Anne Dunn: “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, from her book, “Fire in the Village”

(click to enlarge)

Note: Anne has honored this space with her work on a number of occasions. With her permission, I present this story from her wonderful book Fire in the Village. Ordering information at end of this post. Regarding the photo, see note at the end of this post.

Grandmother died suddenly, as so many had during those difficult days. For that reason, her eldest granddaughter began to clean th old woman’s small tar-papered house by the big lake.

If Grandmother had sold the valuable lakeshore property she would have been a rich woman. But she’d held on to the land so she could leave something for her surviving children. Eventually, however, the land had been divided and bit by bit, it would be lost.

But today her orphaned granddaughter, Rose, would discover an old mystery carefully wrapped and packed in the bottom of a wooden barrel. The barrel was full of rug rags, colorful yarn and remnants of fabrics the old woman had been saving for quilts.

So it was that Rose found herself holding an exquisite bowl. After turning it around several times to admire the shape and design, she looked inside. She was startled to find a long braid of human hair coiled in the bottom of the bowl. It was an old braid from an old person. The braid had been tied at the ends with faded red ribbons. Rose wondered whose hair it was and what her obligations were now that she had become the keeper of the hair bowl.

Thoughtfully she put the bowl and its mysterious contents into a box of things she would keep for herself. Then she went on sorting the rags and folding the fabrics in neat stacks for the giveaway, which would celebrate Grandmother’s life one year from the day of her death.

After the four-day wake and burial, Rose turned her attention to the hair bowl. She fully recognized her responsibility to the hair and decided to seek counsel on the matter.

On a bright spring morning Rose made a bundle of several carefully chosen items from Grandmother’s possessions, put the hair bowl in a bag and went to visit Maggie Sore Eyes.

After a warm greeting followed by three cups of maple-sweetened wild mint tea and four fig cookies, Rose placed the bundle on the table between them. Maggied opened the bundle and found a tin of tobacco, a pair of blanket slippers, an embroidered apron and three skeins of yarn. She smiled at Rose and thanked her.

When the gift had been accepted, Rose showed her the hair bowl. The elder woman lifted the braid and held it in her hands for several long minutes. Then she laid the hair on the table, opened a nearby chest and removed several items.

She placed a large abalone shell, a bundle of sage and a sweetgrass braid on the table. Prayerfully she prepared and lit a cleansing smudge. The women sat together in silence as the shadows of the tall trees crept across the yard.

At last Maggie spoke. “We will be visited in our dreams. After you dream, you must come to me with the hair bowl. I will be waiting for my dream, too. When we receive instructions we will know what we must do.”

Rose was greatly relieved as she walked home late that afternoon.

That night she had her dream. An elder woman, whom she’d never seen before, came to her and said she wanted to give her a gift. Reaching up, the elder cut off one of her braids with a stone blade and held it out to Rose.

When she woke up she dressed quickly and hurried to Maggie’s small house. After sipping a cup of hot coffee, Rose told her dream. The elder woman listened the told her dream to Rose.

Maggie lit the smudge. Together the women prayed for guidance and understanding. Afterwards, they discussed what must be done. They decided to create a ceremony of compassion, burn the hair in a nearby balsam grove and wait.

It took several days to gather everything they needed for the ceremony. When all was ready they went to the grove, performed the ceremony and waited. At last, another woman joined them. Rose recognized her as the woman in her dream. Her braid had been restored and she was pleased. Now she could continue her journey.

For many years Rose kept her own hair in the bowl. She burned the hair under a full moon several times a year.

Eventually she became the mother of several children and her eldest son was married. Tanya, the young bride, was interested in the ceremonies of women.

But before the newlyweds could celebrate their first anniversary, Tanya became ill and Rose prepared a cleansing ceremony for her healing. She also decided to give Tanya the hair bowl. So she presented the gift with a braid of sweet grass inside. Tanya looked into the bowl for a long time. Then she said, ‘I must tell you my dream.”

The young woman spoke softly: “An elder woman came to me. She said she wanted to give me a gift. Then reaching up, she cut off one of her braids and held it out to me.”

Rose was overcome with emotion and turned toward the window to hide her feelings. Then it was that she saw four women standing in the yard. They were her mother, her grandmother, Mattie and the elder woman she had seen in the balsam grove so many years before. The women smiled at Rose, then looked beyond her at Tanya who smiled back. Slowly the four women faded into another dimension and were gone.

Tanya reached across the table to hold Rose’s hand. They sat together in the gathering darkness and thanked the visitors for coming.

Sharing the same dream would enrich their long relationship. The women would enjoy several good years together and many times they would be asked to make ceremonies for the healing, cleansing and guidance of other women and their children.

POST NOTE FROM DICK BERNARD: Anne, longtime friend, sent Fire in the Village to me as a gift a few months ago. Its contents are 75 stories similar to the above.

“Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, at page 195-97, spoke to me immediately. Anne won’t know, till she reads this post, that in the possessions of my last surviving elder from my mothers side, I found in a trunk at the former family farm in North Dakota the container pictured at the beginning of this story. It was a possession that spoke to me, profoundly, but what does one do with a can full of old hair? It has been safely stored in our garage for the past two years.

I took the photograph, without embellishment, on May 8, 2017. For the first time I disturbed the contents to see what was within.

There are no labels with the various cuttings of human hair.

Almost without any question, they were collected by my grandmother, as her children were born and grew up on the North Dakota prairie. From 1907-27, nine children were born in that farmhouse, and they all grew up there as well. The first five children were girls, then a boy, then two more girls, then two boys. Among them they had 28 children, one of whom was me.

Of course, I have read the story, and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it now.

For any reader who wishes, how would you advise about the future of this can full of hair?

It is one of those treasures without price or money value. Just some old hair…but much, much more than that.

Anne, need I mention my grandmothers name: Rose Busch.

And one of her granddaughters: Tonya….

from Kathy:
My thoughts about the hair-
Many of us who sew or make quilts, save old scraps in hopes of piecing these remnants together someday. Often these scraps get relegated to the back of a closet or put away into boxes or plastic tubs and are soon forgotten in life’s whirlwind.

The hair scraps made me think of the antique hair wreaths I’ve seen in museums. My friend also has a tatted hair wreath displayed in an ornate frame, passed down in her family from the 1800s – bits of hair from family members…a sort of tapestry of family dna samples.

I suspect that’s why your bucket of hair was being saved – a treasure.

#1051 – Anne Dunn: Meeting Billy Mills

The item which follows from Anne Dunn*, was forwarded to me by my sister, Flo, June 8, 2015. We had been trying to decide on an appropriate Native American recipient of a financial gift in honor of our Aunt Edithe. Edithe had been especially attentive to Native American fundraising appeals.
Anne’s commentary was originally on her Facebook page, and is forwarded with her permission. It helped Flo and I decide that Billy Mills organization “Running Strong“, was a good recipient for a family gift in memory of Aunt Edithe.

Possibly Aunt Edithe's introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book.  This one had no website.  The 2004 edition includes a website.

Possibly Aunt Edithe’s introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book. This one had no website. The 2004 edition includes a website.

Anne Dunn
Billy Mills, Running Strong
Billy Mills is the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. Jim Thorpe had won two gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Mills ran the 10,000 -meter competition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to become the only American to ever win the gold in this event. His victory has been considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets.
A former United States Marine, he is a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. He was born (June 30, 1938) in Pine Ridge, South Dakota He was orphaned at age 12 and raised on the reservation by his grandmother. He took up running while attending the Haskell Institute (Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence Kansas.
After he graduated he joined the USMC. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine reserves when he competed in the 1964 Olympics.
He later set US records for 10,000 m (28:17.6) and the three-mile run, and had a 5,000 m best of 13:41.4. In 1965 he and Gerry Lindgren both broke the world record for the six-mile run. They finished in a tie at AAU National Championships, running 27:11.6.
On February 15, 2013, Mills met with President Obama at the White House to receive the Presidential Citizens Award for his work with Running Strong for American Indian Youth. His broad based nonprofit humanitarian organization has international ties. The medal is the nation’s second highest civilian award
In 1983 a movie was made of his life. “Running Brave” features Robby Benson in the starring role.
I met Billy Mills many years ago. We were standing over a garbage can at a school picnic on the Red Lake reservation. I was working for the Bemidji school district and had been asked to chaperone a group of Native American students that had been invited to the event.
He was disposing of his paper plate, plastic utensils and milk carton when I asked him for his (already been used) spoon. He was a bit unnerved by the unusual request but he put the spoon into my waiting hand. Then I asked for his milk carton, too. Now he was curious.
“Why do you want these things?”
“I will donate the carton to the school athletic department,” I told him. “I’ll ask that it be displayed in the trophy case. The spoon I will keep for a memento of the day I met Billy Mills.”
I suppose he was mildly flattered for he smiled and asked my name. Then he shook my hand and walked away.
The milk carton was accepted and placed in the trophy case where it stood for several years. Then, one day it disappeared! I suppose it looked like old garbage and someone had tossed it into the trash.
At first, I showed the spoon to everyone. But almost no one believed my story. The problem was that it looked like a hundred billion other plastic spoons. So one day I put it in my jewelry box and didn’t take it out for several years.
Then Florence Hedeen called to tell me that Billy Mills was going to speak at the school in Park Rapids. I decided to attend and to take the spoon with me. My friend LeRoy Chief, also from Pine Ridge, said he would ask Mills to autograph the unremarkable spoon.
The next problem was… would Billy Mills remember? Would he think I was just some old groupie trying to get his attention?
I arrived at the high school to find several friends waiting. They had saved a front row seat for me. Afterwards I approached the world-renowned speaker and asked if he would sign my spoon? He smiled and greeted me like an old friend! I took the spoon from my pocket. He whipped out his sharpie and wrote: “Billy Mills Olympic 10 K Gold.”
The event made front page news! There we were above the fold! A blurry black and white image of me with Billy Mills and the remarkable plastic spoon!
Years later he would visit the Bugonaygeshig School and run with students and staff. My daughter Annie was working there at that time. They were both former marines and ran together. After a few minutes she asked if he remembered her mother and the plastic spoon. He stopped in his tracks and gasped, “That woman is your mother?”
Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela, lives in Fair Oaks, California, but still travels for his non-profit agency as an inspirational speaker.
I met him again when I attended a wellness conference for seniors at the Black Bear Casino Hotel (June 2010). Marlene Stately and I were sharing room 339. When I saw Billy Mills eating alone in the dining room, I dragged Marlene to his booth and introduced us.
He was so gracious! He pretended to remember me but was actually quite baffled until I mentioned my Marine daughter and the plastic spoon. Then he offered us a hearty smile and invited us to sit with him.
We sat with him for about 30 minutes and we spoke of many things. It was exciting to hear this famous man speaking with passion about helping his fellow Native Americans.
He likes to quote his father: “Follow your dreams. Every dream has a passion. Every passion has its destiny.”
His father also told him, “Know yourself and find your desire.” With desire comes self-motivation. Then comes work. With work comes success.
He ran a 5k fun run on New Year’s Eve about three years ago. Not only his daughters but his wife beat him! He saw them waiting for him to come in. I’m sure he thought about his glory days.
When had he become an old man with bad knees?
Let me leave you with more encouraging words from my hero, Billy Mills:
“God has given me the ability. The rest is up to me. Believe. Believe. Believe.”
“My life is a gift from my Creator. What I do with my life is my gift back to Creator.”
“What I took from the Olympic Games was not winning an Olympic gold medal but an understanding of global unity through dignity of character and pride of global diversity. And global unity through global diversity is also the future of mankind.”
“The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you do that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish.”
* – Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has several previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.
A personal story about Red Lake, experienced in August, 1988, can also be found here.

#976 – Anne Dunn: Arresting the Alphabet

PRE-NOTE: Anne is a frequent and welcome visitor to this space. For others from Anne Dunn, please note her category at right.
It happened not so long ago at the castle in the kingdom of Nosidam that peasants gathered to protest the banning of drums from public ceremonies in the civil commons.
Naturally everyone brought a drum and some of the protestors held up large signs upon which were painted tall bold black letters. Assembled together the letters spelled: LIBERATE THE DRUM.
Quickly troopers stormed in and arrested RILE.
What remained was BEAT THE DRUM. And so they did.
After seven victorious minutes the crowd was satisfied that the drum had spoken and so, with shouts of triumph, they returned to their modest homes.
But when the ruler of Nosidam forbid the indigenous population to net fish for subsistence, the commons swelled with discord. Once more the drummers arrived and the protestors carried letters that read: WE FISH TO LIVE.
The first eight letters were assaulted and arrested. The remaining word quickly reversed itself into EVIL. This described the decree and defined the king.
Then the king went after the land, mineral rights and real estate. The brutal agents of the king forcibly removed many families from their homes.
Soon the commons filled with the homeless. Once again the drum called and signs arrived. The signs read: THIS LAND IS OUR HOME.
Twelve letters were immediately arrested and the remaining five quickly scrambled to spell SHAME.
But the king was not embarrassed for he was convinced that his will was the supreme law of the land. Therefore, no one had the right to question his decrees.
Recognizing the need for a healthy planet, the people gathered to protest the vicious rape of Mother Earth. The drummers came and the protestors arrived with their signs: SAVE OUR EARTH ISLAND.
Of course the troops were ready and soon had arrested H-A-V-O.
The remaining letters reassembled into TREASURE ISLAND.
More arrest were made and left TRUE SIN standing in the commons. When four more letters were arrested the new word became NUT and that described the king in a single syllable.
Then the king decided to make war against the wolf and a howl of outrage filled the commons. The drummers and sign painters were ready. The sign read: JUSTICE FOR BROTHER WOLF.
In a heartbeat JUSTICE was swept away. More arrests were made until only FOOL OR FOE remained. These were the perfect nouns to describe the tyrant on the throne.
Then by royal decree the populace was denied jobs with decent pay and reasonable benefits. The commons filled again. Signs were quickly painted to read: WAGE EARNERS NOT SLAVES.
SLAVES was immediately arrested. Then troopers swarmed the signs and began removing letters until only RAGE was left.
Then it was that teachers came under attack and the education system was left in shreds. People crossed the borders into Nosidam to stand with teachers and other school staff.
Signs were prepared that read: CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE.
O-R-U were roughly pulled out of line. Then the letters CULTURE stepped forward to be arrested with R-E. Only HIDE and FEAR were left standing in the commons encircled by the hungry minds of
a future generation.
The king had successively hijacked the civil rights of the people so he decided that law enforcement was no longer worthy of his support. They were dismissed without ceremony or the bonuses promised for their part in the king’s misconduct. The troops were frightened. They feared retaliation. For they had been excessively abusive when they enjoyed the favor of the king.
However, the general population welcomed the former law enforcement officers and took them to the commons to address the betrayal of the treacherous king.
The drummers were there and signs were quickly prepared that read: END THE ABUSE OF POWER.
No one was there to arrest the alphabet that day. So the castle of Nosidam was stormed. But the king escaped the wrath and judgment he deserved and was never seen again.

#962 – Anne Dunn: I Have Been Told: The Thanksgiving Day Myth

Long-time great friend, Anne, has contributed her always valued perspective to this blog on several occasions. Her thoughts, below, arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago and are presented with her permission. Her other posts, as well as other links referring to her or her work, can be found here. Thank you, Anne.
To everyone, all best wishes on November 27, and always. Personally, this day I’ll be going “over the river and through the woods” to visit Uncle Vince in North Dakota. Cathy will be here, with family nearby. As each year, we each are aware of persons, this day, for which this Thanksgiving and Christmas season will be a very difficult time, for an assortment of very legitimate reasons. Wherever you are on your personal journey, this season, all best wishes, and be mindful of others outside your personal sphere as well. Dick Bernard
(click to enlarge)

Anne Dunn, at right, with drum, August 31, 2013

Anne Dunn, at right, with drum, August 31, 2013

The United American Indian National Day of Mourning and Parade of Truth originated in America’s hometown of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, 1970. Its purpose was to bring publicity to the continued misrepresentation of Native American Indians and the colonial experience. Relatives and friends came from the four directions to support the first Day of Mourning.
Anyone who has been there knows that it has grown over the years. The parade begins at the top of Cole’s Hill, near the statue of Massasoit, and ends at the waterfront. There is a harvest market, food festival, local vendors, a Wampanoag Pavilion for Native American history and lots more!
Some will raise their eyebrows and call this crass commercialism. But false pilgrim mythology annually raises millions of dollars off the backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.
As was the case with Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims did not “discover” an empty land. It was populated by indigenous nations of children, women and men. Nor did they come seeking religious freedom. They were part of a commercial venture.
One of the first things they did upon coming ashore was to rob graves and steal the indigenous inhabitant’s winter food provisions.
The first thanksgiving day was proclaimed in 1637 by Gov. John Winthrop to celebrate the safe return of men who went to Mystic, Connecticut, to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot children, women and men.
The pilgrims/settlers/colonists had to be sanitized because the truth was too ugly to hold up as a symbol of heroic national glory. Nor was Plymouth the site of the first English settlement.
That would be Jamestown, Virginia, which was set up inside the territory of an Indian Confederacy led by chief Powhatan. When the English settlers went through their starving times, they resorted to cannibalism by digging up putrid corpses to feed upon.
In the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians where they knew they would be fed. When summer came the governor of the colony sent a message to Powhatan asking for the return of the runaway men.
But as Benjamin Franklin would later declare, “No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”
The runaways did not want to return and soldiers were sent to take revenge on the Indians. They killed 15 or 16 Indians, burned their houses, cut down the corn, and took the ‘queen’ and her children. They later drowned the children and stabbed the ‘queen’ to death.
In 1623 the English were negotiating a treaty with tribes near the Potomac River, headed by Chiskiack. The English offered a toast symbolizing “eternal friendship”. Afterwards the chief, his family, advisors and 200 followers died of poison.
John Smith used Columbus as a role model for suppressing the Virginia Indians, 1624. “… you have 20 examples of how the Spaniards got the West Indies, and forced the treacherous and rebellious infidels to do all manner of drudgery work and slavery for them, themselves living like soldiers upon the fruits of their labor.”
The Disney version of history is colorful, romantic but false.
The only truth in the pilgrim myth is that the pitiful Europeans would not have survived the first several years of their occupation without the aid of the Wampanoag people. In return for their kindness the First Nation People got genocide, theft of land and slavery.
Abe Lincoln designated the fourth Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving for the blessings of his ethnocentric god. Some claim the first thanksgiving day was observed in El Paso, Texas, 1598. Others point to the Virginia Colony celebration of 1619. George Washington set aside days for national thanksgiving in 1789.
But in 1970 Wamsutta Frank James was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. The committee read his speech, found it unacceptable and asked him to modify it. But he refused to speak in praise of the white newcomers. Therefore, he was not allowed to make any statement at the event.
What terrible words did this Department of Commerce committee find so offensive that it required their censorship?
Here is what Wamsutta had prepared for presentation: “Today is a time of celebrating for you…but it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People… The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors, and stolen their corn, wheat and beans… Massasoit, the great leader of the Wampanoag, knew these facts; yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers…little knowing that…before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoags…and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead by their diseases that we caught from them… Although our way of life is almost gone and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the land of Massachusetts… What has happened cannot be changed, but today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important.”
Some historians take issue with Wamsutta’s including wheat in the list of stolen food. They say the Wampanoag did not cultivate wheat.
This effort to silence the voice of one man brought First Nation Peoples from throughout America to Plymouth where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated and mistreated since the arrival of the pilgrims.
They asked, how can we give thanks for the fact that on many reservations unemployment is often in excess of 50%; for lower life expectancies; high infant mortality; soaring suicide rates and 350 broken treaties?
Consider the racist stereotypes of indigenous people as perpetuated by the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Atlantic Braves, etc.
The annual protest has continued from that day to this. I have been told that the protest will stop when merchants of Plymouth are no longer making millions of dollars off the blood of our slaughtered ancestors; when we can act as a sovereign nation on our own land; when corporations stop polluting our Mother Earth; when racism is eradicated; when oppression of two-spirited people is a thing of the past; when homeless people have homes; when hungry children have food; when police brutality no longer exists and when all political prisoners are free.
On the 27th my family will celebrate our heritage by being thankful for another good and beautiful day. We will light a sacred fire and standing on a mound of cedar we will thank Creator for specific personal blessings and burn our prayer bundles. We will gather around the drum for a song of gratitude, pray, eat and offer a spirit dish to our ancestors who enrich our earth journey and wait for us to gather with them on the other side.
Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has several previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.

#870 – Anne Dunn: I Have Been Told. Advocates for Peace

Ed. note: Anne’s always meaningful thoughts arrived at my in-box a couple of weeks ago. They are in synch with some other events upcoming in the near future: Shadow War information is here. Forty Years After Vietnam series begins April 10, details here. Also, just a couple of days ago, I learned of a book detailing a 1971 incident involving anti-war draft resisters and J. Edgar Hoovers FBI. The book is Burglary. A movie about the book apparently opens in limited markets on April 18.
Directly related, especially the section about Padre Johnson’s sketch with story (about mid-post), here.
click to enlarge

Storyteller Anne Dunn (center) with friend Patty Kakac (at left), Ashby MN, Aug 31, 2013

Storyteller Anne Dunn (center) with friend Patty Kakac (at left), Ashby MN, Aug 31, 2013

Anne Dunn
I often write letters to prisoners of conscience, incarcerated because of civil disobedience. I believe their jailers should know their prisoners have widespread community support. I began preparing these missives of encouragement when I worked for Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC), Minneapolis.
In October 1965, 100 clergy members had met in New York to discuss what they could do to challenge U.S. policy on Vietnam. Some of the founding members were: Dr. John C Bennett, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Fr. Phillip Berrigan, Fr. Daniel Berrigan SJ (Society of Jesus), Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They believed that a multi-faith organization would lend credible support to an anti-war movement often labeled as Communist.
When the group opened its membership to laypeople, they became Clergy and Layman Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV). In April 1967 King used the organization’s platform for his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, condemning the war.
Following King’s assassination CALCAV increased civil disobedience activities, protesting against Dow Chemical (producer of napalm) and Honeywell (maker of anti-personnel weapons, designed to incapacitate people rather than structures or vehicles).
“The war has come home like a stalking corpse, trailing its blood, its tears, its losses, its despair – seeking like an American ghost, the soul of America. We want peace, but most of us do not want to pay the price of peace. We still dream of a peace that has no cost attached. We want peace, but we live content with poverty and injustice and racism, with the murder of prisoners and students, the despair of the poor to whom justice is endlessly denied. We long for peace, but we wish also to keep undisturbed a social fabric of privilege and power that controls the economic misery of two thirds of the world’s people.” Daniel Berrigan.
Daniel was born in Virginia, MN, May 9, 1921. In 1967 he and his brother, Phillip (both Catholic priests), were put on the FBI 10 most wanted fugitives list for their involvement in antiwar protests during the Vietnam War. Phillip was arrested that same year and sentenced to six years in prison.
Daniel traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn during the Tet Offensive in late Jan. 1968 to “receive” three airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombings of that nation had begun.
The Tet Offensive was a series of coordinated surprise attacks by North Vietnam National Liberation Front on all provincial capital cities of South Vietnam. Tet refers to the date of the Lunar New Year.
By 1971 CALCAV had turned its attention to other social justice issues, including supporting the popular struggle in Latin America and struggles against colonialism and apartheid in Africa, challenging US military involvement in Central America and the role of corporations in US foreign policy, and changed its name to Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC).
In 1980, Daniel, Phillip and six others began the Plowshares international peace and nuclear disarmament movement. Phillip died in 2002.
“We spoke out, committed civil disobedience, and went to jail because the peace hangs precariously upon weapons costing billions to build and billions to improve – weapons which become more useless as we add to their destructive force. With this money we could have fed the world’s people. Half the children of the earth go to bed hungry – millions have retarding and stunting protein deficiencies. Instead of building peace by attacking injustices like starvation, disease, illiteracy, political and economic servitude, we spent a trillion dollars on war since 1946, (the cost of war has increased greatly since this was written) until hatred and conflict have become the international preoccupation.” Daniel Berrigan.
My dear friend Larry Cloud-Morgan was imprisoned for participating in the Armistice Day, 1984, Silo Pruning Hooks Plowshares disarmament action, in MO. Also sentenced were: Fr. Paul and Carl Kabot and Helen Woodson. For this, and other non-violent direct actions against war, Woodson has served 27 years in prison. She was released Sept. 9, 2011.
Larry was an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, born February 1, 1938 in Cass Lake. He also used the name Wabash-Ti-Mi-Gwan (Whitefeather).
While a student at Marquette University, Milwaukee, he was encouraged to become a priest and was, for a time, a seminarian at St John’s University (Collegeville, MN). Eventually he chose to pursue his artistic interests and moved to Chicago to study at the School of Art Institute. He returned to Minnesota in the early 1980s and devoted much of his time and energy to community involvement, social justice causes, spiritual mentoring, peace and disarmament activism. He was also a member of CALC.
Plowshares continued nonviolent but confrontational protests and acts of civil disobedience.
For his role in the Armistice Day disarmament action in MO, Larry was incarcerated at Federal Prison Camp, Terre Haute, IN, April 1985. He was transferred to Wyandotte County Jail, KS and released in March 1987. On Jan 27, 1989, he was convicted of violating the terms of his probation and sentenced to one year in prison. He was sent to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Rochester, MN, and released on Nov. 13, 1989.
Following his release he divided his time between Minneapolis and a small cabin near Ball Club [MN]. He died on June 8, 1999 (age 61) and is buried in Morgan Cemetery, Wilkinson Township.
I was one of many who accompanied Larry on several politically charged adventures. We were insulted, ridiculed, harassed and threatened. Larry was my mentor. His was the voice of reason. His was the heart of love. He laid his gentle hands on volatile situations and restored calm. If ever there was a peacemaker, it was Larry.
At his wake he was laid in an open casket made of simple pine boards, in the middle of the Leech Lake Veterans Memorial Center on a bed of cedar boughs. Chairs were arranged in a circle around him. He wore his ribbon shirt, beaded medallion and new moccasins. He was wrapped in his Four Direction Pendleton blanket. In the casket was a china plate with a painted horse on it, a doll, a stuffed black bear, his pipe and carved walking stick. He’d lost a foot and several toes to diabetes.
As I sat near his casket, I considered the items he’d selected for his journey to the other side. The plate was provided so he would have food for the 3-4 days it takes to get to that far place. But I also remembered a story he’d told me about his grandmother. When Larry was a small child she would put him on the arm of her rocking chair and he would pretend it was a horse. She told him if he wanted “cowboy cookies” he had to help her, by riding his rocking chair horse.
He’d made the doll himself and stuffed her with the bandages from his severed toes. When his dressings were changed, he’d kept the gauze, washed, boiled and saved it, until he had enough to make the doll.
At Ball Club he had a family of black bears that he fed. They came to his house for sanctuary and enjoyed feasting on large quantities of sunflower seeds. The stuffed bear represented his animal friends.
We all get a new pair of moccasins when we go to the other side and he never went anywhere without his elegant walking stick.
The lid for the coffin lay on the floor along the left side of the coffin. It had been padded and covered with a dark fabric. On the fabric were the dusty tracks of children who had stood on it when they said goodbye to their kind and beautiful friend. I thought it was a wonderful testimony of loyalty and love, of confidence and trust. I think Larry would have written a poem about those little footprints.
Minneapolis attorney Miles Lord said of Larry, “He had a dedication to freedom and free speech. He opposed tyranny.”
Larry… a patriot… a hero… a mentor… a friend.
Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has three previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.

#858 – Anne Dunn: Climate Change. Beyond Debate.

Anne, who has contributed her own writings to this blog several times, comments here on an important issue:
My mother told me a story (not a dream) about an elder who traveled through time. He could go forward or backward. He did this while in a deep sleep. He was probably comatose because he would have to arrange for trusted people to take care of his body while he was gone.
They kept his body, hydrated, clean, fed and safe until he returned and awakened. Then he would tell the people where he had gone and what he had seen. I’m sure it was quite exciting for these people to have such a gifted seer among them.
Then it happened when he had been gone for an extended period that he returned, but refused to talk about where he had been or what he had seen. In fact, he did not time-travel again.
After he had grown old he prepared to die, but called trusted loved ones to his side and told them about the future he had seen. He said he had traveled forward into the “winter of the two suns” (not sundogs). Perhaps he said more, but my mother had no more to tell me.
As the years went by I wondered about the story and the images his words raised. I found them stunning, but puzzling.
However, we are now in a time of unprecedented global warming and I have begun to think that this could be the age the man witnessed. He may have gone even farther into our future and seen the catastrophic conditions brought on by climate change.
Scientists have been warning us for several years that we are approaching the point of no return. In fact, some are telling us that we have already tipped the scale of opportunity. But they were the proverbial voices crying in the wilderness. In spite of the fact that 95-98% of scientists support the findings, a host of naysayers were up in arms. They have created the climate change denial industry. They believe that boldly repeating the loud corporate lies of their wealthy overlords is the best way to secure their short-sighted goals.
Several months ago Congress passed a bill acknowledging that climate change is happening and sea levels are rising and immediate action is required. Sec. of State John Kerry recently called climate change the “world’s most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction. Even Obama is on the bandwagon again.
I have been told that there are eight signs of hope for our island home in endless space. It’s not too late because: we know how to engineer zero carbon buildings; we are entering the age of the electric car; we are using more renewable energy (less coal); states are showing it is possible to cut carbons and create jobs; cities are taking action; the world is ready to take action; China wants to join the campaign for clean energy; renewable energy is on the RISE!
The US and China are the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. They are ready to cooperate! Together they have said they recognize the need for action “in the light of overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
These two huge nations agree to implement five initiatives that will include: emission reductions from heavy duty and other vehicles; smart grids; carbon capture and storage; collecting and managing greenhouse gas emissions data; and energy efficiency in building and industry. Well, it’s a step in the right direction.
Climate change is a danger to all. We must wake up and take action. We must join the war for the recovery and survival of earth. Lives depend on it. We cannot abandon the future of life on earth. We must reverse carbon pollution now. Will we heed the voice of wisdom or plunge into further global degradation?
In this devastating war against humanity and other forms of life the rich are on the warpath. They want what they have always wanted. MORE, MORE and MORE! Their greed is insatiable. They have no regard for anything that gets in the way of their power-based-on-wealth. With their great fortunes they have nearly co-opted our government.
There are those who believe we are no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. Eighty percent of all new income goes to the top. It is no accident that the middle class is in a state of collapse and poverty is on the increase. It has been orchestrated to benefit the wealthy and feed their greed.
I have been told that President James Madison once said that political factions are based on property. The ballot has no power if elected leaders have no moral obligation to represent the voters.
We have some warriors in DC, but not enough. We are not sure if those who speak for the earth are ready to join the battle. We know that words are cheap at the national capital, promises are casually made and easily broken. How do Minnesotans stack up in DC?
Sen. Al Franken has issued a statement indicating his agreement with the facts. “The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and that steps must be taken to address the threat to public health, our economy and our national security posed by pollution that destroys our lungs and our environment.” He urges Congress to address this global challenge.
Rep. Rick Nolan acknowledges the grim situation, “The science is clear. The globe is getting warmer, the seas are rising, storms are becoming more frequent and intense, and the cost in dollars and lives and damage is staggering.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has issued a long and detailed statement of the situation. Her best words are, “We must commit ourselves to protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources for generations to come.”
Chief Seattle once said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
It’s taken a long time but the world is coming around to the old truths spoken by the earth-based indigenous tribal peoples of Earth.

#844 – Anne Dunn: A Minnesota Ojibwe Woman Remembers a 2003 March for Peace in Toulouse, France and "The Children's Fire"

On February 15, 2003, the day after Valentines Day, peacemakers began a march that encompassed the world in an international protest against war! In almost 800 cities in 60 countries from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 people took to the streets with a collective purpose.
At least one million marchers turned out in Britain, one million in Italy and two million in Spain, as people expressed their anti-war sentiment. Two hundred thousand rallied in San Francisco and New York. About 100,000 turned out in Paris, France. [Ed. note: see photo of the Minneapolis protest on Feb 15, 2003 at end of this post.]
The protests were organized to “follow the sun” from Australia to the US. Across the world the challenge came in many languages.
They say it was the first global demonstration, and the cause was to prevent war against Iraq. The war had not yet begun! No, the world was saying, we will not endorse Bush’s War. But the rubber-stamp congress would.
Although it was unseasonably cold, about 12,500 marched in the streets of Toulouse, France, to support the effort that encircled the earth. They came with balloons, banners, bulletins, badges, and babies. Quick-stepping mothers were pushing bundled babies in covered prams and fathers were carrying rosy-cheeked toddlers on their shoulders. White haired couples held hands as they strolled along.
Protestors came from across the social and political spectrum. There were representatives of democracy, socialism, communism, anarchy, business, labor, civil rights and the environment. There was at least one Anishinabe/Ojibwe Grandmother Storyteller from the Leech Lake Reservation marching the cobbled streets that day.
Yes, I was there in a borrowed ski jacket! Helene bought me a red and white checkered keffiyeh for the occasion. I tied it around my neck as I marched for solidarity and peace!
The keffiyeh is a scarf traditionally worn by Palestinian farmers to protect them from sun, cold and dust. During the Arab Revolt of the 1930s it became a symbol of nationalism. It’s prominence increased in the 1960s with the Palestinian Resistance Movement and its adoption by Yassar Arafat. He usually wore one of black and white.
From time to time the marchers joined their vigorous voices in loud anti-war chants. The words bounced around in the long stone canyons and shivered against the high windows. Some downtown residents opened their doors and leaned over their balconies to wave at the passing crowds.
As a river of people filled the streets of downtown Toulouse, traffic was brought to a standstill at several intersections. Drivers sat inside their stranded vehicles waiting patiently for the masses to pass.
Police kept a low profile and no law enforcement brutality was reported.
A statement was released the following day which proclaimed: We don’t just say ‘no’ to war, we say ‘yes’ to peace, we say ‘yes’ to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say ‘no’ to war – we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.”
At one point in the march a man approached me and said his friend wanted to be photographed with the Ojibwe woman from Minnesota. Although I was quite surprised that my presence had been so noteworthy, I was more than willing to accommodate the man! Soon a short man with white hair, rosy cheeks and a cheerful smile was standing beside me. We shook hands, our photo shoot was over and he melted into the crowd.
A man standing nearby asked, “Do you realize who that was?”
“No,” I replied, ”I do not.” I had no interest in his identity. For me, it was just an encounter with a friendly stranger. It had no political significance.
But the man wanted me to know, so he went on speaking. “That was the chairman of the communist party!”
It was of no importance to me for I was marching with my friends, who were Socialists.
I flew home the following day. Like everyone else that had participated, I was exhilarated at the prospect of peace instead of war. But the leaders did not heed the wisdom of the people. So the infamous, barbarous, illegal, unnecessary and poorly conceived ‘shock and awe’ began. We became hopelessly entrenched in an unjust war. Children who were just 7 years old then, are old enough to enlist now.
Bush and his cohorts were beating a big war drum and telling loud and careless lies to the American people. The mainstream media did little or nothing to promote truth, justice and peace. Journalists simply swallowed the party line. Now we all know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and there was no reason to destroy their homeland and murder their children with bombs.
Many will say we failed to purchase peace with people-power. They will say we did not avert the disastrous invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq. They will say we did not sustain the momentum of the march. They will say we went home and gave up.
But we are holding the ground for future generations to stand upon by protecting their constitutional right of dissent. We continue to confront our communities on the issue of unsustainable militarism, which is buried deep in the bloody earth upon which this nation has been built.
For the welfare of unborn generations we must redirect military spending to create jobs, invest in schools, housing and renewable energy.
Solidarity requires that we communicate with other peoples of the world, not the rich elite who are planning for their own continued dominance! We must lift ourselves up high and stand tall enough to see beyond the barriers of tribe, race, language, culture, class, and nations.
(click to enlarge)

Anti-War Demonstration Minneapolis MN Feb 15, 2003

Anti-War Demonstration Minneapolis MN Feb 15, 2003

UPDATE from Anne Dunn, February 17, 2014
The Children’s Fire
Anne Dunn
Like many people today, I’m deeply concerned about the land and have often wondered what kind of a world we are leaving to our grandchildren. Anishinabeg were told by Creator that we were the caretakers of this land and for thousands of years our ancestors took care that the resources were not exploited. But that position was usurped by the European invasion.
Since the Leech Lake Reservation is located within the boundaries of the Chippewa National Forest, there are many Anishinabeg who feel it is time that traditional standards of stewardship be adopted here and now.
Because… in the beginning there was the land, seemingly endless stands of white and red pine, innumerable streams and sparkling lakes; and there were the peoples of the land… the Anishinabeg. The great forests are gone now, plundered for profit… the streams and lakes are under siege. The peoples of the land stand poised and expectant… awaiting their season of respect and restitution. When a new and honorable history can be written with dignity and truth.
For decades, environmentalists have warned that our planet has limited resources. Yet, we continue to destroy that which we must preserve if our children and their children are to live well on Turtle Island.
The beautiful balance of nature no longer exists. Animal habitat is steadily encroached upon and the plant kingdom is increasingly threatened.
We can no longer allow our ecosystems to be compromised. We cannot allow the fate of earth, our island home, to be determined by the well-funded lobby of powerful corporations motivated by selfishness and greed.
The Hopi tell a story of The Children’s Fire, which promotes the concept that no one should be allowed to do anything that adversely affects our children.
It is said that the children’s fire must be forever guarded by the elders… the grandparents. But how do we guard the children’s fire? By getting out of bed and doing what has to be done. By standing alone in difficult places to give the children of tomorrow a good life in a good land.
One day the children will know that in the beginning… man, animals, birds and plants lived together on our Turtle Island in a beautiful balance of nature. The needs of all were met in the bountiful world they shared.
However, man became increasingly aggressive and began to abuse the rights of the plant and animal kingdoms.
Therefore, the harmony between them was destroyed. Many animals died needlessly and whole families disappeared.
But man continued his exploitations until he brought great hardship and strange diseases upon himself.
We will tell the children how the plants, which had remained friendly toward man, responded to his needs by providing remedies for all his diseases. Every herb and root produced a cure for man’s many ailments.
But, as was his nature, man’s aggressiveness and greed threatened to deplete the natural supply of health-giving plants.
If we continue down this road we will undoubtedly succeed in creating an environment so hostile that the survival of mankind will be jeopardized. It will be said that this generation extinguished the children’s fire.
Sunrise Oct 2014

Sunrise Oct 2014

#747 – Anne Dunn: I have been told

Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has three previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.
If you have an interest in publishing something at this space, contact dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.
Feed The Dog
It happened during the Fish War*, on April 24, 1993, that I found myself at the East Lake Community Center, Mille Lacs. David Aubid, of Rice Lake, had brought out the drum. Several men joined hands across it as though they sealed a sacred trust.
Slowly… quietly… the circle around the drum enlarged and the heartbeat rhythm called us to unity.
Of course, there was a feast. Of course, walleye was served. Of course, Esther Nahgahnaub prepared an excellent road-kill beaver roast. Of course, I wrapped a piece in fried bread and enjoyed an outstanding sandwich.
Then after a long day of rain, the sky cleared and the stars came out. Later we would see a feather moon rise cardinal.
But first… the caravan formed.
We followed a procession of red lights through the dark night. As we crested the hills we looked back at a hundred headlights strung like beads on a serpentine string.
The first part of this Ride-For-Rights took us to Malmo. I was surprised at the extent of media coverage this event had attracted and I tried to ignore the cameras as the drum quietly called us to gather. The media lights were blistering bright and seemed to lacerate the friendly darkness.
Shoulder to shoulder we stood, engulfed in the sacredness of the moment, encouraged by singers of ancient songs.
But having just attended a non-violence witness training session, I grew a bit uneasy. We had been warned that there could be trouble. So I decided to check out the person standing behind me.
This is when I saw that which is now imprinted on my mind like a favorite photograph from an old album.
The drum, the singers, and ‘the first people’ were surrounded by the Witnesses for Peace. They formed a wide circle around us. Their white arm bands shone like emblems of valor. Their shoulders pressed back like brave defenders. The ring of young, pale, flint-like faces reflected their corporate determination.
Turning back to my own circle… I felt my heart rise into my throat and a comfortable old smile settled into the familiar lines that time had etched upon my aging face.
When I heard the old ones talking, when I heard them telling of the past and wondering what will be. They said, “The young ones must soon take up the battle.” They say, “We are ready to hand the struggle over to the next generation.”
Sometimes they are concerned that the young ones are not prepared to fight, that they have become apathetic. Sometimes they fear that supportive elements of the larger society will grow weary of our efforts to find justice in our own land.
But we have stood within the circle of healing. I have seen a microcosm of all nations standing together. I have seen them gathering under a feather moon rising cardinal over dark waters against a black night. Therefore, I know we are not alone on our journey toward justice, peace, freedom and human dignity.
Many who stood in that circle that night are gone now. But they left us with instructions. “Do not forsake the future. Our children rely on you to continue our good fight for a better world. Not only is it too soon to quit… it is also too late.”
Some of you are thinking, “How can it be too soon and too late at the same time?”
I leave that for you to ponder. But believe me, if you give this question deep consideration you will have secured a universal truth that will serve you well from this day forth.
We are born innocent but over time we may find ourselves entangled in the mesh of social and behavioral disorders. These influence our path and determine our destination. But a timely word in a waiting ear can set us free.
When I was 19 years old a Lakota elder named Charlie Stryker told me something that set me free and changed my life.
“We enter the world with two companions. One urges us to do good, the other to do what is bad. These tendencies are like hungry dogs. Remember this, my girl. The dog you feed is the one that grows strong.”
Charlie gave me a universal truth that day. It continues to influence my path and determine my destination.
I guess all I really did during the Fish War was try to feed the right dog. Today and tomorrow I will continue to perform this small but meaningful ritual. That is how you help change the world. You keep planting seeds, the sky sends the rain and earth gives the increase. You scatter good seeds of worthy ideals on fertile ground and wait for an abundant harvest. Of course, there is the possibility that you will not live to see the results of your efforts.
Several years ago my grandson Brandon and I planted a small community of red cedar. Afterwards I told him I probably would not live to see them grown.
“I’ll come and check on them,” he promised. “I’ll remember how we did this together.”
However, he was murdered when he was 17 so I return alone to appraise their growth. Those trees are already much taller than I and still growing.
Bye-bye now. Don’t forget to feed the dog.

Anne Dunn at right, with daughter Annie and grandson Justice Oct 94

Anne Dunn at right, with daughter Annie and grandson Justice Oct 94

* – The “Fish War” to which Anne refers was a contest over Treaty Rights to fish in MN Mille Lacs Lake. Here is a copy of the Treaty as reprinted in the April Minneapolis Star Tribune: 1837 Chippewa Treaty001.

#664 – Anne Dunn: Pe'Sla

Anne M Dunn lives in northern Minnesota and has two earlier posts at Outside The Walls. You can read them here and here. For those of us not aware, Pe’Sla refers to a portion of what most call the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Heart of the Heart
It seems strange that an Indigenous Nation should be required to buy back a sacred site. But I have been told that we often honor the sacred with lip service while we live in the profane. So money rises above the sacred and the sacred becomes commodity.
The landholders of the sacred Black Hills site, Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, had planned a public auction to sell the 1,942 acre section of high-prairie land diced into 300 acre tracts but the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) quickly protested the sale.
This land plays a key role in creation and tribal members feared how new owners might develop the land which is called Pe’Sla, ‘the heart of the heart’ or ‘the heart of all that is’. The Black Hills (HeSapa) is the heart of Turtle Island (North America) and Pe’Sla is the heart of the heart. The Black Hills is the rolling range of mountains rising out of the badlands of western South Dakota. I have been told that we go to the heart with a hungry spirit and return filled.
As a result of the outcry the public auction was cancelled. The Reynolds invited private parties to bid on the property, including the Rosebud Sioux. Their bid of $9 million was accepted in late August of this year. They paid a deposit of $1.3 million which purchased a seat at the negotiating table.
The Great Sioux Nation once dominated an area that covered what would eventually become 14 states and three Canadian Provinces. But it was fragmented, scattered and exiled when they were pushed to reservations. However, they came from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Canada to resolve this issue.
In fact, nine indigenous nations on Turtle Island banded together to raise the money to buy the high-elevation prairie located in the Black Hills. International support came from Russia, France, Egypt, Germany, Denmark and Japan as well. The purchase deadline was Friday, Nov. 30.
The land is now in the hands of the Great Sioux Nation. Contracts were signed in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the Rosebud Sioux, the Crow Creek Tribe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe community gathered in a historic assembly of United Tribes.
I have been told ‘the people’ were created from the Black Hills and Pe’Sla is where the Morning Star in the form of a meteor fell to Earth, killing a great bird that had murdered seven women. The Morning Star placed the Seven Spirit Sisters in the sky. They are also known as the Pleiades constellation.
The meteor cut a wide open spot deep in the heart of the forested Black Hills. For millennia more than 60 indigenous nations have come to the high prairie to gather medicine and participate in sacred rituals.
The Reynold family held the site for 136 years but always allowed access for ceremony. That’s how I happened to be there in the summer of 1998 with a gathering of indigenous nations from around the globe. I’d traveled to the heart of the heart with Sami artist/activist/friend Gladys Koski Holmes.
One day we joined a small group of adventurers who had decided to climb Flag Mountain, which is one of the highest peaks in South Dakota. We stood on the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corp tower and looked down on Pe’Sla. Before the CCC tower was built the craggy site had been used for ceremony and a sense of the spiritual still lingered on those wind-swept heights.
I have been told that the hills were considered so sacred that no blood was shed there. Even hunters could not go there to kill game.
I found a small gray pearl button in the sacred soil of Pe’Sla, put it in my pocket and brought it home. It had laid in the earth for at least 100 years… probably more.
The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 guaranteed First Nations ownership of the Black Hills but gold was discovered in 1874. So in 1877 the federal government seized the hills illegally. In order to secure the area for exploitation the US government engaged in a war of starvation by destroying the Buffalo Nation. A federal court decision in 1979 declared the government’s seizure of the Black Hills one of the most dishonorable acts in American history.
In 1980 the US Supreme Court ruling awarded more than $105 million to the Great Sioux Nation for the Black Hills. I have been told the interest it has accrued is now in excess of $500 million. But the tribes have never accepted the money because some things are not for sale.

#14 – Anne Dunn: Sweet Smoky Blues

Note: Here’s another chapter on Sugaring near Deer River MN. Anne previously wrote on this topic at #6, published April 12, 2009, under the category, Quietings.
I’d been charged with watching the maple syrup cooker so it wouldn’t boil over. There were also three barrels of sap bubbling the steam away. Annie and Laura had just returned from emptying sap so the holding barrel was full.
After returning to camp, Annie began splitting wood while Laura renewed the fire. I was quick to see and eliminate a brief but intense flare. Using a long pole I scattered the flaming wood to cool the fire.
Earlier that day I’d noticed that the sparks clung to the shelter roof and didn’t die out as quickly as I thought they should. I also noted that the fire was swirling rather violently. But with several sugar bush veterans in camp I decided it was not going to be a problem. In fact, I told Laura that the fire had learned a new dance. She smiled and glanced into the flames but said nothing. When she went out to stack the woodpile I was alone with the fire.
Soon I smelled plastic burning. I checked my boots then stepped out to tell Annie and Laura to check their boots, too. When I re-entered the shelter I was hit by a terrible odor. Then the roof burst into flames. Burning tarpaper and melted plastic began falling into our boiling barrels. I shouted “Fire!” and we flew into action. We formed an instant bucket brigade with Annie climbing to the roof while Laura and I passed buckets of sap from the holding barrel. I went back inside and began throwing cans of sap against the inside of the roof. After many desperate minutes we got the blaze under control but there was a great loss of syrup and sap, not to mention the gaping hole in the roof.
On the following day the roof was repaired and we were back in business. The sap was still running and we were still boiling it into syrup. We finished 15 quarts that day.
On Easter Sunday we had a big dinner and egg hunt at the camp and the fire seemed quite forgotten. However, Annie was later presented with a book of spent matches. The award was given in recognition of her being the camp supervisor at the time of the fire.
It was soon decided that we would close down the camp because we had all the syrup we need for the coming year. Usually we close camp when the maple tree buds are as big as squirrel ears but this year we closed early.
We began pulling taps and bagging up catch cans. The cookers and holding barrel were still full. Some of the men said they would finish cooking the remaining sap and the resulting syrup would be given to some of our hard working helpers.
We had opened the camp with a naming ceremony, give away and feast. Now we were closing with a family dinner.
I watched the smoke drift away through the trees and listened to the voices around me but I heard no words at all. I was only aware of a certain contentment that hummed about me. Closing my eyes I felt like a fetus that had been carried into the sugar bush camp within her mother’s womb.
When I opened my eyes I looked up through the bare branches above and thanked Creator for another good gathering. I asked that I be allowed to return to the sugar bush next year and enjoy the sweet smoky blues without burning a hole in the roof.
Anne M. Dunn is an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom