In Alaska: Cake Is King!

“In a modest boardinghouse on an Alaskan island just 30 miles across the sea from Russia, a handwritten order form hangs on the refrigerator. There are photos of cakes a few women in this village can make for you: rectangles of yellow cake and devil’s food enrobed in buttercream, with local nicknames piped out in pink. Happy Birthday Bop-Bop,one reads. Another, Happy Birthday Siti-Girl.” J. O’Malley, New York Times

“Eating in rural Alaska is all about managing the expense and scarcity of store-bought food while trying to take advantage of seasonally abundant wild foods. Cash economies are weak, utilities and fuel are expensive and many families live below the federal poverty line.

To offset the cost of living, Alaska Natives here rely on traditional practices of hunting, fishing and gathering… In a good year, they fill freezers with moose, berries, caribou, salmon or marine mammals, depending on where they live. In a bad year, they have to buy more from the store.

The offerings in village stores often resemble those in the mini-marts or bodegas of America’s urban food deserts at two and three times the price.

Cake mixes are the center of our little universe,said Ms. Erickson, who owns the only grocery store in Tanana. Credit-Ruth Fremson:The New York Times

Food journeys in via jet, small plane and barge. Milk and eggs spoil fast. Produce gets roughed up. Among the Hostess doughnuts, Spam and soda, cake mix is one of the few items on shelves everywhere that require actual cooking. As a result, tricking out mixes has become a cottage industry, and many villages have a  Cupcake lady with her signature twist.

Some bake as a hobby, while others do a brisk business selling cakes in places where getting to a bakery requires a plane ticket. In the far north, bakers make cake with fondant photo prints of Inupiat whaling crews and serve it with mikigaq, fermented whale meat. On the western coast, mixes may be prepared with sea gull eggs. In the interior, pineapple upside-down cake is eaten with a salad made of lard, sugar, berries and whitefish. Some recipes call for nothing but a mix and a bottle of Sprite.

In Unalakleet, 300 miles west of Tanana on Norton Sound, Donna Erickson  is a noted cake lady. Her most famous creation was born in a rush to get to a community potluck. She made a white cake and poured it into a sheet pan because she knew it would bake quickly.

Salmonberries

I mixed orange Jell-O with two cups of bright orange salmonberries. I poured it on top of that cake and I threw it in the fridge she said. People were just like, Wow, can you make that again for me?

Rural Alaska has some of the highest rates of accidental death and suicide in the country. When there is tragedy in Unalakleet, bakers bring cakes to the school multipurpose room and lay them on a big table with corresponding numbers. Popular flavors include salmonberry, tundra blueberry and low-bush cranberry.

Then the cake walk begins: People buy a ticket, then circle the table while music plays. When it stops, somebody draws a number out of an old coffee can. The person standing by the corresponding cake wins that one and the money goes toward healing someones family, Donna Erickson said.

It’s a festive environment even though it’s a sad time.

You should see the cakes; they are so beautiful. Village bakers are so brilliant.”

Category: Alaskan Natives

Tribes Protest Names of Genocidal Figures In Yellowstone

“Two tribes plan to demonstrate in favor of renaming a valley and a mountain in Yellowstone National Park, places they say are associated with one man who advocated slaughter of Native Americans and another who carried it out.” The New York Times

Hayden Valley Yellowstone

Excerpt: Tribes Plan Protest to Change Yellowstone Valley, Peak Names The New York Times

“The tribes seek to change the name of Hayden Valley, a subalpine valley just north of Yellowstone Lake, to Buffalo Nations Valley. They want to change the name of Mount Doane, a 10,550-foot (3,216-meter) peak five miles east of the lake, to First People’s Mountain.

Mount Doane

Efforts to change place names and remove monuments to controversial figures in U.S. history have gained momentum since white supremacists opposed to taking down a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed in August with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But several Native American renaming efforts — some simply to erase racist terminology from maps — have been going on for years. Elsewhere in Wyoming, tribes seek to change Devils Tower, the name of an 870-foot (265-meter) volcanic mesa in the first U.S. national monument, to Bear Lodge. Devils Tower is the name white settlers gave the feature. Bear Lodge is what the Lakota, Crow, Cheyenne and other tribes call the formation important if not sacred to their cultures.

In Yellowstone, Hayden Valley is named for Ferdinand Hayden, a geologist whose explorations inspired the park’s establishment in 1872 but who also called for exterminating American Indians who wouldn’t acquiesce to becoming farmers and ranchers.

Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden

Mount Doane is named after U.S. Army Lt. Gustavus Doane, who took part in killing 173 noncombatant Indians — women, children and elderly men — in Montana in 1870.

gustavus Doane-Yellowstone

The tribes asked Yellowstone last year to rename Hayden Valley and Mount Doane. Park officials responded by explaining the renaming process overseen by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names, park Superintendent Dan Wenk said.

The Park Service has a responsibility to take up the matter with the board on the tribes’ behalf, said Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue.

‘We are not individuals, we are sovereign nations, many with treaty rights to this region, and those treaties are enshrined in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution,’  Sazue said by email.

The Board on Geographic Names has received several emails on the issue but no official proposal to change the names of Hayden Valley or Doane Mountain, Geological Survey officials said.”

Category: Culture

“Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders”

“The New World.’ This romanticized term inspired legions of Europeans to race to the places we live in search of freedoms from oppressive regimes or treasures that would be claimed in the name of some European nation.Those who arrived in the Native American Garden of Eden had never seen a land so uncorrupted. The Europeans saw new geography, new plants, new animals, but the most perplexing curiosity to these people were the Original Peoples and our ways of life. Of all of the foreign life ways Indians held, one of the first the Europeans targeted for elimination was the Two Spirit tradition among Native American cultures.” D. Brayboy, ICTMN

L. Frank, Tongva is a writer and artist of theAjachamem-She is also Two Spirit

 

Excerpt: Two Spirits, One Heart, Five Genders” by Duane Brayboy, ICTMN

At the point of contact, all Native American societies acknowledged three to five gender roles: Female, Male, Two Spirit female, Two Spirit male and transgendered. LGBT Native Americans wanting to be identified within their respective tribes and not grouped with other races officially adopted the term “Two Spirit” from the Ojibwe language in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1989.

Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to Two Spirits as Nádleehí (one who is transformed), among the Lakota is Winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), Niizh Manidoowag (two spirit) in Ojibwe, Hemaneh (half man, half woman) in Cheyenne, to name a few.

As the purpose of “Two Spirit” is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in Native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.

The Jesuits and French explorers told stories of Native American men who had ‘Given to sin’ and ‘Hunting Women’ with wives and later, the British returned to England with similar accounts.

George Catlin said that the Two Spirit tradition among Native Americans ‘Must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.’ In keeping with European prejudices held against Natives, the Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.

In 1530, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his diary of seeing ‘soft’ Native Indian males in Florida tribes dressing and working as  women. Just as with all other aspects of the European regard for Indians, gender variance was not tolerated. Europeans and eventually Euro-Americans demanded all people conform to their prescribed two gender roles.

Osh-Tisch, also known as Finds Them and Kills Them, was a Crow Badé (Two Spirit) and was celebrated among his tribe for his bravery when he attacked a Lakota war party and saved a fellow tribesman in the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, 1876.

Squaw Jim : Osh-Tish (Finds Them and Kills Them), Crow tribe. On the left is Squaw Jim, a biological male in woman’s attire, his wife to the right.

 

The Badé were a respected social group among the Crow. They spent their time with the women or among themselves, setting up their tipis in a separate area of the village. They called each other ‘sister’ and saw Osh-Tisch as their leader. The elders told the story of former B.I.A. agents who tried to repeatedly force him to wear men’s clothing, but the other Indians protested against this, saying it was against his nature.

The Native American belief is that some people are born with the spirits of both genders and express them so perfectly. It is if they have two spirits in one body. Some Siouan tribes believed that before a child is born its soul stands before The Creator, to either reach for the bow and arrows that would indicate the role of a man or the basket that would determine the role of a female.

When the child would reach for the gender-corresponding hand, sometimes The Creator would switch hands and the child would have chosen the opposite gender’s role and therefore casting its lot in life.

The Two Spirit people in pre-contact Native America were highly revered and families that included them were considered lucky. Indians believed that a person who was able to see the world through the eyes of both genders at the same time was a gift from The Creator.

Category: Culture

Horse Therapy: Helping Break the Silence of Sexual Abuse

“The old warrior waited patiently for us. Although his magnificent regalia was heavy and it was hot in the practice barn, he showed no signs of irritation. He stood erect, with great dignity, stamping his feet a bit when he saw us approach.The horse was ready for the duty of ceremony, ready to bear whatever spirits needed unburdening…Red Clouds is one of several rescue horses who serve as equine therapists at the Sinte Gleska University’s (SGU) ranch on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Red Clouds is a member of Sunka Wakan Oyate, the horse nation. For Lakota people, Red Clouds is more than a horse, he is a relative, therefore his role as healer and therapist [in the] mental health program is especially potent.” M. Pember, ICTMN

Red Clouds wears his regalia. ICTMN

Excerpt: Horse Therapy Helping Break the Stigma of Sexual Abuse By Mary A. Pember, ICTMN

“Greg Grey Cloud walked up to greet the horse. The big man’s voice was unexpectedly gentle as he spoke to the animal. Outwardly, Grey Cloud could be described as gruff. In his sweat-stained t-shirt and well-worn cowboy boots, he was the very picture of a hard-working, no-nonsense ranch foreman. But standing close to the old warrior, Grey Cloud seemed to change. His bearing softened, and he seemed to grow vulnerable as he stroked the horse’s neck and prepared to share his secrets.

Greg Grey Cloud dresses Red Cloud, therapy horse at Sinte Gleska University’s ranch on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota.ICTMN

The horse stood quietly as Grey Cloud spoke, hardly moving until the man finished his story.

Reclaiming the relationship with the Sunka Wakan Oyate goes far beyond the benefits of therapy. For the Oceti Sakowin peoples, Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, the horse nation is an important bearer of culture and spirituality and represent a means to return to the traditional health and wholeness of their ancestors.

Grey Cloud spoke so I could hear, but it seemed as if it were only he and Red Clouds in that dusty barn. Grey Cloud began his story, an awful memory from his childhood that has haunted and traumatized him for years. It was New Year’s Eve, Grey Cloud recalled. He was 9 years old. His sisters were 7 and 11. Swept up in drunken revelry, his father forgot about the children as he left their home in search of another party. Six teen boys remained behind with the children.

The teens began to drink. As they got drunker and drunker, their talk turned mean and lascivious. They decided it would be a good idea to rape the young girls. When they began ripping off the girls clothing, Grey Cloud stepped forward, shouting, kicking and hitting at the teens. The teenagers turned their attention to him. Taking turns, they raped him, laughing and calling him names he didn’t understand. At the time, he recalls feeling grateful that at least his sisters were spared. When they finished, they urinated on him.

Beaten and bloodied, he laid on the floor as the teens once again turned to his sisters. Somehow, he got to his feet and tried to fight them again but he wasn’t able to stop the teens, who raped his sisters.

The sisters cried for a long time. Grey Cloud tried to comfort them but was hurt and confused by their sudden fear of him, their brother. Speaking of it now, he realizes they now saw him as a man, the enemy.

Greg Grey Cloud speaks to Red Clouds.

Fearful of retribution from the teens and later of how the community might judge him, Grey Cloud kept this horrendous story secret for over 20 years. It was the horses, the Wakan Oyate, however, who healed him as he worked as an equine therapist and foreman with the Tiwahi Glu Kini Pi Program at the SGU ranch. Part of the SGU tribal college, Tiwahi Glu Kini Pi offers clients a wide range of western and Lakota culturally based mental health counseling and services including providing access to Wakan Iyeska (Medicine men), instruction in Lakota men’s and women’s teachings and equine therapy.

‘It was these horses who taught me that it was okay to be afraid, but that it wasn’t okay to remain silent and protect the men who hurt me,’  he says.

‘These horses helped me see that it was important for me to share my experiences so that we can help each other in the community to ensure this doesn’t continue to happen to other children.’

Supporters of equine assisted therapy believe that those who don’t respond well to traditional talk therapy can benefit from interacting with horses. According to an article in The Guardian, since horses are pack animals they are very sensitive to stress and body language. Horses pick up on the way people are feeling, mirroring their emotions and responding, providing feedback for people struggling with troubling emotions, such as fear and anger.

Although many health professionals laud the benefits of this therapy, it does not have the scientific stamp of approval as an evidence-based practice (EBT). Most large granting institutions, such as government and university organizations, will only fund organizations that use EBTs as their primary therapies.

The Oceti Sakowin peoples, however, need no assurance from the scientific world as to the powers of the Suka Wakan Oyate, not only to heal but to also imbue the rider through talking and working with the animal, with the courage and strength to take on risky, even dangerous tasks.

They also know the horse nation is a source of spiritual power. Long ago, according to Grey Cloud, when warriors faced a powerful challenge or adversary, they dressed their horses in fabulous regalia under which medicine people first painted special symbols on the horse’s’ body.

It is only by breaking the silence about violence and sexual assault that the community can heal itself. Greg was the first Native man I ever heard talk in such depth about what happened to him. He let us know that we can no longer be silent.”

Category: Social

Navajo Nation Rejects Death Penalty for Child Murderer!

“In a heinous case on the Navajo Nation, an 11-year-old girl was lured into a van, sexually assaulted and killed. The man who has admitted responsibility is not facing the death penalty – and the tribe isn’t seeking it.” F. Fonseca and R. Contreras, South Florida Times

Photo- Indianz.com

Excerpt: Indian Tribes Opt Out of Death Penalty, by F. Fonseca and R. Contreras, South Florida Times.

“American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option. Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.

KVOA.com

‘Most Indian tribes were mistreated by the United States under past federal policies, and there can be historical trauma in cases associated with the execution of Native people,’ said Robert Anderson, a University of Washington law professor and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. ‘This allows tribes to at least decide in those narrow circumstances when there should be a federal death penalty or not.’ In the Navajo case, Ashlynne Mike’s body wasn’t found until the next day. Her May 2016 death led to renewed discussions about capital punishment.

Ashlynne’s mother has urged the tribe to opt into the death penalty, particularly for crimes against children. The tribe long has objected to putting people to death, saying the culture teaches against taking a human life for vengeance.

Congress expanded the list of death-penalty eligible crimes in the mid-1990s, allowing tribes to decide if they wanted their citizens subject to the death penalty. Legal experts say they are aware of only one tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, that has opted in.

Tribal leaders there hoped the decision would deter serious, violent crimes on the reservation in Oklahoma, said Truman Carter, a Sac and Fox member, attorney and tribal prosecutor. ‘The tribal leaders have said yes over the years, and they left it alone,’ he said.

No American Indian has been executed in any case from the Sac and Fox reservation.

Still, the ability of tribes to decide on the death penalty doesn’t completely exempt Native Americans from federal death row. According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., 16 Native Americans have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The executions were for crimes occurring off tribal land or in the handful of states where the federal government does not have jurisdiction over major crimes on reservations.

Tribes also don’t have a say over the death penalty when certain federal crimes like carjacking or kidnapping resulting in death, or killing a federal officer occurs on reservation land. Those carry a possible death sentence no matter where they happen.”

Category: Culture

Tribes View Eclipse as a Negative Event and Many Will Stay Indoors!

“Tommy Lewis, superintendent of Diné Education on the Navajo Nation, is advising tribal schoolchildren to take shelter indoors Monday as the sky darkens during a rare solar eclipse. Taos Pueblo officials are asking schools to excuse tribal students for the day, so they won’t be encouraged to view the event with their classmates or watch recordings…For many tribal people, a total solar eclipse, when the moon blocks out light from the sun, is a time to remain inside, engaged in quiet personal reflection and renewal, rather than a time for festive gatherings and viewings with protective glasses and pinhole projectors.” B. Krasnow, The New Mexican

MJF Images

Excerpt: Respect and reverence: Local tribes prepare members for eclipse, Bruce Krasnow, The New Mexican

“A solar eclipse can bring out negativity, suffering and misfortune, and at the same time it cleans the world with positive energy,’ Lewis wrote to Navajo students, parents and educators earlier this month.

He is advising students to attend school Monday but to stay inside a building, and to abstain from food and drink, as well as other daily activities. ‘Show reverence and respect by being quiet and still,’  he said.

The cultural meanings of a solar eclipse and the traditions surrounding such an event vary for each American Indian tribe. Many are reluctant to discuss them. But some tribal government leaders in New Mexico are reaching out to schools and teachers, asking them to honor students’ preferences during Monday’s eclipse, which will occur during school hours.

Though, New Mexico won’t experience a total eclipse. In Santa Fe, for instance, the moon will cover about 80 percent of the sun at the peak of the event, around 11:45 a.m.

These Mexican ceramic ornaments are typical of the prevalence of eclipses in indigenous art.

RaeNita Lujan, manager of the Indian Education Program at Taos Municipal Schools, said the Taos Pueblo governor is asking the district to allow Pueblo students to take the day off. There are 275 tribal members, from Taos Pueblo and other tribes, enrolled in the district, she said.

Taos Pueblo. Taos, NM

Lujan declined to discuss the pueblo’s traditions involving the eclipse, but said, ‘As Native people, we view the eclipse as a bad thing, not as this great phenomenon of ‘let’s go out and buy glasses and have a party.”

Category: Culture