Muskogee Nation News Column April 2010

It is supposed to be spring. It’s trying to be spring. I wake up this morning to freezing temperatures, and it’s almost April in New Mexico. I remember Oklahoma springs in childhood. I felt like a small plant and knew myself as part of the earth. I’d get up before anyone else. I liked smell of the medicine of plants, and felt the snakes, earthworms, horned toads sliding and walking about, including the mole who lived in the yard moving through the earth. In those times, robins came only in the spring. Our backyard was full of poison ivy. We had to be careful, especially our sister. She was highly allergic to it. Mostly it didn’t bother me. The front was carpeted in clover patches and dandelions. I knew these plants intimately and practically lived in them in the spring and summer. I knew June bugs, roly-poly bugs, and played with them.

I liked getting up when the sun got up. The breaking of dawn was my time to just be, without the worry or pressure of any family drama. I liked being with thoughts that were fed by the sun, by the trees, plants and the creatures. I usually had a dog. They always followed me home. When I was five, I had a dog I named “Alligator”. I’ve always had a fondness for alligators, some kind of connection I don’t totally understand. It isn’t my clan. My clan through my father is Katcv, or Tiger clan. I don’t know my mother’s Cherokee clan, even though her mother was raised Cherokee near Moody, Oklahoma.

I knew the bees and played with them as freely as I played with the garter snakes, horned toads, and the other creatures. I’d play house. I’d catch the bees, hold them in my hands, and set them where I wanted them. They didn’t mind me handling them as long as they could get on with their business. They had a tender mind toward me as a young one.

One day I was out playing in the late morning. My mother and her friends were sitting out on the porch, drinking iced tea, smoking cigarettes and telling stories. Usually the stories ran along the lines of who came home and who didn’t come home, and all the drama going on among them and their families. My mother was also writing songs at that time. She was still at home and didn’t have to work yet. Her best friend was another Cherokee woman who lived across the street. I liked hearing them talk, their presence there. I adored my mother. She was beautiful, dynamic, and loved to sing.

As they talked I continued my play in the clover. I caught bees as I often did and played with them. My mother and her friend saw me. I can still see my mother’s concerned expression and hear her alarmed voice, “You’ll get stung!” It was then the bee stung me. I felt betrayed and confused by the situation. I didn’t pick up bees again for years.


I’m a bit road weary this morning. Just returned from Andover, Massachusetts and Huron, Ohio. What stands out about this trip is that in each place an indigenous person of those lands welcomed me. In Andover, Annawon Weeden, a beautiful, young Mashpee Wampanoag man sang a welcome before my show. In Huron, Bruce V. Molnar who is vice chairman of the Pokagan Band Gaming Commission a member of the Pokagan Nation came to my first event and welcomed me, in the Muscogee language! This made a huge difference in the energy of the transaction. A performance is not just the performer: it’s the audience, the performer, the original keepers of the land, the place, and what has happened and what is going on there.


And finally, my brother still doesn’t have his CDIB or his tribal citizenship card. My sister drove my brother to Oklahoma City to get the change on his birth certificate. Our father was a “Jr.”. It appears on one document and not the other. They learned to do so will require a court order. Nathan and the staff have been helpful. The bureaucracy is hell. I guess we’ve been fully colonized.


June: Concerts, Wings of Night Sky-Wings of Morning Light, and Workshops


June 5, 2010 8 pm

La Jolla Playhouse


Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre

Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light


Following its successful world premiere with Native Voices last year, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light returns for a special one-night engagement at the La Jolla Playhouse, starring the incomparable Joy Harjo, who is accompanied by Grammy Award-winning producer and guitarist Larry Mitchell.
*Find out more about the Play: http://www.joyharjo.com/Wings.html


Duende Poetry Series 2010 Special Event

June 13, 2010 3-5 pm

Anasazi Fields Winery

More Information

Featuring Joy Harjo on poetry, sax, flute, Larry Mitchell on guitar, synth pads, and John Rangel on keyboards. Free

Location: http://anasazifieldswinery.com/contact.htm



How Do News Stories Enter Our Knowing?

May 13, 2010 Albuquerque Thursday

What do I do with the story when I read: “Thai general shot in the head”? I read it, and where do I file it? Does it become another weight of despair pulling on my arm? I see a shower of blood, a flower of red death blooming as if there were sudden rain in the desert. I see two armies with bayonets drawn. I hear the grief of mothers and children, and see the stiff countenances of warriors who can know only war. What isn’t war will break them apart in tenderness beyond reason. I see the oil spill in the Gulf eating up water, creatures and shoreline. And then we are in the kitchen where a family wanders through the house with cokes and stumble to their solo stations at televisions, computers and a game. The sun is settling lonely into the West. But brightens at the sound of human voice singing a song for the end of the day, for the sun’s journey.