When we greet, weather is often our next point of reference. The weather matters; it connects and shapes our various realities. We breathe it. We’re in it. Right now, here in Hawai’i, it’s uncommonly humid, hot and still. The trade winds are our natural air conditioning. And where are they? They’re visiting somewhere else. Rumors are they are on their way back. They’d better get here soon. I’ve started checking on air conditioner prices!
The weather in Oklahoma has always been legendary. The Cherokee Will Rogers,Jr., even commented about it: If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute, it’ll change.” Every time I call home to Oklahoma I get a weather report. “Ice, snow, hail, humidity….” Often this is all on the same day. This summer it’s the heat wave.
Even my friends up north in Alaska have been telling me how the heat has disrupted the cycles of life. Polar bears are drowning because of the extensive melting. There’s drought in the Amazon,too. And in Albuquerque last month the Rio Grande had disappeared to a trickle.
It’s tricky going right now for all of us here on this beloved earth. We’d better start looking around and taking care: thank those plants, animals, winds, rains, the sun and moon--all that sustains us and have taken care of us all these years. And thank the Maker of all this. We take so much for granted. Many of us have forgotten who we really are in this place.
My friend, Greg Sarris, the tribal chairman for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in northern California predicted that if this gets worse—and it will, if we don’t make some drastic changes in our behavior. We need to remember to be Indian again. We need to dust off our songs for the plants, winds, and animals, to all that sustains us. And will need to make new ones. We’d better start singing.
The weather is responsive and could be the culmination of our thoughts and actions as they move into the atmosphere: as individuals and communities, from our emotions, attitudes, car and industrial exhaust…and politicians’ lies.
The big event last week in Fairbanks, Alaska was the World Eskimo-Indian Games. The games are based on skills needed for survival way up there in the north. In the Eskimo Stick Pull two people sit facing each other with their feet pressed together and their knees bent. Between them they grasp a stick. Each attempts to pull over their opponent. This strength is necessary for bringing a seal in from a hole in the ice. What games do we need down here to strengthen our survival? Maybe the Eskimo Stick Pull would help strengthen us for lifting grocery bags from the cart to the car, and then for carrying into the house? How about walking or running, to make a tank of gas last for more than a week? Or what about the frybread toss? See how far away you can toss the second or third piece you don’t need, so you can save a few pounds and maybe add a year or two to your life.
The culminating event was the tug-of-war between the native women and the white men. The women have always won. I can imagine all kinds of competitions and teams we could feature at the Creek Nation Festival next year. Weren’t stickball games traditionally used for decision-making between tribal towns, other tribes?
Each of us is involved in this game of life. And we’re here, together: full-blood, half-blood, citizen, not-a-citizen, married to a citizen, wish-I-were-married-to-a-citizen, tired-of-being-a-citizen—all of us. The playing ground is earth. We were born and will leave with only what we carry in our spirit. The challenge is to make a shining story out of our failures and successes, our despair and joy, to take good care of our gifts and each other.
Joy Harjo July 27, 2006 Honolulu