Joy Harjo's Web Log
Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
Monday, October 30, 2006
COLOMBIA: SUICIDE OF AMAZON NOMAD LEADER
A leader of the nomadic Nukak tribe has committed suicide after
drinking a poison usually used by his people to kill fish.
The Nukak man, Mao-be, killed himself after trying to help his
people return to the rainforest. The Nukak were forced to flee their
homes after becoming caught up in Colombia's drugs war involving the
army, paramilitaries and guerrillas. Now living on the outskirts of
a town, they are pleading to return.
'He felt desperate because he couldn't find the resources for the
Nukak to return to their land, which they love and to which they
want to return,' said a statement from Colombia's national
indigenous organization, ONIC.
The suicide comes after the recent death of a nine year old boy and
a flu epidemic in which almost a quarter of the tribe were taken
ill. Since first contact with outside society in 1988 over half the
tribe have died, and many continue to suffer from malnutrition,
diarrhoea, flu and respiratory infections.
Survival's Director, Stephen Corry, said today, 'Mao-be's death
serves as a tragic illustration of the Nukak's experience of contact
with Western society. The Colombian government must now act to make
sure the Nukak are allowed to return safely to their homes, which is
what Mao-be died fighting for. If they don't, one of Colombia's last
nomadic tribes will become extinct.'
To read this press release online please visit:
Saturday, October 28, 2006
A Mvskoke approach, ironing and all the rest
I have a stack of photos for posting from various trips, and some work from young native writers. I'll get to it sooner than later. I'm teaching the second of two eight-week classes, with wonderful students, and these eight weeks I am attempting a different approach to teaching native lit: an approach that embodies "Mvskokee-ness" rather than a phenomenological approach. It goes against the manner in which I've been taught in the university system. I am much more excited and energetic but it also means heavy energy to subvert the linear way of thinking that has planted itself. And more work than teaching by a rote system of theories and facts. And that's on top of my full-time writing, performing, music and intense family dramas.
Yesterday my sister I talked to my sister late. She's in Oklahoma taking care of our mother who had a successful knee replacement. Our mother is doing relatively well, however she believes like so many in this country that a pill will cure everything, so she goes to two or three doctors and gets various prescriptions because she believes more will make her even more well. We think that's the cause of her slurring yesterday morning, and her comment that took her back into time forty years ago:"Is Joy still ironing?"
The behavior is frightening, but we laughed and laughed when I told Margaret that it's terrifying to consider that somewhere in memory I am still ironing and will always be ironing. I was chained (not literally) to the ironing board and from the time I was 7 ironed everyonoe's clothes, including my mother's restaurant uniforms, my step-father's heavy khaki's. I even took in ironing to make money when I go older. Laundry was also stacked in piles, or should I say mountains, in my sister's and my room. I won't go near an ironing board now.
So more as I move along through stacks of papers, reading. I do manage to write some daily, and to get some music practice in. I have a new tune I'll put on Podcast soon.
Will the person calling themselves "Sedna" please send me more information. I can't rely on hearsay. More than one person fits the description.
October 2006 Harjo's Muscogee Nation News Column
Muscogee Nation News Column for October 2006
Last week I went for a walk along the ditch here in northwest Albuquerque. It was bare. It had been shaved of the mile high weeds and flowers lining it throughout the summer. There was a lull in the water flow so the bottom was now only mud and occasional pools of water. In a few spots crayfish were looking for soft muck. Green heads of frogs emerged here and there. Some frogs took the opportunity to sunbathe. They dove in alarm at the sound of humans or dogs. One wise frog was not so skittish. He sat out on a concrete abutment, taking in the day. I sat with him for a while to see what I could learn. Frogs are rare these days; poisons and pesticides have taken many out. This wise frog and his relatives were the most I’d seen in one place in years. Neither of us said anything as we watched the blue fall sky sweep by, and the scrambling crayfish. At the back of my mind was the stack of papers on my desk, the errands, terrorist attacks by our government, and concern for my brother and his heart. The tightness of fast society slowly unwound. When the wise frog did finally talk he noted that humans used to come and visit. And they would visit in turn. We both sat with remembering as another stream of blue passed with thoughts of clouds. We felt sad at the current state of loss in this world of progress. Somewhere along the way humans got confused and lost the way. Some still remember, I told the frog. I look for those who remember everywhere I travel. He nodded. Some of his people had forgotten too. Time pulled us both apart. We had to get on with it. We made plans to get together again. We thanked each other for the visit. When I looked back he was still there, encouraging that crayfish towards a muddy cove.
In the news this month was a story about scientists who are looking for a cure for gay sheep, or rams. They are experimenting with giving the rams extra high doses of estrogen to see if that will counter the tendency for their own kind. Sounds funny to me: the scientists, not the rams. This study probably cost more than a block of new homes for the elderly. Why not come up with a cure for hatred or judgment? We’d all get along a lot better if we’d respect each other. The wise ones don’t judge people by the color of their skin, by accumulation of wealth, or by inborn traits. It’s how we treat each other (human, frog, etc), and how we take care of our many gifts, that matters. I wonder what Mekko Frog would say about this? He’s probably laughing about those poor rams prancing about on high doses of estrogen, in the name of science.
In the latest World Literature Today, published in Norman, Oklahoma, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma said something in an interview with Michelle Johnson when talking about The Silk Road that sparked me thinking about growth of our Mvskoke culture:
"Years ago in Japan, a wise man told me that if you look deeply enough at anything thought of as local--be it music, an idea, a tradition, a craft--you find that the local thing has global roots. We think of ancient people as being so isolated, yet here is this trade
route along which religions and music and musical instruments and foods and goods all traveled. Of course, people traveled with them, and the people and the goods and the ideas and everything else all had enormous influence on one another."
I think of the Mississippi River, the Gulf coast, the Atlantic and the Caribbean, as part of the network of Muscogee trade routes. Now these routes have been expanded by air flight. I consider what has come to be known as Muscogee culture. Our culture contains many threads leading all over the world. Every day when I practice my sax I say a mvto to Adolfe Sax. He was born in Belguim, spent most of his life in Paris where he gave himself over to promoting his family of saxophones. He was vilified and booed by jealous competitors for inventing the saxophone. The sax eventually made it across the Atlantic, found a place in jazz and American music. It's one of the favorite instruments of Creek people. Jim Pepper is still the reigning jazz sax king. I remember Thomas Berryhill. I’d love to hear of others. Even my paternal grandmother Naomi Harjo played sax in Indian Territory. One of these days it might be considered a Mvskoke traditional instrument. That’s how these things happen. You never know.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Earthquake in Hawaii
This is all I know.
I get a call from the yard of our little house out in the Pacific.
There's been an earthquake, and aftershocks.
The house is shaking, the shelves are rattling. Electricity is out.
No phone service, except on the cellphone, to some numbers,
I scour internet news. And local Hawaiian tv and news sources on the internet
from my computer in Albuquerque.
All we know is that there was a 6 point something on the Richter scale near the Big Island.
What I do find on CNN is "Christine Amanpour Reports":
12,000,000 AIDS orphans in Africa and counting.
A child who is interviewed who has lost both of her parents to AIDS says they need help, and medicine.
Do what you can.
These are our relatives.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Please bear with us on the blog and new website. If you are on the mailing list and aren't getting the blog please let me know. Photos apparently aren't coming up either. They were crucial to the blog just published before this note. The problem will be remedied.
On the Road: From Albuquerque to Sun Valley and Back
On Thursday morning as I was loading up my car for the trip to Sun Valley, Idaho a balloon from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta crossed over the compound.
Friday morning, after the conversation at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Louise and I (both sleepy-eyed) pose before heading off to our school assignments.
Saturday afternoon, on the drive to the airport.
Dodging storms on the leg of the flight from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque. The sky gives a blessing.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Words of a Mvskoke Wise Man
"Every Muskogee citizen, whether his skin be red, white or black, has equal rights and
privileges in this (Creek) Nation; and the most abject, poor and ignorant is entitled to
equal consideration with the most distinquished, rich and learned at the hands of our
Isparhecher - before the National Council - january 3, 1884
Thursday, October 12, 2006
With Louise Erdrich at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts
Last night was a night sky gleaming with stars. Louise, one of the organizers and I threaded through black back streets on the shortcut to the hotel, through ghostly condos occupied only a few weeks out of the year. One lone Navajo came to the performance, a young man Louise met when she was walking around town. He was lonely for Indians. I know the feeling. I am often lonely for Indians, and lonely for a night sky lit up with stars, like last night. It is the other part of us. Only a sliver of our consciousness occupies the body. More enters when we honor the Creator by creating, or when we see someone (human, sun, stone, creature) as ourselves. The rest of it lives there, in the stars.
October 13, 2006 Ketchum, ID
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I am passing this along. It has been forwarded to me by several people. Each time I read it, marvel, then realize it's common sense, or one day will be. It's the way of real human beings.
The World's Most Unusual Therapist
Two years ago, I heard about a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients--without ever seeing any of them. The psychologist would study an inmate's chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person's illness. As he improved himself, the patient improved.
When I first heard this story, I thought it was an urban legend. How could anyone heal anyone else by healing himself? How could even the best self-improvement master cure the criminally insane?
It didn't make any sense. It wasn't logical, so I dismissed the story.
However, I heard it again a year later. I heard that the therapist had used a Hawaiian healing process called ho 'oponopono. I had never heard of it, yet I couldn't let it leave my mind. If the story was at all true, I had to know more.
I had always understood "total responsibility" to mean that I am responsible for what I think and do. Beyond that, it's out of my hands. I think that most people think of total responsibility that way. We're responsible for what we do, not what anyone else does. The Hawaiian therapist who healed those mentally ill people would teach me an advanced new perspective about total responsibility.
His name is Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. We probably spent an hour talking on our first phone call. I asked him to tell me the complete story of his work as a therapist. He explained that he worked at Hawaii State Hospital for four years. That ward where they kept the criminally insane was dangerous. Psychologists quit on a monthly basis. The staff called in sick a lot or simply quit. People would walk through that ward with their backs against the wall, afraid of being attacked by patients. It was not a pleasant place to live, work, or visit.
Dr. Len told me that he never saw patients. He agreed to have an office and to review their files. While he looked at those files, he would work on himself. As he worked on himself, patients began to heal.
"After a few months, patients that had to be shackled were being allowed to walk freely," he told me. "Others who had to be heavily medicated were getting off their medications. And those who had no chance of ever being released were being freed."
I was in awe.
"Not only that," he went on, "but the staff began to enjoy coming to work. Absenteeism and turnover disappeared. We ended up with more staff than we needed because patients were being released, and all the staff was showing up to work. Today, that ward is closed."
This is where I had to ask the million dollar question: "What were you doing within yourself that caused those people to change?"
"I was simply healing the part of me that created them," he said.
I didn't understand.
Dr. Len explained that total responsibility for your life means that everything in your life - simply because it is in your life--is your responsibility. In a literal sense the entire world is your creation.
Whew. This is tough to swallow. Being responsible for what I say or do is one thing. Being responsible for what everyone in my life says or does is quite another. Yet, the truth is this: if you take complete responsibility for your life, then everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience is your responsibility because it is in your life.
This means that terrorist activity, the president, the economy--anything you experience and don't like--is up for you to heal. They don't exist, in a manner of speaking, except as projections from inside you. The problem isn't with them, it's with you, and to change them, you have to change you.
I know this is tough to grasp, let alone accept or actually live. Blame is far easier than total responsibility, but as I spoke with Dr. Len, I began to realize that healing for him and in ho 'oponopono means loving yourself. If you want to improve your life, you have to heal your life. If you want to cure anyone--even a mentally ill criminal--you do it by healing you.
I asked Dr. Len how he went about healing himself. What was he doing, exactly, when he looked at those patients' files?
"I just kept saying, 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you' over and over again," he explained.
Turns out that loving yourself is the greatest way to improve yourself, and as you improve yourself, your improve your world. Let me give you a quick example of how this works: one day, someone sent me an email that upset me. In the past I would have handled it by working on my emotional hot buttons or by trying to reason with the person who sent the nasty message. This time, I decided to try Dr. Len's method. I kept silently saying, "I'm sorry" and "I love you," I didn't say it to anyone in particular. I was simply evoking the spirit of love to heal within me what was creating the outer circumstance.
Within an hour I got an e-mail from the same person. He apologized for his previous message. Keep in mind that I didn't take any outward action to get that apology. I didn't even write him back. Yet, by saying "I love you," I somehow healed within me what was creating him.
I later attended a ho 'oponopono workshop run by Dr. Len. He's now 70 years old, considered a grandfatherly shaman, and is somewhat reclusive. He praised my book, The Attractor Factor. He told me that as I improve myself, my book's vibration will raise, and everyone will feel it when they read it. In short, as I improve, my readers will improve.
"What about the books that are already sold and out there?" I asked.
"They aren't out there," he explained, once again blowing my mind with his mystic wisdom. "They are still in you."
In short, there is no out there.
It would take a whole book to explain this advanced technique with the depth it deserves. Suffice it to say that whenever you want to improve anything in your life, there's only one place to look: inside you.
"When you look, do it with love."
by Joe Vitale
"If you want to solve a problem, no matter what kind of problem, work on yourself." -Ihaleakala Hew Len
Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has been practicing the updated Ho'oponopono since November of 1982. He was taught the process by Kahuna Lapa'au Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, who was designated a Living Treasure of Hawaii in 1983. He was staff psychologist in the forensic unit for the criminally mentally ill at Hawaii State Hospital for several years. He has taught the updated Ho'oponopono around the world and at the United Nations several times. Dr. Hew Len has a doctorate from the University of Iowa. Information on upcoming lectures and classes can be found on the Foundation's web site: www.hooponopono.org
Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D.
Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has been involved in programs of problem solving and stress release for four decades. His professional experiences include program development and administration for developmental disabled children and adults, mentally ill male adults adjudicated as criminals and individuals and families experiencing problems and stress. He has a doctorate from the University of Iowa, a Master of Science from the University of Utah and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado.
The words of Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len:
"Ho'oponopono is really very simple. For the ancient Hawaiians, all problems begin as thought. But having a thought is not the problem. So what's the problem? The problem is that all our thoughts are imbued with painful memories, memories of persons, places, or things.
The intellect working alone can't solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho'oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don't purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place, or thing. So the first stage of Ho'oponopono is the purification of that energy.
Now something wonderful happens. Not only does that energy get neutralized; it also gets released, so there's a brand new slate. Buddhists call it the Void. The final step is that you allow the Divinity to come in and fill the void with light.
To do Ho'oponopono, you don't have to know what the problem or error is. All you have to do is notice any problem you are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. Once you notice, your responsibility is to immediately begin to clean, to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
"Every phenomenon on earth is symbolic, and each symbol is an open gate through which the soul, if it is ready, can enter into the inner part of the world, where you and I and day and night are all one."
Friday, October 06, 2006
I Find Refuge
After arriving at Libbie's in Patagonia, we are greeted by this flower.
That night Patagonia High School has a bonfire. We pass it on the way to the store.
A rainbow after a little rain this morning.
After I fill the hummingbird feeders I come across this baby rattler. We observe each other for awhile. I've never been so close to a rattlesnake. I've always fled. The little rattlesnake had never been so close to a human. We were wary at first, then we studied each other. I asked him to remember this visit, and to tell his relatives to never cause harm to the various kinds of humans who live here: people, dog, horse or cat.
I think of Leslie Silko who is close to rattlesnakes. I remember how one of them came to me in a dream to give her a message. It tugged on my pant leg. When I called her and told her the message she said it was exactly what she needed to know.
This morning I'm thankful for friends, of all sorts.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
As I Pack for Tucson I am Still Bothered By the Disjuncture Between The Way I See and the Way I am Supposed to See
This morning I realize I am going to have to re-imagine music to close the distance between my spirit and music. When I am inside music there is no separation. And there is amazing articulation of image and concept. When I train to lines then I lose the connection. Louis Armstrong saw musical tones as images, as apples hanging at various distances. What damage is done to communication by training your mind to be linear, by reading from left to right, all concepts funneled to letters? You can lose subtlety; you might forget to listen. I thought I was musically dyslexic, unable to “get” the system. I understand it, like understanding the mechanics of seeing. This doesn’t bring sight.
Monday, October 02, 2006
When I turned out the light to surrender to the expansion of night
I went nowhere but exhaustion.
We wound circles to Pink Floyd and powwow, and skidded when the music
Stopped for musical chairs,
Underneath balloons in honor of baby’s first year.
She’s starting to walk.
I’m amazed at what gets paved by the grind of time
By forgiving. Or do I say, surrender?
I should take rest easy then, this day near equinox marking a festival of crossroads.
We had good weather.
Still I tumble relentlessly over this sleepless hump of worry.
I’m restless for vision, the next song.
For something other than the electrical switch that only takes me back
To where I started: an adobe room in a time of decay,
A small life on planet Earth, and what we imagine here.
When Rain called with the latest on her step-girl’s pregnancy,
We questioned what happened during the delicate web of formation:
Drugs? Coffee? Pesticides in the salad?
Or the old uranium tailings that are everywhere in the winds crossing Gallup?
I had to think through the dark and the dark was no longer a beautiful
Pathway, to stomp dances in the middle of a field of stars.
Funky, I called it.
Rough knowledge bares teeth in the nasty vortex of this brutal civilization.
Think musical chairs, I tell myself. And begin to imagine the falling away.
Each baby with ten fingers and toes, each dance taken.
The beauty prayer will bear me up and we will get there,
Yes we will, said the dark. Surrender.
c Joy Harjo September 25, 2006/October 2nd, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
A Photo Journal of the Weekend in Oklahoma
The Trampoline, or Grandson with Flying Hair and Niece's Children
Outside Talley's Cafe on Route 66 Tulsa at Sunset
A Leaf Outside the Doubletree, Downtown
Visiting Mike Flud at the Muscogee Tribal Complex with Tayo
07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003
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