Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wild Salmon Party/ DisOrient Film Festival /Salmon Dance Art Exhibit

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.

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"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)


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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.