What’s in a Name?

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I wasn’t told right away what had actually happened. Long HouseAll I knew was the doctor had arrived and the house seemed dark and quiet with some kind of negative energy. A large green tank was brought into the house and set beside his bed.

There were two nurses and the doctor. One of the nurses was Mom, who worked for that doctor at the big Catholic hospital in East Los Angeles. Mom wasn’t wearing her white nurse uniform because  it was her day off, but the other lady was. I was hiding in the back of the house, sneaking around and trying to listen and watch from behind doors. I was scared. Was he going to die? He looked so different. I always saw Dad as this tall, strong man who seemed to be completely in charge of his own life and dominant over the lives of the rest of our family as well. Now his dark skin looked so pale. How could that change so quickly? And that big tank they brought in wasn’t right either. You could see that it had been used many times because the green paint was scratched and chipped. I thought Dad should have a new tank because his life was important. His eyes were closed and he lay flat on his back in the bed. I heard them say he had a heart attack. EO was maybe fifty years old at the time. I was the youngest of their natural children, born after they were forty. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1) Jul 11 2013

Awaiting Shadowland

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The Shadowland exists in various places Long Houseon mother earth, and in our interactions with the natural laws of physics. I call it the Shadowland because it is a real place among the shadows of the soul, combined with the Great mystery and the elements of earth, wind, fire and water. Anything can happen in the Shadowland. Miracles occur there. Christian writings discuss something called “gifts of the Holy Spirit” like speaking in tongues, prophetic dreams, healing hands, discernment and many other such spiritual abilities. When I first heard of this I thought of the manifestations of the Shadowland as I understand them in a more native way. These things often come to those of us who exercise regular prayer in whatever form we choose. They also come to people who have never prayed for anything. There are also people who believe that we are wrong to believe in extraordinary spiritual experiences that may occur outside the ritualistic forms of religious study, worship or practices. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) Jul 03 2013

Mysticism

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Mysticism is defined in English Long Houseas “1. the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics. 2. The belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth or ultimate reality can be attained through/by subjective experience or initiation.” The challenge in writing about native mysticism is because human beings around the world have various ways and means of achieving such lofty spiritual ideals. In the US alone, there are hundreds of Tribes, Creation stories and other forms of interaction with the Divine, and they are told in many ways, languages and dialects that vary greatly from Tribe to Tribe and even from village to village and generation to generation. This particular interpretation comes from my own extended family, whose origins are both Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe. (Seneca/Ojibwe) I am not a direct translator of my native tongue, so I will not use either of my languages of origin to describe mysticism as I understand the word or its practices. This is a simple summary of the mystical world of the supernatural, as passed down from generation to generation through our Tribal elders—the Fox River Tribes of my origin. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) Jun 27 2013

Alcoholism

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“Uncle, I thought you said that alcohol is poisonWayne_Fran to our people. You said we should never drink alcohol if we are going to be traditional. If that’s true, why are you drinking the whiskey?” asked the young man.

“Because there are so many demons inside me and those demons need to die.” replied the old man.

In 1993, the Riverside-San Bernardino Indian Health Services sent a memo to everyone in the area who was receiving Bureau of Indian Affairs health benefits from the local Indian clinics. We were asked to attend community awareness classes each week at the Tribal Hall at Morongo reservation. The facilitators presented statistics revealing that alcoholism had reached epidemic proportions all over Indian Country. They reported that ninety-seven percent of native people were dying from the disease. I will never forget hearing that devastating fact. I had never thought of percentages or statistics in regards to our continuing loss of sovereignty and native lands shrinking to nearly invisible proportions, all I ever thought of was the alarming fact that my own race was reaching near extinction. People were no longer speaking our native languages. Talk of traditional ways that had been so richly alive during my childhood seemed to be rapidly disappearing. My own extended family no longer lived in the close community we had known in the past. The complete assimilation of the American Indian was rampant everywhere and it was increasingly sad to think of our dismal future as traditional human beings. Most of my life it seemed as though we were able to choose whether we would retain the ways of our ancestors, but this new information placed my broken heart on the ground. How could my race recover? We were dying of this horrific addiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) Jun 19 2013

Wawashkeshshi (Deer)

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The miracle happens while walking up theLong House mesa to greet the sunrise. The shadows are still deep from the end of the night and on the eastern horizon the earliest evidence of morning is just beginning. The changing sky still hides much of the natural world but shapes are becoming clearer near the top of the holy mountain. It is in this changing light of the new day that I see her at the edge of the winding pathway on my right. Wawashkeshshi—Deer. She is a fawn and her silhouette faintly appears next to a mesquite tree that has begun to bloom in the early springtime. I stop and speak softly to her. She stands perfectly still looking straight into my eyes, very cautious but holding her ground. She is only ten feet from me. This is her land, not mine. The deer were here before the humans came. She is the keeper of this sacred southwestern mesa but also a clan mother in my Tribe whose land of origin is much further north and east of here in the woodlands of Indian Country. Suddenly I am called to speak with her. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) Jun 13 2013

Fox River Indians

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The Fox River extends from Green Bay, Wisconsin Long Houseat Lake Michigan, two hundred miles south to the Illinois River in Illinois. Along the Fox River, many Tribes migrated, gathered and settled for brief periods where they married people from other Tribes. Some stayed in the area at reservations that resulted from the encroachment of the American Frontier as it crept ever westward. For many of us of indigenous ancestry, that time in history was a truly Intertribal experience. People migrated north or south depending on the seasons, relying on hunting and gathering cycles. Some became involved in the fur trade, others in war over native lands and still others married into the dominant non-native culture during the 1800s. The Fox River Indians are not a federally recognized Tribe. They are a mixture of many Tribes who arrived in the area as the result of a very wide variety of historical events. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) Jun 06 2013

Intertribal

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“Turtle Island” is the term used by storytellers, Long Housefrom many of the Tribes all over the land, to describe the North American continent. Collectively most native storytellers speak of the circular way of belief, rather than the non-native linear measurement of time and thought. All of life and eternity exists within the sacred circle of divine Creation. Prayer is done in a circular fashion, addressing the four directions of the seasons and honoring the four original races of humanity. Often seven directions are addressed in prayer to all our relations as east, south, west, north, sky, earth and here. This varies from tribe to tribe and from one geographical area to another. Most native people agree that these things are pretty universal and acceptable ways to begin any spiritual or Intertribal event. The word “Intertribal” simply refers to a gathering of more than one Tribal belief system. People from various Tribes and clans come together for pow wows and other Intertribal native gatherings, with respect and tolerance for the differences and similarities that exist among us. Our respect for one another is the common thread that provides unity among the hundreds of Tribal nations around Turtle Island and beyond. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) May 29 2013

Tribe

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A Tribe is nothing more than a huge indigenous Long Houseextended family that lives in a community with one another. Some American Indian Tribes are federally recognized and others are not. When I was a kid, I attended catechism at San Gabriel Mission. There were basically brown kids from all over the Los Angeles area from a number of Tribes and some from Mexican descent. There was a lot of mixed ancestry as well from Mexican and American Indians from both sides of the Mexican/American border. Our neighborhood and others nearby was a kind of “chocolate soup” of people. People from LA were often referred to as “Angelinos” but the kids from the mission were called “Gabrielinos”. This was not a Tribe but it was a kind of community. Everyone was Catholic and everyone was brown. Each one of us knew of our personal ancestry but still the Church and surrounding populations called us Gabrielinos. As we grew to adulthood, many of us expressed our dissatisfaction with the concept of being lumped into one stereotypical identity. We began to become more aware and almost activist-like about our actual Tribal affiliations. Mom was Delaware and Dad was Seneca/Ojibwe. We were the fourth generation removed from our lands of Tribal origin, who had settled in East Los Angeles along with a large variety of relocated American Indians. The census showed that there was actually more American Indians living in Los Angeles than in the rest of the United States, even on all the reservations combined. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2) May 22 2013

History

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A good way to define American Indian culture, Long Housetradition and spirituality is to break it down into three categories and then decide which category applies to any particular storytelling or teachings. We sometimes hear people say “All Indians believe….,” and then proceed to tell us what they think all native people believe, think or do, that really doesn’t apply to most of us. If anything, the statement grates on the ears like fingernails across an old slate chalkboard. I have sat in the midst of many a diverse group over the years and heard this opening phrase come out of the mouths of many a non-native companion. I watch how other indigenous people respond to this as well. Most will simply withdraw and keep their opinions and thoughts to themselves. There is little or no reward in arguing with those who make blatant or broad-spectrum statements about us. If they are convinced they know, then no amount of discussion will change that. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) May 15 2013

Wazhushk

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Wazhushk in English means “Muskrat”. Long HouseThe lowly muskrat is how the other creatures thought of him in the story of Ojibwe Creation.  He was never as pretty as Deer, or as huge as Bear, or able to fly gracefully like Bird in the great sky. He was never sleek and stealthy like the big cat, and he could not live in the deep water like the fish. He may have been lowly, but he taught us to think before we judge another according to their apparent lowliness… Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (0) May 08 2013