MNN Column September 2008

You never know where you will find yourself, I told myself a few years back, as I marched along a Townsville, Australia street dressed in surf shorts, carried a canoe paddle, in a parade of outrigger canoe paddlers from all over the Pacific, including Tahiti, Aotearoa and Canada. I was with the Hawaiian contingent, marching behind the Hawaiian flag, singing Hawaiian songs. We were all there to take part in the International Outrigger Canoe Sprint Championships.

This summer I finished a regatta racing season at Hui Nalu Canoe Club. The season involves three to four practices a week, and other training. I continued weights, and added other aerobic training. It was a time of many firsts for me. I managed to “do a change”, that is, leap from an escort boat into the ocean and swim to the outrigger canoe, jump in and keep paddling, as part of the club’s 100th year anniversary around the island paddle; win a couple of medals, including a gold, and I even made it to States with a crew.

I was never an athlete. I decided this when I was four and was given a pair of roller skates for Christmas. When I clung in fear to the chairs in the kitchen and refused to let go, my father snatched them off my feet. My fear made him angry. After that, I saw sports as something I couldn’t do. When a ball came in my direction, I ducked. I had no body confidence, unless there was music involved. Then I could even dance under a stick and win the limbo.

I thought of all this yesterday as I biked several miles along the ditch here in Albuquerque. I felt body confidence, something I had never felt for most of my life, beginning with my growing up years in which I escaped into forgetting, eating, and hiding.
This last week I was invited to perform at the fifty-year anniversary program for the organization Wings of America, a Santa Fe Indian Market event. The mission is to empower native youth with running programs. Running is a “catalyst to empower…Native youth to take pride in themselves and their cultural identity, leading to increased self esteem, health, and wellness, leadership and hope, balance and harmony.” Participants in Wings programs around the country showed a 99% high school graduation rate, and 94% went on to college. They also used less alcohol and drugs, and were healthier. Impressive.

I think about how this body confidence would have helped me bypass so much heartbreak in my coming up years. We need the power and blessing of breath moving dynamically through our bodies, cleaning us, giving us fresh thoughts, no matter what age we might be. It’s never too late. You never know where you might find yourself.

And finally, I also did a little running around the south a few weeks ago. Craig Womack invited Rosemary McCombs Maxey, Ted Isham and me down to Atlanta, where Craig is now teaching at Emory University, to work on a translation project together. Everyone was on their best behavior because I said I was writing everything down they said or did. I now have enough for several columns. Stay tuned. One of the problems, I understand, that is troubling our Mvskoke language specialists, is, coming up with a Mvskoke word for Viagra. Any ideas?


Getting in What Kind of Shape?

I turn on the tv in the fitness room of my hotel in Norman, Oklahoma. A trailer for the movie “The Women” runs—something with Meg Ryan as someone like Meg Ryan turning into another Meg Ryan. Then, another trailer for another stupid movie, no, it’s an advertisement for Thomasville furniture. There is no seam. Each is of the same shallow weightlessness. The movie is an advertisement for the studio producing it to make money, and the trailer is literally an advertisement for the advertisement. The furniture company just wants to make money, by telling all of us watching that we will look like the beautiful people sitting on their furniture who just might be movies stars in the next take, if we buy their furniture. And all of it vibrates at the level of greed, including the absurd irony that follows: Senator John McCain running for president on a platform of no greed. Now, follow that!?


Winding Through the Milky Way CONTEST WINNERS

Congratulations to the winners!!!!
I enjoyed hearing from everyone.

A new CD to the person who lives farthest away from where I am at the moment, Albuquerque, New Mexico is:
Hedwig from Manila, Philippines
For the first person to write from Oklahoma. Renate from Okmulgee
For the person who can name the cassette of my first musical, poetic endeavor. Laura Coltelli, Furious Light Denver 1986 and for Lyle Daggett because he also knew the title.

And from the drawing:

Anonymous from Rio Hondo, TX
Steve Shoemaker
Gail Ann Fagen

Please send your addresses so I can mail out your copies to: mekkopoet@earthlink.net.


Friday, September 12, 2008 – Music Maker: Joy Harjo:

Joy Harjo (Muscogee) is back with a new album titled “Winding Through the Milky Way.” She mixes Native rhythm, her distinctive vocal style, and tight instrumental sound for an exciting new journey through time and space. The talented singer, songwriter, saxophone player, poet and author will join us in-studio to provide insight about her new work, chat with listeners and give us all a ride on the paths that take us on a trip through the Milky Way. We’ll talk with her about that faint band of light in the night sky, sorrow, ancient ones, destiny and of course, joy.

Native America Calling Airs Live
Monday - Friday, 1-2pm Eastern



This morning as I prepared for this week's class on images, on the power of images, and how they operate in poetry I thought of seeing, how we see, how we are trained to see and not see. I remembered the story of the explorer Magellan. When he and his crew docked at a village near Tierra del Fuego and climbed onto land, the villagers couldn't see them. It sounds unbelievable, actually, until you realize that yet everyday we walk and exist within several realms. In the western world we have been trained to interact and see only one, the one discernible with our five senses. (There are more than five senses.) There are the plant realm, insect realms, various creature realms, the sky realms, ancestor human realms, the realms of the deceased who do not know they are dead to this world, and so on. In the western way of thinking (western, that is, non-indigenous, all of our cultures have indigenous roots), if we see and communicate within these realms, we are dwellers in the imagination, or outright crazy. Poets are interpreters and singers. We are crossover stations of these realms.


Sarah Palin’s Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

(Thanks to Suzan Harjo for this. She says,"I had a very tiny hand in it, but it's best to say that it was written by Alaska Native people. I did fact-checking and cite-checking, and can verify its accuracy.")

1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing

Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples as the right to hunt
and fish according to ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on the subsistence
way of life for future generations.

Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those rights.

Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every
subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. (State of
Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D. Ak).) In pressing this case, Palin decided against
using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued
contracting with Senator Ted Stevens’ brother-in-law’s law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner &

The goal of Palin’s law suit is to invalidate all the subsistence fishing regulations the
federal government has issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the courts instead to
take over the roll of setting subsistence regulations. Palin’s law suit seeks to diminish
subsistence fishing rights in order to expand sport and commercial fishing.

In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State’s main challenge, holding that Congress
in 1980 had expressly granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments the authority to
regulate and protect Native and rural subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. (Decision entered
May 15, 2007 (Dkt. No. 110).)

Notwithstanding this ruling, Palin continues to argue in the litigation that the federal
subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from
subsistence fishing, in favor of sport and commercial fishing. Palin opposes subsistence
protections in marine waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under their 1971 land
claims settlement with the state and federal governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska
Natives customarily fish. (Alaska Complaint at 15-18.) Palin also opposes subsistence fishing
protections on Alaska Native federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely to
foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues are now pending before the federal district

2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

Palin has also sought to invalidate critical determinations the Federal Subsistence Board
has made regarding customary and traditional uses of game, specifically to take hunting
opportunities away from Native subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting.

Palin’s attack here on subsistence has focused on the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina.
Although the federal district court has rejected Palin’s challenge, she has carried on an appeal
that was argued in August 2008. (State of Alaska v. Fleagle, No. 07-35723 (9th Cir.).)

In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued uninterrupted the policies
initiated by the former Governor Frank Murkowski Administration, challenging hunting and
fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their subsistence way of life in order to
enhance sport fishing and hunting opportunities. Palin’s lawsuits are a direct attack on the core
way of life of Native Tribes in rural Alaska.

3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty

Governor Palin opposes Alaska tribal sovereignty.

Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native
villages, Palin does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues that Alaska Tribes
have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition.

So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she has sought to block tribes from
exercising any authority whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children, adhering to a 2004
legal opinion issued by the former Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exists
(except when a state court transfers a matter to a tribal court).

Both the state courts and the federal courts have struck down Palin’s policy of refusing to
recognize the sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes to address issues involving Alaska Native
children. Native Village of Tanana v. State of Alaska, 3AN-04-12194 CI (judgment entered
Aug. 26, 2008) (Ak. Super. Ct.); Native Kaltag Tribal Council v. DHHS, No. 3:06-cv-00211-
TMB (D. Ak.), pending on appeal No 08-35343 (9th Cir.)). Nonetheless, Palin’s policy of
refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains unchanged.

4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages

Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska Native languages and voters by
refusing to provide language assistance to Yup'ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a result,
Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge panel of federal judges to provide various forms
of voter assistance to Yup'ik voters residing in southwest Alaska. Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-
0098-TMB (D. Ak.) (Order entered July 30, 2008). Citing years of State neglect, Palin was
ordered to provide trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup'ik; sample ballots
in written Yup'ik; a written Yup'ik glossary of election terms; consultation with local Tribes to
ensure the accuracy of Yup'ik translations; a Yup'ik language coordinator; and pre-election and
post-election reports to the court to track the State's efforts.

In sum, measured against some the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes –
the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights – Palin’s record is a failure.

HOAX: Sorry......Please disregard. Send other info. Books Palin Attempted to Ban While Mayor of Wasilla

(Thanks to Tetman Callis for the forward.)

The following is a list of books that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin tried to get banned when she
was mayor of Wasilla. This information is taken from the official minutes of the Wasilla
Library Board. When the librarian refused, then-Mayor Palin tried to get her fired.

As you will note, the list contains works by, among many others, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and
Stephen King. It also includes the Harry Potter books and Webster’s dictionary. It speaks to
the underlying truths of Governor Palin’s political philosophy, which may or may not be that of
the Republican party.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouImpressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William ShakespeareThe New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and
Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth


Suicide Watch

Suicide Watch

I fought and choked in a slough of emotional backwash.
You know, said my teacher, you can wallow, or,
You can stand up here with me in the sunlight and watch the battle.

I climbed muddy up and looked around.
A skinny leech of perverted intelligence, bobbed about, looking for someplace to land.
No, I told suicide there are no handholds on my spirit.
I looked to its path to see its origin. I sent it back.

I became fascinated by the dance of dragonflies over the river.
This is where I found myself.

c Joy Harjo September 6, 2008 Albuquerque

I'm still working on this poem, especially line one.

I did see suicide as an energy looking for someplace to land, and backed away, studied it. I tracked it literally to a situation that happened in the university community a few years back to another native professor. It's related to the current state of affairs here. When there is not ceremony for putting away, for closing up, these things get loose.

Don't worry. I'm not suicidal now. I did struggle as a young native woman. Native youth often struggle with suicide. It's the most rampant killer of our young people.


McCain's Running Mate Palin

Where Are You?

Because I want to get an idea of who's out there and reading this (outside of the statistics pages and graphs), and to promote my new CD of music: Winding Through the Milky Way, I will give away four or more CD's this week. Here's how it goes:

A new CD to the person who lives farthest away from where I am at the moment, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A new CD to the first person to write from Oklahoma.
A new CD to the person who can name the cassette of my first musical, poetic endeavor.
And a CD drawing for everyone who writes. I'll pick a few.

Rules: Send your place name via comments and a way for me to reach you. (You can send email and I'll respond for your address.)
This contest will end Friday night at midnight NM time, September 5th.

Good luck.



What a foolish charade: who does McCain think he's fooling? He's chosen a running mate solely because he thinks he can win over the Hillary votes. Sarah Palin is an NRA backing, reactive, small-time, right winger. She does not have a compassionate spirit. Ask her constituency.

Maybe we've proven we'll vote for what we think we want to see. We have forgotten to think, speak and act with metaphorical depth. Instead we are back at one plus one equals two.

One woman is the same as any other women.

Maybe for McCain, this is true.