December 21, 2014
Sitting at a table in the southwest corner of the Cougar Den I watch youth arrive. The Cougar Den is as close as it gets to a restaurant in White Swan—a gas station with a grill and a few tables. Across the street from the middle and high school, youth get off the morning bus, walk through the school and across the street to grab a mable bar, sit down, and hang out until first bell.
The last week of school before the Christmas break is like no other. Unlike the week before summer break, everyone knows their back in a few weeks, but unlike a three day weekend, there is plenty of time get in trouble, both small t and big T, both innocuous and obstinate. Many of us recall school days leading up to Christmas break. The energy, the excitement, and the making of big plans—that mostly never came to fruition.
Tuesday morning with a cup of coffee and opened book, I listened as girls laughed a couple tables in front of me and boys prattled and cussed (bouncing between whispering and almost bellowing) a table to my right. The level of noise had me wondering how this week before Christmas break is shaping my teacher friends.
It was 7:20 am when five high school girls walked into the Cougar Den. Excited and talking up a storm they moved toward a table kitty-corner to myself. Two of the five had on jeans, with holes. I don’t know when holey jeans became popular, but it’s been some time. Now holey jeans are natural. Continue reading
November 30, 2014
Driving down the Columbia Gorge, Belinda and I searched for a radio to pass time. We came upon an interview with an American Indian woman. She was in the middle of making a point that Native Americans know their heritage better than non-Indians, and this has a lot to do with traditional story telling practices. In making her point, she said that while Native Americans could go back generations, Americans can seldom tell a story beyond that of their grandparents.
I turned to Belinda and commented she had missed on this one. Not on the idea that many Americans can no longer tell a story beyond their grandparents—I think that is true enough, but in saying “Americans,” she included folk she did not intend. As she went on, it was clear her comment was focused on white folk of European heritage. However, in saying “Americans” she includes all folk of the America’s: American Indians, First Nation peoples of Canada, Indigenous of Mexico and Central America and South America, Greenlandic Inuit, and Alaska Natives. Belinda pushed back saying well you know what she meant. Yes, true enough, however, we need to claim inclusive language that honors both heritage and the reality of the landscape. With neither of us backing down, we had just enough to drive a conversation for the rest of the journey.
This last Sunday of Native American Heritage month I am thinking to honor heritage, place of birth and/or place of adoption must be distinguish and honored as well. Continue reading
November 16, 2014
All great music is country music. From Handles Water Music to Guy Clark’s Homeless, music that matters is music of landscape.
The landscape sings. Not metaphorical nor exacting music, rather the song of landscape rises from the mystical space of experiential and Déjà vu, from space known and unknown. Landscape singing tells stories, ancient and current, of creation; and great music, well, great music comes from those who listen well. This is why great music is genre-less. The best of the Blues or Native Folk, or Rap or Powwow or Western or Jazz or Native flute and whistle or Classical, comes from those who have tuned into the landscape, listened, and interpreted that song so the rest of us can hear—the nature of Creation, I think, is to hold on to her valuables until a caring ear or eye or hand comes along, gently leans in, and asks if they might interpret his voice so others might awaken.
Hearing the fullness of the landscape is to become whole. To sing well, in key or not, is to know the voice of place. The song of landscape is unique, but then, every landscape is uniquely its own. No other voice, no other sound can come out of her than that which is his own. Jazz, the Blues, ancient stick and drum, and Western sing of place. Classical does the same, but in human’s eagerness to classify, the songs of many landscapes have been bundled together and place of origin too often lost. Continue reading
October 26, 2014
One does not have to be in the church, any Christian church, for long before hearing a low wailing bemoaning the loss of young folks. I do not know if the same holds true for folk in Judaism, Islam, or other religions, but the loss of young adults have freaked-out Christians for a number of decades. The freaked-out truth is seen in the countless books and blogs on strategies to bring youth and young adults back to church.
My ten cents worth (and ten cents ain’t worth much today) is we Christians don’t deserve to have young adults in our congregations. If that comment is raising a rash and face muscles are tensing up, let us talk for a moment or two, before the fits kick in.
Hiring a young pastor, a youth pastor, creating a youth group, supporting youth events, funding youth worktrips, and giving youth the fireside room are all actions congregations have taken to keep or attract youth to church. There is nothing wrong with implementing any of those. However, each can be problematic if folk believe those actions alone will lead to young adults returning to their congregation. After all, congregations have been implementing those ideas for decades and young adults still are not in their churches. Continue reading
September 6, 2014
The Yakama Nation is in the process of reclaiming jurisdiction in five areas of civil and criminal justice. Since 1953 Washington State has held authority over school attendances, public assistance, domestic relations, juvenile delinquency, and motor vehicle operations by way of a federal law known as Public Law 280. In 2012 the Nation filed a petition with the State, which led to then-Governor Gregoire to sign a bill approving a procedure for the Nation to reclaim jurisdiction in those five areas. January of this year saw Governor Inslee issue a proclamation return jurisdiction to the Nation.
When Belinda and I first started looking for land to buy on the reservation in 1999, a number of folk questioned our sanity (That is, after we answered the slew of questions that came along wondering how we could buy land on the reservation in the first place.). They questioned our buying because one day the Yakama Nation might regain total jurisdiction and that might lower land prices. The background question seldom asked was, could you really trust the Tribe to support your best interest?. The second question is a hard one to answer and one to grabble another day. The first one though is much easier.
When Governor Inslee wrote his proclamation, he said jurisdiction could return to the Yakama except for when it involves non-Indians operating motor vehicles on the reservation. The State would retain jurisdiction in these civil cases and well as in criminal cases involving “non-Indian defendants, non-Indian plaintiffs, and non-Indian victims.”
What Inslee withholds in his proclamation is foundational to why non-Indians have little worry (if they are going to worry) about the Yakama regaining total jurisdiction of the land “within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Reservation (See Proclamation).” Continue reading
September 1, 2014
Home was a small piece of sage canyon land butting against open land. As kids, my sister, brother and I and our friends never gave it much thought biking a mile or so to a friend’s house. On any Saturday we could spend a day riding canyon roads on banana seat bikes never intended for off road. Many of us boys learned to ride a horse but few were serious horsemen. Though we all rode a bit more during our teenage years when we grasped that most of the girls rode horses. We walked canyons and climbed Live Oaks to watch hawk and owl nestlings—we also learned to duck when mamma came at you talons first. We built box traps and trapped raccoons, possums, and an assortment of animals—we also learned the heartache of watching a wild animal die because it could not live in space other than the wide-open. As teenagers we arrived at school during hunting season with guns in the pickup and at last bell were walking steep canyon hillsides. In this landscape of canyons and open sky I became a young man and a redneck liberal
I have not thought about being a redneck for a while, but since I commented in AM Radio Justice about dumbass rednecks, I’ve given it some thought.
I was not saying rednecks are natural dumbasses. No one has a lock on that. From where I stand the are clearly as many dumbass liberals, conservatives, and moderates as there are dumbass rednecks. In other words, one is not a dumbass by virtue of being a redneck. Just the same, we all know many folk do not think very highly of rednecks.
Redneck notoriety begins outside. In the U.S., like many world societies, those people whose work life places them out of doors—normally doing physical labor (farmers, ranchers, construction workers, fishers)—and whose skin the sun has darken, are often understood as something less than. For white folk, the darkened skin is most notable on the neck, thus the redneck. Continue reading
January 7, 2014
Blue Eagle asked me to consider “What’s in a Name.” It wasn’t so much a specific invitation as it was a question to anyone following the Facebook page Landscape Mending: Restoring Harmony, Terminating the Doctrine of Discovery. The crux of Blue Eagle’s question is, what language or terms do we or should we use when talking about folk whose ancient heritage is of the American landscape: Native American? American Indian? First People? Indigenous? NDN? He jump starts the conversation by giving a link to Christina Berry’s article, What’s in a Name? Indians and Political Correctness.
Obviously, I enter the question as a non-American Indian white guy. And doesn’t that sentence get at what Blue Eagle is questioning? Is non-American Indian a term I should use? Well, let me wonder with you about this for a bit.
I make mistakes. My friends will be the first to tell you that! One I made when I came to the Yakama reservation was to use the term Native American with a friend. She quickly let me know, to my benefit, that she was not Native American but Indian. Turned out many in my community are Indian. Yet, I have found that not the case throughout the Americas. Which leads me to understand the issue of naming is much more complicated than folk would like to think.
Dominate culture prefers simple language where it concerns American Indians. Since, like it or not, most all of us are informed by dominate culture, we too have become comfortable with the simplification of language. Simple means we don’t argue the edges, we don’t challenge the norm, and most of all, we don’t have to think. Simple means we no longer converse with one another Continue reading