I have a friend, who evidently has a hard time at making up his mind on which he is, a Blackfeet, or Cree, and his dilemma serves to confirm some superficial doctrine within my consciousness, instilled long ago by my early tribal influences.
Besides non-Indian teachers and celebrated people, like Jim Thorpe (the Great Indian Athlete), Charles M. Russell (the Western Artist), Will James (the Cowboy Writer, "Smokey", and other books), my childhood influences have primarily consisted of tribally enrolled or closely affiliated, Blackfeet men, women, and children.
The confirmation comes from observing my friend's behavior, combined with memories of how many of my early influences had commonly reacted in reference to my personal behavior. For example, if I excessively-displayed exploitative, penurious, or ostentatious behavior, they would say, "Yaw, you're acting like a `Cree,” or, "Look at this one, he's acting like a `Cree'”. If I chose ornate clothing (bright colors) during my once a year school-clothes shopping spree, that also fit into the category of being a Cree. Everything greedy, stingy, boastful, or having to do with dressing in bright colors, had become, being a Cree.
I wasted considerable time and energy during my youth, contemplating just what a Cree was, and had always thought that who-or-whatever they were, they must have been real-crazy people, who wore bright-colored clothing!
Not until I had become an adult did I finally disregard conventional introspection and conditioning, for intelligence, and begin actively applying any real energy to learning what a “Cree” is -- from Webster's New World Dictionary & Thesaurus: "Crees or Cree a member of a North American Indian people living mainly in the Canadian Prairie Provinces".
As you can see, a Cree is an Indian from another Indian tribe. They resemble contemporary Indians per se, and as a Race, do not display greedy, stingy, bragging and boasting characteristics. They resemble The Blackfeet, i.e., customs, ideas and comprehensive culture; however, their language is different.
So where did the misconceptions come from? Several elders have told me that a small group of Cree from a landless tribe had been evicted from Canada, during the early nineteen-hundreds and had migrated to The United States, seeking a place to live; that part of the group had settled on a North-Western section of The Blackfeet Indian Reservation; that The Blackfeet had pitied the group and had allowed them to remain; that some members of the Cree group had married into our tribe; and that the descendants of these unions were mistreated by the Blackfeet.
One of my many knowledgeably elders has theorized that the Cree that do personify the characteristics, presumably, do so as an ingrained defense mechanism and possibly, as a means to perturb their hosts.
My friend personifies, his behavior ranges from, e.g., attempting to display the persona of a Blackfeet elder, i.e., wisely telling stories and visiting calmly, carefully and respectfully -- to truth revealing, exploitative, ostentatious, and penurious spirited interludes! He is an otherwise intelligent person, possessing an M.A., and has previously taught at the University level.
He sells Blackfeet items from an internet site: buckskins, hard-copy publication(s) and e-books; and attempts to sell Blackfeet Culture, Language and Tradition.
During one particular discussion, I said and interpreted a tribal member’s Indian Name in Blackfeet, Ahpewmitah (White Dog), in the process of relating a story to him. He nearly ripped his shirt trying to get a pen from his pocket, while simultaneously requesting reiteration, in Blackfeet, even asking me to help him spell it. I did. That was before I had become aware of his enormous need to capitalize on everything, everything Blackfeet -- everything that he obviously hates, yet greedily capitalizes on.
The following incident solidifies his character within my Mind: I had been helping him with his computer for several hours, downloading, installing programs and clean-up, when evening and hunger arrived, so I asked for a piece of dried meat, of several, that hung in-plain-view, obviously dried. He said no. No explanation. No options, just plain and stingily, no. We were in the kitchen. The meat hung on a line strung parallel to the kitchen and living room’s division, and being familiar with Blackfeet custom and culture, I simply took it for granted that he would provide a meal. I left his home that evening, hungry, feeling sad for him, and disappointment in myself.
On another evening, we were visiting each other, sharing stories and ideas, forming plans pertaining to writings related to our shared-Blackfeet culture, and discussing local politics, when all-of-a-sudden, he began to talk loud and arrogantly of his being Cree, and of being proud of it. Nothing previously had been mentioned in reference to "Cree". In fact, he had recently finished speaking of how proud he was to be Blackfeet, and of practicing nothing but, “Traditional Blackfeet Religion” -- among other things, all Blackfeet. I sat and listened to his raving, saying nothing, waiting for him to finish so that we could continue. Subsequently, following a long discourse about someone who had previously made a disparaging comment in reference to his Cree heritage, he said, "These Blackfeet should be thankful that the Crees came here…that's where they got their (expletive) brains [intelligence]…they're sure a bunch of stupid (expletive) bunch of people…"
He has a habit of vigorously-describing past confrontations between himself and certain tribal members, with whom he allegedly and boldly responded to -- boastfully acting out all motions and verbal responses, literally, while motioning and speaking to me. I often wonder if he fabricates the stories, as a catharsis for some deeply established resentment, possibly-derived of something his parent(s) had related to him, concerning debasing treatment at the hands of some long forgotten, Blackfeet-Man, Woman, or Child, from the landless Cree's past.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I have a friend, who evidently has a hard time at making up his mind on which he is, a Blackfeet, or Cree, and his dilemma serves to confirm some superficial doctrine within my consciousness, instilled long ago by my early tribal influences.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Photo removed by Calvin Tatsey, on March 26, 2010 at approximately 7:30pm, by request.
Saturday, January 7, 2006 began as the day before that and the day before that, except for one thing: a powerful sense of angst, or excitement, I couldn’t decide which one, overwhelmed my personal psyche from the second I’d gotten out of bed, causing me to believe that something serious was about to happen. It was similar to déjà vu, in a sense, when you encounter a person, situation or location and receive that fleeting bit of insight, causing you to believe that you could have predicted the moment, then quickly lose that place in your consciousness where intuition, or what many call the sixth sense, hides.
That was my first day-off and halfway through breakfast I’d begun to worry because of the feeling’s intensity, thinking that maybe I’d made a mistake and it wasn’t, I checked my schedule -- it was my day off.
Following breakfast, I got my sweet grass and smudge bowl, smudged, and subsequently, my outlook improved a little, so I drove downtown to get the newspaper and have coffee.
The waitress took the order and left to get the coffee. I opened the paper and read a short article concerning an accident where a child had been severely injured. At that time, our son and his two small children were living with us. The article, my grandchildren, and the feeling which had by then, returned in full force, in the form of an ugly-nagging sensation, combined to trigger some sort of paranoia. Consequently, I left a dollar on the table before the waitress had returned and exited the restaurant. I walked to my vehicle and drove directly home. At home, everything was fine and all were alive and well.
I poured a cup of my wife’s excellent coffee and sat down to read. I read, but failed to absorb the articles’ contents. I finally flipped the pages until I came to the horoscope section. I didn’t believe in horoscopes, however, I thought that whatever was going on had to be paranormal because of its sheer intensity and weirdness. My horoscope told me that it was a good day and that I should be preparing for a long trip. I laughed to myself when I thought about what was currently in the air, a trip, of sorts, yeah, sort of like an LSD trip.
By noon, agitation had me uncharacteristically-walking the floor and receiving strange looks from my wife. After falling to think of a logical explanation for my predicament, I decided to inform her of the premonition. Not wanting to cause alarm, I told her that it felt like something good was about to happen, or someone was coming and I couldn’t put a name to what or who it was, when in all actuality, I had no idea, just that it was extremely disturbing. If anything unusual was about to happen, I’d wanted her to know that I’d known, beforehand – part of the Male Ego, I guess.
During the early evening, our dogs, Barkley, Sparkly, Home-Dog, and most of the neighborhood dogs began to howl for no apparent reason. By that time my nerves were frazzled and the dogs’ continuous drone sent chills up-and-down my spine. Looking out a front window I saw a female making a fruitless attempt at attaining order; she shook her broom and yelled. Her intimidation tactics failed to bring about a satisfactory result – to her satisfaction, or mine -- so she re-entered her house, shaking her head in disgust.
At approximately 7:00 P.M., my family and I were watching television when our dogs, who’d been quiet for a short time, suddenly started to howl again. Approximately five seconds later, someone knocked on our front door and the dogs’ howling ceased, which, by that time, didn’t surprise me at all.
I knew that whoever had knocked hadn’t visited our home in the past seven years, because we’d used the back door only, for that length of time. The front door’s shed had a freezer, shoes and assorted family items filling it up – not too fire-wise I know, but that’s the way we’d lived.
My wife immediately got up from where she’d been sitting and went to the kitchen window, to advise the visitor to go to the back door, where she’d either extend an invitation to enter, receive a message, or a ride or phone request – Indian Style.
Agitated and tense, I followed behind her. From the window I saw that it was one of my childhood friends, C-----n A----------t, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He was accompanied by two small boys. Glad to see him, I leaned over my wife and told C-----n and his people to go to the back door.
I shook C------‘s hand and he introduced his nephews, P-----p and N--k, I said hello and invited them into my home. While we walked from the back door to the living room, the lights blinked several times. Something that hadn’t happened in more than ten years of my family’s living in the Blackfeet Indian Housing Authority residence, and the dogs resumed howling. Strangely, the howling, which had been so terribly exasperating, had the opposite effect after C------’s arrival. It soothed and replaced confusion, with certainty, fortitude and calm – crazy but true.
When we entered the living room area, my wife stood near the television, looking up, as if she were waiting or listening for something. She said, “That’s strange, the lights were blinking off-and-on like somebody was flicking the switch…”
I had an eerie sensation, and began to suspect that C------’s visit was the reason behind the premonition I’d been experiencing.
We sat, ate, drank tea, sang Indian and visited all night – Indian Style. C------’s knowledge of songs seemed endless; my contributions were limited to what I could remember, and that consisted of bits and pieces. He’d sing two or three, I’d do what I could, and we’d stop to tell stories pertaining to the ceremonies and cultural events that we’d attended or participated in while growing up, which were many, because that was our childhood; our place to escape hunger, hardship and pain during our youth.
Our talks repeatedly came back to the hardships and experiences we’d lived through during childhood. I listened to C------’s stories and told mine, finally realizing that he had a lot to share, so I asked him if he’d be willing to come back and talk, while I wrote. He agreed and we decided that we’d begin our project after he’d gone home to rest. It was approximately 7:30 A.M., and cold, the Sun was just beginning to lighten the sky to the East.
C-----n gently-shook and called his nephews, waking them. They had fallen asleep, one at each end of the living room couch. I watched the gentle, respectful and courteous attitude with which he handled his nephews, and I realized that I was proud to have him as a friend and Brother.
On Sunday, January 8, 2006 at approximately 11:15 P.M., C-----n returned, alone. He brought my family large several pieces of roasted meat, all wrapped in tinfoil. I didn’t question where the meat came from, or ask who had prepared it, that’s not customarily polite, besides, I knew that coming from him, it would be safe to eat. He did tell me that his family had received it from relatives, who’d been visiting from The Blood/Kainaa Tribe, Alberta, Canada.
I asked my family, who were all in bed by then, if they’d wanted to feast. No one responded. I cut a large piece and offered it to C-----n. He declined, saying that he’d already had “plenty”. I grabbed a piece of my wife’s Nuh-pei-in (bread, the way it sounds to me), some onions, hot peppers and salt, and feasted near my computer until I couldn’t eat another bite. All the while, we remained quiet. The only noise came from my feast and intermittent sips from our Mason-jar-tea-cups – Indian Style. That was some good meat; it tasted like Moose.
After we’d gotten cookies and a tea refill, we began our project. His discourse, told throughout the night between breaks, follows my short introduction.
C-----n is a fifty-year-old, contemporary-Blackfeet Medicine Man, who believes that because of their unique upbringing, similar training and knowledge, he and F-------k H--n are the only “true” children on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. He says that growing up as a child, he: “…sat with and learned from Indians who still remembered the Horse Days; Indians who remembered riding horseback to get commodity rations; Indians who had a direct connection to The Buffalo Indians; and Indians who still wore moccasins, braids and couldn’t talk English.” He remembers going to Standoff, Alberta, living with the B------e family, and J-m B-----s — called him “Gumoothes”, means thief, steal or take in the Blackfeet language. C-----n holds the biggest, holiest bundle of the Montana Blackfeet. They call it The Chief Bundle; The Natoas; The Sun Dance Bundle. He said that it was the only bundle transfer ceremony that was done properly in the last thirty years. C-----n is one of the last fluent speakers of the Blackfeet Language. He has been taught, retains and practices every traditional ceremony of the Montana, Blackfeet.
“Ah, was all-ceremonial, I remember my grandpa, ‘D---y’ B-------g M-------------s, and that’s where all the community ceremonies were held, we started in the afternoon and went all night, until morning time. I remember going to ceremonies like Feather Games, Ghost Dance, Holy Smokes, Black Tail, Shakin’ Tent, doctoring ceremonies and Thunder and Beaver Bundle ceremonies.
My Grandparents, P-----p and M----e A----------t raised me. P-----p was the Medicine Man of the Blackfeet Tribe. My grandfather, P-----p knew all the roots and knew all the songs to every ceremony of the Blackfeet culture. He was the owner of the last Blackfeet Medicine Horse Bundle. He also had the Crow Bundle, Thunder Pipe, Ghost Bundle and the Tobacco Bundle.
I grew up with the last of the Buffalo People. As a child I was always herded to the ceremonies. This didn’t give me much time to play with other kids. They call us gima-da-poka, pitiful babies or grandma babies. Growing up was just like that. It seemed like the school teachers knew. Somebody was telling them something.
I wasn’t an observer. I was on the inside of the circle because I was P-----p and M----e A-----------‘s grandson. P-----p A----------t was the last owner of the Blackfeet Horse Bundle. Because my grandpa and grandma were medicine people, just because they were medicine people, I was permitted to sit up front and participate. The other kids all had to go in the other room or go outside and play, but I was treated differently. Some of those old people would wait for me to show up and they would have a piece of candy or carve me something; they would almost fight over me; they would sit there and sing to me. The first years of my life were almost all ceremony.
Growing up, I’ve been around Indians who have talked about the past, when they would get shot on sight. Those were happy times [Growing up, not getting shot]. People would sing at night time, everybody was happy. That was before the flood you know, took away all that stuff [The 1964 Birch Creek, Swift Dam Flood]. I remember them old men and them old ladies’ clothing. Everybody used to bring something to the ceremonies, different foods, for a feast.
When I was growing up there would be about twenty medicine men and women, all sitting in one house together. It seemed like everything was really secretive, outsiders weren’t allowed, outsiders had no interest in these things, we were Indians.
Back then you know, ah, there was respect, honor, you never heard ‘cuss’ words, and even these other children that would come around once in a while, they would whisper and talk quietly and respectfully.
Back then, they still had a few ‘real’ Blackfeet chiefs. How do you say, tribally appointed? You know you always had those in the middle [The Chiefs].
Everybody used to bring their own medicine to the ceremonies. You weren’t allowed to step over smudges. They had an Alter. The bundles would sit there and they would use one at a time. I remember them using holy paint, painting faces and wrists. I remember when that spirit, when these animals and birds in the bundles would come alive. You’d see them flying and moving around in there. Weasel, skunk, otter and gopher, the animal skins in the bundles would come alive and the women would watch, become excited and show great fear, although they’d seen it all before. The Bundle’s medicine would go to work. Whatever sickness’ they had, the medicines would go to them and eat whatever sickness they had and then they’d go back to the medicine man and lay back down in their place. These things were done in broad daylight, with the lights on. That’s how supernatural these events were.
Everybody would bring their own bundles, whether it would have a wooden bowl with holy rocks in it; root medicine; plume medicine; paint medicine; eagle bone whistle medicine or rattles and drums. Everybody had their own song.
They made a lot of noises in these ceremonies, like horses running; or pounding under the floor; or in the ceiling, you would hear scratching; or a lot of people talking outside, like a lot of people, but you’d go outside and there would be nobody out there.
The air in there would shift, like one moment it would be laughter and fun and the next moment it would be all eerie and quiet.
I did these things from Standoff [Canada], to Heart Butte; to Starr School and right to Browning [Montana].
The way these medicine men worked, some days they were weak and they’d ask another medicine man to take over and they used to always say that the other medicine man was stronger. They used to build each other up, for the sake of the people and the ceremony. There was great respect for each medicine and other.
My first Sweat Lodge, I believe was in fifty eight or fifty nine, probably nineteen fifty nine. What I remember about that was all them old ladies were sitting on the hill and all the men were down there sweating. I was splashing around in the creek and they told me that I could go in there and sweat with them. What I remember about that ‘sweat’ was when everything was closed [sealed, so that heat could not escape] and when they splashed the water on the rocks, a breeze blew through.
Growing up with spirituality, I thought it was normal to smell burning sweet grass when there was no sweet grass; to smell sweet pine when there was none; to hear someone singing Indian when nobody was there; to see Indians appear and disappear; to hear drums and rattles when there was none.
I saw my grandma smoking with a spirit.
My grandma would leave me sometimes for four days at a time. I was three or four years old at a time. She’d tell me, ‘I’m going to Canada,’ but she’d leave me with a spirit. I’d go to sleep at night and wake up and my clothes would be off and folded. Now it would scare me, but back then it was a normal part of life, spirituality.
One time I was about seven years old, this Indian guy, I was home alone, he come knocking on our door. I opened him up and let him in without thinking about it on my part. I listened to him talk to me without moving his lips, by thought through his forehead. He asked me where everybody was at. I gave him tea and made him a sandwich. He smelled like sweet pine. He sat down and sipped his tea. I could hear him making noises while he drank. You could feel his kindness; he seemed like a kind old man. Back then I was used to having elders in the house, so I thought nothing of it. I stayed on the floor playing with my toys. When he was done eating and drinking the tea and sandwich, he got up and said, in Indian: ‘C--f S---t C---f (my Indian name) I’m done, good, those old people said they love you.’ He then walked out and that’s when I felt something strange. I went to lock the door; instead I opened it and peeked outside. It was broad daylight outside. I looked down and there was no tracks in the snow at all, coming to our door or leaving. Over my lifetime, this same man has visited me four or five times. Sometimes he lets me know he’s coming by the smell of sweet pine. It seems like he comes when things are hard, and times are tough.
When I was a little kid by Willow Creek, I went over there to catch frogs. I started imitating those elders, ceremonially. I started singing some songs. These two muskrats swam up the creek and they went on the other side of the bank, crawled out of the water and sat there looking at me. A magpie flew down and landed beside me and just sat there. What do you call those salamanders or lizards? He come crawling out of the brush and sat right along side of me on a rock, and he start singing and I jumped up and started running and took off home.
When I was a small kid the wind used to come through cracks and put me to sleep, it would sing to me.
I remember the old people would take their laundry down to the creek and wash clothes and they would sing water songs. They were really pretty songs. One song they said was an otter song; another, a beaver song; another, a swan song; another, a cleaning [washing-up] song.
The pipes, them pipes would move around and like almost shake, them old people would sit there and say they’re getting anxious to smoke [meaning spirits] we’d better light them up.
One time I saw my grandma cuss out a ghost, throw her shoe at it and chase it out.
Dreams, I’d talk to dead people, ghosts, from a very early age. They’d sing to me or just stand there or come in and walk around. In my dreams they were friendly. In my dreams I knew they were dead.
Right after the nineteen-sixty four floods, everything disappeared; everything went away, ended, when things were done.
My earliest recollection of spirituality, I think I was about two or three years old. I was dreaming that I jumped out of my body and I kept going up and up, until I was in space. I could see planet earth. Then I seen a big road, leading to Earth, and then a big ball going down that road, like it was going to collide with Earth or something. My memories of that are very sketchy now, but at the time, it made me very sick. It made me sick to where them old people had to doctor me, sick for about a month. I remember them painting my face. I think they stuck a black plume and a red plume above my head.
Another time was when we had all our relatives visiting at our house and all the adults left to do something, but all us kids stayed at our house. There had to be fifteen or twenty of us kids. We were playing tag and chasing each other, screaming at each other, screaming fighting, making a lot of noise. Too much noise, we woke up one of them bundles. We were wrestling and playing in the living room and that bundle came walking through that living room. It had the body of a man and the head of a buffalo. The head was big. I heard snorting and like a whole bunch of hoofs, like a stampede or something. We began to scatter, jumping out of the windows and exiting the house any way we could, running away and crying. The dogs which were outside sensed some presence also. They made all kinds of noises, yelping and howling, etc… We stayed outside until the adults returned home. When they returned my grandma went in there and made everything normal, safe, and put everything back in order. That was lesson number one.
For me lesson number two was my brother J---y. My grandma told me to get the smudge sticks down and that we were going to smudge and have a ceremony. While we were going about our business, my brother J---y and two lf his cool, non-traditional friends entered the house and I informed him of our plans. J---y began to belittle our traditions, telling us that we were in modern times and to forget about what we were doing. He then went outside and no more than three seconds later he re-entered the house, naked and in shock, he stayed in shock for about three days. The next day we found his clothes scattered up to a half a mile away, in all different locations. The thing about it was, J---y grew up with and in the ‘Indian Way’, practicing and aware of traditions, beliefs and culture, right along side of me, under my grandmother’s teachings. The lesson we learned from that was you have got to watch your mouth. You got to watch what you do and say around this holy stuff, these holy medicines.
Some of our neighborhood kids found a pipe; it was a old-cracked pipe, no stem, just a pipe. Their parents sent them to our house with the pipe, they set it on the table and left. At the time there was two old men and three old ladies in my house. Those old people broke a braid of sweet grass and stuffed it into the pipe and told me and my uncle to go put it away, outside. We brought it up to the foothills, west of Browning. We found a gopher hole, put it in the hole, stuffed it with dirt and put a big rock over it. We began to walk away and got no more than thirty or forty yards and then we heard this voice saying, ‘Hey, hey, hey.’ My uncle told me, ‘Don’t look back, don’t look back; keep walking.’ Being a young boy, I looked back, and this is what I saw. I saw an old Indian man standing, looking at us, waving and saying, ‘Hey, hey, hey.’ We began to run away. We ran far enough to where we couldn’t hear it anymore, and continued home. About four days later I had a dream and the old man was involved, he said in Blackfeet, ‘I’m going home now, sand hills [Blackfeet Heaven].’ Another lesson, some of the pipes are genuine.
Taboos, throughout my whole life, I was told not to eat rabbit; also not to whistle in a house. I was raised with a lot of instructions.
Adolescent years, at five years of age, my aunt G---e cut my braids off and I began to associate with my biological mother. My fondest memory of her is when she used to make dried choke cherry cakes. She’d take all of us kids to the creek and she’d wash clothes.
Coming into contact with the white people, I finally began to realize how poor we were; during those times of awareness I began to realize our poverty. For me it was a culture shock, waking up to the real World out here. It was like from a happy, sheltered, Indian life, to a nightmare.
Back then nobody had running water, most never had electricity, and practically everybody had outhouses. Once a month everybody would get relief checks, now they call them welfare checks.
It seems like every house I went to, the adults were drunk, and there was always somebody getting assaulted.
It seems like everybody went hungry, very little food in every household. I remember families going behind a local grocery store getting food from the garbage. I remember families going to the trash pile to pick food that they would attempt to feed their people with, or items that they would later try to sell or utilize in their own homes.
My grandmother would send me behind Buttrey’s Foods to dig out of the dumpster so we could have food to make soup. I remember eating horsemeat. The Old People, old man B—d E------s would bring us horsemeat so we could have something to eat.
I remember what seemed like kids disappearing, the welfare would always take kids from their families all the time. I have one family member who was removed from my family and it took him twenty-five years to find his way back home.
My sister, younger brother and I, were taken from my family at one time. It seemed like they would sneak up on us and take us. The night before they took us, our female dog had puppies, so we were all dusty and dirty. The welfare and police took us to a white foster home. That night, that white woman made us all bathe and washed our clothes. That night we talked amongst ourselves and ended up running away, back to our grandma. The next day we went to school and went back home. That was the end of that episode. It happened a few times, we’d run away from a foster home and we’d always return home.
My first encounter with the White man’s God. I met this white kid in school. I’d go to his house and play with him because his family always had food. This preacher and his wife, from Dallas, Texas, wanted to adopt an Indian child. I was 10 years old. They came up and met with my mother and they decided that I could go to their home and stay with them, like a trial run. These people used to like to go to big churches. They were rich. They sent me to an art school down there, Owens Fine Art Center, or something like that, Dallas, Texas. They gave me my own room, nice room. They had a big house. He was some editor or something in some newspaper down there, his name was S-----n D-----g The III and his wife’s name was D---i.
That was my first encounter with Blacks, Mexicans and whites, real whites, the kind that have never been around a Reservation, or Indians.
I was there about a month-and-a-half maybe, and I began to get lonesome. Because I was lonesome, I went to their backyard and got and used the local plants. With which I made a smudge. I removed my shirt and smudged myself and began to sing. D---i saw me, called her husband, and they began to watch me, along with a couple of their friends. After a while, they got afraid, and her husband ordered me into their house where he grabbed me by the shoulders and said, ‘Listen, you can’t do that anymore, you can’t conjure those things, not in this house, not in The Lord’s House.’ He said what he said in a violent way, which scared me.
That night something happened, because my grandma ordered them to send me home, right away. She felt something too, a thousand miles away that I should no longer be there. That’s why she ordered them to send me home. The strange thing about it is we didn’t have a telephone then. When I got home she said, ‘I knew something was wrong, I had to bring you home.’
Their church was real big. They all wore neckties and suits when they attended. While I was there, I attended their church with them every Sunday. After church, we got to pick a restaurant, very fancy, Greek, Italian and so forth. No fast food or anything, waiters, formal everything.
S-----n was a part time minister. During one Sunday session, during church services, I looked up toward the ceiling and saw floating lights; also floating lights around their statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph etc. I personally know that these lights represent angels that I saw in the white man’s church. I see the same lights in our Sweat Lodges and Sundance ceremonies.
When I sang in his backyard I didn’t understand why his were better than mine, or so he made me think, or so he made me feel.
When I got on the plane to come home, the first person I met was a Blackfeet Indian, coming from Vietnam. That was my first experience with the white man’s God and their ways.
After my return from Texas, it seemed like everything had changed, because I was brought to a new level of awareness. At this new level, I began to realize that everything had begun to change. During that period, I became ashamed to be an Indian, because along with my recent Texas, experience, my friends, and it seemed like the entire neighborhood, began to call me a devil worshipper and make fun of my traditional beliefs and practices. I didn’t understand it then, and like they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty, but now I see that I completely shut down for about 10 years. I began to roam the streets, skip school, drink alcohol when I could, and just become a total wreck.
For example, three friends and I, broke into a service station and stole pop and candy. Consequently, we were sent to prison for that, our only crime was being poor and hungry. I did two years in a juvenile, Federal Facility, for that break-in.
While I was in that facility, I first learned about the American Indian Movement. What ‘AIM’ began to mean and represent for me was that it was finally my peoples’ turn to be recognized; the Blacks and Mexicans had their turns, now it was our turn. From ‘AIM’ I learned to be proud of who I was, of how I looked and of what I had learned.
Throughout America, Indians had seemed to find hope. They were rejoicing. ‘AIM’ had caused something in the air where everybody Indian had finally found something that restored pride. Where long hair, headbands, beads and just anything that to many, represented Indians, were en vogue.
While I was in that facility, I met three remnants of the past, a Shoshone, Navajo and a Sioux; they had to have an interpreter, real old time Indians, little or no exposure to the white man’s educational system. They were the real McCoy. For some reason, the four of us banded together, forming our own basketball team.
That’s when I first became consciously aware of spirit talk. For example, being in different dorms, one of my friends would come out of his dorm while I was outside of mine and we’d look at one another, understanding what the other was thinking, or wanted, across the distance, without saying a word.
One experience between my friends and I was when my Shoshone friend had a death in his family, one of his family members passed-away. Before the death was known about by any of us, including the Shoshone, we all felt a deep sadness and didn’t understand why. An experience that I now relate to this incident was that just two days before, all four of us were together, surrounded by hundreds of fellow inmates and despite the noise of everyone, we heard a wailing that to us signified death. No one else but the four of us heard the sound. At the time of the wailing we all looked at one another without saying a word, however, we all understood that death was at one of our doors. As I’ve said, the Shoshone was the unfortunate one.
This gift or curse whatever you want to call it, still remains with me to this day. I possess the ability to sense death before death visits someone close to me, anybody close to me.
We were always going to do ceremonies and the people couldn’t pay us. Most of the time they just gave us clothing or food, often, they just fed us. In the nineteen-sixties, when other kids found out we were going to ceremonies, they made fun of us and called my grandmother a witch, so we went to church and kept on going to ceremonies. We were still into healing. I was told church and ceremonies we prayed to the same God. While growing up I had to hide everything, because Medicine People were not accepted back then. I heard adults tell their kids to be careful with that kid and his family, to keep away from him.
In this work I am living now, I am still alone. When I grew up I watched actual power. We did our ceremonies in broad daylight. There was no trickery. It was done in the open. It was pure power. There were about thirty people that could do it, mostly men. Now there are only four to six people that have actual spiritual help that I know of, that have the real thing. They refuse to come out. What I saw or witnessed was truly the last of the Buffalo People. I know most of their pipes and their songs. I witnessed a show of respect, love and caring for each other. My job is to pray and take care of the whole tribe. If someone was sick, or having trouble or hard times, we would hear about it and pray for them. I don’t see that kind of caring for the whole tribe; it’s broken; the Circle is broken; we’re pitiful again. When I was young, we would go to their homes to do ceremonies, those days are gone.”
Posted by Calvin Tatsey at 9:22 AM
Monday, October 23, 2006
About February, of 1972, I was naikopotto (sixteen). A friend and I were invited to an AIM meeting at another friend’s house, in Browning, MT on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
We attended the meeting conducted by another local AIM member, “Buster” Bull Plume.
During the meeting, plans were made to “take over” the Glacier Park Lodge, here on the reservation.
The Lodge belonged to us, The Blackfeet, and still does, but was and continues to be leased by Glacier Park Inc.
Subsequent to the meeting, everyone piled into local AIM members’ vehicles, I don’t remember how many vehicles, it seems like maybe seven or eight, and we began the short trip to East Glacier, MT. East Glacier, is approximately thirteen miles West of Browning, on the reservation.
We made it to East Glacier, got to within approximately one hundred yards of our intended target, the Glacier Park Lodge, and suddenly found our vehicles surrounded by the tribal police. We were all arrested and taken to jail.
I still remember the tribal police officer who arrested me. His name is Joe Bird Rattler. I’ve always had respect for him and still do. In fact, I later worked under him for four years as a full-time jailor, part time officer and dispatcher.
We had several ahnaamahs (guns) with us. They were confiscated.
From what I’d heard, some attendees’ families had become aware of the plan, and to save their relatives from getting into trouble, they contacted the Blackfeet Tribal Police. To this day, I still haven’t heard who turned us in.
I’ve related this story to show that I’ve always been a member of AIM, THE ORIGINAL, before “fees” and wannabes became involved...
I’m lonesome, everything’s changed, nothing and no one’s real anymore; all have become synthetic and Hollywood. I’m like that old ahpeetsie (Wolf) howling at a full-moon on a cold-clear winter’s night, and nobody hears – AAWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHH…
Posted by Calvin Tatsey at 3:00 AM