Friday, October 19, 2012

State Religion

Science is a religion.  It's world view derives from dividing the whole, isolating each elemental pieces. "Taking apart" or dividing into categories and boxes.  Science is also human centered.  Knowledge is valued according its usefulness to the human being and human endeavor.  The driving endeavor is "can you sell it?"  then "can you make a profit, year after year after year."

Cancer? Bombard the body with something which will kill  the invading cells. There will be collateral damage, but that is the cost of war. If enough "good cells" live and can grow, then survival is possible.

Salmon? Invent costly equipment which can isolate that gene which allow scientists the ability to predict when a salmon will spawn.  Prediction is control and regulation.   Nature is wise.  Salmon, even those who enter into the rivers at the same time, will come upriver at different times, some stopping in the pools.   It has something to do with relationship with the water, things that grow in water, around water, conditions of the ocean and water, conditions of other living things which the salmon relies upon, or feeds.  I suppose this society would call it "unpredictable."  But that is just how Nature is.  Everything but regulated and predictable and controlled by the human being.

Teaching science? Sixth graders will learn about water and wind and sky. Seventh graders will learn about creatures and plants. Eighth graders will learn about earthquakes and other phenomena. Release these trained people into the world in 12 years of schooling and they won't be able to see the whole and only see the parts, or have faith that the parts identify, explain, and is all there is to Life, especially the part called Human which stands apart, always in all situations.

Diminishing natural resources?  Go to war to dominate what's left.

This is not human nature.   There are countries around the world and human beings within this Empire we live in who live another value system which have roots into the past -- sustainable world views,  ways of life.   The value system of capitalism gone amok is a recent aberration.  If the human being does not follow common sense, tradition, legacy from an unbroken past, and buy this non culture of waste and hoarding and profit based thinking, they will become mutant beings with no foresight, whose heart cares for nothing more than the paper they've printed for money, who glut on the future of their children leaving them only ruin and waste and suffering.  Individualism without responsibility -- separated from the generations, and from the clan, and no past no future, no future generations. This government believes that amassing weapons of mass destruction of the earth determines who is the "fit" who will survive. 

Does it really? 

Will this empire survive?  These mutant beings born from colonialism and capitalism, can they feed themselves without the back breaking labor of other human beings? Can these beings keep warm without sacrificing the great rivers, the pure air, without digging up the innards of Mother Earth? Can they make a fire without a match.

Dark thoughts in a dark time in the Monster.  Make sure you stand where you can see its belly.


One thing my mother told me when she saw the road I was going on as a Winnemem Tribal Member was to share that Grandpa had Ainu blood, if not heritage.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe she just thought that might explain why I went the Winnemem way.  But that could be because our family don't  fit into the individualistic American way, our grandparents from a village in the mountains of the Gifu River.  Maybe that could be answered by the fact I was desperately homesick for our clan-like family, less contemporary like the immigrants from port cities like Hiroshima, Yokohama.  We were definitely old fashioned. 

It is true that Grandpa's facial features are not necessarily Japanese.  His nose is high bridged. His eyes doesn't have that fold.   Uncle George took after him and shares some of those less Japanese features.   Grandpa's values were nature centered.  I had assumed that he was more  Shinto and Grandma more Zenshu.  Couldn't his reverence for nature come from that source.  He lived in the mountains. However, didn't he talk about ancient rocks filled with kami with his little granddaughters.  Now that I'm 67, I know those things to be deliberate.   People did not really talk about being Ainu back then for the same reason people hid their indigenous roots in this country -- so their children would be safer in a racist society.

But I was warmed with mom's support explaining I might be a "throwback." She also shared that back in the day Grandma taught the girls with the onset of puberty that they would stay apart during those times in the old country but now that they were in America, they were going to do as Americans do.  She said Japanese were like the native people here in that way.   She explained she hadn't thought about it until she noticed that's how we were raising the girls -- a time for rest, and to be waited on.  I don't know.  I don't know if it were memory or kindness.

I appreciate my mother for her acceptance; that is the main message she gave me.

In a recent casual conversation with friends about hair -- that there was no one Asian Hair --  the listing off of Chinese, Filipina, Korean, Chinese, I turned to my  blunt speaking Japanese friend, and asked, "Do you think I have Japanese hair, Mike?"  I was teasing him because I'm sure he saw many things which were not Japanese about me.  He laughed a bit nervously, and said, "noooooooooooooo?"

 I laughed and said, "I embrace my salmon loving Ainu hair. "  I don't really know if I have Ainu in my background, but I do know that Mike and several others suspect there's something going on because of my being tribal.   I do know when my nephew showed me the Ainu women's hair tossing dance  I felt a little bit like when I first saw the man who fathered me when I was in my late 50's after not seeing him since I was two -- recognizing myself in his features, and the way he walked.  A strange feeling because there really wasn't any tie which remained for either of us which was familial, if ever it existed in the first place.

 Enjoy the You Tube piece.   I hope to witness this dance someday, as I hope to witness the salmon of the river systems of Hokkaido, and to meet the Bear People of the northern mountain islands of Japan.  The Ainu once were all over Japan, certainly in Honshu where my family is from, but through oppression they now live only in Hokkaido.   In an article I googled by Simon Cottorill he writes:   Most indigenous groups have experienced distressing cruelty, and narrative accounts of their struggles tend to be elegiac in tone. Japan's Ainu people have undergone suppression of their culture and livelihood, and subsequent denial of their existence. However, the Ainu's recent history is marked by considerable achievements, such as international recognition and the Japanese government's 2008 declaration recognizing their indigenous status. In spite of and often in reaction to continuing obstacles, the Ainu have successfully used the international forum to advance towards their domestic goals. Simultaneously, they have often reshaped their culture to successfully engage with contemporary demands.

I had seen a film and learned they are everywhere in Japan, though not noticed.  They resist extinction and there is an Identity Movement all over Japan to bring back some of their cultural ways and I had heard they are finally allowed to help the wild salmon stock but I cannot find anything that talks about it.   The Japanese government who had invested everything into hatchery fish.  Japan operates the most extensive hatchery operation in the world, according to an Evaluation of the Effects of Conservation and Fishery Enhancement Hatcheries on Wild Salmon Populations.  Studies show that supporting hatcheries only does not solve the problem.

Meanwhile, look what happens to the wild salmon from testimonies submitted to the 2011 UN DRIP by the Ainu:

The city government of Monbetsu, a municipality in Hokkaido Prefecture (traditional Ainu territory), authorized a plan to build an Industrial Waste Dumping Site near the Monbetsu river on February 26, 2010. The Monbetsu River is one of the most important places for the co-existence between the Ainu culture and the natural environment, and an important site for autumnal salmon spawning in the Monbetsu area. A traditional ceremony (Kamui Cep Nomi) to thank the deities for providing the Ainu with lots of salmons was revived in 2002, and the ceremony is conducted every autumn by the local Ainu community.

Prior to the authorization, the local Ainu community in Monbetsu, working in collaboration with local Japanese groups supporting environmental conservation, demanded that the city government respect the UNDRIP including land, cultural and environmental rights and the principle of "Free, Prior and Informed Consent" (FPIC) and review the plan from the indigenous peoples’ perspective. However, the city government, unfortunately, has not given any consideration to the Ainu rights and has now authorized this project. As a result, the construction work has been already started, and the local Ainu people have sent application to the Prefectural Pollution Examination Commission (PPEC) to look into the matter.

In 2010, 56 indigenous organizations and 25 supporting NGO and NPOs joined together to gather signatures to a petition calling on Hokkaido prefecture to halt construction plans.

That's the spirit!

If Grandpa were mixed heritage Ainu, even from way back, and if he yearned to claim it, I would be honored to be a throw back granddaughter.  But if not, my nature loving Ojichan, I carry you with me into the Winnemem World because there, I do not have to leave my precious elders and upbringing at the door like one does in the larger society. 

Much to my surprise, while channel surfing after writing this, Anthony Bordain is traveling in Hokkaido.  And strangely enough, considering what I've been writing, he is visiting the Ainu cultural center and museum.  Later he visits the home of his host.  He sits down to a stew of Ainu traditional vegetables which I know includes wild onion.  This soup had C(h)ep, or salmon.  This is their most important food and called "fish of the spirits."  They are prevented from fishing.  I don't understand where or how they get the fish the fish drying outside their homes strung under the eaves of their roofs.  Perhaps it's meant they can't fish out of season anymore.  The man talked about how first they wash the gutted fish in salt water, then dry it outside -- two months, then smoke it and dry for another 2 months.  That's not not the only way the cook salmon but that is how they preserve the salmon.  Bordain liked it.  They talked openly about the oppression.  From the 1860's -- what a time that was all around the world -- land was taken, and forced assimilation.  That's period Japan had sent their experts to the US to learn how to be an empire.   And that's when they took that wrong road which pretty much affected their culture too.   Their policy toward the Ainu seem just as oppressive as the Americans.  Bordain is registering shock.  He doesn't know his own country's policies toward indigenous peoples.    

The Other Issue

      I mentioned that during my long absence from blogging that I had resolved a couple of issues while busy at work for the Winnemem Wintu cause.

     Rather than an issue, I would call the second phenomena a steep and rigorous learning curve.

     The Chief is unique as a member in her generation.  Her generation suffered from all the bad government policies directed at the tribe as well as the trauma of her parents' generation.  Her parents generation suffered the loss of tribe by the drowning of their homeland, the lies of the BOR and Congress in promises made of "like land."  A huge loss.  The Chief's generation lost even more.  In the 1980's all their rights as federally recognized tribes disappeared over night -- the health care, the educational support, but more important their rights.  As she succeeded Grams as Chief of the Winnemem, she found that all agreements made with the Winnemem became null and void without any discussion because the tribe had become federally unrecognized.  There are repercussions to loss.  Alcoholism.  Early death.  Christianity.  But, in spite the trauma, the Chief stayed true to the Winnemem Way.  No self destructive detours.    The Chief is a survivor of genocide -- chemical warfare of alcohol and drugs, the cultural genocide brought in by bad government policies and Christianity.  The Chief followed her ancestors.  She brought the tribe back to live in one Village, all the young children raised by all of them.  She brought back the coming of age ceremonies for both the boys and the girls so that they could grow to be good Winnemem.  She brought back the War Dance in 2001 at Shasta Lake Dam, the "weapon of mass destruction" used against the Winnemem Way of Life.
     With War Dance, the Winnemem stopped the funding to raise the Shasta Lake Dam higher, something which would have drowned all the rest of their sacred places on the river, at least 40 and perhaps as much as 80.  With the War Dance, the news of which went around the world, she was contacted by New Zealand that the Winnemem salmon still flourished in their South Island Rivers, salmon which we all had believed were gone forever with the building of the dam.  With the return to the Winnemem village, with homeschooling instead of public school, with the return of the men and women's coming of age ceremonies,  in just a generation,  there is 100 percent sobriety.  In just one generation the  younger generation is stronger than the older generation.
     The Chief made connections internationally, first through the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples becoming a member of their permanent forum.  She connected with New Zealand Human Rights Commission and the Maori people and took her tribe to South Island to do ceremony for their salmon.  She began to create a Salmon Restoration Proposal for above the dam which would bring the salmon back home from New Zealand with the partnership of the Maori, the New Zealand Fish and Game.  The Chief was able to work with the state legislature and Councilman Jerod Huffman to pass a Joint Resolution (AJR 39) with which CA recognizes the Winnemem Tribe and urges the US Congress to return Federal Recognition to them.
     What I leave off here that many of these accomplishments were shared by another person, a life partner.  He had some challenges.  Bringing people together was not his forte.  He had some gifts.  Bright.  Hardworking.  And talked boldly about commitment to the Winnemem values -- water, sacred lands, ceremony, -- and coined the "long journey to justice."  After 25 years, raising a daughter, bringing his precious elders, mother and father, to live with the Winnemem, and when they passed on, buried them in the Winnemem cemetary, brought his cousin with Down Syndrome to be taken care of there, he chose a trite and sad way to desert the tribe and it affected us all.  He slipped out, left behind all his responsibilities, and turned a disdainful, selfish, hateful face toward the Chief, the opposite of his past loyalty and affection.   So, the Chief was left to herself to find the way for the sake of her tribe, and her adult children.  And she had to do this on her own.  She did.  She traveled to every sacred place and following the spirits, and taking the full blow of the pain by herself, she undid this most personal treachery suffered by the Winnemem and step by step, piece by piece, brought back balance and brought her children and his cousin out of harms way.  Her heart was literally broken.  She began to heal physically also.
      The past year, are when the lessons began to become apparent.  That is what this blog is about.  The hard won lessons led by a Great Chief.  I believe that Caleen Sisk will go into Winnemem history as one of the Great Chiefs, a great communicator all over the world, a great leader of human rights, water, sacred lands, a great teacher, and a great spiritual leader who brings her people back to their way of life.  Now that we are in the part of our history when all the backroom deals have come out in the open, the treacheries have faces, the enemies have made themselves known and nothing is hidden, we must be strong and unified.  We are now facing the Forest Service Law Enforcement.  We have survived a possible  paid plant's disruption of our tribe.  We have met with the BOR and Westlands and they have shown us their destructive plans.  Those who don't believe in the Winnemem way have shown it through word and action.  Those who do believe have lined up with the Chief, Hoopa, Maori, AIM, environmental activists.

       Being born Winnemem is different from not being born Winnemem.   When a tribe must break new ground, in a bigger arena, and the rules change, that tribe must be unified.  There is only one way to be unified in the Winnemem Tribe and that is to follow the Chief.  We are not a tribal council tribe.  We are not the US government.  We're Winnemem with a strong successional government.  Our leader does not go it alone, a charismatic, ego-centered individualist.  As the Chief says, our leaders have 100 Winnemem leaders behind them.  And our leaders follow the ancient ways.
     I have found that it is very natural for the Chief's people who were born Winnemem to adapt which helps to show a unified front.  In times of change, I have found that for others, not born Winnemem, may fall on their own past upbringing, experience, college degree, personal quirks.  Sometimes, it feels like a tribal council election, people pushing their own agenda, looking for support.  Eventually, the realization that most follow the Chief stops maneuvering, alien to the tribe,  and that plays itself out until it kind of just peters away.
     I'm not born Winnemem.  But I've avoided this maneuvering because I really really know that I am not born Winnemem as does Will, and we know that the smartest thing to do is to follow the survivor of the Winnemem holocaust, and that would be our Chief.  To follow a law degree, or one's former  experience, or a parliamentary or Greek democracy model just doesn't get us to the goal as a unified tribe.
     The young ones are stepping up.  As believers, as Winnemem born Winnemem, as celebrants of their own coming of age, they are unfazed, and ready for this time.

     Allies have stepped up.  The allies find us.  Our work is inspirational to them.  They are drawn to the work.  Those who saw the Winnemem as celebrities have backed away.  Too much work.  Never stops.  The work is probably one of the reasons the Nowhere Man left.  All the assumptions voiced in the past that other tribes won't support the Winnemem, that activists may not respect the tribal ways have been proven to be just that -- assumptions.  And finally on the corner in front of the Federal Courthouse on Bechelli, holding up our signs "Ceremony is not a Crime" and the AIM contingent, Wounded Knee and the AIM Banner with us, students from several California universities traveling to be with us, the ACLU, and hearing the friendly honks of solidarity from many trucks, suv's and cars of Redding, the assumption that there is not support in Redding can be dismissed.  Gary said that we were stupid to have a rally in Redding because we will be shot by rifles and killed -- not true.  Could have been true, without a doubt, but not true.

Adversity will make us stronger.  We prayed to survive 2010-2011, but I did not realize how good things could be at this moment in 2012, even with bad news and new challenges.  The tribe has come together, stronger and more unified than before.  We've lost some people along the way, but we have learned their absence, just as their presence in the past, has had a good effect as people jostle and adjust to the empty spaces, as things change because it is another mix.  Sometimes I think to myself that that person would have loved these times, but then I think, perhaps these times would not have happened if things had not changed -- not to be meant personally -- it's just how things are with fluctuations.  It's a humbling insight that we are all expendable, and it's ok.  Things go on and it feels good, just as good, as the past.  The Chief is radiant.  Her body has changed with diet, with weekly exercise, she receives many compliments.  She is stunning at Sixty.  I remember the way she was treated, teased for being heavy, made to feel unattractive.  That woman is gone.  One, she is beautiful and vibrant.  Two, she would not put up with that treatment from anyone anymore.  She has perspective on herself.  She is also finding that like Grams, she CAN lead on her own. Today, I can't even bring back how it felt, things have changed so dramatically.  We are filled with things to do, grateful for the second wind we seemed to have caught, and the strong ties with the sacred lands, the Maori, new allies, our ancestors, the younger generation, invigorated with the direction we are going even with possibilities of more citations and arrests, because we have been tested and learned that there is confidence in following the ancestral way.

NEVER let the Chief face jail alone ever again!
     As I said we were all tested, and we all learned.  We definitely did not know the terrain -- none of us knew, from activist lawyer right on down the chain.  Without really getting into it, we made mistakes during this transition of Forest Service being benign or friendly to the Forest Service becoming bullies and oppressors, the biggest mistake being to allow our Chief to be criminalized by herself.  I say if this were a game of chess, it is over for us. I wrote a lot of lessons here, but deleted them.  The main thing is, we should follow the Chief.  Why?  She is following the ancestors.  She is the connection to the future and past.  She is the receiver of War Dance messages.  She is a survivor of the Winnemem Holocaust.  She is an exceptional leader,  a leader for the times, and a leader the world listens to.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Regional Forester Randy Moore

To Regional Forester Moore:

Now that the shameful citations case against Chief Caleen Sisk has ended with the DA finding it without merit and throwing it out, the next step is to ask you what you hoped to accomplish by presenting yourself to the world as an administrator who says one thing to the press and another thing to your law enforcement, says one thing to the Chief in a meeting then another thing when you are being called by our lawyer to use your leadership to avert injustice.  We asked you to  be honest and show integrity and stand by the agreements for a safe ceremony rather than let your law enforcement loose to "do their own thing" to our ceremony and participants.  It is documented on video what the head law enforcement officer wanted to do.  No longer was he and his men there to insure a safe closure for ceremony as you promised.  As he said himself, "Well, I figure, if THEY can't use a motor boat, YOU shouldn't be able to either."  That is called micro-aggression.  That is called white privilege.  That is called racism.  AND that attitude was what you backed up rather than the  agreement that you and the Chief hammered out, that she was assured the USFS would assist the tribe complete a peaceful and dignified ceremony.  

As for the second citation, our Chief is not ignorant about the ways of paper.  The paper which bears her signature, and for which she was being cited on the second citation is not the draft she signed.  It was a "cut and paste" version with a forged signature.   One has to wonder, "were we being set up."   Was Marisa's ceremony intended to be a mess, attacked by US Forest Service from the very beginning. 

I am ashamed of the USFS and my friends who are Forest Service employees felt ashamed of the USFS representing Region 5 and Shasta Trinity in California. 

I still smart at your cavalier comment when our lawyer informed you that your law enforcement were making an issue about our single motor boat we use to ferry elders arose, threatening to tow it.  We had the assurance  that our boat would not be a problem  by the administrator you asked to sit in for you and gave the authority to work things out with us while you were on your trip.  Leaving the phrase about the boat off the agreement is a mistake which lies with you.   If the buck stopped with me, or any young person I helped raise, our immediate response  when the lawyer called about "Law Enforcement gone rogue" would be an apology and immediate and clear reminder to the officers that t YOU were in charge of the operation and the agreement made with the Chief stands.  But what did you say?  "Well, if it's not written in the document . . " as if the document and its mistake was in charge.  You said, " Why don't you use golf carts for the women?"    I am one of those "old ladies" you sarcastically dismissed by saying we could ride golf carts up and down the steep rocky cliff to get to Marissa's camp to witness her making her first medicines and cooking her first acorn soup.  You know as well as I that golf carts would maximize threat to our life producing more injuries than stumbling and rolling down.  Sarcasm and disrespect to elders was your response.  Simply put, you didn't care.  Your decision to stand with your officers, untrained in cultural respect, and armed, endangered and criminalized all the elderly women, the Chief and the ceremony.   IF the Chief had not followed her ancestors and traditions, there would  have been a ruined ceremony, Marisa's special time sabotaged.    Chief Sisk  did not own the boat, run the boat, nor did she get in the boat.  At sixty years old, she is a strong woman in all ways.  It is we that needed the boat, yet she was cited.  The Chief was put at risk and criminalized by you, Regional Forester Moore.  You asked her at a meeting, "why would you say that Caleen?" when she voiced her concerns about permits criminalizing her ceremony.  Now we know the answer to your rhetorical question:  by manipulation of permits, by leaders who desert the goal to go along with poorly trained, narrow minded law enforcement officers because they don't care.  That's how.  

You were represented by rude, armed men in uniforms who rumbled  in on the Fourth of July and treated the Chief and supporters with disrespect as is well documented by video and seen around the world, at the UN, in other countries, as well as all around the country.  You are represented by uniformed armed men who sat with binoculars watching our precious celebrant and her youthful supporters across the river from us.  That sickened us.  It seemed so perverted.  They should know better.   You are represented by uniformed armed men who bothered us every day.  We were ready to go across to help Marissa ready the acorns, and could not do it because they were threatening to confiscate a boat.  We were ready to take Marisa to find her medicines and cooking rocks when we were delayed by intimidation and harassment again.   Marisa's celebration and feat happened at midnight because of your law enforcement.   Then your culturally incompetent, bullying officers came on the day after ceremony with their dogs, guns and citations and arrogantly snorted that they LET us have a respectful ceremony by not arresting the Chief the day before -- ignorant that all four days were ceremony and the celebration was only part of it.   Ceremony is not like Christmas morning.  Ceremony is all that goes into it.  Each day something was happening with Marissa, although delayed.

You met Marisa.  You wished her well.  You said in the papers you wished her to have a successful, safe and peaceful ceremony.  Marisa learned what government's good wishes for her means through your actions.   We told you that she was  to be the next Chief.  When you gave law enforcement officers the "go ahead"  to use Marisa's ceremony for their  "war games maneuvers," your message to Marissa stands as  a message to the next generation.  Is that your intention?   Our young future Chief has a strong heart, and we have not regrets that we entered in working with you and the USFS in spite of the treachery.    It is better for her to have seen the truth.  It is sad that the truth is to have exposed the ugly side --  the bigotry, and double tongued talking.  Is that the reputation you want with tribal people, someone who does not keep promises and who can't control his law enforcement who do whatever they want to Native people?

When my friends and new acquaintances in the Forest Service feel ashamed and apologize,   I tell them, "the tribe is not sweeping this with a broad brush; it is not you. "   There is a  problem with the USFS and it showed up in the Department of Agriculture's own report on USFS relations with tribal peoples.  The findings show that despite the fact that there are rules and agreements made between the tribes and the United States government regarding sacred sites and freedom of religion, unfortunately, it depends on the woman or man who sits in the seat of authority in each forest and for each region whether or not those inalienable Constitutional  rights which they vow to protect will be done.  In Region 5 with you in charge, in the forest where Christi Cotini is in charge, there is a big problem which I understand in DC higher officials want fixed -- or so they say.

As a woman with more grey in my hair than you, I will say, that my grandmother taught me that the human being can become a good person.  And as it has been said by every elder in my life, and I have found that to be true -- it is only by our  actions that we clarify our ideals and intentions.  I pray that you will become that good leader, that good person, Mr. Moore.   The fact is, no matter how many good Forest Service people express how sorry they are for the treatment we received, there is only one person who could bring back  pride for the Forest Service and move forward into a better day with the tribe -- and that is you.   I believe you do have the leadership ability to say those strong words which build character.  I believe you can signal a step forward from the injustice, intimidation and ignorance which we were bombarded by during ceremony,   the disrespect of the citations our Chief has had to endure for the past several months. 

Perhaps you are worried how an apology would play in the press?    Doesn't have to be public.  Not at all.  Person to person with the Chief.  Native people do not crow and boast about something as serious as a sincere apology.  It is sacred.  Apology is a signal that someone is understanding right from wrong, and has good will.    You appear not to know the culturally appropriate importance to contact and talk with the Chief directly rather than through two ore more other go-betwees.  I say that because you have never contacted Chief Sisk.  Sometimes the papers get the information of your message first.    She is a leader and more accurately, she is a tribal leader who is respected all around the world and all over this country.   Perceptions are everything is a wise saying I've heard.   By observing your past actions  it is easy to arrive at a perception  of a man who may have a problem with women leaders, or perhaps with tribal people.

 I believe what my grandmother said, and what life has taught  me.    If perceptions of you formed by treatment of the Chief, treatment of the ceremony is not reflective of how you see yourself and your leadership,  I pray you have all the courage you need to show through clear actions what your true ideals are,  your attitudes toward women leaders and tribes,  and how you carry on your own leadership from this day forward.

Sincerely, Misa Joo, Winnemem Wintu

Beginning Again: Tadaima! Okairi! Wnnemem Way

It's been a few months over two years since I've blogged regularly. No writer's block. I've been writing grants, or postcards to the BIA, Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, painting signs, emailing, putting together tri-folds, putting together informational sheets and handouts. Yes. I have been working hard for Winnemem Wage, our Chief's playful way of saying, "for nothing." Will is at the office, working for the same wage, and for the same Boss (the Boss who made the salmon and the rivers and Mountain of northern California and South Island New Zealand). He is almost finished with his film "Dancing Salmon Home" after almost four years. It will premiere at San Francisco American Indian Film Festival at the Bridge Theater, November 6, at noon. That may seem like a dead spot in a film festival but we will fill the house.

 During my absence I have resolved a couple of issues which also helps me write freely. One, I will write about later. The other is that residue of awkwardness being an Asian who is tribal in the United States. The United States is a very racialized and divided country. People are divided into categories like insects pinned neatly in old cigar boxes for our science projects back in the Fifties -- Coleoptera in one box and Lepidoptera in another. The divisions between peoples did not stop with categorizing subcultures. Each person of culture, like me for example, have lives split neatly in two, never the twain shall mix. We live a rather schizoid life from the time we were children, going through the school door and being "'Merican" and going through another, calling out "Tadaiima!" to Grandma and feeling hugged by her familiar response "O-kairi!" from inside the kitchen with delicious scents of shoyu vegetables and bits of meat for tonight's sukiyaki supper wafting out, carried by the subtle-sweet scent of gohan, rice-- a memory which always emphasizes the alone-ness within the silence whenever I come home to a place far from another time, far from a childhood Home.

And then there is the awkwardness of being an Asian who is tribal in the Eugene Asian community. I mention Eugene, because in many ways, being Asian here feels so different from being Asian in Seattle, in Portland, in Idaho. For a moment in time -- 1960's through the 1980's to be exact -- Eugene was very much like those cities I mentioned, comprised of descendants and elders of laborers coming to work the fields, the canneries, the railroads. They left their mark on their descendants and raised us to have a particular style, value system, point of view and plan of action, living in this country. But all of these friends moved on finding it difficult to find their niche here, someone to share a life with, a job which inspired them, some respite from institutional racism, a community center, place, a heart within the city, soul. Nothing wrong with Eugene and being in the Asian Community now. "But you don't know what you got 'til it's gone." I miss that generation of bachelor Filipino, Japanese farmworkers, Korean ancestors five generations ago, Chinese ancestors seven generations ago kind-of-roots, roots which got tangled up back in the Sixties, and grew us, the people of my generation together not apart. Everything, together and strong. Back then at the UO, we all hung out at the Longhouse, an old army barrack reminiscent of what our ancestors lived in, in the WWII concentration camps, out on Indian land for the most part. There was a sort of beautiful symmetry to find our safe house in such a residential shape, filled with the indigenous spirit, right smack in the middle of an unfriendly campus with doors and books and dorms shut to us. The old Longhouse welcomed us Eugene sojourners and Never-fit-in people, black, brown, yellow, white embraced by the Community that always lived here in Amerika from the beginning. They are the "that's just the way it always has been and that's the way we keep on doing it" people. We got the full treatment, the "Open the door, cook the stew. These poor kids need someplace to go" kind of welcome to the university and to Eugene. Back in those days, there would be no need to explain to another Asian about being Asian and tribal.

 I am not complaining about the explaining. It is always an opportunity for me. As an Asian person here in Eugene, yet rooted in another decade with another community vibe, values and soul, to be asked by so many Nikkei, "what are you?" "are you pure Japanese?" "Are you half Native American?" it gives me a chance to expand the limits, you might say. I answer, "I'm Japanese . . . and tribal, following the Winnemem Way of life for the past 25 years." If pushed for explanation, "Just as Grandma and Grandpa's generation chose to leave Nihon to make a better life for their kids in America during chaotic times in their home country, I left America to make a better life for my kids in Winnemem." That's usually the end of story. People must sense there is a long story behind it.

In our case, Grandpa didn't leave Japan for a better life. He liked his life fine in Seki-shi, a small village in the Gifu Prefecture in the mountain region where the Gifu River flowed. He, the seventh son, was sent by family so that Uncle Goro, his older brother, restless adventurer, with big dreams stuck in a small village, would have family in the US. However, Goro did not come across the ocean to be stuck with family members so Grandpa left, but not before he successfully cultivated a hybrid of a red carnation, big head and long life.

He left Goro to join the railroad construction crew for the short line between Montana and Wyoming. The boss said everyone had to be able to carry the railroad ties. Grandpa had good upper body strength and could whack down a railroad spike in one blow, but being only 5' tall while the men of the all Black crew he worked with were taller, Grandpa would not "make the grade." Out of the boss' hearing, one of the men said, "Frank! We need you. Hop on up!" And Grandpa grabbed the tie and hoisted himself up and moved his legs. That's what the boss saw, Frank, holding the tie on his shoulder and walking in step with the other men. Upper body strength is right! It was called the short line for good reason. When that job was finished, rather than following the railroad builders to the next job, Grandpa put together a crew of Nikkei together and they moved to the farms of Idaho, Twin Falls area, to work the fields. Grandpa, eventually was asked by Grandpa Marshall, Potato King of Idaho, to work for him, promising him a little house. With more security, it was then time for Grandpa to return to Japan to his small village to go through "omiai" and marry. All women who came to the United States from Japan were not picture-brides. The picture brides phenomena is an aberration of the tradition of "omiai" where families are involved, a professional is involved, and the couple have a say. The picture bride phenomena came from the recruitment of cheap labor, the low pay that workers received, and their uncertain and hard life in the US.

This was in 1918. Grandma said that the voyage was very difficult on the USS Yokohama for a young woman who had never traveled far from the village. Grandma grew up close to the Gifu River where cormorants were used to fish at night and the boats carried torches to trick the fish into coming up toward the light. The fishermen put rings on the long necks of the fisher-birds and stole their catch from their long beaks. She traveled far from her students in sewing school, from her mother and her brothers. Grandma did not pack the purple kimono which she told us about and which I always imagined her wearing as she watched the cormorants and fisherman on her river. Being inaka -- "small town" -- Grandma had never seen a banana and did not know how to eat them. She learned. She never ever ate so many bananas again after the trip on the USS Yokohama! I think we all inherited her distaste for the smell of bananas since. Being inaka, our dialect, and our values are very "old fashioned" when compared with the majority who came from port cities of Hiroshima, and Yokohama. We are mountain people. Isolated. In fact, Grandma and Grandpa were the only ones who left Seki-Shi to immigrate (besides Uncle Goro, of course, and later, my Aunt Tsuta who went through omiai with Uncle Bill in the Fifties and came to America and the Idaho fields too.) Grandma said that she was sitting in the little waiting shed with the dirt floor for awhile before she realized this was not a waiting shed, but this was to be her new home. She and Grandpa installed a blanket to divide it in half -- the Muratsuchi on one side and the Kawais on the other. Grandpa had brought the bride of his friend Muratsuchi at the same time he brought Grandma home to the Idaho field, their new SHARED home.

 We grew up in Grandma and Grandpa's home -- Mother, my sister and I -- for our whole life from the age of 2 for me, and just months for my sister. That is all I knew. Japanese is my first language. My sensibilities and values are very much Kawai. When I was five, in the early '50's, land opened up on western side of southern Idaho due to water from the Snake being diverted to water the desert. At the same time the Alien Land Law had been challenged in Oregon brought by the Namba family of Hood River. That meant the American born Nisei could buy land, and many did, Nikkei who were in Hunt Camp, the concentration camp in Minidoka, Idaho. These families never returned to their homes in Oregon and Washington, the hate and hostility of their former neighbors. We bought land in the unincorporated area of Marsing, Idaho, across the state from Twin Falls. My childhood memories are warmed by being surrounded always by family. I bathed in an ofuro put together by Grandpa -- men first, then when the water was a bit cooler, Grandma, Momma, my sister and me. One washes first before stepping in to soak. Hygienic enough and a pleasant memory. Our toilet was an outhouse, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Our life was simple and good. I remember Marsing the most. We spent a lot of time with Grandpa who was an elder by then. We followed him everywhere. He taught us all that we saw -- the plants, the insects, the blooms, the good alkaline soil (I only found out by googling it that alkaline is considered to be challenging soil but I learned from my Grandpa's perspective -- "good soil,"), the animals, the birds, the tree, a single Cottonwood on the landscape which grew by the drain ditch where an old mean badger lived in a den dug into the bank. Those are my roots.

Stuck in Eugene by myself in 1969, during a time of great chaos in the nation, I eventually found my lonely homesick self at the UO Longhouse. At every crisis there was an "off-the-grid safe space" where I found myself: Divorce? I found myself with a cup of steaming coffee in my hand, sitting by Wilma watching her bead with colorful beads so pretty you wanted to taste them. With unemployment and risk of losing my house, I found myself, with another hot cup sitting by Wilma watching her bead, and at the Longhouse finding future roommates who would keep me with a roof over my head -- Bob Flor, Filipino, Roger Amerman, Choctaw. When Will and I adopted our daughter from Korea in 1986 our little five year old was "acting out-pissed" about being moved from her familiar orphanage. We found Holt Adoption completely unprepared. All they could do was to stop any further relationship with the orphanage for themselves. Child psychologists who left me in the waiting room and took the child off by herself were not up to the challenge. These psychologists always come back flummoxed with the tale she wove for them. We turned, not surprisingly to a friend and Snoqualmie doctor, driving up I-5 to see Kenny Moses who was going to be at the Child Welfare Act conference in Portland. When his workshop was over, where he talked to tribal people about going back with their children to their traditional ways of healing, the participants on their way out saw an Anglo man, an Asian woman and little little girl, and our friend Don Moccasin, Lakota, standing waiting for help. And that led eventually for deeper healing to Granny, renowned Winnemem spiritual leader and doctor which is story in itself.

 But here is a good place to introduce myself. I was born Nikkei, sansei generation, named for my grandmother, Misao. I go by Misa. Our name means "Life is beautiful." I am Winnemem and my Winnemem name is C'wisa which means "Chock full of song." For now, I will say that, for the first time, under Granny's wing, I was finally accepted and safe in this country called America. I would also dare say I am the first of my family to find a place in this land where we can bring our whole self in, no restrictions.

 There is a connection that I have with Grandma and Grandpa, powerful visualized memories of their homeland which are clearly useless in the American way. Grandma's story of a river full of fish with a little girl in traditional garb watching them even at night, singing, rowing, fishing; Grandpa's story of the ancient rocks outside the village with Kami spirit residing in them, the spring which came out of the ground and became the Gifu River; and Fujiyama, their sacred mountain, Grandpa's story about living at the foot of a small mountain, their family's mountain, and how an uncle or great uncle sold it because of marrying the wrong woman who did not understand -- none of this is useful in the United States where mountains must be sold to have value, and stories of Kami and rivers fished in the old way are quaint, exotic and not scientifically grounded. But as I write this blog, I'm thinking, here is my road map to Winnemem. I always credited Grandpa as raising me in a way I would recognize the Winnemem way as a good way of life for me and my family. But until this moment, writing this blog, I realize for the first time that may grandparents stories of their Homeland provided a road map to Winnemem. Being a child, I listened with rapt attention to the childhood stories, condensed precious memories of my immigrant grandparents. I visualized the stories and these images planted a powerful seed in me, which always flowered in my darkest moments. I remember then now as I note how I turned my children over to the Mountain for direction and healing, as I picked the medicine and faithfully used them to rid my body of breast cancer, as I received healing from the women's healing place by the River from the childhood trauma which limited my life, from each crisis, from each healing, strengthening my faith. I was brought here by the power of ancestral memory told to me as child in my grandparent's language before public school with its unspoken regulations: Leave culture outside the door.

 Grandma and Grandpa told me the stories over and over again until my heart was filled and I could FEEL the meaning when I saw another River, another Mountain, another Home at the foot of another Mountain, other Ancient Areas filled with Kami; until my heart was full enough to FEEL the lessons today and embrace the work because all of these places with spirit are endangered by those who profit from their demise. The consequences of breaking that bond to the land and selling it came from a story told by my grandfather and I FEEL it now it all its present practicality. We have to stop it. These stories are useful for me as a Winnemem whereas in America these same embedded heart lessons in stories would be left at the door like trash for Thursday morning pick up.

You do see the complications, however, of answering a question of identity posed by people who are Anglo or people who are Asian, with very different roots than the Asian roots stretching and tangling in American fields, canneries and railroads, our common stories of facing the dangers of lynch mobs and the' bloody work of hired company thugs on our skulls to stop the unions, and imprisonment of body and soul in desert concentration camps. You can see how it might be for us descended from such people as these first immigrants, that we might hone in to those safe places. It is easy to see why "safe space" might be made more distinguishable and understood by distant and precious life lessons our ancestors planted in us. And why some of those safe spaces will be facing the enemies of justice together. Growing up in the Sixties through the Eighties, we fashioned Identity from these stories born of ancestral memory which rose up when we faced doors slammed shut on us for jobs, schools, housing, churches. Those memories of sight, sound and smells passed on by ancestral stories rose up when in trying to come Home, we could sense the safe places between battles, not always in houses, lifting our heads smelling it first, then the light, then the sounds -- the smell of coffee instead if hot tea, the stew instead of gohan and yasaimono, and the same and familiar sounds of welcome and inclusion, Giggles, teasing, laughter, baby squeals, murmur of sharing, a drum, ancient songs, slight breeze, the light of a Fire, nature coming in closer, the ripple of a river, the splash of fish, stars, the shadow of a Mountain -- Tadaiima!!

In this strange, busy land which our ancestors came to find a better place for their descendants, because my heart held the stories, I found that place they dreamed of, it too in the midst of chaos like the one they left behind. I found a place worth fighting for. A Circle and in another language or even English with warmth around the edges, a most definite Okairi!
"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.