and what your facility is,’ says Dave Carter, the managing research engineer at the Schatz Energy Research Center and the lead technical engineer on the [Blue Lake] project.

“Microgrids keep the electricity flowing to customers even after disconnecting from the overall power grid. During an outage, the Blue Lake microgrid goes into ‘island mode’ and a large Tesla battery system stores extra power and balances the energy supply and demand.

“By comparison, Carter says, conventional solar arrays have to automatically shut down during outages for safety so they don’t electrocute powerline maintenance workers or people who could come in contact with a downed line.

“Microgrids do come at a price. The Blue Lake installation cost $6.3 million. Five million dollars came from a California Energy Commission grant, and the tribe helped raise the rest. …

“Carter’s lab at the Schatz Energy Research Center is looking for ways to lower the cost of microgrids. In spite of the upfront price, he says, communities should consider what it’s worth to stay in control during a natural disaster. …

“Jana Ganion, with the Blue Lake Rancheria, says with future electricity shutoffs, rural communities, and Native American reservations in particular, need to be especially resilient.

” ‘Many, many tribal nations are located at the end of the line in terms of the electricity grid,’ Ganion says. ‘They may have no power. They may have poor quality power. Microgrids are just a way to do an end-run around all of that.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Lex Talamo
Houma artist Lora Ann Chaisson works on palmetto stitch basketry at the Native American Crafts day at Northwestern University. Crafts using palmetto are threatened by climate change.

A recent interview conducted by Tegan Wendland on National Public Radio (NPR) provided new-to-me information on how climate change is jeopardizing an indigenous culture.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro introduced the story thus: “When storms like Hurricane Barry batter Louisiana’s coast and water replaces marshland, people move away. And that puts at risk a unique cultural mix — Europeans, Africans and Native Americans all living off Louisiana’s land and water. As Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO reports, the state is trying to preserve some of their traditions before they disappear.

“WENDLAND: Janie Luster walks through crunchy oak leaves in the humid Louisiana air to a stand of green palmetto in the shade. She reaches her arm deep down into the stems and starts hacking.

“JANIE LUSTER: Takes a sharp knife, pointed knife. And this is where you have to be careful, a little spider there. There’s also ants.

“WENDLAND: She pulls out a stem and unfolds it like a giant fan. … We’re in Houma, about an hour southwest of New Orleans. Luster will dry the leaves out and tear them into strips and use them to weave baskets — not just any basket — the Native American Houma half-hitch.

“LUSTER: We were the only tribe in the whole country to make this type of basket.

“WENDLAND: The art of the half-hitch has already been lost once before, generations ago, when tribal members were forced to assimilate. But Luster researched it and brought it back in the ’90s. Today, she’s brought a big stack of dried palmetto into a classroom in the offices of the United Houma Nation, where about 15 students of all ages are gathered around a table. … It’s a laborious process. It can take several days just to weave one basket. Pretty much everyone’s struggling. But 15-year-old Rhett Williams’ fingers dart fast. … He’s attended a few of these classes. Now his mom gets mad when she catches him weaving instead of doing his homework.

“RHETT: Growing up, you know, you’re not in touch with your elders. Now that I’m getting in more within the tribe and, like, learning culture and tradition, I’ve realized, like, I was, like, deprived of, like, the true tradition and culture.

“WENDLAND: Many in Williams’ family have moved north over the years, joining the exodus after every devastating coastal storm. Some areas have lost more than 40 percent of their population over the past several decades. Hurricanes and saltwater intrusion from rising seas are also killing off the palmetto and other plants sacred to the Houma. That worries Maida Owens, director of the Louisiana Folklife Program.

“MAIDA OWENS: When people move, you know, some things get left behind. And one of the things that frequently is left behind is something that relies on natural materials. … If it doesn’t move with the people, then the tradition may not continue.

“WENDLAND: The state estimates that thousands more will have to migrate as the coastal erodes. But Owens is happy to see that some young people, like Rhett Williams, are embracing these folk traditions.”

More at NPR here and at the Shreveport Times, here.

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Photo: Minot Daily News
Norma Baker-Flying Horse is owner of Red Berry Woman, a fashion designing business that was accepted into Paris Fashion Week.

Yesterday I mentioned that APiermanSister was a blogger whose writing I admired. She says she is shy, but as far as I can tell, one of her personal characteristics is fearlessness.

As a regular visitor to and connoisseur of Paris, she had always wanted to attend Fashion Week. In a recent post, she describes how she wrangled an invitation — finding a publication back in the US that would take an article and help to justify her admission to the show as a writer.

This is from Alison’s February Minot Daily News report on designer Red Berry Woman, an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Nation and member of the Dakota Sioux and Assiniboine tribes.

“Norma Baker-Flying Horse has been having a whirlwind of fashion success.

“ ‘I recently had a dress walk the red carpet at the Grammy’s earlier this month and I’m also preparing to show in France,’ said Baker-Flying Horse of Mandaree, Oklahoma.

“Baker-Flying Horse said she will be the only Native American who will be showing in a show for the opening of Paris Fashion Week. …

“Baker-Flying Horse’s fashion line, Red Berry Woman, incorporates Native American traditional garment styles into contemporary couture garments for both men and women. She also creates different types of Native American traditional-style garments,’ according to her Red Berry Woman website at redberrywoman.com. …

“Baker-Flying Horse also was an invited designer for the international fashion showing in Vancouver, British Columbia, during Vancouver Fashion Week this past September.

“Another event in past months includes being the designer for a fashion show in Cornwall, Ontario, where actor Adam Beach was a guest. His wife, Summer, was Baker-Flying Horse’s guest runway model. One of Baker-Flying Horse’s creations also was worn by Alice Brownotter, an activist from the Standing Rock Reservation, for an event held by actress Jane Fonda who invited young people to participate who have had leadership rolls in their community. …

“Last March Baker-Flying Horse had the special honor of having one of her fashion designs worn at the Academy Awards show, the Oscars. She was the first contemporary Native American fashion designer to have a gown worn at the Oscars.”

More on Red Berry Woman at the Minot Daily News, here, and at the Smithsonian, here. But the most fun piece to read is Alison’s blog post about crashing Paris Fashion Week, here.

Photo: kfyrtv.com
The 2018 Native American Cultural Celebration closed with a Red Berry Woman Fashion Show.

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Photo: Ann Hermes/ Christian Science Monitor
Judge Abby Abinanti presides over the Yurok Tribal Court in Klamath, California.

There has been a movement lately to restore to tribal courts the adjudication of certain types of crimes committed by Native Americans. The idea is that the traditional ways of handling problems often work better than those imposed by an outside system.

Henry Gass writes about one such court at the Christian Science Monitor.

“The mouth of the Klamath River – the spiritual heart of Yurok country – can be hard to find.  … Ira Thompson is here for his court date anyway, having made the 30-minute drive south from Crescent City. He grew up here, and when he got in serious trouble for the first time – a third DUI and a possible four months in jail – he knew he needed to come home. …

“So he reached out to the Yurok Tribal Court. He reached out to Abby Abinanti. …

“As Mr. Thompson enters, the air tastes of musky angelica root (burned by a paralegal minutes earlier to cleanse the room of pain, anxiety, and other negative energy).

“Judge Abby, as everyone calls her, is not your average judge. She sits at a table across from Mr. Thompson wearing her typical court attire: gray jeans and a crimson turtleneck. …

“ ‘How are things going?’ she asks him.

“ ‘Staying home,’ he replies.

“Mr. Thompson is under house arrest and participating in the court’s wellness program, a treatment employing Yurok cultural immersion. That’s the deal the tribal court struck with the county instead of jail time. He’s been home carving earrings out of redwood, making elk horn purses, and selling them. ‘That sounds good,’ she says, bringing the hearing briskly to an end about five minutes after it started. …

“When Judge Abinanti joined the Yurok Tribal Court in 2007 it operated like a normal state court, albeit on a much smaller scale. When most Yuroks got into trouble with the law they went to local state courts, and they entered a system designed to be adversarial and punitive. Root causes often went ignored and unaddressed, and recidivism inevitably followed.

“Judge Abinanti has taken the court in a different direction: one more communal and rehabilitative. It’s a judicial path followed by other tribes around the country. Personal responsibility and renewal – two pillars of the once nearly extinct Yurok culture – now permeate the court’s functions.

“Incarceration has largely been replaced by supervised release combined with Yurok traditions such as dancing and wood carving. Lawyering up for family disputes and child custody battles has been replaced by mediation. Almost every case is resolved through mediation – victims and perpetrators talking with each other – even if it takes years. Tribal courts resemble the growing U.S. restorative justice movement, which emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and getting all stakeholders involved. Judge Abinanti says it just resembles the old Yurok values system.

“The Yurok were village people, she likes to say. Living in clusters of redwood cabins along the Klamath River, people in the communities were so interdependent that when villagers did something wrong, they couldn’t just be locked away. They had to face consequences, but also become responsible, productive community members again. That’s tribal justice.

“After what she calls ‘the invasion’ by European settlers, the Yurok way of life was lost. By helping revive those values and applying them to modern-day problems – addiction, domestic violence, foster care – the Yurok say she’s not only meting out justice, she’s helping revive the tribe itself. And some U.S. criminal justice reformers are now beginning to explore what lessons can be learned from tribal courts. …

“Any Yurok tribe member is eligible to have their case heard in the tribal court (except for felony cases, which go to state or federal court). Judge Abinanti has expanded the kinds of cases the tribal court hears. … She also negotiates with other judges for alternative sentences for Yuroks convicted in other jurisdictions. …

“To fully understand Judge Abinanti’s approach to justice requires going back to the mid-19th century. … Massacres, slavery, and disease reduced California’s native population to about 30,000 within 23 years of statehood. Some tribes lost 95 percent of their population. The Yurok Tribe says three-quarters of its population died in this period, and the tribe faded into obscurity. …

“Judge Abinanti says that the Yurok history of decimation creates a generational trauma, a mental framework that shapes a cycle of behavior among some tribal members. ‘Until they get that, they feel sort of caught up in something that they can’t control or stop because they don’t know what it is or where it came from,’ she says. ‘We have to take responsibility for acquiring those habits and we have to deal with it….

“ ‘It’s one thing to just stop behavior, but I think it helps to stop the behavior if you know why,’ she says. …

“Understanding the ‘why’ helped change the ballgame for Jon Riggs, who has Yurok, Chetco and Cherokee ancestry. Raised off the reservation in a drug-addicted family, he started drinking and doing drugs at a very young age. He was 18 when he was arrested for the first time. …

“When last year he came back to the Klamath for the Jump Dance – a dance that’s meant to renew the world – he ‘was able to connect with something that was much deeper than I had ever done before.’ In January, he became a wellness case manager for the tribal court.”

More here.

 

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Photos: Lucy Sherriff/PRI
Neris Uriana, the Wayuu tribe’s first-ever female chieftain, stands in her garden. With her leadership and new water-saving techniques, the northern Colombia tribe is finally able to grow food year-round.

I’ve been reading articles by my friend Ann Tickner on Jane Addams, best known for founding Hull House in Chicago in the early 20th Century. Addams, an international peace activist who influenced the thinking of world leaders after WW I, was a more extraordinary woman than I realized in third grade, reading one of those little orange biographies in the school library. She was a model of all that women can be if they choose.

In South America, there’s another surprising example of female leadership that I just heard about. It’s in an indigenous tribe, where the women are making sure that the people achieve their potential while living in harmony with nature.

Global Post reporter Lucy Sherriff writes at Public Radio International (PRI), “For years, the Wayuu tribe in La Guajira, a remote area in northernmost Colombia, was run by a male chieftain. But 13 years ago, male elders decided to appoint a woman as its leader. After the success of being led by a female head, the community changed its governance traditions and now exclusively appoints women to lead.

“ ‘When I first started, I didn’t know anything,’ Neris Uriana, the tribe’s first-ever female chieftain, told PRI. ‘But over time, one learns how to lead, the required skills you need to be head of a community.’

“Neris Uriana was elected in 2005. She was already involved in providing support to the community’s mothers, and Jorge Uriana, along with other elders, believed she had the qualities needed to lead the tribe. It was a first for Wayuu communities in Albania, in La Guajira.

“ ‘We had had some problems with communicating with leaders of other tribes and in our own village,’ explained Jorge Uriana, who was the community leader until 2005 and is Neris Uriana’s husband.

“Jorge Uriana explained that traditionally, Wayuu men negotiate and resolve disputes but that some male leaders can come off as confrontational and even aggressive at times.

“ ‘Whereas women, when they speak, they address the human side. They tend to be more peace-loving and more humanitarian in their outlook.’ ”

Excuse me, I have to stop here and marvel: that is exactly why Jane Addams and her contemporaries in the peace movement are considered the founders of what is known today as feminist diplomacy.

Back to my story.

” ‘We wanted to turn the way things were on its head. We wanted women to use their way of dialogue to resolve our conflicts, and we wanted to transform our culture,’ [said Jorge Uriana].

“ ‘I realized I had a commitment and an obligation to my people,’ said Neris Uriana, who will lead for as long as she likes (or until someone else steps up). ‘I really trained myself in leadership, and now, I feel like I am able to really achieve great things.’

“Marta Pushiana is one of the many women who have become more involved in the tribe’s community since Neris Uriana’s appointment.

“ ‘Now, we have a female leader; more women are taking more responsibility in the tribe. Before, we always had to stay at home and look after the children and cook and clean,’ said Pushiana. ‘Now, the men share those responsibilities with us, so that women have the opportunity to work, to help build, to be involved in leadership. The whole dynamic in the tribe has changed for the better.’ …

“Although Wayuu tribes have traditionally treated women as equals to men and have a more matriarchal culture than other nonindigenous Colombians, few tribes are led by women, and even less — if any — have permanently pledged to only appoint women. …

“Since Neris Uriana took up her position, she has introduced a long-term agricultural initiative to help sustain her community, rather than continually living hand to mouth. Neris Uriana sought the help of outsiders to teach her and other women in the tribe about irrigation, crop cycles and land use, so they could have ample produce throughout the year. The women also use their ancestral knowledge of lunar cycles to plant food and strongly believe the can use their connection with the Earth to sustain themselves.”

Oh, my, I am in love with these people! Read more about them at PRI, here.

A woman from the Wayuu tribe who is part of the female chieftain’s food initiative waters the saplings. The initiative has been such a success that the tribe now produces surplus food and sells it to other communities.

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Photo: Walter Siegmund
Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, says her life was transformed by a bookmobile. The first book she chose was about volcanoes because the previous night she’d heard a scary story about Mt. Rainier erupting.

Maria Popova has a wonderful blog that she often links to on twitter, which is where I picked up her heartwarming story about what access to books can mean in a poor child’s life.

From Brainpickings: “A beautiful testament to that emancipating, transformative power of public libraries comes from one such troubled little girl named Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, had her life profoundly changed, perhaps even saved, by a library bookmobile, and went on to become a librarian herself. She tells her story in this wonderful oral history animation by StoryCorps:

“The piece was adapted into an essay in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

“Here is Reyes’s story, as it appears in the book:

Working and living in migrant farmworkers’ fields, the conditions were pretty terrible. My parents were alcoholics, and I was beaten and abused and neglected. I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle.

When you are grinding day after day after day, there’s nothing to aspire to except filling your hungry belly. You may walk down the street and see a row of nice, clean houses, but you never, ever dream you can live in one. You don’t dream. You don’t hope.

When I was twelve, a bookmobile came to the fields. I thought it was the Baptists, because they used to come in a van and give us blankets and food. So I went over and peeked in, and it was filled with books. …

The night before, an elder had told us a story about the day that Mount Rainier blew up and the devastation from the volcano. So I told the bookmobile person that I was nervous about the mountain blowing up, and he said, ‘You know, the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.’

At Brainpickings, you can find out what happened next, here.

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Photo: Talia Herman for The New York Times
Girls wearing traditional dance attire on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath, Calif. Young people are learning to make regalia the old-fashioned way, from materials like elk and deer sinew.

As dedicated tribal members revive customs that were once disparaged, young people are responding. For youth from the Yurok tribe in California, hands-on creation of traditional dance materials has been the starting point for an awakening of cultural pride.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the New York Times, “The gathering known simply as ‘Uncle Dave’s camp’ begins at daybreak on the pebbled banks of the Klamath River, the age-old spruce and redwoods on the bluffs shrouded in mist.

“Here on the Yurok Indian Reservation near the Oregon border, so remote that certain areas have yet to receive electricity, young male campers sit on cedar logs while keeping tabs on a river rock heated in a fire. The rock, hand-hollowed and chiseled with basketry patterns, contains a molten glue made from the dried air bladders of sturgeons.

“The syrupy concoction is a crucial ingredient for making feathered headdresses, hide quivers, obsidian-blade sticks and other forms of ceremonial dance ornaments, or regalia, that are at once works of art and living conduits to the spirit world.

“The fishing camp that David Severns, a tribal member, started over 20 years ago has grown into a grass-roots culture camp dedicated to making regalia the old-fashioned way, before mail-order. The source is nature itself — elk and deer sinew, baleen from a whale stranded in the river and delicate fibers from wild irises culled from forested high country. It is part of a broader revival of ancestral ceremonial practices, including dances and songs, among native youths. …

“ ‘Regalia is collective medicine,’ said Mr. Severns, 54, who spends most of April through October sleeping under the stars with the campers and his wife, Mara Hope Severns, 49, from the Kanatak tribe in Alaska. ‘To make them, you’ve got to have a pure heart, because the character of a person is reflected.’ …

“Each spring, Mr. Severns and the young men erect the camp from logs that have washed downstream during winter rains. Soon, the stretch of river known as ‘Blake’s Ripple,’ for his maternal great-grandfather, springs to frenetic life. It’s a place where finely-crafted cedar boxes holding eagle and condor feathers are hollowed out with an adze, and brothers braid each others’ hair. …

“ ‘You wear your culture,’ said Melissa Nelson, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa who is an associate professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and president of the Cultural Conservancy, a native-led indigenous rights organization. ‘Young people are hungry for meaning,’ she added. ‘The opportunity to do hands-on work with abalone, clam beads, pine nuts and other materials is a thread to a healthier and more sustainable way of being in the world.’ …

“To the Yurok and other tribes, the regalia, resplendent with abalone and the scarlet crests of woodpeckers, are a dazzling life force. ‘It’s just another bird until you pray for it, burn a root for it, have a dance leader bless it — then it’s regalia,’ Josh Meyer, a camper turned teacher, said of the eagle feathers he was assembling on the beach for the Brush Dance, a healing ceremony for sick children. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service makes eagle, condor and some other feathers available for religious and cultural use. …

“ ‘Spirituality is the basis of who we are as a people,’ said Susan Masten, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians who served as Yurok tribal chairwoman. ‘For young people, a strong sense of culture and spirituality helps with whatever they face out in the world.’…

“Mr. Meyers, the teacher, grew up with alcohol in the family and a lot of anger. ‘A lot of us didn’t have father figures in our lives,’ he said. ‘We looked to Dave for that.’

“On his exquisite regalia box, Mr. Meyers chiseled a triangle pattern meant to suggest the back of a sturgeon, burnishing it with a torch to give it a coppery patina. ‘I showed up one day and never left,’ he said of the camp. ‘Making regalia is a big part of who I am.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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The Swinomish community in Washington State has seen the future in rising waters. Much of the tribe’s 15-square-mile reservation is at or near sea level.

Today I have a story about how recognizing climate change can put a community one step ahead of the game. Indigenous people around the country are taking steps to deal with the inevitable before it’s too late.

Terri Hansen writes at Yes! magazine, “Chief Albert Naquin was astounded when emergency officials warned him in September 2005 that a second hurricane would soon hammer the southern Louisiana bayous where Hurricane Katrina had struck less than a month earlier. The leader of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, Naquin took to the Isle de Jean Charles’ lone road to urge residents who had returned home after Katrina to leave their listing, moldy homes once again. …

“Hurricane Rita flooded the island for weeks, adding insult to injury that had already reduced the tribe’s homeland to a sliver of what it once was. Rising sea levels, hurricanes, erosion from oil production, and subsidence have since shriveled the Isle de Jean Charles peninsula from 15,000 acres to a tiny strip a quarter-mile wide by a half-mile long. There were once 63 houses flanking the town’s single street. Now only 25 homes and a couple fishing camps remain. …

“In January, Louisiana received a $48 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to move the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Houma Nation tribal members to more solid ground and reestablish their communities, making tribal members the first climate change refugees in the United States. …

“Across the country, 24 tribes have responded to climate change with plans for adaptation and mitigation, and more are in development. …

“As rising temperatures cause heatwaves, droughts, floods, wildfires, and increase the severity of weather events, tribes are on the forefront in respect to both degree of impact and in initial efforts to respond to adaptation, said Ed Knight, director of planning and community development for the Swinomish tribe in Washington state. …

“Using a unique model based on an indigenous worldview, the tribe updated its adaptation strategy in 2014 with environmental, cultural, and human health impact data. It now views health on a familial and community scale, and includes the natural environment and the spiritual realm, said Jamie Donatuto, Swinomish community and environmental health analyst.”

Will government support for tribes’ efforts continue? Read more here.

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With no wish to detract from the joy that Italians take from their countryman’s spirit of adventure or the pride that Americans feel for positive developments that followed the First Encounter, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t the best thing for the people already living here. So without beating a drum that isn’t mine to beat, I’ll just share a gentle poem by a major Native American poet, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It’s a poem that is good for all people.

Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

More at the Poetry Foundation.

Update June 21, 2019: Joy Harjo became the first Native American US Poet Laureate in 2019. Click here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Joy Harjo in 2012.

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I’ve been telling Suzanne and John about a free children’s hour on Thursdays at the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. I thought it sounded like fun for the kids.

According to the website, the program teaches “the history and culture of the Narragansett Tribal Nation through music, dance and storytelling. … Children’s Hour targets pre-school and homeschoolers during the school year and the families during school vacation. …

“Each week will have a different theme or focus. It will include music, dance, storytelling, engagement with exhibits and art or science activities. Each activity will be scaled to fit the ages and abilities of the youth. We will encourage peer mentoring between older and younger participants.

A typical Children’s Hour consists of: Traditional Greeting & Narragansett Welcome Dance (weather permitting); Narragansett Lesson/cultural concept (in our museum); Scavenger Hunt connected to theme where kids can explore exhibits; Social Dance to our Pavilion building; Storytelling/book share; craft or game depending on the content; Closing circle

The museum just won a national award for museum and library services. Executive Director Lorén Spears and Narragansett tribal leaders went to Washington last week, where Michelle Obama presented the award.

More here.

Photo: Tomaquag Museum Executive Director Lorén Spears

 

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In September, Emily Fox did a feature at Michigan Radio on efforts to preserve a dying Native American language. The initiative is focused on preschoolers.

“Anishinaabemowin is the language that was spoken by tribes in Michigan for millennia,” Fox says, “and it’s near extinction in the state.  Many Michigan tribes don’t have any fluent speakers left, while those that do are only reporting between one to three fluent speaking elders.

“Michigan tribes are doing what they can to bring the language back. Some are doing language immersion weekends. Some are creating programs to learn Anishinaabemowin online.

“A lot of tribes are teaching community language classes, or bringing it to the public schools and day care centers.

“The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mt. Pleasant only has one fluent Anishinaabemowin speaker, but they have been able to pool enough resources together to have a four-day-a-week early childhood language immersion school since 2009.

“Isabelle Osawamick, with the Language Department for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, says the teachers at the Sasiwaans Immersion School only speak in Anishinaabemowin. The language is used in class lessons and in every daily activity. …

“She says with immersion, the kids start to understand Annishinabemowin quickly.

“ ‘I’ve seen them listen and in a matter of two months they comprehend 100%,’ Osawamick says.”

Click here to read the details and to listen to the recorded broadcast.

Photo: Emily Fox / Michigan Radio
Two-year-olds at the Sasiwaans language immersion school in Mt. Pleasant get a lesson in the Native American tradition of smudging.

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Ken Shulman reports at WBUR’s Only a Game that skateboarding often means a lot to kids on reservations.

The story starts with an Apache artist, Doug Miles.

“Miles paints mainly on found objects: fuel cans, car hoods, panels from a trailer home. But there’s one outlier among the surfaces, a curious artifact that migrated from California to America’s inner cities to the suburbs and, finally, to the reservation: the skateboard. …

“Miles said. ‘My son needed a skateboard. I didn’t have enough money. So I painted him one. And then he rode it all around the rez. And I knew what was going to happen. I knew. So when he got home I said, “What did everybody say?” And he said, “Dad, Dad, everybody wants one.” ‘

“Today Miles’ skateboards hang in private collections and museums. Some of them sell for hundreds of dollars. But the former social worker is most proud of APACHE Skateboards — a skateboard team, shop and artist collaborative he founded on the San Carlos Reservation, about 90 miles east of Phoenix.

“Miles said that making skateboards helps his kids connect with their Apache heritage.

“We’ve been making things for centuries as native people,” he explained. …

“The San Carlos team has a thriving skate park — with colorful murals painted by Miles and his crew. The team also travels to compete against other tribes and against big city skaters. Miles said the travel is mind opening.

“ ‘The kids in the South Bronx and the other reservations and East LA, they’re just like our kids,’ he said. ‘These are all communities that are struggling. So when they meet our kids they’re really meeting themselves. And so I think it empowers kids to know that we’re struggling here, too, but we’re also making art and skateboarding and having a lot of fun in the process.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ken Shulman/Only A Game
For some Native Americans living on Indian reservations in the American Southwest, skateboarding is more than just a recreational activity.

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Casey Kelly has a story at WBUR’s Only a Game on a sport enabled by the removal of dams on the Penobscot River in Maine.

The recent removal of two dams (and upgrades to others) in Maine’s Penobscot River made available over 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other fish — and also made the river available to whitewater enthusiasts.

“The dam removal was the culmination of years of restoration efforts by several groups. The Penobscot Nation, for whom the river has been vital for centuries, helped lead that effort.

“ ‘The creator put us here, in the Penobscot River Valley,’ said James Eric Francis, Sr., the director of cultural and historic preservation for the Penobscot Nation. ‘We are surrounded by the sacred river.’

“Last month, paddlers from all over the country gathered for a race celebrating the removal of the dams.” More here, including a video.

Here’s how freeing the river came about. It was a major collaboration by disparate groups committed to identifying and acting on the values they held in common.

Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times  
The dismantling of the Veazie Dam is also giving 11 species of fish better access to 1,000 miles of spawning habitat.

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The online magazine Salon has a story this month about New Guinea tribe members taking up Facebook.

Anthropologist and filmmaker Jonnie Hughes writes, “Ping!  The other day, I got a Facebook friend request in my in box. … Intrigued, I opened it up, to find that this was no ordinary future friend (from the past) – it was a man I’d met while making a film about a tribe from the Sepik Valley in Papua New Guinea. It was a man who was born and raised in a remote hunter-gatherer society, where, to this day, the women spend their time searching out wild sago palms in the swamps to pulp into flour for pancakes, and the men hunt monstrous saltwater crocodiles in tea-colored jungle rivers at night with nothing more than spears. My new Facebook friend no longer joins these hunts – he’s an elder and has managed to find some income in the embryonic Sepik tourist industry …

“I’ve long since ceased to view the cultures of the Sepik tribes with the romantic and naive preconceptions that we in the West routinely assign to hunter-gatherer societies. I know, from having lived with these people in their magnificent A-frame stilt houses, that Sepik tribes are as modern a group of people as any of us – people who, like you and me, must constantly interrogate and adapt the culture they have inherited so that it best suits the changing world about them.  But even I was astonished to discover that a community that only recently learned that arrows could fly better if they had feathers on their shafts was now into Facebook.” Read more here.

This lead came from ArtsJournal.com.

 

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