Joy Harjo's Web Log
Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Where is Frank Poocha?
I'm looking for Frank Poocha who used to sing with my band Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice.
Anyone know where to find him?
Let me know.
Mvskoke Nation News Column from Harjo for September 2007
On Monday I watched the sun set over Battery Park, as we gathered in front of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York for a concert/performance series sponsored by the NMAI in a partnership with the Lincoln Center. The Las Casita stage, with a colorful tarp “house” of brightly painted murals shimmered in front of the steps of the old Customs House. The rush of going-home traffic swirled around the tip of the island. “There used to be a wall here”, a singer told me. “The Dutch erected it to keep British settlers out.”
An indigenous dance and music ensemble from Ecuador opened the set. One of their most poignant tunes was a song in honor of the Amazon and the rainforest. I closed my eyes to listen. I was back in the Amazon listening to the symphony of insects and animals singing at dusk. The river winds through the immense rainforest. It is a huge and complex being. When I was in elementary school in Tulsa I used to do most of my reports on creatures and the place of the Amazon. In 1990 I was present at a hemispheric gathering of native peoples from North through South America in a village outside Quito, when people from the Amazon walked up to the meeting in their brilliantly colored feathers with their spears (their equivalent of a grocery cart). They came to ask for alliances in their struggle against U.S. oil companies who were taking over and destroying their lands. Though our Muscogee people had to deal with some of those same oil companies, and still do, I didn’t know what to offer them in the way of advice. The force of the destroyers, those who take more than they need without even asking, appears overwhelming. What can stop them? Will greed one day be listed as an illness, like alcoholism?
I finally made it to the Amazon a few years ago. For years I had a recurring dream. I would arrive at Iquitos and a particular man would meet me at the boat that would take me up the river. Sometimes he spoke Navajo. The day I flew into Iquitos from Cuzco the plane was late because we had to make an emergency landing in Pucallpa. (The same plane went down in an accident there a year later. Not everyone was killed. Some people walked home!) Because I was late I missed the scheduled boat to my camp. A smaller boat was rounded up and I was introduced to the man who was to drive me. He looked nothing like the man in my dreams. He and others loaded in the baggage, some bananas and a few other things. Then, another man got in, turned around to say we were leaving. He was the man I had dreamed! He didn’t speak Navajo but he looked similar to my Navajo relatives. We drove for three hours up the river. I was absolutely alive every moment as we moved up the river.
I especially enjoyed the night paddles into the Amazon to look for caimans (a kind of alligator) and other nocturnal creatures. Every night we’d paddle out were greeted by a vast orchestra of singing voices of insects and other creatures. I was reminded of Oklahoma in the summer, and being at the ceremonial grounds, just as I was, standing in the noisy drone music of five o’clock traffic in New York City, as I listened to the Ecuadorian troupe making that beautiful tribute to the spirit of the Amazon. I would like to go back to that giant of a river, and would like to take some of our Muscogee people down that way. We might meet some of our old relatives there.
One of the other performing groups that late afternoon in front of the steps of the museum was Pamyua. They’re from Alaska and perform traditional songs. Some keep their forms. Some they contemporize. They call their music: tribal-jazz-funk. Two brothers, Stephen and Phillip Blanchett, who began sharing the ancient stories of their people through music and dance, started the group. The brothers are Yup’ik Inuit and African American. The third member, Ossie Kairaiuak grew up dancing traditionally in Chefornak, Alaska. Later they added Karina Møller, a Greenlandic Inuit singer. They travel internationally in Europe, Asia, North and South America. They performed at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards in March of 2003. They’re the ones you want to hang out with before, during, and after the party. Good people with good stories.
With groups like this out there representing natives here in North America, there’s no reason anyone should cling to worn out images created by a showman who wanted to make money in the 1800’s. We aren’t just powwow, either, though powwow might be part of the mix. It’s not just tourists or strangers who cling to these images; it’s often our own people.
And before I forget, recently I was contacted by a couple of people looking for Harjo relatives. A Ken Andersen wrote: “In October 1962 while in Navy boot camp, another young man named Joe Harjo was stationed there with me. At the end of boot camp we were sent different directions. Today…I heard the name, for the first time since 1962. Would you know of this person? He would be about 62-64?”
And another from John Harrington: “In 1967-68, I was in Central Thailand with the United States Air Force. One of my friends there was Billy Harjo, an American Indian from Kansas or Oklahoma. He was there as a technician with a contractor to the U.S. government. Is there any chance you are related to him? If he is still alive, he would be in his mid to late 60s, I would be interested in getting in touch with him.”
If anyone knows either Joe Harjo or Billy Harjo or their whereabouts please email me at email@example.com and I’ll pass the information along.
We’re now in the heat of election fever. I understand that everyone is running for office or the council this election year. Keep a few basic things into consideration when voting: how does the candidate treat their parents? How do they treat their husbands, wives or significant other(s)? Are they familiar with the Mvskoke culture? Can they listen and are they open to more than one point of view? Do their words and actions have integrity? Are they in it to take care of the people or is something else driving the need to run for office? Are they judgmental or are they compassionate? Do they have a string of debt and excuses behind them, or are they followed by the words of people who remember their kind acts?
These positions are about taking care of our people. The story of our people will be carried forth by those we elect. Are we making a story of justice, honesty, with a vision of caring for all within the tribe?
Each of our lives is meant to inspire each other, no matter what we do, no matter if we are a stay-at-home mother, a mechanic, a teacher, a student, in the military, or an engineer working in California. If I remember the story correctly, in old times we had no need for jails, for bureaucratic systems or any institution that perpetuated judgment or bigotry. We had everything we needed. We took care of each other.
What a story.
Joy Harjo August 29, 2007 Albuquerque, NM
Monday, September 24, 2007
Please Write the California Coastal Commission
To Stop the Proposed Foothill South Toll Road
Dear Tribal/Community Leaders:
As a grassroots coalition of Acjachemen people devoted to the protection of our sacred sites, the United Coalition to Protect Panhe requests your support. The Transportation Corridor Authority has proposed to build a toll road through one of our sacred sites and burial grounds and we need your help to defeat their proposal.
Our people have called the coastlands of southern California home for ten thousand years. Panhe is an ancient village, ceremonial site and burial ground located on San Onofre State Park land in southern California. Many of the Acjachemen/Juaneno tribal members can trace their lineage directly back to the Village of Panhe, which is estimated to be at least 1,000 years old. Panhe is listed on the Sacred Lands Inventory maintained by the Native American Heritage Commission and is part of the San Mateo Archaeological District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The TCA claims “there are no areas within the disturbance limits that are currently being used by living Native American representatives of the Juaneno,” yet our members have always used Panhe and continue to gather for ceremony, community events and to pay respect to the Ancestors buried there. Panhe is one of the few remaining Acjachemen sacred sites where the people can still gather for ceremony in an area that is secluded and exists in a pristine, natural state.
Construction of the toll road would pass within feet of our village and cemetery, drastically interfere with traditional ceremonial uses, and severely and irreparably damage the sacred site. In addition, the toll road would increase public access to the village and surrounding cultural and archaeological districts, and consequently increase the potential for looting and vandalism. According to the toll road’s own EIR, impacts to the San Mateo Archeological District “will be adverse, and cannot be mitigated to below a level of significance.”
On Thursday, October 11th the California Coastal Commission will hear public testimony and determine whether or not to certify the toll road’s application for consistency. If you can’t attend please write the Coastal Commission today and tell them to support the Acjachemen people and save our sacred site!
Letters should arrive by Thursday, September 27th at the latest.
FAX is (415) 904-5400.
Emails should be sent to the following special address:
Please distribute this alert, so the Commission knows how many people stand in support of the Acjachemen peoples’ right to access the site and practice our religious ceremonies free from interference! For more information contact Angela Mooney D’Arcy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca Robles at email@example.com
Sept. [ ], 2007
Patrick Kruer, Chair
ATTN: Mr. Mark Delaplaine
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
RE: Foothill-South Toll Road CZMA Consistency Certification (Hearing Date, Oct. 11, 1007) – OPPOSITION
Dear Chairperson Kruer and Members of the Commission:
The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) protects cultural, historical and habitat resources along the coast, which are of great importance to me. Due to severe impacts to these resources from the proposed Foothill-South toll road, the Commission must find inconsistency with the CZMA.
The toll road would have devastating consequences for the Native American sacred site, burial ground and ancient village Panhe and would seriously impair the ability of the Acjachemen people to practice their traditional cultural and religious ceremonies. Panhe is one of the few remaining Acjachemen sacred sites where the people can still gather for ceremony in an area that is secluded and exists in a pristine, natural state.
Specifically, the toll road would:
• Come within feet of the Acjachemen village and cemetery, thus severely and irreparably impacting the ceremonial use of the site. Currently the site is in a pristine natural state, the stars are easily visible at night and the noise level is generally low. However, if the toll road is built, the integrity of the site will be compromised and it will be difficult for Acjachemen people to engage in traditional religious practices at the site.
• Increase public access to the village and surrounding cultural and archaeological districts, and consequently increase the potential for looting and vandalism. According to the toll road’s own EIR, impacts to the San Mateo Archeological District “will be adverse, and cannot be mitigated to below a level of significance.”
The impacts of the proposed toll road on the sacred site and traditional cultural district of Panhe should not be examined in a vacuum. By its own study the toll road will not significantly alleviate traffic between San Diego and Los Angeles. The long term impact of the toll road will not be decreased traffic, it will be increased development. If the toll road is built, it is only a matter of time before more and more of the land within this traditional cultural district will be developed, leaving the Juaneno people with fewer and fewer places to engage in traditional cultural practices.
Please protect Panhe and San Onofre State Beach by opposing the Foothill South Toll Road.
[Your Name, Tribal or Organizational Affiliation]
There are Many Kinds of Humans
“I do not see a delegation for the four footed. I see no seat for the eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of creation and we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the creation."
Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation
Friday, September 21, 2007
This Morning I Remember to Pray for Enemies
And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It's the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.
JH 9/21/07 ABQ, NM
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast and limitless..."
- Pema Chodron
Monday, September 17, 2007
When Your People Have Been Uprooted
Photo c Joy Harjo 2007
When your people have been uprooted from a land that carries your stories and history
You learn to carry that land in your heart.
And then you learn the depth of that heart, and know that it is deep enough to carry
the land that you imagined, and the imagining of the land of those who were forced to leave.
Any strife and pain from that tearing away ebbs away here.
A regenerative love is struck and rooted here.
And no matter the twist and turn of rough fate, we exist here, in this heartland
with our stories and the spirits of those stories, still guiding us along the way.
And these stories grow, just as we do. They live, they die, they are reborn again in the spring.
September 17, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
The Arctic Ice Cap Has Collapsed
"Scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center at Colorado University are saying that the Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer, leaving sea ice levels in the region at record lows.
Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist from the center, said "It's amazing. It's simply fallen off a cliff and we're still losing ice." Serreze and others now feel that if the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030, which is much earlier than the estimates of 2070 to 2100 they made a couple of years ago.
According to the article from the Guardian Unlimited, the Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. BTW, I did a piece on that story a few weeks ago.
Sea ice usually melts in the Arctic summer and freezes again in the winter, but according to Dr. Serreze, that would be difficult this year."
Now why are Brittany Spears or Lindsay Lohan's escapades more important? Maybe because they are distractions.
Might the companies representing them have an interest in distracting us?
Now why would they want to do that?
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Cherokees flee the moral high ground over Freedmen 8-07
by Robert Warrior Reprinted from INDIAN COUNTRY NEWS
Cherokee Chief Chad Smith is wrong and Representative Melvin Watt (D-North Carolina) is right. As those who follow the American Indian political world know, earlier this year an overwhelming majority of Cherokee voters decided to deny descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen, freed slaves who trod the Trail of Tears with their Native American owners, rights to political enfranchisement guaranteed to them in an 1866 treaty the Cherokees signed with the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War.
In June, Chief Smith campaigned on this popular issue and won a new term as elected leader of the largest Native nation within the border of the United States.
Watt is among a group of Congressional Democrats that also includes Maxine Waters and Diane Watson who are responding by calling into question whether or not United States taxpayers ought to be funding Cherokee programs. Most recently, the House Financial Services Committee decided to give the Cherokees a month to clear up the Freedmen issue before voting on Rep. Watt’s amendment to an affordable housing bill that would exclude the Cherokees until they are in compliance with the 1866 treaty. Smith and the Cherokees must respond by the time Congress comes back from its current recess.
Morality, however, has been the missing topic in the wrangling thus far, and I would argue is the basis for why it is important for everyone, especially American Indian people who have been silent thus far, to support efforts like those of Representative Watt.
The politics of this issue are certainly interesting—the embarrassingly low number of Cherokees, for instance, who participate in their nation’s electoral process (less than 8000 in a group of well over 150,000), the predictable way that this decision by one group exposes all American Indian nations to alienating people who have been important, reliable friends (the Congressional Black Caucus most visibly). Morality, however, has been the missing topic in the wrangling thus far, and I would argue is the basis for why it is important for everyone, especially American Indian people who have been silent thus far, to support efforts like those of Representative Watt.
The moral case against the Cherokees is straightforward. As a duly constituted nation in the nineteenth century, they legally embraced and promoted African slavery, a position they maintained after Removal to Indian Territory in the 1830s. The vast majority of Cherokees could not afford slaves, as was also the case throughout the American South, and historians of Cherokee slavery have demonstrated that some aspects of the Cherokee social world gave a different, less negative character to being enslaved by wealthy Cherokees rather than wealthy whites. Make no mistake, though. No one is on record as having volunteered to become a Cherokee slave. History records plenty of Cherokee slaves attempting to escape to freedom, as well as Cherokee slave revolts.
The institution of slavery was for Cherokees, as it has been for all people who practice it, morally and politically corruptive, and many citizens of this Native slaving nation knew it. Stories like that of the children of Shoeboots and Doll, a Cherokee slaveowner and his black concubine/wife, whose father risked his reputation as a war hero in petitioning for their recognition as Cherokees provides a picture of this ambiguity, but the cruelty, sexual violence, and physical degradation of modern slavery under Cherokees like James Vann is just as unambiguous (both are captured magnificently by University of Michigan scholar Tiya Miles in her 2005 book Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom).
The Cherokee Nation officially emancipated all slaves in 1863. The 1866 treaty that subsequently enfranchised these former slaves resulted in an amendment to the Cherokee Constitution that same year. That amendment reads: “All native born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken and deemed to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation.” All of this was as a moral victory for those Cherokees who understood that institutionalizing slavery created moral implications that could only be addressed on moral grounds. That is, formal slaves need not just freedom, but also the protection of citizenship. How else, after all, can those who have lost so much expect to gain their lives without a context in which they can rebuild their lives?
More, though, is going on here, which is the sometimes heart-stopping recognition on the part of leaders of a slave-owning nation that many of those slaves who are so easy to think of as being THEM are in fact US. To be blunt, a history of modern slavery is also a history of rape. To be a slave among the Cherokees was to be sexually available to those who controlled your life. By the 1890s, a legal distinction between the Freedmen and those who were Cherokee “by blood” emerged, but in the moral universe such a distinction was hard to make, and even today the claim of those in the Cherokee majority who say they are primarily interested in maintaining their nation for those who can verify that they have Cherokee lineage rings hollow alongside the murky history of violence that Cherokee slaves and their descendants have inhabited. Such claims fail to rise to the level of those earlier Cherokees who understood that the tragic absurdity of reconciling a nation to its history of slavery requires wisdom and compassion, not insulting and ridiculous appeals to faulty membership requirements and the poses of victimhood.
In spite of being egged on and provoked by the legislated racism of the Cherokee Nation, the vast majority of Freedmen descendants have reacted with impressive dignity befitting their proud history. Melvin Watt and other black members of Congress have likewise responded in a measured, but active way. It remains for more people, including Native American writers, scholars, and artists, not to mention elected leaders, presidents, and chiefs, to stand up and be counted on the right moral side of this question. Better yet, Chad Smith could save us all the trouble by following some of the best examples of Cherokee history rather than the morally corrupting and exclusionary ones he and his supporters have chosen thus far.
Robert Warrior’s most recent book is American Indian Literary Nationalism (co-written with Jace Weaver and Craig Womack). He is Edith Kinney Gaylord Presidential Professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
What About the Right of the Fish and Other Relatives?
From Shigeru Kayano, Ainu man (the Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan) who was born and raised in Nibutani Village in southeastern Hokkaido. The Ainu suffered similar forces of colonization in Japan as the indigenous here in the Western Hemisphere. November 9th, 1994, he addressed the House of Councilor's Special Commission of Environment:
"Do they ever think about the right of the fish in the river? This reminds me of the Minamata Disease [mercury poisoning which started in the 1950's in a southern local village near the ocean caused by industrial waste]...the first victim was the fish. Who ever thought about the pains and mortification of the fish and the shellfish who could not appeal to, or have a charanke with humans? Did anyone ever apologize to them? If ever an angry fish decided to defy humans, I would fight with the fish. We should respect the rights of all the living things. Why don't you listen to the trees, the fish, and gods of water, as we, the Ainu people,do?"
(Thanks/mvto to Yoshiko Kayano, associate professor at Meisei University in Tokyo, Japan)
In Appreciation of the Cloud People
Photo: c Joy Harjo 2007
Comment from reader L.M. on yesterday's cloud blog: "I was noticing the clouds,too, both as I was flying into LA, then over O'ahu. They were beautiful. I told them hello and complimented them on how beautiful they looked today....They appreciate it when we appreciate them."
Saturday, September 01, 2007
On Migrating Clouds and City Cancers
As far as migrating clouds....I have noticed differences in what clouds are traveling where these days, especially with all of my flights that crisscross the country. Here in Albuquerque I know the skies fairly well. We are now having monsoons with huge thunderheads every afternoon. This wasn't so before. And many of these clouds tended to live more towards the south and east. A few days ago this place smelled of the Sonoran Desert after the rain, in Tucson. And similar cloud movement in Hawaii. I think the clouds know more than we do about what's happening. They're preparing and working with Earth. They AND we are part of the process.
Cities, from a cloud-view, look like cancers. No room for the earth to breathe.
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