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Facebook Break and Sunny Days Per Year

I'm quitting Facebook for awhile. Facebook scatters my thoughts far afield. I'm not reading, thinking, dreaming; I am not paddling beyond the shallows. The frequency of chatter is beguiling. There's community, catch up, even real news. I've followed Standing Rock that way--and friends and family. Taking a break so I can get work done, write, read, listen to music, make music, and remember what I came here to do. Even that's taking a beating these days. Trying to stay up. The season doesn't usually get me down. Today I realized that I am living in a place that has fewer days of sun a year than any place I've lived. Almost a month of clouds more than any other place--I will have to find a way.


When is a Debate Not a Debate

We've always been taught that leadership qualities include humility, compassion, a sense of fairness, the ability to listen, preparation and carry-through, a love for the people, and a strong spiritual center which begins with a connection to Earth. So many of our stories are built around what happens to braggarts, bullies, and those who are greedy and want only for themselves. 
That is all.

Joy Harjo October 20, 2016


And Miles To Go...

I was so looking forward to the movie Miles Ahead, about the life/music of Miles Davis. Davis's horn is ethereal, in the beyond. And I used to listen to Sketches of Spain for hours. My spirit could travel beyond the hard edges of earth living and fly a little. Don Cheadle was and inspired director, and gave a believable portrayal of Miles, something hard to pull off. The story turned on Mile's addictions and his relationship with his wife Frances. Mile's music was essentially theme music, even as it underscored the movie Mile's motivation. What was most disturbing was the domestic violence. It slammed right up against an old life of mine and reminded me how what is beautiful can be broken into cutting edge pieces. He's still doing the same old thing. I broke free, and found someone who loves me. (That's an old old song, came generations before me.) And Miles was brilliant. Sometimes the finest art is made by those who are the most destructive. There's balance on this rugged earth: destruction and creation. And we are only human here as we reach for the divine in music, poetry or any of our arts, in the eyes of each other.


Muscogee Nation News Column for April 1, 2016

I don’t believe we have ever seen such a proliferation of presidential debates, nor such an outrageous slate of candidates representing one party in particular. One presidential candidate, whose name I won’t repeat because to repeat it gives him power, leaves a hate wake behind him with nearly every speech he makes. All this makes me wonder about the qualifications for being a leader. What makes a leader has always been pretty much universal, but given the current state of U.S. political affairs, it appears that being a bully, hateful, and obnoxious have replaced the standard leadership characteristics that include the ability to listen, fairness, and wisdom.

There are few legal qualifications for running for President of the United States. You must be a natural born citizen, must be thirty-five years of age, and a U.S. resident for at least fourteen years. The unspoken qualification for running is the ability to garner enough financial and political support.

When you consider the responsibilities of the presidential role, which is essentially running all internal and external affairs for a world power, then the lack of qualifications required is nothing less than astounding.

What makes for an honorable and wise leader includes these character traits:

Humility/Eyasketv: we help each other, no one is above anyone else;
Integrity/Fvtcetv, we take responsibility;
Community/Emetvl’hvmke, community gain is above personal benefit; Responsibility/Emenhonrvke Tayat/to be loyal and reliable in all things;
Wisdom/Hoporrenkv, to listen and pay attention to the wise ones, to continue to keep your ears open more than your mouth;
And, Compassion/Vnoketkv, a great tenderness for living beings and the living being-ness within all life.

These traits hold true for our own Muscogee Creek Nation, principal chief candidates. The qualifications are also fairly minimum. Each candidate must be at least one-quarter blood enrolled citizen, thirty years of age, reside within the Creek Nation boundaries, be a registered voter for at least six months, and the candidate must carry no felony convictions. (Up until 1973 the U.S. President appointed our principal chiefs. You can imagine how that skewed qualifications.)  

Candidates running for office in our nation should be knowledgable in tribal history, government, (including the governments that a chief and contemporary tribal government must deal with, such as the workings of area municipalities, the state of Oklahoma, and federal government), and be at least familiar with our traditional cultural knowledge and arts.

Why not test each candidate for this knowledge? We may even want to consider a change in how we conduct our elections for principal chief or even for national council members.  In the traditional way, those who know things watch for qualities of leadership in those coming up. Leaders often reveal themselves early in childhood. Others emerge later from the school of hard knocks. Leaders are chosen. They do not assert themselves into these positions. And why not turn to a more traditional manner of assigning leadership? Why not allow the community, those who know, to put forth candidates based on their leadership traits, their commitment to service to the people, their knowledge and abilities?

I don’t know as much as many others about these things, but I do know this: talking politics or religion can sure get you into trouble—

Have a good one.


Muscogee Nation News Column (I'm back!!) February 2016

“There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on”. Woke up to earth quaking the other morning. We have felt so many of them over here in Tulsa. And a few weeks ago we just swore in our new chief James R. Floyd, another kind of shift in the Nation. The inauguration was well-attended on a cold, bright winter day. I wondered at the absence of the previous chiefs. I didn’t see them there nor were any recognized from the podium. I assumed there would be some kind of handover or official ceremonial passing on of this important office of responsibility.

Chief Floyd gave a perfectly weighted and size of speech. It was inspirational, and to the point. I felt a spirit of vnoketckv moving through the people. We all have to work together--there is no other choice. And we need leaders who understand this. We are all in service no matter our background or standing. No one is above another.

The audience appreciated all the singing in the program that day. Wotko Long was one of our citizens who was called to the stage to sing. I met his father Harry Long many years ago when I lived a small while in the Phoenix area. His spirit shined with a great love for his people and he helped all of us Creeks who were trying to make a living far from home feel a little less homesick. His son Wotko’s singing has a soulful resonance that comes down through many generations of Mvskoke people.
Before Wotko sang he mentioned the passing of so many of our citizens this season. It's true. Every few days we've had memorials. He mentioned that Stephanie Berryhill had passed, and that her services were at two that afternoon in Henryetta. She had fought cancer for quite some time and we all knew she would be leaving here sooner than later. But it was too soon, and we didn't want her to go, not yet. She is one of those citizens who gave so much to her family, her community, to all of us. I first met her when she worked at the tribal communications office. She always welcomed me when I'd come wandering in from being far away. People at home can be suspicious of those of us who leave home and live away for whatever length of time. We always had very intense talks about our families, our people, and what we wanted to do to help. And lots of laughter. We grew a friendship. She took care of the culture and was supportive of efforts to make sure that the plants who came with us on the trail continued to thrive. We all need to take some time to look in on her family. They are bearing the brunt of her loss.

We have to put the grief somewhere. There is the fresh grief we carry when our beloved relatives are put to rest, and the collective grief of the nation from our forced walk from our homelands to this place where we have made a home together.

That night after the inauguration and service I went outside to take out the trash. I stopped under the immense dark sky and breathed the light of stars. I felt the shimmering walk of how we all move together as one person on a path of becoming. We will all make it.




We have enough jealousy going on that if we could find some use for it--if it could be smoked, worn, or used for building materials, we could package it and make billions more than casino money.



If biological diversity is a key to a healthy biological system, why not origin story diversity, or diversity of thought and belief?


When the World As We Knew It Ended

When the World as We Knew It Ended
It was coming.
We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their long
and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.
We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and potatoes
enough for an army.
We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches of the knowledgeable tree,
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms, from our knees
as we bathed and washed the floors.
The conference of the birds warned us as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their songs and talk we knew when to rise,
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on--
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.
We heard it,
the racket in every corner of the world, as
the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president
to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything else
that moved about the earth, inside the earth,
and above it.
We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence
from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea,
and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe
floating in the skies of infinite being.
And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
in dreaming.
But then there were the seeds to plant, and the babies
who needed milk and comforting, and someone
picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble
and began to sing about the light flutter
and kick beneath the skin of the earth
we felt there, beneath us--
a warm animal, a song being born between the legs of her,
a poem.
From How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems, W.W. Norton 2004 c Joy Harjo
Last night we were overwhelmed by Paris violence and the ugliness of ISIS. We are reminded that Beirut too was attacked two days before and wasn't given the same news coverage. And Syria experiences the magnitude of the Paris attack daily. In our family we have children jailed for acts that have their roots in the violence born when this country was stolen. We still fight daily for our lands, our place in our indigenous homelands. We have relatives, family members, tribal members, friends throughout the country and other countries who suffer from diabetes, cancer, violent acts, depression, alcoholism, meth addiction, proscribed drug addiction, body fallout from colonized foods ...We grieve the losses and each of us attempts compassion and understanding though so much of the suffering appears to make no sense at all. Now, not only do we know and suffer stories of immediate and local violence, we are privy to an immense global catalogue of carnage and suffering.

The weight of even the immediate family and local stories was always more than enough to carry. When we witness stories however they are transmitted: by text, phone, Internet, television, satellite, social media, or other story gathering means, we become part of them. In this age of global communication, we humans are in essence being forced to partake in massive world violence.

What do we do with all this suffering?