What will your Obituary Say about You?

red cloud cemetary

Red Cloud cemetery in Pine Ridge

And what will others think?

Today’s news is full of memories of the 41st president of the United States: George Herbert Walker Bush.

I listened to the entire broadcast of NPR’s live coverage of his funeral because of happenstance: I was working on a project that allowed me to listen while my hands were working.

As you would expect, the coverage was hagiographic.

Speakers used similar words in their praise: hard-working, generous, courageous and skillful.

The words dignity and honor also peppered the eulogies.

One remark I remember is that, as a leader, Bush shared praise with others for successes, and alone accepted the blame for troubles.

What a contrast to what we read in the headlines about the current leaders of our republic.

Instead we hear about partisanship politics and ego-driven management.

We learn our leaders today are driven by secret agendas that benefit them, personally: not the country.

Today I heard stories about how former president Bush worked with folks outside his tribe, and cared deeply about our country, demonstrated by his service in World War II.

I wondered: what will they say about our current president?

Who will care?

Writing for the New York Times, Peter Baker today notes:

While speakers talked about Mr. Bush’s civility, his commitment to the institutions of government and his faith in alliances, Mr. Trump was sitting just feet away, his arms sometimes crossed, almost as if in defiance. Without directly saying so, the speakers pushed back against Mr. Trump …

I wonder: what will people say about me? What about you? Who will care?

The writer Stephen Covey coached business-folk to write their own obituaries.

Covey’s exercise is revealing:

  • Write an obituary from your own perspective about … yourself
  • Write an obituary about what others would say about you
  • Compare the two missives

How do the two perspectives converge?

Is what we think about ourselves the same as what we think others think about us?

That’s a bold and revealing question.

Perhaps a less egotistical question is:

How do we want others to remember us?

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Photo taken in Pine Ridge by  the author

5 December 2018

#Presidentghwbush

#41stpresident

#mefirst

#portlandia

#bearpeople

#morality

#monopoly

#thanksgiving

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#mahtotatonka

#bearrobe

#henrichatillon

#oldsmoke

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

 

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Me, First

1280px-john_william_waterhouse_-_echo_and_narcissus_-_cropped

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

Does the Collective Matter? When?

When you research “ways of knowing” among cultures, you find solid evidence that communities are important.

Primitive is the new modern, as we come to realize that it takes many hands to steer a child with love and care.

My favorite metaphor is our (Native) word for “father”—which is the same word for uncle.

All those fathers and uncles stand ready to help the youngin’ into adulthood.

And not just Indians.

My father’s brothers—all refugees from the outback of West Virginia—landed in Southern California after the Korean War.

And each helped raise his brother’s children.

My mother’s clan—the Native American offspring—sent kids to live with sisters and brothers and aunties and uncles, knowing their children would be safe.

My youngest sister came to live with me (I was working in California) during her high school years.

My parents moved to a country with no schools for young women, so they dispatched my sister into my care.

I welcomed the chance to teach her how to navigate life in the United States: how to manage money and how to drive a car.

Later, when my sister decided on college, she chose one close to me, and she became second mother to my babies.

Families remind us that we are not alone, and, for some of us, never alone.

When I hear a CEO or politician brag that only she (or he) can guide us through a crisis, I feel sorry for the sheer nearsightedness.

Most leaders are equipped with a bevy of educated, seasoned mavens whose expertise should be heeded.

The problem arises when confidantes are afraid to be candid, from fear of reproach.

A mature leader needs more than sycophants, brown-nosers, and “yessirs.”

Just like children, to nurture a leader—it takes a village.

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Day 27: Native American Heritage Month

27 November 2018

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse (1903), in the public domain

#mefirst

#portlandia

#bearpeople

#morality

#monopoly

#thanksgiving

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#mahtotatonka

#bearrobe

#henrichatillon

#oldsmoke

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

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Can I Afford to be Moral?

book reading

Books by Native American Authors

The delightful feature of attending Portland’s annual literary fair—held this month–was discovering the works of American Indian writers.

I was transfixed, hearing Layli Long Soldier, Tommy Orange, Trevino Brings Plenty, and a host of American Indian writers talk about their craft.

Listening to each speaker, I took notes, and–once ensconced at home–made a list of the books I wanted to read or share with family: There-There, Heart Berries, Scared Smokes, and Awakenings.

I discovered our beloved bookstore, Powell’s, carried all four books, which could be had for about $108.

After checking Amazon I found I could purchase the exact same books and save about $36.

OK, $36: That’s the price of one fat book or two slim books.

Now I find myself stymied: do I support my local bookstore or buy the volumes at the behemoth?

I figure the writers aren’t to blame—they are caught in the wheels of the publishing structure.

The question is: who benefits from my purchase?

Do I want my dollars to land at Amazon, where I can get books cheaper and delivered right to my door?

Or do I support my local merchant and local workers—some of whom are former students–and schlep over to Powell’s across town—take two hours from my day–and buy the books in person?

Do I have a moral duty to support my hometown bookstore?

Truth is, my family would rather shop at the local hardware store and avoid the Walmart monopoly.

We prefer the neighborhood cinema to the giant movie franchise.

And we sip local coffee rather than Starbucks.

Behaving morally comes at a cost: I will pay 33 percent more to shop locally for four books than I would if I bought them at Amazon.

But if my budget were tighter, could I afford to be moral?

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Day 25: Native American Heritage Month

25 November 2018

#powellsbooks

#portlandia

#bearpeople

#morality

#monopoly

#thanksgiving

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#mahtotatonka

#bearrobe

#henrichatillon

#oldsmoke

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

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Giving Thanks, Indian-style

planting

It’s all about me

Sometimes the secret to dissecting an issue is to carve through the sinew.

A word like “Thanksgiving” creates its own semiotic map.

At its most basic, the word means, “Giving thanks.”

When my children were little, we went around the table sharing words about why we were thankful.

The kids were good sports: after some eye-rolling, they obliged their elders with words of gratitude.

At many American Indian gatherings, offering thanks book-ends the events: an elder will open a meeting by acknowledging that we are not alone.

And a respected person will close the meeting, offering thanks.

This year I mused about what Thanksgiving means to me, and I landed on a point that often goes unnoticed.

Thanksgiving forces us out of our cocoons, and we realize—for a moment—that we are all woven within the threads that comprise the tapestry.

All my Thanksgivings were and are rich with relatives and friends and neighbors.

What makes the holiday unique is the acknowledgement that we are not alone.

Many Native American peoples celebrate the autumnal harvest with a bountiful feast, shared with others, with the understanding that we are connected to each other, and to our surroundings that support us.

Giving thanks, therefore, means we acknowledge, recognize and honor all the beings, critters and life-forms that support us, and that make for a community of souls.

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Day 22: Native American Heritage Month

22 November 2018

#bearpeople

#thanksgiving

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#mahtotatonka

#bearrobe

#henrichatillon

#oldsmoke

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

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Raccoon Gaze  

kisscc0-baby-raccoon-giant-panda-squirrel-drawing-raccoon-5b755012b8d972.1025568215344148667572

Identity Politics

I’m a raccoon.

What you need to know, first, is that being a raccoon is not the same as being a member of an American Indian family, band or clan.

For example, woven into the Sioux thread of my ancestry are the Kiyuskas, who considered themselves Bear People.

The story is told that Mahto Tatonka (Bull Bear), who was mean-spirited and spiteful, led the Kiyuskas.

One of his daughters, Bear Robe, married my ancestor Henri Chatillon, Francis Parkman’s guide on the Oregon trail.

Their daughter, Emilie, married a mixed-blood Osage.

And the rest is, well, my history.

Bear People.

But no raccoons.

Until now.

The psyche of raccoons is best articulated by actor and comedian Maria Bamford.

Bamford explains raccoons are critters that break into your kitchen, unscrew caps from bottles, and tear into food cartons leaving debris in their wake.

A raccoon tribe is called a “gaze,” which repairs to the river at night to share the loot.

As much as I would love to embrace the courage and ferocity of my ancestor bear, I’m stuck with the raccoon people.

The gaze.

Watch Maria Bamford’s take on raccoons:

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Today’s blog is for Maria Bamford

Raccoon image used with permission from http://www.kisscc0.com

Day 16: Native American Heritage Month

16 November 2018

#Mariabamford

#bearpeople

#raccoonpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#mahtotatonka

#bearrobe

#henrichatilon

#oldsmoke

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

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Are you a Native American or are you a Writer?  

mankato

Poet Layli Long Soldier writes about 38 relatives who were executed in 1862 in Makato, Minnesota

“White Writer Writes Book on Love”

How do you represent yourself? As a writer, or as a Native American writer?

That’s the question American Indian writers face when sharing their stories with heterogeneous crowds, like the ones that gathered this past weekend in Portland to celebrate writing.

One of the authors noted that the labels aren’t binary.

In fact, the label isn’t necessary.

Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) addressed the question at a session where she read passages from her poem, “38.”

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Fractions of Little Theories  

tommy orange

Like a Slide Where my Relatives are Falling

Yesterday I wrote about Little Theories about the Mass Media, and how urban legends live long after the real stories emerge.

Seems we just can’t let go of a good story, even when untrue.

Native American writers took the stage this weekend in Portland to share their stories.

One question emerged from interviewers more than once:

How do you represent yourself? As a writer, or as a Native American writer?

Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho), whose 2018 book There There is being greeted with hearty applause, said “I always get two questions about being Native American.”

  • How much is your government check?
  • What percent Indian are you?

Indians don’t receive checks from their tribal governments, although some tribes do share gaming funds with enrolled members, sometimes called a “per capita” payment.

If they have gaming (the majority of tribes do not), resources are typically ploughed back into the community for education and infrastructure.

The U.S. government does not issue checks to individual Indians, according to the Partnership with Native Americans.

As for percentage, or blood quantum, Orange said he sees the question as a fraction.

Orange doesn’t want to be thought of as a fraction, and he avoids answering the question.

Instead he asks you to look at a fraction, like 1 over 32 or 1/32.

“When I see the slash, it looks like a slide where relatives are falling off.”

orange photo elena siebert

Tommy Orange [Photo by Elena Siebert, copyrighted]

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TOMORROW: American Indian writers take the stage in Portland

Day 13: Native American Heritage Month

13 November 2018

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#heiderdrich

#laurada

#Layilongsoldier

#trevinobringsplenty

#literaryartsorg

#portlandlitcrawl

#wordstock

#tommyorange

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#nationalnativeamericanheritagemonth

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

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