Thursday, March 3, 2011

Life Lesson - Contemporary Living: “Olders” vs “Elders”

I grew up in the era, 'you got spanked'. My mother wasn't the type to kneel down and talk to me in a hushed voice. She didn't try to negotiate with me or lovingly tell me what was wrong. She was the type to smack you then tell you what you did wrong.

With all that said, I grew up with “Respect your elders” as my worldview. I wasn't involved in 'grown peoples' conversation. I didn't “talk back to someone older than me”. I didn't dare say anything about them especially when an adult was around.

I knew to feed them. I knew their life stories would help me along in my life. I knew that because they were old, they knew something.

Needless to say, as a young community organizer I discovered in this great big world not everyone has the same value system. Not everyone is taught the same lessons.

My story:

I was recenly elected as co-chair of a community group. My co-chair was an elderly woman. She had done her work in community. She fought the good fight.

This elderly woman was horrible to me. She would belittle me. She would public humilate me. She made it her task to let me know that I was the wrong person to lead the group.

In one of my crying jags, I confided in an elder. This elder, I respected. She of course wanted to 'whup some ass' but after she calmed down. She told me something that I will never forget.

“Some people are just old.”, she told me.

She went on to share, “They don't know their job is to teach the next generation. They don't know their job is to bring them along. They hold onto a time that has passed when they were the ones who knew how to get things done. They are not wise enough to know, it's time to pass the torch along.”

I was dumbfounded. What? No one told me this. Was everything I got my ass kicked for a lie?

She stated, “You are a young man now. It's your time to know that. There are olders and there are elders, you figure out the difference.”

Present day: I still give reverence to people who are older than me because they have lived. They have survived the onslought of crap we have to just to get by here. I am the first to help out when I see them in need.

Don't get it twisted tho'. I've learned that there are people who have lived a long while who are just 'old'. They will throw down like they are 20. They will act a fool. They are still holdin' on...

2 Bitchez' in Heat & the 1 Dawg in town is Busy...

I have a couple of friends, 'Gurhl frienz'. Friends who go at each other with as much zeal and zest that I can only describe it as a scene from, “The Gladiator”. Their verbal battles are catty and cutty. They jab. They jab to left. They jab to the right. They go until they are exhausted.

Their verbal attacks include everything, they way the other is dressed. What the other is doing with their life. Who the 'one' man in the bar is looking at. What the other thinks of the new man in the others life...

At first I tried to intervene and referee but I gave up. Now I only ask that they stay cordial. Thank goodness.

I know they continue to argue when I am not around. I hear both sides of their stories when they are done. I still DO NOT get involved.

I wonder if their relationsihp is some weird, sexual foreplay. Their behavior reminds me of that couple who beat the hell out of each other then have 'amazing sex'. After the epic fight that 'knock down-drag out-you ain't shit motherfucker!' fight that turns into them being 'lovey dovey' with hickeyes and giggling like 'new lovers'.

You know that couple, who when you first see them fight, you intervene. You comfort your sobbing friend. You reassure your friend that there are other fish in the sea. You give a few referals to get them going again, alone. You go along to social service appointments so they know it will be ok.

Suddenly, that couple is back together. Now you are the bad guy who is out to destroy their relationship. Your friend gives you that pleading look to not say anything. Their partner gives you the 'stank eye'. Lesson Learned: Just be a listening friend.

People in complicated relationships remind me that I need to have 'good boundaries'. Great boundaries with people I call, “friends”. I do not use “friends”, lightly. My friends are supportive. My friends and I connect on many levels. We have common interests. We enjoy each others company. We can talk to each other honestly.

“Friends” that draw you into their dysfunction take away from your well being. Your spiritual light is dimmed. Physically you are exhausted. Mentally, you are drained.

Ask yourself, “Are they worth it?”.


Tell them, “Leave now”.

Stop taking their calls when they want to socialize together. Avoid them at all costs as a group.

I've made the mistake of hanging out with my friends. I thought and believed, I was being unreasonable. I found myself right back in the center of the madness.

Descuctive people in your life need to leave, immediately. I am amazed that I have to tell people that. Stop the madness. You are not doing anyone a favor. It is not a requirement to keep them in your life.

Don't forget, “You teach people how to treat you”...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why Don't You Ask Me About My Whiteness?

I didn't create the system. I'm just learning to live within it...

I didn't create racial categorization nor racism in this country. I experience it everyday. I wake up and I am reminded that I am Native American because of the obvious 'physical features' – long hair, high cheek bones, body shape, body type, health issues, etc.

I am part of the only racial categorization that is measured by blood quantum just like animals. Dogs have pedigrees. Horses have pedigress. Cows have pedigrees. Native Americans have pedigrees.

Each of these animals are measured and tracked for their ability to produce or compete. Purebred animals are superior. There is no mixing. The goal is to not weaken the bloodline.

Needless to say, I am not a purebred. I am a complicated mix of my ancestors. Their stories are told within family folklore and hushed whispers.

The family stories about my great grandfathers don't include why they came here to America. Why they took indian wives. Did they love each other? Could they marry? Was it Legal? What were their lives like during the “Indian Wars”? What happened to their children? How were their children treated?

People never ask me about are my white ancestors. My paternal great grandfather an immigrant German carpenter who took an indian wife. My maternal great grandfather who was an immigrant French fur trapper who raised my grandmother.

Even though I'm part white this privileage doesn't extend to me. My whiteness doesn't safeguard me from the looks, the tone of contempt, and the fear I live with for my physical safety. My burden is to “represent” for all Native people everywhere I go.

When I travel home to South Dakota I put my armour on to deal with the racism. I realize what a luxury I have living within the inner city of Minneapolis. This inner city is diverse enough that racism has a different tone and tenor to it.

I live and exist in this world as a mutt. I can't change a darn thing about that. I grew up on an Indian Reservation but that doesn't make me, 'more indian'. I understand some Lakota but to some, 'I'm not indian enough'. I live my life according to the worldview that I learned as I grew up so maybe, just maybe, I can carry my tribal ID without having to justify why I have it.

What I know is that I am a complicated mix of decisions of the men and women who created me and those that created them and so on, so the next time you see me don't ask me the obvious, ask me about my white ancestors...

The Story of the 'In-Betweens'

Each story begins with a tale of triumph, determination and a calling. The culmination of the story ends with validation. When we bear witness to the lives of people who share a part of themselves we gain a deeper understanding of what we are, who we want to become, and how we’ve survived.

This story begins with someone born in-between. In between all that we know. The body that it inhabited had features of both male and female. The soul knew the secrets of both. Their mind understood what they were thinking. With all this wisdom, the in-between person, grew up.

As a child secrets of adults were told. Sharing the space of women and learning all the teaching, the in-between understood compassion, strength, fortitude, and determination. It was through life lessons that the in-between's intuition was developed. It was through interacting with other people that this sense was sharpened.

As a young adult, the in-between was sent off into the world of men. The rough, calculating, goal orientated living would teach more about the world it existed within. The lessons of men grew by participation. They allowed the in-between to understand their stories because they laughed at the in-between’s exoticness.

The time came when the in-between would have to find their place in the world. Amongst others like itself. It is there that the in-between would know a sense of origin and place and time. There was other in-betweens who lived amongst others. Each with their own disguise, each with their own talent, and each developing their own sense of place.

There comes a time in all human history that in-betweens are called upon to translate, teach, and show the capacity of humanity. It is when this time is done that a new sense of order is known and the in-betweens begin their next journey to expand the human condition. It is at the end of this time that men and women cast out the in-betweens and the cycle begins again. The in-between begin again by entering into the darkness and meditation. All the lessons that are known become available once again in silence.

July 8, 2004

"If you are going to use my back to get out of this bucket then make sure where you are going is worth it!"

The Crab in the Bucket story is common amongst the people I know. It's the story about 'the one' crab trying to get out of the bucket while another pulls it down back into the bucket. The bucket is so full that all the crabs are on top of each other. End of Story...The interpretation of the story being, as you work to get out of your situation there is someone there to pull you back into the misery you are trying to get out of.

We can analyze this story and have an educated discussion about it but that's for another day. The meaning of the story for me is- me climbing my ass out of poverty. The game of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Living from paycheck to paycheck. The debt that keeps building because the 'American Dream' does cost. The day to day costs of living here are growing.

When I hear this story told amongst my friends, gossip or humiliation describes, “the pull back into the bucket” . These destructive behaviors pull someone back into the misery of everyone else. Everyone else being poor, disenfrancished, marginalized, or “just getting by”.

Over the years I've learned to develop a thick skin, so to speak, about people talking behind my back. I hear the comments and half-spoken truths disguised as gossip. At first, I was hurt and didn't understand why people were doing this. People I didn't even know. Gossip that is so extraordinary that it's laughable.

I then began to realize that if the comments and gossip are not true then why am I giving them any energy. I know my life because I am living it. I know my decisions and my intentions. I know who I am. Your interpretation of MY life is YOURS.

The people who know me, know my character and behavior ask me if they hear something odd. Believe me, I've gotten those calls. “Gurhl, I heard such and such about you...” After reassuring them, we have a good laugh.

I developed this attitude because I know where I'm going. I know what I want out of my life. You are welcome to be a productive and meaningful part of my life if not get to steppin'.

With all that said, “If you are going to use my back to get out of this bucket then make sure where you are going is worth it!"

I don't have time cause I'm already on the other side...ttyl

Monday, February 28, 2011


"Write it so that people can hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart" Maya Angelou