Roly Poly Bug People

...I’m convinced each of us here on Earth has made that leap in consciousness.. Even the roly poly bug I watched skitter quietly across the floor of the bathroom of my Kolkata hotel room, a few years ago had made that crossing. In India it was morning. In my body, it was the middle of the night. When I got up I looked through the window. I could see women across the way squatting and doing the laundry in the river, as their families swirled around them. I was delighted to see this little fellow join me in that corner of the world as I sat on the toilet. I spoke to him with my mind. I’ve always felt close to these roly poly people with their segmented, armored bodies and the ability to roll into a perfect ball when threatened. I first met them when I was a child in Oklahoma and dug in the dirt for the sheer joy of the smell of earth. They were often with me when I watched sunrise outside alone in the early warm mornings of summer. And now here in a place far away from Oklahoma, I felt properly greeted by them. As he walked away to have his breakfast, he gifted me with the vision of the light of his spirit: an exquisite glow surrounding his dignified body...

Excerpt from my memoir in progress c Joy Harjo 2009


Wordplay: from the Washington Post. Thanks to my friend, the poet William Pitt Root, for passing this on. Enjoy!!

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.
The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), a condition in which you absentmindedly answer
the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n), olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are
run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. ( that one got extra credit)

9. Karmageddon (n): Its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.


N.Scott Momaday in Need of Assistance

Dear Readers:

Please disregard the previous message regarding the beloved writer N.Scott Momaday.

The solicitation request did not have the approval of Momaday or his family.

Do not mail any money to Coming Home Connection.




Thanksgiving MNN Column for November 2009 by Joy Harjo

It’s dawn in Mystic, Connecticut. It’s a beautiful, New England seaport town. It’s fall and the trees are bursting in yellow and red. I can smell the sea. Still I feel uneasy, like walking into a building where there’s been rough trouble. I keep thinking about how this Eastern edge bore the brunt of colonization. European maps showed this location as a sea of monsters larger than ships. If ships made it this far, they would fall off into the abyss of the unknown. And in essence they did, into a land of plenty, far from Europe or India. They found a new “India”, and preceded to demonize and massacre the native people they found occupying these rich lands because their European God, imported from the Middle East, had given them dominion over everything, in writing.

Because I am uneasy of a history here that I don’t know, and find nothing in the hotel room tourist information magazines, I research on Google and discover that over 600 Pequot people, mostly women and children, were burned in a violent massacre here in 1637. The two entrances to the village were blocked and the village torched. The traditional enemies of the Pequot assisted the Puritan patriots. The only survivors were those who had followed the sachem Sassacus in a raiding party outside the village. On record are the Puritan preachers’ sermons of praise for God’s assistance in the killing of the heathens who stood in the way of righteousness.

I travel frequently these days and it isn’t often that such violence impresses itself so clearly to my awareness. It’s not surprising however, as indigenous peoples were 100% of the population. We’re now roughly ½ of 1% of the total census of this country. Can you imagine Europe with a handful of Europeans, or China without Chinese? These violent acts remain imprinted throughout these lands. We as native people carry the weight in our knowing. It is also a burden of the whole U.S. because the country was established on violence. This is the underside of the American legacy and this country will not move forward with integrity without a collective acknowledgement and healing.

All the high figures for diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, suicide and violence taking our children, drug dependence, physical and spiritual illnesses can be tracked to this holocaust. It’s a holocaust that continues to find roots with every act of disrespect, of racism, of judgment against or within us. We are often the perpetrators as we judge others who are not Indian enough, too white, black, who are not Christian enough or traditional enough.

The place to begin is within. Each act of compassion, kindness and forgiveness makes a handhold for those around us, and our descendents.

Thanksgiving is on us again. The holiday never sets easy with me. For many of us, it is a day of sadness, of mourning. I don’t begrudge my relatives and friends who wish to acknowledge it. And I love turkey and dressing. Still, the celebration has nothing to do with real history.

On another note: During my travels I got to hang with Durango Mendoza, a Creek citizen who is now living in Champaign, Illinois. He’s an excellent photographer, writer and kind person. He sends his regards to everyone and has been missing his Muscogee Nation News. Please send it to him!


Tribal Leaders From Across Indian Country to Gather in Washington to Open Embassy of Tribal Nations

Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:40pm EDT
Tribal Leaders From Across Indian Country to Gather in Washington to Open
Embassy of Tribal Nations

Historic Opening in Conjunction with White House Tribal Nations Summit

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tribal representatives from all
corners of Indian Country will be joined by international dignitaries, Members
of Congress, Administration officials and tribal supporters to officially open
the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Embassy of Tribal Nations in
Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The opening will include traditional
Native American cultural presentations.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090128/DC63608LOGO )

"For the first time since settlement, tribal nations will have a permanent
home in Washington, D.C. where they can more effectively assert their
sovereign status and facilitate a much stronger nation-to-nation relationship
with the federal government," said NCAI President Jefferson Keel.

The historic opening coincides with the 1st Annual Obama Administration's
Tribal Nations Conference set for Thursday, Nov. 5 at the U.S. Department of
the Interior. The Administration invited one representative from every
federally recognized tribe in the U.S. to attend the conference.

WHO: Tribal Leaders, International Dignitaries, Supporters of Indian Country

WHAT: Embassy of Tribal Nations Gala Open House

WHEN: Tuesday, November 3, 2009--2:00-8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Embassy of Tribal Nations
1516 P Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005

We do expect remarks from Members of Congress as well as remarks from tribal
leaders. Remarks will depend on timing of arrivals. Press is encouraged to be
present for opening remarks and speeches (approximately 2:30-4:00 p.m.).
Please RSVP to Adam McMullin at amcmullin@ncai.org. Members of the press must
sign in and receive press badges upon arrival.

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest,
largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization
in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting
strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a
better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and
Alaska Native governments, people and rights.

SOURCE National Congress of American Indians

Adam McMullin of the National Congress of American Indians, +1-202-422-8416,
© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only.

Inupiaq Poet Joan Kane Wins A Whiting Writers' Award


Inupiaq poet wins prestigious national writing award
Published: October 28th, 2009 06:41 PM
Last Modified: October 29th, 2009 02:56 PM

An Inupiaq mom from Anchorage has picked up one of America's most prestigious literary awards. Poet Joan Kane, 32, was among 10 writers to receive a $50,000 Whiting Writers' Award at a ceremony in New York City on Wednesday night.

The Whiting awards have been presented annually for the past 25 years. Among authors who have received the award early in their careers are playwrights August Wilson and Tony Kushner and essayist Tobias Wolff. Alaskans who have previously won include Natalie Kusz and former Daily News columnist Seth Kantner.
Kane's poetry is inspired, in part, by what she calls her "ancestral landscapes" on the Seward Peninsula and King Island.
She has previously received an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts' Connie Boochever Fellowship and been a winner in the Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest. Her play, "The Golden Tusk," was presented at the Anchorage Museum this summer. She is co-curator of the "Virtual Subsistence" art and literature exhibit now on display at the MTS Gallery in Mountain View.
But she hasn't yet seen her first published book. Speaking before leaving Anchorage to accept the prize, Kane said she didn't expect to hold a copy of the book, "The Cormorant Hunter's Wife," published by NorthShore Press, until Friday, when she has a "book launch" event in Brooklyn.
Kane was born in Anchorage in 1977. She grew up in Muldoon and showed literary promise early on, writing a prize-winning essay on Martin Luther King while in the fourth grade.
"I've always been a reader," she said. "My parents used to drop me off at the Muldoon Library and I'd spend the whole day there."
She was also a competitive runner, a string player in the Anchorage Youth Symphony, vice president of the Alaska Native Youth Leadership council and an exceptional student at Bartlett High School.
At 17, she was accepted into Harvard University in an early-action program based on her first three years of high school. At that time she thought she might want to be a doctor.
Before going to college, however, she took a year off. "I was scared of being homesick," she said. "I read a lot that year. A novel a day."

She traveled to Ireland and England to see sites associated with writers like James Joyce and William Yeats. It helped push her in the direction of creative writing. In 2000 one of her poems won the college division in the University of Alaska/Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest.
"The $50 that came with that was the first money I ever made as a writer," she said. "But more than that, it was a validation."
She is said to be the first Inupiaq to earn a bachelor's degree from Harvard. She continued post-graduate studies at Columbia University in New York, where she received a master of fine arts degree in creative writing in 2006.
Since returning to Anchorage she has worked as a consultant on financial development for Native village corporations. When she returns from New York she'll present business workshops in Barrow and Wainwright.
After that, however, she'll defer travel until after her second child is delivered, on or around Feb. 27. (That will make two sons. "My mom finally has something that she can be proud of me for," she quipped.)

Kane sounded ready for a break from "the non-writing part of my life." She wants to concentrate on a second book of poetry, among other things.
"The money couldn't come at a better time," she said. Although she received grants and fellowships, her college debts are substantial. She and her husband, attorney Brian Duffy, sometimes struggle to pay the bills for their young family.
"My husband jokes that he's probably the only start-up lawyer whose practice is being kept afloat by his poet wife," she said.
Some of the money will buy health insurance, she said.
She'd also like to take her children and her mother to King Island, an expensive and difficult proposition.
The remote settlement in the Bering Sea was abandoned under pressure from the government in the 1950s. Memories of the deserted village contribute to overtones of loss and change that haunt Kane's poems. King Islanders retain a strong sense of identity with the place, though members of the younger generation -- including Kane herself -- have never been there.
Kane hopes to visit small communities in the future, to talk about writing and "bring books to others."
"As a writer, you have to be concerned when you see all of these towns without bookstores," she said.
Sitting with artist Ron Senungetuk in the Nome Airport last month, she shared her desire to travel more and see places far and near. At the time, she had no idea that she would be winning a major national literary prize.
She listed a number of wishful destinations.
"Don't worry," assured Senungatuk, a family friend. "Those places will all be there when you're ready to see them."
"I feel like he saw into my future," she said.

Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.
A Kane sampler
This poem won the college poetry division in the 2000 University of Alaska/Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest:

Pure/Pour/A Priori
full moon’s rays spill
a skeleton path on water
tell me the spell
you held me under
simpler to undo
than the first split steps
I took towards you.
Wrath and swell
of the silt-black sea
heavy and mute
with the weight
of so much ice melting
returns agency
to me, and ease.
Eyes travel,
trace along the shape
of pure coincidence;
sere white falls hued
through night air,
valuable, and silvers
on the waves.
Shafts of light
unravel, reeling
towards shore: shine
relearns its shadow image
and I relearn more.
I can scarcely scrape
and scratch my eyes
across the moon’s rough
surface. To conjure
this drag and chase down
the fixed spines of time
and the firm arrival
at some great vein
of truth appears
difficult. My own
divinations, though, draw
me down the coast
and raise my eyes high
despite the bone-bright
glance of the naked
skeleton path on the water.
— By Joan Kane

VIRTUAL SUBSISTENCE, for which Kane serves as the curator of the literary component, will remain on display through Nov. 14 at the MTS Gallery, 3142 Mountain View Drive. Cover art for Kane’s book, “The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” by Gretchen Sagan, who curates the visual component of the exhibit, is on display there, as well as writings by Kane and others. The gallery is open noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. A First Friday opening and performance will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Congratulations Joan!! Your efforts make a path for others to follow.


Beluga Joy

Beluga Whale Joy c Joy Harjo

MNN Column October 2009

Last night I gave a musical performance with Larry Mitchell for the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. We were given a numbered parking permit for a covered meter at the front of the student union. When we drove up the space was illegally taken by a red sports car with emergency blinking lights. No one was in the car. We couldn’t load for sound check until we could park. The university police were called to tow the car. Shortly, four young jocks strode from the union with overnight bags to the car. Once they saw us, and security warned them to move, they slowed with a deliberate hatefulness. In their eyes, we had no business being on campus. We were not white. Fury rolled over me. I thought of the words George Coser, Jr. told me that had come from his parents, and had come from their parents; all the way back to the original teachings of our Mvskoke people. His words were something like this: “no matter what happens, stay in the direction of kindness.” I restrained myself from leaping out and pounding the driver with words (and yes, I have succumbed before) and turned my energy toward what I was there for that night. I saw that if I had acted on fury I would have given the sick man some of my energy. And in turn, I would have taken on some of that hatefulness. This is the school that has been at the center of the Indian mascot controversy.

In the last month I have been to Anchorage, Alaska, to the En’owkin Centre, a native arts and cultures center on the Okanagan Reserve in British Columbia, Canada. I assisted in the visioning of the International Native Writing School. They were having a thirty-year anniversary. And then I flew to Berlin, Germany, to New Mexico, and now here. I carry stories from each place and have met our people in many of those places (except Berlin, but our people have traveled there. Some things that belong to us are in their museums) but the most touching and powerful story along the way recently was from last night, at the concert.

A Ho-Chunk and Hopi recent graduate, Angie Naquayouma, from Wisconsin brought her husband and four young children to the performance. They all sat on the front row: a beautiful native family. I was impressed with the behavior of the children. I did perform some things specifically for children, and children always love the saxophone and flutes. The children were well behaved throughout the hour and a half performance. At the end of the performance we had our photograph taken together. But what was most impressive and what I will always carry in my heart is that each child, before they left, beginning with the oldest, came over and expressed how much they enjoyed the performance. The oldest child, a boy of about seven, told me that he was happy to get out of a boring meeting to come and he really enjoyed the music, the next three young ones came in turn, and each very eloquently spoke. They have been trained to be real human beings. Yes, we will make it somehow, through the delusion of fast food and fast culture. This kind of behavior and speaking elevates all of us.

And finally, during a break at the one-day Indigenous Sexualities Conference, I heard that when the movie “Dances with Wolves” came out, the Native American Educational Services College in Chicago was called by area sperm banks for donations by Indian men. Now, why does this not surprise me?


NAMMY Winners for 2009

October 4, 2009


Jan Michael Looking Wolf for Artist of the Year, Joanne Shenandoah & Michael Bucher's Bitter Tears Sacred Ground for Best Compilation, Jana's rendition of A Change Is Gonna Come for Song/Single of the Year, Kevin Locke's Earth Gift for Record of the Year, and American Idol Semi-finalist Charly Lowry for Best Video Among Those Honored

Niagara Falls, NY – On Saturday October 3, 2009 the Eleventh Annual Native American Music Awards (N.A.M.A.) was held at the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino in Niagara Falls infront of a packed house that featured consistently outstanding live music performances along with an emotionally charged Hall of Fame induction in honor of the late Ritchie Valenz.

Taking this year's top honors are; Joanne Shenandoah & Michael Bucher's Bitter Tears Sacred Ground for Best Compilation, Jana Mashonee's rendition of Sam Cooke's, A Change Is Gonna Come with Derek Miller for Song/Single of the Year, Jan Michael Looking Wolf for Artist of the Year, Skylar Wolf for Debut Artist of the Year, Will and Lil Jess for Debut Duo/Group of the Year, Kevin Locke's Earth Gift for Record of the Year, and American Idol Semi-finalist Charly Lowry for Best Video for her long form video featuring her song, Movin On.

Hosted with grace, class, style, humor and even professional music talent by actor Gil Birmingham, others on hand at the Awards ceremeony included: Shane Yellowbird who won for Best Country Recording, Atsiaktonkie who won for Best Folk Recording, Flutist of the Year JJ Kent, Wind Spirit Drum whose recording Amazing Grace took Best Gospel Inspirational Recording, Thunder Hawk Singers for Best Historical Recording, Gabriel Ayala for Best Instrumental Recording, Bryan Akipa For Best Male Artist, Eagle & Hawk for Best Rock Recording, Rezhogs for Best Rap Hip Hop Recording, Oshkii Giizhik Singers for Best Traditional Recording, Michael Searching Bear for Best World Music Recording, and Michael Brant DeMaria for the Native Heart Award.

Other nominees in attendance included; Benjamin Grimes, Kelly Montijo Fink, Jackie Tice, Mike Serna, Pappy Johns Band, Jimmy Shendo, Augusta Cecconi Bates, Douglas Blue Feather, Yvonne St Germaine and Donna Kay who all participated in the program.

Capping the evening’s ceremonies were consistently transcendant and flawless performances beginning with drum group Young Gunz, Dallas Washkahat and Fawn Wood, classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala, Eagle & Hawk, soprano opera singer Jennifer M Stevens accompanied by composer Augusta Cecconi-Bates, Joanne Shenandoah and Michael Bucher who performed material from their award-winning recording, Lifetime Achievement Recipient Stevie Salas pumped it up with original Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzesse and bass player TM Stevens of Shocka Zooloo and the late James Brown, and a spectacular rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Pride & Joy by the show's host Gil Birmingham and nominee Jimmy Wolf. Darryl Tonemah gave a rising performance in his trademarked barefeet, Jana's riveting vocals were unmatched, Shane Yellowbird showcased material for his upcoming Grand Ole Opry appearance, and new artist Jace Martin captured the audience with his Ritchie Valens tribute song, We Belong Together.

Tommy Allsup, original guitarist of the Buddy Holly band who flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens for the last seat on their ill-fated plane, bought the audience to tears as Allsup, who became emotional and choked up as he recapped and retold the story of his tour mate Ritchie Valens and his tragic end.

Following the Hall of Fame induction and Ritchie's sister, Irma's acceptance speech, Tommy Allsup, who is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, joined Ritchie's little brother, Mario, and his group, The Backyard Blues Band, who rocked the house and performed a special extended rendition of “La Bamba”.

N.A.M.A. and its Advisory Board contingency would like to congratulate all the winners and nominees and proudly honors these legendary performers and songwriters who have been leading forces in the Native American music community.

The Native American Music Awards & Association, founded in 1998, is the world’s leading membership-based association consisting of music industry professionals directly involved in the recording and distribution of traditional and contemporary Native American Music initiatives. The growing success of the Awards show now features over one hundred and fifty nominees annually, with at least one third of those nominees being new artists. For the past eleven years the Awards has set industry standards for professional Native American musicians who are gaining greater acceptance and exposure from both national and international audiences.

See below for a complete list of winners


Jan Michael Looking Wolf
The Looking Wolf Project

Dancing In The Rain
Graywolf Blues Band

Bitter Tears Sacred Ground
Joanne Shenandoah & Michael Bucher

Life Is Calling My Name
Shane Yellowbird

Skylar Wolf
Devil’s Son

Will & Lil Jess
Reservation Nights

Joy Harjo
Winding Through The Milky Way

Four Wolves Prophecy

JJ Kent
Ta Te’ Topa Win

Amazing Grace
Lenape Spirits
Wind Spirit Drum

Lakota Piano II

Native Pride
Thunder Hawk Singers

Gabriel Ayala

Bryan Akipa
Songs From The Black Hills

Peyote Ways
Primeaux & Mike

Deep Within
Tony Redhouse

Na Unu Nahai (Shape Shifter)
Apryl Allen

Band of Brothers
Midnite Express

Kelly Parker
Out Of The Blue

All Day All Night

Earth Gift
Kevin Locke

Eagle & Hawk

A Change Is Gonna Come
Jana Mashonee

Samantha Crain
The Confiscation: A Musical Novella

The Great Story From The Sacred Book
Rain Song/Terry & Darlene Wildman

It Is A New Day
Oshkii Giizhik Singers

Movin On
Charly Lowry & Aaron Locklear

Michael Searching Bear

Michael Brant DeMaria

Tommy Allsup

Ritchie Valens


Watcher at the Turn

Photo copyright Joy Harjo September 2009

Through the Dark

When I attempt to over reach with human reason, I cannot hear.
When I remember that I am a spirit then I have access to eternity.


NAMMY Voting/Please Vote

I have been nominated for three NAMMYs (native music awards). The winners are determined by votes, both from the advisory board and the public. My music has been nominated for: Best Female Artist; Best Song and Best World Music Recording.
Please go to http://www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com/ and vote. Soon. The voting ends in a few weeks!!

Most people assume I've won for my music. I never have....I believe my band Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice holds the record for the most nominations.

Thanks for your help!!

And you'll get a chance to hear what's going on in the native music scene.

When We Lose Metaphor

When we lose metaphor, we lose our capability to dream ourselves and our descendants into beauty.

There is everyday language, and the language used to speak of that which is sacred. In our indigenous languages even the everyday was metaphorical.

We need poetry in all of its aspects.

May Sarton said: "Poetry exists to break through to below the level of reason where the angels and monsters that the amenities keep in the cellar may come out to dance, to rove and roar, growling and singing, to bring life back to the enclosed rooms where too often we are only 'living and partly living'."


Yet Another Random Killing

Once in the early 90’s I caught a taxi from LaGuardia into New York City. The taxi driver was from Ethiopia, Bangladesh or some another country whose refugees were flooding the city and taking jobs as drivers. Prominent in the news was another random violent attack. At that time “drive-by killings” was a relatively new coinage. Since then we have suffered Columbine, Virginia Tech, the most memorable among numerous such random killings. The driver said that what was preferable about living in a war zone was that you understood the rules of war. You knew what to expect. I’ve pondered his words often since then, especially with the recent killing of women in the gym in Pittsburgh. Living in a country besieged by random violence carries with it a different kind of anxiety than living in a war zone. And because there is no apparent reason for the violence it is more difficult to make sense of it, to put it in an historical or familial context.


Accidentally deleted a comment

Sorry "Butch".

Muskogee Nation News Column July 2009

As I begin this column the sun is coming up over Albuquerque. My earliest memories on this earth are of the sun. I am in my mother’s kitchen in Tulsa sitting in my red high chair. Sun is a bright being. I see the sun’s breath as a stream of light filled with energy. I love nothing better than to be inside it, to breathe it. When I was five I noticed that my pet dog Alligator also loved the sun and curled up into a circle where it warmed the ground. This morning I need the recharge, the illumination, and the words from the sun reminding me to keep going, to keep compassion in my heart no matter the challenges. And there are challenges. We all know them, share them, labor under them and emerge from them stronger, with the insight we need to grow. We live in complicated times.

When I return to the time of that child in the high chair, life was deep and complex, yet simple. There was no television blasting and our minds hadn’t yet been wrapped with the tentacles of need for the Internet, computers, or computer games. I remember my mother singing, often to the radio. Pop and dessert were treats, not daily addictions. Yet, those times weren’t perfect. My family had the usual problems that besiege Indian country residents. What was foremost was the presence of the sky and earth, and having the time to listen, to hear.

Last month I made it back to Oklahoma, and ran around the nation as I usually do when I’m home. I am planning a writing, music and performance program for tribal students to begin next year. Several of us met over at the CafĂ© on the Square for lunch to talk about it. I got excellent input from all those present, including Rebecca Landsberry, Angel Ellis, Angela Bunner, James King, Lee Longhorn, Ted Isham, Rosemary McCombs Maxey, and Margaret Barrows. Then I made it over to the College of the Muscogee Nation and was given a tour by Angela Bunner. I’m impressed by the progress there. I’d love to take the language classes with Norma Marshall. I also visited Weogufkee church with Rosemary Maxey. The roof of the church didn’t fall in, as I predicted, and I met some wonderful people and especially enjoyed the meal after.

Finally, at least we have a tribe. According to a letter June 24th from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Cherokee no longer have a tribe. They were pronounced dead, as of the 1907 rolls. U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Larry EchoHawk wrote that the historic Cherokee Nation as it existed in 1934 no longer exists as a distinct political entity because Congress closed tribal rolls in 1907. “After 103 years, few, if any, or its members are still alive,” he states. “Even though the historical CN no longer exists, its sovereignty continues in the descendents of its members who have reorganized as the UKB (United Keetoowah Band) and the CNO (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma).”

We live in complicated times. I think I’ll just stay here, curled up in the sun for a little while, before heading out into the long day.


Returning from Oklahoma After Green Corn and the Fundamentalist Christians are Still Fearful

My body is still in the hum of the road. Drove all day, from ceremonies in Oklahoma, mother, family and Family. One end of the spectrum is the ribbon dance at dusk with the people as the sun travels through the trees; the other end is the constant push of religion in public, secular places. I choose to hold close that beautiful circle at dusk. I do not need to force converts. We each have our own, particular path in this world.


MNN Column May 2009

It’s before dawn in Honolulu and the neighborhood of birds is noisily singing and talking away, even more than usual. Fuscate (Redbird) has been in the habit lately of singing about four in the morning. It’s spring and he’s knocking himself out because he’s in love. There’s nothing like falling-in-love energy. It has written songs, poetry, built houses and inspired one of the most beautiful monuments in the world, the Taj Mahal. Love has started and ended wars. Guess we might try falling in love a little everyday, with the sunrise, with our tired selves, with a happy redbird giving up a little morning song to start the day. Might make things a little brighter.

I haven’t been out here on the island much these days. I’ve been traveling about the country, to Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and most recently to northwest Alabama to the University of Northern Alabama in Florence with my guitar player Larry Mitchell, to perform music and speak. Every time I return to Alabama I get a little more of the story of our people.

We were graciously taken care of by Pam Kingsbury, a professor at the university. She and the music wise man Terry Pace toured us around the area. We walked the first evening at dusk along the banks of the Tennessee River. The legend in the area goes that the original peoples would gather by the water to sing, and the water would sing back. There were many Old Ones still present along that path of immense trees and those wide, rolling, singing waters.

The next few days we were taken on a tour of the Muscle Shoals studios that included the FAME Studio opened in 1959. Those who recorded there are a who’s who in the music industry: Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, The Osmonds, Bobbie Gentry, and my favorite singer of all time: Aretha Franklin. The studio is still recording hits. The 3614 Jackson Highway Recording Studio is the original site of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. This was another place that still vibrates with the energy of musical achievement. The Rolling Stones recorded “Wild Horses” there, and many other hits by many other artists like Paul Simon and Pete Segar. At the Alabama Music Hall of Fame we walked through the Lynard Skynard “Sweet Home Alabama” tour bus and saw the many exhibits celebrating Alabama artists like Nat King Cole, the Father of the Blues W. C. Handy, who as a boy visualized birdcalls as notes on a scale, and Sam Phillips who created the Elvis legend. The blues, rock and roll, country, gospel and jazz museum features Alabamians who changed the course of music history.

What struck me as walked along the river, and through those places of musical power was the absence of native musicians and singers. What is known as American music was birthed in our traditional homelands and we contributed to that genesis. The African and European contributions are always mentioned in the story of American music, but our tribal peoples are left out of the equation. It’s time to change that story.


Danger: Hormonal Surges

One day the FDA will issue warnings on the dangers of estrogen & testosterone. They will be cited for their volatile and dangerous side effects, and may even be restricted. Every human will come with a warning. Some with high hormonal activity will be shot with antidote injections. Most passionate and violent acts can be attributed to these wily hormones. They break up homes; they blind us to the truth of potential partners. With high hormonal surges, we lose any sense of responsibility. We curry danger because we need connection. Too much estrogen results in excessive pink and pandering, obsessive homemaking, gathered skirts with aprons, a need to be married-to anyone, and beehive hairdos. Too much testosterone makes for hair trigger paranoia, gun collecting, jealousy and rage on the road or in bed, obsessive sexual conquest, and the need to own and drive a Hummer.


It is beautiful above us.

c Joy Harjo

It is beautiful inside us.
All around us it is beautiful.


On the road again: News in the Tulsa World this Saturday morning

No, I haven't been blogging...writing a book, new music and arrangements, traveling, and working on promotions for my forthcoming children's book: For A Girl Becoming, and continuing promotions of Winding Through the Milky Way, my most recent CD of music, and booking my one woman show with music, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light.

This morning I am in Glenpool, Oklahoma, not far from my family's original allotment lands. The largest oil strike in the country took place here. My sister lives here. It has been cool here. Usually Oklahoma in June is sultry and hot.

The following news in the Tulsa World struck me for various, obvious reasons:

--25 Indians, 9 police die in Amazon land protest. Indians protesting oil and gas exploration on their lands battled police in the northern province of Utcubamba, Peru.

--A Nigerian based church has a following in Tulsa. Caleb Agadagba is the founder and pastor of the Tulsa church which has a majority of African nationals, many African-Americans and a few white Americans. He says: “A long time ago, America and Europe sent missionaries to Africa…Africa is able to send missionaries back to America and Europe…”

--American Airlines is planning to force its flight attendants to sell catalogue items on their flights. Commissions will take the place of wage increases.

Yes, we have work to do.



Tonight when I looked at you
As I have uncountable stares, stars and glances
I did not know you
How foolish that I should think I know everything about you
My mystery seeks to comprehend your mystery
It is unending, this unknowing

c Joy Harjo 2007


Trying to Reach Jim Roberts of Four Winds of Rockford, IL

I received an email from Jim Roberts. All attempts to answer the email have failed. The emails are returned as undeliverable. If you're out there, Jim Roberts, please write again with a phone number or different email address.


MNN Column for April 2009

I’m in the last week of my show here in Los Angeles. A few days ago I took a break and hung out with Charlie Hill, the Oneida comedian. We had a late lunch at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, one place in town that serves Oklahoma/reservation food. Then we walked around near Sunset and Vine, browsed around record stores and visited. Friendship is one of the finest gifts, worth more than nearly anything on this earth. Charlie is funny, deeply philosophical and he’s given me helpful notes that have improved my performance. We stopped at an ATM machine and there in the middle of a city of over nine million human souls, we just happened to meet a young woman who just happened to be half Oneida, from Charlie’s home, and half Seminole. (Her father is an Osceola). Yoklot Cornelius is a student at the fashion institute and has been finding her way around, just as Charlie did when he came to the city years ago at about the same age. After meeting Yoklot Charlie reminisced about leaving home up North for California those many years ago. He might as well have been going to the moon. He talked about walking around the streets alone, knowing no one, and always keeping an eye open for other Indian people. I consider what it took for him to leave home, and to find his way into performing at the highly competitive, fiercely paced comedy clubs of the city, as a reservation kid. He followed his dream, and being a comedian isn’t an easy dream. (I’m convinced Charlie and I were standing at the back of the line when they were passing out careers: comedian and poet!) Look for him and a crew of other native comedians he’s mentored in a Showtime special soon. Charlie will be featured with: Larry Omaha, Yaqui; J.R. Redwater, Lakota; Jim Ruel, Ojibwe; Vaughn Eagle Bear, Colville; and Marc Yaffee, Navajo. Cheer them on.

This is from my friend Candyce Childers from Eagle River, Alaska. Her comments on subsistence remind me that the system of the "over-culture", or, commodity-culture is torqued by selfishness. It is coming undone.

" I went to a public forum at the university discussing the future of subsistence. It was interesting to hear people's perspective on subsistence as a concept. One panelist (Yupik) commented that subsistence and the myriad ways it is regulated is insensitive and bizarre. He drew a comparison between the land as our Native grocery and the grocery stores in the city. He asked the audience to imagine that in order to get food from the grocery in the city we all had to apply for permission. And imagine that we were told we could only go grocery shopping two weeks out of the year during which you must get everything your family of 6 will need for the next winter. On top of that, you could not use a car, bus or other mechanical transport to go to the grocery but must walk. It was powerful and moving.

Another interesting point that a panelist made was how our ancestors handled individuals who were selfish. Even if a man was a good hunter it wasn't a guarantee that he could remain a community member. The community survived by living communally. Everyone had to share their resources and when an individual failed to do so they would banish or kill him. The reasoning was that he would eventually cause the death of the entire village either literally from starvation or from division. Imagine how disruptive it was to have missionaries and teachers move in with their values of individualism and competition."

Thanks Candyce. The over-culture is failing because it didn’t have roots deep in the earth. We will learn to live right again, all of us.

Finally, I just got a report from home. Now there are two redbird families in the yard: two males with their wives. The guys are chasing each other around the yard. The females are sitting together on the telephone wire, visiting each other.

Isn't that exactly how it is?


Keeping it Up

Okay. I haven't blogged in awhile.
Can there be too many words?
Too much communication?
We can only hear the soul in silence.



Spring at Gila River Reservation

c Joy Harjo March 2009

I walked around in the desert a few weeks ago. Nothing else smells like the desert in the early morning. Remembered how Josiah Moore told me many stories of this place.


Muscogee Nation News Column March 2009

It’s late afternoon before the column is due. I’ve almost emailed the editor twice to say: “it’s not possible”. I am out on the West Coast rehearsing every night at San Diego State University for my show, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light. It will open in Los Angeles in March, as part of the Native Voices at the Autry series. There are a few reasons I am telling you this: 1) I am need of a column ASAP, and mostly 2) maybe this will inspire others who think it’s too late to pick up a musical instrument, write a book, learn the language, learn songs, or anything else, because they hit thirty (yes thirty, I’ve heard many a hitting-thirty panic that they were too old….give me a break), forty, fifty, sixty, or….

This show is one of the biggest challenges I ever had. First, I had to write the show. I have rewritten the play countless times. I have written, recorded and performed the music for the play, and kept going, even as I have been turned down many times for one thing or another mostly for being too Indian, or not Indian enough. Go figure. And now, one of the most difficult challenges: I have to memorize the play, and to act. I haven’t acted since I was a high school student at the Institute of American Indian Arts. I was always the shyest student and usually sat at the back of the class and said nothing.

I begged the director. “Please, let me just read the play.” “No way”, he said. “You can do it”. “Well, at least let me tape all the lines to the floor”, I argued. “No”, he said. I even looked up how much it cost to rent a teleprompter. They were too expensive, and huge. Writing on my arms was the most cost effective. But I don’t have enough arm space for the whole play. So, I’m here this afternoon, memorizing my play. And I’m nearing sixty. (“Nearing” means, I’m closer to sixty than to fifty.)

I don’t like to write about myself, in fact, I’m several years late with a book I was contracted to write, because I don’t want to write about myself. I write because I love stories and words, and these columns, because I think they might be useful. Maybe by writing this you might decide to keep going, to take care of your gifts, no matter how old you are, seven or hundred. I’m not special. There are many talented people out there in the nation.

I’m including an excerpt from the show. And if any of you make it out to LA between March 12th and March 29th, I’ll get you in. Just say you’re my relative, or you’re with the band. Let me know. I’d be honored.

Redbird Monahwee (to her father):

I followed you as you unloaded it from the truck. I helped, as you strung the deer up on the tree. I squatted down with you, as the red sun kissed the red earth. You tamped out some tobacco into our hands.
You said, “We pray with tobacco to acknowledge the spirit of the deer. We give thanks, mvto”.
“There is much suffering on this earth.
Even plants suffer. Tobacco agreed to come along as we walk this world. It’s medicine, a gift from the Creator.”
And remember I said, But Daddy, you smoke two packs of Lucky Strikes a day!”
I was such a little plant, drinking in your words.
“And what about whiskey, Dad”, I asked you.
“It's killing me”, you said.
“I'm sorry, Hokte”.
“Pray for me girl.”


Report from the Island

I just got a report from home. Now there are two redbird families in the yard.  Two males with their wives. The guys are chasing each other around the yard. The females are sitting together on the wall, visiting each other. 

Isn't that exactly how it is?!


Sun Going Down in the Pacific

Our earthly star, from the window of my flight between San Francisco and Burbank.

Okay, Okay

Yesterday took a break. Hung out with one of my favorite people: Charlie HIll. We walked over to Amoeba Records after a late lunch at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles on Gower near Sunset where I used to always run into Mike Tyson, when I hung out in LA a few years back. We stopped at an ATM and this young native woman just happened to be there. Turns out she's Oneida and Seminole. Osceola is her last name, and she's a student at a fashion school nearby. Charlie knew many of her relatives. What are the chances? There are no accidents.



This is from my friend Candyce Childers from Eagle River, Alaska. She's one of my closest correspondents and has this to share about subsistence. Her comments remind me that the system of the "over-culture", or, commodity-culture is torqued by selfishness. It is coming undone.

" I went to a public forum at the university discussing the future of subsistence. It was interesting to hear people's perspective on subsistence as a concept. One panelist (Yupik) commented that subsistence and the myriad ways it is regulated is insensitive and bizarre. He drew a comparison between the land as our Native grocery and the grocery stores in the city. He asked the audience to imagine that in order to get food from the grocery in the city we all had to apply for permission. And imagine that we were told we could only go grocery shopping two weeks out of the year during which you must get everything your family of 6 will need for the next winter. On top of that, you could not use a car, bus or other mechanical transport to go to the grocery but must walk. It was powerful and moving.

Another interesting point that a panelist made was how our ancestors handled individuals who were selfish. Even if a man was a good hunter it wasn't a guarantee that he could remain a community member. The community survived by living communally. Everyone had to share their resources and when an individual failed to do so they would banish or kill him. The reasoning was that he would eventually cause the death of the entire village either literally from starvation or from division. Imagine how disruptive it was to have missionaries and teachers move in with their values of individualism and competition."

Thanks Candyce.


Muscogee Nation News Column February 2009

One of those markers of giant political shifts occurred last week, as Erin Thin Elk Contreras drove me across the homelands of her people, after picking me up from the Sioux Falls Airport. Her bright spirit stirred me from the sleepless haze of my all-night flight, and I remain impressed by the way she walked nimbly over ice and snow in high heels as she wheeled my suitcase to her car. (Now that’s a skill, another new category for the Olympics!) For the first time in U.S. history, Barack Obama, a visionary leader and a black man was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.

We tuned to listen to Barack Obama’s inauguration speech on the AM station, as we headed out for Vermillion over sunlit plains. Our ears perched close to listen as he accepted the presidency of this very young and troubled country. In Obama’s voice the whole world heard that his mind is clear, free of clouded and contentious knots. We appreciated the finely crafted oratory of Obama’s speech, and the careful choice of words spoken to bring American citizens together into a vision of helpfulness and compassion. There is a direct connection between the clarity and resonance of one’s speech and the shine of character. In Obama we have the gift of an intelligent man. How refreshing. You can hear in his voice that he listens to the ancestors. The last election gave us a man who said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004. He left the country in a wreck.

Many questions surfaced as I listened, and later watched the inaugural events on television in my hotel room. Will there ever, or can there ever be an indigenous president? Where are our indigenous leaders, those who can bring us together, can inspire us? We need those who can see with Seventh-Generation eyes. We need to see beyond skin color, past laws and rules that go in and out of season, such as the recent attempts to throw away children and grandchildren because they don’t have the requisite amount of blood. (We aren’t pedigreed dogs. We are human beings.)

Very early the next morning Erin picked me up to drive me back to the airport. At twenty-nine she’s a very young administrator in the university’s diversity program, the Indian student advisor, and is the mother of three young children. The youngest, not much over two-years-old, dozed in her car seat as we drove East in the dark. Erin and I talked carefully in the dawning morning. At dawn the crack between worlds opens. This day we carried hope for our country. And this day, like every day has a soul. We shared stories that mattered to us. She spoke carefully, with clarity. In her I heard the old people. I heard the young, smart and beautiful young Lakota woman whose life is a balancing act between the eternal and the everyday. In her I saw that we are growing our indigenous leaders. They are among us.


Here I Am

I am deep in memorizing and rehearsing my one woman show. I have to get it to the level muscle memory.

So, I apologize to all those who have sent me emails or called and I have not responded. I will be deep in show until it opens on March 12th. Then I'll be doing five shows a week at the Wells Fargo Theater at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park in LA.
I am more challenged than I have ever been in my life.
I am learning focus and belief.
As I move through the script, a one woman show I wrote: Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, as an actor, I can see more than ever how these stories we bring into the world are not just us. The writer is the catcher, the caretaker. Most of what happens during creativity is below and way above the surface. We are not the sole author, of anything.
I remain in awe of the process.
The story is a being.
An actor becomes the story, along with the production crew, the stage and the audience as well as the atmosphere of each performance. And in this story the actor will also play saxophone and sing, with Larry Mitchell on guitar and effects.
Exciting, and absolutely terrifying!


Keith Wilson 1927-2009

I first met Keith in the mid seventies. He was humble, approachable and human even as he carried an immense spirit. He was a mentor to me, from my very first publication, the last song, which came out from a small press: Puerto Del Sol Press, located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, his home.

Don't ever under estimate the power of mentorship. Sometimes you don't have to say much at all, it's just the belief, the care, the attention that waters and feeds the gift. He was there. He was always there. And I believe, despite his passing yesterday, he will always be there in the realm of poetry, which is the realm of the night sky and where it meets dawn. This remains one of my favorite poems of Keith's, and I responded to it in She Had Some Horses.

Travel well, Keith. We'll meet on the other side, again.

Thantog: Songs of a Jaguar Priest
by Keith Wilson


Into these restless days enter one precious
deeply felt

knowing always the impotence
hours bring, the sadness, coming just after
light, moments, the touch of wind, the chill
O, I have dreamed the thousand dreams, known
softly the nights turn walking into victories
shared only by the moon

I wish somehow I could tell you or tell myself
O darling of the light, mistress of the night,
words hold mockery and high villainies: a word.
Love. A meaning, "I want you," in most languages,
the same. In English we discriminate, knowing
the subtleties of longing better with colder blood:
it is possible to love and not want, to drive
our bones with skeletal needs, biting our own tendons
loose to at last walk free.


Breaking Illusions

I embrace today’s soul. I embrace my emotional exhaustion, or should I say, welcome the new emotional muscles?

I knew this test was coming. My knowing showed me a fissure, a rip in my illusions about a beloved person. I have had a tendency to imagine particular kinds of others as clean in their intent, imbued with qualities I want them to have, because I want to see them with the shine of the symbol they have become for me. Many of us do this. We make leaders, athletes, movie stars, and other achievers into symbols and lose their human qualities. When they become oh-so human we discard them along with their gifts.

One of the most loaded symbols is “Mother”. Religions have sprung up over the holy symbolic connotations of Mother. To be Mother is sacrosanct. Mother is sacrifice, is love without question, is feeding even from one’s own body, is carrying children and giving birth, is care of the hearth, is the making of food from the gifts of the earth. She is the ultimate creative power. Like anything a symbol embodies its opposite. Mother out of control is supreme control over her children. She smothers them, she demands absolute loyalty, and she force-feeds them with guilt and food even as she eats her children. She is destruction.

Our mothers are demigods until we sprout into our personhood, our potential mother/fatherhood to take our place. Then, they become essentially, biologically, rivals. Either we make friends of our rivals, or we throw them over. Each culture decides differently. In this larger cultural overlay of “civilization” that has supplanted our indigenous cultures (and all cultures have indigenous roots) children are encouraged to make anyone older the enemy.

And then, as we become mothers (or fathers) the story begins again, and we make our way.

Are there archetypes for children? There are for filial behavior. Remember the prodigal son? They aren’t quite so loaded however, as children are expected to malleable, given to youthfulness. What happens though if they don’t grow up, if they cling to childhood?

There can be no Mother symbol (or Father symbol) without children.

There are many paths around a symbol, around how we see and interact with each other. We make symbols of authority figures, and again of particular political leaders, athletes, actors, etc. We even make symbolic figures of each other as friends, colleagues….but I continue to believe one of the most powerful is Mother. A Mother gives; a Mother takes away.

Smashing those symbols, those illusions and setting free the people inside them can be liberating, and even so, absolutely terrifying. Those symbols can be life preservers in the deep, deep ocean of psychological waves and shifts.

I remember the day I decided to see my mother as a human being. I chose to see her as a little child, growing up under the duress of extreme poverty with a mother who didn’t know how to love. She became a human being, someone on the path alongside me. She was no longer a towering figure of perfection gone wrong. I found a way to forgive her, to forgive myself. Our relationship shifted. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t transgressions or failings. There were. There are. We are human.

Yesterday I had to face an immense illusion. I had worked on it for years. Perfected it. I had carefully built a symbol. I used materials of hope, and put together a design made of how-I-thought-it-should-be, and had hammered it together with wishes. Hammering with wishes is like hammering with handfuls of water. I had created someone wasn’t there. And the someone-who-wasn’t-there was who I had imagined interacting with me, was whom I had been relating to all this time.

It broke, as such illusions eventually do. What I had created was no longer there. Instead, what stood, was a very small and raw human being, with immense insecurities, failings and fears.

My first instinct was to defend myself, to fight.
Breath and love began leading me, first to see the illusion I had created, then to act with integrity even as I feel the pain.

And for me, most of all, because of my particular tests, I had to acknowledge my knowing. Knowing is beyond the human mind and emotional field. It has always told me the truth. The truth can be painful beyond measure.

Mvto, knowing.

And mvto, or thank you, dawning. This morning is another day. Each day has a soul, is a being, and loves to be acknowledged. How beautiful you are in blue blue sky.


MNN Column for January 2009

This morning when we left the house it was dark. We wound down the hill, Diamond Head direction to Hui Nalu Canoe Club at Maunalua Bay. I’ve been traveling far, nowhere near these warm seas. It was to be my first time paddling in months. We have a number of paddlers for a 7AM Sunday morning paddle, several canoes worth. I’m happy to be in Jeff’s canoe. He’s one of the best at riding currents. We go out past the blinker buoy where the water turns turquoise and clear. Beautiful. And because it’s relatively flat we keep going straight out to the deep blue. Those waters are ultramarine. I keep a lookout for whales. They return every winter to these waters to give birth.

Then we turn toward Diamond Head and surf the blue. When we turn back, we race. This means picking up the time and intensity of the stroke, and focusing. Focusing means to put your intention straight ahead, so that your vision places your canoe ahead of the rest.

I am in seat two behind an inexperienced stroker. I notice that when we can hear the competition coming up alongside, she turns. When she turns her stroke deteriorates. When the stroke deteriorates, everyone else’s stroke suffers, because we follow her lead. I also notice that when she looks anywhere besides directly ahead the canoe falters. I deliberate whether to say anything or not because I am not the steersman (the person in seat six, who directs the canoe). Then, because we’re falling back, I do.

“Focus! Look straight ahead. Your eyes carry energy. You are the canoe’s eyes.”

It’s almost magic the way the canoe responds.

And this becomes a lesson for me, something both the stroker and the spirit of the canoe is teaching me. Our attention literally goes in the direction we look or spend our time. It’s important to know where we are going, to keep an intention and keep moving in that direction in mind and heart.

And finally, some New Year’s resolutions from tribal members and others we care about from around Indian Country:

From Mvskoke Pastor, Rosemary McCombs Maxey:
“My breakable resolution is to not torture you, Craig, and Ted too much. My nobler one is to mentor and coach Creek youth in our language, history and culture, and to do a better job of recording life lessons I have learned from being a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.” And we’ll look forward to hearing from you, Rosemary.

From Muscogee Nation Second Chief Alfred Berryhill:
“I resolve to do the unresolved.” Okay, we’ll hold you to that, Alfred.”

From the Mvskoke writer Eddie Chuculate: “Write a novel. I bought a fresh journal today (Dec.20), so that’s a start.” We’ll keep everyone informed of your progress, Eddie.

From the inimitable head of the California Muscogee Creek Association Eli Grayson: “My goal for the next year is to try not to throw my shoes at anyone who voted for George Bush.” Everybody in Oklahoma, duck!

Tuscarora singer, songwriter Jennifer Kreisberg of Ulali: “As we make a fresh start this Solstice, I am releasing any past hurts done to me...” This is in the spirit of our traditional Mvskoke New Year, as I understand it.

And finally, from Cree singer, songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie:
“In every dream I can smell the sweetgrass burning
and in my heart - Always hear the drum
and hear the singers soaring and see the Jingle Dancers
and still this love goes on and on
still this love goes on.

Let's honor our traditions.” Thank you Buffy for the ongoing inspiration.



Obama's Inauguration from Vermillion, South Dakota

Left Honolulu last night on a flight jammed with tourists, students heading back to school, and a few business people and local families. Flew all night through the dark skies to Chicago. Then, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I was picked up by Erin Thin Elk, interim director for diversity at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She's nimble on ice in her heels! Now that's a skill! We drove over the plains, catching up on families, as if we had known each other for years. I'm impressed by her bright spirit.

Then, as she drove us over the flat plains of her ancestral lands to Vermillion, we listened to Obama's speech. Perfect. To ride the opening wave of change with an old-young friend in the middle of the country. And to perch our ears together to hear the eloquent new leader of this young nation who has vision, who can speak. Obama's mind is clear, without knots and connects directly to his heart and the heart of the people. He listens to his ancestors.

Later, over lunch with students and faculty of the university, we all noted that there was no reference to the original inhabitants of this country in his speech. Yes, there is still much work to be done.

Now I am back in the hotel room, about to crash after being up all night. I am watching Obama and Michelle walk the street the last blocks at the end of the parade. I can see their bullet proof vests bulging in their clothes. I can hear Michelle thinking. She's exhausted, yet high. The responsibility is all hitting her, like the feeling after just giving birth. What have I gotten myself into? Yet, she will walk directly forward and will do her best.

What a day. (Or is it two days?)

P.S. Congrats Elizabeth on your poem!


Top 25 Bushisms...

Thanks to Jennifer Kreisburg for forwarding these.

1. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

2. "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

3. "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

4. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

5. "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."—declining to answer reporters' questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001

6. "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

7. "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."—Washington, D.C., April 18, 2006

8. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

9. "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."—discussing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as quoted by the Sun newspaper, June 27, 2007

10. "And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

11. "We ought to make the pie higher."—South Carolina Republican debate, Feb. 15, 2000

12. "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

13. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

14. "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

15. "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

16. "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."—U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 3, 2000

17. "People say, 'How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002

18. "Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."—CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000

19. "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."—on the prospect of visiting Denmark, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2005

20. "I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball."—Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006

21. "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

22. "You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one."—Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006
23. "There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.' "—Boston, Oct. 3, 2000

24. "They misunderestimated me."—Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

25. "I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008



I want to thank everyone for all the radio and other references for getting my Winding Through the Milky Way out there. This help really matters.


One of my New Year's resolutions was to blog or journal daily. Not all journals are fit for blogging, and some of my blogs aren't fit for blogging, either! And now it's January 8th.

Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts for my brother. He's about to be released, miraculously with no lasting physical repercussions for his attempt. He's getting the help he needs, and he now knows the power of prayers, and that many people care about him.

This poem appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I realized after a few days that it was given to me to illuminate the image of "The Devil", or Extreme Earthiness and Attachment to Earthiness.
Here it is:


I was desire's dog.
I ate when I was fed. I shit where I was told.
I knew how to sit, stand and roll over on command.
When I was petted, I was made whole.
Even when I dreamed, I dreamed a chain around my neck.
I lay at the feet of desire for years.
I died. Rats dug up my bones.
What was left disintegrated by rain and wind.
Still I followed desire, to the end.
Desire is a bone with traces of fat.
It's the wag smell of a bitch in heat.
It's that pinched flower at the end of a beat.
It's a stick thrown into a chase of rabbits.
I followed it out flat, to the other side of me.
I stood up. I took a breath.
I heard my name. It came from within.
I went down to the water.
I put on new clothes.
I walked free.
Then I heard this song, calling me.
It was a woman in a red dress,
It was a man with a gun in his hand.
It was a table filled with fruit and flowers.
It was a person of fire, another of stone.
It was the beginning. It was the end.

c Joy Harjo Honolulu, HI 1-3-2009


The Gathering Everything for Possible Power and Knowledge Being

I got an excellent lesson yesterday, or rather, a lesson strung out over the last few days. When we got back from Oklahoma and made our way home the last leg, in the taxi, I held tightly onto my cell phone. I’m careful, but that day after I’d made a phone call in the taxi as we headed up the hill from the airport, I told myself emphatically, with strong emotion, “DO NOT lose your cell phone.” Well, the Gathering Everything for Possible Power and Knowledge Being within me heard: “Lose the cell phone”. So, my body, whose instincts are first commanded by this being, lost hold of my cell phone. I dropped it in the taxi as we unloaded bags, though I had been consciously gripping it tightly. And despite many calls over two days to the taxi company and the dispatcher at the airport, the phone was not returned.

Then yesterday, I did a tarot layout for the year. (Would like to do my own deck of images more culturally appropriate, however, no matter the culture, we all deal with the same forces.) As I was shuffling I saw the Devil card. I did the same thing I did with the phone. I said to myself, DO NOT get the Devil card. Well what do you know, there was the Devil card in my reading (I rarely get that card) taking over the space of final outcome. I had used the same technique: speaking what I did not want, emphatically.

The Gathering Everything for Possible Power and knowledge Being makes no distinction. Love and hate become the same thing, the same kind of power, just angled oppositionally. Does this mean that force of emotion trumps words? Emotion is the rudder. Desire is the engine.

Since then I am watching my thoughts and reactions.

We do get what we ask for, literally.


Waking Up

It’s the morning after a long journey by plane, and post 9-11 and heightened insecurity. L and I decide to eat at the local diner, Kenny’s, in Kamehameha Shopping Center. The menu is a mix of American and local Asian and Hawaiian. So are the customers. There are no haoles in sight. I usually know someone. Once it was a career military man I met in LAX. We were both traveling with saxophones. We got into a conversation and started a friendship and even jammed together at his place in Kapolei with a funk bass player friend of his who I almost hired for a gig. He was Funky. Once I ran into him while he was having a big breakfast with his family. We’ve lost track of each other. I look for him.

We order simply though I’m tempted to get saimin. It’s my favorite menu item. I’m still blurred; I’m not quite here and I’m no longer there. When I fly I notice that it takes a day or so for my spirit to fit itself into a different time or place. The farther the flying distance, the more adjustment. My spirit loves to fly, and though an airplane is a huge, bulky, mechanical hulk of brilliant human engineering, it’s still flying. It’s in the touching down we accumulate stories. Flying takes us beyond story.

As we wait for our order and begin to plan out the day and week I see the end of a dream, the dissolve between one dream and another. I sense the dream state we are in together and see this life as a dream cloud and watch it disappear. It will be just like that, one day. Our conscious lives aren’t internally constructed by days, or sequential time, like New Year. There’s eternal order. It’s difficult to catch or know as it passes, though poetry, music and art are able to hold it, a little. It’s one of those dreams you are inside and then you are bumped “awake” by a voice, a siren, a child or the phone and the dream shivers and it disappears. You try to catch it, and it’s gone. You retain a taste, a smell, a knowing. Then it’s gone.

The friendly Filipino waitress delivers our breakfast, and we gratefully eat. The house needs cleaning. I need to unpack. I need to call my brother in ICU. He survived a suicide attempt. We have company coming. The Ko’olau’s are greener than when I left, from all the rain. We make a grocery list…

May you wake up this New Year
May you remember that every day is New Year
Thank you, for the compassion that has constructed us