Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wi & Hanwin

"The Sun and the Moon"


From the beginning of time, there has been a jealousy among Lakota people.  Because of the wife of Tate, the wind, the Sun (Wi) and the Moon (Hanwin) began to have separate times in light and darkness. 

It is hard to continue as a Nation, as a people, when people have no higher power, as did the Supreme Beings.  I implore, "Who is our higher power?  What will it take to solve these generation old problems?"

What is truly possible when people cannot be happy for anyone else?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Letter of Gratitude #1

Toward the end of this day, I am reminded of how precious life is.  I know this to be true.  As a Sicangu woman who lives and breathes among the others in my Tribe, among all ages, all day long; I see the struggle.  I hear the struggle; and I know the struggle.  There is no other struggle than that to survive.  And in my observation, since 2005, things have drastically changed around the world for all people, who became included in the survival struggle, who perhaps had not been included in the struggle before.

My life is real to me (a type of concrete realness like concrete is), and in the acknowledgement of the value of human life and co-existence, I have made a choice to create 7 letters of gratitude for 7 days to people in my life whom have made tremendous contributions.


Day 1, Letter 1

Dear Elza Jean,

My first letter of gratitude is to you, sweet child, on this eve that I am recanting my learning about the preciousness of human life.  Thank you for coming into my life; into my world; and blessing me with knowing you.  Your presence in my life has taught me that for my own life, God is in control.  He took from me what I had wanted most, and that was you.  I was angry with Him.  I was devastated.   Yet, from the beginning, I had said that all I wanted was for the day to come when I would look back at your birth and be happy.  That day came long ago.

I owe you my gratitude for touching my heart in a way that cannot be replicated, by anyone.  The brief moments that I could hold you were moments that I still treasure physically, in my own way, at the oddest of times.  Thank you for being in my life.

Forever,
Mom

Top Blogs

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Power vs. Leadership on the Reservation

Moving home to the Rosebud in July 2013 has brought so much of what I have learned about leadership to fruition.  My experiences have largely been working and living off-reservation for the past 16 years, with a couple of years mixed in on-reservation as well.

Some issues are the same, including the prevalent fear that many on the reservation have of returning Urban Indians like myself.  My assumption is that with outside education and experience, we bring about some type of "invisible threat" to the institutions and establishments on the reservation.  This breeds itself into rejection in many ways, shapes, and forms.  For example, I am very interested to find out soon if I will make it onto the Tribal Education Committee.  I applied two weeks ago.  Clearly, I am qualified to serve in a leadership role in my Tribe, with a bachelors and masters in education, teaching experience, and over twenty years of experience in the education field.  However, with all of the knowledge and experience behind me, I anticipate rejection and not being selected.

This brings to light the issue of power.  Power on the reservation is in the name of power.  It has no other precedent except status quo.  Status quo is maintained by whomever can remain the quietest and support the popular view, however much detriment it may bring to the people.  It runs quite the opposite of off-reservation life.  Off the reservation, a community is empowered by strong people who have a good background and much to offer in the field of education.  The community is strengthened by people with applicable experience; people who have walked the walk and talked the talk, and who have proven themselves to be good leaders outside of his/her own peer group or familiar group.

Power is for power's sake.  It is for the introduction of "I am the Director of ______."  Or, "I am the President of _________."  Micromanagement and asserting one's chest out full of the ability to chastise, berate, and criticize is often the mode of business.  It is a system full of power for the sake of being powerful.

All would be well, IF the children in our community had high school and college retention rates as high as those in successful communities.  It would be well if the balance of power were teaching students what they needed to know to be successful in a four year college education.  If the system of power for power's sake worked, we would be working, instead of hiding behind an unemployment rate of over 70-80 percent.  Our people would have money outside of the few days per month they are able to buy things that they needed for their families and homes.  Power for power's sake is power in a vacuum.

Leadership is lacking.  Leadership is what leads a people out of despair, out of poverty, and out of cultural disintegration.  Leadership is what people do who don't desire power, but who use the power they have for the good of a common goal, and work hard to equalize the world they live in for the constituents they represent.  It is not the idea of taking credit and leading with full charge of "don't question me" power.  It is as Nelson Mandela defines a leader... Someone who leads from behind and allows others to take credit for things they have done if necessary.  Leadership is taking the front line in the face of danger only, to shield people from the rampant abuse of power that lead to the problems that oppressed and impoverished a society of people for generations.

It is a somber moment to sit and reflect on the imbalance of power on the reservation.  It is a sad feeling to see the people who suffer, and those who go without.  It is hard to imagine a reservation beyond the statistics when power is power, and any challenge to the status quo is unpopular.

However, the last time that I checked, popularity might win an election, but it doesn't change failing systems, failing economies, or an oppressed and impoverished group of people.



Top Blogs

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ted's Sweat


The dirt beneath him felt cool; the air stifling hot. Ted was close to the rocks, and he held a towel over his face as the burning sensation intensified. He prayed hard, and at one point wanted to panic. For some reason, the thought of the Sedona Sweat Lodge tragedy came into his thinking, and he felt the ground with one hand; the other hand firmly clasped the towel to his nose and mouth. He had balled up some sage, and placed it in the towel, so he breathed in its scent and tried to keep from over thinking his physical state through the prayers he ran in isolation through his mind. The singing was going on still, and he almost felt like putting his head down on the ground near the back of the sweatlodge, lifting the flap, and taking a deep breath of cool air. He did not.


“You will be okay. Nothing can hurt you here,” spiritual guidance told him.

Ted prayed harder, deep in the recesses of his own mind the many issues and reasons that had brought him to sweat on this day flowed forward as he heard the sound of water hit the hot rocks. He rocked back and forth, captivated, and repeated good words in his mind. Time was irrelevant, unimportant. He relaxed and didn’t feel like suffocating anymore.

Feeling a cool breeze, he stopped rocking and took the towel off his head. Opening his eyes, he saw that the flap had opened, and that he had been sitting there in prayer even after the singing had stopped, the round was over, and the cool air had been available to breathe. He didn’t know how long he was sitting in his trance, but figured it was only momentary.

Ted expected people to laugh at him, but nobody did. They were looking at him with a silent amusement, but in a good way. He laughed at himself and the other men smiled at him. He had no time to feel self-conscious, because soon the flap closed again. Round four of the sweat began.

The demons of his contemporary life burned off of his skin during the next round, and he knew this; for as he left the sweatlodge, his skin was hit with a cool breeze, and though he was still gleaming with sweat, he shivered suddenly. The tears and hardships were evaporating. He was cleansed. He prayed that his sins would be lesser before he returned to the earth again.

Monday, July 15, 2013

In Memory of My Angel

My Lakota Angel Girl

Thoughts of the rippling pain,
that brought you into this world,
does no justice --
cannot compare --
to living without
my Lakota angel girl.

Sole survivor am I,
to the memory of holding you,
through the tears --
I let you go --
into the ground
sad, sad moments few.

Once I dreamt of you,
and I held your tiny hand,
o'er a bridge --
into the light --
I sensed your need
to have your mother again.

Our relatives keep an angel,
we stranded on earth just couldn't do,
ne'er goodbye --
only silent cries --
held inside my chest
where I fore'er hold you.


In memory of Elza Jean, my daughter, born/reborn on July 16, 2005

Top Blogs


Monday, April 22, 2013

Out of a Border Town

Original Story by
Lynne M. Colombe

The store on the corner had only one gas pump and one option, regular unleaded.  If you had a hybrid, you would be better off going inside and buying vegetable oil from the market area.  Owned by an elderly Lakota man, and his sole, homosexual son, the store accepted a wide variety of payments, including EBT, but only one brand of anything.  The store stocked every reservation essential:  toilet paper, Pine Sol, dish soap, trash bags, Ramen Noodles, hot dogs, sliced bread, bologna, chips, packets of yeast, diapers, fresh fruit, and other sundries consumed in the life of the average Indian.

The gay son was named Homer, after the town in Nebraska where his mother was from.  She was enrolled over with the Winnebago, and went back to her own relatives a year after he was born.  He spent summers there, at times in Sioux City, depending on where his mother was living.  Mainly, he grew up around the Rosebud, at the border town, helping his father.  He didn't like his name, and went by his nickname, "Nando."  Nothing was said about his being gay around his father; the old man knew, but didn't speak of it.  Nando didn't live an open life, and maintained a reserved lifestyle, as would have been done in a traditional way.

Nando was tired of selling eggs and Doritos to grandmothers and their twenty-one grandchildren.  He wanted to escape from the one gas pump town, and the graveyard with more people in it than those living.  He had no companion.  He knew the man was old and would not live forever, yet he wouldn't allow himself to think that his only ticket off the reservation might be through the granite stone truth of one day, the old man dying.  Nando thought of this often.  He came, always, to the same answer; that there was really no solution, because he would never wish the old man dead.

There were places on the reservation where he could go and be himself.  He watched his reputation.  People liked to talk about anyone different than themselves.  Long ago, there was a social order, and a place where he fit in.  In contemporary days, there was only contradiction.

Often times, he went to visit the cemetery, north of the family store.  The plot was a century old, not the same as in town, and bore only the bones of his ancestors.  He sat near his grandmother's grave, swept it, and replanted, trimmed, and maintained tulips every spring.  A heart grew still in the cemetery, the headstones always cold.  Only his grandmother knew how much Nando wanted out.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Maria O-Soza"

Maria O-Soza

Short Story
By Lynne M. Colombe
March 2013


For living on the Reservation, she had a crazy name. Her mother didn't stick around long enough to explain why she had a Spanish name like Maria Catalina Francesca Ortega-Soza. She was the only kid who played basketball on a South Dakota reservation, whose first last name was just a big, "O," followed by a dash, and then, "Soza." She would have rather squeezed Whirling Wind Thunder into "WW-Thunder," than, "O-Soza" when playing the Pine Ridge Thorpes.

Nonetheless, she grew up well with her mother's-aunt's-cousin, who had lost her own daughter near the time Maria needed a home at the age of two. That was twenty years ago, and now she was grown up, and changed her name to Maria Catherine Medicine, in honor of her foster mother who died three years prior. Maria had posted her name change in the local newspapers, but only her cousin had showed up at the court. Nobody protested; she belonged to nobody.

She was bright enough, with handsome, even pretty looks.  She was average in all ways physically, not superior in any sport or social club in school. She did possess a confidence, an aura of calm that other people picked up on. People wanted to be around her, but she did not always want to be around them.


Maria worked with buffalo. She fed them, took samples of their feces, and did lab work as needed on the herd. She helped to organize the woman's aspect of the kill each year, after the old men decided on the right day to do the killing of a designed number of buffalo. The kill meat would be processed into mostly cubed bison for distribution among the Tribal people in times of celebration or mourning. She saw many families, some joyous, some devastated, coming in and out of her log cabin office nearly each day, carrying their annual 40 pound allotment out the door in cardboard boxes housing white packaged meat.

Her foster mother had taught her about the kill, having never had a child to pass the language or knowledge onto. Within a year after the loss of her only child at 45 years old to crib death, Maria's mother left her for the weekend at Catherine Medicine's house, and never returned. Catherine filed paperwork at the tribal court when Maria was six years old and had to attend school. The court had determined at that time to leave the girl's name until she turned eighteen years old. Her identity and her spirit would be mismatched for nineteen years.


Speaking Lakota was something she liked to do, but there were fewer and fewer grandparents, and more and more grandchildren who did not speak at all. The elders were proud of her for being capable of speaking, and speaking in the correct gender, speaking well. But she longed for girls of her own age to gossip in Lakota as she heard the grandmothers do.

She recalled the many times her foster mother sat at the kitchen table on a Saturday, country music playing softly in the background, sipping coffee with a friend or cousin. They always spoke in Lakota. When their stories were really good, they lowered their voices, and then broke the spell of their honest talk with loud laughter, covering their mouths, and tilting their heads, bodies pushing against the backs of their mismatched chairs. The Formica table with silver legs held up the conversations of great laughter, funny stories, "carrying on," and agonizing pain over many years while she grew taller and older around elderly women who loved her.


Now she was alone. There was nobody to be her cousin, her brother, her sister, or her friend at times when she needed them the most.

"The days that the older ladies had talked about are over."


She reminded herself of this when she felt the loneliness that came in waves, usually when she walked in the door to her little 2 bedroom house on the river, where her foster mother had left the home in good repair, to last at least 20 to 30 years. At night she heard the water, the rain rushing against the slat windows that HUD replaced six years before, and tried to keep from feeling afraid of the darkness and scratching noises outside. 

Each day she rose just after the sun and said her morning prayers, put a pinch of tobacco in the oak tree outside her house, drove to town, bought a coffee at the gas station in the main village, and got ready to feed the buffalo. She hated the times they had to corral the great beasts that had never been corralled until they were bred back out of extinction. She watched them eating the tops of the grass, bending their massive heads, and gnashing their horns on occasion at the northern winds.
 
The deer and the antelope ate the grass the buffalo left behind, and each animal that was left on the prairie participated in a great dance. Maria often reflected that it was the last prairie in the Midwest unaffected by fracking, and by drilling and killing the land and water as they knew it. 

 
"There are no more old days, and few old people," she would say, at times; to herself, to the buffalo, and to the wind. She spoke out loud and spoke in Lakota, and then breathed in deeply.


It was like speaking into a vacuum of space out on the prairie with the animals; and for a moment there was a forgotten freedom recollected in the mind of a contemporary, Sicangu girl.





Draft 2:  3/14/2013

Author's Note:

This story is a short story that was written as a quick write exercise.  I do have more professional works, but only so many stories do I share... and provide to the WWW for free.  :)  

If there is any interest in unpublished works that I may be hoarding, please contact me via email or comment.  Thank you for reading!






 


Top Blogs

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Be Native
By Lynne M. Colombe

To be Native is to be a living contradiction.

     To be Native is to have a living agreement with imperfection.

          To be Native is to be well accomplished for being alive.

Take Root.


Top Blogs

Friday, December 7, 2012

Desert Place (Poem)

Desert Place

Time fades to irrelevancy
-- Hours tick by
   during our company
   with the other
      lives parallel
      separate
      distant
         -- still.

An experience shared
-- lost choices involving
   innocence and blood
   where nobody wins.
      I know guilt.
      I hear pain while
      holding you
      in a silent
         -- grace.

Desert land of all
enduring and suffering beings
--We stand less alone
   with nothing
   ahead of us
   nothing behind;
     lives intersecting
     in the same
         -- place.


Lynne M. Colombe
12/7/12


Top Blogs

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hidden Curriculum

Hidden Curriculum: Notes of a Lakota Mother



As part of my graduate studies at the University of Arizona, I took a course in Curriculum, and expected to do curriculum writing, look at models of set curriculum, learn about state standards, etc.  What I did not expect was a course that would divulge me into the study of not just curriculum on the surface level, but curriculum as a CONCEPT of the reality that we construct for students as we teach in classrooms.  More importantly, how the "banking concept of education," (Freire, 1983) was widely practiced still, and I began to relate as both a student and teacher to the concept that there were clear distinctions yet to be made in the discipline of Native American education, especially to reservation education.  I came to the conclusion that a different concept of education was needed (Friere, 1983):

In problem posing education, men develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which an in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. (p 289)

As a critical thinker, I have tackled many aspects of introducing culture into my own curriculum, adjusting my prose to encourage students to be critical thinkers capable of combating problems on our reservations, and, reinforced the necessity for students to know where they come from.  As apart of this, I have told many stories in my classroom, stories about our beginning as the Pte, the buffalo people, who became the Pte Oyate and the Oceti Sakowin.  There are stories of the heavens, of the sky, of the Star People, those of Iktomi, and those of Creation. 

Yet, as I sat with my own child, of six years the other day, she pointed at the moon and asked, "Mom, what is the name of the moon?"

I replied, "That is Hanwi.  She is the moon."

My child then questioned, "Is the moon a girl?"

"Yes, she is a woman," I confirmed.

"How do you know that she is a woman?" the little one pressed.

"Because it is in the story of our people, the Lakota people," I explained, and she looked puzzled.  But I told her that I would tell her the story later.

I concluded with, "She is apart of the Tunkasilas, of Wakan Tanka, of who we are."

I haven't sat down and told her what she needs to know yet.  This brings my thinking to the necessity of not only having a hidden curriculum concerning the teaching of Lakota students or minority students on a broader sense, but introducing very important oral traditions at home.

There has never been a time more important than now to do the storytelling this winter with my own children.  The Creation Story is a wonderful story.  And although I am not fluent in the Lakota language, by knowing the names of the spirits, the major and minor arcana spirits who create what we know as "Wakan Tanka," or "The Great Mystery," it creates an understanding of many things that I hear during the sacred ceremonies that I participate in.

This brings me back to my studies in "The Hidden Curriculum," a decade ago.  James Macdonald, in his article, "Curriculum, Consciousness, and Social Change," he extends more thinking into my identified need of using culture in my teachings at home (1983):

The quality of our experience resides in the relationships of our lives.  Thus, the way we relate to other people, the way we organize and administer power, the relationship of our work to our self-esteem, how we feel about what we are doing, and what meaning our lives have in concrete contexts are all ways of thinking about the quality of our experience. (p 297).

Further, as I think about changing the social constructs of my household, to include teachings of our creation as a Lakota people, I extend my thinking also into the realm of how my own learning has created a different type of consciousness.  This is a consciousness of loss and deculturalization that we have learned for our oppressors, and the reasons behind why I have forgotten to teach my own children the culture knowledge that I have, and those things which I know to be essential to the understanding of rituals and ceremonies in the Lakota culture and language.  Therefore, as I examine my own practices in parenting, and as I have identified that I need to create more learning opportunities for my children to experience the oral tradition of the Lakota culture, I am reminded by Macdonald (1983) that:

... liberating social change necessarily involves breaking up conditioned and pre-set attitudes, values, and meanings attached to present social phenomena in a manner that allows people to sense the potential within themselves for change and growth, from powerlessness to power, and from alienation to relationship and commitment.  (p. 301).

Finally, I can only change my own practices about  my own practices, or non-practices as they are.  I am shifting the social construct in my home, away from the teachings of the mainstream, and back to the beginning of our people... the Pte Oyate, the buffalo people, the Sicangu Oyate, and how we came to be the Oceti Sakowin in the first place. 


References include:

Freire, Paulo. (1983). "The Banking Concept of Education."  The Hidden Curriculum and Moral Education: Deception or Discovery.  Giroux, Henry and Purpel, David (Editors).  Pp. 283-291.

Macdonald, James. (1983).  "Curriculum, Consciousness, and Social Change."  The Hidden Curriculum and Moral Education: Deception or Discovery. Giroux, Henry and Purpel, David (Editors). Pp. 292-308.


Top Blogs