Category Archives: Culture

Native Author Joy Harjo Wins The Prize…Again!

“Today, we are excited to announce Joy Harjo has been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement and contribution to the art of poetry. Of Harjo’s poetry, Don Share remarks: “Her work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. ” H. Staff, Poetry Foundation

Joy Harjo

Excerpt: Joy Harjo Awarded 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, by Harriet Staff, The Poetry Foundation

“Presented annually to a living US poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant singular recognition, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets. At $100,000, it is also one of the nation’s largest literary prizes. Established in 1986, the prize is sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It will be presented at a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation on Monday, June 12th.

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop…Her work draws on Native American storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Harjo’s many honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. Harjo is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.”

One of Harjo’s best known and loved poems She Had Some Horses was first published in 1983 and is now considered a classic.

She Had Some Horses By Joy Harjo

She had some horses.

She had horses who were bodies of sand.

She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.

She had horses who were skins of ocean water.

She had horses who were the blue air of the sky.

She had horses who were fur and teeth.

She had horses who were clay and would break.

She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

lenzor

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.

She had horses with full, brown thighs.

She had horses who laughed too much.

She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.

She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.

She had horses who thought they were the sun and their

bodies shown and burned like stars.

She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.

She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet

in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.

She had horses who cried in their beer.

She had horses who spit at male queens who made

them afraid of themselves.

She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.

She had horses who lied.

She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped

bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”

She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept

their voices secret and to themselves.

She had horses who had no names.

She had horses who had books of names.

Animal digestion

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.

She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who

carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.

She had horses who waited for destruction.

She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.

She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.

She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her

bed at night and prayed.

She had some horses

She had some horses she loved.

She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

Category: Culture

The Zuni Pueblo Main Street Festival Coming in May!

“Dowa Yalanne Mesa also referred to as “Corn Mesa” is a sacred site that overlooks Zuni Pueblo and has been a place of necessary refuge for the Zuni People since time immemorial.It sits rather off the beaten track. There are no glitzy casinos to attract folks. It’s not near any big population center. But Zuni Pueblo is doing what it can to highlight what it has, and much of that will be on display May 6-7 for the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Festival.” G. Rosales, AlbuquerqueJournal

Dowa Yalanne Mesa

“The fifth annual fair is a celebration of our local businesses and local artists, giving appreciation for everything they do collaboratively to sustain our local economy, said Wells Mahkee Jr., Zuni Pueblo MainStreet manager. ‘We’re celebrating our community and culture.’It’s a celebration open to all comers and includes such entertainment as a carnival with rides and games, and a showcase of the many artisans from the pueblo.

‘We’re going to have an arts market with the local vendors set up and local arts and crafts,’ Mahkee said. ‘We’ll have a wide variety of artists that will have their arts and crafts for sale so you can buy directly from the artist. You know what you’re getting. You’ll be getting quality work, and you get to meet the artists, which is something not many communities can say.’ One of the big highlights of Saturday’s event will be traditional Zuni dances, he said.

Native Zuni dances.

‘They’ll be social dances, and I know one group will be doing the buffalo dance, the corn dance, the turkey dance and the butterfly dance,’  Mahkee said.

Then there will be what is sure to be a crowd favorite as the local Head Start program will do a series of dances, he said.

Several art competitions also will be on tap, with a juried show in which five judges will be rating the artwork in categories from jewelry, paintings, textile, pottery and carvings, with the work on display throughout the weekend.

And in another competition, artists will be challenged to stretch their creativity by using recycled material provided by the Zuni Environmental Program.”

For more information Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Festival May 6-7

Category: Culture

Native Superheroes Comic Rebooted in 2017

“In comics and graphic novels, Native American characters aren’t usually very prominent. They’re often sidekicks — or worse. But a new publisher focused exclusively on Native writers and artists is changing that. Called Native Realities, the company just released the reboot of the first all-Native superhero comic.” M. Kamerick, NPR

Tribal Force Native Super Heroes

Excerpt:  With This Publisher, Native American Superheroes Fly High, Megan Kamerick, NPR

“Comics creator Jon Proudstar remembers the first time he saw a Native American character in a comic. It was Thunderbird, in the X-Men, and he was quickly killed off. Proudstar was 8 years old and he was not happy. ‘And for years I just lamented about it and said one day I’ll bring him back,’  he says.

Proudstar, who is Yaqui and Mexican, went one better. He created the first comic book to feature a whole team of Native American superheroes. Tribal Force debuted in 1996 — but the publisher went out of business after just one issue. ‘For years I kept trying to get a publisher, and nobody would touch us,’  Proudstar recalls.

Jon Proudstar created Tribal Force in 1996 — now, it’s being rebooted by Native Realities. Ron Joseph:Weshoyot Alvitre:Native Realities

Then Proudstar found Lee Francis and Native Realities Press, which focuses on Native writers, artists, and game designers. Francis, who’s from Laguna Pueblo, N.M., calls himself an ‘Indiginerd’…Francis was an educator before becoming an entrepreneur. He says Native kids don’t have representations of themselves in popular media and culture,  and to be able to create these kinds of characters and distribute these kinds of characters is really what we’re all about. Native Realities also published Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, edited by Kickapoo author Arigon Starr — best known for her comic book Super Indian — and created with a slew of other Native writers and artists.

Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers focuses on the many tribes that were involved in covert communications during World War II — not just the Navajo. Native Realities

‘We all knew there were other tribes that were involved in the codetalking project besides the Navajo,’ Starr says. The book is designed like a graphic novel, and made up of historical vignettes. ‘Here’s the story of two Creek soldiers in Sitka, Alaska, versus the Japanese. We’re trying to do this on multilevels … to get the stories out there, but also to show language and culture.’

Tribal Force

Native Realities founder Lee Francis is working on the second Indigenous ComicCon, slated for the fall. He’ll publish more comics and games this year as well — they’ll be available online, in schools and at Native American community centers.”

Category: Culture

‘Two Spirit’ Is Not An Interchangeable Term for ‘Gay’

“When attempting to explain the concept of Two Spirit people in Indian country, many people may visualize images of Unicorns and Rainbows, Donna Summers and Seventies disco balls. Try to explain the concept of Two Spirit outside Indian country, and you may as well throw in war bonnets and glitter. The term Two Spirit has been present in Native communities for countless generations that predate LGBTQ terminology.” T. Enos ICTMN

Tony Enos at Oceti Sakowin in front of the Two-Spirit Nation camp.

Excerpt: …Things You Should Know About Two Spirit People By Tony Enos, ICNM

For generations, Two Spirit Native culture went underground to avoid detection and persecution.Today the Two Spirit movement has been negatively affected by rumor, gossip, the tyranny of western religion, and an all-around lack of information.

Here are [some] misconceptions and/or things you should know about Two Spirit people that may help foster a better understanding of the Two Spirit community.

Two Spirit is not a contemporary ‘new-age’ movement-While the term Two Spirit was coined in 1990 In Winnipeg, Canada as a means of unifying various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals, the term is not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation or other self-determining catch-all phrase, but rather an umbrella term.

A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder BY Ma-Nee Chacaby

Gay is not an interchangeable term with Two Spirit-Being a gay native is oftentimes confused with being Two Spirit. While the two may have parallels and intersections, they are not the same. Gay specifically is about attraction to a person of the same sex. Two Spirit is more about the embodiment of two genders residing within one person.

The Two Spirit Road is a road of long held traditions, prayer and responsibility-Living as a Two Spirit is not all pride parades and hot pants. To be of service to our elders and youth with our very particular medicine is paramount. If we lose our traditions, our songs, our medicines, and our languages, and make no effort to restore what was lost, we doom ourselves.

Two Spirits

Two Spirit people held significant roles and were an integral part of a tribal social structures-Two Spirit people held a meaningful place in the sacred hoop.  In many tribes Two Spirits were balance keepers.

Making Connections

Two Spirit is a term only appropriate for Native people-Two Spirit is a role that existed in a Native American/First Nations/Indigenous tribe for gender queer, gender fluid, and gender non-conforming tribal members.”

Category: Culture

Town [sort of] Pushes to Stop Selling Beer to Natives

“Whiteclay is a rural skid row, with only a dozen residents, a street strewn with debris, four ramshackle liquor stores and little else. It seems to exist only to sell beer to people like Tyrell Ringing Shield, a grandmother…On a recent morning, she had hitched a ride from her home in South Dakota, just steps across the state line. There, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, alcohol is forbidden. In Whiteclay, though, it reigns supreme.” J. Boseman, The New York Times

Tyrell Ringing Shield,with her partner of 16 years, Stewart, said Nebraska should not renew the liquor licenses for the stores in Whiteclay, Neb. Credit K. Barker NYT,

Excerpt: Nebraska May Stanch One Town’s Flow of Beer to Its Vulnerable Neighbors by Julie Bosman New York Times

“’You visit, you talk, you laugh, you drink,’ said Ms. Ringing Shield, 57, as she stood on the sidewalk with friends, chain-smoked Montclair cigarettes and recounted her struggles with alcoholism, diabetes and cirrhosis. ‘It makes you forget.’

Over the decades, there have been frequent protests outside the stores. Lawsuits against the retailers and beer distributors have been filed. Boycotts of brewers that sell to the stores have begun with enthusiasm. All those efforts have sputtered, though, and little has changed.

Graffiti in Whiteclay urging alcohol consumers to free their spirit. Credit- K Barker for NYT

Now many residents of Nebraska and South Dakota are pushing for the liquor stores of Whiteclay to be shut, disgusted by the easy access to alcohol the stores provide to a people who have fought addiction for generations. The Nebraska authorities, in turn, have tightened scrutiny of the stores, which sell millions of cans of beer and malt liquor annually. Last year, for the first time, the state liquor commission ordered the stores’ six owners to reapply for their liquor licenses…The issue has left people in South Dakota and Nebraska deeply divided. Most agree that alcohol abuse on the reservation is an entrenched problem, but they are unsure of the solution — and who is responsible.

WhiteClay. Photo: -Daily Mail

WhiteClay. Photo: -Daily Mail

The grim scene in Whiteclay has scarcely changed for decades. Particularly in the warmer months, Native Americans can be seen openly drinking beer in town, often passed out on the ground, disheveled and ill. Many who come to Whiteclay from the reservation spend the night sleeping on mattresses in vacant lots or fields. Even under the chill of winter, people huddle outside the liquor stores, silver beer cans poking from coat pockets.

A man sits outside WhiteClay Grocery, where he will likely spend the night. Next to him, another man lies passed out in his own urine.

Others argue that the problem of alcohol abuse on the reservation goes well beyond the stores in Whiteclay. Even some Native Americans said they were uneasy over upsetting the status quo. Vance Blacksmith, 47, a Native American and teacher on the reservation, said he favored leaving the stores alone.

‘They’re not hurting anyone,’ he said. “Drinking is a personal choice. The people who drink are trying to accept life as it is. And it’s depressing, being here on Pine Ridge.’

Terry Robbins, the sheriff of Sheridan County, has found himself at the center of the fight over Whiteclay. Sheriff Robbins echoed a common sentiment heard from both Nebraskans and Native Americans: If the stores lose their licenses and close down, people in search of beer will just drive farther to get it, endangering themselves and others on the roads. He favors containing the problem in Whiteclay, rather than allowing it to spread out over the county’s nearly 2,500 square miles.

Passed out in fron tof liquor store in WhiteClay. Photo-indianz.

‘The people that want to drink are going to drive and get alcohol somewhere,’ he said. ‘What I’m thinking is that it’s going to put more drunk drivers on the country roads.’”

Category: Culture, Health

New Elk Hide Provides Glimpse into Native Culture

“The Rockwell Museum has a new addition to its Native American Gallery. It’s a painted elk hide estimated to be about 100-years-old. The painting on the hide shows a visual record of a traditional buffalo hunt, and what would have happened back at the camp once the hunt was over.” M. Ross, My Twin Tiers News”

Rockwell’s New Elk Hide

Excerpt: The Rockwell Museum has a new addition to its Native American Gallery.  Michelle Ross, My Twin Tiers News

“It’s believed to have been made by Washakie or one of his followers – a famous artist in the Shoshone tribe. The museum says the work was made during captivity on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Chief Washakie, Shoshone

‘One of the most fascinating aspects to me is this division of labor that you see depicted on the hide that is really split along gender lines,’ Rockwell Curator of Collections said.

Members of the Shoshone tribe

There were very specific jobs that men would have done and very specific jobs that only the women would have done.

Elk Hide Robe Shoshone, 1900 The Brooklyn Museum

hide painting by Shoshone Chief Washakie Buffalo Hunt

The museum also has an activity for families where children can trace symbols of the Indian nation on a paper hide to illustrate events during their own year.” 

Category: Culture