Holy Beings

This is the place Jesus was born.

This is a day that the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christ, a holy man. He came into the world to bring an immense light for understanding and compassion. There were signs in the stars and all around about the impending birth as there are for such souls.  He was here on a special mission, to remind us we are nothing without love, to show us that we are healers, are capable of miracles and are here to illuminate the world. Jesus was born to a poor family of refugees, to a mother who was pregnant outside of marriage and a man who loved her despite her social transgression.  His path from birth to death was a challenge.

In each newborn the light is unimpeded. We feel it and see it and that is why we always gather around these tiny bringers of hope. Each of us brings light to carry it along the path for the illumination of our footsteps, and to help each other. We have the choice of either growing it or covering it. We cannot destroy it.

As a child I read the Bible through twice. Jesus spoke only words of compassion, peace and understanding. In his words I do not remember reading rules or doctrine for separation and exclusion. I did not read any urging to hate anyone because of race, class, sex or sexuality or because they came to understanding through a different doorway.  Yet Christ’s words have been used to take over countries or peoples (“in the name of God”, “God gave us this land”), to oppress, force religion, to destroy cultures, languages and other ways of knowing the light. (I left an evangelical church when I was thirteen because I could no longer bear the hypocrisy of racism and misogyny. That is my own path. Everyone is different. Jesus words and path still inspire me. We are all sons and daughters of the Maker of Light therefore we are brothers and sisters.)

I believed then as I do now that Jesus was a being of light sent to remind us we are beings of light. So was the Buddha, Mohammed…

This morning as the light comes up over a day that celebrates the birth of this Jesus may we honor and grow love or compassion for each other, beyond religion, beyond any separation politics. In Mvskoke language the word for this concept is vnvketckv. In Navajo language it is hozhoo. In Hawaiian it is aloha. May we forgive ourselves and each other, love ourselves and each other as we make a new world, beginning this day, with each other.  We are each born of holy beings. When we took breath in, we promised.



Back from story gathering in New Orleans. One of the trails from Congo Square leads here, to the Mvskoke Nation. What a life, and music sings it all.


From Lafayette, Louisiana

To New Orleans this morning for research for We Were There When Jazz Was Invented project. When I entered Lafayette last night I entered a different story realm. The alligator people are prominent, as are long-legged birds, and the French, African and indigenous peoples and their stories and music--
Time is an incredible cook.


Red Dawn

Beautiful dawn this morning. Red bird and I watched it together. What emerged from the hem of light is this:

What if there were no right or wrong, rather, we are experiencing a story stream to understand, to grow compassion? I believe that we become every story until we learn not to judge, or hate. I have experienced this in my own life. How quickly I am placed in any situation that I have previously judged or scorned. If I feel it utterly, then I am able to let it go, and keep moving, with love.


Yes that was me you saw shaking with bravery, with a government issued rifle on my back.  I’m sorry I could not greet you, as you deserved, my relative.

They were not my tears. I have a reservoir inside.  They will be cried by my sons, my daughters if I can’t learn how to turn tears to stone.

Yes, that was me standing in the back door of the house in the alley, with fresh corn and bread for the neighbors.

I did not foresee the flood of blood. How they would forget our friendship, would return to kill the babies and me.

Yes, that was me whirling on the dance floor.  We made such a racket with all that joy.   I loved the whole world in that silly music. 

I did not realize the terrible dance in the staccato of bullets. 

Yes. I smelled the burning grease of corpses.  And like a fool I expected our words might rise up and jam the artillery in the hands of dictators.

We had to keep going.  We sang our grief to clean the air of turbulent spirits. 

Yes, I did see the terrible black clouds as I cooked dinner. And the messages of the dying spelled there in the ashy sunset. Every one addressed:  “mother”.

There was nothing about it in the news.  Everything was the same.  Unemployment was up.  Another queen crowned with flowers.  Then there were the sports scores.

Yes, the distance was great between your country and mine.  Yet our children played in the path between our houses. 

No.  We had no quarrel with each other. 

c Joy Harjo  


Human Being Being

It is almost three in the morning here. I will not put the FB page down. Tomorrow I go to the West Bank. I have learned more by being here than signing a paper from a safe room.

I realize that I was defensive very quickly and probably should have waited to make any statement. I really didn't know about the boycott. I have not been in the academic world for awhile. And I real
ly do have questions about boycotts of the arts and cultures because dialogues between artists and cultural thinkers take us beyond the laws and borders of countries.

Yet, I understand given the history why stepping into Israel in this time is controversial and could be perceived as crossing a line in support of killing. I am not a killer. Nor do I condone killing. I believe in human rights.

My art demands that I stand as a truth teller. The spirit of art is the toughest teacher and I believe it has led me here to stand in this place. It is not an easy place to be misunderstood and attacked by those with whom you feel an alliance. I believe there is a reason for it though I don't quite understand all of it yet. I don't know that much but have to be true to what I have learned.

I do know that I will attempt to use this energy to the best of my ability for some kind of healing and understanding. I believe that in the end compassion and seeing each other as beloved relatives, even our enemies, is more powerful than guns.



I will be taking Facebook down tonight for awhile. Thanks to my supporters. Thanks to those who disagreed with my stance but were willing to dialogue with civility. We live in a circle. A circle has no sides. Maybe the circle of life on this earth has been broken. Maybe not--Either way, I do not condone killing of anyone. Never have...


Tel Aviv

I sit in a hotel room in Tel Aviv. I am far from my tribal home in Oklahoma. In eternal time, each is a room in the same heart.

I was invited to perform and speak here at Tel Aviv University several months ago. I was a guest here nearly twenty years ago and remembered this place with a great fondness. I recalled the open discussions and the cultural mix of students. I accepted the invitation.

I am aware of the nearly unbearable political strife here. These lands are in the heart area of this Earth. The Jewish people consider these lands their homelands. They have survived countless persecutions and suffered as they made their way home. The Palestinian people are captive in their own homes. There are checkpoints to enter and leave. They do not own title to a country. They are not free. This situation is much like that of my people. We were force-marched from our homelands. Then our lands of resettlement were stolen again.

I am not so naïve as to think art is beyond politics. The arts are and have been used in the regeneration of the spirit of the people.  They carry blood, memory and cultures. The arts can also be co-opted for political gain or loss. I am in the service of the source of the poetry and music. With that spirit there is no bargaining with governments, religions or ideologies.
The morning after I left on my journey I received an email from a friend and colleague. He asked me to reconsider my trip. This was the first I learned of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.  I was puzzled at this request at such a late hour because this colleague had known of my plans to go to Tel Aviv for while.

I came here for the opportunity to speak with and hear the voices of the people, especially the young. I came to be in support of justice and compassion. I don’t believe that the majority of the people in these lands or anywhere in the world are in support of the killings. Now my social media pages and message boxes are filled with a campaign to force a boycott, with messages of polarization, as if there is one way to poetry, resistance or empowerment. There are also messages of support.

I will never forget being on stage the opening night of a large poetry festival in Durban, South Africa. Then U.S. President George Bush was bombing the Gulf and everyone hated the Americans. Each participating poet was given an elaborate introduction, except for me. I was introduced: “This is Joy Harjo. She is an American.” The heavy silence that followed was filled with hate. I was an object of contempt no matter what I sang or what I said for the rest of the conference. I was not in support of the killings on my behalf by the U.S. government. I had actively opposed them, but in the collective audience mind, I was implicated.

I feel that same atmosphere of censure now in the ultimatum that I am being given to boycott. I admire and respect the scholars and artists who have backed the boycott. I stand with their principles, but they will not see it that way.

I refused an invitation to the White House because I disagreed with George W. Bush and his politics. I stepped down from a tenured university position with security and benefits to register my disapproval of unethical practices involving a colleague and students and the persecution of other faculty members who objected. I have always stood in support of human rights, and the Palestinian cause has always been close to my heart.

I will perform at the university as I promised, to an audience that will include Palestinian students. The students have written in support of me being here. I will let the words and music speak for that place beyond those who would hurt and destroy for retribution, or to be right. It is my hope that my choice will generate discussion and understanding for many paths to justice.

Joy Harjo
December 10, 2012 Tel Aviv



"Tiempo" was my answer in a dream about music. It was the correct answer. I was happy to be studying music seriously. Last night and this morning panicked about time running away from me. I need my art. The business of it right now is eating everything. I believe most artists go through this. Female artists even more so--because we always have obligations that men do not. So....I will breathe "tiempo".


Not Yet

Strange winds and weather this morning. The forecast is 75 degrees! We are in the midst of heavy changes. Many forecast the end of the world as December 21st. I believe it ends and begins with every breath we take, give back and share. It is a rare gift to come to this place called Earth. We promised to learn to dance through storms with grace, to speak the truth with dignity, to sing it. We are not done yet.



This morning while eating oatmeal I was reminded of the sacrifice of the plants on our behalf. Each grain is precious and include gifts of the earth, rain, sun and the planters and harvesters. These plants have consciousness. They give their lives just as animals and fish are sacrificed for our energy. Gratitude is the most compassionate state of mind.


Mvto Alligator Stillness

Animals teach us. Last night alligator showed me that with stillness within the waters become still. Then you can see and know.


Lightness of Being

Visited with my cousin George Coser, Jr yesterday at the kitchen table. He's a gift. Always something profound among the stories. The sacred lies at the root of the mundane. And every word is a power element. Each word or sound, whether thought, written or spoken grows our path, the path of our generation, the children, grandchildren, the Earth...We become the ancestors. A sense of play gives a lightness of being. So get out there and play--and be kind while you're at it. To yourself, too.

November 27, 2012


Disappeared Website and Scrambled Blog Posts

I received a few notes on Facebook that my website appears to be gone, and some say these posts are scrambled. I have sent an SOS to my webmaster. I DO have a site. It is somewhere in time. Thanks for your patience.


Thanks, Giving

In honor of a day that's come to be known as "Thanksgiving". The holiday's origins are shady, but we've made it a day of thanks.


The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat
to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it
has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners.
They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our
children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as
we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the
shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for
burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering
and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

c Joy Harjo from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, W.W. Norton 1994

BEFORE ALL THINGS (first draft)

My eyes peer above the horizon.
The waters below this world are my calm.
I hear the breathing of the sleeping.
I have given birth here. I will die here, in the not too long awhile.
In this ceremony of the sun, the earth will be cracked open with light.
We will rise up and walk the human road.
The clatter of good and evil will test the heart.
My heart is weary of the fight.
I’d rather be here in the balance where I can see everything.
The earth’s soul shimmers with turquoise.
Particles from the indigo path to the stars are still in my teeth.
My thinking mind has been swept clean by currents of the night,
The sky carries the knowledge of all the other worlds
I watch it for signs.
It is here where human imagination has placed our maker.
I feel the maker here in this breath, in these words, on this earth,
As I surface up from the deep.
I have seen sharks there, canoes that fly through time, and plants that walk.
I have bathed in mystery.
I will pause here with the maker, in a dusky field before sunrise
Next to stones that speak of honor--
There is an eternity of sky.
This morning it is red.
c Joy Harjo 11/21/2012 Albuquerque, NM


Heavy Matrix of Divisiveness

The story matrix is heavy. I feel it through my body and soul. There is such divisiveness at the national and global levels, a divisiveness that begins within each of us.

I need to find some way to walk through the hatefulness with grace, to not become part of it. I must investigate my own house within.

It hurts my heart to hear those close and far away say that there is only one doorway, one
 religion and all else is evil. That there might be only one religion, one doorway makes no sense at all. Why would a Creator of such a magnificence that s/he creates each of us: human, animal, plant, elements,all life in its multitude of forms, an unrelenting diversity, none of us the same--allow only one doorway to that magnificence?

God didn't create religions. Religions were created by humans, albeit inspired humans. They are human structures to make sense of the spiritual story here, a place for people to come together to worship. They can inspire people to work together for good, or they can promote hatefulness against anyone who is not like them--other religions, races, cultures, women....
We were each planted with light. We must tend it so it doesn't go out. We must take care of our own houses, and share with those in need, rather than destroying the houses of others or forcibly occupying them with words or stones. 

Each word is either a missile of hurt, or a missive of light.


Via Tulsa Airport--Winter Morning

The star people are opening up many doors to time in this season of enormous shift.

Time was always a fluid being.

Each kind of time is a state of mind.

Fear blocks doorways.

Joy opens them.

Music is one of the best teachers of time.  It's all about the rhythm.

Ride it! Create with it! In all things---


If You Look from the Moon, We All Look the Same

This morning I open my eyes in my home state, which overwhelmingly voted for Romney. I can feel the din of disappointment here. America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial country. Romney ran a Christian right-white campaign. He made no attempts to be inclusive, as did Obama. The people voted. I am relieved and even feel celebratory. Now we must all work for inclusion of every voice. Each of us has equal value, the rich and the poor, the indigenous tribal belief person and the right-white Christian, the "straight" and the gay/or other expression of love for humanity,. If you look from the moon or beyond, we are earth. If you look from the eyes of the Creator, we are exquisite Creation. Mvto.


Following the Song Line

Reading an essay by Oliver Sacks, "Altered States". In the opening paragraph he states:"To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape...we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need....to get beyond ourselves...in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings."

Here is the place of poetry, dance and music: the arts. I am studying how to be intoxicated with each moment, how to listen beyond the ordinary realms, how to follow the song line of a story beyond colonized mind constructs that demand we act within rules and laws that ensure our enslavement (see fundamentalist sects of Christianity, or a consumer culture run by multinationals for example) to fear.
In this study I realize that I do not know much at all. I do recognize love, the immense power of connection and compassion. It becomes most obvious in the natural world, at sunrise and sunset.  It is then I see the connection between ancestors who love us, who we are now, and the children and grandchildren who follow.

As I get beyond myself I realize that I am closer. All roads leads to and from the heart.

Yesterday when I peered down at my heart to ask a question, it looked up at me with an immense shine. My loose footing steadied.

We will make it.
We will all make it.


Recent Radio Interview On First Person Radio

RECENT Radio Interview
On First Person Radio
with Laura Waterman Wittstock

Hear Interview:
Joy’s Interview is at 7:40 in the recording.

More Information: http://tinyurl.com/6tna7hm

Joy at National Book Festival in DC

Reading and Book Signing

Saturday, September 22

At the DC National Mall
10:55-11:40 am Joy Harjo/Book signing at noon.

More Information: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/author/joy_harjo


Joy Harjo RADIO Interview September 12

First Person Radio
Wed. September 12, 2012
KFAI   9 - 10 am Central Time
Local Stations: 90.3 Minneapolis & 106.7 St. Paul

Laura Waterman Wittstock interviews Joy Harjo. about her new book - Crazy Brave. Its a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary.


September 8th Joy Harjo Performance

September 8th
Joy Harjo Performance 
and she will MC the Indian Summer Music Festival
7 pm
Indian Summer Music Festival, Milwaukee Lakefront
Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 North Harbor Drive, Milwaukee, WI

September 6th Poetry and Music Performance w/ Larry Mitchell

September 6th 
Poetry and Music Performance w/ Larry Mitchell followed by book signing
Returning The Gift Writers and Storytellers Conference 2012
7 pm
Weasler Auditorium at Marquette University 
1506 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI


My last Muscogee Nations News Column: July 2012

Itʻs summer and Indian stories are in the making everywhere. The days are long and languid and the nights are warm and full of singing, full of story potential. Everybody’s singing stomp dance, powwow, church, and humming popular songs with ear buds in their ears. And it’s not just two-legged humans but all the other humans: birds, frogs, insects and too many mosquitoes.

One of these days Iʻd like to start collecting some of those contemporary “old” Indian stories. Many of them have their beginnings in the summer, but are usually told on long winter nights. One category of these stories that youʻll never find in the publishing world is painting stories. Like many of you, (some of you behaved, like my sister Margaret) I lived through those wild Indian parties and 49ʻs as a high school student at the Institute of American Indian Arts and a student at the University of New Mexico. I see them now as part of a test, a kind of coming of age. Some of us made it through, barely, some of our friends…didnʻt…and others are still stuck there trying to catch the thrill of the first high. Some good stories came out of the journey because we needed them to make it.  Laughter is the grease that slides us through difficulty, even tragedy.

Painting was a tradition at those parties. The first person to pass out was the canvas. We young women would dig through our purses and backpacks and pull out fingernail polish, tape, glue, cotton balls and any other items that might be decorative. (I hear superglue later made an appearance.) Oh, and scissors if the painting posse was being especially devious. And then the victim was…decorated on the face, arms, and sometimes…other…places. Imagine waking up and looking in the mirror. One of the best painting stories was told to me by an Umatilla man who has many, many contemporary “old” stories. He told of waking up to the sun on his face, naked on a roof without a ladder, his body painted…everywhere.

And then thereʻs the classic kind, like the story my cousin George Coser, Jr. told us the other day as we drove downtown Tulsa on the way to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. “There used to be a church over there. They used to serve food for the homeless,” he said as he pointed to a parking lot. Then he told of a friend of his driving over to pick him and a buddy up to take them out to lunch. They were excited and as they headed to Tulsa imagining all their favorite eating places there. His friend pulled up to the church and next thing he knew they were standing in line for their free lunch! Now thatʻs a real Indian story!

Then there are the other kinds of stories that feed the soul of our tribal culture in a different way. Those are the stories we heard at the Thlopthloccco Tribal Town meeting out near Okemah, attended by ceremonial grounds and other cultural leaders a few weeks ago. These were the deep philosophical stories of the roots of meaning for our people, with the overhanging question of how are we going to continue as a Mvskoke people, when many of the children do not know their clans or arenʻt brought into the function of the clans?  There is never one answer but many answers, many stories. Another important story we heard was by the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative, about the restoration of and reculturing of plants that have traveled with us and nurtured us through our human stories. 

Mvto, mvto to all the culture bearers, those who choose to remember in a time of forgetting. Mvto to the spirits of all the stories that carry us to laughter, to deeper understanding of our predicament, our place here on this Earth.

This Song is a Pathway

There is a small bird that is not flashy and loud like the blue jay who lives here. Blue jay likes everyone to know he’s here and is especially good looking. That little bird is not the color of passion, and is not known to carry good luck to humans like the redbird. Nor does it blush with orange on its chest which marks it as a keeper of knowledge of the history of a place like the robin whose family has lived her for generations. You would miss this small bird if you scanned the horizon. It is small and brown. Yet, it has a tone so pure your heart opens so it can know the movement of love that is within the architecture of all life. That tone is a doorway. I need that bird’s song this morning. I use it as my path to enter this new day. When I step out into this song I trust my heart. I can hear it singing


CRAZY BRAVE is officially born!

Today, Talk of the Nation on NPR at 2PM CDT, and tomorrow GOODREADS live conversation at 3PM PDT. Please join in. Tomorrow night The Central Public Library with Keren Taylor moderating. Then, to Seattle, KPFA event in Oakland, Bookworks in Albuquerque. The tour resumes a week later with the Collected Works in Santa Fe, Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Tattered Cover in Denver, the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, then ends on the 27th at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska!! See you Soon.



There's a post that comes up when you Google CRAZY BRAVE that is title an "Excerpt from Crazy Brave."
For the record, it isn't an excerpt.
It's one of the over a hundred pages I deleted from the manuscript.
And I've rewritten the vignette that now appears as an "excerpt".
Tonight--on a new song from an older poem....
and need to finish packing, and get ready to be on Talk of the Nation tomorrow



My memoir CRAZY BRAVE is here. It's official birthdate is July 9th. It took me fourteen years to birth it, fourteen years in which I pulled out stacks of journals, made timelines, decided to make it a memoir in short stories. My life didn't make neat short stories. David Sedaris can do it, make tight, crafted vignettes with a biting and perceptive humor. And as much as I love humor (I've watched most of the comedy acts on Netflix) my writing voice veers toward the earthy mystical. In the past I tried to lure the spirit of my voice (writing, saxophone, speaking, singing) to a more pop style. It refuses. It has a dignity all its own, and it is constructed of a web of time and memory beyond this right now human mind.

A memoir teaches you to write it.

Then I made a collage of poetry, vignettes, short stories....it was....almost...working...I could have slid it through in that manner. But it wasn't right. Not yet. 

So I started over. I let the story start where it wanted and go where it wanted. I had wanted to corral it in safe places. It wanted to explore all that had silenced me. I gave in to the story. And then I rewrote, revised, many, many times. The last revision was in my mother's sewing room in Oklahoma, where I was living as she was dying last summer. I returned to help her. 

At night I would revise. I cut a hundred pages to make it tight. I read the next to the last revision to my friend Pam Kingsbury who lives in the northwest corner of Alabama, near Muscle Shoals, for three nights in a row, around ten o'clock at night. I have to hear it read aloud, to feel the spirit of it, how it wants to go...

And now it's almost here. 

I give thanks to the spirit of the story. I never know where it will lead me. 

**** **** **** **** **** **** 

I was nervous about my family reading CRAZY BRAVE. Yesterday, my stepsister, who was the daughter of the stepfather in the memoir told me that she noticed I had been very careful, that I had held back. The stories about her father and what happened to all of us were much worse. 

I still haven't heard from other family members. My sister Margaret gave it her approval. 

A sister-in-law was concerned for me. She thinks people will think I made it all up. But I have witnesses, I said. She's still concerned. No one ever believed her. She told me other stories I hadn't heard, as did a sister-in-law who was a close confidant of my mother, her mother-in-law.

CRAZY BRAVE keeps attracting more stories. I want it to inspire others to claim their story, no matter the path of it, no matter the failures and successes. 

This isn't just my story but it echoes the story of many others in the world. 


Joy Harjo Opens for The Temptations at Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival Saturday, June 23rd

Joy will be performing sometime between 5-7 pm opening for The Temptations.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival began in 1974 as a celebration of Muscogee culture and heritage and has become a major family gathering for many Muscogee families. All activities are free and open to the public. This much-loved festival invites all people to experience the games, competitions and festival events during the month of June. Be a part of the largest and longest running festival in Okmulgee County and join the Muscogee people in a celebration of life.

More Information: 


Muscogee Nation News Column April 2012

Estonko--This morning is a Georgia morning. I’m here for a two-week residency at a small women’s college in Decatur. It is warm, as it has been in Oklahoma, and everything is blooming. Since I arrived it has been raining flower petals and pollen. The pollen count has been enormous, shattering any records in known time in this part of the world. I stood next too a truck that was streaked with yellow pollen. Because I have spent muchtime around Navajos and Pueblos I naturally consider that we are being blessed by such fertility. Yet, it’s been rough on sinuses and lungs. Any gift comes with its responsibility, its cost.

I bring my breakfast outside to concrete bench, facing East.The Sun embraces and feeds all of us, the many plants, the fvsjates with their spring mating songs making attractive webs, the many insects and creatures,including humans who are drinking of the light of the sun. I want to join two women who have taken a break from the kitchen. I like the up-and-down sound of their voices, and the pitch of their storytelling and laughter.

I remember that this is old Mvskoke country and try to settle back in the place of knowing to get a sense of who and what was here, before Mr. George Washington Scott who founded this college. The settlers here were an adamant bunch. They were basically, collected as the State of Georgia, the first state in the union to officially outlaw indigenous people. They brutally forced Mvskoke and Cherokee out, the first forced removal before the Trail of Tears. I am staying in the Alumnae House. The bed in my room belonged to Mr. Scott whose face looks at me from a picture over the bed. Now, that fact concerns me a little. I have to cover his image. There won’t be any partying in this room, though my partying days are long behind me.

What a beautiful land this is, and to leave it was the beginning of the breaking of the heart of our people. There are helpful plants everywhere I look. And I understand that the deer were plentiful.  This Saturday many Mvskoke are meeting at the site of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend over in Alabama. I am planning to find a car and drive over. I’ve been there twice. The first time was about fifteen years ago, when I was invited to speak at Auburn University. I was taken out one day to the grounds of the massacre. My grandfather of seven generations, Monahwee (here they call him “Menawa”) was one of the leaders of that uprising against an unlawful move from our homelands to Indian Territory, far to the west. I walked the grounds from East to the North and all the way around. I felt such sadness that it settled in my lungs. I got bronchitis that day and I had never had bronchitis before. I also felt how the spirit of our people was still part of the land, the plants, and the place. We carry it with us through the generations. Seven generations is not long at all, in the time scheme of the present world.

I understand why some of the people warn us not to go back. What we find here could be difficult to carry. But I believe that the spirits of our people who are still here are happy to see us, to know that when we left we carried the fire and we made it. We are still here. Mvto---


Howling Song

Iʻm outside playing flute this morning and the robin who has been coming over to sing with me balanced on the fence. We both turned at the same time, to the fenced dog across the street who was howling along with the flute! We caught the dog mid howl. He felt our looks on him, then looked "sheepish"--Funny!


Muscogee Nation News Column March 2012

Hensci—It’s early spring. Wild onions are beginning to sprout in my yard here in Glenpool, and the birds are all on the hunt for mates. There’s a Robin family that has been here for years. They know my sister Margaret and her family and have noticed that they are no longer living here. They have been checking me out and I have to tell them who I am, where I’ve been, and that I will be the one staying here. Once I tell them with my mind, they fly off, satisfied. They are probably the 30th generation. Basically this yard is their territory. I will have to fit myself in. The same goes for the Redbird family here. They’re also territorial. They sing every morning and help me put my feet on the ground and keep going.

Sam Proctor asked me when I’m having a party. I will and everyone will be invited. (Especially you, Sam.) And there will be music. I’ve always loved the story of my grandfather Monahwee (Menawa) who when visited by a government agent on official business, came out to properly greet him then excused himself by telling the agent that he was partying with his people and wouldn’t be done for a few days. He met with the agent two days later.

Now, that’s a good reminder for many of us. When we’re about to let our last breath go on this earth, will we be regretful about paperwork, emails or Facebook, or missing a sale at Kohl’s? What will we wish we had done? What words are we carrying that need to be said? What could we do to lift the burden of someone?  A good party can be a tonic for everyone. We’re human beings. We light up by sharing stories, songs, laughter, and even crying together when we need to grieve.  And dancing feeds all your systems with energy. Music lifts us up.

My memoir Crazy Brave will be officially out in July so I may have the party between June and July. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame has offered their facilities. I’ll let you know. Gary White Deer also has a memoir coming out sometime this year and a party between us is also appealing. I got a sneak preview. His memoir, Touched by Thunder is witty, funny and insightful, in a very Mvskoke way (he’s Choctaw with Mvskoke relatives).

When I was down in Mexico in the town of San Miguel de Allende I kept thinking of our people. The way I understand it is that some of the migration paths came up from the south. Others of us came up from the earth, and some arrived in our traditional homelands from the West. I saw Mvskoke-looking people everywhere, though most were officially Mestizo. To claim yourself as “Indio” is as demeaning as it was in our parent’s generations. In fact, when I tried to get a person of the tribal people indigenous to the area there to open my performance, I was told by a conference official “there are indigenous people, but they aren’t really active here anymore”. I knew that wasn’t true because I’d seen them all through town. Someone else confirmed later that yes, there are indigenous people there with living cultures.

A beautiful young Huichol woman attended the conference where I performed and spoke. Her culture was alive in her. She, like many others, was embracing her cultural language and knowledge, despite the prevailing colonial attitude toward the “Indio”. She was concerned, as were many, about the plan for a Canadian oil company to construct a huge pipeline through Mexico. Some things don’t change, like the attitude of destroyers that it’s alright to run a pipeline through a country, break up the land, destroy peoples and cultures, and suck out of excessive amounts of oil, gas, coal or uranium that were never meant to be pulled out of the earth in such quantities.

Before I forget, there was a fiesta there, a party in honor of the speakers, who also included Margaret Atwood and Elena Poniatowska. There were Spanish and Indian dancers, mariachi bands, folk dancing, lots of good food, and fireworks. I celebrated with everyone.

And I celebrate spring as I write this. Those wild onion dinners are coming up—time for a good party!