Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Ponca Warrior Story

A Ponca Warrior Story....

What I tell you now was told to me by my relatives many years ago. There was a time when the warrior was the center of our tribal ways. It was said in the old days that in order to be a leader for the people, you had to be able to count to one hundred. I don't mean one, two, three. I mean the warrior would have to bring one hundred willow sticks, each one would represent a good deed or charitable gesture for the people. Can you imagine a society of leaders whose numbers were at one time in the hundreds, each one of them doing one hundred good things for the people? That is the way the Ponca lived before the time of Columbus, they were good to each other.

It is a tradition that has lived on, our values and cultural ways have withstood the test of time and has endured many hardships along the way. We need to always look to the future, we need to give those same values to our children by our own examples in life, showing them our traditional ways by living in them. How right and creditable is it then that this young Ponca boy in Delaware would want to emulate such traditions as this? We are indeed humbled and honored by his thought and gesture. When this food project is all said and done this young boy can count this project as one to his journey of one hundred good deeds. I myself only wish that it is the start of a way of life for him on his way to becoming a Hethuska member.

To me to be a Ponca Warrior is to try to have a way of life that puts the needs of the people first with humilty and compassion, having God, the Creator involved in all that you do. It is not just twice a year at a dance, it is a way of life and for many that is the way it is. Those are very important concepts and perspectives to our Native American way of life, spirituality, generousity and compassion. In every aspect of Ponca traditions, the Creator is involved in it and acknowledged. Today the Ponca Hethuska pray and dance every year and give away food and gifts to the people, keeping the traditions alive.

Traditional ways still alive

This summer has been a good one for me. I was honored to be able to witness the Dakota Wiping of the Tears Ceremony for a family in mourning, we had four sweats three at night and the last at sunrise. As I drove up to the lodge at 4:30 am. I found to my surprise and delight 6 young men watching the fire. These boys were in their late teens and early twenties laughing quitely about somebody or something, talking about sports and girlfriends the way young men do. But when the elders came out and it was time to go in, the mood of the young men changed they were serious and respectful. Two of the older boys started singing, I think they were brothers. They sang with perfect harmony their words were clear and heartfelt. Their father spoke to them in Dakota and they responded appropriately, even the youngest one who maybe was about thirteen knew what to do and did his part with dignity. We started the day in prayer in the afternoon we feasted and fed the poeple.The family gave a way many gifts, then we ended the ceremony with a celebration dance. I dressed in my ndn regalia and participated in the celebration supporting as best I could. I was so impressed and honored by this ceremony I cried. Later I told the young men that participated in the sweat that morning, one was grassdancing and the others were singing around the big drum, that I was proud of them. I told them that seeing them told me that our culture will live on through them. I told them that my heart was glad that our traditions will live on in the next generation. Earlier this summer I attended a sweatlodge ceremony were only the dakota language and songs were song the entire time. Even thou I am Omaha, my heart soared with compassion and prayers for the people, I cried with joy. I lefted there feeling drained and yet humbled and happy. I was happy and grateful because something sacred had been kepted alive. I was humbled because I was able to be apart of it.

We are living in a time when being ndn is hard and the people are suffering in many ways. Tears, broken hearts and disappointments have been the legacy for many years now. So many things are complicating our lives, clouding the way for us as ndns to live. Alcohol & drugs have had devistating effects on our people. The long term effect of poverty, lack of education, poor economic development and inadequate health care has limited our growth. More importantly we have lost a part of the spiritual connection to the Creator that our ancestors had. We live in a time when even our own tribal members express jealousy resentment and talk disrespectfully about each other. Many tribal councils govern our people like the white man governs his and we suffer from this. At times the leaders take care only of themselves and their own, leaving many out of the loop. Our young people suffer the most, our elders are leaving us in great numbers everyday and with them goes many of our ways, beliefs, customs and songs. Nonetheless their is hope, always their is hope.

This summer I attended several annual Pow-Wows, my own in WhiteEagle Okla the home of the Ponca. I was grateful to see so many songs that were sung for individual families, clans & societies, honoring veterans past and present. In Flandrue South Dakota I witnessed veterans being honored with song and prayers. Always there are prayers. Our traditions live on resilient, they endure and overcome every obsticle. Living in the white mans world and keeping an ndn heart and ndn eyes can be difficult but not impossible. Every Pow-Wow I attended there was prayer, for that I was grateful.

This year among the Omaha in Macy Nebr. the Strong Heart Society gathered for its annual sundance, all went well. The spiritual leaders said that it was the best dance that they have ever had in the past nineteen years. A couple of Ponca's showed up and brought their pipes and asked if they could dance and they were welcomed. Twenty dancers prayed and danced the Omaha Sundance from sun-up to sundown the people danced, prayed and shed blood and tears for the people. Many prayers and humbling gestures were made by fasting, offering of flesh, dragging of buffalo skulls, or hanging from the tree everyday the people cried and prayed. So many prayers for the people, for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, those that were less fortunate, the elders and ndns suffering in the inner cities, prayers for the people in harms way, prayers for the leaders of the world. Prayers for the people, for all of the people, all over the world, prayers of peace, good health and spirtual well being. We all need prayers, we all need to beleive that something greater put us all here on this earth.

I am glad to report that the Indian People of North America are still here and will be here in the future, praying for the people of the world, for the four legged, for the winged sky animals and the animals that swim in the waters, for all living things. In the end of time I know their will be an ndn with one pipe offering our prayers for the people. Our ancestors knew that the Creator was a living God and that same God lived within each of us. For them every breath was a prayer, we need to as ndn people embrace that concept again and give our lives up to Gods will.

Monday, September 20, 2004

White Eagle Boxing Club circa 2001

Boxing Program for At-Risk Youth

Alcohol & Drug Prevention Program for At Risk Youth using Sanctioned Competitive Amateur Boxing

This program is designed to assist the Native American Indian youth in making good, positive choices in life. The objective would be to develop the whole individual, making the person a winner in life not just in the ring, this aspect makes it more than just another boxing program. Using physical fitness and proper conditioning for competitive amateur boxing as the primary focus.

However influencing the growth of the young person in a positive way would be the overall goal, by addressing the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional values of each individual. The requirements on the youth are, that they must agree to be alcohol & drug free, willing to have an intimate relationship with the Creator on a daily basis and want to get into the best physical shape through exercise, plus they must be willing to stay in school and stay out of trouble.

It can be viewed as a Community Based Self Improvement Project and can be funded through several sources. Alcohol & Drug Intervention is one of the primary sources but Law Enforcement, Health & Wellness, Cultural Preservation as well as an Educational enhancement programs are other options. The need for positive intervention for disadvantaged at-risk youth is greater than ever and can be easily justified.


Boxing Club Rules & Brief Implementation Plan

Be willing to talk to the Creator everyday through prayer... Young people face problems and situations everyday that are sometimes complex and hard to understand. Spiritual awareness is essential and having the Creator in their lives everyday will be encouraged. For some youth it is not the inability to grasp a concept of a higher power, it is the lack of role models around them that do sincerely pray. We want them to come to firmly believe that only the Creator can effectively solve those problems they encounter on a day to day basis. Religious tolerance can come through understanding; we want to expose them to concepts and ideals concerning the different types of religions.

Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs or smoke cigarettes…
Prevention through education and intervention would be the cornerstone of this program. Classroom training, speakers, movies/films anything we can use to provide information about this very serious issue could be used. We need to take every opportunity we can to make them aware of the true dangers, when they make the choice to abuse alcohol or use drugs. Moreover all trainers, coaches and staff should be alcohol & drug free, setting the example for the youth to follow.
Attend School Daily; try your best in class… The need for education is vital and will be stressed at every chance. If we can help identify problem areas in academics then we can also connect them with tutors and/or mentoring. The program can be a source to help solve problems the young people face. If we can help in career development we should. Having a third party release formed signed by the parents so the staff can be made aware of any deficiencies the participant might have in school could be helpful.

Come to the Gym Daily, get into the best shape you can through exercise… We want to expose them to as many different types of physical fitness that is possible, getting them into the best shape we can. Good health, top conditioning are prerequisites to a positive attitude about themselves and are absolutely essential in becoming a winning competitive amateur boxer. Simply put, in order to be a champion in the ring you have to be in top shape. Strict serious guidelines must be enforced for personal safety and liability, when using any boxing equipment and/or when training, Absolutely No Horseplay would be tolerated.

Do Not Fight or get into trouble… Proper social behavior is going to be a must. Conflict resolution, self control and proper self discipline are all things the participants must be encouraged to strive for. We need to teach respect, respect for others and their opinions, but more importantly respect for themselves. We would want to build champions not bullies. We could take on different community projects from time to time, i.e. clean an elders yard, cut wood for elders, serve food at events, do something positive and helpful in our community. Helping with projects gives the participant a sense of self worth and self esteem allowing them to feel good about themselves.

Be willing to express yourself… The objective of this concept is to get them to open up and express their feelings or identify their concerns about problems they are facing today. The program can document, track and develop this information into a resource for other committees in the community to use. If we develop this right, we could create a web site and share with the Internet community who are dealing with similar issues. This could easily be one of the biggest assets of this program, dealing with problems that the Native American youth feel are important to them.

Friday, September 17, 2004

French Interview, gives hope for Indians

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with and talking to four very special people, three were from France the other from South Korea. For the past five years they have been traveling the world, taking photos, observing cultures recording and publishing several books along the way. Now they are on a new quest, this time in North America retracing by canoe no less the trek of Lewis & Clark up the Missouri river. They hope to have this experience published in France when completed. They are video taping this journey as well, meeting with the native people along the way. I was fortunate and honored to be one of their documented, they questioned me about my ancestry, my cultural beliefs, customs and values. They wanted to know how I felt about the impact that Lewis & Clark made and what did my ancestors think of it as well. I did the best I could to respond and I introduced them to an Omaha Tribal Council member to be interviewed.

I told them several stories that were told to me, then I gave them this example of what I felt about what Lewis & Clark meant to me and what I felt as to how my ancestors might have felt about this meeting. I said: " It would be like if I came to your house one early morning knocked on the door politely introduced myself and promptly told you that I just came by to look at my new house and to let you know where to now send your rent payments. Your response might be but we didn't sell our house and have no plans on doing so. I would say Oh but I didn't buy it from you I bought it from your neighbor on the other end of the block for a very good price I might add." that's how I would of looked at it and that's probably how my ancestors looked at it as well. Im sure they wondered, how can someone else that I don't know sell the land under my feet that my ancestors fought and died for, hunted gathered and lived on for hundred of years without my knowledge? Now I am invited to participate in a flag raising ceremony that proclaims ownership of the land and tells me that I now have a new grandfather to take care of me and my family. That I am to follow without questions, my new grandfathers wishes and wants in regards to the land and all the things that are on it. I told them that my ancestors gathered several times to ponder about this situation they now found themselves in. Prayer and ceremonies revealed to them the future in it was dark hard times and the elders shed tear for the people that were coming. They said it will be hard to be Indian one day and many of our ways will be lost and we as a people will suffer greatly.

Now today alcohol & drugs are smothering our communities, economic development and personal growth are almost non-existent on some reservations. Un-employment is higher than the national average on most reservations, all of the social ills like suicide we have the highest rate among teenagers, poor health care, not to mention political tribal infighting are prevalent as well. The dominant society limits its contact with us and governs us still today as incompetents. Nonetheless there is hope, we are a resilient people, our faith in the Creator prevails and allows us to endure these hardships. Our ancestors' were right about the future, but they left us a way to survive as well. Our traditional ways have kepted many good things for us as a people to hang onto. In fact their are people growing stronger in their faith because of these hardships. Satellite's and tepees for prayer meetings are going up all over Indian country, allowing for prayers and spiritual growth to continue. Our communities are still havens for our people, they go out to the white mans world but they come home in the end, so the people are still alive, the people are still praying.

If these four young explorers complete this task, I hope it will gain a new light for the native American Indian in regards to who we were but more importantly who we are today. Maybe we can even rekindle a new relationship with the country of France and the Omaha Indian in Nebraska. After all there are many who have French ancestory that are Native American Indian. If we look hard enough, I think we will find that we are more alike than we are different.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Virtual Classroom Field Trip with Lewis & Clark

The Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery setup a virtual classroom, made up of middle school students from the Omaha Nation in Macy, Nebraska and middle school students in Clayton, Missouri. The students in Macy gave presentations on the Omaha language and the social hand game played by the Omahas. The Omaha tribe realized the importance of maintaining the language and promoting the culture. One effort in maintaining and preserving the culture is by offering an Omaha language class as part of the school's curriculum. The success of this effort is evident in the Omaha Nation student's ability to speak their language.

Also participating in the demonstration were Dwight Howe, Doran Morris, and Pierre Merrick of the Omaha Nation. The history, traditions, culture, and contributions of the Omaha Nation was an important aspect of this endeavor. Their goal was to share information with the middle school students in Clayton, Missouri the geographical locations of the Omaha tribe, then and now; the lifestyle of the tribe at the time of the expedition 200 years ago; the political structure of the tribe then and now; actions of important Chiefs; agricultural practices of the tribe; the tribe's clan structure and social order; and the importance of the buffalo hunt to the tribe. The importance of keeping the language alive and functional was also discussed. The panel talked about the current government status and demographics of the Omaha Tribe in Macy, Nebraska.

I thought this was a very good way of reaching other students in another state. It helped to put a face on us as Indians and we were able to have direct dialogue via a satellite hook-up. Instead of just reading about the Omaha they got to see and hear from kids much like themselves and we as Omaha men were able to give our opinions and perspectives as to our history and cultural values. I am impressed with the Lewis & Clarks Corps of Discovery II project goals and objectives in regards to the Native American Indians' own history. They seem to really want to hear our side of the story as told by Indians about Indians. History has volumes of literature about the Native American Indian, unfortunately most of it has been written by non-Indians. All in all it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Click on the title to view the video.