Lost in the Forest

Would forest creatures, big and small,

Not exactly related to humans at all,

Freely impart wisdom to prevent man’s fall?

Have we creatures denied past,

Seeking only to make our lives last,

While defeating purpose our dies we cast?

Did once our time as gods be lost,

Immortality gone; our spirits did exhaust,

Future generations ever to know cost?

Time not gone, we can overcome,

For among the stars, still shines our sun,

Once we acknowledge harm may be undone.

Awaken your spirits, learn from our earth,

Wisdom and skills needed, our minds new worth,

Lest mistakes of the past prevent rebirth.

Take only what’s needed, share all that you gain,

Give to our Mother, that which is best to retain,

Respect Her wisdom, if you wish to remain.

Living Mitakuye Oyasin

A true story.   

At the turn of the 21st Century, I received my Social Security Disability which allowed me to stop living on the streets and get a place. I found a furnished room with bath and carport (I had no car), in the Casa Grande no-tell Motel on Rte 66 (Watson Rd.) in suburban St. Louis. It wasn’t the Days Inn, but it was out of the weather. The rules didn’t allow cooking in the rooms, so I got a small grill and put it in the carport, there to enjoy my grande cuisine; also got a microwave and small coffee pot.

The motel still exists; it’s on a business strip, heavily trafficked with a small creek and wooded area in the rear; probably more like a drainage ditch. I suspected there were raccoons and possum back there, so, rather than throw away foods I couldn’t eat, I would place it in a small dish I secured on a low tree limb. It worked; miraculously, every night, the food disappeared. Lol.

What I also began to notice was raccoon paw prints in my carport, so I got dry dog food and a couple of plastic bowls from the dollar store and put it out there and the miracle of miracles, every night the food disappeared All that remained was soggy crumbs in the water bowl.

Slowly, as the raccoons and I got accustomed to each other, I would leave my room door open while sitting just inside; there to watch the action. To say the least, it got interesting. I had eight regular visitors and a couple of party crashers. I tried getting them to wear name tags, but they refused to be labeled.

On the perimeter of my carport was a concrete curb. The side away from my door had bushes where the raccoons had blazed a trail to the food dishes. Almost as soon as the sun started going down, they would appear; most heading towards the food but one occasionally marching right into my door and checking things out. Then one night, she sat at the top of the curb trying to climb down, but her front paws weren’t working.

As I watched her struggle, she would look at me cautiously as if to say, “Will you harm me?” Using my walking stick, I put some food on the end and slowly pushed it her way. She was hungry but couldn’t feed herself. It was then that I noticed that both of her front arms were broken so I walked closer and put food within her reach.

In the morning, I called a friend who worked with wild animals and told her the story. That afternoon, she brought over a trap, and we set it up. The next morning, there was my little friend waiting patiently, as if to say, “About damn time you got up!”

We took her to the rescue center vet who operated, repairing both arms. The vet stated it appeared she had attempted to climb into a dumpster when the heavy open top flew over and smashed her arms before she could avoid it. I think the operation took about six hours. When done, the vet said he wasn’t sure it was going to work, but hoped so.  He kept her for a few days of observation then released her to my friend who would nurse her. She also paid the $ 6,000.00 vet bill.

Following about four weeks of recovery, she was fit enough to leave so we took her back home and released her. She stayed close then one night didn’t come. She was gone for maybe four weeks when she suddenly reappeared at my door with four little ones in tow. They walked up to me as if to say “Hi, gramps, we’re home.” No fear, no anger just as if they always belonged.

It was a reminder that Mitakuye Oyasin is real.

Voices long silent speak only truth.

Last night, in my dreams

A shadow did appear.

Pure ebony spirit

No reason did I fear.

His voice familiar,

His manner serene.

He spoke with love’s passion,

His peace I did glean.

“We stand with you.” said he.

“There shall come a renewal.”

“Forgotten lessons of our past.”

“Once taught in life’s school.”

“See not with your eyes,

those deceptions vast.

But know with your heart,

Love shall recast.

Hate not another,

For color of skin.

But remember always,

Mitakuye Oyasin

Things I Never Told Nana

I

My father and I never bonded, hell sometimes I wondered if he even knew who I was. From the time I was born until age 15 when he died, he only actually communicated to me twice. Oh yeah, once in a great while he told me to do things, but that’s talking, not communicating. My bad, I forgot, he taught me the difference in spelling lavatory and laboratory when I was about eight, but that was it for father/son bonding. I can remember as a young kid how I wanted to badly for my dad to notice me the way he seemed to notice my two older brothers, especially the older one, Ronnie. But he didn’t: as a matter of fact neither did Ronnie.

I first began to notice this when we moved from our house in Camden, a suburb of Minneapolis to an apartment over the “dairy store” my parents bought at 1119 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. In the front room, which was over the front part of the store, my parents had their bed set up in a closet area. Next was the living room with an inside staircase to the store, then my brothers’ room (I had two brothers) was next to the dining area where the space heater was. At the back wall of the dining area was a door into the kitchen, bathroom and my room sort of behind the refrigerator (a Kelvinator, in case you wanted to know). My room was the darkest as it only had one window which had a large tree overhanging it. I always wanted to climb that tree but never did because I was afraid of heights: the fact is heights still bother me but not as bad as when I was a kid.

The kitchen had a door leading out to a very scary old set of wooden stairs leading down to the dirt parking lot in back of the store. About halfway down, there was a small landing then where they made a left angle (if you were ascending) turn and ran adjacent to the “bottle shed” where we stored all the empty refundable bottles. Everything was refundable back then, well not exactly everything, I wasn’t, but then that was my fate. Almost from the time I could walk, it was my job to sort the empty bottles by make, size and what they were used for. I learned to hate Grain Belt and Hamm’s beer bottles cause their labels were always sticky.

Constructed of corrugated tin panels over the wood frame on a dirt floor, the “bottle shed” had no heat in winter and no air conditioning in summer. Winter wasn’t so bad, but summer was a killer with the heat, humidity, and bugs. Come to think of it, we had those same three problems in the apartment, the bugs especially in my room because it was almost right over the shed. I can remember having a lot of those sticky fly traps things hanging over my window and the doorway. The spiders never had to weave webs in our home, the fly traps provided their meals.

My room was the coldest one in our apartment, but I got used to it. Guess that’s why I can’t sleep well when it gets too warm in my bedroom now. Thank God for central air conditioning, back then we cooled at night by setting a block of ice in a large bucket then having a fan blow over it. If that didn’t work, we soaked our sheets, then got as much water out of them as possible before wrapping ourselves in them to lay down in front of the ice block. I’m surprised I never wet the bed, then or now.

I don’t recall my mother ever coming into my room at bedtime for anything other than to tell me to put the book down and go to sleep. My dad didn’t even come in to do that. Nope, I never heard: “Did you brush your teeth? Did you go to the bathroom? Did you say your prayers? I wasn’t subjected to any of those ridiculous practices. To this day, I don’t know if my brothers were either because they slept near mom and dad; I didn’t have to.

I was lonely at times, but I had my good friend Teddy with me. Yep, you guessed it, I had a real Teddy Bear. Nana gave him to me, and I named him Teddy; I was talented even as a child. Nana told me that Teddy was named after President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt so I should be proud; I was, and still am.

I told Teddy everything – all my hidden stuff and more. Even things I tried talking to Nana about, but they might hurt her to know. I don’t know why I felt that way other than the fact that I never, ever wanted to hurt her in any way. I guess I was afraid of losing her love yet knew Teddy would always love me: he was the brother I never had.

For awhile, I wanted to call Nana and tell her everything, but I didn’t dare. Back in the 1950s, we didn’t have cell phones, and long distances calls were expensive. There was no way I could hide calling on our phone, and I didn’t have money to use the pay phone on the corner. I think I once tried to call her on the police call phone next to the pay phone, but the operator told me to hang up. It was ok though, I probably could not have heard Nana with all the buses and streetcars making noise. I liked the streetcars but the buses always coughed black, smelly smoke when they started to more.

My older (by 3 years) brother David hated Teddy, but I think he hated me even more because he would do things to hurt me. He would think it funny to steal from me, lie about me and even harm Teddy. Once, he even cut Teddy’s neck so bad I had to suture it up. That’s when I learned how to sew, not real well but I did suture my Teddy until Nana could show me how to do it properly. She said I did a good job of basting it then gave me a curved needle and heavier thread to “heal your Teddy.”  I actually enjoyed hand sewing for many years and later in life when I began getting arthritis, I started to do satin stitch embroidery. I figured that is Rosie Greer could do needlepoint, so could I.

“Be sure you sew the cloth, not the fingers!” was Nana’s credo. Funny, even now, some sixty odd years since last we spoke, I can still hear Nana’s voice. She was a born teacher; one that never stood at the head of a class but she was always at the head of my class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of My Nana

As a child, I often sat with my grandmother beneath her grape arbor in Mankato, MN, there to talk and listen to her stories of nature. She was not a learned person in the sense of a formal education, but she was a sagacious woman in the ways of the world. Tragically for me, and the world I lost her when I was fifteen.

Before she died, she had to have one of her legs removed because diabetes had shut down the circulation and she was developing gangrene. I lived in Minneapolis, MN, at the time so I went to Mankato, (90 miles) and stayed at the hospital with her from the night before surgery, during surgery and most of the day after, when I had to leave. That was the last time I saw her or heard her voice. Her last words were, “we will share our love of nature under the arbor again one day.” I miss her wisdom.

Starting yesterday, and continuing throughout the night and into today, St. Louis, MO is experiencing severe storms. The thunder rages like the sounds millions of buffalo stomping over the plains in the days that were. Lightning, the arrows of Father Sky, piercing the darkness,   illuminating their way while torrents of rain assail their path. These were the visions my grandmother gave to me. She made me understand that nature is not science, nature is alive.

When I would ask her why storms came, she would tell me about how she had to do the spring cleaning of her house and that Mother Nature was no different.

“Mother Nature’s house is much bigger than ours.”, she would say. “She has more work to do, so she tells Father Sky he has to help her.”

“Make the Sky Buffalo run over the cloud prairies to warn all the creatures that we are going to clean. Wake them with the light of your arrows that they may prepare and seek shelter.”

But Nana, the wind blows so hard it shakes my brain to pieces!

“Child, pay attention, it is rare that the wind begins by blowing that hard but if it should then you best hide down in the root cellar cause a tornado may be coming. You don’t recall cause you were only two, but a big twister came through the town in 1946  killing eleven people and injuring a hundred or so more. They are very dangerous.”

Does Father Sky send tornadoes to hurt people?

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure what causes twisters but, like everything else in nature, they serve a purpose. Perhaps it’s a way for nature to make sure humans know who is really in charge. An old Lakota lady once told me that twisters were nature’s way of cleaning out the weak and cutting new paths for the strong. Heard tell on the radio that cold and warm air crashing together cause them. I just do not know.”

What happens to the animals when a tornado comes?

“Sadly, many animals are killed by twisters because they have nowhere to hide from them. Humans, at least the smart ones know enough to find shelter when they can.”

Nana, does the Sky Father always send twisters when he sends the winds?

“No darling, sometimes he just sends the big winds to clean out the old nests and dead branches from trees so there can be new ones.”

But Nana, if he does that, he might hit me on the head with a big branch or nest!

“That is possible, yes but most of the time the Sky Father will send warnings such as gusts of wind, thunder and many times the temperature will suddenly drop just before the storm to warn us. Course, nowadays, we have the weather guessers who might be able to predict a coming storm.”

So the Sky Father makes the wind blow and the rain fall to help the Earth Mother clean her trees and stuff?

“That’s right hon, he washes out old branches, nests, leaves and even dead animals then rinses the trees to wash away the dust.”

And the Earth Mother likes for him to do this?

“I believe she does for aren’t we all a part of her? Don’t the minerals contained in decaying branches, leaves, and animals return to the soil to help fertilize it?

But Nana, if it rains really, really, really hard all that water will fill up the creeks and rivers to flood stuff!

“Yes, that is true but what happens when there is flooding?”

I dunno know.

“Just like the trees, when Father Sky sends his rain down upon Mother Earth, the water washes away natural debris and vegetations into our streams and rivers. There, the debris-filled water will carry its burden to larger rivers such as the Mankato River which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. As the rivers fill with water and debris, they will overflow their banks and fill the land. When the water recedes, it leaves the sediment which is a natural fertilizer. I heard that this happens every year in the Nile river in Egypt and it may happen in your lifetime. “ (Nana, if you’re listening, it occurred in 1993 – worst flood in history.)

Nana, does the Earth Mother have a big dumpster or trash can to put stuff in?

“She certainly does, she has seven of them – the Seven Seas.”

But Nana, what happens to all that sediment stuff that goes into the seas?

“That which can be recycled by Mother Nature will be. That which cannot becomes deltas such as we saw down in New Orleans.”

I remember, but we saw stuff like soda bottles, and glass and stuff down in the delta place.

“Sadly, you are right. There are things that even Mother Nature cannot rapidly fix. It is a tragic mistake of human greed and indifference that produces the filth and poisons we see on our Mother Earth every day. Perhaps one day people will wake up before it’s too late and realize what they have done.”

Nana, I miss you and love you more now than ever before.

Did you ever?

Did ever rest by tranquil stream,

In Maple copse, neath amber bower,

There to ponder pleasant dream,

Midst opulence of Nature’s power?

Did ever smell a forest floor,

Its perfume forever rife,

Eternal turmoil to the fore,

Where death transforms to life.

Did ever walk on forest path,

Where shades obscured the sun,

An anxious sense of virgin wrath,

Did force your heart to run?

Did ever hear gnarled oak tree cry,

A chipmunk’s song,

Or Cougar’s sigh,

Linger still for you may erelong.

Did ever see a woodland sprite,

A goblin, nymph or gnome,

Take silent walk in late, late night,

Perhaps you’ll find one home.

Did ever sit by burning log

A chill to warm, alone you thought,

Yet voice did hear within your fog,

“Rest my child, your sins I bought.”

Native Peoples Club Article

 

NATIVE PEOPLES CLUB

MERAMEC CAMPUS, KIRKWOOD, MO.

Here in East Central Missouri and West Central Illinois, where once proud peoples built the Mound City at Cahokia, IL, hunted this land, farmed its fields, fished the rivers and lived their lives in harmony with nature we seem to have suffered a tragic loss.

    I am a full time student at Meramec Campus, St Louis Community College in Kirkwood, MO., a suburb of St. Louis, MO. When I registered for classes I became curious about the origins of the name, Meramec. I knew it was also the name of nearby river but no one actually knew what it meant or its origins. Having spent some time as an investigator before retiring, I decided to find out. It took me a matter of minutes, not hours, not days, not years but minutes to learn that Meramec is an Algonquian word meaning “Ugly Fish”. It seems the native peoples named it for the catfish which is an ugly fish to some, but great eating to most. Irrespective of its meaning, Meramec is a Native Peoples’ name which has lost its meaning in our present cultures as have the contributions of the people who created it. I find that to be very tragic.

    With that discovery in hand, I explored the Meramec campus for anything that might say, Native Peoples are here. The only thing I found was a painting in the entry hallway to the President’s office. If memory serves, it was a Cheyenne warrior on horseback overlooking a prairie – I’m still looking for that prairie here in foothills of the Ozark Mountains. I’ll get to finding the Cheyenne after I’ve found the prairie.

    My search for classes offering Native Peoples in this area was just as unproductive. The course catalog listed three offered by the Anthropology Department but when I went to registration they said, huh? Literally, the lady said “huh”? She had never heard of any classes relating to Native Peoples being currently offered. She did however give me the name of one of the Anthropology professors who taught them at one time. I got to talk to him briefly before he retired and discovered that he had been actively involved in several archaeological digs at ancient Native Peoples settlements and hunting camps in and around St Louis over the years. He told me the classes were not well received by students because they may not have related to present day people. He felt my idea of forming a student Native Peoples Club could be a positive impetus and perhaps even bring pre-Columbian history to life on the “Ugly Fish” campus.

    I immediately started talking up the idea of a Native Peoples Club on campus to anyone who would listen. Reception was at first cool but during the last semester it began to blossom and we hope to produce a large bouquet by the November, Native Americans Month, 2014.

    Now one might ask why we didn’t name the club the Native American Club. Here’s a good answer for you: “Why would any Native of South, Central or North “America” even consider identifying with a 15th century Florentine merchant because an ignorant arrogance of a German? Read on:

    “It is an irony of history that the name “America” did not come from Christopher Columbus. That distinction belongs to a German writer of geography.

In a further twist of events, America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a 15th century Florentine merchant who owned a business in Seville, Spain, furnishing supplies for ships, preparing them for mercantile expeditions.

How do we explain what seems to mock the reality of history?

Stirred by the achievements of Columbus and envious of the reputation his discoveries brought, Vespucci endeavored to cultivate Columbus’ friendship and trust.

Seven years after Columbus’ first voyage and while Columbus was still alive, Vespucci accompanied an expedition that consisted of four ships. They sailed past the eastern coast of South America, and visited Trinidad, which Columbus had named the preceding year. On his return to Europe Vespucci wrote letters with glowing descriptions of the newly discovered countries. He called the lands he had visited a “New World.”

Some years later Vespucci’s letters were published and read by Martin Waldseemuller, a noted geographer, and by Mathias Ringmann, a schoolmaster. Recently arrived from Germany to the province of Lorraine they were attracted to the town of Saint-Die because of a newly established print shop. Both men were engaged in working on a reproduction of Ptolemy’s treatise on geography, to which they were adding a preface.

After reading the account of Vespucci’s travels in “Quatre Navigations d’ Americ Vespuce,” they decided to incorporate Vespucci’s voyage into the treatise. Ringmann, acting as editor, wrote in his introduction:

“There is a fourth quarter of the world which Amerigo Vespucci has discovered and which for this reason we can call ‘America’ or the land of Americo.”

Apparently ignorant of the discoveries and achievements made by Columbus fifteen years earlier, Ringmann continued:

“We do not see why the name of the man of genius, Amerigo, who has discovered them, should not be given to these lands, as Europe and Asia have adopted the names of women.”

Their work was published on April 25, 1507 under the title “Cosmographiae Introductio.” It marked the first time the word AMERICA appeared in print.”

Ellis, Edward S., Library of American History, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1895. Steele, Joel Dorman and Steele, Esther Baker. A Brief History of the United States, 1871 Patton, Jacob Harris and Lord, John. The History and Government of the United States, 1876 Montgomery, D.H. An Elementary American History, 1904.

    For me, this entire article is a study in white European arrogance and ignorance – an insult to the Native Peoples who have been living in this hemisphere for thousands of years prior to the arrival of any Europeans. I will not add to that insult by referring to them as Native “Americans”. They took their names from the earth and sky, not from a German schoolmaster.

    We elected to identify the Native Peoples as THE NATIVE PEOPLES in the hope of encompassing all who were (and are) here and contributed so much to our world. It is our hope to honor them by sharing their knowledge, skills, philosophies and memories.

    We need help to do this. We need good advice, direction and, when possible affiliations.

    Some of the activities we are considering include:

        Lectures and classes on contemporary life for Native Peoples.

        Art and craft shows and sales to introduce contemporary Native artists.

        Sponsor story tellers both for registered students and the public.

        Sponsor guest speakers on various contemporary issues affecting Native Peoples

        My personal favorite Native Peoples lunches – fry bread tacos are aces!

    Bring to life the Native history an area that was a hub of civilization (Cahokia Mounds)

    once larger than London, England.

    The most important thing we want to do is bring Native Peoples’ presence back to the area.

    Their absence is a void desperately in need of filling for we are all related.

    We need your help and ideas to attain and maintain our goals.

 

    R. Nyk Lindsoe

    President, Pro-Tem

    Native Peoples Club

Meramec Campus

St. Louis Community College

NativePeoplesClub@gmail.com