Lyla Johnstone is a Freed Soul. She's had many conversations with me about that journey to free herself to love all things. Lyla is Dine, and speaks of her treasured grandmother, her aunties, and loves her father who was a warrior in the movement and still carries, as many of us do, our righteous anger. She tries to help him put down that burden. I met her at Winnemem when she moved in to do her geographical study of sacred places for their use. She had already adopted Helene as her Winnemem Mother, and gave her massages, cooked for her good healthy foods, and took her seriously.
I love Lyla Johnstone. She is a magical person. Google her and you will see why I say that. You will see her dancing in the middle of a plaza at night, in Rome, Italy, lights reflecting, spinning spinning around. You will hear more poetry which moves you, takes your breath away, grounds you all at the same time. You will see an event honoring youth and their potential she organized in New Mexico. She is not predictable. Where will she be? What will she say? What will she do? When will I see her again? And yet she is very predictable. She is an alchemist which turns all suffering, and well earned anger into love which includes acceptance and love of self -- healing -- whereever she goes.
My good Sister and friend Judy Castro and little daughter Artemisa are traveling to Havana today! I am so excited for her. She will be visiting her family in Havana. I love Judy. She let me know so that I can send something. We are a little community of people -- we who travel to Cuba -- separated by the blockade, homesick for our friends and family which one makes so easily there, and so no one travels to Cuba without gifts. And in taking the gifts, they connect with others and meet others they would not have met, were they not carrying the love of another to Cuba. So this time, Judy will meet Sr. Miyasaka, of course, our Nikkei bridge to Cuba, and to two special people in La Isla, the intrepid third generation Nikkei woman who grows organic vegetables in Havana. Judy will meet beautiful Muraleando, a neighborhood brightened by art from around the world, pilgrims who come to be part of a vision brought to life by school children of the neighborhood and artists, poets and hip hop performers. When there last we also met the elder who cleans every day the art and art installations which transforms every corner of the neighborhood. So my heart is full of Nikkei Cubans and the artists of Muraleando and Judy and Artemisa who has one boot which is easy to put on, and one boot which is hard to take off, something that she shared with me this morning, her eyes full of laughter and voice full of the silly wonder of it all -- just when she needs to go to Cuba!! She also whispered conspiratorially about her other grandparents. When we went to Italy . .. do you know what. . . . they eat ice-cream EVERY DAY!!! In Cuba, she will also find some wonderful treat every day. She will also meet many Italians! C'mon, USA. Bring down the blockade. The time has past for this grey thinking. We yearn for the bright colors of a Cuban Day!!
This is the young Ohlone man who remembers the old songs, holds them and sings them. We heard him at Glen Cove. After he participated, he was criticized and shunned by those of his tribe who did not want to step up to protect Glen Cove from development.
The result of the Glen Cove occupation is that the development was stopped and the area protected but people must be vigilant. Ten years ago, an agreement was made and signed with tribes to protect the area forever. A new tribal chair of one of the tribes turned down another road from his father who signed that former agreement and was willing to be one of three tribes to support development. That was stopped.
Caleen Sisk, our Chief, took us to Glen Cove to support the occupation. For one thing, that is the very estuary our salmon fry will grow in when they finally return to the river system. Right now, millions of salmon are killed each month in the turbines there.
These are three Basic Rights of Oregon films, beautiful films, of Gay, Lesbian, Trans sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, families sharing their stories to grow by -- grow love by, grow fearless by, grow a just future by! Please watch and if you have time, comment here! I will share.
This is a picture of our leaders and who help our family. They are whom I go to with our daughters and family when they need help, where we go when we are sick, where we go to pray, where we go to learn how to be. That is why we are Winnemem: Granny, Florence Jones; Chief Caleen Sisk Franco; Granny's translator, Emerson Miles.
This is Chief Caleen Sisk Franco relaxing with her Aunt while living and caring for her and learning all she can from her.
These beautiful photos were taken by Caleen's close friend Sally Carless. Her love for her 'subjects' allows her to take such personal photos.
I am posting this because I want to hear it over and over again, and also share it with you. I believe the speaker is Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation. It answers the question, what is life's purpose? I remember once when I was talking to our Winnemem Elder, Emerson Miles, and asked him what the human being's work? He answered our purpose on earth was to support Life. Granny would say, 97 percent of the world is evil. I found it interesting that she had it down to a number. After listening to Emerson, I thought to myself, that is probably what percentage of "jobs" or goals do not support Life. I hope you enjoy this:
Attending the NOAA meeting regarding the Winnemem and Maori interest in introducing salmon into the McCloud above the dam, something NOAA is interested in also was eye-opening. Around the table sat scientists, fish biologists, people responsible for the national salmon recovery plan, people responsible for carrying out the nation's environmental preservation programs, lawyer, Winnemem leaders, Maori leaders, a New Zealand fish and wildlife person. The focus was the New Zealand Winnemem partnership to bring back the McCloud River Salmon back to the Home Waters. John Wilkie, Waitaho Maori of South Island made it clear that this was a tribe to tribe venture, that the salmon would be given from New Zealand to the Winnemem. It was the decent thing to do since the fish came from the Winnemem run hatchery to the rivers of South Island back in the late 1800's in the first place.
The concern of the American biologists, administrators, and advocate was genetics, something which made the New Zealand Fish and Wildlife expert, Dirk ________, bristle. He is a passionate voice for the salmon of New Zealand. He had spoken up at the first NOAA meeting at ceremony when the NOAA people first said that the genetics may be a problem because there were more than one introduction of salmon eggs to the rivers. He interrupted, "You're talking about statistics, aren't you? the bad runs?" The NOAA people nodded.
Then Dirk passionately spoke, "these so called good runs and bad runs -- it's all about numbers, isn't it. A certain number and it's considered a bad run. But I know this fish. The California Chinook Salmon is very strong, and with these low numbers of return, they will never give up. They are survivors. I have seen lower runs and the next year and the next year, the numbers go up by great numbers. We know that the New Zealand salmon is from here. These fish are hardy. They are the same fish as swam in the Mc Cloud in the 1800's."
At this second meeting Dirk was still willing to speak to the genetics issue which stumped the American biologists and administrators in charge of the salmon restoration projects.
I think our jaws dropped as did his when the scientists began to describe the runs -- winter, spring and fall runs -- as Races of Salmon, and saying they do not want the races to mix.
They asked Dirk what races were the salmon in New Zealand. Dirk said, we say that they are all salmon. He explained to them that the coloration which Americans use as a marker for race depends on many factors, all environmental. He explained that even in the same batch of eggs, some of the salmon will be fall and some will be winter and some will be spring. The salmon determines the run. In New Zealand and the tribes both in New Zealand and the US distinguish the runs by when they arrive to spawn. Therefore, the fish who travel farthest will be another run than the fish who spawn closer to the ocean. The US label them by when they enter the river system.
Dirk then said, Isn'the important thing that the salmon you put in the McCloud are salmon which have the ability to return to the McCloud, not what run you think they are?
Good point. Light bulbs flash in the minds.
To be fair, NOAA did not make these regulations. This is about money. Funding. There is funding for winter and spring run but not for fall for NOAA. Some other agency takes on the fall run. NOAA is stuck with these regulations. However, NOAA is also responsible to reintroduce above the dam on the McCloud and we believe, and it will be borne out that the salmon in New Zealand have the DNA, tenacity and strength to make it back. No guarantees that any salmon in the Sacramento now can do that.
New Zealand common sense and tribal knowledge eventually became the directors of the conversation. NOAA's openness and commitment to the goal was framed by the woman heading the environmental protection direction. She said that she welcomed being at the table with people who also wanted the salmon to come back. NOAA over and over again faces people who do not want the salmon and the protection laws they bring reintroduced anywhere. Bottom line, NOAA is ready to work with us, to see the proposal.
But back to that pesky little word . . . that pesky little concept Made in the USA -- RACE -- and the prohibition of mixing. It has nothing to do with species or fish because the Salmon is Salmon. This separation of runs is wholly for the purpose of accessing funds. We can see how silly miscegenation laws regarding salmon is as wrong headed as miscegenation laws regarding human beings. It is a human construct, not a natural one and it is manipulative. Interesting, aye?
Common Sense. Knowledge of Nature. And possibilities bloom.
I haven't written on my blog for quite awhile. Something has rocked Will and my world to its foundation. But it would not be cool to talk about it. We just have to endure it. In crisis is opportunity, though, as sages have said. And it seems that in this crisis, which has to do with a crisis in leadership, our Chief has stepped up to the challenge, and takes one day at a time, doing what needs to be done, keeping her vision clear, and her spirit connected to the Old Ones and the Sacred Places.
The opportunity is that the Winnemem lineage reveals what their women Chiefs are made of. It is not difficult to imagine Granny, alone in her leadership, going through the killing time, going through boarding school assimilation, going through Shasta Lake Dam and the drowning of her people's homes, sacred lands, and the extermination of their salmon, going through the criminalization of her ceremonies and medicines, and yet keeping it together, bringing her people through. I imagine she did the same thing, took every day as it comes, go step by step. There seems to be almost an instinctual way of knowing what needs to be done -- much like their beloved salmon, a sort of navigational device imbedded, which helps them even if they meet a crisis which is an anomaly to their people. Dams, hatcheries, bounties, boarding schools, racist laws, influenza and today, dams, assimilation policies, federal unrecognized status, privatizing of water, cremation remains in the sacred spring,Harmonic Conversions, 2012 crazy madness, and on and on it goes.
Because of their active relationship, the unbroken historical tie to sacred land, to leadership by lineage, a tradition of spiritual doctoring, holding on to language, songs, ceremonies, even bringing them back with the help of the ancestor spirits and the sacred lands, they endure.
Will and I are so lucky to know how because we are under the wing of the Winnemem.
Did you know that everything does not come from a human being? knowledge, songs, language, ceremony, medical knowledge? If you pray and you've kept that relationship strong with the sacred places and your ancestors, you can get it all back through communication, through faith, through walking step by step behind them. Did you know that even if there is scientific finality that a species is terminated, you may find out if you are still tied to the land, if you are still tied to the ancestors, if you bring back the ceremonies, Olelbis will hear you, the salmon will hear you, the bear and all the Sacred Mountains will hear you, the Oceans will become one to turn that extermination, that killing time around? The ancient ones anticipated great disasters and losses and took care of it, laying their faith that far in the future when it was safe, when it was ready, the Winnemem will still remain, and then, the work can begin with that new Chief to restore what was exterminated, like the Nur, the sacred Chinook salmon which the Winnemem follow still, 70 years after they last swam up the McCloud, a good 20 years before Chief Caleen Sisk Franco was born.
Thank you Great Olelbis, the great Mt. Shasta, that our current Chief still carried on so that she could be there when the salmon was ready to come back to their Home Waters, before time on the wild salmon ran out. Thank you Great Olelbis that she carried the faith and hope of her ancestors over that time so that there will still be Winnemem. She made things ready. She brought her people back to the village, she taught the next generation, she listened to her dreams, her spiritual people listened to their dreams, and they made everything ready for the miracle of the Nur's return to happen. They did not lose one step.
I have seen it. I have listened, witnessed, felt, touched an been touched by the Winnemem way of life. This is how it happens, these everyday miracles. No scientist, inventor, President, or Parliament, no lobbyist, no strategist, no CEO can restore as the Olelbis would restore except the faithful and humble who know their place and responsibilities no matter how hard it is, no matter what crisis is thrown in front of their path. Step by step. Prayer by prayer.
We are witnessing the legacy of Caleen Sisk Franco through her hardest time, her biggest crisis, OUR hardest time and biggest crisis, and we'll just continue the old way and get there a day at a time, a prayer at a time, one everyday miracle at a time. As she says no matter what has happened, "Life is good in so many ways." We can't give in to grief and loss.
Dedicated to the Waitaho Maori family, the Kingdom of Hawai, the Hoopa Tribe the Kiwi allies for standing with us, 100 percent and to NOAA who is drawing up their papers to seal the relationship. We will bring home the Nur.
At the Fire a couple of weeks ago before ceremony, before all our guests arrived, during a crisis in leadership, the Chief gathered us around the Prayer Fire. Toward the end, securing the commitments from her people, we continued saying things at the Fire which needed to be said.
Then Dale spoke up. He said that some years ago he gathered herbs for Granny to be given to a patient (cancer). She told him "She's got a strong heart. She's going to make it." He kept gathering herbs throughout that year. Then he finally met the person he'd been gathering for at Grandma's and he was surprised because here was this cheery person named Misa.
When he shared with me what Grandma said about me, it was such a gift and a nudge that that cheery person is the stronghearted one.
It came at the right time when I wasn't remembering my essential cheerfulness which comes from a faithful heart. I need to remember faith.
Oh, my!! Our South Island and Ngai Tahu family read my blog! I hardly ever look at comments because I don't get them, but recently, I have. I shared with Rosina from Maori something I would like to share with all of you -- to Wendy, to Pauline to Barry and all the others.
More and more our Chief is telling this story in public. It is what we believe to be true about our salmon, the Nur in the Rakaia and other river systems in Aotera.
The Chief received an email from Aotera asking if she was familiar with the story of the Ice Waterfall which the Maori know. She had heard about the Ice Waterfall. Back when the US was building the fish hatchery on the Winnemem, the tribe's leaders were concerned. The spiritual people at that time sent some of the Fish through the Ice Waterfall of Bohem Pyuk, the Great Mt. Shasta, our Sacred Mountain, and the place of origin of the Winnemem as well as the Winnemem (McCloud) River. The email from one of our Maori family reverberated in the Chief's heart and and stirred up memory.
We could believe that the US sent eggs around the world and they only survived in New Zealand, a fluke of nature, a conundrum. Then there is the story more miracle than mystery of spiritual Winnemem sending the fish through an Ice Waterfall on their Sacred Mountain to stay until they it was safe to come home. The old spiritual people could not imagine what the future held, but were prepared by the spirits for a dam which would flood their Homeland, destroy sacred places, kill their Fish runs and possibly exterminate their way of life. This story does not end with Shasta Lake Dam. This is a story of two sacred mountains Bohem Pyuk and Aoraki, both with ice waterfalls, a story of a warm belt in the ocean which keeps the salmon in New Zealand from mixing protecting the DNA which would enable them to remember the hard and long trip back from their salt water home, acclimating in the estuary of Glen Cove, tasting the sweet water of the McCloud or Winnemem River, remembering the three water falls, the hundreds of miles back Home. Sacred Bond or Fluke of Nature? Winnemem and Maori and their extended family already knew in our hearts when we met that there was more to the story than an odd scientific conundrum, did we not? This is the story of two peoples who still pray to their Sacred Mountains, share a story of an Ice Waterfall, despite trauma and progress still keep a spiritual responsibility for fish who know both ocean and river, who still pray, still know the stories, still dance, still know their language, and will never give up their old ways, ancestors, and sacred duties no matter what. Fluke of nature? or sacred compact coming to fruition because the Winnemem and Ngai Tahu Waitaha people did not stray from their paths and stayed close to the Mountain, the Rivers, their Fish, and never forgot their old stories and never forgot how to pray, holding them in place so they could complete their ancestor's prayer just as the fish were held so they could return Home someday. Ko te Nur te tipua oranga. Ka whaiwhai tonu matou! Beedi Yalumina! It is all one prayer!
We couldn't go up to our ceremonial grounds in Dekkas. The rains had turned the road into slick mud that only a tractor could get us up to the grounds -- and the tractor tracks would ruin the road. When we sat around the Prayer Fire that rainy night, the Chief had told us we were going to support the Spiritual Encampment to bring attention to what damage development would bring to Glen Cove near Vallejo if the city went forward with their plan to spend federal monies on a park there. The city was in the process of securing support from three other tribes whose new city councils were willing to reverse their former leaders' position to protect the cove. It was only ten years before that all the tribes had convinced the city to agree that the cove, the shell mounds, all the evidence that that area was Home for tribes for generations before contact, was an important historical place. Condos were built around the area -- a pricey sight to look out onto the cove. Perhaps it bothered the city politicans to still see tha anise blooming, the willow just because of a ten year old agreement made with tribes. Perhaps the original grass did not go with the palms imported and planted there, the eucalyptus trees. It didn't go with the theme, perhaps. And it may have seemed to be a good idea, a rolling lawn out to the bay, designed by putting people to work with new jobs provided by federal funds digging out what grew there as medicines and food, replacing it with something else that needed pesticides to be lush, pesticides which would wash into the bay -- a bay which is the estuary for the very Chinook runs the Winnemem are trying to bring home from New Zealand. This estuary is where our Chinook would grow until they were ready for life in the salt waters of the Ocean, and strong enough to make that journey. This estuary is also where the salmon would return to acclimate to the sweet waters of the river for their long and arduous journey back over the falls, back to their spawning grounds to complete their cycle, spawning, then dying, then feeding and nourishing all that lived and grew in and out of the waters.
The Chief watched the rain for the next two days. She had told the Glen Cove people we would be there but the outfits could not be worn if it were raining. It was touch and go. Sunday morning, the leaden sky didn't really give us clues but at least it wasn't raining. "We're going!" she announced when I went up to her trailer to check. She was plaiting her long hair into braids.
"We're ready!" I replied and headed down to give Will the go sign. By then other plans had been made by many. Some had to return to work. The small respite in the weather was not promising, but by faith, a small group piled into a small van, followed by a couple of cars and we headed off on a four hour trip to the bay.
This video will show you how small our group was, but it was enough. The Chief was there and the next Chief was there. The Sacred Fire was there placed by the few dancers who did come. Several singers were there. We had a fire to pray at. We could sing our songs that the waters there and the fish, the trees could hear and know that there were still people who knew their way of life. And there were still leaders who were connected to the ancestral ways and knew the way of these trees, the water, the old rocks and were still teaching the old ways, who could still speak for the salmon at such an important place for them. There was still a doctor there to help out the leaders of the encampment, and take the difficulties and chaos off their weary shoulders.
I thought you'd like to hear what our Chief said and how important the message she brought there was to the committed tribal people who were going into the 50th day at the encampment. Those words gave great support, to understand that not only were they standing for old agreements manipulated by politicians, both municipal and tribal, not only were they standing for the protection of a valuable historical site, but they also were standing against a crisis of global significance right now, this very moment, the preservation of Life on this Earth, represented at this stage by whether or not salmon will survive -- salmon, the climate changers, salmon who cleans and purifies the water, salmon who knows the rivers and the oceans, salmon who, even in death nourishes all that lives in the water and out.
This is a spiritual cause. I remember Emerson, the elder and Granny's translator, saying to me that the human being's purpose was to "support Life, help Life." I remember Granny saying the world was about 97 percent evil. She had it down to a percentage. Putting the two together I thought to myself it is probable that only about 3 percent of us are engaged in life supporting, life helping work. The small group of Glen Cove protectors, the small group of Winnemem gives me hope of what 3% can do against such odds, if we all did it.
The Chief answered the question WHY do this -- Why do we even show up when 97% are bent on destroying Life. Why do we do anything? She answered that omnipresent question when she said that we must teach the young ones that although it is not in the books they read, they must learn from the water, the ancient rocks and the trees to protect the earth. We do this because "it can't ever end."
No matter how small a group becomes, no matter how huge the challenge, even if the world as Granny described it became 99.999 percent destructive, Nature and the few human beings who still hold to their spiritual responsibility can make the difference for Nature. That is what is most important that Nature sees and the Great Olelbis knows and the ancestors have people who are with them -- that we still stand, sing, pray, learn and support Life. We must still be counted like all the rest of Nature does automatically, no matter how bad it gets. Otherwise, as Granny says, the human being becomes a big zero.
So today, I am thinking of all the good people going into their 100th day of the spiritual encampment at Glen Cove very soon, I am thinking of the Winnemem, especially our Chief who will always follow Nature and leads her people to do so -- and I am particularly thinking of the Salmon. Sawal mai u mu's baales bom! Sacred is the teacher. That is the way it will be forever.
I'm thinking of Granny again today, Granny and Caleen. I met Granny 23 years ago at her ceremony at Mt. Shasta. My Kickapoo doctor and friend took my newly adopted daughter and me there to get help. My daughter had just taught my husband and me humility to last for our whole lifetime -- to know we could not do this parenting thing or anything else, for that matter, without a lot of help from Great Olelbis and that is what we came to Florence Jones for, drowning people needing help to make a family.
Granny's helper, Emerson Miles, smoked me up with the root, and smoked a pipe as Florence helped me. I remember midway, her words to me, "I am your mother." I felt shock but only paused for a second before I pushed away any doubt -- that I already have a mom -- and without thinking took a deep breath in as if breathing in her words and accepted it with all my heart saying "thank you" under my breath. I believe that made all the difference in the world because from that moment, that is how I treated her and within a year, Granny began to mother me. Invited by her to come anytime we wanted, I took Maki and later Maki and our foster daughter Margaret to visit the little ranch and three elders at least once a month and for a month of each summer vacation. Granny taught me everything she thought I would need to live a good life. She took care of me curing me of small maladies to life threatening disease, and she took care of my family. She scolded me, she showed me how to do lots of things, she shared her stories and remembrances, her lessons of life, she loved me. We spent hours sitting side by side, shoulders touching or I would drive her on her joyrides, reaching for her hand and we would sit like that comfortable. I did whatever she asked me to do and for her part, she was always there for me.
In her 90's, as she began to do less, sometimes she would talk to me about what to do after she died. She prepared me by telling me she would always be with me, and even told me where she would be when we went up on Mt. Shasta to go to the Spring. She instructed me how to pray and she would be there for me. She knew, I would need these reassurances after she died, I believe. She knew how devastated losing her on the earthly plane would mean. I literally felt the loss physically. I felt like a piece of me had been ripped off, and I felt raw and bleeding along my right shoulder and arm. My fingers would feel listless with no shoulders or neck to rub anymore. No more backrubs. My fingers would twitch and bring back that memory and the emptiness would be so intense. I felt like half of me was gone. And for awhile, her instructions were all I had to feel some comfort. "Think of me and Bohem Pyuk and I will be there."
It was at War Dance that things changed dramatically. As our Chief, her successor, Caleen Sisk Franco stepped up to the challenge and brought back War Dance which we took to Shasta Lake Dam, when the new Chief literally walked out into the unknown and followed Granny's instruction, "step out and help will be there" I began to feel Grandma without following the aides she left behind for me. Granny is right there with Caleen! It is very comforting that the line of leadership works out that way. No one does things individually and alone, even the Chief.
Since War Dance, I only had to focus, and I can feel her there with me. Or should I say, I can feel me WITH HER. I know I would feel her absence strongly if I strayed from the path of "right is right and wrong is nobody." It is like an automatic navigational device. I know I won't stray. When you are mothered by someone, especially someone like Granny, for 23 years, your heart changes. My heart changed by becoming whole. What Granny added to my heart, molded into my heart was a way of life she followed all her life. I am rooted, no longer a fluff going here and there wherever the winds of change will take me. I feel steady. I am assured as long as I follow the way of life given to me by her.
Everybody goes through a time of confusion sometimes. Things go well, and then circumstances happen and one could get derailed. That is when I realize Granny's influence and how embedded it is in my heart. I walk with confidence right behind Granny and Caleen and know without a doubt that she is with Caleen. They are together. What a gift for the descendants that we still have a Chief in these troubled time who is so connected, who is right there with Granny's spirit and the Winnemem ancestors. The Winnemem way still goes on another generation through this Chief. I know because I see it with my spirit's sight. I know it because where she leads us opens door for the salmon. I know it because although life is hard, we are still free and we are still doing our sacred responsibilities for the Earth, Water and Nur.
Sometimes I feel as if I can walk into Granny's bedroom and sit down beside her to have those long conversations like the old days. It's comforting. The other day, I felt like that. My mind meandered to this room in which there is Granny and sitting in a chair there is Caleen by herself, right with Granny. They wait calmly in the room for the rest of us to gather there. We all are out someplace else doing this or that. I thought to myself, I hope in those times that Will and I, as long as we live, will be in the room sitting with the calm of knowing we are where we're supposed to be and when enough people come in and sit and when we are ready to stand together, whether it is a few or many, we will be enough. Of that I am sure.
All this is to say, the Winnemem tribe may be small but they still have their old way to take them through modern chaos. The Head Man is a good and strong man. The family has love for one another. Other tribal members who don't live at the ranch are dedicated. This is what I see in each of us and pray for, that we are all of that because the Earth, the Salmon, the Water, Life itself needs goodness, strength, love and dedication from the human beings. So today, I am thinking of you Granny and our Chief who stays with you through thick and thin and say thank you for the mothering and this way of life. You said it's a hard life but the best life. You said that your sacred land is the Univeristy of Life. And I have found it all to be TRUE.
I am posting Ground Truth, a powerful honest look at being a soldier in a war which President Bush called a preemptive war -- a war which was to be exposed as a war of aggression. Never have I heard the hard truth told as the young men and women tell it here. I'd like to share it with you here.
The last of a month's events ended Friday, two nights ago, with the Art Show and Silent Auction Benefit at Oregon Arts Alliance. I have learned a lot these last few months. I have learned so much through these experiences that I can say I may have walked through another door, or passed a milestone. As with any milestone there are fellow travelers and there are those we wave to as we take different paths, hopefully without any rancor but an acknowledgment that our paths differ.
One thing for sure is that my comfort zone definitely weighs toward tribal to the point that there is little of that familiar internal conflict when caught in a culture clash anymore. What I carried, living between two worlds, just evaporated during the first event -- the Wild Salmon Party and by the last event, I could just look at it, name it, give it to the Creator and move on. The journey was not without pain, but the clarity which came from it was priceless to me. I left my old skin behind gladly but also had a little moment of separation grief. Friendships were involved so the heart was involved.
A young Latina activist stated it so well. She described the difference of two leadership styles. One is de-centralized. The other is centralized. She also went on to say that it is the responsibility of everyone to come to the work ready to share their resources, not come to force their structure upon the work. I remember reading the cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall who described the clash of cultural differences. Those taken for granted cultural differences which we take in before we acquire words and concepts as toddlers are the hardest. When our taken for granted clash s conflict, oftentimes people react in anger. It is hard to verbalize. They don't know what bothers them; just that they feel there is a WRONG way and it is threatening. It almost seemed like the "de-centralized" way of leading hit a few -- just a few people -- as wrong, pushed their buttons and caused them to react in anger, judgment and suspicion and a few times caused them to act out. At that moment I had to make a choice. Do I internalize, react, personalize? Or do I "give it to the Creator" and leave it behind me. The goals were big enough to merit the latter choice each time.
I have no regrets, no sore heart. That being said, however, when I disengaged from reacting and personalizing, it also took me on a different path. I felt the momentary tug of leave taking. But it did not leave an angry hole.
As for other relationships of fellow travelers with whom I worked through all challenges, thick or thin, supporting one another, friendship ties are deepened and the rewards were so beautiful we were at once individually touched and as a whole bonded by them. When people are "awed" together, it's something that remains with them and there were many inspirational, magical moments which put awe in our hearts.
So this blog is dedicated to my husband Will, to Lemuel, to my Sisters Carmen, Twila, Wilma, Remie with Lynn, Francisca, Guadalupe, to the Juventdud FACETA youth with a special abrazo to Maria and Patricia, to Herb Everett, Robert Tomlinson, Donna, Raquel, my Chief and Head Man, the Winnemem youth. And speaking of youth, it strengthened my idealism as I look to Adrien, Nashelle, Ms.Bacon, Natalie, Michelle of CAER and our connection with NALSA and Shayleen of SOS. When someone expresses ambiguity about your organizations being represented on the WSGO board, there are several several more who feel incredibly lucky you are there and notice that you are stepping up and taking the lead with passion and clear vision. The salmon do not notice the separation between organizations. Their goal to return home is served by everyone working together, between organizations, across state lines and national lines, cross culturally, across generations. Some people predicted the board will be small, the same people forced to do all the work. Others said the direct opposite -- that the board is too big and nothing will get done efficiently. Because of you, both these views did not materialize. Instead, your organizations joining strengthened the board. Be inspired by the fact you have already made a difference. It may stir up a "push back," but the time for old structures have long passed.
The Wild Salmon Run and party and the Salmon art show both became more than a party, run and show. Their locations were made sacred, that is, a place where important things could be done because the work was done in the right way. Amigos gymnasium and the Oregon Arts Alliance Gallery became a place where the spirit of the salmon was present. No individual can take credit for it. It came from the process. And no disgruntled individuals can trivialize the learning and direction this work took us toward the goal of salmon.
It became a place sanctified by the words of our Chief, Caleen Sisk Franco and Head Man Mark Franco, by the Grand Ronde elder Bob Tom, the young Grand Ronde leader Kevin Simmons, Tookish Man of the Wasco and his wife, Roger Amerman, Clifton and Christine Bruno,the young ones who came with their families, Ahiru Daiko, Island Arts traditional dancers and Kumu, Marvin who sang so that people who did not know Spanish still felt his songs and it brought tears to their eyes, Martin who wore his salmon hat, whistled and sang about the McCloud River and the Salmon, and all the spontaneous sharing of Winnemem Songs, Grand Ronde Stories and songs, Winnemem Dances, Patricia's poem.
What was accomplished? Yes, we raised some money. Also, there is a strong new generation of water warriors connected between CA and OR who felt the salmon in their heart memorably and inspired them to work. People gave from their heart through performance and brought strength to tired warriors. The event became Grand Ronde/Winnemem/salmon and youth centered. The Wild Salmon Run and Party and the Water Warrior Workshop before it was filled with happiness. It grew out of happiness. Food for sale became food shared, energizing runners and giving them something to look forward at the end of a cold wet run. Gossip and anger gave way to what the Chief called "a spirit of goodness" which filled her heart with happy feelings. What a wonderful thing, for our Chief to feel free and happy for that moment from the hard work she wakes up to and carries every day.
Let's look at the art show. It gave Robert Tomlinson the stage to reveal to everyone what he was made of as he made one good decision after another regarding the salmon dance and the traditional cooking of the salmon on two of the main streets in the center of the city. He had perspective and an openness to culture and it spread to the Fire Marshal and EPD. Everyone, in the end did the right thing and for the first time in our town's history there was on the corner of Broadway and Willamette in downtown Eugene during Art Walk, Wasco elders and youth cooking salmon on alder sticks over the hot coals to share with the people. A group of people as diverse as Eugene's true population were assembled. Artists, superintendent, mayor, art lovers, street kids, Indians and non Indians, a most natural of assemblages I've seen there, tasting the sacred salmon together. Granny said "feed your spirits" inviting us after prayers into her kitchen for food. During the event, this was done in a sacred way after the prayers and thanks of the Wasco Salmon Dance for the Winnemem Salmon to come home again.
I've been to pow wows and ceremonies. If things are done right -- as Grand Ronde Kevin Simmons and his children started the evening of the art show doing -- then that place becomes a place that important and sacred things can be done -- whether that place is a school gym, or a city park, or a Longhouse. That night, sacred was present at an art gallery on Broadway and Willamette.
We cannot overstate that small miracle.
For many of us, the art show was the last several events for the month of April/May. There may have been bad feelings from time to time but in the end everyone treated one another lovingly. And though some of us may not cross paths again as colleagues, we will certainly greet one another as human beings and in friendship. For me, it happened at the NASU pow wow during the circle dance honoring Mothers. We hugged each other and sincerely wished one another Happy Mother's Day, then separated and sat on either side of the gym ( or more like on two different parts of a single circle) where we were sitting among close friends who loved us both.
As for DisOrient, what a BLAST! As Mike Takahashi always said, "This is supposed to be fun!" And it was.
I purchased five photographs from the Benefit for the Winnemem Wintu to bring their salmon home. With these photos are report excerpts from the Livingston Stone Collection, Stone being the commissioner who made the reports. The reports were of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Most of the ones I purchased were from 1872 and 1873 and on from 1879. The reports talk about the Winnemem people, the Winnemem workers in the hatchery and the salmon. The following excerpts particularly caught my attention. The first reminded me of the Winnemem saying "Sawal Maiuma's Baales Bom" "Sacred is the teacher. That is the way it will be forever forever." Here is an eyewitness account witnessing the salmon, upon being confronted by a dam across the McCloud erected by the hatchery.
From the United States Commission Fish and Fisheries Report, 1872 and 1873 by Livingston Stone, Commisioner on the Salmon Breeding Station, McCloud River, California
"About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a few days after the passage of the salmon was obstructed and before the corrals were made, it was announced that the salmon were making their first assault upon the dam. The whole camp collected on the bridge to witness the attack. It was a sight never to be forgotten. For several rods below the bridge, the salmon formed one black writhing mass of life. Piled together one above another, they charged in solid columns against the bridge and dam which trembled and shook continually under their blows. Not daunted by their repeated failures, they led attack after attack upon the fence, one column succeeding as another fell back. Encouraged by their numbers, and urged by the irrepressible instinct, they entirely disregarded the observers on the bridge and struggled at their very best to pass the unwonted obstruction. Finding the fence impassable many fell back a little and tried to jump the bridge. This, several succeeded in doing, sometimes violently striking the men on the bridge in their leaps and sometimes jumping between their feet.
For an hour and a half, this force assault continued when, exhausted by their efforts and discouraged by many failures, they fell back to the deep hole just below the rapids, arrested, for the first time since the McCloud formed its channel, in their progress up the river.
The bridge and dam were completed and the river rendered impassable to the salmon on the 10th of August."
And in a report of operations at the US salmon hatching station on the McCloud River, CA, 1878, Livingston Stone reports:
"As soon as the dam was completed across the river, the salmon show signs of being very thick in the river below. On the 11th of July we made a haul with seine which confirmed our impressions of the abundance of salmon, the number taken at this haul being nearly a thousand. About this time, the Indians employed at the fishery did some very fine work under the water in repairing the rack. We discovered one day that the salmon, by their violent and repeated attacks on the dam, had at last forced a passage-way underneath the rack and were escaping."
And an excerpt from a report December 9, 1872, about the Winnemem. "In the summer and fall, the McCloud Indians live mainly on the salmon and trout which they spear. In the winter, they live on the salmon which they catch and dry in the fall, and on acorns, which they gather in great quantities in the woods. They hunt with bows and arrows, with which they occasionally kill a bear, though a few have rifles. They trap very little, but the salmon of the river are so abundant that they are not obliged to resort to hunting and trapping at all.
I have made this digression about the McCloud River Indians partly because their presence here is so singularly connected with the abundance of the salmon in the Sacramento River. Had white men come here and required the salmon for food, this main artery of the supply system of the river would have been stopped; or had white men of the Feather and American Rivers, the spawning beds would have been covered with mud and ruined, as in those rivers, and in less than three years the salmon supply of the Sacramento would have shown a vast decrease. The presence of the Indians, therefore, as far as it implies the absence of the whites, is the great protection of the supply of the Sacramento salmon."
December 9, 1872 is another excerpt: "They (Winnemem) first adopted the plan of ordering all white men out of their country, and were the last of the California Indians to yield to the encroachment of civilization. Even now, they are not slow to say to the white stranger, 'These are our lands,' and 'These are our salmon'"
Here it is January and we are working at fever pitch doing something which normally we avoid -- asking people to help materially, through their skills and gifts, donating. I wrote something which explains why someone (me) who has such aversion to asking, has grabbed onto the challenge full force. So in the last couple of months despite holiday madness, a small group of us took on writing a grant, and planning a fundraiser. But each of our plans grew into something bigger because so many good people joined to the point, I realized that we were sort of "riding a wave." It really wasn't totally in our hands. The grant led to organizations and individuals agreeing to make their alliances with the Winnemem Support Group more official by joining a board. We never had thought of ourselves in that way, embedded as we are with the tribe. Our meetings were with the tribal leaders, when they came up I-5 to help the support group, when we went down to ceremony to pray and to join the circle of environmental water and salmon activists from LA to Canada. But a board we are -- planning annual events in our own home town, connecting, so to speak, river systems, salmon, and human beings across those political state lines which separate us but do not separate lands, fish, water. With the grant we now have youth Water Warriors (Juventud FACETA) joined with Winnemem youth and a board which joins organizations.
The fundraiser grew into a plural. This weekend I will join many to celebrate Ruth Koenig as she turns 70 years old. She is marking this special day by throwing a benefit at Tsunami Bookstore. On the other hand today, we are in negotiations because suddenly our silent auction idea has grown into something beyond my imagination. My younger brother, not by blood but by heart ties, Marcus Amerman, name one of the top 33 Native American artists by American Indian Art Magazine, moved by the Winnemem Wintu's journey to New Zealand to do ceremony for their salmon, intrigued by the strong alliance with the Maori people, and fired up to do something not only agreed to donate to the Silent Auction we were planning, but began talking to his friends, talented artists, many already internationally established and all respected by their peers. We were taken aback by the response of the artists. I have found the greatest generosity as well as that strong hearted resistence in poets and artists, and this is an awe-inspiring example. Today, I called my artist friend, Lemuel Charley, Institute of American Indian Art in art mecca, Santa Fe, New Mexico. I needed help. We had asked a gallery to allow us to do the silent auction in their gallery on Eugene's big art venue, the monthly Art Walk, May 6. We were late. They were booked for a year. We're not part of their collective. Sounded too big for their staff, perhaps, but things cleared up and within mere days, they have agreed with stipulations and it becomes our decision. With trembling, as if I were buying a car or a new computer, something which I don't know much about, I handed the job to decide, to communicate, to design over to Lemuel.
Earlier, we were thinking a little silent auction with a nice piece from Marcus at a wild salmon party. But the idea out grew us. Not only in the art scene.
Kayla Carpenter is a Hoopa youth who responded to a giant fish kill in her people's river -- about 60,000 salmon dead -- by organizing a salmon relay. Her thoughts were to run for the salmon, the health of the salmon, and at the same time do it with the health of her people in mind. That wild salmon relay still goes on. I loved the YOUTUBE video embedded here:
This video inspired us to do a Wild Salmon Run bringing together the Juventud FACETA water warriors and the Winnemem. Others wanted to join. For one, Ahiru Daiko, a Japanese Drum group from the University Oregon. Ahiru means Duck. We decided to set the tone of the Wild Salmon Party Fundraiser with this run. As Kayla said "the salmon's struggle is our struggle so with this run we can take a part for a time in their struggle" The runners educate themselves about the salmon of their area, and as they run they bring awareness.
As it happened, it is very difficult to find a place for a run that is close to a hall which would allow fundraising, or which would allow music (they called it noise) or which would allow food. How does one throw a fundraiser which prevents donating? How does one party without music and food? But there is one place. It is called Amigos Multicultural Services Center. Living up to its name, the staff, Juventud FACETA teacher Patricia Cortez and Immigrant Justice Project Director Guadalupe Quinn responded to my request to use their space, how can we support the runners? Maybe Amigos can provide the water and refreshments. Do you need a kitchen? What do you need from us? These are questions that lead to more ideas, which create, which build relationships. The other responses, the rules and regs which were designed before there were Indians in the room, shut off any possibility for cross cultural ties, and prevents an organization from an opportunity which was not dreamed of at the time of organizing what their space could host.
The cool thing is Amigos is just up the street a few blocks from the bike path along the Willamette. From the cozy little playground at the end of North Grand you can see a footbridge across the river. That's where the runners will cross to the other side, running upriver as salmon do to the next footbridge by Alton Baker Park, cross over again to the downtown side and run downriver through Skinners Butte Park. It is a perfect 5K. A Japanese taiko drum made by national treasure Mark Miyoshi which carries prayers for Mt. Shasta, the Winnemem River and the salmon and all the sacred places in the world will drum the runners on their way. Ahiru, who uses that drum will not be drumming. They said they would rather run for the salmon. So maybe that means Mark Miyoshi might come and play his drum for them? The way things are going, I would not be surprised. So far a Native Drum, the taiko drummers, a Kumu and her dancers of traditional hula want to support the Wild Salmon party and will do so joining the runners when we honor them, and the Winnemem leaders, the video of their journey to New Zealand for their fish which I will embed here:
A potluck follows this, and then we party. We haven't approached the bands yet. It might be later that evening there will be a possibility to attend the opening night at a gallery of the art which will be auctioned a few weeks later during Eugene's Art Walk.
If you are interested in joining these fundraising events, the exciting factor amped up by the flow of generosity and "water warrior spirit" of all walks of life, they are:
Wild Salmon Run and Wild Salmon Party, April 16 from 1 pm - 5 pm Amigos Multicultural Service Center 21 North Grand Street, call 541-345-5739 for more info
A possible Grand Opening of Native American Contemporary Art at a gallery to be announced April 15 or 16 from 7 pm - 9 pm
A Silent Auction of Native American contmporary art during Art Walk at that possible gallery from 5 pm - 9 pm.
So you see what I mean by "totally out of our hands" and that we are "riding a wave."
Let me share with you what I think is our foundation -- a wave, not concrete -- and who leads us -- a fish, in fact record salmon runs for unexplicible reasons which baffle scientists around the world.
The Salmon, the Maori, the Winnemem and We
A small tribe brings back the War Dance Ceremony at the site of a high security government facility, September 13, 2004, to resist the further raising of the Shasta Lake Dam that would drown their remaining sacred places and further damage their sacred river. The Winnemem Wintu tribe of northern California lacked usual avenues of communication or material support from the US government to advocate that most Americans and Tribes take for granted. They could only resort to what was already in their hands -- their traditions and their ancestral way of life. (The US government had dropped 90 percent of the historic Native Tribes of California, including the Winnemem, from the “federal recognition list” in the 1980’s and from that time they were rendered invisible and silent and the ceremonies no longer protected by the law.) The Winnemem Chief put down prayers at the Sacred Fire the evening before the War Dance began and was told to “tell the world and the good people of the world will listen.”
How could anyone guess that rescue would come in the form of a fish. After all, the Winnemem salmon runs were exterminated by Shasta Lake Dam, the tallest dam in the world back in the 1940’s. When their veterans came home from the war, they came home to the family homes, their hatchery drowned. Heartbroken, they grew old knowing their fish could no longer come home.
Somehow the prayers reached across the oceans from the war dance at Shasta Lake Dam, curling along the lands bordering the Pacific to Aotera, or New Zealand. A scientist from New Zealand called the Winnemem Chief, “Say, I just read in the news about your war dance. Did you know we have your fish?”
The chief listened as he told them that back in the late 1800’s the eggs from the fish hatchery on the McCloud where many of her ancestors worked were sent all over the world, and died all over the world except in New Zealand where they still flourish. She remembered the stories from her father, her aunties about the War Dance prayers meant to stop the exporting of their salmon to far away lands, and how the warriors prayed a promise to the salmon that they could always come home. Sixty years later, the dam had put an end to that promise. And now, another 60 years later, with this phone call, the Winnemem Chief remembering the prayer she set down at the War Dance at the site of the dam, rejoiced in the miracle. Their fish still flourished across the Pacific.
In 2010, on a prayer, chili feeds, unpaid electricity bills and no heat or light, the Winnemem Wintu flew to New Zealand to see their Chinook salmon for the first time, and to conduct a ceremony along the banks of the South Island’s Rakaia River with their Maori hosts, the Ngai Tahu and Waitaha Mamoe peoples.
Did the salmon’s heart beat stronger when they heard familiar drumbeats, and songs that called them by their real name, Nur? Did they leap when they heard Hesin nur wilee “Whenever the salmon go upstream, let me see them.” When the dancers fasted and danced four days and three nights, and when one dancer raised his hands to the mountain, and then to his heart praying that their salmon would come home, did the Nur dream of home? Hesin yetcha wilee “Whenever they dream, let me see.” When the woman dancer, red sash hanging down, stepped lightly, the sash swaying rhythmically like the female salmon in her red stage, did it give the Nur strength. wai-o wai wi-lee. “They move swiftly and flexible.”
The Winnemem returned home to California with new alliances, good news and a new direction for their monumental work. The nation of New Zealand, the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and the Maori, Waitaha Mamoe people committed themselves to work alongside of them to bring their salmon back, something which supports the US government to fulfill their salmon initiative and should be welcomed by government salmon restoration project heads were it not for the federal recognition policy. The Maori can’t fathom “unrecognized tribal status.” Their leader laughed, “Are they blind that they can’t see who you are?”
The first piece to be undertaken is to complete the ceremony. The ceremony that began on the banks of the Rakaia must be finished at Mt. Shasta Ceremony, 2011, where the glacial springs feed into the McCloud River with Maori and Winnemem present.
Sustained by this ceremony the arduous task, not unlike the salmon’s journey back to its spawning grounds, the Winnemem must convince a government who does not see them nor hear them to accept a miracle. Blinded by the Federal Recognition policy that was designed to exterminate tribes, the federal government cannot see the miracle of disease free, DNA matched fish restored into the very rivers they want to re-introduce the salmon. The US government is deafened by its own Federal Recognition Policy from supporting the Winnemem plan of stream restoration bypassing the dam and a natural fish hatchery run by the tribe which would cost much less and work much more successfully than other plans. The Federal Recognition Policy prevents them from even feeling the good will of another nation’s governmental agencies. As the New Zealand Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said, “They (the Winnemem) helped us when we needed it. It’s only fitting we return the favor.”
The Winnemem, the Maori people and New Zealand cannot do this alone. They need more people who feel the prayer laid down by old War Dancers in the 19th century, promising their fish that they can always come home, the grief filled prayer of the veteran who believed his fish had been eradicated, and the prayers of his children, and grandchildren, and their children, who went to New Zealand to pray and sing so hard for their fish that unusually high salmon runs astounded the scientists in many regions of the world. All of nature is preparing for the Nur to come back to their Home waters in about three years. They need many more Good People of the World willing to listen to the call to action made by these salmon runs, willing to donate their talents and skills, contributing materially, willing to re-tell the story and to join their voices with the Winnemem and Maori voices to bring the salmon home. Hesin Winnemem wi-lee “Whenever they come to the McCloud, let me see” Sawal Mai-u-ma’s Baa-les-bom! "Sacred is the Teacher. That is the way it will be forever.”
“Dancing Salmon Home” 15 minute video www.dancingsalmonhome.com
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.