Story of the ghost dance, a Paiute Shoshone story, this is not from Wavoka’s experience, but the story of the real dance, Anuh’no nuka, which is a round dance

Aaavayish, Long ago the animal people were the only people on this earth. They lived here before the humans and lived differently before the humans came. They too had hardships and struggles. They too conducted ceremonies for their people. This story is of one such ceremony given to them by Creator. This ceremony and dance is now used across Indian country in different ways, it even became a religion, the ghost dance. But this is where the dance came from, it is a story that has been around for thousands and years. Longer than time known to man.

The animal people were facing hardships, it was a time of drought, it was a time of harsh weather. The animals were starving and could not grow any crops, they could not find any roots or berrys to eat. The animals were struggling to get water too.

In their effort to address the hardship, they brought their concerns to their Daygwah’nee (speaker of the people, voice of the people aka Chief). The Daygwah’nn was Muskrat and he was a kind leader. To address their needs he went on a vision, he sweated, he went alone and prayed to Creator to help him save his people, he asked for insight as to how they can carry on their people to survive this hardship.

Soon, Muskrat came back to his people. He had a vision, “The people must gather, we must connect in a circle and hold hands, we must sing songs like so, we must slide our feet in unison to the songs and drums, adnd Creator said this will help our people”.

The animal people prepared and they all came together and danced, and danced and danced. The kept on dancing till days went by, soon there were no more animals dancing, they had all fallen in exhaustion. During their sleep from exhaustion, something happened. What had occurred is that while the animals danced, their claws had made grooves in the earth, the wind and dust from all of their movement had carried seeds in to these grooves and a small rain came as they slept. The animals had no idea what was occurring around them, they just slept in a deep slumber.

When they woke up, the animals realized that the Creator had blessed them, they woke to new buds of plants which would prevent their people from starvation.

Now, the animals continued this dance because it was a ceremony for the earth to be replenished, a prayer for the survival of the people, it was about them coming together and praying for new beginnings and giving thanks for all they had been given.

To this day our people honor the animal people for sharing this dance, it strengthens our people in many ways, it provides a place for us to honor the earth with ceremony. This dance has many names, the pine-nut dances, the warm dance, the ghost dance and the round dance. In this dance we are thanking all of creation, we are thanking all those who have danced before us, in that circle. We come together to pray for the survival of our people, and it is something that has been around on this earth for time immemorial.

Gaw-gwushee-gwhy’ya

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An old Shoshone story that serves as a prophecy and displays connection of Indigenous peoples

This story was passed on to my mother from her grandmother, which was passed on by her grandmother and is part of the memory of my people.

Aaavaish, Long ago before there were humans all over the earth, there were “things” and monsters that ruled alongside the animal people. The things ate humans and would chase or try to disrupt the few that lived during this time.

In this story there was a young woman, she was running from one of these monster things, and she had no where to go but a cave. The monster thing was in heavy pursuit  so she ran as fast as she could and hid in the cold dark cave. Come to find out, the monster thing would not go into the cave, perhaps it was afraid of the dark. The girl stayed in her spot for a while and listened, she could hear the grunting of the thing and hear the angry growl in its voice. She decided that she was too scared to go outside so she ventured further into the cave in hopes of finding another way out.

After some wandering, the girl found an opening, on the outside was a beautiful landscape. There were birds chirping, trees and green everywhere, there was a feeling of beauty all around her. She felt that she was in a “heavenly” world or somewhere that was like paradise. She walked into this land and came upon a lodge. The lodge that she came upon was built and structured meticulously. It was kept clean and had a small fire going on the outside. This made it obvious to her that someone must live in this lodge and she did not want to run into any more dangerous monster things.  So she quickly searched for some food that may have been left out, she was starved from running away from the scary things, and then she hid.

She remained in hiding and kept watch, until eventually, a beautiful handsome man came walking up. This young man was carrying a deer over his shoulders. He was so muscular the girl was in awe of his physique. The girl watched as he cut the deer and began to cook, her mouth was watering with hunger, but she did not know what kind of person this man was, or if he was a real person or a spirit. She remained hidden. After the man completed his cooking he sat down to eat and said in a loud, strong voice “Who ever you are, come out, I know you are there. I will not hurt you, I just want to share my food with you”. The girl was shocked to find out the man knew that she was there, but she was starving and came out anyway.

She sat across the fireplace, she kept her distance and ate. The man ate his food and cleaned up and remained silent, he moved into the lodge and began to make his bed. After he made his bed he made a bed for the girl, and told her to lie down and rest. She was nervous and stayed near the door.

As time passed, the young girl ended up staying in this beautiful land. She and the young man became close and soon came to fall in love. From their love, they bore many children. The couple was happy, until the children started to grow up. The children were always fighting, they could not get along, they hated one another, and they did not want to be related to one another. The kids began to fight more and more and threatened to kill one another. It was horrible, so the parents got together and discussed what they should do. And this was their decision: The parents decided to separate the family; this was to teach them a lesson. The father took the children and threw them as far as he could in different directions across the earth. He said “they will have to learn to live with themselves and be on their own. They will do this because they do not know how to live with one another. Soon they will realize that they cannot live like this any longer, they will seek one another, ask one another for help. Soon they will come to understand who they truly are, they are family, they are the same people. They will unite and understand that the differences mean nothing, because in the end, they are all reliant on one another, they will unite, they will rejoice for being connected again. The children will be happy and this will prove to them that no matter the space, they are one, they will be happy”.

This story is seen as a prophecy because many other stories by other Indigenous cultures share a belief that they are part of something greater, maybe even greater in a spiritual sense. I have learned from my own experience that this is the time when many of us, as Indigenous people are calling to one another, reaching out to one another and asking each other for help. I too, truly believe that these efforts will help us, as Indigenous people understand that we are one.

Gaw-gwushee-gwhy’ya

Eagle Feather concerns

March 24, 2009
Hello people,
FYI, if any of you have ever found a feather or an eagle…YOU ARE A POACHER too, according to the law.
I too, had mixed feelings about sending an ndn 911 out, but when the eagle raids started spreading BEYOND poachers.  I was kind of shocked and worried that it may go further..all the way to each and every one of you.
Now, I do not defend poachers. I am also a ceremonial and spiritual person. I too respect my feathers and believe they are powerful, more than we can know. However, I also believe this is something, a message to each of us..that because of how we have misused (we means anyone, it is not directed at me or you, just all of us as Indian people for “knowing” that this was occurring and not address it on our own accord), now because we have misused the eagle, and people have openly given or traded to just “anyone” and now people have sold them for personal profit and then, this all created poaching…we as Indian people are being warned that we must pay attention or we may lose our use of eagle feathers as we know it. I know it sounds far fetched but I have a weird feeling about all of this.
Now we all know that we MUST protect the eagle, the eagle protects us, it is OUR responsibility to protect and care for these beings..have we been..NOW don’t just look at you, but have we been making it a point to MAKE one another treat these as SACRED as they should be treated???
Now, I use my fans for many things, not just powwow. I use them because they are spirits, we maintain them, we allow their blessings to carry forth with our use of them..we use them and make them come alive because this is our job..so HAVE WE..ALL OF US AS ONE been being responsible?
I’d say, on a personal note. NO.. feather trading is normal right. Someone offers you plumes for your beadwork..or gives u some center feathers for helping them in times of need..or trades you feathers for money because they are hard up…I have seen this happen. It is almost normal. I do not care if people try to get all “I AM BETTER THAN THOU”..well no we are not individuals on this..we have to address the usage of these feathers as one, we are a people.
I believe that if we cannot show that we do not want poachers to become a frame of reference for Indigenous use of eagle feathers, we must pay mind..I believe that we must also show our responsibility as a nation of Indigenous people and address how some of our peeps have been using these feathers..
now I do not believe trading is all that bad. Honestly, people have traded for ages, we cannot be charged with a federal offense for that.
But you all know, that if we do not define what we deem as unlawful trading or usage..the federal government will give us a definition.
I also believe that this message was not meant to have you take sides, but make you become aware and ponder what is occurring. That is all. Gnite and OOSE, Aho, Thank you.
Willow Jack

March 24, 2009

Hello my people,
I thank this person for using my original post to add some REAL substance. I have been waiting for someone to step forward and speak out, on a personal level. I am equally upset at the implications of the raids. But hey, we as ndn people do need to take care of how we use our feathers. This is a message to us all and also a message that we need address our own usage of the feathers on an indigenous international level. We need to be aware of what is occurring and why it is happening. Do we need to be active in how these raids need will affect our spiritual usage? I think we do because no big time law sweep does not go unaddressed by the eye of the law on a federal level. We have enough policing and paternalism affecting our ways, such as peyote, sun dance, ghost dance and even our own usage of these feathers as a people and also for those of us who dance for the people, our pray for our people.

Thanks oose,
Willow Jack


Message repost from EVA Littlebird:

Aho! My relatives, I am sending this email out to personal frens and family members. You may forward to others in your contacts. All that I am requesting that you delete all addresses before forwarding because some of us feel that the Feds/Others are tracking emails about this subject.

My name is Eva Littlebird, I am of Northern Paiute and the Arapaho Tribes, both Federally recognized tribes. I am a NAC member of local Nevada Chapters, I reside now in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I know some of the individuals that have been raided for feathers and some of these people have basically NARKED. I say narked out other people who make our beautiful prayer fans is that my uncle was among one of those people who have been questioned. Right now, the Feds are targeting NEVADA because one of the Roadman that was recently arrested told agents that most of his feathers (Eagle tails, centers, plumes, Hawk tails) have come out of NEVADA. This individual also informed agents that in certain parts of the west, Native American Church Ceremonies were being held and Roadmen do not have affiliation with NAICA. The reservations that were mentioned were Owyhee, Ft. McDermitt, Schurz, Fallon, Carson City, Nixon, Wadsworth all in Nevada. Fort Hall, Idaho was also mentioned. Relatives, if there are people out of the ordinary looking for meetings or wanting to know information please watch yourselves, out of protection for your entire family members. The Sundances were also mentioned and that Feathers were being traded or sold to certain individuals who also gave agents of names of guys that have given up feathers. Another, suggestion, is to have a church card so that if a NAC meeting is raided on these reservations you may have an easier way out. I say this because my brothers all hold Nevada Charter cards which I found have no validity and are no good if you are stopped by any police officer with your instruments on your person let alone some peyote. Be careful and pass this information to all Roadman who conduct services on these reservations and all fan makers.

March 16, 2009

Hello everyone,
I have been following this since some friends of mine were raided last week. It has been part of an ongoing investigation for two years and anyone, ANYONE who does feather work is being targeted. Other targets are those who trade or give feathers to any of these feather-workers. From what I have noticed, the main targets have been N.A.C. peeps. Now the Eagle Act says bartering of feathers is illegal, so NO-ONE TRADE any feathers. The FEDS are really watching. Don’t even openly give away any feathers.

I think those who have been involved need to contact the Native American Rights Fund. This is a form of “policing” how we handle our own sacred items. Now, I am not overlooking the fact that there were some feathers poached by individuals but many of the people targeted don’t even kill eagles, they trade.
Whoever ‘s feathers were with them people caught at the time, HAVE LOST their feathers!!!
Now if the FEDS want us to be required to carry documents, what is happening to our religious freedom and our sovereignty? What is next, peyote? More loss of sacred sites and sacred practices? I really think we should pay mind to things like this because, as one friend said “YOU WOULD NEVER SEE THEM CONFISCATING CROSSES OUT OF A CHURCH”.

So if you know of anyone involved, take a stand and perhaps file a class action lawsuit or gather leaders to advocate for their people. We cannot act like this is nothing because the decisions made by the FEDS affect each and every one of us.

THANK god I have papers for my feathers and fans, they all came from the National Eagle Repository, But what about our old old feathers? I know my fam carries a warbonnet from a battle in 1867. How do we protect feathers given to us by our elders or feathers we have gotten from family members who have passed? We don’t bury those things, they are sacred and must live on to carry them prayers out.

Anyway, sorry for the rant but so far the case has been building for two years, the FEDS have pics of powwow peeps and N.A.C. peeps. They have someone on their side who knows people and they are keeping tabs through snowballing.
They even have pics of peeps at Denver March last year!
IF YOU KNOW of anyone who has been raided, make sure they take names of officers, ask for a list of items taken and be as careful as they can. I suggest a class action law suit and I suggest action be taken by our tribal leaders. Do not allow the FEDS to tell us how to be, we know how to be and do not need more paternalism than we have as Indigenous people.

Aho,
Willow Jack

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My story of healing:written in 2006

MIND YOU I aint the worlds best writer..hehehehehehe

We Learn From Life

It is the story of all life that is holy and it is good to tell, and for us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four leggeds and the wings of the air and all the green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one spirit“( Black Elk Speaks p.1).

When Black Elk tells his story I believe he is reminding us at that in every story there is something holy, and good to be exchanged. From every person’s story we all learn a little bit more about how to be a good person or how to handle a problem or go about something. I feel that, by relating my own story to the stories and words of the great intellects of the past and present, I can find help and gain more strength to do the best I can in the life that I was blessed with.

My story for you starts when I woke up on the road, my body was twisted, and I couldn’t move. I realized at that moment that something horrible was wrong. I was lying there and my first thoughts were to pray. I didn’t scream out or go into shock; my first reaction was to stay calm and just pray that it’s not as bad as it all looks. I didn’t know if I was the only one alive or not. All I knew is that there was a morning mist surrounding my broken body and blood was running down my face. As, I prayed I could hear people screaming and I heard my son Nakeezaka crying. I looked back as best I could; my neck bones were broken as well, and I seen my son sitting next to my husband’s body crying. I seen my brother-in-law’s come running over and grab Nakeezaka, to comfort him from the horrible sight, he was only six years old. This is the moment that I realized life would never be the same, and that will probably never fade from my memory. This journey I’ve had, has brought me to realize the meanings of my life and the understand the indigenous concepts of life, death, spirituality and it gave me a sense of what religion means for me, as an indigenous woman, it’s a healing process and this paper is a small piece of that process and a small piece of my life journey.

There were four of us in the Ford F-150 double cab, it was bright red and we all felt “cool” cruising in it. My husband Daryl, my son Nakeezaka, my daughter Maliah, my little sister Leela and I were traveling back from a memorable weekend. The Chippewa Cree Powwow in Rocky Boy, Montana was quite a celebration; we were invited to many feasts, the champions of special contest dances and enjoyed an exceptionally nice weekend. It was a weekend I will never forget because it was the last weekend of happiness that I’ve had in my life so far. I was only 24 years old and still hadn’t lived up to all the dreams I had for my family.

As a family, we camped at the celebration with my two sisters Lacey and Leela, my three cousins Challis, Joseph, and Summer, Summer’s boyfriend Everett and Lacey’s boyfriend Thomas. Daryl and I had just bought a new tent and air mattress so that we could feel more comfortable; almost make a little home of our camp. We had the same tent as Summer and Ev, so we all decided to set up our camp so our tent doorway’s would open to one another’s. We had lawn chairs and ice chests for water and food. It was great because the two tents were 10-man tents each and there were only 11 of us camping. Looking back we all agree that it was one of the most perfect and peaceful weekends of our lives. Yes, we had been there to powwow and were dancing in the competitions, but we did spend a considerable amount of time relaxing, talking and eating. We even went swimming. It was a weekend that I will never forget. There is so much to talk about, I remember so many little details of the last days I had with my family.

The celebration started on a Thursday, but we arrived Friday morning, bushy haired, happy and rearing to have a good powwow weekend. Our camp was always filled with laughter, the kids were always doing crazy things or someone would come walking through our camp and stop for a quick visit, usually leaving a funny joke or story with us to giggle about. This was the way it was, it was about loving life, being happy and not worrying about the little things in life, just living it. Life is our blessing and if you take care of and nurture that blessing, more life blessings would come our way, that was what me and my husband always lived by. We lived by, what I call the “Indian way”, which is when you always take care of your family, friends and those in need, because these are the people who will be there for you when you need help the most. My grandmother taught me that, she would always give us advice on the how to be a good person, she would always get mad at us when we’d get greedy or when we’d get lazy. Those were some of the lessons or teachings we traveled along the “powwow trail” with. And our children were being raised with these teachings as well, it made us feel grateful to have such good families whom carried those traditional values for centuries, so that we may be blessed by them.

As we camped, danced and enjoyed the powwow celebration we were unaware of the tragedy in our lives that would come in a few days. One thing that was very clear in all of our minds was the great harmony, beauty, and perfection of our lives. There we were, all happy as can be, enjoying what little we had. Sitting and laughing, dancing and feeling good, visiting and sharing the kinship and love of our other Indian friends. There were families camped all around us and we noticed that there was a feeling of comfort and harmony on the last day of the powwow, we were full from the feasts we had been invited to, and it was time for all the dancers and singer’s to get ready and dance. Yet, no one in any of the camps was getting ready, the M.C. was saying, “Come on dancers and singers, grand entry is in 20 minutes”, everyone was busy enjoying the feeling of that day.

The day started very hot, my daughter danced in her new jingle dress and our whole group of friends and relatives went over to observe what she had learned from her observations of the older jingle dancers. We noticed that she danced like one of our friends who is a champion women’s jingle dancer. Maliah, raised her little turkey fan on each honor beat and moved her little head in a very professional manner, we could all tell that she had it in her to be a great dancer someday. She would come back to us after each song and we would encourage her and cheer her on. My husband told her “Maliah, dance hard and we’ll get you a snow cone after this song, ok baby”. She nodded and went back out to the arena making all of her family and all of our friends proud to see her carrying on the powwow dance.

So, there we were after that hot session of dancing enjoying the cool breeze, feeling full of good feast food and feeling good from the way our weekend and our lives had come to be, we noticed that life seemed perfect. It wasn’t just us, one of the men from another camp came into ours and said “This is what life is about!” we all agreed, we were doing what we loved with the people we loved. I felt a breeze blow across my face, a nice August breeze. I listened and I could hear birds, there were bee’s buzzing about the empty soda cans, and the sky was clear and blue. The sun was just above the horizon, the children were playing, the adults were visiting and from every camp you could hear all the families just being together and laughing. Life was beautiful, what more could one ask for. We had been blessed with the ways of our people, the life that we lived and blessed with the people who walked our lives with us. No one was getting ready, still, the M.C. was calling for all dancers and singers to report to the arbor for grand entry, and everyone continued to sit at their camps laughing and visiting. My husband and I lay in Summer’s tent and giggled with her and Ev as we talked about how good our weekend was. My daughter came in and wanted us to get her dressed, but we had only 10 minutes to get ready, so I told her to wait until after grand entry.

We all rushed to get dressed in our regalia’s, by the time I was dressed the men’s categories were leading in the dancers. I glanced over and saw my little daughter carrying a big woman size fancy shawl. It was dragging and the fringes were getting weeds and dirt caught on them. I tried to catch her but she dragged her shawl into the arbor and grabbed her father’s hand; they dance their final grand entry together. It was a sight to be seen, the sun was on the horizon and the singers were “blasting” an awesome grand entry song, the men were going for it and giving it their all. There were Daryl and Maliah dancing their final grand entry side by side. It was almost a sign, that they were going to be dancing for us forever and this was a sign that creator meant for them to be together in life and in death.

I don’t know how this paper fits the concepts in class, but I know it fits the concept of being Indian. We learn from the lessons life has taught us, we are given different blessings, we learn from the experience of our lives, the experiences of our bloodlines and from what we are taught in “talk-story” from our elders. I know that life is a philosophy. Life is a blessing, life is a story and life can be shared forever. In many of the different readings and books I have read in this course and others, from Vine Deloria Jr. s God is Red, to Black Elks Speaks, to Wisdoms Daughter’s, I find a common theme, and this theme is that life gives all of us the lessons that will carry on our bloodlines and take care of us as human people. It is experiences and stories that can help us learn or help us cope with problems and difficulties.

The next morning after Daryl and Maliah entered the dance circle hand-in-hand, they left this world, as we traveled home after winning championships at the powwow. Maliah had a short life; she was only four years old. I don’t think I’ve actually come to terms with her death, I am still healing. Right now, I am just doing what I have to do to ensure my son understands that we must keep going. I “knew” something was going to happen to her before I went to sleep that morning. I asked my cousin Summer to let Maliah sleep in her car because there was no room in the back of the truck cab. But, as soon as I handed her off she heard my little sister Leela announce to Daryl that she had cookies. Daryl was laughing and trying to steal as many cookies from Leela as he could. Maliah heard their exchange of words and laughter and woke up, saying “I want to sit by my daddy”. I felt strangely afraid to allow her in the front of the cab, my mind flashed a thought that I wished never happened. In my mind, I thought, “If we get in a wreck she will be the first to go”. I laid back down and let her sit in the front and waved Summer, a “never-mind” signal. Maliah was asking her daddy about our pug dogs Mugwa and Mooshu, I had a strange foreboding. I was laying there mad for thinking horrible thoughts, I dozed off before I could say a prayer to ask for traveling mercies.

I woke up, I didn’t understand at first whether I was in a dream or awake. I remained calm, I knew that freaking out would only make things worse. If this was a dream, I wanted to wake up. It wasn’t a dream; it was a nightmare come true. I remember everything clearly. I think somehow, I was helped by the creator or by something I cannot explain to help me remain calm, helping spirits or my teachings. I didn’t cry, my Grandma always said “Don’t cry like someone died or the Creator will give you a reason to cry”. I wanted to be sure that the others in the vehicle were taken care of; I didn’t care whether I lived or died. All I wanted was my daughter, I can’t explain the feeling, but I knew she was gone. I could “FEEL” it. The ambulance arrived quickly, we happened to wreck a few miles out of Butte, Montana on Interstate 15.

When the ambulance loaded me into the vehicle, I remember asking how everyone was, and I remember asking if my daughter was ok. They didn’t say anything; they told me that they will let me know because their concern was with me. I didn’t care about me. My son was loaded into the same ambulance vehicle, I held his hand tightly. I told him that we will be fine, that help has arrived, mommy is here with him and I will never leave him. I told him that I loved him. I don’t know how I must have looked because a portion of my scalp was ripped back from my forehead. I didn’t care, he needed comfort more than I did. So, I comforted my son, in my softest voice I kept reassuring him that we were ok. As, the ambulance was getting ready to transport us from the accident scene to the emergency room I listened to the driver call-in the details. “We are now transporting an adult male 25 years old, an adult female 24 years old, a female 14 years old and a 6 year old male”. My heart sank, I asked the paramedic where the four year old girl was, I asked why they weren’t transporting her. I still didn’t know where she was but that “feeling” that she was no longer “here” in this world was strong. I didn’t want to believe the “feeling” so I held my tears back and tried to concentrate on my son. I squeezed his hand and repeatedly explained to him how much I loved him and would be there for him. I didn’t want to freak out about my daughter in front of him. Later the nurses told me that they were amazed at the calmness I kept, for the love of a mother can keep us strong in times of need.

We arrived and the emergency room was frantic. The paramedics put all four of us in different rooms. I still didn’t know how Daryl or Leela was doing. I thought Daryl was ok, because I had seen him crying out “WHY?” as he struggled to look around. Later, I found out that he was motionless. Perhaps I saw his spirit. I have no idea. I was laying there just sobbing, because now it was my chance to cry, my son was in another room. I was sobbing in pain and fear. I was scared. How could this happen, we were good people? The ER nurses were cutting my clothes off and they were washing the rocks from my scalp. They were trying to straighten my broken body, and told me to just be strong. My pelvic bones were both cracked; one was cracked almost completely in half and my pubic bones were crushed in. The right side of my body was twisted over my left. Below my waist, I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t feel my legs. They washed me and prepped me, gave me some pain medications and sent me to x-ray. I couldn’t hold still because I was in so much pain. I think I was near shock. The doctors were discussing my condition and luckily the only doctor in the whole state who would attempt to reattach my pelvic bone with pins and a plate was in town for the day. Was this a miracle?

Before I went into surgery, I remember asking a nurse whether my son was ok, and than I asked about my daughter. There was another nurse with her, they both looked at each other, than she grabbed my hand and started crying. “I’m sorry honey, she’s gone”, I will never forget the look on her face as she told me this. I wailed out. I didn’t want to live anymore. No mother wants anything to happen to her child, not even a scratch. But mine was gone, I couldn’t hold her, I would never get to see her grow up. I think I went into shock. I can’t even remember much. I remember bits and pieces, like sobbing while I had my MRI done to check on my neck, I cracked three vertebrae, they needed me to be still but my sobs were so strong my whole body would cry with me. The doctors were concerned because my nerves were crushed. They told me that, because of my injuries, it looks like I won’t be able to walk again.

A medicine man once told me that every person has medicine that will protect them. You just need to find that medicine within yourself to get you through hardships. I think my inner medicine was taking care of me. I don’t know where my strength to not cry in front of my son came from. Perhaps it was my medicine. The Tewa woman, in Wisdom’s Daughters said something that helped me realize what that medicine man was saying.

“Remember we’re spirit, we’re body, and we are mind. As people we try to be spiritual, we try to be with our spirit as much as we can every second of our lives… god is you, in you, a part of you. So we carry that with us and teach our little ones while they’re still little how to pray. We have our ways of teaching them how to pray and so they see that” (Wall 1993 p.19).

Medicine and the Creator’s protection was in me, and Creator’s medicine was protecting me. I think the prayer I had said at the moment of the accident may have helped me be strong. The prayers from all corners of Indian country helped me be strong as well, it helped me heal.

The accident happened August 8th; on August 11th was my daughter’s funeral. I remember seeing her lying in her little casket. She had on a bandana to cover her head injuries. My sister made her a new outfit. I guess she asked my daughter what she wanted while they were at the powwow and Maliah said she wanted a new outfit. So my sister made her a sparkly new dress. Maliah had her hair in two little braids, bracelets and traditional shell earrings. She was dressed in her best, and had her favorite toys and things with her. One item that she always carried around was a purse; she liked lip gloss, glitter and stickers. One time she even stashed a corn dog in her purse for the whole duration of a powwow. Maybe she liked it so much she wanted to keep it. She was a daddy’s girl; he lived his life to please her, maybe she was saving it for a special picnic with him. Maliah knew that she was very loved and she was full of life. Always doing funny things, like a few weeks before she passed on she ran into camped dressed like a hula girl (she dressed herself) and threw my new silk champion jacket onto the dirt. The jacket was her platform and she entertained her aunts with her hula skills from the movie Lilo and Stitch. She always made us laugh. I touched her lifeless hands, I wanted to pick her up and hold her in my arms. I hadn’t seen her since I let her sit in the front of the truck with her daddy. She was so peaceful, she looked like she was just sleeping, even in death she didn’t look hard and lifeless. She looked like she was asleep, not gone. I couldn’t really see her well because my neck was braced up and I had no movement in my legs. So I just touched her and sobbed. I wanted my baby back. The pain is like no other, losing a child is very hard. I spent a long time asking the Creator “why?”, but I realize that it is an empty question. The Creator doesn’t take from us, he gives to us, and in everything, there is a blessing. I realized now, that I must accept her death because it’s just a part of life, I must thankful for the blessings of her. This is my understanding from my teachings and beliefs.

Later that day her body was sent to the reservation and my family gathered all her things and took care of them. My family also prepared a give-away. I didn’t get to put her to rest, sometimes I wonder if that’s what makes me feel so sad. Maybe, my sadness comes from incompleteness, its still my burden. I cut off my hair that day while I mourned from my hospital bed 300 miles away. More, events were to come about soon. The doctors came in and told me that Daryl wasn’t going to make it. I needed to decide whether to unplug him from life support or not. I couldn’t decide this. It was too much.

I got this “burden” feeling back while I was in a class at Haskell Indian Nations University this spring. We discussed a short story by Louise Erdrich called “The Shawl”, about a man who carried a burden, the grief of his sister’s death and the anger he had for his mother (Lecture March 2007). The man, at the age of five was raised in the woodlands of the northern Midwest. In that time there were only wagons and sleds for transportation. Fur was a commodity and trappers were killing all the game for predators such as wolves. The boy at five years old was being left by his mother whom had a baby from another man. The boy had an older sister; the sister was going with the mother and the new baby. They were being transported to another area of the woods so that the boy’s mother could be with the other man, and the boy was to stay with his father. When the mother and the girl began to leave, the boy ran after them, until he fell in exhaustion. At this time he probably didn’t understand what was happening. There happened to be a pack of wolves chasing the sled that carried the new -man’s uncle (was driving them), his mother, the baby and his nine year old sister. The boy remembers shadows surrounding him. His father came after him and brought him home from the snow. The boy related his story to his father. The shadows from the boys story made the father curious about what they had been, spirits? The father went out to where the boy lay, and seen that the sister had been eaten by the wolves. All that was left were the remains and pieces of her shawl. The father told his son, on his death bed, that the mother threw her to the wolves. The boy only had a piece of her shawl to remember her by. He grew up hating his mother for leaving them for another man and killing his sister. This was his burden. Anger and not letting the death of his sister go. He carried this burden and a piece of the shawl into his adulthood; it was a haunt in his everyday life.

I listened in class, holding my tears back, because I have that same burden. I had been feeling sad and angry for various reasons involving the tragedy. One of the girls in class was asked what the symbolism of the shawl meant. She said, “It’s a burden. The man carried that burden all his life and he became a drunk and a child abuser”. The man became a father himself, and ended up losing his wife, he was left to care for three children. The man was an alcoholic and would beat on his children often. One of his children, a boy, grew strong enough and decided to fight back. The man got beat up by his son. After the fight, the son cleaned up his father’s blood and found the shawl. The shawl made the father have an awakening. It represented all that made his life bad. He had all his pain in that shawl. The boy, years later after hearing about the shawl and thinking of his father, decided to suggest to his father that the shawl must be burnt. The things of those passed on are not kept; the shawl should be with the man’s sister. Than the boy suggested that maybe, because the girl (the man’s sister) was raised traditionally, kindhearted and knew the teachings, that she sacrificed herself. The girl sacrificed herself for the life of her family and her little brother. The man changed his perspective and gave up the burden of the shawl and was not angry anymore. Upon hearing this, I ran out of class.

My burden that day was only one of many; the burden was that I would have to decide for someone else’s life. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t answer the doctors, I told my mother and my mother-in-law the news. So, my mother, feeling my pain decided to go outside and ask the creator for mercy. Our people believe that the creator is in everything, that sometimes a tree or a bird can help you, because it is as much a part of the Creator as it is a tree or bird. My mother ran outside crying for me, she grabbed a tree and asked the Creator to have mercy, she asked Daryl to not let me make this choice. She cried. I see so much of this experience and the things we read about in class coincide. The idea, all things are related, in this world, all things are the Creators creation, the water, the sky, rocks the animals, trees and humans, everything. So, with this concept instilled upon my mother, passed on to her from our ancestors, my mother used the tree to help her and carry her prayers to the creator.

In “Black Elk Speaks“, there are many references to all things being related. In prayer Black Elk offers, “Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you- the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds and the wings of the air and all the green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters to cross each other. The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross, the place is holy. Day in and day out, forever, you are the life of things” (Niehardt 1995 p. 272). From my up-bringing and taught to me by my elders, is much the same belief offered in Black Elk’s prayer. All things are related and we are connected in spirituality. Therefore, my mother asked this tree to carry her prayer, there was no tobacco near by, or anything formally used to offer a prayer.

Later that night, my daughter had been buried and the doctors were waiting to hear my answer, my son came in and gave me a rock. I held that rock, I wasn’t able to understand. Was my son giving me something to help me with my prayers? I still have the rock. It was a very eventful day; the doctors were reviewing my latest CT scans and MRI scan to check on my vertebrae damage. I had to wait till the next day to hear whether I’d be stuck in a wheel chair forever or not. As, I slept the night the nurses came to wake me, I was full of morphine and my memory of this is hazy.

Daryl was having heart failure, his brain stem had been crushed in the wreck, bones broken, and his body skidded across the interstate upon ejection from the truck. He was on life support, his head was swollen from blood, the inner part of his brain was being crushed from the swelling as well. I didn’t know what to do. I was half there. I just sat in my wheelchair. The doctors and staff were doing all they could to revive him, but he left this world on his own. I sat next to his body and sobbed for a while. My medications made me to drowsy to stay long. My mother’s prayer was answered, she asked that Daryl make his own choice and that I would not have to carry the burden of guilt for his life, and she asked that he would be strong and perhaps live, but he left on his own. I think to be with his beloved daughter, he lived for her.

Waking up the next morning was just as horrible as the day I woke up on the interstate. My daughter was gone from my life forever, my husband didn’t make it, and I was alone and didn’t know how I to feel or even be. I just wanted to die. It is the most painful feeling to have. The doctors came in and had a meeting with my parents; I was to be able to walk with-in a year perhaps. They said that my vertebra wasn’t as severely damaged as they thought. I was fine in that department and I needed to remain still until I was healed. It was bittersweet. Little did I know prayers were offered up from all corners of Indian country on our behalf. I think that Daryl may have blessed me, so that I can continue to dance and feel good. He loved my dancing and I loved his, he told me as we left Rocky Boy powwow, hours before the wreck, that if anything ever happened to him, he’d want me to continue to dance. I do.

My little sister was ejected 75 feet from the car, and she had some brain trauma as well. The doctor said that she is a miracle, had she been out on that road 10 minutes longer she would have died. The impact caused massive swelling and the blood was crushing her brain. Amazingly, she was able to walk out of the hospital four days later.

Since the wreck, I have been through many ceremonies, churches and other forms of religious or emotional aid. I know that the words of Chief Seattle are true, “Death is merely a changing of worlds” ( Deloria p. 181). Many signs have shown that they are around us, in all things. By sharing my story, I hope to capture the essence of being Native that we are always learning and can take something from each and every experience. The stories of other people have helped me through many of my rough patches, in some I find an answer to a problem that I’ve had. I wanted to share my story, I don’t know what good it will do, and I hope that sharing it can help me heal. Maybe, it will help someone else heal as well. In all of the readings of the semester, something has always stood out to me, and it’s that learning from life is of great importance for Native peoples for time immemorial. As Native peoples, life is our philosophy, the lessons of those who’ve gone before us are still living today, in our memories, stories, prayers and everyday interactions. In essence we are all connected, in mind, body, and spirit. I know that somehow, the prayers offered for my family in this tragedy were answered. If they had not been, I think I would crumble in sadness. Something held my son and me together; we are still striving to be stable.

“It is the place where one comes to know what it is to be related. It is the place of sharing life through everyday acts, through song, dance, story, and celebration. It is the place of teaching, learning, making art and sharing thoughts, feelings of joy and grief. It is the place for feeling and being connected. The community is the place where each person can, metaphorically speaking, become complete and express the fullness of their life. Community is “that place that Indian people talk about”, it is the place through which Indian people express their highest thought” (Cajete 1994 p. 166).

I read a book, not long after the car accident, called Pretty Shield; it was about a Crow woman who had been through many hardships in life. I read the book and felt inspired by her strength, no matter what happened she still kept living her life. She took each memory and learned from it, each loved one she lost, was a blessing for her, as she was to them. On moments that made me want to give up, I’d look to my son. Looking to him for strength was like looking to my future, he is my mountain. The choices I make impact his life, if I choose to disconnect and wallow in grief he will not know how to cope when his life gets hard. In sharing our stories, we give up some of our burdens. I hope that this sharing with you will help release some of my pain. I have been through hard times, but I will try and look to my son, and help him move forward.

Our lives came to a halt, to explain the days after Daryl’s death is more than I can handle. For now, I will end here, and let my experience and personal knowledge flow with knowledge I gained from each author of every reading. I have learned a lot in each reading, One thing that is important is that “It Doesn’t end here..it goes on, in another place, on the otherside” (Marshall 2001 p. 229). Life carries burdens for everyone; we have to carry our burdens the best way we know how. For me, its helps to learn from the experiences of others, their lives are woven into mine and give me the strength to cope. My life isn’t done, nor is my story, but I wanted to share it with you. I wrote this paper to not only end this semester, but to bring forth a new season of healing. With this paper, I will give up some of my pain. I tried other remedies to help me relieve my grief, but sharing it with others helped me to let it go, little by little. Thank you for sharing in my journey, so that I have not walked alone.

“Life goes on, it continues to cycle. The sun comes up each morning and with it comes new opportunity, new hope. No matter what kind of mess I’ve made the day before, no matter what victories I’ve celebrated, each new day is a chance to set the record straight, atone for a mistake, achieve another victory, and take another step on my journey. Each new day is ” inikagapi”, a chance to be renewed and reborn- another opportunity to be part of the circle that is life, knowing that it is a journey, not a race, and that one doesn’t travel it alone” (Marshall 2001, p. 229).

(ANYWAY Here’s a lil tidbit)

I learned from Luci Tapahonso’s hardships to cope with the death of her grandchild. Her experience “spoke to me”. The Shawl by Louise Erdrich was an awakening, it was almost as if the whole entire story was something that I have been feeling, the burdens we carry will lessen if we learn to let go and let the Creator take them away. Black Elk’s words were important for me, they are the words of man whom I will never know in this life, but his life is intertwined with mine, his story is mine. Simon Ortiz, shared with me that our traditional beliefs can carry us far, even to the top of a mountain. Cajete helped me express that sharing with another is the best education. Lesli Silko helped me realize, in Tayo’s journey, that we have to look to our teachings to help us through hardships. Joseph Marshall knows that storytelling equals healing and lessons for life. There are even more to discuss. I mostly enjoyed Joseph Marshall’s book. In each story is a lesson, the lesson can help us in our everyday life, even through time and space. The lessons and experiences are our blessings as people and we must share our blessings with others. Life is our medicine.

….

OK that was what I wrote for Class.if U have time..enjoy L8erz & if you want sources contact moiby Roslyn Wahtomy

Hmm, story time?

CugooI was born to descendants of Sacajawea, through Cameahwait, her brother. I am the last Agai Dika born in our homelands, so I feel a strong connection to my people in this way. My mother Rose Ann Abrahamson was a 27 year old woman and married to my father Darrel Abrahamson at the time I came into the world. I had two older sisters, buzee, Lacey and Dustina. My grandfather Wilford George was still alive at this time as well; however a few weeks after my birth he passed on from exposure. I don’t view him as a bad person, or as someone to look down on because he was a good man and all anyone had to say about him were good things, this is the best way you can be. I have known so many people to live a “good life” with no substance abuse, but have a bad heart, judge people and look down on others. It’s about the tracks you leave behind, as Black Elk says, about the good person you are and the way you make them feel is what matters. Good people will never be forgotten. I was supposed to carry his name, and the name of his father, my great-grandfather Willie George, but I was born a girl and my name was almost Wilma. Luckily I was given a name that matches me, Willow Rose. Our people say that names are something very important; these names will serve a purpose for us later in life, even though this was my “white name” my divo nuneeha.

Weeks after my birth, after one moon, my mother was able to bring me around elders. She didn’t ever get to show me to her father because our people believe that a new born baby is powerful, they are the closest thing we have to the Creator. The soft spot of a baby is that way because they are still connected and open to the spiritual world. Elders, in their state of old age, may lose some of their own strength in the presence of the new born baby. We respect these spiritual dimensions, and so, I was never able to meet my grandfather, as he passed 14 days after I was born. The elders, whom I was to be taken to for my first visit, are some of our people’s most powerful medicine carriers, not medicine in just a doctor sense, but in a spiritual, multi-dimensional  and sacred sense, Buh’a. The elders said that, that day they were feeling weak, they started to get enourmously tired and feel a certain vibe. This vibe was one they knew as, someone with powerful medicine was coming to visit, the vibe was strong and they were sure it was something big coming their way. So, they were shocked when I arrived, with my mother, in my willow cradle board, because I carried such strong medicine that they were forewarned in such a way. Due to all of this, when my naming came around, they named me Medicine Woman, Buha Wyipah. Buha is a medicine that is untouchable, supernatural, spiritual and extremely sacred. This is my name, my newa nuneehah and this name does serve me to this day. I don’t want to talk about myself and the personal hardships that I have endured, but just know that the Buha I carry has brought me  a long way in life.  I want to now move on to who I am, from the very beginning, from the creation of my people. These stories come from my ancestors and have been passed along in oral tradition.  I will share them with you because these stories didn’t seem to be as important until I became educated. I learned how GREAT these stories mean to our survival and must be shared and carried on. This is why I call this my evolution, as a person that learned from others and I will use this opportunity in my life to always remember in this form of oral tradition. We as Indian people have always moved, we’ve always survived and even in times of assimilation our stories have persevered. The Indian people are like water, no matter what we find a way to keep flowing, no matter if the water dries up; it will evaporate and become rain. Water will soak into the ground and replenish the earth. In some way our people will find a way, just like to water to keep going. This is a new way to share my oral histories to you.

Long ago, avay-ish, before human people came to be on this Earth there were animal people, it was they who helped create us and give us life. It was they who sacrificed themselves so that we may eat, and it was they who we must always respect for thier sacrifice. All living things, is what we say,it is all things that make life. A living thing can be the rocks, the trees and even a mountain. Ther first story I will share with you is a story about the mountain Woopoyup, it is one passed down the generations to my grandmother, cugoo, Camille George.

Before Woopoyup  came to be, it was said that during Creation there were spirits who wanted to come, be respected and be a part of the life that was to be on Earth. These spirits came and wanted to be respected in this way, some didn’t want their names to ever be said, and some allowed their names to be known, this is how Woopoyup came to be and why we know its name. Woop-o-yup (It will blow you off) is a mountain located in the Salmon River Valley of Idaho, it is content with its name being known by the humans, but it does not want its name to be said while you travel upon it or are in its prescense.

One day a young man whose name is unknown was said to have not listened to this belief, and decided to travel upon the mountain. He was foolish and was taught a lesson because he was disrespectful to the beliefs of the living beings and spirits. This young man traveled to the top of the mountain and yelled the mountains name. He said “Woopoyup, I am here”. Woopoyup blew him off and the man in disbelief was injured. In his injury and shame the young man was always an example to our people as one who didn’t respect the land because he remained injured forever.

The next story is about a mountain that will blow up if you say its name. This mountain is located in Southeast Idaho and if you go there you will know where it is because the last time someone said its name it blew up and covered the people. It covered the whole area to teach the lesson to all that the earth is to be respected. So, for this reason we will not even print this mountain’s name. For fear that someone may be foolish like the young man, be skeptical of our ways and say the mountain’s name; it may blow and teach all its lesson.

It is said that this spirit during creation, came to be here so that people could respect it, but it didn’t want anyone to know its name. This mountain, although it was private about its name, did however, allow people to acknowledge what it was, a volcano. It is said that there are also Twin Mountains, just like this mountain nearby, and they don’t like their names being said either, so we won’t talk about them because they may get angry with us.

When humans came to be, they were given instructions about the land, the animals, and the animals instructions as helpers. These instructions emphasized the respect for the land, and the special instructions for certain mountains, as well. The special instructions for the certain mountains were to not say their names, if their names were said they would teach humankind a lesson about respect. But, soon life carried on in harmony, and these directions were forgotten or people were beginning to think they weren’t real. The particular people, while camped on the Mountain, motioned toward it and called its name. The mountain grew angry because it never wanted it’s name said, especially in its presence for that matter, and buried those people in dust and lava as he sent his anger across the land.

To this day my people will not say this mountains name, and it is also said that this mountain last exploded around the fall of the Roman Empire. No one is allowed to know the names of these mountains, unless they have shown their respect for the ways of our people and the land, than the elders will give you these names.

As, many of our people carry Creation stories, my people’s story is about a monster and a young girl. It is said that this story is how we came to be and was passed along the generations and shared with me by my mother who was given to her by my cugoo.

It has been said that long ago in our people’s earliest memories, we began with a young woman who survived the pursuit of a large carnivorous creature because she had managed to hide in a small hidden cavern. In this cavern she remained still until she felt she was safe, as she felt all was well she ventured to the opposite end of the cavern and found an opening. Outside was a beautiful forested area, and she was taken in awe by all its peace and beauty. She walked for a while in this beautiful place until she came upon a tepee and saw that there was no one around. She wanted to find out who lived there, so she began to look around inside the tepee because maybe she would find out who the residents of this tepee were in such a beautiful place. The camp was good, and clean the lodge was also a good lodge and very clean. She was still afraid of whatever she had just been running from so she decided to stay hidden in this beautiful forest until the owner of the tepee came home.

The young girl waited and waited until finally someone was coming back. It was a very handsome young man and he was coming towards the lodge. She saw that he stopped and looked at the ground around the camp fire. He had seen her tracks, but he acted as if he had not seen anything and went about building his fire. After building his fire he surprised the girl, because suddenly he called out to his trespasser. He was calm, and in a calming voice he told her not to be frightened and to come and eat with him. His soothing voice made her give in, and so did the smell of the food cooking, so she came out of her hiding place. Shyly she made her way toward him, and he motioned for her to sit and gave her something to eat.

After it got late he walked into his tepee and laid some bedding near the doorway inside the lodge. The girl, again shyly, made her way to lie down and laid sloe to the doorway. As each day went by they became closer, and soon they became man and wife and had many children. It is said that our people came from this union.

There is a lot more to this story, but I will have to be patient, because my mother and cugoo said that I will learn the rest of it someday, when we are able to sit around a crackling fireplace. Until then, I cannot know the details and of how we came to be.

I think in my own way, I am always learning from my family, friends and all the people whose lives whov’e touched mine. Even in this Creation story, I know many of the animal stories and many of the stories about when humans came to be, but I guess because of our ways, maybe I am just not ready to carry on the rest of this creation story. One thing I have learned is that there is a proper time for our traditional education. This is what I wanted to share with you by telling you my unfinished education in the Creation stories of my people.

So, finally what I have learned in this journey, about me is much more than just stories, but the story of life. I have learned that through the stories of others we can know more about how to live our lives in a good way. In this class alone I have been reminded that life is our most powerful gift, that all the living things we must try and always respect even the things we cannot understand. One story I am always reminded of is the story of when I am having a hard time is the story of Haskell, and the students who used to walk these grounds. It was well over 100 years ago, but it is their sacrifice that brought us here to this place of empowerment and education and knowledge. We can reflect on the story of Elijah Brown, the young Chumash who came to us from the west coast, he was someone who took the term survival to another level.

Elijah Brown was a young man who attended Haskell in its early years; he was a writer, orator, artist, healer and scholar. His journey at Haskell was one that is somewhat of a mystery, but what we do know is that he was a young man that overcame his physical disability of having one leg by living life for all he could. He is amazing in his eloquence, he once wrote to a San Francisco News Magazine to challenge the white people to rethink their idea of the Indians as a problem. He used classical western theory; he knew of western philosophy and used the tools that were meant to bring the Indian people to feel inferior to prove the white people wrong. He said that the Indians are not the problem, they are equally, if not more capable of advancing intellectually beyond their wildest dreams. Thinking of this young man I am actually amazed and in awe of the confidence he gave to our people. Not only did he champion our people intellectually, but he wrote for the Indian Leader, he acted as a care giver to the sick, a healer by way of giving the sick good feelings, good medicine by being at their side. He gave speeches and won awards for his words. He is a testament that our people can always be as fluid as water.

In refelecting on all of these stories, I have come to realize my ability and privilege to have elders in my family who still carry traditional oral histories, and stories I am now responsible to carry-on. This is our duty as the future elders and teachers of our people.

Gaw-gwushee-gwhy’ya

Lemhi Stories by willowjack2006

DO NOT COPY WITHOUT PERMISSIONS: This paper I wrote for class, it is pure research, and I would like people to respect that I spent long hours on this paper and just sit back and enjoy. I am hoping to CREATE more awareness and to honor my Lemhi bloodlines. yes, I am Bannock too, but my identity is Lemhi. I enjoyed writing this paper and if anyone publishes this without my permission I’ll send my ninjaz to use their taikwondo skizzles. OK so please respect  that this paper is my baby and people keep teasing me about stealing my work. After a few times it really starts to make ya worry. This is mainly my FAMILY STORIES which I share with YOU out of kindness.  Respect my story for you and respect my family. I hope you all enjoy and these stories were written in the utmost respect of my people, ancestors, bloodlines and all of my familia. LOVE YA GUYS! THANKS and ENJOY, its winter so its STORY TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Narratives of the Lemhi Shoshone

This paper is the story of the Lemhi told from their perspective. This history stems from the oral histories shared by the elders and the people who live and still acknowledge themselves as Lemhi. It is important to share this story, because much as assimilation works among the greater mainstream of society, it also works as a melting pot of tribal peoples. The Lemhi are currently living with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, which is a mixture of five different Shoshone bands and tribes (ARCIA 1911, p. 59). Today many of the youth are losing the knowledge of their Lemhi heritage, everyone only identifies as Shoshone-Bannock, but not with their unique heritage (Idaho Statesman Online, 2003). If we do not share and acknowledge these stories, they may be lost. The youth must understand who they are. In my own conversations with some of my younger tribesmen, there is no knowledge that the Lemhi were their own Tribe. My son is often caught-up in the “tribal name”, Sho-Ban, rather than identifying himself with his Lemhi lineage. He is only eight years old and I hope he will know who he truly is as I keep reinforcing his Lemhi background. Lemhi are distinct from Shoshone-Bannocks in culture. We now focus on the narrative of the Lemhi people, not only to promote awareness regarding their identity, but also to share in united stories of Native Peoples who have graced the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University. Anywhere a person goes on the Haskell campus, someone who can share a piece of Haskell history in oral history is to be found. Our ancestors are never forgotten with narrative.

As a Lemhi Shoshone, Agai dika, and the last born in my homelands, I feel it is important to share the stories of my people. The narratives I will share are from first-hand sharing, however some will be second-hand as was told to another, and then shared with me. For example, a story told to someone by an elder who is long gone cannot be told first-hand anymore; it becomes second hand knowledge. I found many interesting narratives, because I loved listening to stories as a child. I have heard these stories shared by my family and elders from 1800 history to when the Lewis and Clark expedition brought our famous Sacatzahweyah (Sacajawea) home and when the Lemhi Removal from their homelands in 1907 and the accounts of those who stayed.

Background

The Lemhi Shoshone, traditionally known as the Agai dika (salmon eater) and Tuku-Duka (sheepeater) and Painituh (Bannock) are the northern-most of the Shoshonean peoples. The Lemhi lived on the Fort Lemhi Indian Reservation in their homeland before being removed to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in 1907. The Lemhi homeland is located along the Rocky Mountains of the Lemhi Range, the Sawtooth, Salmon River Mountains, the Clearwater and the Bitterroot Range. Lemhi have their own customs and life-ways unique to Lemhi people. The Shoshone are a Uto-Aztecan speaking people that reside, today, in five of the western United States (Lowie 1909, p. 171). The Shoshone have reservations hundreds of miles apart and on different lands. For example, the Lemhi lived in the mountains of central Idaho, but now reside in southeast Idaho on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation with the Shoshone-Bannock. The Northwestern Shoshone live in northern Utah (also related to the Northern Ute and Goshute). The Shoshone-Paiute live in northeastern Nevada, the Temoak in north-central Nevada and the Paiute-Shoshone live near Reno, Nevada. The Eastern Shoshone occupy western Wyoming, which is located near Yellowstone National Park. The furthest from the region of most Shoshonean people are the Comanche who reside in southwestern Oklahoma in Lawton.  Lastly, the Burns Paiute reside in Oregon (Lowie 1909, p. 171). Technically, many other tribes besides Shoshone, Bannock, Paiute, Ute, Goshute and Comanche share the language, tribes in Arizona, California and Central America also speak the same language (Fowler 1965, p. 134, 137). The Uto-Aztecan language is unique because it is shared by many different tribes who all are distinct and have very separate distinct cultures. However, this paper will not discuss the different Shoshonean speaking peoples; it will focus on the Lemhi Shoshone and their oral history and narrative as a people.

The Nez Perce and the Chinese

To start, I will share a funny story. This story is shared from my mother; it was passed down to her from Lemhi elders (Abrahamson, Personal Interview 2007). It is about the time when railroads were connecting the United States from one end to the other. In this time, there were many Asian immigrants, known to have built the railroads, as well as become miners. The Lemhi still traveled by horse and the white men traveled on wagons. Well, the Nez Perce people sent a delegation to the Lemhi to discuss trading and alliance issues, when the delegation came upon a wagon. In the wagon were some white men and an Asian man (Chinese). The Nez Perce wanted to have fun and stop the white men from oppressing Indian people anymore and decided to kill all the white men. After they killed the white men, they played around with the Asian man and dressed him in Nez Perce clothing, they did not kill him because he almost looked Indian. The Nez Perce men thought the Asian sounded funny when he talked, they made the Asian ride around back and forth on a horse, bouncing wildly. They laughed as he shouted in Chinese in protest. Now, on the mountain range, just above this whole scene, was a group of Lemhi warriors. They came down to see what the Nez Perce were up to, the Nez Perce told them what they were doing and they all shared in the comedy of the situation. The Nez Perce and Lemhi than, took off to go discuss their issues, leaving the Asian man, dressed as an Indian, surrounded by a bunch of dead white men. The Lemhi elders always chuckle at this story because they wonder what ever happened to the poor Asian man when other travelers found him. I like the story because it reminded me of a movie that came out in May of 2000 starring Jackie Chan, Shanghai Noon. I can see how hilarious the whole scenario must have been because Indians do have a unique sense of humor.

What is even more hilarious is this story was collaborated by non-Indians and the time period was 1877. The Butte America Website says, “During the Nez Perce War in 1877, Nez Perce warriors retreating south from the Battle of the Big Hole intercepted a freight wagon train enroute to Salmon, Idaho. They killed the white teamsters, but spared two Chinese, because their war was not with that tribe (Butte America Website 12/07/2007)”. The Website never stated what happened to the unfortunate Chinese men, but the story came from Granville Stuart (1834-1918), a pioneer who found gold in Deer Lodge, Montana, in 1898 (Butte America Website). Another collaboration of this story can be found in the book, Nez Perce Summer 1877: the U.S. Army and the Nee-Mee-Poo Crisis by Jerome A. Greene. In chapter seven of the book there is story of how Nez Perce warriors, on run from the Battle of the Big Hole came upon a freight wagon train in Lemhi territory. The book says:

On Wednesday, August 15, along Birch Creek, sixty miles from Junction, a group of warriors attacked a horse-and-mule-drawn freight train, killing five men—James Hayden, Albert Green, Daniel Combs, all of Salmon City, and two unidentified men (a man named Albert Lyon escaped through the creek) and burning three wagons and three trailers loaded with general merchandise, including canned goods, crockery, window glass and sash, and whiskey, en route from the Union Pacific Railroad transfer point at Corrine, Utah Territory, to Salmon City and Leesburg, Idaho Territory. Two Chinese cooks rode with the train. One of them, Charles Go Hing, later testified about the raid as follows:

We camped for dinner about noon on Birch Creek, had finished dinner and were lying under the wagons when we heard the clatter of horses’ feet, looked up and saw a party of armed and mounted Indians advancing towards us at a gallop. The men all started for the wagons to get their guns, but before they could get them the Indians had surrounded us and leveled their guns and commanded us to surrender, which we did. I counted them and there were 56 of them, all well-armed and mounted. . . . The Indians after eating made us hitch up the teams and drive up to their main camp about a mile away, where they made us go into camp. The men started with some Indians to drive the animals out to feed. I never saw any of them again. The other Indians broke into the wagons and helped themselves to goods. The Indians said they were Nez Perces and belonged to Joseph’s band.

As the warriors celebrated, the cooks managed to get away in the night and made their way to Junction. The forty animals from the train were absorbed into the Nez Perces’ herd. On the night of August 16, Tendoy and some fifteen of his Lemhi warriors caught up with the Nez Perces and in the darkness ran off seventy-five of their stock, some of which had been taken in the Horse Prairie raid. Next day, a party headed by Colonel George L. Shoup of the local Idaho volunteers (later first governor of the state of Idaho and U.S. senator, 1890-1901) arrived at the scene of the smoldering train and buried the dead” (Greene 2000. Ch.7).

The story collaborates that there was a group of white men killed by the Nez Perce, the Lemhi met up with them and there were Chinese involved. If you ask me, I would rather believe the word of my people because the white men have had a history of lying, to my knowledge, in regards to Indian history. I do believe, however, the Nez Perce did not kill the Chinese, as the “Butte America” website says, because “their war was not with that tribe” is true and they did perhaps dress them for fun. ( I didn’t add this suggestion in my paper, but do you think the ndns made the cooks cook for them too? This account doesn’t tell whether or not they played around with the Chinamen, it’s more focused on what the Indians did to the white travelers. Perhaps, this is because there was no concern for what happened to the Chinese men?).

Lemhi Trail of Tears

There are many hilarious accounts that our people shared stories about the days when the white men really came into our homelands. The town of Salmon was erected in the late 1860’s (Mann 2004). It started as a mining town because gold was discovered in our De’veah (our homelands) in 1862, or 1866 ( Madsen 1979, p. 45, Benedict, email communications), or as Idaho Historian Hope Benedict the director of Lemhi County Historical Museum says, in 1866 in the Lemhi Mountains. Many white men flocked to Lemhi country to become lucky and find the most gold. Salmon, Idaho is located on the Salmon River, also known as “The River of No Return” named after a film starring Marilyn Monroe, shot in Canada, but is now the nickname of the Salmon River for it’s whitewater rapids (Benedict, personal communications 2007). The Lemhi called the “river of no return” Agai-Pah, which actually translates to Salmon River. To the Lemhi Shoshone the homeland is their heart, and the land will always remain in their heart. There is even a petition online in which the Lemhi are asking to have their own reservation once again, because there is still a lot of dispute between them and the Shoshone-Bannocks of Fort Hall (Lemhi-Shoshone Website). My grandmother and other elders have always said the Lemhi people did not want to leave the homelands, near Salmon, because it was where we belonged.

We are mountain Shoshone and the Shoshone-Bannocks were of a treeless sage-brushed land. Our people loved their mountains and their Salmon River because it provided our culture and traditional foods. I heard that the Salmon will always go back to where they came from, even if its hundred of miles and the journey leaves them bloody from their persistence to journey back to their spawning ground so they may also spawn there was well. We are like the salmon because the Lemhi will always fight for their homelands, even if the battle seems to keep us down. Even the New York Times wrote an article about the Lemhi and their land issues in 1999. The article described the pain of the Lemhi people, “Orphans in an arid land, the Lemhi say they have been down so long that they use an ironic phrase to describe their current status, ‘Basically, we are the Indians to the other Indians,’ said Rod Ariwite, a leader of the Lemhi Shoshone. But the tribe’s luck may be about to change” (Lemhi-Shoshone and Idaho Statesman Websites). I feel this same way, because as a Lemhi I am a minority and second class citizen in Fort Hall, even the culture and language dialect of the Lemhi is at risk of being lost because the Ft. Hall is becoming a melting pot.

To express this place and the bittersweet memories of my people, I will share the stories of the Lemhi. My mother remembers the few families who did stay behind, they lived in shacks, made of plywood, cardboard, and whatever materials they could afford or scrape up. One elder who was at the removal just died in April of 2007 and he took with him valuable knowledge. Some of the knowledge I do know from listening to my family elders speak is this oral narrative of the Lemhi removal described by the late Walter Nevada.

Walter Nevada said the removal happened when he was about five years old. He can recall the day. It was very warm and he was standing by his father as the leaders organized the Lemhi for their 300-mile walk. There is rumor among our people that the removal of the Lemhi from their reservation in 1907 was due to the death of the great leader, Chief Tendoy. Oral history recounts that the May 9, 1907, death of Tendoy was an act of homicide. Tendoy is renowned for his determination to keep the Lemhi in their mountainous homelands and persistently fought against the Lemhi Removal to his last day of life (Madsen 1979, p. 187). There is no evidence of what exactly occurred but as the stories have been passed down through the generations of Chief Tendoy descendants, it is said that he was found “drowned in a creek.” The Lemhi believe he was murdered because the homeland was rich in minerals, forest, hunting, fishing and just a “garden of Eden”. Chief Tendoy resisted the removal of the Lemhi people and worked to retain the land (Madsen 1979). In June of 1907 a month after his death, Tendoy’s son Toopombay became Chief. Sadly, even during mourning he had to gather the people for their “long walk” to a new and arid place. Fort Hall is almost like night and day to the Salmon River Country of Central Idaho, it is like Kansas flat lands and the Salmon River Country is mountainous and full of rivers and trees like Yellowstone Park. Walter Nevada was a small child during this time, but he remembers the day. He was lined up with his family. He said that the “crier” was mounted on a horse and calling out to the people to get ready. The Crier was galloping up and down along the line; it was in a valley with mountains on each side. As the “crier” made his way down, the Indians got ready and then, all at once, they started to wail. This is officially the Lemhi Removal from their homes. Walter said he remembered all of this. He remembered that everyone was sad, and that the cries of the Lemhi were heard everywhere in the mountains. It echoed (George, Personal Communications 2007).

The people loved their De’veah so much, it was like having someone you loved ripped away, right before your very eyes, and you could not do anything about it. Walter Nevada was one of our oldest Lemhi Elders, but he died this past April. I felt sad; he had so many stories about the days of removal and the new reservation existence, as well as traditional knowledge. I actually sat home, reading the online email, I cried at the loss of someone as precious to my people as the Pope is to the Catholics. The story of the Lemhi is collaborated by many books and newspaper articles because the removal of the Lemhi from their land stemmed from the discovery of gold in 1862 (Madsen 1979 p. 45. Idaho Statesman Online. Lemhi-Shoshone Community Website ). An article in the Idaho Statesman says “the Lemhi loaded what they could on horses and wagons, sent some of their heaviest items by train and left the rest behind. Their oral history says their cries became a wail and the wail became keen that reverberated through the valley. Even ranchers living on what had been Lemhi land were said to have wept as they watched them go” (Idaho Statesman Online, 2003).

After the removal, only six families remained (Idaho Statesman Online), and they were faced with many hardships. The families who stayed did not get Indian Health Services unless they were on the Fort Hall Reservation almost 300 miles away, through mountain valleys. The families also did not get tribal housing, commodities or any of the other services provided to the Indians of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation (Idaho Statesman Online). What I find ironic is the main family who stayed behind was that of Chief Tendoy. From my knowledge, the families remained in the homelands because those moved to Fort hall were treated as outsiders. The Lemhi were removed onto an occupied reservation with people who did not want any change from their ways. It is still hard for Lemhi who live in Fort Hall to this day. The Fort Hall Indians were given millions of dollars for aid to the Lemhi, yet, the payments did not come for many years and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes kept the monies. Instead, the Lemhi monies were spread among the tribal members because the Lemhi were not granted their $4.5 until 1971 (Madsen 1979 p. 190). (personal note not in my paper for class..nonetheless I ove my people. Just th condition of reservation stuff that is upsetting. I love my people though because they are good people and have been there when I needed then).

Boarding School Narratives with a Slaughterhouse Antic

Aside from those stories of hardship, the Lemhi also have stories of hilarious antics by the people during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. For example, my aunt Emma George told me a story of “Auntie Grandma”, my late grandaunt Dorothy Baker, and her marriage to a Bannock Indian. In this story, my grand-aunt was around 16 years of age, she passed away some years ago and was very old. I never knew anyone’s real age because there were no birth certificates made for an exact year or even an exact day.

Auntie Grandma was a young woman and she said that one day she was told by her parents to pack her things up. She was loaded up onto a wagon and driven many miles away, possibly from Salmon to Fort Hall and than dropped off. Her family unloaded her belongings and just drove away. She did not fully understand that her time to be married had come. She described that it was embarrassing, imagine that you are a teenager and standing outside of someone’s house, kicking rocks. The whole family is standing at the windows staring at you. What can you do? She said that finally someone came and helped her bring her things inside. I would always laugh at stories like this because I try to imagine what it would be like if it happened now. I asked many times if it were true and Auntie Grandma would confirm it, she said that in those days your family would arrange a marriage. They felt that her new husband was a good man and would take good care of her and her family (Lowie 1909, p. 210. Therefore, off she went, to her new man’s home (George, Personal Communications 2007). Auntie Grandma used to come to our house at least three times a week, she would even tell stories about her boarding school experiences.

Auntie Grandma went through the Indian boarding school experience during hard times. I used to go with my mother and Grandmother (Cugoo) to visit her at home. My mother interpreted what had happened to her for me. As Auntie Grandma looked at her feet, she recalled how she tried to fit her feet into the hard leather shoes that were too small. As one observed her toes, you could see they were all angled to one side. When she wiggled her feet, she reminisced her boarding school days and recalled how she did not want to go nor be there. She wanted to be home with her grandparents.

Auntie Grandma said the first night she was there, she could not sleep, and she just twisted and turned in her bed. As the night progressed, her sheets came loose. She got up and adjusted them. The night matron saw her and grabbed her by the ear. Auntie Grandma said she was dragged down a flight of stairs into a cellar and thrown in. She said it was really dark, pitch black, and cried at being put into this dark place. Auntie Grandma was always well behaved as a child and was rarely disciplined, so this was frightening. On top of everything, she knew she was down in the ground alongside the dead people who were buried at the site. She said she cried and prayed for protection throughout the night. She said I made it out of that awful place, and said it was a bad place to put the Indian children. One thing, she always said was, how could people build a school on a burial ground and force kids to go there? How could anyone do that to little kids? She said that she had so many nightmares, and recalled one night when a ghost appeared in the dorm. The ghost was half way out of the floor looking at the kids. She said there were probably many Indian children who saw and experienced scary things, especially when they were flung in the cellar. Auntie Grandma would share these accounts with family, nieces, nephews and her husband, but not with strangers. Her husband Joe Baker, a Bannock had also attended the boarding school and had his stories. However, I will share the story told when he had an interesting account related to communicating with white folks (Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007).

Grandpa Joe Baker was a Bannock and shared this story with my Cugoo, my Aunts and my mother. I didn’t really know him well because he passed when I was young, we all called him “Uncle Joe.”  I am going to share it before the next narrative, which is about boarding school experiences. I feel Uncle Joe deserves to have his story next to Auntie Grandma’s. It is important to keep their stories together, as a sign of respect. It is a funny story with no sadness. Sit back and let me tell you about his first errand to town. Grandpa Joe had twinkly eyes and a good heart. He loved to sit and share stories about his experiences. One such experience is one of our family’s most favorite accounts.

This is the story of Grandpa Joe’s first errand run to town. He said he was about eight years old when he was told to go to town and find out if their cow was butchered. There was one problem: he could not speak English. His older brother took him aside and taught him a phrase, “Are you going to kill the cow today?” Joe said he repeated the question he was to ask many times. He had plenty of time to learn the question perfectly because, back in the day, it was no big deal to walk five miles to run an errand. Joe said he walked and practiced until he got to this great-big log. He started playing. When he started out again, he could not remember what he was supposed to say. Joe tried his best to put together the English words he was taught. Before he knew it, he was at the slaughterhouse. A tall white man was standing on a ramp. Being very scared, Joe ducked behind some bushes to gather up some courage. He said he puffed out his chest and marched right up to that white man and looked him in the eye and said, “Cow gonna kill’um you today!” (George, George and Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007). As, you can see the Lemhi were still unaccustomed to speaking English for many years, my Cugoo still barely understands English in the year 2007. My mother never learned to speak English until eight years of age in the 1960s.

Now I will continue with one last boarding school story. I feel it is important to share these stories because as a young person I can see the need to strengthen oral histories of Indian nations. Especially since I attend Haskell, where narrative has shed new light on the hardships of the boarding school era. This is a story, told by my late grandfather Wilford George (Toe-goe) and passed along the bloodlines. The boarding school in Fort Hall was a place where those who attended recount devastating memories. The school was built on a raised burial ground, where ancestors were buried for hundreds of years. Traditionally burial sites are built on the highest point in the Valley, and this area was a burial site. Parents did their best to hide their children from the agents, because they were forced to attend this institution at a very young age.

Willie George shared one such account. He said that he was taken away from his father and grandparents when he was five years old. His hair was cut and checked for lice. As he arrived, he said he was one of the little ones, and was taken care of by older students who dressed him and washed his face and hands. These were duties of the older students. He said although they took care of you, no one held you or hugged you. You were on your own emotionally as a little child, with no one to wipe your tears or comfort you when you were scared. Everyone knew about the burial ground and even if they did not they could feel a presence at night and in the corridors of this government institution.

Willie said everything was like a military base. Little Willie had to wake up to a bell, dress to a bell, wash to a bell, and march down the hallway to breakfast, again to a bell.

As time passed and he became older, he was oriented to the military process not by choice but by force. One aspect of this experience for him was his misshapen feet. He said as the boys would grow so would their feet, but the size of the feet were not considered when it came to shoes. They were forced to wear the same shoes for years, although their feet grew. He remembered bending his toes so his shoes would fit, and as a result, his toes were twisted at an angle into adulthood. He shared this experience with his older sister (Auntie Grandma Dorothy Baker). Both had misshapen feet because of the boarding school (Lopez and Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007). I would also like to say, Willie George is my namesake. I was thought to be a boy; instead, I was a girl and named Willow.

Sacajawea

Another story I would also like to share is about our most famous Lemhi Sacajawea. In this story, it is told among the Lemhi that Sacajawea was captured (Mann 2004) while camping with her parents. In our tribal and family history, children were named at the ear piercing time. This was always done among our people. We are named by something we are observed constantly doing. Before the naming children were just called, “Geegee”.

Sacajawea was named in the very same way. She must have had a favorite little burden basket, which was termed as a burden. Children always had toys that imitated the adult implements and used them for the same tasks. If mom had a cradleboard and carried the baby, so did the little girls to carry their dolls.

Sacajawea must have been seen always carrying her little basket and imitating her mother in gathering willows. She was named by an elder, who called her Sacaja= “That is her or Her” Wea= “Burden”, Sacatzahweyah. It is also said that your name has meaning, its purpose will come forth and serve you later in life. (not in paper: but my own name seems to be this way. Medicine Woman, because before I was a month old I almost died, but survived with my “boo ha” by medicine. Not the kind that one can grasp but one that is special and unattainable. I think this boo’ha protected me from being hurt in both car accidents. How is it that one can be told they will never dance again, than overcome all that is said and do it?)

In 1805, when Sacatzahweyah came back among us, our people saw that her name had served her. Five years earlier, she was pitifully abducted by the Minnataree at twelve years of age and taken away from her family. As a Minnataree slave, she was traded to an older white man, Charbonneau, who was known for being abusive. She was impregnated by him. In her young life, Sacatzahweyah had many burdens. However, when she came back, our people were happy to see her. Nevertheless, they also noticed the man she was forced to be with and saw him eyeing the female members of the tribe. It was not the women, the teens, but the young girls he was ogling. Disgusted by this, they said that Charbonneau was her burden, and expressed it by saying her name loudly to him. He did not know what they were saying because her captors changed her name. Ewww, was what everyone would exclaim when they would talk about him. Then, the elder women would all nod their heads sadly at the fact that she had to accompany him because she had a child by him, but they said that was her burden. A Lemhi Shoshone woman would always stay with her husband and family no matter the condition, which is the responsibility of a respectable woman. . Fanny Silver, who was a proud Lemhi, shared this account (Abrahamson and George, Personal Communications 2007).

The Lemhi say that Sacatzahweyah led the expedition away from her people on the way back to the Midwest because she did not want them “using” them once again. The Lemhi have stories of how she talked with her brother, who was the Chief (Daygwahnee) when the expedition came through. Sacatzahweyah’s only descendants are those of her brother, Cameahwait, who was the chief. Her sons from her French husband Charbonneau did not survive long enough to bear children of their own. My relatives and I are recognized descendants and her story is shared from generation to generation (mother served as special guest of the White House for commemoration of the Sacajawea Coin in January 2001. She was also specially invited there to receive a certificate that recognized Sacajawea as an Honorary U.S. Army Sargeant for all her bloodlines).

Lemhi Life in Salmon

In the 1800’s, the Lemhi were not allowed to leave their reservation to hunt and gather. The agents controlled their movements and many times would not let them leave the area. The people would go to White settlers and request food to feed their families (Madsen 1979, p.55-57). One day, Maude Wingo’s family needed some food, but was concerned about how to request it in English. Finally, an uncle felt his English was good enough and started out towards a home of the nearest settlers. This uncle was a typical stoic looking Indian, maybe a little on the fierce side but a kind soul, nonetheless.

Unknown to him, the settlers had a visitor from the eastern United States who was a little nervous and skittish about being in the Wild West. That morning, just as it was barely getting light, the visitor was up very early having her coffee.

He walked up to the house, finding it quiet. Someone was up and awake. He proceeded to the door, but decided to look in the window. The visitor saw him and fainted stone cold, falling to the floor. Seeing this happen, he ran back home.

When he got home, gasping, he told everyone, “I killed a White woman, I killed a White woman!” Everyone became upset and told him to tell them what happened. Then everyone laughed, and told him that she was okay and that this is what White women do when they get too excited (George, Personal Communications 2007). Zuni Navo to Elmer Navo and than Camille Navo-George (my cugoo) shared this story. It is a story that describes the hardship of reservation life and shares my family history. Nevertheless, there is more, and I will not stop here so keep reading and you will be sure to enjoy the next narrative.

In the latter 1800’s to mid 1900’s the Lemhi, throughout their contact with Whites (taivo) would give them names, unknown to the Whites of course. Every store owner or White person they did business with had an Indian name. Here are some examples shared by the Lemhi elders (George, Personal Communications 2007):

Hardware Owner: The elders said that when he took your money he would lick his fingers as he counted the money you gave him or if he gave you change. So, the Lemhis called him Big Tongue, and many Indians wanted to see this man with the big tongue and would crowd to the store to stare at him. He couldn’t understand why everybody would stare hard at him.

Drugstore Clerk: The elders said the clerk would wear really high heels which made her rear poke out when she walked around the store. They called her One Whose Behind Pokes Out When She Walks. The Indian men liked going into that store.

Minister: He was a preacher for the Assembly of God Church. He was a kind man with a small pug nose. He was called “No Nose” by the Indian people. The Indian kids and elders would stare at his nose when he would come to visit. It was believed that many did not even hear a word he said, because they were too busy looking at his nose.

The names of the white folk given by the Lemhi are interesting for myself, because I learn that my people loved to share “inside jokes” with one another. As most Haskell students know, the early reservation life was a time of hardship and suffering, because Haskell’s narrative and history tells of these times.

When gold mining became prevalent in the homeland of the Lemhis, it brought in a population of Chinese peoples. The Chinese settled in an area near the Salmon River and created a small China town (ARCIA 1882, p. 52). Elder Ray Crow said that some of them were intolerant of the Indian children who were hanging around, gawking, and simply fascinated by the Chinese (George, Personal Communications 2007). They were somewhat similar, but yet so different. Many times, the Chinese men would sweep a broom in their direction tell them to go away and play somewhere else. Ray said there were a few who were especially grouchy.

The Indian kids also knew that the Chinese men liked to sit in a squatting position and gamble with each other, around small fires, throughout the night. It was said that they would become very consumed in their games and chattering in their Chinese language and dialects. It was during this time that Elmer Navo, Paseeute (Dan Fisher’s father) and some of the Indian kids decided to play a trick on the meanest or grouchier of the Chinese men. They sneaked into the Chinese encampment when the men were gambling away. Aided by the darkness, they were able to get in and tie the long braided pigtails of these grouchy men. They said they were able to tie the pigtails of six men together, without being noticed. The Lemhi still laugh about what happened when the grouches got up and left their games (George, Personal Communications 2007).

In the early 1900’s, there was a small movie theater in Salmon, Idaho which opened up for the public. The White owners were quite kind to the Lemhi and allowed them to watch the movies free. The owner’s wife had always nodded to the Indian people as they came in, but had not talked to them at length. She decided to talk to a group of young Lemhi women. As she spoke, she said, “I want to talk’um to you. Did you like’um show?” The Indian women looked at each other and smiled, then one of them stepped up to the White woman and said, “Yes maam, we enjoyed the movie immensely.” They exited smiling, leaving behind the red-faced owner (Abrahamson, Personal Communications 2007).

The Lemhi had a small encampment that they called the Indian Camp. One of the most humorous storytellers was Joe Sawyer.  He was not a Lemhi but married to a Lemhi, Lillie Navo Sawyer, he passed away in the 1960’s. He had enjoyed going to town, then coming back, and sharing his ventures with everyone. He would have a serious manner, but a smile always flickered at his lips and a twinkle was always in his eyes. In Shoshone, his stories were very funny according to the elders. Here are two of his ventures:

Joe went to the Post Office and always liked to visit with Frosty Wheeler the postmaster. One day, Frosty said to him, “I heard you Indians can tell what kind of winter we’re going to have”. Joe nodded his head, agreeing with the statement. So, Frosty proceeded to ask him, “Well, what kind of winter are we going to have?” Joe said, “Real cold, real cold winter.” Frosty, thinking about what he was told, said, “Really?” to which Joe simply nodded. Then, Frosty leaned in real close and said, “Tell me Joe, how is it you Indians know what kind of winter we’re going to have?’ Joe looked around and then said in a very serious tone, “Whiteman, he woodpile really high.”

A few Lemhi had cars, and Joe was one of them. He had a black car that rumbled down the road and was generally loaded with his wife, children, and extended family. One day, he was driving down the road especially fast and stopped by a police officer. The police officer proceeded to inform Joe that he was speeding, and said, “Do you understand what I just told you?” Joe shook his head and said, “Me, no sabbe.” The officer tried to explain to him about the required miles per hour and the speeding laws. Joe just stared blankly and then shook his head indicating he didn’t understand. The frustrated officer finally told him to go on, but not to be speeding. As Joe drove off, he leaned out the window smiling and said, “Me sabbe.”

The stories shared by Lillie Navo Sawyer about Joe Sawyer have been passed on from my Cugoo, Camille George to my mother, who than told me and I am delighted to share them with you (Abrahamson, Communications 2007).

All things Connected

Through narrative, one can connect our people to our ancestors. We are bonded in a narrative that is always moving, it passes from one generation to the next. In this, I share what has been shared with me, and the stories I have found with in my research. The stories are about people and sharing these stories reminds me that Haskell Students have persevered; even today, some students have never forgotten their histories. I guess assimilation did its best, but our stories will persevere through the journey of time and space. Therefore, I share these stories with you, because it is our stories that keep us connected to our ancestors:

“It is the story of all life that is holy and it is good to tell, and for us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four leggeds and the wings of the air and all the green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one spirit“( Black Elk Speaks p.1).

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