Some New Year's Thoughts, the Muscogee Nation News Jan 07 Column

Mvskoke Nation News Column January 07

The rising and setting of the Sun and the waxing and waning of the Moon are the most basic and important cycles for marking time. We are all obedient to these cycles, no matter what culture or creature. Solstice points mark larger arcs of time. On winter solstice, daylight is the shortest; the Sun has the lowest arc. Summer solstice is the opposite. This is the natural calendar. And for our people, the New Year occurs at the annual green corn ceremony. This is a time of renewal and forgiveness. I always look forward to this time. Even if I am not able to make it home; I mark the event. We all need marking points and places for renewal, to begin again in a fresh manner. Doing so together can make the event even more powerful, special.
According to the European-based Gregorian calendar, the New Year begins on January 1st, and most of us mark this as a time for new beginnings, a time for a new start. I figure I might as well observe two New Year events, which makes for double new beginnings.
January first is a time of resolutions. The most popular are those to lose weight, quit smoking, or to win the lottery. I imagine that most of us make the same resolutions every year. I find that it’s easier to judge what others need to do to improve their lives. I can easily make resolutions for others. For instance, it’s absolutely clear to me that _____ on the National Council is full of _____ and should resolve not to run for political office, rather stay home and take care of _____. Or, why doesn’t _____ leave______ for all his partying around. Everyone knows he’s seeing _________on the side. She should resolve to lose the sucker. We also know that ______is playing_____for a fool. _____ should resolve to_______. And why is ______so worried about the enrollment of citizens who also have African blood when they have grandparents who have African blood, and they’ve done everything they can to hide it and deny it, even changing tribal records? _____should resolve to not hate themselves or anyone else based on skin color.
And so on, you can fill in the blanks. I could make a form here, with various resolutions, and they could be pasted to a card and sent to ______. Yeah, sure….it doesn’t work that way and it never will. Criticizing and pointing fingers at others doesn’t change behavior. It usually adds to the mess. Yet, we often think these things and even speak them to our own little constituents and wonder why nothing changes. Thoughts are things and are propelled as soon as they’re thought. Some are directed, and some are misty sticky wreaths. And you can be sure that every thought you send out returns to stick to the owner and maker. Scary, huh? We become what we think, for better or worse. It’s wiser to tend to our own business, and send out thoughts to “lift each other up”. And more than thoughts, but back them with actions that will truly “lift each other up”. If I consider Mvskokean philosophy, “lifting each other up” is a cornerstone.
Every time I hear the phrase I am always taken back to the voices and ways of thinking and acting of the wisest of us. I used drive my Aunt Lois Harjo Ball around to see people and that’s how I learned. We often landed at George and Stella Coser’s warm house in Okmulgee. It was there that I probably first heard the phrase, “to lift each other up”. I noted that my spirit was always lifted up in their home. I also came away knowing that genealogy is a Mvskoke science, and that there is beautiful and ever growing mystery to the world. There is an amazing depth to our tribal philosophy. When I think of a truly Mvskoke University I think it must be in the same kind of place and manner as what I experienced in the Coser’s and in other traditional homes like theirs. I often hear that same phrase from George Coser, Jr. when I call him by phone or visit. And I am always “lifted up” when we speak. Mvto.
I was reminded once again of this powerful phrase when I called up my friend Ella Coleman who moved back to Seminole, Oklahoma with her husband Al. We knew each other when she lived in Albuquerque. She’s one of those people whose spirit naturally lifts everyone up who’s around her. She reported that a conference of fvscate gathered in her backyard. She’d never seen so many in one place. Her mother reminded her that a redbird is said to represent good-luck to our people. To see so many redbirds assembled in one place would uplift any of us. Her husband Al, who’s a fine photographer, wanted to photograph the event, but also didn’t want to scare the birds away, so he tried from inside, but the screen got in the way. My imagination sees that gathering quite well from Ella’s description, and I like thinking of them all hanging out in Ella and Al’s backyard. The redbird society found the right place to go, a place to where they would feel lifted up.
Ella reminded me of the phrase when she told how her relatives were talking over a holiday meal about how people used to act “to lift each other up”. They’d go see people in the hospital, or go help each other with repairs, take over dishes of food, or if going hunting shared what they had brought back. Some people still do this, but less and less so. We all seem further apart from each other. To do so, she said, was so that we “lifted each other up”. When she used that phrase it felt as true as it has always felt since the first time I heard it.
Ella has a grand-nephew Michael and every time I hear a new story about him I think of those traditional people and can see that new ones are being born, though these times are different. She said that Michael has made a corner of the house a place he goes to, on his own, when he thinks bad thoughts. He’s only four-years-old, and wiser than most of us. I figured I’d better designate a corner in my house. And we might want to designate a corner, or several in the tribal complex. We’d be better off for it.
Mvto Ella, Al and Michael.
So, in honor of those who truly know and carry forth the Mvskoke ways, why not make a New Year’s resolution for the nation, to lift each other up? Something then might truly change, and we might all be lifted up, together.


Trees and New Beginnings

Last week headed over to the Big Island, or rather, dragged. I was pretty sick with some viral thing I brought back with me to Hawaii. I'd cough violently at sleep and on waking, and less so other times. During the day I could put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the beauty. The journey was marked by the wisdom of trees. Two were companions in the rainforest bordering Kilauea crater. They called me over twice. Another was a banyan in Hilo (not this one) at dusk. I found it after walking over a curved bridge lined with candles scented with lavendar. I kept looking for a bridal party. No one around, but quiet, and the banyan tree.

May we learn more from trees this next year, than from the television.

Have a good one.


Muscogee Nation News Column for December Joy Harjo

Hensci, We’ve finally landed in winter after a long summer and fall. Here on the Rio Grande flyway geese and cranes have been passing over. Only thing is they aren’t always headed in the right direction. I’ve watched several layered vees of birds head south, then turn back north. Others fly east or west in a confused manner. Strange. I never saw this growing up in Oklahoma. In the fall, birds flew south. In the spring; they returned. Since the hard freeze of the last few weeks they are definitely and quickly flying south. No question. At least the Sun still comes up from the East and sees us through until nightfall, and returns again. A mvto, or thank you for the Sun.
We just survived Thanksgiving. Most people don’t know that it’s a holiday based on a fabricated story of a sit down dinner with Pilgrims (a mispronunciation of the word “pillager”) and Indians. The Pilgrims weren’t too friendly, were rather grim, not the sort to hang out and eat with Indians. The holiday was an invention fostered by the writer of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, Sarah Josepha Hale. Maybe the poem should have been, “Mary Had a Little Turkey”. Did her family own a turkey farm? Of course, most of us enjoy any kind of excuse for a day off, for eating lots of good food with family and friends, and for some (not me) an afternoon of football games. And it’s always good to take time to express gratitude, and even better to make it a habit every morning before getting up, or before sleep. I take issue with the compromised premise, and with all of those people dressing up as fake Indians. For most of the world, turkey feathers in the hair and buckskin, equals Indian.
Once years back in a class we studied images of Indians. One of the students took sheets of paper and markers to a preschool class in Boulder. She asked the children to draw an Indian. They all drew one of two images: a warrior on horseback brandishing bloody tomahawks, or delicate princesses, most of them on horseback. They weren’t human beings, rather symbols, and the children had already internalized them.
When my daughter was three, just before she went into Head Start, we went to sign her up at a preschool in Iowa City, (where I was going to graduate school). The children surrounded us and danced around doing that Hollywood war whoop, you know the one. Their teacher was embarrassed. I was amazed that children that young had already taken in that false image that had nothing to do with being Indian, or Mvskoke, or Acoma, my daughter’s other tribal affiliation.
We’re still mostly portrayed in those flat images in art, literature, movies, and not just by non-Indians or three-year-olds. The worst culprits are often our own people. Of course, we do have warriors on horseback, and I saw a little tomahawk brandishing in my early days, and most of our princesses aren’t so delicate. They like to eat.
A few years ago I carried a fussy grandson, accompanied by his older sister for a stroll around the Santa Fe plaza, while their parents (and the rest of the diners) finished dinner in peace. Desiray, who is Mvskoke, Acoma, Navajo and most decidedly “Indian looking” paused in front of a Plains headdress displayed in an Indian jewelry shop for tourists. “Look Nana”, she said. “Indians.”
Identity is a complex question. How do we see and define ourselves and how do others define us? What do governments have to say about it and what does the wisdom beyond the foolishness of small-mindedness have to say about it? I understand there are many in the tribe who believe tribal membership should be made up of only full-bloods. Yet many of these same people sing hymns and espouse a religion that isn’t Mvskoke in origin. There’s a contradiction here. I have no issue with people talking with or worshipping God in whatever manner or form. Diversity in form describes the natural world. And I’m convinced we all carry a part of the vision. No one person or culture carries the whole story.
What I take issue with is the rigidity and hurtfulness of an exclusionary vision. Such a plan to limit tribal membership, is not only racist, it’s genocidal. It’s what the makers of the Dawes Act had in mind in the first place, like a sustained release genocide pill. And many have bought into it. Self-righteousness stinks, no matter how it’s dressed.
Behind this are some real issues and concerns about what it means to be a real Mvskoke person, about our responsibilities, and about having some say in the shape of the future of our nation. Who is taking care of the spiritual, mythical and familial center? Who is carrying forth the stories, the songs and making new ones to fit the needs of the time? Many of those who know are dying off.
Our experiences have been different and race figures greatly into how one moves about the present world. Consider that we didn’t define ourselves by race before the coming of the Europeans. We must remember where we came from as a nation, and have a shining idea of our direction. A fearful approach doesn’t work, in governments, societies or our individual lives. We bring about what we fear as surely as we bring about what we love. Both carry the same charge. Let’s try some common sense and compassion. We need to be open to hearing each other.
I’ve talked to many of our tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere in the country who have expressed concern that their children and grandchildren are being denied a place in the family, our Mvskoke Nation. Is this who we want to be, a people who throw their children away? If we look with the mind of the vastness and complexity of the viewpoint of the stars, then we will see and know wisely.
As I write this I am on a late flight to Albuquerque. We were delayed from Tulsa missed the connecting plane in the Dallas Fort Worth. Alfred Berryhill, our second chief was also on the same delayed flights so we had plenty of opportunity to visit. I was impressed by his cultural knowledge and his love of our Mvskoke language. Ask him sometime about how to get from “aerodynamics” to “arrow dynamics”. Mostly we talked the need for a refreshing vision for the people. We agreed we need to see ourselves as who we are, not in that false mirror of misrepresentation that has been forced on us. When the Europeans first arrived they were amazed by the way we lived, by our democracy, our lack of a need for prisons, for our social systems, our finely crafted homes. In a relatively short time we have forgotten our true legacy as Mvskoke people. It’s still here, within us.
Finally, a few closing words from poet Louis Littlecoon Oliver who always had a wise word or two, and a sense of humor. He was a full-blood, born of Koweta Town, Raccoon Clan. In his book, The Horned Snake, he says: “I asked the oldest of my old ones what his opinions were of the white man’s supertechnology: his flight to the moon, his atomic weapons, his present status in the Middle East. He stared into the fire for a moment, then looked up at me with a faint smile and said: ‘We look upon the white man’s world of wonders as trivia—and short-lived.’ “


An Appeal for Paula Gunn Allen

The Paula Gunn Allen Fund has just been established to provide financial assistance to Paula, whose car, double-wide trailer, clothes, appliances, books, and papers burned in a fire in mid-October.

Evidently, some oily rags, stored in a shed on her newly built deck, ignited and burned her house and car. Paula, who was in the house when the fire started, suffered smoke inhalation and was briefly hospitalized after the fire. Two weeks later, her landlady found Paula unconscious on the floor of her temporary apartment. Hospitalized again, Paula was in a coma for at least six days and in the hospital for two weeks. Since returning to her apartment, she has responded well to physical and lung therapy and her spirits are better than they have been in some time. As of today, she can walk ten steps without a cane.

This has been a hard year for Paula. Just before the fire, she had successfully completed radiation therapy for lung cancer, which doctors found in its early stages. The treatment, however, debilitated her.

Paula has given us all so much over the years through her creative and scholarly writing and her direction of the 1977 NEH-MLA Summer Seminar in Native American Literature. Your donation can help her rebuild her life.

Send your donation to The Paula Gunn Allen Fund, Account No. 0129540739, Bank of America, 228 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. (Include "The," which is part of the fund's legal name). The donation is not tax deductible.

Paula also needs copies of books containing her essays or poems because hers burned in the fire. Fortunately, she had deposited most of her papers in the library of the University of Oregon several years before the fire.

Receiving notes and cards from her Native literature colleagues will lighten her spirit. Mail can reach her at 5601/2 North McPherson Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. She will probably be at this address for at least the next six weeks, until her lot is cleared of debris and a different trailer is placed there.

If you have questions, feel free to contact me. Patricia Smith and others are planning some events to help raise funds. I will inform you about these as plans are finalized.

For health reasons, I am not coming to MLA this year. Happy holidays.



A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff
Professor Emerita of English

University of Illinois at Chicago
Home Address: 300 Forest Avenue Oak Park, IL 60302-2012
Home phone: 708-848-9292; Home fax:708-848-9308


Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Creative Writing, IAIA
83 Avan Nu Po Road.
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508

505-424-2365 office



(in Mvkoke (Creek)) Thanks Eli Grayson for your email with this standard.

Pe-re-hem Tv-lo fvn Silent night, holy night
O-mvl-kv Fek-hon-ne All is calm, all is bright
O’mvl-kv Hv-ya-ya-kes Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Es-tu-cet Hv-svt-ke-tv Holy infant so tender and mild
Hvl-we No-cet O-mes Sleep in heavenly peace
Hvl-we No-cet O-mes Sleep in heavenly peace

Pe-re-hem Tv-lo-fvn Silent night, holy night
Pu-ca-se Hec-ke-pen Shepards quake at the sight
He-sa-ya-cyn Y-rak-kue-cvks Glories stream from heaven afar
A-le-lu-yv Me-kot Os Heavenly hosts sing alleluia
Klist Pu-ca-set Hec-kes Christ the Savior is born!
Klist Pu-ca-set Hec-kes Christ the Savior is born!


In Honor of Diane Burns

The news this morning:

"Diane Burns, Poet and Artist, passed on into the spirit world late on
December 22 after a short illness.

Funeral plans are pending.

Diane Burns was born in 1957. Burns 's father is a Chemehuevi and her
mother is an Anishinabe. Her poetry is known for its humor and honesty.

Books by Diane Burns: Riding the One-eyed Ford. Fantastic First Work,
Diane Burns' first published set of poems had, at that time, firmly
established her as one of the up and coming young Native American female
poets of her generation.

“Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question?”
Diane Burns (Lac Courte Oreilles- Cheemehuevi)

How do you do?
No, I am not Chinese.
No, not Spanish.
No, I am American Indi—uh, Native American.

No, not from India.
No, not Apache
No, not Navajo.
No, not Sioux.
No, we are not extinct.
Yes, Indian.

So that’s where you got those high cheekbones.
Your great grandmother, huh?
An Indian Princess, huh?
Hair down to there?
Let me guess. Cherokee?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian friend?
That close?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian lover?
That tight?

Oh, so you’ve had an Indian servant?
That much?

Yeah, it was awful what you guys did to us.
It’s real decent of you to apologize.
No, I don’t know where you can get peyote.
No, I don’t know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap.
No, I didn’t make this. I bought it at Bloomingdales.

Thank you. I like your hair too.
I don’t know if anyone knows whether or not Cher is really Indian.
No, I didn’t make it rain tonight.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
Uh-huh. Yeah. Spirituality. Uh-huh. Mother
Earth. Yeah. Uh’huh. Uh-huh. Spirituality.

No, I didn’t major in archery.
Yeah, a lot of us drink too much.
Some of us can’t drink enough.

This ain’t no stoic look.
This is my face.

From:IndigenousNewsNetwork@topica.com digest, issue 864

My poem/song, the Real Revolution is Love features Diane, from a visit we made together to Nicaragua in the mid eighties. I'll never forget flying down to Nicaragua to take part in the Ruben Dario Poetry Festival. Poets came in from all over the Americas. We were ushered through customs, taken to our rooms, then to the coffeehouse where the festivities had started with readings to celebrate this huge gathering on behalf of poetry and a revolution of truth, of love. I'll never forget how excited I was as we approached the coffeehouse, to see that poetry here is beloved and revered art, and I will never forget my surprise as the door opened and there was Diane Burns, far from New York City or Wisconsin, letting us in. I said something about the surprise of seeing her there as the gatekeeper (it was witty) and we laughed.

It was at that conference that she and _______ were married by Ernesto Cardinale, even though both were already married to other people. I missed that part. Had to leave early.

I may have seen her once more, in Oklahoma for the huge poetry gathering in 1992. I remember being concerned. I've always looked for more poetry from her. Her voice was honest, funny and her poetry made echoes throughout the native literary community.

We will miss her.


May your spirit fly free from hurt, from pain.


Blogger is working, FINALLY

Thursday morning. Sick for a week. It's breaking through.

Just got asked to reprint a quote someone wrote down from a recent performance/talk.

I barely recall saying it. It was my wise-self talking. I usually hand such events over to my wise self.

Sometimes it's my wise-ass self who steps in.


A Review of Apocalypto by Tiahui OR, Why We Need to Make Our Own Movies

Forwarded to me from Jack Forbes

UCTP Taino News Moderator's note: The following review was forwarded
from our indigenous Mexica brother Xochipilli (Anuar):

How are you brothers and sisters, I hope to find all of well and

I write this letter concerning my review of the new Mel Gibson
movie "Apocalypto". I know a lot of us were excited when we heard
about the making of the movie which was going to be available for the
main public.

I have received a copy of the script before hand and the story line
was based on murder, rape, disease, slavery and the all famous mass
human sacrifice. But I had no clue to what extent until I saw the
movie, I told myself I wouldn't see it but some of my brothers and
sisters wanted to see It and I didn't want to be "left out"

Now the review.

The story line of the movie is about rural Mayan tribe who are
invaded by another bigger Mayan tribe from the Mayan metropolis.
sorry If I'm not clear on details like the name of the people and the
places but I looked away a lot of times. One of the main stars that I
remembered was one of the members of the small community, his name
was "Jaguar Paw".

So to put it all quickly the big city Mayans invade the rural Mayan
community in search of captives. Throughout the scene, the city
Mayans do everything from the burning of the village, to the killing
of innocent men and women who refused to surrender, to the burning of
men and women thrown into a open fire, to the raping and torture of

So after all the remaining men were captured and tied-up the massacre
was over. All that remained were the burning huts and the bloody
corpse of men and women with their abandoned children crying at their
side. The men are taken tied by there hands and their necks tied on a
bamboo tress. At some point they pass through another village near by
were the inhabitants of this village were devastated by a disease,
another scene of bloody corpse lying around with this one Mayan child
infected with the disease cries for help but the ruthless, brutal
Mayan warriors push her away. And as they push the little girl away,
she reveals a prophesy of blah, blah, blah and beware.

They walk and walk while being tormented physically and
psychologically by the "superior" big city Mayan warriors.

Finally they reach the Mayan metropolis, I'm not sure which Mayan
city was being represented here but my guess was Tikal. All you see
throughout the city is blood, everywhere, animals slaughtered left to
right, seriously people covered blood eating bloody meat of animals.
The captives are then sold as slaves to what looked like merchants
and political leaders the ones who weren't sold as slaves received
the fate of being sacrificed at the top of the Pyramid.

Jaguar Paw was there along with them. So as they walk towards the
pyramid sacrifices were already being performed, heads and bodies
rolling down the blood covered steps of the pyramids, everything
covered in blood. There were wooden stakes in front of the pyramid
which carried the heads of hundreds of sacrificed victims.

Once the captives reach the pyramid top they are sacrificed one by
one by a Mayan priest covered in blood, representatives sit behind
him applauding, families with their children along with the whole
community cheer as the priest takes his small obsidian knife stabs
the victum in the chest and in one second rips out his heart then
with the same obsidian knife he rips the captive's head off and
throws it down the stairs then kicks the body down the stairs while
the people cheer and applaud. The body rolls down the stairs until it
reaches the bottom where it falls on top of a mass pile of bloody
mutilated bodies at the side of the pyramid.

Jaguar paw was the next to be sacrificed. But according to the little
girls prophecy or omen, the day would turn into night,, and that's
what happened when there was a eclipse and it was a sign of
salvation, "kulkulkan was pleased with all the blood we fed him" the
priest yells.

Jaguar paw's life is spared and so are the remaining of the captives.

The captives were then taken near a corn field where they were
granted freedom under one condition they must run towards a corn
field that was probably a hundred yards in length. At the corn field
a Mayan armed warrior stood. So two captives were released two by two
and as they ran for their lives, the warriors began shooting arrows
and spears and stones as more of a form of entertainment and
challenge. So if the captives didn't get killed with the spears,
arrows or stones, that one Mayan warrior at the end with end their
fate by clubbing them to death.
Jaguar Paw was next and he manages to escape the fatal arrows and
spears, and manages to kill the armed warrior, and runs for his life.
So the rest of the warriors go after him and the rest of the movie is
an ongoing chase to capture Jaguar Paw. At some point while jaguar
paw is running through this corn field he trips and ends up falling
into a mass grave of rotting, mutilated bodies of murdered Mayan
captives, of which appear to be hundreds or thousands of them.

Jaguar paw runs and runs, and during the chase the warriors are
attacked by both a jaguar and serpent and they kill the two sacred
animals, which was part of the little girls omen.

At the end jaguar paw manages to kill most of the warriors. Only two
warriors remained, chasing him until they suddenly froze along with
jaguar paw. Staring at the ocean, they saw the coming of the
conquistador ships, crosses and all.

And the movie ends with Jaguar Paw getting back with his wife and
child and the arrival of the ships on the coast.

Now, what I've written here is the whole movies, nothing but murder,
torture, human sacrifice, blood and more blood. This movie was
absolutely horrifying and disgusting to a point where I froze with
rage inside my head.

So pretty much this is how the movie flows, and for myself and others
with knowledge of our true history I could easily point out these
horrifying acts committed by Mayans towards other Mayans in the movie
were truly acts of terrorism and genocide. While these things did
happen the truth is the atrocities were really committed by hands of
the European invaders.

This movie is a racist bomb dropped on our great Mayan grandfathers
and grandmothers, Mexican and all other indigenous communities. It is

This movie is blaming our ancestors for the genocide and suffering of
their people, thus covering up and washing the hands of the European
invaders who actually committed these horrifying crimes, and it also
justifies it. It is an attack on us by a catholic fanatic freak named
Mel Gibson and the Catholic Church that backs him up. It is

So my review - two middle fingers in the air!

So to all you brothers and sisters please avoid seeing this movie -
avoid letting your families and especially your children from seeing
it. I tell you now before being exposed to this garbage.

Thank you for reading I just needed to express my shame and
disappointment for watching this movie and my rage against it.

I must remain positive and move on forward.

Please feel free to add anything else,

Take care



Muscogee Nation News November 2006 Column

On the last fall day, according to the weather not the calendar, I’d been inside working at my desk: the kitchen table. My spirit kept urging me outside. I kept working. Strange, a black cloud of a thought struck from apparently nowhere. See, my spirit told me, I told you to leave the house and go outside. I pulled on my jacket and went out to the early evening. The sun was brushing the tops of the red and yellow trees. I walked and walked. I let go of thinking and felt the earth. Down the way I visited a couple of young ponies. They asked me to pick some apples for them on a tree across from their stalls. We all had to stretch over the electric fence to share. We visited a bit. When I went back I was renewed; I cleaned the house out.
I began to consider the source of the thought that suddenly appeared, like a fast, hard storm. Some things emerge from within, from an accumulation of doubts or fears. Some of the accumulation comes from family, ancestral actions or memory. My brothers have a tendency toward the blues, like me. I’ve learned it’s easier to acknowledge, sing about it and let it go. I used to fight or be sunk.
One of my recurring dreams I traced to an event that happened a century and a half ago to a Mvskokee relative. The event was quite charged which was why, I figured, it stayed around for awhile. We all carry these memories within us. Some are from just yesterday, some from our relatives. Often we are influenced by someone else’s positive or negative intentions. Sometimes they are deliberate, sometimes we just happen to walk through someone’s path.
One morning I was in a spin cycling class in a gym. I’d had a good workout. (I’m convinced that walking on the earth, working out has the effect of spinning off some of the junk build up of too much thinking.) We were cooling down. I suddenly wanted a doughnut. Now I don’t usually eat doughnuts because if I do then I don’t want just one. There’s something incredible (and addicting) about that particular concoction of fat, flour and sugar. So I questioned the thought. Where did it come from? I had no thought of doughnuts. I then saw the source of the thought. It was the man next to me. He was heading out to buy a doughnut after class. This small revelation had quite an effect. I began to question the source of my thoughts. And I began to pay attention to what I was putting out into the world. It’s an ongoing process.
Our Mvskoke tribe could be considered a thinking and dreaming person of sorts. How are we thinking of ourselves? How do we go forth in the world?
Another question has come up recently. In my class we have been reading the work of a Yaqui deer singer and writer, Felipe Molina. In an interview he talks of “Yaqui-ness”. I began to question what makes “Mvskoke-ness”. Your thoughts? Email me at nativesax@yahoo.com. I’ll report the responses.
I heard from tribal member Tony Fields. He used to work at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. I hadn’t seen him around lately. He’s now in Washington D.C. because his wife got a job at NMAI, the National Museum of the American Indian. He’s going to be giving a talk in a few weeks on the Trail of Tears at the Holocaust Museum.
Last week as I changed planes in the Dallas Forth Worth Airport I ran into Doug Sapulpa who was on his way to a high school reunion in Sapulpa. We were both a little groggy from early flights, his from Sacramento, mine from Albuquerque. We commiserated for awhile, over coffee and tea. His brother Owen was the last member of his family I’d seen in this airport. I had been pounding a stamp machine that had taken my last change when I looked over and there was Owen who I’ve always admired for his self-possession. Doug and I laughed about it. There’s always someone watching, I reminded myself after that embarrassment. Self-possession is worth more than the cost of a stamp, and the hassle of not getting a bill in on time because you don’t have a stamp. Mvto, Doug for the visit that morning. It made my trip flow smoother.
And finally, Mvskoke citizen Bob Hicks is featured on the cover and with an interview on an online Renaissance Indian Magazine, at www.renaissanceindian.com.
Bob Hicks was born in a barn in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, on Feb. 5, 1934. His mother, Ella Scott, and his father, Robert Hicks, were married, Bob says, “in an Indian way.” He left Oklahoma in 1979 for Hollywoodland and was in the film industry for many years. He was often the only Indian, and almost always the only Creek. He saw the industry shift from painting white people to act Indian roles, to the employment of real Indians. He made a number of contributions to the field, one as a founder of the organization First Americans in the Arts, which produces an annual awards show. Bob has moved back home to Oklahoma.
I’ll close with an excerpt, (printed with permission of Harrison Lowe, editor and founder of the magazine, and another pioneering Indian [Navajo] in Hollywoodland):

“ ‘Everybody was suffering, so I thought this was how the world was,” Bob says. “So for me, it was normal. My older brothers and my dad were lucky to go out and make $3 a day. They worked on farms. He would plow and plant fields. We also picked cotton. When I was seven or eight years old, my momma made me a bag that I could drag along and put the cotton in. But I was not a good cotton picker.”
Bob fell in love with movies in 1939. It was a good year for motion pictures; “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Some Like It Hot” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” were all released that year. But five-year-old Bob’s tastes ran more toward westerns - movies like “Stagecoach,” “Riders of the Sage” and “Destry Rides Again,” which were also released that year.
“On Saturdays, we’d load up the wagon and go into Okemah,” he recalls. “It was a town of only 2,000 people, but it had two movie theaters: The Jewel and The Crystal. The Crystal played love stories, which I didn’t care for. But The Jewel played westerns, and I loved westerns.”
Back then movies were only a dime.
Bob’s dad shared his love for movies, and they often went together to The Jewel: his dad sitting in the back row near the aisle, and Bob planted in the front row with his friends, cheering for the cowboys and the cavalry as they slaughtered the Indians.
“When I was a kid,” Bob says, “I didn’t have any role models in the movies who I could look up to and say, ‘I want to be like that.’ The Indians were always portrayed as the bad guys, so I rooted for the cowboys. I was brainwashed. That kind of thing can leave a kid confused.”
Many years later, Bob decided to do something about it.”

Mvto, Bob, for all your hard work, your vision. You have mentored and helped many native actors, writers and performers, and have been a virtual one-man Indian center for many of us who landed there.

October 27, 2006 Albuquerque Joy Harjo


Running, running

I'll be back on soon. In the middle of stuff. Also have podcasts coming up. New music.

Thanks for all your comments. Nice to hear from you John-Carlos. What's your website address so I can alert everyone to your amazing gifts?

A note regarding my brother: he is the most generous person and will give anyone anything he has--he wants my mother to have the chandelier. I imagine that it represents a gift of light, of people laughing and having plenty to eat at the table beneath the chandelier. And the organs, lots of music to go with the light and laughter.


Murphy's Mule Barn, Posing, and a Chandelier

Twenty minutes before I leave for Murphy's Mule Barn for breakfast. They have excellent and cheap breakfasts. Good chile.

Another "native" music fraud is being uncovered. All it took was a native flute, fringes and a name beginning with "Chief". He got pretty far, including Native American Music Awards and Grammy nominations. Sometimes I think if I exchanged that wiley saxophone for a flute, wore fringes and posed, I'd have an in to the native music biz. Then....who wants it at that cost? Sometimes the music has to make its own unique door.

My beloved brother lives on disability, and his girlfriend fishes for a living. It's a scant living by any standard. His house needs a roof. Each leak is patched by tarpaper. They have to go somewhere else to shower. He's gifted, and generous to a fault. One of his weaknesses is gambling. Another, auctions. My mother called yesterday. He and his wife went to an auction and came home with a chandelier, and two organs. Chandelier? And neither of them play the organ.

Later with photos from the Gallup performance.


Gallup Performance Tonight!!! And a note to blog subscribers or those who have sent me notes via the blog or website--

I'm getting ready to head to Gallup for a performance tonight at UNM-Gallup Branch, with my daughter Rainy Dawn Ortiz. The performance will begin with my introduction of her, and a reading by her. We are all excited about it.

Please note that my webmaster if on vacation for a month. If you've written anything to my attention via the website, I will not receive it until then. Write to me via the blog comments and I'll get it. If it's private I'll read it, and not post it.

Also, if you're on the blog subscription list and not getting the blog, then I assume that will be solved then, or will straighten itself out, or I'll figure it out by then.


Surrender rewrite


We wound circles to Pink Floyd and powwow, and skidded when the music
Stopped for musical chairs, beneath balloons in honor of baby’s first year.
She’s starting to walk.
I’m amazed at what gets paved by the grind of time
By forgiving. Or do I say, surrender?
I should take rest easy then, this day near equinox marking a festival of crossroads.
We had good weather.
Still I tumble relentlessly over this sleepless hump of worry.
I’m restless for vision, the next song.
For something other than the electrical switch that only takes me back
To where I started:
A small life on planet Earth, and what we imagine here in a time of decay.
When Rainy called with the latest on her step-girl’s pregnancy,
We questioned what happened during the lacing of the delicate web of formation:
Pesticides in the salad?
Or the old uranium tailings that are everywhere in the winds crossing Gallup?
I had to think through the dark and the dark was no longer a beautiful
Pathway, to a stomp dance in the middle of a field of stars.
Funky, this struggle.
Think musical chairs, I tell myself. And begin to imagine the falling away.
Each baby with ten fingers and toes, each dance taken.
The beauty prayer will bear me up and we will get there,
Yes we will, said the dark.

c Joy Harjo September 25, 2006

How Dreams Become Manifest, or Vice Versa

From a six a.m. journal this morning:

I dream I need to pee. I need to pee badly. I look for a toilet. There is one. It is occupied. I am next in line, yet someone else jumps in. Another woman approaches from the north and assumes preference because she cannot see our line. She leaps to the door ahead of me. And so on. Then i search for another toilet, and find one, open. Two young women push ahead of me. I am furious and tell them it's my turn, I have to pee. They aren’t sympathetic.

Then I awaken into body consciousness with a terrible need to pee.

Did the urge, the intent, the need awaken or make a story? Does an urge, a need, an intent of a person, plant, animal, element, a community, a nation, a universe, or a time gather around itself the story, (or gather together) the images, the sound so that it may push up on its elbows and emerge to make sense, to weld context with idea and body?

We are in a constant, creative process.

(There are no images to accompany this post!)


The Art of Yellow

Saturday night. Train whistle. Leaves tracked in the house. I leave them alone because they represent joy even as they represent leaving.

I wonder what they will remember of this Saturday afternoon? Will yellow represent joy?

Tonight there's work related work that must be done, there's other business that must be done, and my art, my voice wants out. My horn is still in the case from the trip to Syracuse. I can sing and not bother the neighbors at 8:32 PM. I can play ukulele, ditto. The horn will bother everyone, the neighbors, and especially those who expect girls or Indians to play flutes.

I've been thinking too much again. It's not thinking per se that's dangerous. Analyzation is a necessary process for coherence. When it hogs 90% of the field of sense, then nothing's left for dreaming or singing.

To make poetry or music you must give yourself over to the unknown, the mysterious, and be willing to enter compelling territory. You must be willing to be foolish, and concurrently create forms to hold the shimmer you carry back from those realms.

I've played it too close to safe lately. Just treading in place to complete all the tasks, all the need to be dones. This is no way to live. Means I'll have to change my state of mind about it all. Make it all art.


Report from Onondaga Nation

I wake up in another realm: the Sheraton in the city of Syracuse, in the Onondaga Nation.
I decompress with a shower, with water.
This morning I visit the Onondaga Nation School and get to spend a short time with students in the middle grades. I'm impressed overall with their engagement, their sense of presence.

Jasa Brooks is one of the students.

After, they leave to board the buses to go to the Longhouse. I am invited and jump on the bus with them. This is yet another realm. Today is the day the babies and some others are named. We dance. I am reluctant to leave.

Now I'm being picked up for a class, then soundcheck, then sleep if possible, dinner and then performance. A workout somewhere inbetween, and call my mother. That's how it goes.
**** **** **** ****
Sunday at Rocky Mountain National Park, I meet some deer.

**** **** **** ****
Call for Submissions:

The UCLA Indigenous Peoples' Journal of Law, Culture, & Resistance (IPJLCR)
would like to invite the community to submit creative contributions for
Volume III and IV of our journal. Creative writing and visual artwork
relating to education, law, activism, cultural resources, community,
leaders, mentors, or any other aspect of Indigenous peoples' lives is
welcome. Our Journal encourages you to share powerful views and expressions
of your most passionate interests. We look forward to receiving a wide range
of submissions.

IPJLCR is an interdisciplinary publication consisting of scholarly articles,
legal commentary, poetry, and artwork. The Journal accepts articles from
scholars, students, and community members about legal, political, and social
issues important to Indigenous communities in the United States and
throughout the world, as well as works by artists that relate to or comment
on these issues.

Please Submit All Submissions By: Friday, November 17th, 2006. Submissions
received after this date will be held for consideration for future issues.

Submission Guidelines:

Creative Writing

We encourage writers to submit works in the genres of poetry, short stories,
creative non-fiction, and prose. All submissions are kept by IPJLCR, so
please DO NOT send originals. Our journal requires all creative writing
submissions to be sent as both an electronic attachment and a hard copy.
Please submit all creative works in Microsoft Word format and three (3) hard
copies of the manuscript to our contact information listed at the bottom of
this email. Manuscripts over three (3) pages must be accompanied by a
digital copy on a 3.5" floppy disk. Submission must also include a cover
page with the author's name, address, and telephone number, and a short

Art & Photography

We also encourage submissions from visual artists. Drawings, photographs, or
reproductions should be no larger than 8"x10". We prefer that you not send
originals, but high-quality reproductions are essential. Again, we require
all art and photography submissions to be sent as both an electronic
attachment and a hard copy. Submission must also include a cover page with
the title, the artist's name, address, and telephone number, a short
description of the work, and a short biography. When submitting digital
works, please use one of the following graphic


Please mail submissions to:
UCLA School of Law
Attention: Submissions
Box 951476
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476


Email to:

*Please note: UCLA IPJLCR does not provide an honorarium for any work
selected to be published.

In much appreciation,

**** **** **** ****

Enjoy your day.


Packing for Syracuse

I'm on my way to Syracuse in a few hours. Packing doesn't become easier. And reality becomes more complex when you open the doors. The basic rules are the same in any realm. Behave. Play nice. Be coherent. Take care of your gifts. Take care of each other. Acknowledge the source of the gifts, the source of the story. Don't take everything, leave something. Share.

The elections are over. The country is still splintered. It all goes back to the quality of leadership. And leadership is responsibility of all of us. We can't duck out. (Though we can duke it out. Won't solve anything. I know.)

The personal story is reflected in the larger story, and vice versa.

Here's a poem for the day, from How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems:


I must keep from breaking into the story by force,
If I do I will find a war club in my hand
And the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
Your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
And from each drop of blood
Springs up sons and daughters, trees
A mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
Not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
Broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
Before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
Of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
And desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

And made songs of the blood, the marrow.

c Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton


We Were There When Jazz Was Invented

Last week I spoke to students at Santa Fe Indian School on Jim Pepper, the quintessential native jazz saxophonist. Only a few people in the audience had heard of him. None of the students had. I ended at Congo Square, the symbolic and real ground where jazz rose up, born of this North American, this native earth. Literally and metaphorically. For Congo Square was a Houma ceremonial grounds. And this is where it all started: stomp dance, jazz, the blues, rock, what is American in music. The Indian has been left out of the equation. So it makes all the sense in the world that jazz found its way back to the grounds with Jim's saxophone. All the sense in the world.

**** **** **** ****

Got to meet Fantasia Lonjose, from Zuni, a young poet and Santa Fe Indian School student who made it all the way to the Poetry Outloud finals in Washington D.C. for her recitation of one of my poems. Congratulations Fantasia!

(Please let me know if you know who the photo credit for the Pepper image.)

On the Road to the Sequoyah Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas

Met some new talent at the Southwest Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas. Elgin Jumper is a Seminole poet from Hollywood, Florida. His new book of poetry is NIGHTFALL, Number Two of the Native American Chapbook Series II, published by the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.

Posing with Stuart Y. Hoahwah, another young poet to watch for, and Elgin. Stuart is Comanche and was raised in Little Rock and southwest Oklahoma. He's in an MFA program majoring in poetry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. His two books of poetry include, Split, from Inverted Press out of Lafayette, Louisiana, and his more recent, BLACK KNIFE, Number One from the Native Writers Chapbook Series II, published by the Sequoyah Research Center in Little Rock.


The Oklahoma Centennial is Coming, Whether We Like It Or Not

History is repeated every time it is ignored or falsely told or reported. Oklahoma is gearing up to celebrate the centennial, the centennial of land theft. Many of our tribes were forcibly "removed" to Oklahoma. Then lands were forcibly taken from us.

Kate Henderson offers this from the CreekIndians listserv:

My husband called this afternoon to state the company he works for (headquarters in Houston, Tx with subsidiaries nation and worldwide) was preparing for the Oklahoma Centennial. In preparation their office of 50 or so employees was divided into "teams". Each team would work together for the next year and should select, as their team name, a tribe represented in Oklahoma.

My heart fell thinking about the tribes forcibly marched in Oklahoma in winter conditions. A forced march where families were told by soldiers carrying guns to leave their homes, their belongings often in the middle of the night with no warning. My heart remembered the stories my grandfather told about his father and grandfather being spit upon and told to sleep with the livestock because even though they had money to pay no one would give them lodging. My heart remembered how my grandfather and his siblings hid in a tree to escape being murdered by white men who wanted his family's land.

And I thought, when will Oklahoma history be honestly taught? I want the truth to be told in all its horribleness and understood so that this and future generations become sensitive to why romanticized stereotypes hurt. I am sick to think of a group of adults forming a team and calling themselves The Creeks, The Choctaws, The Cherokees, The Comanches, or any one of the tribes forcibly removed to Indian Territory where yet another promise was made then broken. I cannot change the past, I can educate those in Oklahoma to the truth. This is where I take my stand.

(Thanks Kate Henderson for reprinting permission.)



A leader of the nomadic Nukak tribe has committed suicide after
drinking a poison usually used by his people to kill fish.

The Nukak man, Mao-be, killed himself after trying to help his
people return to the rainforest. The Nukak were forced to flee their
homes after becoming caught up in Colombia's drugs war involving the
army, paramilitaries and guerrillas. Now living on the outskirts of
a town, they are pleading to return.

'He felt desperate because he couldn't find the resources for the
Nukak to return to their land, which they love and to which they
want to return,' said a statement from Colombia's national
indigenous organization, ONIC.

The suicide comes after the recent death of a nine year old boy and
a flu epidemic in which almost a quarter of the tribe were taken
ill. Since first contact with outside society in 1988 over half the
tribe have died, and many continue to suffer from malnutrition,
diarrhoea, flu and respiratory infections.

Survival's Director, Stephen Corry, said today, 'Mao-be's death
serves as a tragic illustration of the Nukak's experience of contact
with Western society. The Colombian government must now act to make
sure the Nukak are allowed to return safely to their homes, which is
what Mao-be died fighting for. If they don't, one of Colombia's last
nomadic tribes will become extinct.'

To read this press release online please visit:


A Mvskoke approach, ironing and all the rest

I have a stack of photos for posting from various trips, and some work from young native writers. I'll get to it sooner than later. I'm teaching the second of two eight-week classes, with wonderful students, and these eight weeks I am attempting a different approach to teaching native lit: an approach that embodies "Mvskokee-ness" rather than a phenomenological approach. It goes against the manner in which I've been taught in the university system. I am much more excited and energetic but it also means heavy energy to subvert the linear way of thinking that has planted itself. And more work than teaching by a rote system of theories and facts. And that's on top of my full-time writing, performing, music and intense family dramas.
Yesterday my sister I talked to my sister late. She's in Oklahoma taking care of our mother who had a successful knee replacement. Our mother is doing relatively well, however she believes like so many in this country that a pill will cure everything, so she goes to two or three doctors and gets various prescriptions because she believes more will make her even more well. We think that's the cause of her slurring yesterday morning, and her comment that took her back into time forty years ago:"Is Joy still ironing?"

The behavior is frightening, but we laughed and laughed when I told Margaret that it's terrifying to consider that somewhere in memory I am still ironing and will always be ironing. I was chained (not literally) to the ironing board and from the time I was 7 ironed everyonoe's clothes, including my mother's restaurant uniforms, my step-father's heavy khaki's. I even took in ironing to make money when I go older. Laundry was also stacked in piles, or should I say mountains, in my sister's and my room. I won't go near an ironing board now.
So more as I move along through stacks of papers, reading. I do manage to write some daily, and to get some music practice in. I have a new tune I'll put on Podcast soon.
Will the person calling themselves "Sedna" please send me more information. I can't rely on hearsay. More than one person fits the description.

October 2006 Harjo's Muscogee Nation News Column

Muscogee Nation News Column for October 2006

Last week I went for a walk along the ditch here in northwest Albuquerque. It was bare. It had been shaved of the mile high weeds and flowers lining it throughout the summer. There was a lull in the water flow so the bottom was now only mud and occasional pools of water. In a few spots crayfish were looking for soft muck. Green heads of frogs emerged here and there. Some frogs took the opportunity to sunbathe. They dove in alarm at the sound of humans or dogs. One wise frog was not so skittish. He sat out on a concrete abutment, taking in the day. I sat with him for a while to see what I could learn. Frogs are rare these days; poisons and pesticides have taken many out. This wise frog and his relatives were the most I’d seen in one place in years. Neither of us said anything as we watched the blue fall sky sweep by, and the scrambling crayfish. At the back of my mind was the stack of papers on my desk, the errands, terrorist attacks by our government, and concern for my brother and his heart. The tightness of fast society slowly unwound. When the wise frog did finally talk he noted that humans used to come and visit. And they would visit in turn. We both sat with remembering as another stream of blue passed with thoughts of clouds. We felt sad at the current state of loss in this world of progress. Somewhere along the way humans got confused and lost the way. Some still remember, I told the frog. I look for those who remember everywhere I travel. He nodded. Some of his people had forgotten too. Time pulled us both apart. We had to get on with it. We made plans to get together again. We thanked each other for the visit. When I looked back he was still there, encouraging that crayfish towards a muddy cove.
In the news this month was a story about scientists who are looking for a cure for gay sheep, or rams. They are experimenting with giving the rams extra high doses of estrogen to see if that will counter the tendency for their own kind. Sounds funny to me: the scientists, not the rams. This study probably cost more than a block of new homes for the elderly. Why not come up with a cure for hatred or judgment? We’d all get along a lot better if we’d respect each other. The wise ones don’t judge people by the color of their skin, by accumulation of wealth, or by inborn traits. It’s how we treat each other (human, frog, etc), and how we take care of our many gifts, that matters. I wonder what Mekko Frog would say about this? He’s probably laughing about those poor rams prancing about on high doses of estrogen, in the name of science.
In the latest World Literature Today, published in Norman, Oklahoma, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma said something in an interview with Michelle Johnson when talking about The Silk Road that sparked me thinking about growth of our Mvskoke culture:
"Years ago in Japan, a wise man told me that if you look deeply enough at anything thought of as local--be it music, an idea, a tradition, a craft--you find that the local thing has global roots. We think of ancient people as being so isolated, yet here is this trade
route along which religions and music and musical instruments and foods and goods all traveled. Of course, people traveled with them, and the people and the goods and the ideas and everything else all had enormous influence on one another."
I think of the Mississippi River, the Gulf coast, the Atlantic and the Caribbean, as part of the network of Muscogee trade routes. Now these routes have been expanded by air flight. I consider what has come to be known as Muscogee culture. Our culture contains many threads leading all over the world. Every day when I practice my sax I say a mvto to Adolfe Sax. He was born in Belguim, spent most of his life in Paris where he gave himself over to promoting his family of saxophones. He was vilified and booed by jealous competitors for inventing the saxophone. The sax eventually made it across the Atlantic, found a place in jazz and American music. It's one of the favorite instruments of Creek people. Jim Pepper is still the reigning jazz sax king. I remember Thomas Berryhill. I’d love to hear of others. Even my paternal grandmother Naomi Harjo played sax in Indian Territory. One of these days it might be considered a Mvskoke traditional instrument. That’s how these things happen. You never know.


Earthquake in Hawaii

This is all I know.
I get a call from the yard of our little house out in the Pacific.
There's been an earthquake, and aftershocks.
The house is shaking, the shelves are rattling. Electricity is out.
No phone service, except on the cellphone, to some numbers,
not others.
I scour internet news. And local Hawaiian tv and news sources on the internet
from my computer in Albuquerque.
All we know is that there was a 6 point something on the Richter scale near the Big Island.


What I do find on CNN is "Christine Amanpour Reports":

12,000,000 AIDS orphans in Africa and counting.

A child who is interviewed who has lost both of her parents to AIDS says they need help, and medicine.

Do what you can.

These are our relatives.


Walking Stick

Frustration, Kinks

Please bear with us on the blog and new website. If you are on the mailing list and aren't getting the blog please let me know. Photos apparently aren't coming up either. They were crucial to the blog just published before this note. The problem will be remedied.


On the Road: From Albuquerque to Sun Valley and Back

On Thursday morning as I was loading up my car for the trip to Sun Valley, Idaho a balloon from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta crossed over the compound.

Friday morning, after the conversation at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Louise and I (both sleepy-eyed) pose before heading off to our school assignments.

Saturday afternoon, on the drive to the airport.

Dodging storms on the leg of the flight from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque. The sky gives a blessing.


Words of a Mvskoke Wise Man

"Every Muskogee citizen, whether his skin be red, white or black, has equal rights and
privileges in this (Creek) Nation; and the most abject, poor and ignorant is entitled to
equal consideration with the most distinquished, rich and learned at the hands of our
Isparhecher - before the National Council - january 3, 1884


With Louise Erdrich at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts

Last night was a night sky gleaming with stars. Louise, one of the organizers and I threaded through black back streets on the shortcut to the hotel, through ghostly condos occupied only a few weeks out of the year. One lone Navajo came to the performance, a young man Louise met when she was walking around town. He was lonely for Indians. I know the feeling. I am often lonely for Indians, and lonely for a night sky lit up with stars, like last night. It is the other part of us. Only a sliver of our consciousness occupies the body. More enters when we honor the Creator by creating, or when we see someone (human, sun, stone, creature) as ourselves. The rest of it lives there, in the stars.

October 13, 2006 Ketchum, ID



I am passing this along. It has been forwarded to me by several people. Each time I read it, marvel, then realize it's common sense, or one day will be. It's the way of real human beings.

The World's Most Unusual Therapist

Two years ago, I heard about a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients--without ever seeing any of them. The psychologist would study an inmate's chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person's illness. As he improved himself, the patient improved.

When I first heard this story, I thought it was an urban legend. How could anyone heal anyone else by healing himself? How could even the best self-improvement master cure the criminally insane?

It didn't make any sense. It wasn't logical, so I dismissed the story.

However, I heard it again a year later. I heard that the therapist had used a Hawaiian healing process called ho 'oponopono. I had never heard of it, yet I couldn't let it leave my mind. If the story was at all true, I had to know more.

I had always understood "total responsibility" to mean that I am responsible for what I think and do. Beyond that, it's out of my hands. I think that most people think of total responsibility that way. We're responsible for what we do, not what anyone else does. The Hawaiian therapist who healed those mentally ill people would teach me an advanced new perspective about total responsibility.

His name is Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. We probably spent an hour talking on our first phone call. I asked him to tell me the complete story of his work as a therapist. He explained that he worked at Hawaii State Hospital for four years. That ward where they kept the criminally insane was dangerous. Psychologists quit on a monthly basis. The staff called in sick a lot or simply quit. People would walk through that ward with their backs against the wall, afraid of being attacked by patients. It was not a pleasant place to live, work, or visit.

Dr. Len told me that he never saw patients. He agreed to have an office and to review their files. While he looked at those files, he would work on himself. As he worked on himself, patients began to heal.

"After a few months, patients that had to be shackled were being allowed to walk freely," he told me. "Others who had to be heavily medicated were getting off their medications. And those who had no chance of ever being released were being freed."

I was in awe.

"Not only that," he went on, "but the staff began to enjoy coming to work. Absenteeism and turnover disappeared. We ended up with more staff than we needed because patients were being released, and all the staff was showing up to work. Today, that ward is closed."

This is where I had to ask the million dollar question: "What were you doing within yourself that caused those people to change?"

"I was simply healing the part of me that created them," he said.

I didn't understand.

Dr. Len explained that total responsibility for your life means that everything in your life - simply because it is in your life--is your responsibility. In a literal sense the entire world is your creation.

Whew. This is tough to swallow. Being responsible for what I say or do is one thing. Being responsible for what everyone in my life says or does is quite another. Yet, the truth is this: if you take complete responsibility for your life, then everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience is your responsibility because it is in your life.

This means that terrorist activity, the president, the economy--anything you experience and don't like--is up for you to heal. They don't exist, in a manner of speaking, except as projections from inside you. The problem isn't with them, it's with you, and to change them, you have to change you.

I know this is tough to grasp, let alone accept or actually live. Blame is far easier than total responsibility, but as I spoke with Dr. Len, I began to realize that healing for him and in ho 'oponopono means loving yourself. If you want to improve your life, you have to heal your life. If you want to cure anyone--even a mentally ill criminal--you do it by healing you.

I asked Dr. Len how he went about healing himself. What was he doing, exactly, when he looked at those patients' files?

"I just kept saying, 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you' over and over again," he explained.

That's it?

That's it.

Turns out that loving yourself is the greatest way to improve yourself, and as you improve yourself, your improve your world. Let me give you a quick example of how this works: one day, someone sent me an email that upset me. In the past I would have handled it by working on my emotional hot buttons or by trying to reason with the person who sent the nasty message. This time, I decided to try Dr. Len's method. I kept silently saying, "I'm sorry" and "I love you," I didn't say it to anyone in particular. I was simply evoking the spirit of love to heal within me what was creating the outer circumstance.

Within an hour I got an e-mail from the same person. He apologized for his previous message. Keep in mind that I didn't take any outward action to get that apology. I didn't even write him back. Yet, by saying "I love you," I somehow healed within me what was creating him.

I later attended a ho 'oponopono workshop run by Dr. Len. He's now 70 years old, considered a grandfatherly shaman, and is somewhat reclusive. He praised my book, The Attractor Factor. He told me that as I improve myself, my book's vibration will raise, and everyone will feel it when they read it. In short, as I improve, my readers will improve.

"What about the books that are already sold and out there?" I asked.

"They aren't out there," he explained, once again blowing my mind with his mystic wisdom. "They are still in you."

In short, there is no out there.

It would take a whole book to explain this advanced technique with the depth it deserves. Suffice it to say that whenever you want to improve anything in your life, there's only one place to look: inside you.

"When you look, do it with love."

by Joe Vitale

"If you want to solve a problem, no matter what kind of problem, work on yourself." -Ihaleakala Hew Len

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has been practicing the updated Ho'oponopono since November of 1982. He was taught the process by Kahuna Lapa'au Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, who was designated a Living Treasure of Hawaii in 1983. He was staff psychologist in the forensic unit for the criminally mentally ill at Hawaii State Hospital for several years. He has taught the updated Ho'oponopono around the world and at the United Nations several times. Dr. Hew Len has a doctorate from the University of Iowa. Information on upcoming lectures and classes can be found on the Foundation's web site: www.hooponopono.org

Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has been involved in programs of problem solving and stress release for four decades. His professional experiences include program development and administration for developmental disabled children and adults, mentally ill male adults adjudicated as criminals and individuals and families experiencing problems and stress. He has a doctorate from the University of Iowa, a Master of Science from the University of Utah and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado.

The words of Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len:

"Ho'oponopono is really very simple. For the ancient Hawaiians, all problems begin as thought. But having a thought is not the problem. So what's the problem? The problem is that all our thoughts are imbued with painful memories, memories of persons, places, or things.

The intellect working alone can't solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho'oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don't purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place, or thing. So the first stage of Ho'oponopono is the purification of that energy.

Now something wonderful happens. Not only does that energy get neutralized; it also gets released, so there's a brand new slate. Buddhists call it the Void. The final step is that you allow the Divinity to come in and fill the void with light.

To do Ho'oponopono, you don't have to know what the problem or error is. All you have to do is notice any problem you are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. Once you notice, your responsibility is to immediately begin to clean, to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

"Every phenomenon on earth is symbolic, and each symbol is an open gate through which the soul, if it is ready, can enter into the inner part of the world, where you and I and day and night are all one."
-Hermann Hesse


I Find Refuge

After arriving at Libbie's in Patagonia, we are greeted by this flower.

That night Patagonia High School has a bonfire. We pass it on the way to the store.

A rainbow after a little rain this morning.

After I fill the hummingbird feeders I come across this baby rattler. We observe each other for awhile. I've never been so close to a rattlesnake. I've always fled. The little rattlesnake had never been so close to a human. We were wary at first, then we studied each other. I asked him to remember this visit, and to tell his relatives to never cause harm to the various kinds of humans who live here: people, dog, horse or cat.

I think of Leslie Silko who is close to rattlesnakes. I remember how one of them came to me in a dream to give her a message. It tugged on my pant leg. When I called her and told her the message she said it was exactly what she needed to know.

This morning I'm thankful for friends, of all sorts.


As I Pack for Tucson I am Still Bothered By the Disjuncture Between The Way I See and the Way I am Supposed to See

This morning I realize I am going to have to re-imagine music to close the distance between my spirit and music. When I am inside music there is no separation. And there is amazing articulation of image and concept. When I train to lines then I lose the connection. Louis Armstrong saw musical tones as images, as apples hanging at various distances. What damage is done to communication by training your mind to be linear, by reading from left to right, all concepts funneled to letters? You can lose subtlety; you might forget to listen. I thought I was musically dyslexic, unable to “get” the system. I understand it, like understanding the mechanics of seeing. This doesn’t bring sight.


Surrender (Revision)

When I turned out the light to surrender to the expansion of night
I went nowhere but exhaustion.
We wound circles to Pink Floyd and powwow, and skidded when the music
Stopped for musical chairs,
Underneath balloons in honor of baby’s first year.
She’s starting to walk.
I’m amazed at what gets paved by the grind of time
By forgiving. Or do I say, surrender?
I should take rest easy then, this day near equinox marking a festival of crossroads.
We had good weather.
Still I tumble relentlessly over this sleepless hump of worry.
I’m restless for vision, the next song.
For something other than the electrical switch that only takes me back
To where I started: an adobe room in a time of decay,
A small life on planet Earth, and what we imagine here.
When Rain called with the latest on her step-girl’s pregnancy,
We questioned what happened during the delicate web of formation:
Drugs? Coffee? Pesticides in the salad?
Or the old uranium tailings that are everywhere in the winds crossing Gallup?
I had to think through the dark and the dark was no longer a beautiful
Pathway, to stomp dances in the middle of a field of stars.
Funky, I called it.
Rough knowledge bares teeth in the nasty vortex of this brutal civilization.
Think musical chairs, I tell myself. And begin to imagine the falling away.
Each baby with ten fingers and toes, each dance taken.
The beauty prayer will bear me up and we will get there,
Yes we will, said the dark. Surrender.

c Joy Harjo September 25, 2006/October 2nd, 2006


A Photo Journal of the Weekend in Oklahoma

The Trampoline, or Grandson with Flying Hair and Niece's Children

Outside Talley's Cafe on Route 66 Tulsa at Sunset

A Leaf Outside the Doubletree, Downtown

Visiting Mike Flud at the Muscogee Tribal Complex with Tayo


COMINGS AND GOINGS Harjo’s September column for the Muscogee Nation News

Hensci—Early August I was honored to tag along with the historic: “Traveling California Muscogee Creek Show,” (my title) a production of the California Muscogee Creek Association, headed up by Eli Grayson. Officials of the nation in Oklahoma and heads and staff from various tribal agencies visited their western relatives in the LA and Bay areas. The first meeting took place on a Saturday in El Segundo in a park near LAX. Several hundred citizens who had left (or their parents or grandparents had left) Oklahoma for relocation, adventure, and/or for opportunity showed up for the event of speakers, tables with information, food and sharing. I was impressed by the diversity of citizens and considered the gifts of enrichment from each. Citizens included artists, singers, filmmakers, actors, entrepreneurs, professors, storytellers, chefs and so many others. I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in awhile, like Victoria Bomberry who is now an assistant professor at the University of CA, Riverside. She raised three sons as a widow, made it through Stanford and now travels often to Bolivia for her studies. And I met many citizens for the first time, some who had come for miles to be at the gathering. The crowd enjoyed the presentations and stories of citizens from Oklahoma, like Joyce Bear, Pete Coser and Norma Marshall. I enjoyed getting to know everyone better as we worked and visited alongside each other. Despite any differences, everyone was there because of connection to the Muscogee Nation.
Very, very early the next morning we made a caravan from Los Angeles to Stockton, for the second day of presentations. As we drove the several hours north I thought of the journeys people had made from home to get here, and how no matter far away from home we travel, home always lives within us. It’s the root of your being and when it’s stirred up by such happenings as this you feel a little sad and happy, all at once. These meetings were a bit of a turn on the notion. Instead of going home, home came to California.
Those who have stayed and taken care of the home fires tend to be suspicious of those who left. Those who left can be a little insecure about where and how to fit. Despite this, connections were made. I won’t forget Joseph Jacobs from the Holdenville area who lives in Stockton. We figured out how we are probably related on the grid of genealogy. Nor do I think any of us will forget how our spirits opened with each laugh, with each handshake or hug. We had a chance to get caught up on all the stories, the highs and lows. The Denny’s off the interstate south of Stockton and before nightfall will never be the same after our stop. We solved everything with a little nourishment and good company. And many of us feel even more resolute to help contribute to the quality of Muscogee Creek life, both here and there.
I have to mention Eli Grayson. Whether or not you agree with his unforgiving vision, his fierce uncovering of truth, eventually you just have to admire someone who is exactly who they say they are, and will tell you exactly what they mean. He works tirelessly on behalf of Creek citizens, especially those west of Oklahoma, without pay and without staff. He searched out every citizen in California. He called them and asked each one of them what he could do for them, and then he did something. I know because that’s how I met him when I was out there for a job. He knows genealogy like the old people. He studies the issues, history and looks into the future to see how we can all fit together. He makes sofkey and ribs for the meetings. He’s one of the people who will insure that we get from here to there with some kind of grace.
By the way, there was some kind of murmuring out there in the nation about Grayson calling himself “mekko” and some other nonsense. Track down the source and you’ll find someone telling stories to appear high and mighty. Or you’ll discover somebody trying to distract from their own mess. We’ve become easily distractible these days.
Mvto Eli.
Finally, one of our citizens, Stacy Pratt, Phyllis Fife’s daughter is now living in northern Italy. She reports that yes, there are Creeks no matter where you go. She says: “We visited the Vatican in April, and after we left, I was reading about parts that we had not visited. It turns out that in the missionary section, there are some Creek items!...I haven’t been able to go see them, but plan to visit again this fall…Well, my husband just finished making hominy, so I will end this letter and go eat it. We might be in the land of famously good Italian food, but sometimes, a Creek girl just has to have hominy.” Stacy returns to the U.S. in January to attend the University of Southern Mississippi where she is working on her doctorate in creative writing. We’re all proud of her.
This morning as we head into fall I feel like going fishing with Louis Littlecoon Oliver, beloved Mvskoke poet who we miss. He’d know what to say about all this.

August 27, 2006 Albuquerque


I turned out the light to surrender to expanding night
There was nowhere but exhaustion,
After the party for the baby, and three ex’s playing musical chairs.
We danced circles to Pink Floyd and powwow,
Underneath balloons in honor of baby’s first year.
She’s starting to walk.
I’m amazed at what gets paved by the grind of time
By forgiving. Or do I say, surrender?
I should take rest easy then, this day near equinox marking a festival of crossroads.
We had good weather.
Still I tumble relentlessly over this sleepless hump of worry.
I’m restless for vision, the next song.
For something other than the electrical switch that only takes me back
To where I started: an adobe room in a time of decay,
A small life on planet Earth, and what we imagine here.
When Rain called with the latest on her step-girl’s pregnancy,
We questioned what happened during the delicate web of formation:
Drugs? Coffee? Pesticides in the salad?
Or the old uranium tailings that are everywhere in the winds crossing Gallup?
I had to think through the dark and the dark was no longer a beautiful
Pathway to stomp dances in the middle of a field of stars.
Funky, I called it.
Rough knowledge bares teeth in the nasty vortex of this brutal civilization.
Think musical chairs, I tell myself. And begin to imagine the falling away.
Each baby with ten fingers and toes, each dance taken.
The beauty prayer will bear me up and we will get there,
Yes we will, said the dark. Surrender.

c Joy Harjo September 25, 2006


Wednesday Dollar Day at the New Mexico State Fair

Watching Brave Family Members on a Ride

Tosh, Waylon and Turtle


Will The Student(s) Who Borrowed Books and CD's

At UCLA please return? Some are not replaceable. I'll pay for postage.

(Or anyone who borrowed previously and didn't return.)



Lost Message, and Another Sax Player Heads Home

Hensci Joy,
I sent a blog message for the Ala Wai picture you posted, but i don't think it went through.

I wanted to tell you about the loss of San Diego musician, Sax Player, Hollis Gentry III.
He died , his funeral was friday. He had a Masters in music from UCSD, and was a very talented person, has played with a number of other musicians. Never made it big, but 'Should Have'. If you go to google and put his name in, there's lots of info there. You can download him from
CD Baby: California Easy Listening. His group was called "Fattburger", His recording of "Trail Of Tears", played a lot here Peace, Joan

No, Joan, it didn't come through.

And a good journey for Hollis Gentry III. Some of the finest go unrecognized in this life. I'll check him out.

We Must Be in Hell: From reading while inflight--

Came across an article about some research to turn gay sheep (rams) straight by injecting them with estrogen. You're going to get some really nelly sheep. Might even lead to cross-dressing.

Why not research hormones that make hateful people more compassionate?

P.S.(Any jetlag remedies?)


Sunset at Ala Wai Harbor

Thursday evening, visiting friends in Honolulu at a club at Ala Wai Harbor.
Entry and exit points are powerful doorways.


Time and War, Poetry Africa and the Naked Emperor

Frustrated at the lack of time to do what I need to do--How do you divide up a day to practice sax, write, do business (including emails that proliferate quicker than rabbits), visit with friends, take care of family, house, errands, creative projects, workout, student/class stuff and dream?

Then I stall out.

Add jetlag.

Stacked on three days of lack of sleep.

It's not just me. I know others who add to that taking classes and raising small children. It could be worse, at least I am not walking in rags in drought with lack of food to feed my family, or running from militia or rapists who wait while the women go for water and wood. That's also an alternate and very real, reality.

I never thought I'd see the day of U.S. military takeover of private operations of the airlines. I saw this yesterday.

I flew from Albuquerque to Honolulu via Los Angeles. I hadn't flown since the ban on carrying liquids on planes. Getting on in Albuquerque wasn't bad. I bought water AFTER security, still had to throw it out though theoretically I bought it in a secure area. Go figure. There's no common sense at work here. (Reminds me of my bare feet being wanded "for security" after 9/11.)

In LA when the American Airlines personnel announced impending boarding about eight military men in camouflage descended to the gate. They set up a gauntlet of tables with plastic bins underneath and pulled on plastic gloves. When boarding was announced the ticket taker wasn't airline personnel, rather a soldier in uniform. Then each of us was searched for lipstick and toothpaste.


I have a great respect for warriors. I have a great respect for what it means to sacrifice life so that others may have freedom. I respect the courage involved in facing mutilation and death.

This is not what's going on here. The young man who searched me was respectful, "doing his job". Last night as I sat out and looked at the stars I thought of him, and sent prayers for his life. He really cares for the country. Most of us do. Doesn't mean we agree with what is occuring in our names.

We attacked and took over a country. This country didn't attack us. I hesitate to say "we" as I didn't give my permission. But I'm implicated. We all are. I learned this when I visited Durban, South Africa a few years ago as a "guest" of Poetry Africa I wasn't properly introduced. I was introduced only as "American". Tension rippled through the auditorium. I was never given a chance to be heard for the audience turned against me at that moment. Being American marked me as a supporter of theft. It didn't help that I was never given a chance for proper introduction.

Everything was black and white. American or not. And though I was native I didn't look like the caricature in a headdress, the only image of American Indian I saw there, a logo for a popular fast food place. In that place I was American and responsible for the shameful behavior of the so-called leadership of this country. It was the most difficult moment of my performing life.

(And see, it still bothers me, despite the warm welcomes I've come to appreciate all over the world. I don't take them for granted anymore and have gratitude for the wonderful people I have met all over the world.

If we saw each other as human beings, rather than symbols, what would happen?

If other cultures were seen as viable and important as European cultures, what would happen?

If we realized that what is called progress is just consumerism in a new dress, what would happen?

If we listened wisdom and paid attention, what would happen?

The emperor is naked.


Mekko Frog

Yesterday I went for a walk along the ditch. It looked so naked. It had been shaved of the mile high weeds and flowers lining it. There was a lull in the water flow so the bottom was now only mud and occasional pools of water. In a few spots crayfish were looking for soft muck. Green heads of frogs emerged here and there. Some sunbathed then dove in alarm at the sound of humans or dogs. One wise frog was not so skittish. He sat out on a concrete abutment, taking in the day. I sat with him for a while to see what I could learn. Frogs are rare these days. Most frogs have been taken out by poisons and pesticides. This wise frog and his relatives were the most I’d seen in one place in years. Neither of us said anything as we watched the blue fall sky sweep by and the scrambling crayfish. At the back of my mind was the stack of papers on my desk, the errands, terrorist attacks by our government, and concern for my brother and his heart. The scrambling slowly unwound. When the wise frog did finally talk he noted that humans used to come and visit. And they would visit in turn. We both sat with remembering as another stream of blue passed with thoughts of clouds. We felt sad at the current state of loss in this world of progress. Somewhere along the way humans got confused and lost the way. Some still remember, I told the frog. I look for them everywhere I go. He nodded. Some of his people had forgotten too. Time pulled us both apart. We had to get on with it. We made plans to get together again. We thanked each other for the visit. When I looked back he was still there, encouraging that crayfish towards a muddy cove.

c Joy Harjo

Crayfish (Mekko Frog didn't want his photo taken)


Sunday Night and It's Just Me and the House Cricket

For those who sent comments I apologize. I just found them. They're up.

I've had many inspirations for posts, mostly they wind up in notebooks.

Here was my Saturday morning, attending the New Mexico State Fair Parade with friends and family.

I should have taken before and after photos. The parade was an interminable two-and-a-half hours long. We probably saw every marching band, every fire engine and horse in the state. We sat near a street corner holding some unresolved energy. During the parade a police car erupted in a cloud of smoke and broke down there, a low rider car stalled, a vintage trailer had to be pushed off the street, and a shriner in a tiny car broke down.

We all agreed there were too many politicians in the parade. One politician can be too many politicians.

In the latest World Literature Today out of Norman, Oklahoma (thanks for putting me on the mailing list, the magazine is now beautifully designed with excellent interviews and literature from all over the world). An interview with Yo-Yo Ma by Michelle Johnson really sparked me in thinking about culture, and about impetus for growth for Mvskoke culture.

Yo-Yo Ma says: "Years ago in Japan, a wise man told me that if you look deeply enough at anything thought of as local--be it music, an idea, a tradition, a craft--you find that the local thing has global roots. We think of ancient people as being so isolated, yet here is this trade route alaong which religions and music and musical instruments and foods and goods all traveled. Of course, people traveled with them, and the people and the goods and the ideas and everything else all had enormous influence on one another."

I consider the walls many tribal cultures erected for self-defense, for cultural integrityl. We needed them for survival. Now in many cases, they have begun to crush and smother cultural growth. I think of those in the tribe who would throw out anyone not Christian, or anyone who looks like they might have African blood. When I heard that a woman stood up an announced that our tribe "was a Christian nation" I was appalled and dismayed. Our strength has always been diversity of expression within the tribe. The most traditional foster this. Maybe it is too late, but I don't think so. I consider the amazing trade routes we followed and still follow, and the tremendous inspiration and growth possible. Our cultures contain many threads leading all over the world. We enrich other and they in turn, that is, in a healthy system. We're appear to be a long way from healthy these days.

Every day I practice my sax (or as my saxophonist mentor and friend Libbie reminds me, "Play, don't practice.") I say a little thank you to Adolfe Sax. He was born in Belguim, spent most of his life in Paris. He was villified by jealous enemies for inventing the saxophone. The sax made it across the Atlantic, found a place in jazz and American music. It's one of the favorite instruments of Creek people. Even my grandmother Naomi Harjo played sax in Indian Territory. One of these days it might be considered a Mvskoke traditional instrument.

Found another morning glory as we returned to the car from the parade. Or it found me:

And this morning I saw and understood deeply that there was indeed a time of communication between humans and animals. Most of us have forgotten. Some of the animals have,too. Others remember, as do some humans. An incredible depth of relationship has been reduced to children's stories for entertainment. We don't seem to get metaphor anymore.

Here's a grasshopper who said I could take his photo. My grandson Chayson calls them "Grasshelpers".

Please note that the above are just notes, in early stages of deveopment. Take them as such. Mvto.