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 Café 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.


Penina said...

Hi Joy,

Sending you a sunny evening from Oakland, Ca. I was touched by your column. How compassion is a main-stay of your heart no matter the challenge. I am working under some extreme conditions created by management - I am sending love and forgiveness in one moment and hatred and violence in the next moment to my supervisor who is lost, sick both physically and spiritually. Some of my co-workers slip and ask God to please let her die...I remind them that we cannot become like her, that we have to love her. That we have to stand tall, full of light, full of sun. Your words, songs, poems teach me everyday, that I am bigger than any hatred that wants to become my friend. I will leave this job I hope very soon, but in the mean time the teachers are here in this present job - , teachers like my supervisor, and how I wish she could take a long vacation...
Love to You Joy.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Earth and sky, with you in the red high chair! Great imagery, and wonderful reflections, your love affair with the sun. Living now in Hawaii as you do, it seems your perspective on Sol has changed some. The sun looks and feels different in Oklahoma or Texas than it does in the tropics. And then there is the sea, and your paddling. Are you missing it? Still, one never loses the need, nor the allure of going home for a few days, chasing ghosts, remembering smells, retouching the texture and the spirit of yesterday. Thanks for sharing.


Larry Emerson said...

The program you are planning for tribal students sounds very much needed and a great idea.

Mx. MB said...

Henske from Salem, Oregon. I remember two things about being in my first days, a blue blanket over my face and the blue sky. It was much later I recognized the sun. My earliest days were drawn between Winslow, AZ, and Los Angeles, my birth place. Winslow was the home of my grandparents from Indian Territory, which was kept from me until I had to know for a clearance in the military. They retired while I was with the Air Force, so when my ETS came I caught some credits in California and then enrolled at OU and got my B.F.A. at Rupel Jones Theatre. Jerry Wilson, a Cherokee shaman, was my suite mate. I then worked for Oklahoma DHS for 26 years doing child support investigations in the 5 tribes area for a decade. I have a master of education and one in divinity. I am in retirement and am grateful for my life as a mixed blood person of the Coker family. Can you tell me what the Muscogee words for day, morning, evening and night?