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

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