Careful What You Wish For

Joseph Erb

A long time ago when the Cherokee people were new upon the earth, they thought that life would be much better if there was never any night. They beseech ed the Ouga (Creator) that it might be day all the time and that there would be no darkness.

The Creator heard their voices and made the night cease and it was day all the time. Soon, the forest was thick with heavy growth. It became difficult to walk and to find the path. The people toiled in the gardens many long hours trying to keep the weeds pulled from among the corn and other food plants. It got hot, very hot, and continued that way day after long day. The people began to find it difficult to sleep and became short tempered and argued among themselves.

Not many days had passed before the people realized they had made a mistake and, once again, they beseech ed the Creator. “Please,” they said, “we have made a mistake in asking that it be day all the time. Now we think that it should be night all the time.” The Creator paused at this new request and thought that perhaps the people may be right even though all things were created in twos… representing to us day and night, life and death, good and evil, times of plenty and those times of famine. The Creator loved the people and decided to make it night all the time as they had asked.

Ivan Mijatovic

The day ceased and night fell upon the earth. Soon, the crops stopped growing and it became very cold. The people spent much of their time gathering wood for the fires. They could not see to hunt meat and with no crops growing it was not long before the people were cold, weak, and very hungry. Many of the people died.

Those that remained still living gathered once again to beseech the Creator. “Help us Creator,” they cried! “We have made a terrible mistake. You had made the day and the night perfect, and as it should be, from the beginning. We ask that you forgive us and make the day and night as it was before.”

Once again the Creator listened to the request of the people. The day and the night became, as the people had asked, as it had been in the beginning. Each day was divided between light and darkness. The weather became more pleasant, and the crops began to grow again. Game was plentiful and the hunting was good. The people had plenty to eat and there was not much sickness. The people treated each other with compassion and respect. It was good to be alive. The people thanked the Creator for their life and for the food they had to eat. The Creator accepted the gratitude of the people and was glad to see them smiling again. However, during the time of the long days of night, many of the people had died, and the Creator was sorry that they had perished because of the night. The Creator placed their spirits in a newly created tree. This tree was named a-tsi-na tlu-gv {ah-see-na loo-guh} cedar tree.

When you smell the aroma of the cedar tree or gaze upon it standing in the forest, remember that if you are Tsalagi {Cherokee}, or human...you are looking upon your ancestor.

Leave Pocahontas…Alone!

As a long-suffering child of an abusive father…All I knew of ‘Indians’ were slurs, slanted sentences and disgruntled replies.

“Drunks!  Rednecks! Lazy!”   So on and so forth.

In due time, it was slowly revealed…My father had been one half Cherokee.  Therefore, leaving me…one quarter.

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Certainly it was evident that dear old dad had heard only what society needed him to hear.  My grandmother, Lulu Rebel, I never met.  The only references to her were terms my father had seen and heard…while pretending to be a white man.

Indian giver

Squaw

How Indian is that bitch?

Therefore, the beat went on and on and on.

I am proud of my heritage.  No matter the dysfunction.  I am Cherokee, through and through.  It did not matter to me the color of my skin.  It mattered to me the struggle that Native Americans must persevere.  The history of a nation that endures a  United States which continues to distort the land and remove pride…from a prideful people.

Pocahontas, Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump?

What a bizarre and somewhat…drug induced combination!

I would like to set the record straight.  Or, at least, clarify that indigenous persons built this land.  And, if we focused as much time on preserving their way of life…as we do, berating each other…this would be a society to be proud of!

Nicki Minaj posted a photo on her Instagram of three sexualized images of herself as Pocahontas,

Pocahontas is in the middle, breasts exposed and legs spread, while another is kneeling and licking her crotch; a third leans on her, stroking her breast.

This is not the first reimaging illustration that Minaj has posted on Instagram. She’s also included artistic renditions of cartoon characters, including BoJack Horseman and Lola Bunny, but Pocahontas was a real person. Lest we forget: Pocahontas was a teenage rape victim who was forced to marry older Englishman John Rolfe and died at the age of 20 in England. Thanks to Disney, she is also one of the few pop culture representations of Native Americans that most Americans are familiar with. With her post (and the “Hoecahontas” caption that was later deleted), Minaj directly contributed to the sexualization of Native women that continues to put so many of them in danger.

From Minaj’s post to “Pocahottie” Halloween costumes to historical images of Indian maidens eager to be saved by white men, the sexualization of Native women is prominent in American pop culture. Response to Minaj was swift:  Hundreds of commenters posted about violence against Native women and noted that Pocahontas was not a fictional “princess” but a real-life teenager who was raped and victimized. Others pointed out that they didn’t have opposition to Minaj’s original Paper Magazine cover, as it was her choice, but Pocahontas did not have that agency.

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Prior to colonization, rape, as well as sexual and domestic violence, were extremely rare in tribal communities. In her groundbreaking book The Beginning and End of Rape, Muscogee-Creek law professor Sarah Deer notes that in many tribal communities, such as the Lakota, colonizers were baffled that women had control over their bodies and that punishments for rape were traditionally harsh, often resulting in banishment or death. Sexual violence became a tool of colonization, and today, about 34 percent of Native women are raped in their lifetime, and 39 percent are victims of domestic violence. For Native girls, the statistics are even more staggering: 92 percent of Native girls who have had sex were forced against their will.

In addition to negative stereotypes influencing how Native women are treated, outdated federal policy dictates how tribes can address sexual violence. The Major Crimes Act of 1885 severely limited tribal jurisdiction and gave the federal government control over major felony crimes, including rape. A 1978 Supreme Court decision further restricted tribal jurisdiction, arguing that tribes would be “too biased” to arrest and try non-Native criminals. Thus, tribes are not able to prosecute non-Natives—even though non-Native men commit nearly 90 percent of violent crimes against Native women on tribal lands.

This changed slightly with the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Post-VAWA, tribes have the authority to prosecute certain crimes related to violence against women—including domestic violence, dating violence, or violation of a protection order. But it has its limitations: In order for a non-Native perpetrator to be tried, the victim must prove an intimate relationship with the abuser, and they cannot be charged for other crimes taking place (such as child abuse). This fractured jurisdiction leaves many Native families without protection.

Across the United States and Canada, Indigenous women, trans people, and two-spirit people are mobilizing to stop gendered and sexual violence. Pro-bono law clinics are training Native women and community leaders in investigating, trying, and prosecuting domestic- and sexual-violence cases. National campaigns like the Native Love is… challenge the normalization of sexual violence and abuse. In Canada, It Starts With Us is a crowdsourced database of Canadian Indigenous women and trans and two-spirit folks who are missing or were murdered—people whom the government often don’t acknowledge. Ending violence against Native women is one of the most prominent issues in our communities, but it’s overshadowed by the sexualized caricatures of us in contemporary pop culture.

by ##ABAKI BECK

Within this turmoil…a question?

Are we being forced away from our heritage?  Overly concerned with our looks?  The color of our skin?  It seems that current day we have spent less time embracing the miles traveled…in our own personal milestones!  We have turned back towards verbal, physical and sexual violence.  How is this making…America Great, Again?

Our First Teacher is Our Own Heart

 

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Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.

#Cheyenne

It is less of a problem to be poor, than to be dishonest.

#Anishinabe

Seek wisdom, not knowledge.  Knowledge is of the past!  Wisdom is of the future!

#Lumbee

The sky would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.

#Tribe Unknown

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.

#Cree

Religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell.  Spirituality is for those who have already been there.

#Sioux

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die…the world cried and you rejoice.

#Cherokee

 

Cycle of Abuse: Family of Lies

 

Cycle of Abuse: the Matriarch/Part Two

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How odd, it seems to me, that the frigidly, Irish, sardonic, and catholic…persons, seem to die in the winter.  While their bodies can lay above the ground, in wonder…for what seems like years.

My unpleasant grandfather died in a month filled with snowstorms.  My grandmother paid homage to the Saints in similar weather.

Ground stiff, solid and uncaring.  Winds chaffing and abusive.  Oak trees from centuries pass…dotting the graveyard.  All that surrounds… had become gray.  No better word to describe it.  Gray!

I will say, discovering Irish names, among the filler in a Massachusetts’s catholic cemetery, is not an easy affair.

Along the holding lines of remorse and disarray: January and February, I felt a renewed need to find something.

My only certainty had been my Irish blood.  Thick and swollen as a, dark red liquid pulsing through a bottle of Jack.  Yukon Jack, that is.

Eventually, after my grandmother’s funeral,  family dispersed.  My brother and his wife took flight.  As they often do, when push comes to shove.  And, anger is no longer needed.

My sister?  Well, most likely she too moved on.  Moved on to her grandchildren, her daughter, her son.  Clinging, minus the Good Book, to all that a solemn mother should be.

My parents?  They walk about distilled in the dysfunction of daily tasks.  My daily tasks. .  Encouraging me to come inside and visit in between…shoveling, snow blowing, changing out light sockets, walking dogs, doing laundry, monitoring mother’s medications…etc.

I clung on to my lack of history until mid February.  Perhaps, such like other writers, or most likely, overwhelmed by the lack of daylight; I fail at finding anything gregarious to pen about…in the depths of a New Hampshire winter.  Still, I sat myself down, between almost daily visits to the parents.  Sat myself in front of needed research.

Needed research into the fine lines that held the prongs of my blood relations, upright.

Turning to ancestry.com.  It had been midnight, Marlboro Red blaring and soundless, I dug the depths of lies.

To my ‘not’ credit.  I have many degrees.  None of wish require much adding, subtraction, researching, digging and/or metallic depth.  I am not a scientist.  I am not a researcher.  I am blessed not wanting any further knowledge than 1 plus 1 equals…2.

Or, at least, the last I looked, that had been simple math.

However, when one delves into what is, what was, how long ago, names, dates, etc.; It is a handy trait.  Concentration, that is.

‘Round or about two in the morning.  I discovered a name!  My father’s mother was called, LuLu.  She was a full-fledged Cherokee Indian.

LuLu Bowley.  Lulu Rebel.  Lulu Rebel Hammond.  Lulu!

She passed in 1964.  I can only assume she died of the rumors spoken about behind clasped hands.  Gambling, drinking, infidelity, teaching school.

Bits and pieces of the Bowley past were just that.  Bits, segments, discarded notions handed down from angry relation to angry relation.  How much reigned true?  I never knew for certain.

I had been…set up in what is known in my home as the, game room (though there are no games.)  Set up I had been, with laptop in lap, burning cigarette in hand.  Set up!  Or, so I thought.  Living in the merry world of the unknown.

I gave up quickly on weeding through the death certificates, census data, phonebook information.  As I have already stated, concentration is not my strong suit.

Finding Lulu’s eulogy and obituary in the Portsmouth Herald seemed the easiest route.  Less digging, fewer files and photographs!  Right up my alley!

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I would like to think, my anger has lessened.  That over decades of reminders, I became a person with some depth…Hoping that the not so gentle up bringing of flippant, aggressive, discourse…would bleed out.  Well, not bleed out but seed, flower and eventually, become something more artistic.

My father beat us with leather belts, wire hair brushes, words, hands, punches, etc.  And, had he not been available.  Due to work constraints…my mother would abide.  Though, Janice had been a martyr.  She carried the torch when father was not available.

Growing up, not soundly, but with many horrific sounds, I had been referred to as…

You are just like your father!  Angry!

Daily fist fights with drunken and sober turns of fate, I  hope to have amassed what I believe to be the opposite.  I currently hide from outbursts, pointing of the finger and lastly, degradation of others for my betterment.  This has taken time.  Yet, I know that there is no great prize in having abused others.

I could linger for pages on the black sheep, spoiled brat, angry little girl, scenario.  I am not my father.  I know that in my heart of hearts.  However, that was not an easy road of self-reflection to travel.

As previously stated, my siblings are quite different from I.  Living in a world of conservatism, do as I say, not as I do, judge ye’ first, attitude.  It appears to work for them.  We are completely indifferent to each other.

I often wonder what life could have been like?  Had a much older half-brother and sister listened to themselves, other than elders lacking pride.

But that is another story…Perhaps, for another time.

Oddly enough.  Or, better said, not odd at all, reading of my clan at work on the pages of police logs.  I eventually found, at 3 in the morning…Lulu’s newspaper clipping.

No real information on her ‘true’ demise.  No delegation on her physical illness.  However…a few lines on Harold Bowley needing to be released from care to oblige the funeral processions in Kingston.

Aghast!  What more can one say?imageedit_62_9747238982

Again, in slow, sometimes, untrue, verbal releases from my mother.  I had been very uncertain of Harold’s whereabouts…before my birth.

Had he been in the Korean war?  Probably not

Had he been born along the northern coast of Massachusetts?  Close but not really!

Had he really been married before?

To a young child, terrified of this man with a worn, brown belt.  A daughter reminded daily of her father’s genes infiltrated hers!  Genes, crumpled and filled with hate.  To my toddler self, I could not fathom, this horrific, infrequently caring, man, married to anyone other than…Other than, my mother, a woman who seemed to fill his dented persona with her own depressions.

What I thought I knew?

Perhaps, he had been married before.  Perhaps, his first wife had been a harlot?  Perhaps, he had bred another child!  Perhaps, all had passed away in an automobile accident…along with the first wife’s lover!

Nothing could have prepared me for the anger unleashed in deluded ink.

Yet, there it sat.

Harold Bowley, local man stabs estranged wife…35 times!  That is a killing of love with hate.  That is the taking of someone’s life in such a way that there is meaning.  It was not a drive by shooting.  It had not been a robbery.  It had been an act of vulgar, closeness.

Actions so false.  Romance tied with a lack of emotion, a culvert for the fallen to hide.

This had been the man who raised me.  

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However, only the beginning has come to life.

So much hung in the balance.  In a trance like state, finding it difficult to breath; I wept for the first time in many years.  Wept for my life.  How it had been so easily discarded with lies!

 

 

 

 

Crowded by Blood

Odd, this, the red skin shame.

Clans of others…

with roots deeply, weakened by transgressions.

That appear hunted like game.

Had my blood been a search part for organic matter.

A reason to mimic heritage.

But, surely, that would be treason alone.

Or, perchance, within a tribe…the coming of age.

Dreams of nature would cultivate.

Would suffice.

Yet, amassed in blame.

No authority to believe my soul of privilege.

Alone but crowded by blood.

Only shame.

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