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.