Hensci. This month marks the one-year anniversary for this column, and the new year in our traditional system. In this year not much has changed: we are still being dragged into a war, by son, by daughter, a war initiated to make a few people rich: rich with money and resources, not rich in songs or wisdom. There’s a difference. Walter Mosly, the African-American mystery writer noted that the U.S. is no longer a democratic nation; we have become an oligarchy, a government by the rich for the rich. Sure appears that way. And in a few short years since this government has been dead set (so to speak) on a course of war, this country has lost nearly all credibility with the rest of the world. I experienced it directly in South Africa with a hostile audience when I was introduced as “American”. We are now seen as aggressive, violent, and in control by fundamentalist elements. Funny…isn’t that “our” name for “them”?
A few days ago I was up in Hartford, Connecticut for a performance at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, and had a chance to see Barack Obama and to hear the last 20 minutes of his speech. The packed civic center shined with his presence of wisdom and compassion. “You don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree,” is one of the lines I scribbled as I listened. Can you imagine coherent, wise and articulate leadership? Those qualities should be written into the job description. Right now the primary requirements for the office appear to be money and cronies in high places with money.
I had a chance to visit briefly with Creek citizen Rosemary McCombs Maxey in Hartford over dinner. She was busy with workshops and NCC business at the SYNOD Conference. (I’ve noticed that Rosemary is often involved in community service. The Hawaiians incarcerated in western Oklahoma sure appreciate her visits and assistance.) I asked Rosemary about her chickens and learned about the idiosyncrasies of guinea hens:
“I got home last evening into the mud and mire of our farm. The surviving guinea was happy to chatter at me, talking Creek all the while and eating "last year's" corn.
Guineas and their shenanigans.
Guineas are blackish, gray and white. Because of their body shape, they look like one of the Marx brothers in a tuxedo. When there were two of them the guineas segregated themselves with the black and white speckled chickens (Dominiques) and apart from the White Rock hens and rooster and apart from the Rhode Island Red hens. I hope it is not projection on my part, but I swear, they seemed to target the others by pushing them away from the feed pans and trays. They especially picked on the white rooster and to some extent a multicolored rooster, plucking their tail feathers out. The roosters became bobtailed, so when they try to mate with hens they don't have the balance they need. When the roosters fall off the hen, then the guinea run to them and peck them adding insult to injury.
The fowl sleep in a little cabin and up on roosts. The guinea roost with their friends the Dominiques. In the morning when I go out to feed them, they fly down off the roost into the yard. Usually they have a very smooth landing, but one morning, one of the guinea misjudged her landing and crashed into the water trough and got herself soaked. She looked somewhat embarrassed but also disgusted as she shook herself off and went behind her house to regain her composure.
One bright sunny morning last year, the guinea were strutting in the yard making their noises when overhead a mockingbird was going through her tunes. She mocked the guinea. They looked up at her in utter disgust and ducked their heads and went inside their house.
The guinea are independent fowl and don't like to be touched. Chickens will cozy-up. But one day they got out and the dogs chased them into some cedar trees. I was out yelling at the dogs and trying to get to the guinea. One of them sailed to my feet and I picked her up. The other too. I carried them back to safety, but they never said "thanks." They just went inside their little cabin.
They are wonderful noise-makers when strange things are going on. They eat ticks, I'm told. I can't bring myself to kill and eat them like my forebears did.
Those are my barnyard stories for today.”
Other issues have remained the same or have slid down farther on the Index of Fast and Questionable Change. We’re still piling up paper diapers, Styrofoam and other packaging trash. And we’re raising our children by television and computers. The predicted meltdown of the earth is on track for in or around 2010, according to those who are paying close attention to the signs of alarming earthly change. The popular term for the shift or meltdown is: ‘global warming”. That term addresses only one aspect of the process. And here the naming distances the truth. We aren’t a “globe”; we’re a breathing being. We are, each of us: animal, plant, mineral, elements and all particulars of life here, are part of one system.
We still eat too much grease. We could find other uses for it. In fact, grease could be the next economic opportunity for the Nation. We could sell all the used grease, gather it up from all the restaurants, schools, other institutions, the extra from each of the coffee cans filled with bacon and sausage grease sitting on our stoves. Yes, it’s true. We can use that grease to fuel our cars and trucks. (I saw it on television, with the kids.) It is relatively easy to reconfigure your car, using the existing gasoline motor, to run from grease. One such refitted car is traveling about the country to tout this economical answer to petroleum. Their exhaust trail smells like Chinese take-out, fish fry, or fried chicken, depending on the source for fuel that day. Industrial-sized bottles of cooking oil can be stored in the back of the car if used grease isn’t available. Makes sense to me. Only thing is, the fumes might stir your hunger, and you’ll have to stop and have a bit to eat, a little more grease.
I took a look at our Nation’s Stubborn Index. Yes, way up from last year to this one. The stalemate between some members of our National Council and common sense is responsible for most of the steep rise. Stubbornness as determination can be useful. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. One makes an impossible rut in the road and no one can get through. The other will get you where you going and might inspire others to do the same. Determination helped us survive the trail, got us through years of struggle with all those threats to our survival: the Dawes Commission, oil companies…you know the rest.
The Jealousy Index has skyrocketed since last year at a steady, nasty rate. We send it to each other, to anyone who raises their hand to help, speaks up, gets their picture in the paper, has something to add... It hobbles the Nation. And not just our people, it’s endemic in Indian Country. The most egregious attacks are from those closest to us, from within our own communities. The Jealousy Index in Indian Country is consistently over the top. The other side of jealousy might be celebration. Instead of stewing in a putrid green mess, try sending out some balloons, some banana bread, or a little sour sofkey. You might get some help for your own direction. See what happens. Someone else’s accomplishments help clear the road for others, for even you.
And despite what anyone might think, it’s still hard to make a living as an artist. Lesego Rampolokeng, a South African poet can attest to the difficulties, even in his country. He told me the story of how a landowner was having trouble with baboons. They can be quite cantankerous, stubborn, even vicious. The landowner wanted them off his property. They were obnoxious, had cleared his garden, broken into his shed, his pantry. He’d tried everything, from Acme Baboon Traps to sending in female baboons in red high heels. Nothing worked. One day a man walked up and said he could get rid of the baboons.
“Go ahead, you can try, like all the rest”, said the harried landowner. “But I won’t pay you until they’re gone.”
The landowner watched the man walk out to the back of the property. As the landowner watched, he saw the baboons laugh uproariously. Then they cried. And then they took off, running out into the bush.
“How did you do that?” Asked the amazed landowner, as he pulled out his wallet.
“First I told them that I was a poet. Then I told them how much money I made as a poet…Then I told them I was going to read them a poem.”
Of course there will always be change. All we can do is keep integrity about ourselves, and a sense of humor. Speaking of, I really enjoyed hanging out with Teresa Riley in Tucson. She said to remind you all that she’s Vincent’s sister.
And, before I forget, Cheryl Sanders is looking for a pattern for a Creek dress. “Well, I'm still searching for a pattern. You may put the request in your column next month. Kvskvne@yahoo.com is looking for her dress! Ha! “
Until next time.