Native Village 

Youth and Education News

February 1, 2007 Issue 175  Volume 1

"There are bad and foolish people in every race. You have to judge them one by one, and then you have to give them a second chance."  Imogene Bowen, Upper Skagit Tribe

Teenage boy saves village elder from cabin fire
  Alaska:  Seventeen-year-old Thomas Keesling is a hero.  In December, the McGrath youth went to visit 65-year-old Athabascan elder, Esai Esai. Through a window, Thomas saw glowing flames on the floor and thick smoke.  He opened the door and ran inside. Esai lay in flames. Thomas pulled Esai out the door by his legs, snuffed him with snow, then jumped on his snowmachine to get help. Luckily, local firefighting and rescue teams were holding a nearby meeting. Thomas burst into the room and shouted that a man was on fire. The teams reached Esai's cabin, where flames were leaping at least 40 feet in the air.  Esai was flown to Anchorage, then Seattle, with third-degree burns.  His cabin was destroyed.  The next day, the fire department ran a radio message hailing Thomas's heroic and quick-thinking deed. Thomas makes it sound like no big deal.  Did he save Esai's life?  "Yeah, sure,"  he said, ending a radio interview  so he could chop wood for his grandmother's stove.

Ex-POW Jessica Lynch Names Baby For Fallen Comrade
West Virginia: Former POW Jessica Lynch has named her newborn girl in honor of Army Specialist Lori Piestewa, a Hopi tribal member from Tuba City, Arizona. Piestewa, who was the first female American soldier to die in Iraq, served with Lynch in the 507th Maintenance Company.  Piestewa died and Lynch was captured when their unit was ambushed in March, 2003, near Nasiriyah.  Lynch and her boyfriend, Wes Robinson, named their daughter Ann (Lori's middle name), and Dakota (which can mean "friend" or "ally.")  Ann Dakota Robinson weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces.

Man's beliefs pit military vs. Navajos
Colorado:  Ronnie Tallman, 21, comes from a long line of Navajo spiritual leaders, but there also were soldiers among his kin.  In 2004, Ronnie joined the Marines.  Now he believes it was the wrong path and that his destiny lies in healing, not fighting. The Navajo Nation and an organization of medicine men agree.  The Marines do not.  Now a federal court will decide the case that pits Navajo spiritual belief against United States military rules.  It started in November 2005 while Tallman was on weekend leave on the Navajo Reservation. He underwent a spiritual experience and discovered he had been given the sacred gift known as teehn leii, also called hand trembling. Hand tremblers have a rare form of spiritual diagnosing and healing celebrated among Navajos.  They can sense people's problems and illnesses and often restore physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Because Navajo spiritual law holds that Tallman cannot keep his power if he participates in killing, Ronnie applied for a military conscientious-objector status.  But the Marines rejected his status change despite the approval from the Christian chaplain, investigating officer, and three psychiatric evaluations.  So far, Tallman has been disciplined with a reduction in rank, a reduction in pay, and 30 days in a military jail.  He is also set for deployment overseas. Tallman's attorneys will ask for a temporary restraining order to try and prevent his deployment until the court can review the military's decision.  "I'm nervous, but I'm strong in my belief," Tallman says, "and that's going to take me further than the Marines."
[Editor's Note: In late January, the military  granted Mr. Tallnam a conscientious objector status.]

From poverty, alcoholism, a tribal leader blossomed
Washington: After President Clinton finished a speech in Seattle in 1994, he made a beeline for Imogene Bowen, who stood behind the rope line holding back the crowds.  With a big grin, Clinton hugged Ms. Bowen and said, "You're Imogene.  I've heard all about you."  Imogene, who was 71, recently passed away. Ms. Bowen lived a difficult life, but overcame poverty, self-doubt and alcoholism to embrace her heritage. She was single mom on welfare, a 52-year-old college graduate, a tribal leader and a political activist. "Imogene was one of a half-dozen people you had to talk to if you were a politician headed to Northwest Washington," said former Gov. Mike Lowry at Imogene's funeral. After Ms. Bowen was buried at a family cemetery, a huge rainbow colored the sky and about 30 eagles soared overhead.  "I think they were definitely there to help her go into the next whatever-you-call-it," said a friend.  "They were there to fly up with her."

An Archaeological Treasure Found Up North
Minnesota: On top of Walker's highest hill, archaeologists have discovered evidence of what could be the oldest human habitation in the state.  The site, which is perhaps 13,000-14,000 years old, may also be among the oldest known archaeological sites in North and South America.   Walker's hill has revealed stone tools possibly used by big game hunters towards the end of the Ice Age.  David Mather, state archaeologist, said the find "is something off our radar. We didn't think it was even possible in Minnesota." In all, archaeologists found at least 50 objects in a 50 square yard area, and "we didn't excavate everything," Mather added.  The artifacts ranged from large hammer stones to small handheld scrapers.  Scientists also found tough silt stone, which resists shattering and could have been used to create sharp edges on other stones.  
H-Amindian Listserve

Sacred gift

Minnesota: In September, members of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewan were gathered near Nett Lake for a ceremony.  There, a drumkeeper named Shane Drift shared a recent dream that forgotten stories and songs of the tribe would somehow ''come back to us.''  About two weeks later, a Kentucky doctor named Raymond Cloutier phoned the tribe.  He had 42 birch bark scrolls hanging in glass cases on the walls of his study.   Inscribed with symbols and pictures, the scrolls had come with a letter saying the they were more than 200 years old and had originated ''at Nett Lake on the Bois Forte Reservation.''  The letter also said the scrolls depicted ceremonial songs ''concerning the most fundamental laws and needs of the [Ojibwe] people.''  Cloutier returned the scrolls to the tribe where a group of elders confirmed that they are long-lost records of the Bois Forte lodge of the Midewiwin. ''Spiritually, this is probably the most important thing that has ever happened [to the tribe],'' said Rose Berens, the tribe's preservation officer. ''I was awestruck.'' The Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society, is an Ojibwe religious order that preserved its rites on birch bark. The Midewiwin was driven underground for most of the 20th century, when Indian religions were outlawed by the US government. The scrolls range from 9 by 3 inches to 6 by 2 feet. The drawings are on the brown side of the bark.  Some are drawn with charcoal, others are applied with red paint, and a few images are carved.  The scrolls now rest at Bois Forte in a climate-controlled museum room. They cannot be photographed, or even seen, by anyone who doesn't belong to the religious order, except for museum curator, Bill Latady.

A similar tale predates Pocahontas
Virginia: Pocahontas wasn't the first Virginia native woman to marry a European. Around 1568, an American Indian woman from today's Saltville married a Spanish soldier.  Her name was Luisa Menendez.   "It's a great story, and we don't hear about this," said Jim Glanville, a retired professor. Only a few firsthand accounts stored in Spanish archives share the details.   In 1567 -- nearly 40 years before the founding of Jamestown -- Spanish invaders left the Fort of San Juan (near today's Morgantown, NC) to attack the Virginia Indian village.  The Spanish claim to have killed 1,000 people and burned 50 huts.  Luisa and another survivor eventually married two explorers, adopted Christianity, and settled in the Spanish fort at St. Augustine, FL.  In 1600, the governor of Spanish Florida heard testimony from people who'd seen the interior of the country.  Luisa was among those who testified.   She described her home, a place where salt was made, called Maniatique.  "She also said that there are three or four springs of saltwater from which the Indians make salt," according to one translation of the testimony.!news&s=1045855934842

The Myth of The Sled Dog Killings
Quebec: In the 1960s, Pita Aatami and his family walked a long way to fish at a local lake. "I always thought it was because we were poor and we couldn't afford a snow machine," said the Inuit man who lived in Kuujjuaq.  "But my uncle told me we had to walk because my grandfather's sled dogs had been shot. A lot of other people had their sled dogs shot, too." The Inuit say that Canada's RCMP slaughtered their sled dogs during the 1950- 1970.  Without their dogs, natives would be forced to settle in communities, buy snowmobiles and depend on federal social programs.  "To diminish our numbers as Inuit, our dogs were being killed," said one Inuit elder. An RCMP investigation claims the slaughters never happened.  But Aatami is not giving up.  "I want to know who gave the orders to kill the dogs," he says. 
H-Amindian Listserve

Visitors' Center, Trails Planned at Sitting Bull Burial Grounds
South Dakota:  In 2005, Rhett Albers and Bryan Defender bought the land holding Sitting Bull's gravesite. After cleaning it up, they formed the nonprofit Sitting Bull Monument Foundation.   Now Albers and Defender are planning short trails and a visitors center complete with educational displays about Sitting Bull's life.  The site will include a bust of Sitting Bull created by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who also designed the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills
The Associated Press State &Local Wire

More Isolated Indians Survive in Amazon Rain Forest, but Face Peril
Brazil: More uncontacted Indian groups are surviving in Brazil's Amazon rain forest than previously thought. A study by FUNAI, the government's National Indian Foundation, estimates that 67 Indian groups live in complete isolation, up from previous estimates of 40.  "With the rate of destruction in the Amazon, it is amazing there are any isolated people left at all," said Fiona Watson from Survival International. Brazil probably has the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world. Most still hunt with blow guns or bows and arrows, and most uncontacted tribes live as their ancestors did before European invasion.   However, these tribes risk being destroyed by encroaching loggers and miners.
The New York Times

Kodiak Natives cut an album in an effort to preserve their dying language
Alaska: The Sugpiaq people from Kodiak are working hard to preserve Alutiiq, their native language.  Recently Sugpiaq singers from across Kodiak Island came together at Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum to record songs which are sung in Alutiiq and Slavonic.  Susan Malutin, a second-year student in an Alutiiq language preservation program, considers the recording an important event.  “The best thing was to have so many of our Elders here together in one place at the same time,” Malutin said.  “From 10 am -- 5pm every day, and that’s a really big commitment for some of them.”  The musical CD is produced by Stephen Blanchett, a member of Pamyua, one of Alaska’s most popular singing groups.  Blanchett, who is Yupik, has been picking up jobs with his field recording equipment.  He’s traveled to Barrow, Tatitlek, and Chenega Bay, among other places.  “I’m all about making recordings and CDs because we don’t have anything to listen to,” he said.   Alutiiq is spoken by fewer than 100 people in Alaska, and only 35 - 50 original speakers live on Kodiak Island today.  A CD from the sessions will be available for sale later this year.  Museum workers say demand from visitors already exists.

Contemporary Black Indian Storytelling In Print
Massachusetts: Talking Drum Press has released a new book, Mixed Medicine Bag, Original Black Wampanoag Folklore.   A Mixed Medicine Bag contains 15 original Black Wampanoag folk-tales shared by Mwalim, a contemporary master of oral tradition.  Mwalim (Morgan James Peters, I) is Eastern Native American, West Indian, and African American.  Mwalim, who is an assistant professor at Dartmouth, believes stories should reflect our past and present and be told in respectful ways. "Particularly in the native traditions, many traditional stories are not appropriate to tell outside of their cultural contexts and communities, " he said. "As an authentic Mashpee Wampanoag of African ancestry, and having been raised in my cultures, I can assure you that all of my tales are authentic." For 18 years, Mwalim has shared his original lore at powwows, schools, festivals, and other venues. His work is praised by many. "Mwalim is a Native-Afro street poet and storyteller whose flow takes you through the valleys and mountains of a world as experienced by a Black Wampanoag Warrior who keeps it real all of the time," said Cedric "Qaqeemasq" Cromwell (Running Bear) from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council.
Learn more about Mwalim:

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