Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
March 30, 2005
This morning a groundhog was shopping for breakfast at the side of the road between Newark and Granville, OH.
I thought I was imagining it as I've never seen a groundhog in person before. I wasn't; it was. Farther down the road a family of vultures circled. It's beautiful out. So far I visited a native american literature class, had a wonderful lunch with women's studies faculty at the Cherry Valley Lodge. What came to me so far is: The connection between community and communion. And powerlines is the word I've been searching for that defines the undeniable power of linkage between grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and so on---that interlocking weave.
Now I practice horn in the hotel...always a tricky proposition. And voice. And prepare for a 4:30 performance or lecture.
I appreciate the welcome here.
I hope I'm not trespassing copyrights to reproduce these stories here. They come from my friend Andre Cramblit's Indigenous News Network. You can subscribe. See info below. All the stories are pertinent.
Subject: Digest for IndigenousNewsNetwork@topica.com, issue 463
Date: March 29, 2005 2:05:25 AM HST
The Washington Times www.washingtontimes.com
Forum: Native American oppression
Published March 13, 2005
It's cheaper to educate Indians than to kill them.
-- Indian Commissioner Thomas Morgan at the establishment of the
Phoenix Indian School in 1891.
In a whiny column (March 5, Page A13) about the American Indian
Museum, Terence P. Jeffrey wrote: "A Native American museum is an
important addition to the Mall, and it should highlight true injustices
Westerners inflicted on Indians. But Christianity is not one of them."
This is one of the most ridiculous assertions I have ever read and
reveals Mr. Jeffrey to be a complete ignoramus (this assessment is very
kind) when it comes to First American culture and history.
Beginning in the early 19th century, the federal government actively
-- and often forcibly -- supported the "civilization" and "Christian
education" of First Americans.
Religious mission activities were supported financially by Congress
and legislative support was enacted for establishing 200 "Indian"
schools where Native children -- often forcibly removed from their
families -- were prohibited from practicing their traditional religions
or speaking their Native languages.
"Christian" education was required, including the mandatory
memorization and recitation of the Lord's Prayer as well as the
Beatitudes, the Psalms, and the Ten Commandments.
Pupils were required to attend Sunday school and services off campus
and to perform church-related service. Students who did not attend
church were subjected to corporal punishment, e.g. whippings. Amulets
and other items of Native religious significance were confiscated and
their possession could result in severe punishment. Pupils found
practicing a Native religion often were beaten to the point of severe
bodily injury sometimes requiring medical treatment.
And, not at all surprisingly, many of these Native children were
sexually abused by their "Christian" mentors.
In 1887, at the behest of "Christian" leaders in this country,
Congress passed the General Allotment Act (more commonly referred to as
the Dawes Act) which -- among other things -- prohibited Native
religious ceremonies and practices in direct contravention of the U.S.
Constitution. This was the law of the land almost 50 years.
Many state laws added restrictions on the practice of Native
religions. Not until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978
was passed by Congress did First Americans once again have a right --
with limits -- to practice their religions.
Even a ceremony as innocuous as the Apache "Sunrise Ceremony,"
central to the cultures of several Apache bands, was prohibited because
it celebrated a "heathen" creation belief that anathema to "good"
And even today, the freedom of First Americans to practice their
traditional religions continues to be questioned in the courts and
discounted in federal legislation. As a result, one can only question
the U.S. government's true commitment to protecting religious freedom
for all people in the United States, including Native Americans.
The above is just a hint of the realities. But Mr. Jeffrey still
hasn't a clue, which reflects rather negatively upon the credibility of
The Washington Times and insults it readership.
Putting the Sha in Shaman
Rich Lowry (archive)
Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who called the
victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns," is a sign of our times. Not just
because his error-riddled work and reflexive hostility toward American
power reflect the mediocrity and stale orthodoxy of much of academia. He
also belongs to one of the nation's hottest ethnic groups: the fake
Churchill has described himself as three-sixteenths Cherokee, or
one-sixteenth Cree, or both. But what's a few sixteenths here or there?
He has never documented his ancestry, and he gained his membership in
the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians when it allowed in people who
aren't Indians. Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee who
has long known Churchill, told John J. Miller of National Review
magazine, "Right away, I could tell he was a faker, because he refused
to talk about his family."
In an article in the magazine's latest issue, Miller documents the
rash of "professional imposters who have built entire careers by putting
the sham into shaman." According to Miller, "Between 1960 and 2000, the
number of Americans claiming Indian ancestry on their census forms
jumped by a factor of six." Churchill described himself as a "Caucasian"
when he served in Vietnam. He became an "American Indian" when he was
filling out an affirmative-action form at the University of Colorado to
become a lecturer in Native American studies.
Churchill is part of a great tapestry of American Indian-related
fraud. Non-Indian arts and crafts are marketed as "Indian made," a
practice Congress has tried to discourage with the Indian Arts and
Crafts Act. The possibility of opening casinos sends lily-white
opportunists scouring for any drop of Indian blood. Then there are the
affirmative-action hucksters, like the California contractor who got
preferential treatment on account of his one-sixty-fourth Indian
There is no marketing quite like faux Native American status.
Forrest Carter wrote a book in the mid-1970s called "The Education of
Little Tree" about being raised as an orphan by his Cherokee
grandparents. "Students of Native American life," said the introduction
to the paperback edition, "discovered the book to be as accurate as it
was mystical and romantic." In 1991, the book became a cult smash and
hit the paperback nonfiction best-seller list. Then it was switched to
the fiction best-seller list.
It turned out that Forrest Carter was Asa Carter, a former white
supremacist with a vivid imagination. A recent edition of "Little Tree"
explains that it is "autobiographical if not all factually accurate. For
instance, Granma is based on family memories of Carter's
great-great-great grandmother, who was a full Cherokee, combined with
the author's own mother, who read Shakespeare to him when he was a
child." Got that?
Carter was in the same tradition as Iron Eyes Cody, the "Indian"
actor who made the Keep America Beautiful TV ads so memorable in the
1970s. He had more than a hundred movie roles as an Indian, even though
his real name was Espera DeCorti.
Falsified Native American ancestry and experiences are most readily
rewarded by those who worship multiculturalism and conceive of Indians
as near-mystical beings. Carlos Castaneda tapped into this audience with
his New Age classic "The Teachings of Don Juan," a book based on his
dubious meetings in the desert with a Yaqui sorcerer who taught him
(conveniently for the college market) the marvels of mind-altering
drugs. In response to Castaneda and his many imitators, the National
Congress of American Indians has denounced "non-Indian 'wannabes' and
self-styled New Age shamans."
Indian fakery is reprehensible not just because it is based on lies,
but because it falsifies and cheapens the Native American experience to
which it is supposed to pay tribute. Miller quotes a writer who calls
this "cultural genocide," scoring the fakers for their
"misrepresentation and appropriation of indigenous spirituality." The
author of those words was Ward Churchill. Who knew? He is not just an
apologist for mass murder, but -- on his own terms -- a practitioner of
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review, a Townhall.com member group,
and author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 20:05:37 +0000
From: andre cramblit
Subject: Layoffs (community)
Staff feels left in the dark by administration
March 15, 2005
Nick Coleman: For Red Lake, prayers, then politics as usual
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
Last Tuesday, Minnesota's political leaders took part in an emotional
ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol to pray for the victims of
the school shooting on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. When the prayers
were over, they went back into the Capitol and cut millions from a plan
to build a new school for Red Lake.
It was a shocking act of tasteless bad timing and worse politics, but
for people of color and especially for Minnesota's Indians, it probably
seemed like business as usual: Talk is cheap, and politics is all about
money. In that equation, politicians always find praying easier than
Here's what happened:
Legislators were trying to agree on an $880 million bonding bill that
includes funding for dozens of capital improvement projects, ranging
from new schools to new prisons. No bonding bill passed the Legislature
last year because of partisan wrangling, but things were looking good
for an agreement last week. Until negotiations broke down again.
One hangup was a $24 million replacement for the unhealthy and moldy
middle school at Red Lake. When the session began, Senate DFLers and
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty agreed to fund the school plan but House
Republicans had not. They started at zero but had agreed to spend $20
million on a new school before word reached the Capitol of Monday's
carnage that included Red Lake High School.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Capitol steps were the scene of a ceremony of
grief and prayers as Indians and non-Indians rallied to support Red Lake
and its people. Pawlenty and other dignitaries were on hand, as were
many legislators, most of whom at least paid a brief visit. But when the
prayers ended, the politics started.
After the prayer service, legislators resumed debate on the bonding
bill. After a couple of hours, the proposal for a new Red Lake Middle
School came up. Most legislators expected that after the traumatic
events of the previous 24 hours, everyone would approve full funding for
a new school. So they were stunned when the lead Republican negotiator,
Rep. Dan Dorman of Albert Lea, announced a new plan that included just
$14 million for a Red Lake school -- $10 million short of the estimated
cost, and $6 million short of their previous position.
There may have been warm tears still glistening on the Capitol steps
outside. But inside, hearts were stone.
"I was there, and if you looked at the crowd at the memorial service,
there were just as many Republicans as there were Democrats," said Sen.
Steve Dille, a Republican from Dassel. "Everybody felt very bad about
[the shootings], not just Democrats."
Dille has a photo on his office wall of himself with Thomas Stillday, a
Red Lake elder and spiritual leader who was the chaplain of the Senate
in the late 1990s and who lost a young relative in Monday's violence.
Dille was astonished to find that his party's bonding proposal now
included a huge reduction in the Red Lake proposal. And he confronted
"I said it seemed insensitive to cut them back to $14 million rather
than the $20 million where they [House Republicans] were at," Dille
said. "I told him I thought it was inappropriate."
Sen. Keith Langseth, a DFLer from Glyndon who headed the Democratic
negotiators, also objected.
"It was not only inappropriate, it was bad political judgment," he said.
"Cut the school the same day we had this memorial? That doesn't work."
Shame didn't work, either.
Sen. Sandy Pappas, a St. Paul DFLer, called the House funding plan
"tacky." The Republicans seemed chagrined but held their ground. The
next day, they quietly raised their ante to $18 million. It's still not
"We all stood out there [on the Capitol steps] together because we are
all Minnesotans and we all need to support each other," Pappas said.
"After what happened at Red Lake, how could they insult the tribe like
Read your history books, Pappas. Insulting Indian tribes is an ancient
tradition in American politics. For some people, it comes naturally.
So when it was time to put their money where their prayers had been two
hours earlier, the Republicans set aside their grief in favor of
projects nearer to Pawlenty's heart. One was a secure nursing home for
aging sex offenders for which the governor wants full funding even
though a site has yet to be selected. Another is a prison expansion in
In the state we are in, prisons are easier to build than schools.
So good luck, Red Lake Indian Reservation. A bonding bill may yet be
approved, a new middle school may yet be built and common decency may
yet prevail. Why, President Bush even managed to offer a word publicly
on Saturday -- five days after the bloodshed -- about your suffering.
But until you see that new school, watch out. Don't be fooled by the
politicians when they pray alongside you.
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 22:30:39 +0000
From: andre cramblit
Subject: Chairman Speaks (Red Lake)
Red Lake chairman reflects on shooting and its impact
by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
March 25, 2005
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain spoke at length for the first
time Thursday night about the shootings on the reservation. He reflected
on how the tragedy has affected Red Lake, and how it may change the
community in the future.
Red Lake, Minn. — Chairman Buck Jourdain says the Red Lake Nation is
overwhelmed by support and offers of help from around the world.
Jourdain says what the people need most right now are prayers and
"All of the things that are coming out now are indicitive of that
happening. The support is tremendous," Jourdain says. "Bordering towns,
the mayors, have flown their flags at half staff in honor of our loss.
Just the human touch. that's what we need most at this time."
Jourdain says seeing Red Lake in the state it's in breaks his heart. He
says the focus for now is simply making sure everyone is taken care of.
Jourdain says this tragedy is causing everyone to reflect on how to do a
better job of reaching out to all kids on the reservation.
"Good role models are a good place to start. And we have a lot of people
like that here, who will stop a young person and say, 'How you doing?'"
Jourdain says. "And our Indian kids need that. They tend to keep to
themselves, and we need to reach out to them more."
Jourdain says traditional culture needs to play a larger role in the
lives of kids on the reservation. He says they need roots that can only
come from knowing the ways of their ancestors.
In the wake of the shootings, tribal officials restricted access to the
reservation. Chairman Jourdain says that's a reflection of traditional
values, culture and a need to grieve in private. He bristled at
questions that challenged the concept of Red Lake as a sovereign nation.
"A lot of times nobody wants anything to do with us. They never want to
come here. Media doesn't want to come here. People have no reason to
come here and they could care less," Jourdain says. "But now that we
have this tragedy, all of a sudden our sovereignty is a question, and
the way we conduct ourselves and our tribal customs. We're only looking
out for our own, and following our own laws."
After the press conference, a handful of tribal elders shared their
concerns. The national spotlight on Red Lake has been difficult for
Melvin Jones to watch. Jones is a tribal elder from Ponemah, one of the
most traditional Indian communities in Minnesota.
He says Indian people simply want to be respected for who they are.
"Have respect for us. Be for us at this time. Not only at this time, but
come over and see us after this tragedy is over," Jones says. "Don't
just drop in because of this tragedy is here. Come and see us all the
time. That way you'll learn about us. If you seek, we will share."
Jones says people who are not Indian can't understand traditional
spiritual and cultural beliefs. But he says everyone should be able to
understand a simple plea.
"Pray for us. We need that. We have a lot of healing to do here on the
reservation. It's not over with," says Jones. "The elders have a lot of
work to do after the funerals are over. A lot of work."
Funerals begin Saturday for the 10 people who died in Monday's shooting
rampage at Red Lake.
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 22:32:19 +0000
From: andre cramblit
Subject: Quantum & DNA (native issue)
FEATURE-American Indians look to DNA tests to prove heritage
25 Mar 2005 13:00:17 GMT
By Adam Tanner
SAN FRANCISCO, March 25 (Reuters) - The United States has treated its
indigenous people poorly for much of its history, yet today thousands of
people are anxious to show their Native American heritage and are
turning to DNA testing for help.
Some white Americans have long claimed distant ties to Cherokee
princesses or other legendary figures among those explorer Christopher
Columbus mistakenly called Indians when he thought he had arrived in
Now Indian heritage -- which can make a person eligible for federal
assistance programs or a share of tribal casino profits or just satisfy
curiosity -- can be determined through genetic testing. Advances in DNA
screening have provided new tools to document Native American ancestry,
although some say such data is open to be interpretation.
"If you are interested in determining your eligibility for Native
American rights or just want to satisfy your curiosity, our ancestry DNA
test is the only method available for this purpose today," one firm,
Although U.S. citizens typically know the broad outlines of their
ancestry, for Native Americans the exact fractions of their heritage can
take on heightened importance.
Nineteenth-century treaties obligate the U.S. government to provide
education, health care and other services to many tribes. Indian
sovereignty also means tribes can set up casinos on reservations, and
Indian casinos now generate $18 billion annually and the numbers are
Many tribes set as a membership standard that a person must have at
least one Indian grandparent or one great grandparent. Others among the
562 federally recognized tribes require links to members on a tribal
membership roll in past generations.
With individuals seeking to affirm membership in recognized tribes and
dozens of unrecognized tribes seeking federal acknowledgment, commercial
firms have in the last two years stepped up marketing of genetic
ancestry tests. A positive test result is not sufficient to enable
someone to claim Indian benefits because they must prove a link to a
"Nobody else in this nation has to prove their ancestry except for
American Indians," said Ken Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponni Tribe
in Virginia which is not recognized by the U.S. government. "It's so
ironic because we were the original ones."
Since Genelex started offering the test more than a year ago, 600
people have paid $395 to learn the degree of their Native American
heritage, said Kristine Ashcraft, director of client relations.
Firms such as Genelex offer three types of tests: on male ancestors, on
female ancestors, and a third to determine a percentage of Native
American, East Asian, Indo-European and African heritage.
A Sarasota, Florida company DNAPrint processes that third
test, and has done it for 12,000 to 13,000 people since 2000, said firm
director Richard Gabriel. DNAPrint uses data from South American Indians
as a genetic reference point, he said.
LIMITS OF DNA TESTING
Mark Shriver, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University who
helped develop the DNAPrint ancestry test, cautions its results without
family history prove little.
"Just simple belief in a test without considering all the other data
is, you know, foolish," he said. "The science is not simply true and
objective...It is one clue in the picture."
He cited one of his graduate students from France whose test found a 14
percent Native American heritage. He said that number was likely the
result of intermixing following the 13th century invasion of Europe by
Mongols, who hailed from the same region of Asia as the forefathers of
The DNA tests are also unable to differentiate between Indian tribes.
The issue of who is an Indian also hangs over future generations. For
members whose tribes share revenues from casino operations, marrying
outside the tribe could have major financial implications.
As in many cultures, some parents encourage children to marry within
the tribe, but some, especially in smaller tribes, see the request as
"Everyone in the tribe is a distant cousin," complained one 18-year-old
Indian woman who works at a casino in the Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico.
She hoped to marry outside the tribe.
As important as identity is in Native American culture, for some the
motivation for a DNA test is just curiosity.
"It's growing in popularity much faster than any of our expectations,"
said Terry Carmichael, vice president for sales and marketing at
GeneTree, whose advertising asks "Do you have Native American DNA?".
"A lot of people out there primarily want to find out if they have
Native American ancestry, not for purposes of claiming rights to a
casino but more for their own understanding," he said. "They want to be
able to understand their ancestry a little bit more."
A rainy misty morning. I'm here I think. I've avoided blogging in the last few weeks because I struggle for perfection in expression. And I've been questioning every step. I've just been getting through and mourning leaving my home on the island. I was home for a week. The week added up to three canoe practices, rigging the boats and a race Saturday from Magic Island to Kewalo then out to a buoy by the windsock in front of Kaimana (by traversing the face of Waikiki) and back to Magic Island. The race was a highlight. Working out in hotels as I've traveled across and up and down Mainland America and hitting spin classes at Body and Soul during my W.Hollywood sojourns kept me in shape. The Pacific is a brilliant being. Complex, beautiful and furious. I am in love with the Pacific. I am in the university of the ocean these days, so to leave is difficult. I will be on the road for about three weeks. As I write this the sun momentarily breaks through the mist into my hotel window. Another god I am grateful for. The shiny steel L-A-X letters line up with my room.
The week has culminated in the writing of two book blurbs, a treatment for R&D for a film, daily saxophone and voice practice, catching up on business and more business, getting through the mail, sleep and more sleep and then still not enough sleep. And cooking. L. and I cooked an Easter brunch yesterday for guests including L.'s mother and my cousin Tiger and his wife Mary. The menu: sparkling cider, pesto eggs, hash browns, fondue (for L. and the mother who love fondue--the other Hawaiian and Indians don't!), scones, biscuits and hot cross buns (the buns from Liliha Bakery and some from Mary and Tiger and a coffee cake from Liliha from them,too), fruit salad with papaya, apples, apple bananas, mint, kiwi and strawberries, ice tea, water (and what fine water) and for dessert sugar-free peach cobbler for Bill and chocolate chip cookies and chocolate none of us could eat because we were too full. Also, New Mexico red chili sauce I made to put over everything.
Now what's most compelling here I can't talk about because it would cross confidences. Some things are private. I don't believe in the American way of absolute freedom to write just because we can. I refuse to cross dignity. Though I will say that Tiger told the story of a young Crow son of a friend of his who said he understood why Santa Claus didn't come to the reservation. It's because he's afraid they'll eat the reindeer. He also said he didn't understand why everyone in the movie theater cried when the deer was shot because someone got some good deer meat.
More later...and a late last night frustration rambling:
March 27, 2005 Easter evening almost midnight at LAX Radisson
Tonight I’m tired of not having a penis, tired of not wearing a commanding suit with a roll of cash or whatever it takes to get attention. Tired of late baggage. Tired of jammed crowds waiting for the same shuttle, the same flight, the same baggage.
I stand in line to check in at the Radisson. The bellman takes my bags as I stand in line--a perpetual line. It is always there in this hotel. One night it was Japanese stewardesses. Another night Thai. Tonight it’s a male couple traveling together and a Chinese woman with the slimmest hips I’ve ever seen wearing size negative zero jeans and glitter flats and her entourage checking schedules, then me. The flight was early in due to tailwinds, but the gate wasn’t open, and then the baggage handlers must have waited to check in for their work at the time the plane was due to arrive. My bag eventually makes it. When I finally reach the counter at the head of the line, the attendant takes a call from a distressed passenger who has been waiting for the famous black bus of the hotel that is always on its way but almost never arrives. The caller will not be assuaged. I tap my credit card for incidentals. What counts as incidental? Sounds like accidents. He's indifferent. Finally I’m checked in, sign the paper and just as I am being given my key the bellman excuses himself to acquire another client. Leaves my bags. He runs out to a fancy car and a fancy man. This isn’t the first time this has happened. The last time was in New York City. I feel invisible, angry. I take my bags off his cart and wheel them to the elevator. At least the key works to my room, it’s relatively clean. I’m tired…so tired I’m making myself tired by saying this. My back twinges with exhaustion. Now sleep, please.
And today, March 28, 2005 in a waning moon will practice sax (yes, in the hotel room) write a letter of recommendation, go to the workout room, repack, rethink, write down my dreams. Then head to my flight(s).
March 13, 2005 Portland Sunday morning
Portland is blooming with flowers in trees, bushes, everywhere it's flowers and sun. Not the usual rains. Everyone's loving it but nervous about the lack of rain.
A revelation: I have to give myself over to the music so it will give itself over to me. It's that way with anything.
I flew in Friday and was driven by a friend M. from the airport to her and J’s house for a sweet lunch of salad and pasta, then to Willamette University in Salem for dinner at La Margarita’s. Then to Cone Chapel for a performance. Several Chemawa Indian students come. The chapel resonates beautifully so does the performance. Janice Gould plays guitar for Grace. I sing as well as read. Long lines for signing. Many books and CD’s sold. We drive back to Portland. I crash out in the backseat during the drive.
Friday J. picks me up and we go to a high school. I speak to a few classes of students in an abandoned band room. It’s the saddest thing. No music classes and the students are dying for music. I almost died for music a few times in my life. The students ask the best questions I’ve heard anywhere. They are thoughtful, profound even. I can see that the quality of education is missing. The talent is there. Then to a school across town, Franklin High and once again I am in the band room. But Judy Rose is the choral teacher. The students are bright, supported. Sun streams into the room giving light. There’s music. Janice and I perform. I’m tired of talking and wondering how I’m going to get it up to perform. I've been up at 4AM every night for two weeks. I’m in that sleepless haze. The flowers compoud the surreal measure of the world. (My eyes aren’t even open as I type this in on a Sunday mornning.) The sun isn’t even up yet here in the Hotel Mallory.
Later on Friday Janice and I go to lunch at a Thai place. I pour too much hot sauce on my Pad thai. My tongue says delicious, my stomach roils and punches for a few hours in response. We head over to Powells to get the set up in place so we’re not sound checking in front of the audience at seven. The backdrop is an outrageous art exhibit by a young man from the south who is enthralled with cheap sideshow art. His sculptures are the best feature. The paintings garish. Reminds me a little of Red Grooms. I shop a little, buy a Hugo book of poetry that’s been long out of print, The Lady of Kicking Horse Resevoir, a collected poems, Celan, O’Hara and several Creek books. Then Janice drops me at the hotel. I get ready and go downstairs. Anxious. I feel energy. It courses through me. That means there will be a good audience. It’s energy I can use though I feel a tone of a little test…but I will do my best whatever it is.
Powell’s is packed. There are few books. The order didn’t come in. Janice and I warm up in the rare books room. My reed is stiff and uncooperative. What I learned on this trip since Saturday night at Powells: have three or four good reeds going. Do not try to fly on a stiff new reed that needs working.
We go out. The sound is okay. I start Eagle Song after reading the intro to Ploughshares. With no warning my fingers flub the intro. Strange. I fall a moment. It’s a very noticeable flub. But I keep going. And I keep going. I redeem myself later but it’s very difficult to stay on it after that…my voice however loves the opportunity to sing.
i've been giving myself over to my voice. It's been locked up since childhood, since being forbidden to sing at fourteen by the proverbial evil stepfather.
I meet D., journalist and music writer. We've corresponded. Never met in person. I recognize him right away before the reading. It’s his eyes. We almost don’t need to introduce ourselves. Afterwards we go out for a bite with Janice to Jakes, a seafood place near Powells. Then Janice takes me back to the hotel. I crash. Up at four again.
Up early, again. More sun. I stand in the window of Hotel Mallory and drink it in. The sun is my constant friend. And again the hotel gym, breakfast and work for two hours on a story that’s over due. D. picks me up and we head over to Portland State to look for the Indian House. Floy Pepper is there speaking at some kind of meeting. We eventually find it, after being given the wrong directions that took us blocks out of our way. Floy is speaking to a group of Indian parents with children with disabilities. I learn something, actually. It’s difficult to hear, acoustics, well, sound is flying everywhere but succinctly into sense. I make out the example of a situation that happened of a child calling a teacher a name, and the decision being made not to tell the child what to do, but to give the child the space to make it right himself. He does; he did. If I back off and give myself the space to do the right thing: She does; I do. Lunch is served and I sit with Floy and D. and we have salad and a great three sister soup. Then D. and I are off to his place before Janice is to pick us up. I enjoy visiting with him. And fall in love with his Klein guitar. Perfect fit, sound and size and I have to have one. (If anyone knows where I can find a Klein electric guitar for sale please let me know.) I also see rare footage of Pepper playing an amazing rendition of Georgia. But what is most helpful, D. backs up the tape and I see Pepper flub the opening of Witchi Tia To. I watch him and feel him surround the impact of the flub with his mind...and keep moving. That's what we all have to do when we make mistakes, is keep moving.
THAT was a gift. Thank you, I'm human.
Janice picks me up to drive me to the powwow at Willamette. On the drive we are taken over by flamenco. All the way down to Salem we hammer out rhythms, dance, sing. Flamenco brings me to my knees and back up again. Even my tears are on their knees in tears. I love that music.
Janice and I stand for quite awhile in an existentialist fry bread line. There's a line, and then there isn't, but there is.
I enjoy circling the dancing, visiting the booths, the art, the people, and make friends with Frank who has a booth where I buy a jacket that says Native Pride for my cousin. He buys the last three of my CD’s. He at one time lived in Liliha! We leave near the end of the Apache exhibition crown dance by students from Chemawa. The students are very good. They are at nearly an hour of performance when we leave. I have a jones for fried clams. We stop at one place. None, then another...had soup instead. Almost seven am. Better finish up that overdue story. And get dressed to fly out of here for LA.
And then there was the bully ring of mynahs in the parking lot at Long's a few years ago. While loading groceries we were taken by the sound of a fight; we could literally hear blows landing. A circle of mynahs surrounded several males who were punching, beating up on another male. I was shocked by the viciousness, so human-like.
And what about: "remedial leadership classes"?
Here's a rewrite:
AS FAR AWAY AS OKLAHOMA FROM HAWAII
We run for it
Out past the buoy and then we turn back into hard north winds.
There’s no winning. We just keep moving through slices of rain.
Though I’m here in the bow of a running canoe,
I’m in a song from the ceremonial grounds
That has attached itself through rhythm.
Cadence of belief is cadence of muscle.
Redbird talks to the sun at dawn,
White heron flies over the grounds at noon.
There’s no thinking; I’ve traded the weight of this skin for something
A little lighter: like sunlight on water or like the moment I saw your eyes
First catch light for me.
Come here I said.
And the water people below the canoe are just trying to hold it up.
The surface people have forgotten how to sing for anything but fame.
It’s raining urgently. “You’d better listen, urgently”,
Say the winds.
So, I’m listening to the falling, urgently.
And I keep not thinking of how far it is to the origin of rain.
c Joy Harjo 2/11/05 for L.
and a new one:
Letter to Lawson
I have lived 19,404 midnights, some of them in the quaver of fish dreams
And some without any memory at all, just the flash of the jump
From a night rainbow, to an island of fire and flowers--such a holy
Leap between forgetting and jazz. How long has it been since I called you back?
After Albuquerque with my baby in diapers on my hip ; it was a difficult birth
I was just past girlhood slammed into motherhood. What a bear.
Beyond the door of my tongue is a rail and I’m leaning over to watch bears
Catch salmon with their teeth. That realm isn’t anywhere near Los Angeles. If I dream
It all back then I reconstruct that song buried in the muscle of urgency. I’m bereft
in the lost nation of debtors. Wey yo hey, wey yo hey yah hey. Pepper jumped
And some of us went with him to the stomp. All night, beyond midnight, back
Up into the sky, holy.
It was a holy mess, wholly of our folly, drawn of ashes around the hole
Of our undoing. Back there the ceremonial fire was disassembled, broken and bare
Like chordal breaks forgetting to blossom. Around midnight, I turn my back
And watch prayers take root beneath the moon. Not that dreams
Have anything to do with it exactly. I get jumpy
In the aftermath of a disturbed music. I carried that baby up the river, gave birth
To nothing but the blues in buckskin and silk. Get back, I said, and what bird
Have you chosen to follow in your final years of solitude? Go ahead, jump holy
Said the bear prophet. Wey ya hah. Wey ya hah. All the way down to the jamming
Flowers and potholes. There has to be a saxophone in there somewhere, some notes bear
Little resemblance to the grown child. Now I’ve got to be dreaming
Take me back
Or don’t take me back to Tulsa. I can only marry the music; the outlook’s bleak
Without it. I mean it. And then I don’t. Too many questions mar the answer. Breath
Is the one And two And. Dream sweet prophet of sound, dream
Mvskoke acrobat of disruption. It’s nearing midnight and something holy
Is always coming around. Take love for instance, and the bare
Perfect neck of a woman who’s given up everything for the forbidden leap
To your arms as you lean over the railing to hear the music hopping at the jump
Pull of the line. She will never be here again in the break of the phrase back
Before this maverick music was invented. It’s the midnight hour and sweet dark love bares
It all. I can hear it again: the blue moon caving in to tears of muscle and blood. Birth
Of the new day begins less than one second after. It’s that exact , this science of the holy.
So that’s where it is, this incubation of broken dreams.
It took forever for that bear of a horn player to negotiate the impossible jump.
Weh yo hey Weh yo hah, those water spirits will carry that girl all the way back
To the stomp grounds where jazz was born. It’s midnight. How holy.
c Joy Harjo LA, CA February 28, 2005