A man lays in a hospital bed dying. Sitting next to him, a woman flips through old photographs. Somewhere in a vision the man is petting a horse. Somewhere else there is a flowing river. The man and woman both look weathered, hardened by a life together and apart. In the hall outside their hospital room is a reflection of their lives: the day-to-day, the waiting, the heartbreak and the leaving. The leaving is where the story begins in the film, Barking Water, by Director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek).
For the man, Frankie, the journey is about preparing for his inevitable death and the importance of making it home before he dies. For the woman, Irene, she is all that Frankie has despite how he may have wronged her. Yet, Irene isn’t without fault. This is a story about people, after all.
Out of money and far from home, Frankie and Irene rely on the help of friends, family and strangers along the way. Call them favors owed, favors returned, or favors paid forward. It isn’t a concept too unfamiliar to life in Indian country. In a place where resources can be limited, people call on each other in their time of need. Perhaps it may be a few dollars, a ride to town, something to eat, or a place to stay, but what it really is about is holding each other up. Part of Irene’s journey is returning the favor.
Love can do that to a person. We are all traveling somewhere. Despite our individual journeys, sometimes we travel the same road together. We call it love. And, it’s a funny thing… Frankie and Irene have travelled together and they have travelled apart. Journeys can be like that.
With Frankie’s terminal diagnosis, they find themselves on the same road again and, despite being a new part of their journey, their history remains… their old hurt, their old ways, their old love. In any relationship, we all do our share of help and harm to others. This is pretty evident in Frankie and Irene’s love.
Place is a part of love too… the place we call home, the place where we fell in love, the place we associate with our ancestors and family, the place we remember in our time of dying. In the end, sometimes we have to journey back to our beginning. Even though these places, in this case the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, may also be associated with hurt and loss, they carry too much importance to deny in our hearts.
Barking Water gets it. Not only does Barking Water get the love and places we relate to as Native Americans and human beings, but it also gets the way we live. Frankie and Irene are common people facing common struggles. They walk with truth, quiet humility, and strength. We can assume that their experiences as Native Americans shape their characters – but Barking Water doesn’t get involved in dramatizations or stereotypes of contemporary reservations or Indian people. It is not that kind of film. Rather, it is a story about real people, people who happen to be Native American, on a journey to which we can all relate. I highly recommend that you check out Barking Water.
Murray’s blog on Tecumseh reminded me of an amazing collaboration project with the National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Crow Creek Tribe and National Relief Charities (NRC). The project bears out Tecumseh’s wisdom about uniting for a cause and doing more together than we can do individually.
NRC spotted in a regional newspaper that the South Dakota National Guard sponsors an annual “Golden Coyote” operation as a training exercise for members of the National Guard, Air Force, Army and Navy from across the country. These military units gain skills in teamwork and coordination, working in cross-cultural communities, and general operation readiness, all while performing a community service.
Like National Relief Charities, the SD National Guard also distributes firewood on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Guard works in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service to gather and deliver downed wood from the Black Hills National Forest. However, they work with outside resources for delivery and coordinate directly with recipients for scheduling.
NRC initiated a collaboration with the Guard and Forest Service to enhance the collective winter fuel efforts beyond what each group was doing separately. NRC’s part in the collaboration was identifying other reservations in South Dakota in need of wood, and then working through our Program Partners on the reservations to determine who could stockpile the wood and plan and host an orderly distribution. NRC selected the Crow Creek and Cheyenne River Reservations for this project.
Prior to the distribution, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe took an interesting environmental step. Typically, the downed wood is a result of beetles or other environmental causes. The tribe’s environmental inspector was able to ensure that bringing the downed wood into their community would not also bring the risk of beetle infestation. Given the green light on this, the project was a go!
When all was said and done, more than 535 cords of wood were delivered to the tribes last June. The tribes plan to use the trees for firewood, fence posts, and ceremonial purposes. In addition, important introductions and connections were made that will serve these tribes in winters to come. And, there is much social justice in wood from the Black Hills going to Sioux tribes in South Dakota. Here is one of the many nice thank you’s NRC received from this high-impact program:
On behalf of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, we would like to thank all the entities that were involved with the hauling and delivering the wood to our tribe. It has been greatly appreciated by the members of our communities. We have begun using some of the wood for our sun dance ceremonies, Tipi poles, sweat lodge ceremonies, fence posts, cooking stoves and saved some for winter heating.
We will be looking forward to working with all the entities on an annual basis for years to come. This project is going to help our Tribe with teaching our youth on keeping up with our traditional values, on how to build tipi’s and understand our sweats and sun dance ceremonies. We appreciate your generosity to our Tribe.
Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman
Posted in Humanitarian, NRC Programs Tagged American Indian, Black Hills, Cheyenne River Reservation, Crow Creek Tribe, National Relief Charities, Native American, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota National Guard, Tecumseh, tipi, U.S. Forestry Service, winter fuel
Welcome back, NRC Blog readers. There is so much popular interest in Native American history and wisdom that I am starting a new blog series called “Native Chiefs & Leaders.” The series will run on the third Tuesday of each month and cover lessons learned from leaders such as Black Elk, Chief Joseph, Pontiac, Cochise, and Crazy Horse. I begin the series today with Tecumseh.
“A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.”
These are words spoken by Chief Tecumseh, a Shawnee warrior who was a great orator and a fine leader. Tecumseh had the ability to bring tribes together and the ability to create respect among his contemporaries, Native American and white as well as ally and foe. Tecumseh’s words were revered as being honest and from his heart, yet tempered with sometimes biting honesty at the way he believed circumstances should be and the way they were.
Tecumseh, public domain pub. at http://bit.ly/WarriorNation
It is the “single twig” quote that I find so very valuable because it rings just as true today as it did in the early 1800s. Tecumseh realized that the numerous Native American tribes in and around the Ohio River valley were much stronger as a united “bundle of twigs” against the American militia of the time. He understood that most anything is stronger and able to withstand external pressure when reinforced with other allies that share similar values and beliefs.
Tecumseh experienced a lifetime of strife as the edge of the United States kept expanding into what had been Native American lands. His father was killed in a battle in West Virginia with state militia as they pushed west, and Tecumseh himself had to move several times while growing up as their settlements pushed them further and further west.
During the War of 1812, Tecumseh felt he would be better served to assist the British in their fight against the U.S. (To this point, my own great, great grandfather also fought against the U.S. in this same war.) Tecumseh believed the U.S. would never honor a treaty and that it was not possible for a treaty – words on paper – to keep the whites from encroaching on and stealing their lands whenever they saw fit.
To this end, Tecumseh stood for the principle of doing what was right: fighting to protect the U.S. from continuing to take Native American lands while violently killing their previous inhabitants or simply forcing them farther and farther westward. Tecumseh used his oratory skills to successfully unite many tribes against the U.S. He continued speaking out against the way tribes were treated by the U.S. until his death at the 1813 Battle of the Thames in Canada (during the war).
Pub. at http://bit.ly/CanadaPost_ca
While Tecumseh was as much a human being as any one of us, he possessed a very special talent for speaking about matters in a way that transcended ethnicity or alliances and simply reverberated as human.
Tecumseh’s main legend was that by coming together, uniting for a noble and just cause, you can accomplish so much more, and be stronger, and able to withstand much more as a collective than as a singular person or entity… That when you come together “as a bundle of twigs” you are strengthened not just in physical fortitude but also in spirit… That you become the sum of your parts.
Applying Tecumseh’s viewpoint and way of life today, we can all look for opportunities to unite and work together, to see and use the best in all of us for the greater good, in business and in life.
The new Farm Bill is a boost to agriculture but comes with a price that will hurt Native Americans and other U.S. families and leave nutrition experts worried about the end result.
- President Obama will soon sign into law an $8 billion cut to food stamps over the next 10 years. Now known as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), food stamps are said to be the largest “domestic hunger safety net,” assisting millions of low-income individuals and families. The cuts to EBT food stamps will affect 20% of American Indian households, according to the National Congress of American Indians. SNAP cuts will affect 540,000 Native Americans every month, according to federal estimates.
- Another federal program known as FDPIR (Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations) distributes USDA foods through the tribes to low-income families on reservations. The 2013 federal shutdown and new federal rules drove up FDPIR participation by tribes. Now, roughly half of federally recognized tribes participate: 275 of 566. FDPIR cuts will affect about 80,000 Native American households every month.
- Households may not participate in DFPIR and SNAP in the same month – and both programs have been cut. Nutrition-related disease rates for Native Americans already surpass those of other ethnic groups in the U.S. Where does it end?
Other dietary changes forced on Native Americans are revealed in this video, Dakota Life – Native Gardens. In it, Aubrey Skye of the Standing Rock Reservation and a Program Partner for our Project Grow initiative, talks about nutrition, obesity and diabetes and how it all started for indigenous peoples. The video first aired on South Dakota PBS in January, 2011.
Public domain photo from www.clker.com
Film makers today are awakening to the use of Native American actors in Native films, and the wisdom of accurately portraying Native cultures as well as modern day lives of Indian people. In my next few posts, I will explore recent Native films that accomplish this. My first recommendation is Smoke Signals.
Smoke Signals is a story about the modern day lives of Native Americans. A story many young Native Americans experience on federal reservations today… The happiness. The sadness. The love. The loss. Smoke Signals is also a story about being human. It is about the relationship between father and son. It is about discovering ourselves through our relationships with others.
There is a gift so powerful that it has the ability to give life, take life, and transform life. The gift itself is a living thing. It is born, it breathes, it consumes, and it dies. This gift is within us, and yet it is a reflection of us. The gift is fire. And, fire is at the very heart of Smoke Signals.
Copyright Animation Factory, pub at http://bit.ly/tp-smoke
Based on the collection of short stories by author Sherman Alexie in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals is a story about two men who face transformation by fire on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho. It was fire that linked these two young men together as infants.
At a house party on the Forth of July in 1976, while Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds the Fire (Evan Adams) slept as babies, their parents partied. Somewhere, as the party continued into the night, the fire started.
In the smoke, flames, and confusion, the young Victor and family escape the fire with the help of Victor’s father (Gary Farmer). Yet, Thomas is the only one from his family to make it out of the fire – his parents in a last ditch effort throw him from a second floor window only to be caught by Victor’s father.
In that moment, Victor’s father becomes a hero to Thomas. In that same moment, Victor’s father is driven to an unshakeable grief, the kind of grief that forces a man to leave his wife and only son. Thus, Victor has a radically different and conflicted feeling about his father. And Victor confronts the pain of his father’s leaving over and over in the many stories told about his father by Thomas, notorious for his storytelling.
Victor’s feelings grow even more complicated after learning of his father’s death in Arizona and the two young men journey there to settle his affairs. Throughout their journey, Victor is exposed to the human intricacies of his father’s life and choices. In learning more about the man his father was, and surprisingly with the help of Thomas’ stories, Victor discovers more about himself and the man he will become.
When people step up to take on the role of storyteller, you know they feel the story is important. This was true for Joe and Dave Herbert when they produced this new video called “Always Remember.”
In a recent press release announcing the video, Joe Herbert says, “The people in this story are like six degrees from invisible. It’s a big eye opener.” The Herbert Brothers created this video in cooperation with National Relief Charities because they were so awed by what is going on around the country and by what they feel most people don’t know anything about.
What I personally like about this video is how it blends the historical timeline with present day happenings. I revisited the 1830 to 2013 timeline a few times because so much of Native American history is not taught in schools. I also liked how the unusual animation effects create a sense of the “now” – like seeing something happen in real life.
I truly appreciate that the brothers recognize the importance of helping each other and of honoring hopes and dreams and protecting the future of the children. I also appreciate that Joe and Dave Herbert put their hearts and minds into creating this video in the hopes of telling the story and raising awareness. Already, it has led some people to sign a pledge to #Always Remember #NativeAmericans.
Photo by VideoContestNews, http://bit.ly/19QKbDJ
The Herbert Brothers are famous for their video that took first place in the “Doritos Crash the Super Bowl” ad contest of 2009. At the time, the brothers were still new at their craft yet through smart market analysis managed to take the top spot and end a 10-year winning streak for Budweiser ads.
To learn more, please check out the Herbert Brothers website and follow HerbertBros on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. You can follow us at NRCprograms on YouTube and Twitter.
Posted in Humanitarian Tagged Always Remember, American Indian, Budweiser, Doritos, Facebook, football, Herbert Brothers, Native American, NRCprograms, Twitter, YouTube
I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Rapid City, South Dakota. Across from me, my girlfriend is studying Lakota language flash cards in preparation for her upcoming semester at Oglala Lakota College. We should be at a friend’s house watching the Denver Broncos play the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference Championship. But, as you know, time is subject to change. And, for professional sports, times are definitely changing.
CBS Sports at http://bit.ly/ellsbury
The conversation about Native Americans in sports is slowly turning away from the use of Indian mascots and also focusing less on past accomplishments. A new generation of indigenous athletes from all across Turtle Island is bringing attention back to Native Americans on the court, on the field, and on the ice. Still, we can’t have a conversation about Native Americans in sports without first mentioning the legends:
- “The Greatest Athlete,” Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), not only won two gold medals during the 1912 Olympics but played professional football, baseball, and basketball.
- In 1964, Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota) became the second Native American to win Olympic gold, as well as the only American to win the gold medal for the 10,000 meter run.
- During a 16-year career in Major League Baseball, Charles Albert “Chief” Bender (Chippewa) developed the slider pitch, pitched a no-hitter, and pitched in five World Series.
- Ellison “Tarzan” Brown (Narragansett) won the Boston Marathon in 1936 and 1939, while also competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
- NFL Hall of Famer “Injun Joe” Kapp quarterbacked with the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears, as well as the British Columbia Lions (CFL). He is the only athlete ever to have played in the Super Bowl (1970), Grey Cup (1963), and Rose Bowl (1959).
Today, the legacy continues. 2013 was one of the biggest years yet for professional and collegiate Native American athletes. In 2013, Major League Baseball and the National Football League saw five Native Americans among its best teams:
- NFL quarterback Sam Bradford (Cherokee) played for the St. Louis Rams (out much of the season with a torn ACL)
- Kyle Lohse (Nomlaki) pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers
- Joba Chamberlain (Winnebago) pitched for the New York Yankees
- Jacoby Ellsbury (Navajo, now with the Yankees) and Shane Victorino (Native Hawaiian) played for the Boston Red Sox
Did I mention that Ellsbury, Victorino, and Lohse each have at least one World Series ring? And that, in 2013, Ellsbury and Victorino both earned their second World Series Championship with the Red Sox? Jacoby Ellsbury, is known to us as a supporter of the Navajo Relief Fund (NRF), a program of National Relief Charities. In 2010, he launched a charity wine named ZinfaldEllsbury and donated a portion of the proceeds to NRF and two other charities. At the press conference we attended, Jacoby talked about his grandmother weaving rugs and shearing sheep in 120 degrees with no air conditioning. He appreciates the hardworking lifestyle but has concerns and Jacoby Ellsbury realizes that children of the reservation can draw hope from seeing someone of Navajo descent playing in the majors — hope that also carries over into school.
Sisters, Jude and Shoni Schimmel (Umatilla), were launched into the national spotlight as they helped carry the Louisville Cardinals from the number five seed to the title game of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Despite their loss to the UConn Huskies in the championship game, the Schimmel sisters finished the 2013 NCAA Women’s Season as the pride of Native Americans everywhere.
Finally, four-time PGA Tour Winner, Notah Begay III (Navajo), continues to fight Type 2 diabetes in Indian country with the Notah Begay III Foundation. Partnering with Nike’s N7, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Begay is taking a holistic approach to reducing the rates of diabetes among Native Americans through sports, research, and community-based programs.
Soon our attention will turn toward the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII. While Sam Bradford and the Rams didn’t make it to this year’s Super Bowl, and the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks currently have no Native athletes on their rosters, I remain comforted by this thought: If 2013 proved anything about Native American athletes, it is that their legacy isn’t static but changing with the times, the players, and the nations they represent.
I want to thank all of you who follow our blog week after week, year after year. We write for you and are grateful for your interest in hearing from us and learning more about Native America. I believe one of the greatest challenges Native Americans face is being misunderstood by non-Natives and in my blogs always strive to bridge that gap. Today, for instance, I am starting a new blog series featuring Native American videos that help explain some of the real life situations on the reservations.
This first video is about the FOOD INSECURITY now affecting one-third of Americans, the resulting health issues such as obesity and diabetes and how – on the reservations in particular – food insecurity is not only about poverty but the absence of local food sources. In America, we take grocery stores for granted, but this video explores vital questions like, “Are we getting good food to the children?” It is well worth the 10 minutes to watch and, after you have, will you please share your thoughts?
Video Credits: “Food Insecurity – Hunger in America” published by HealthRock TV, Sept. 2011. Speakers: Nancy Carrington, Connecticut Food Bank; and Dr. Mache Seibel, www.doctorseibel.com.
Mark your calendar for the next four videos; they will run the second Tuesday of each month!
It’s been a long time coming, and we’re still not quite there. Still, much needs to be said about the current National Football League season. Despite winners and losers, the 2013-2014 NFL season is proving to be one of greatest seasons in history. This has nothing to do with any of the games; it has to do with the increasing national momentum to bring a name change to the Washington Redskins. “It’s only a matter of time,” my brother said as we were watching football and discussing the name change.
Is change going to come, and when? The team’s Indian mascot and name is becoming increasingly unwelcomed by many. Yet, Redskins owner Dan Snyder clings to arguments of tradition and honoring. When the team honored Navajo Code Talkers during the NFL’s Salute to Service Month and Native American Heritage Month last November, the ceremony left a stench of a “Redskins publicity stunt” in the air as the elderly Navajo servicemen stood draped in Redskins apparel. Maybe Snyder knows his ship is sinking and not because of the 3-13 season.
By E. Stutzman, pub at http://bit.ly/Nativestereotypes
What is most confusing about Snyder’s adamant position is his inability to consider the real history of the term “redskins.” The franchise argues that the name is used to honor William “Lone Star” Dietz, coach of the 1933 and 1934 Boston Redskins and debatable member of the Sioux Nation. Yet, one can only be left scratching his head at this defense. Are we really supposed to believe that a derogatory term for Native Americans is honoring the team’s inaugural coach? This would never fly with any ethnic group.
Times were different then. The dominant culture could get away with freely using derogatory terms like “redskins.” I accept that… it never made it right. Native Americans were even more invisible during those times than we are now. Today, times have changed – Native Americans are part of the conversation.
Spearheaded by the Oneida Nation, the “Change the Mascot” campaign has gained national attention by airing radio ads during pro football broadcasts and asking fans everywhere to support a Washington name change. The Oneida are not alone in their effort. After one look on the Supporters of Change page, it would seem that the entirety of Native America are with the Oneida. Public Policy Polling would suggest otherwise, putting forth results that show even the majority of Native Americans are okay with the “Redskins” name.
Yet, a host of non-Native organizations, news/sports reporters, elected officials, religious leaders and media outlets also stand behind the call for a name change in Washington. Some, like top NFL writer Peter King, are even going as far as refusing to use the name in print and publication any longer. I would not be surprised if these collective efforts, big and small, by a nation, Native and non-Native, bring about the desired change in Washington. “It’s only a matter of time.”
National Relief Charities is humbled to be recognized by Great Nonprofits as a Top-Rated Nonprofit three years in a row. This designation has helped us gain more visibility and get the word out about the needs of the people we serve in Indian country.
We are grateful for the many positive reviews shared on Great Nonprofits by our donors, reservation program partners, gift-in-kind supporters, vendors and other charity collaborators. Like all of us at NRC, they take to heart the important work we do on the reservations 365 days a year. With so many Americans unaware of the true conditions and struggles of the reservations where NRC works, their support and words of encouragement are truly appreciated.
Recently, Third Metric ran a story on practical items that are not on any holiday gift guide. Their focus was items that make a difference for families living in poverty, such as food, blankets, coats and socks, household items for cleaning, cooking and living – the very kinds of products that NRC provides to 65 poverty-stricken reservations. Other practical items we provide that are not on Third Metric’s list are school supplies and educational support, firewood and winter fuel vouchers, and support for preventative healthcare in communities with limited access to clinics.
If you or someone you know is concerned about quality of life for Native Americans, want to learn more about living conditions on the reservations or want to learn more about National Relief Charities and how we help, we invite you to review our GuideStar report too. NRC is a GuideStar Exchange Gold Participant, demonstrating the highest commitment to transparency. We also invite you to follow the NRC Blog for timely and insightful coverage of concerns and successes affecting the Indian people.
Until then, from all of us at NRC to all of you, we wish you a happy, safe and healthy new year.
A blog about Native American culture, American Indian tribes, and humanitarian concerns for the most underserved people in the U.S.