Sunday, March 7, 2010

WW/ Some Things No Child Should Know

Caleen and I were talking last week, lingering at the breakfast table, about childhood, about children knowing things and dealing with things children should never have to know or see or feel. She reminisced about Granny's generation. When they were children, our precious Granny and her brothers and sisters, they would run for hiding when they saw men riding in on horseback. Caleen said in a normal voice, "some people made a living digging for gold. Some made a living hunting Indians." This is the reality Granny grew up in, a little girl who knew already that there were those whose job it was to hunt humans for money. Hunt her people, women, children, men, aunties, grandmas, fathers, mothers.

The normal tone of voice, her face, nothing betrayed how truly grotesque and weird this concept was, that this society had made legitimate careers murdering children and adults -- not at war, -- but just for profit. The reason for the tone and lack of shocked expression, of course, is because Caleen is telling a family story, a lived experienced, something familiar.

She's shaking her head and softly laughing about the kids at the ranch, seeing a car drive up, they still run for the back of the house. She says, "this is your house. You don't have to run. Just greet the people," but they still run.

I had no words to say, just stared dumbly. My mouth probably dropped open. Yes, I'd read in books that there were bounties on Indian people -- two inches of words in a paragraph. But that didn't carry the depth of meaning as Caleen's choice of words -- "made a living hunting us." People making money hunting our Granny. No wonder the kids run for the back of the house. I remember Caleen's sister, my age, talking about running for the hills because she was afraid of being kidnapped and put into boarding school away from her family. She's my age. I was called Jap. I wasn't invited to birthday parties. But mass kidnapping of children . . . that's another level.

On the one hand, how do you grow up under these conditions. On the other hand, after policies so rotten to the core, how can governments ever change to do the right thing. One generation away, California was allowing the hunting of people, paying killers for proof of bounty. Agreed -- One generation away, Japanese Americans were put into concentration camps. Naomi's mother survived Auschwitz. My friend Paulette's mother and father suffered the inhumanities of segregation, and Jim Crow laws, and people were killed for nothing by the KKK and other segregationists. All inhumanities are equally wrong. But for Granny's people, there has been no respite, no reparation, no shift in policy. Yesterday, less than 100 years ago, Granny's people were being hunted, and seen in that context, today Granny's people are unrecognized by their government as Tribal people with the rights promised all Tribal people. They are called Unrecognized Tribes, just as my American born parent's generation was called non Aliens. Winnemem are tribal but no rights to be a tribe or human being. We were citizens with no rights to be a citizen or resident.

California!!!! Something has to be done about the federal stripping of tribal recognition of the California tribes. In light of that breakfast conversation between my Chief and me, the Amerikan genocide of tribal people is so recent they can still smell the blood on their hands. Amerika! Nowadays you are making tribal people extinct by a stroke of a pen -- who is Indian who is not. Ever since this country went to war over Hitler, it could no longer carry on Hitlarian policies blatantly and so easily anymore. So instead of extermination they use "unrecognized tribe." A tribe is a tribe is a tribe. All tribes should be covered by laws having to do with tribes. Tribes have the right to exist.

Yes, I understand that federal recognition comes with money. A federally recognized tribe can write grants for various projects, economic development being one. The Winnemem ask only for their right to exist as Winnemem, the right to sit at the table and advocate for the salmon, the water, the sacred lands, the fulfillment of promises made their tribe by the Federal government for like land for the land they sacrificed for the state of California to build Shasta Lake Dam, the right to carry on their ceremonies and the way of life. They have absolutely no interest in casinos. Granny said the casino way will rot a tribe from the inside out. All they want is justice.

I don't think I'm going to recover from this little talk at breakfast. I saw injustice before, but now, well, it's personal. There are just some things no child should know. There are some things human beings should never do. I can hear my Granny now, "Right is right and wrong is nobody. There's a lot of nobodies in the world!"

I have one more thing to say. I think why I am struck so deeply is that despite this, all of this, Caleen believes in goodness. She still thinks that if we could just plead our case, that courts may listen, that President Obama might learn, that corporations, councils may still do the right thing. At least she works as if that were the case. She does not give in to vengeance, hate, even anger. She does not let her spirit give in to anger and hate -- just like Granny before her -- and sees only the good, hears only the good, speaks only the truth, as the helpers at ceremony prays for each of us when they smoke us off with the root. She does not bring ugliness into her heart, as Granny before her did not. Granny headed for the hills so she might hide and live as a little girl. The present Chief and Granny's descendant who knows about that then looks today at the little Chief who will inherit the responsibilities of Chief and Spiritual Leader and sees her still run for the back of the house. Instead of giving in to bitterness Caleen prays for the whole world, asks help for all the human beings, prays for all the sacred places, for the water. for the salmon. It is her responsibility and that is if preeminent importance . We Winnemem have a spiritually strong good leader as the leaders before her. She follows them step by step and that's why she can carry on.

WW/ Thoughts before Leaving for New Zealand

The reality of the Winnemem People meeting the Ngai Tahu people is solid now. We have received our itinerary. We will fly into the south island and be met by a gentleman from the Human Rights Commission of New Zealand and a woman from the United Nations. The United States and its present leaders may not recognize the Winnemem, may insist that they are nothing without the government saying they exist and should get no attention, but in New Zealand, it is a different story.

On the first day we will meet at the Human Rights Building and learn about Marae protocol. We will prepare for our trip to the Waihao Marae, and then we will go to the Rehui Marae, nation between nation, and ceremony with them begins, the songs, the cultural exchange. The next day, Tuesday is all about the Salmon and the Water.

Wednesday we will go to the Waihao Marae and again ceremony and cultural exchange there. We're allowed to stay overnight at their Murae.

Then we get up really early to travel to see the ancient rock art of the Waitaha and then to the dam. It seems that day we will travel to many of their places and then back to the Waihao Marae.

On Friday the Fish and Game will connect with us and take us to the area where we can see the salmon spawning. Incredible. We will spend a good time on the river and the spawning area. Then we will go mid-day to the hatchery to talk about salmon fry returning home.

That is also the day we will begin to prepare for the Winnemem Salmon Ceremony, the Nur Winyupus and Hee Chala Olelbis ceremonies. The Winnemem men will be fasting for four days.

It seems like our hosts will also be carrying out the Whakanoa ceremony.

On Wednesday, the fourth day, there will be the Hakari, or feast.

Just reading the schedule, and reading about our departure day makes me sad. I already feel the richness of our time together, Winnemem and Maori, and therefore can feel sorry when it's over. At times like that, you want time to go on and on, days of ceremony, a lifetime of ceremony for the salmon and the waters, never having to return to the time when those who push their authority over the water and the salmon don't care about their continuity and don't see The People -- don't "recognize" them.

Perhaps this time in New Zealand will help me let go of the disgust which has piled layer upon layer over my heart toward the policies, the arrogance, the ignorant brutish attitudes of this administration and all the other administrations before it toward the First People of California, their poor stewardship over the great Salmon of the rivers and ocean, the salmon who are the true "climate changers" for the good, the "protectors of the water." Perhaps the meeting of these Two Great Peoples on the Rakaia will help bring the balance which is so needed to our blind and greedy part of the world.

Right now and for some time now, I feel on the edge of time. I think about the ghost dance days which are described as desperate times for the Indian people in our textbooks, and I think now, those were not acts of desperation but of necessity. Who will pray for the Earth except for those who still belong to the Earth and the sacred circle of life. What does it matter that 97 percent of this country runs on the earth dying? You have to do what you have to do. This small tribe can hear the salmon song, can feel that salmon ceremonial dance, can hear the earth, the spirit of the bear and the eagle, can speak with the sacred water, remembers they were born out of the spring and lives still (in their hearts) on the River, are tied to every stone, and medicine plant, and the pure water gushing from the roots of the sugar pine tumbling down the mountainside. No one in that big White House, no one in the glass offices of corporations hear or feel from the Earth what is happening to it, nor do they see or feel how hard nature is working. They think they are doing everything on their own -- making a mess of it. So those who can listen to all of nature, to their ancestors and whose hearts, spirit and mind are fully connected, they have to carry on the ceremonies whether it is along their river or along a river with each other around the world into Tomorrow and into another season where there's a hint of winter's approaching cold while the sun warms the fields and the red bush trees begin to bloom at home.

I don't know if this is enough to turn the destruction tide which lies just ahead so close we can see it because the greed and arrogance seems so huge. If things were right over here, President Obama would be calling the Winnemem into his office to hear what they learned about salmon, climate, earth and water during ceremony. Feinstein and Boxer would be thinking, it's an embarrassment and a travesty what we've allowed in California -- heaping human rights violations on 90 percent of the tribes in the state. The world is beginning to learn about this. We'd better do something about it. Feinstein would be kicking herself for trying to sneak in something which would basically put the salmon back into extinction by stealing their water to run casino fountains in the irrigated deserts of southern California. If things were right, these people would be able to feel their spirit, their thin and ever-thinning tie to the earth and feel the BIGNESS which is undoubtedly going to come from the meeting of the Ngai Tahu and the Winnemem in ceremony, the link of the Rakaia and the Winnemem River, the Great Mt. Shasta and all the other sacred places connected to the Winnemem River in the cosmology of the tribe. But how can I expect people who don't even see the Winnemem are tribal people to see this Biggness. How can a government who are coldhearted, blind and deaf to human beings born with inalienable rights hear the Fish, the Water, the Earth. So they will miss it. But I have faith. As Granny says, tell the world and the good people of the world will listen. Hopefully, that number of people will be enough.

These are my gloomy thoughts before leaving for New Zealand. I'm recording it here with faith that all of this will be changed by ceremony.
"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


Blogs I Follow

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.