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Changing Alaska

Denali_National_Park
Denali, the Great One!
Picture credit: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA

 

President Obama will be in Alaska today for an Arctic Global Climate Summit.

He is the first US President to visit the Arctic while still in office.

His primary objective is likely to shore up support for climate change programs.

But another more important reason is about a majestic mountain called McKinley.

Today it will officially become Denali and for many Alaskans, it is about time.

You see, the locals have already been calling it Denali since the 1970’s.

The bitter battle over this name change has been going on for many years, those who live in Ohio where President McKinley, for whom the mountain was originally named is from, do not want it changed, but the Alaskan Natives do and today, they will get their way!

Denali is the highest peak in the United States at just over 20,000 feet.

This name change is very personal for the thousands of Indigenous, or Native Alaskans, as it is their name for the mountain in their Native tongue and it means the Great One. “

A separate, but equally important ongoing issue here, is that many of the Indigenous or Native Alaskans in this area, are being forced out of their homes on Kivalina Island, due to recent climate change, namely glacial melting and rising seas.

These Native Alaskans have been desperately trying to save not only the land that they live on, but their Ancestral way of life as well.

Over the years, they have been severely impacted by the Global Warming that has decimated their hunting and fishing abilities.
It has also affected many wildlife species that have either completely disappeared, or been reduced beyond recovery and the situation is alarming to all.

Their culture is just about all that they have left right now and they are determined to protect it.

Global Warming, accompanied by the resultant glacial melting and rising seas, have caused them much pain and grief and given them much to fear for the future.

These people are not at all happy about the way that their Alaska is changing.

 

Places to learn more:

Denali – Wikipedia

Obama renames nation’s highest mountain

Sinking into the Sea

Global Warming

Impacts of global warming in Alaska

Meeting the Global Threat of Climate Change

Arctic Peoples and Ecosystems

Climate Impacts in Alaska

 

 

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The Radium Girls

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Marie and Pierre Curie experimenting with radium, a drawing by: André Castaigne
This drawing is said to be considered: Public Domain

 

A good friend on Facebook alerted me to this vital information this morning and because it has been an important part of my past, I felt compelled to share it here.

This ugly story is about yet another way that Humans have caused mortal harm often, with little concern, to their fellow Humans.

Years ago, we had Native Friends in the East who had developed severe physical afflictions from growing up in Arizona during the time when Uranium mining  was being  done with little regard to the effect it would have on Humans, primarily the Native people who lived near the mining areas there.

This was not the only instance of US mining processes harming Native people, there were many others, all just as deadly.

From the information gleaned from my searches this morning, it seems that we have a lengthy history in this country of deliberate neglect, and willful intent to harm others on a regular basis and shamefully for profit.

This is the story of the women, most of who worked in the Eastern United States, New Jersey to be exact, in factories making products often for the US Government, that would in a very short time and after great suffering on their part, end their lives.

They, without their consent or knowledge, were being poisoned by radiation from Radium.

At this time in our early US history, many people freely used, or worked with and handled, this what is now known to be deadly substance.

Even Marie Curie the renowned Polish Scientist, who won two Nobel Prizes, one in Chemistry and one in Physics, was not exempt from their lethal effects.

She was not only the first woman to win one, but she was also the only woman to win two!

After a lifetime of one brilliant accomplishment after another, sadly, her work with this very dangerous substance, Radium, would eventually cause her death.

Her development of  aplastic anemia was said to be linked to  her bad  habit of carrying toxic, radioactive isotope test tubes in her lab coat pockets.

Tragically, Madame Curie, like the other Radium Girls, would in the end, succumb to the very evil that she had helped to discover.

 

Places to learn more:

‘Radium Girls’ Remembered for Role in Shaping US Labor Law

Marie Curie

Uranium mining in Arizona

Mae Keane, One Of The Last ‘Radium Girls,’ Dies At 107

Medicine: Radium Women

The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls and the Generation that brushed its Teeth with Radioactive Toothpaste

U tube video – Radium City

Radium Girls

 

 

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Winona LaDuke

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Winona LaDuke

 

For those of you who are not familiar with her, Winona LaDuke is the Executive Director of a group called Honor the Earth.

Last week they began a new campaign  called   “Love Water, Not Oil,”  that is vital, no critical,  to all Americans, not  just Native Americans.

What Fracking and Oil pipelines have done and will continue to do to the environment of this country, should be high on everybody’s agenda.

Once our water supplies and land are contaminated, it will take thousands of years to make them safe again.

Hopefully, you will keep this in mind, when you go to the polls to Vote this week and next:

” which candidates are supporting Fracking and Oil Pipelines and which ones are opposed to them? “

The condition of the water and land that you will  have this time next year depends on it.

Here is a brief Bio that I wrote about Winona several years ago.

She was and is,  an amazing woman, that I have the utmost respect for.

A side note that I find interesting about Winona, she and Robert Redford share the same birthday, August 18th!

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Winona LaDuke at Dream Reborn Conference  April 6, 2008
Picture credit: Eclectek

 

Winona LaDuke, who was born in 1959 and grew up in Los Angeles,  is Anishinabe/Anishinaabekwe – Ojibwe and an enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg of the Makwa Dodaem – Bear Clan of the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

Her father, an Ojibwe was a supporting actor in westerns as well as an Indian activist and her mother, a Russian Jew from New York, was an art professor.

As a teenager LaDuke addressed the United Nations on mining issues.

After graduating from Harvard in 1982, she took a position as the principal of the High School on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

LaDuke is a Program Director of the Honor the Earth Fund and works nationally to promote and assist Native Environmental groups.

She is a Founding Director for White Earth Land Recovery Project: a reservation-based non-profit organization focusing on land, cultural and environmental issues.

LaDuke co-chairs the Indigenous Women’s Network and is Program Director of the Environmental Program at the Seventh Generation Fund.

LaDuke ran with Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000 as his Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party and worked to increase Native American voter registration and activism.

She has written on environmental racism and is the author of several books including: Last Standing Woman and  All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life

LaDuke spoke at the International Women’s Conference in Beijing, China on August 31, 1995.

Read excerpts from her speech

LaDuke teaches courses on Native Environmentalism at the University of Minnesota and other colleges and has campaigned for the reduction of nuclear waste.

In 1994, she was named by Time Magazine as one of America’s 50 most promising leaders under 40 years of age.

She currently lives with her two children on the White Earth Reservation.

 

Places to learn more:

Native Americans Launch ‘Love Water Not Oil’ Ride To Protest Fracking Pipeline

Winona LaDuke – Wikipedia

Honor the Earth Website

Winona’s Facebook Page

Love Water Not Oil

First Nation Ride For Mother Earth Forms Norwegian/Indian Alliance

An Interview with Winona LaDuke

Honor the Earth – Wikipedia

 

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Helen Hunt Jackson

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Helen Hunt Jackson
Picture credit: Wikipedia

 

Watching the B/W version of the 1936 film  Ramona  last night, was a double-edged sword, it was such a beautiful story of love and devotion, but it was also extremely sad.

It was wonderful at last, to see the visual of the world-famous classic on the big screen.

The film starred Loretta Young as Ramona, who is completely captivating and steals every scene that she is in.

This book and the movie, spawned an annual event  that now brings thousands to the re-creation every year.

They also did so much to express the horrors of the oppressed lives of the California Mission, actually all Indians, in America at the time and the reaction to it was immediate.

Helen Hunt Jackson,  a name that she desperately tried to have removed from her writings,  as she believed it was ” rude ” to keep a former marriage name, was to become the most famous/infamous American female writer of her time, in spite of the fact that she chose a highly unpopular, even dangerous subject:  civility towards American Indians by the US Government.

One of the things that she did,  that made her unforgettable and evermore endearing to me,  was her brazen delivery to every single member of Congress,  a copy of her Cultural/Political blast,  A Century of Dishonor.

This single act made her an instant enemy to nearly every politician in America.

Her hope was that this book would expose the wrongs and help to correct them.

When this failed to achieve her goals, she went to California and became entrenched in Native life there long enough to learn all that she needed to write an even more important work that WOULD finally achieve her goal.

She wrote Ramona!

 

But I digress, here is an earlier Biography that I wrote about her when I was taking books to the masses all over this country, to enlighten the, for the most part,  poorly, culturally educated,  general public about the truth concerning the History and Culture of Native Americans.

 

Helen Maria Fiske was born October 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Her father was a strict minister/professor at Amherst College and both of her parents died when she was barely in her teens.

She was educated at the Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Brother’s School in New York City.

Fellow classmate Emily Dickinson became a lifelong friend.

Although Jackson’s personal life was filled with tragedy, her first husband was killed and her two young sons both died, the strength of her legacy remains in her passionate writing about the maltreatment of Native Americans.

 

An excellent full length biography of her life is here.

 

The glass ceiling biographies, a wonderful place that has now gone away, wrote this about Helen:

“Helen wrote many books, articles, poems and stories, but her place in history was secured with her 2 most famous books,

Ramona, a romantic tragedy that quickly became a best-selling novel about a young California Indian couple and A Century of Dishonor, a searing exposé on the shameful treatment of Indians by the Government.

After completing it, Jackson delivered a copy to every member of Congress, chastising them with these words, written in red:

“Look upon your hands: They are stained with the blood of your relations.”

The book did not make her a celebrity, on the contrary, it was to be years efore it was appreciated or applauded by most of her contemporaries.

Jackson’ s writing was courageous and many women since have followed her example by also writing about contemptuous Indian issues.”

 

 

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The Last Code Talker

Navajo-code-Talkers
Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, 12/1943 (ARC 593415)

 

93 year old Chester Nez died recently in Albuquerque,  New Mexico and as the final living member of an elite, nearly mystical group of 29 Navajo men who played a vital role in the War, he and the others will always be remembered for what they did for this Country.

They were the original Navajo Code Talkers

Many were skeptical in the beginning that this group could not, or would not succeed in their mission.

But as was soon to be learned, the Code Talkers not only were a tremendous success, they changed the course of the war.

They developed a Native language for coded messages that was so secret, it was only known by just a few.

“The name code talkers is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers specially recruited during World War II by the Marines to serve in their standard communications units in the Pacific Theater. Code talking, however, was pioneered by Cherokee and Choctaw Indians during World War I.”  —–  Wikipedia

“The code talkers received no recognition until the declassification of the operation in 1968”  —–   Wikipedia

The Japanese were simply never able to crack their code, which crippled their efforts in the War.

This impenetrable code, was simply the basic language that these men and their people spoke, but very few off of the Reservation did, which was why it was such a success.

This turned out to be one of the greatest War time secret weapons,  that our US  Military has likely ever developed.

Several hundred more Navajo Code Talkers were eventually added to the original 29 and there were also Code Talkers from other Native Nations as well.

Americans and other countries who were protected by our military, owe each of these brave Native men a huge debt of gratitude, along with every single member of the combined services who fought and died during this time.

The 2002 film meant to honor these men,  Windtalkers,  was fairly accurate, about 78%  according to Nez.

The Original group of 29 did not receive their  Congressional Gold Medal  until 2001, but by then, nearly all of them were already gone.

Only five were still alive and only four attended the ceremony.

The groups that followed the Original 29,  were given Silver Medals  for their Service.

Chester was scheduled to be at a book event in just a few days to join and speak with Award winning author Judith Avila, who has written about and studied the Code Talkers.

He will most definitely be there with her in spirit.

***Regretfully, I was unable to find any public domain pictures of Chester, but you will see him in many of the links that are shown below.***

Navajo-swearing-in
First 29 Navajo U.S. Marine Corps code-talker recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate, NM. (ARC 295175)

 

Places to learn more:

Unbreakable: Remembering the Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers: the soldiers that ended the War

The Story of the Code Talkers

Chester Nez, last of the World War II Navajo ‘code talkers,’ dead at 93

‘He loved his culture, and his country.’ Last original Navajo Code Talker dies

Chester Nez, last of original Navajo code talkers of World War II, dies

The last of the Navajo Code Talkers

 

 

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Carlilse

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Walkingfox offering a prayer after we learned that the children were not there.

 

Recently a friend suggested that I write about our experiences at this place of extreme misery, for so many Native American children in this Country.

In 1999, Walkingfox and I took a very long journey from Los Angeles where I lived,  to Connecticut where he lived.

This would have ordinarily been a four,  to five day trip, but not in this case.

I had plans for this adventure,  that as it began, he was completely unaware of.

You see, I had been to Reservations and places of historical importance for Native people in the West many times and I wanted to share these places and their stories with him.

He had never been to any of the places where we stopped and it was the most memorable trip of either of our lives.

We took our time and never went more than a hundred or so miles a day, it ended up being a thirteen  day trip~

There was just always something to explore and learn about when it came to Native people and culture.

One of our first stops was at the Hopi and Navajo Reservations in Nevada  and along the way, of course I had to make sure that he saw and experienced Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee in South Dakota, first hand.

The two places are so rich in history for the Lakota people and my own trips there had been some of the best of my life to that point.

As the miles and days went by,  we made many stops and learned and saw so much, but the last stop we made before heading into Connecticut,  would prove to be the one that changed both of our lives forever.

I had read about a place in Pennsylvania, a school, where Indian children from all over the country were sent to become civilized, their word, not mine.

It was called the Carlisle Indian School.

Many of these children had been taken forcibly from their parents in the West, but not all.

These young innocents, would have their physical appearances completely made over to appear to be ” white. “

They were forbidden to use their own language or practice their culture and were punished when they did.

Carlisle soon became known as a place of horror for Native children.

I was adamant about taking him there on this trip, so that we could experience it together.

We finally found the school and began the day for personal reasons at the Cemetery.

Walkingfox got out of the car and started walking slowly all around this sad place, stopping and saying prayers as he went and telling me what he was doing along the way.

There were many rows of graves and head stones, reading them was heartbreaking, as their ages ranged from only  just a few days, up to about twelve years old.

It was the saddest place that either of us had ever been to.

When he appeared to be finished, he turned and looked at me and his face told me something was wrong.

I asked what and he said, ” they are not here.”

I said, ” who? “

He replied, ”  the children, they are not here.”

I was not sure what to say in response to that, so we got back in the car and drove on.

A few minutes later,  we came to the Fire Station and  we went inside.

A very nice man came over and they began talking.

He told the man what he had already said to me.

The man gave him a look,  that I will never forget.

I got closer so I could hear what he said, ” how could you know that?”

” You are right,”  he said,  ” they are not there.”

Neither of us was prepared for what he said next.

” They are buried under the football stadium.”

They talked for a while longer, then we got back in the car and drove to the stadium.

When we got there, once again,  he got out of the car and began praying for the children who had died.

But, again that look.

” Now what, “  I said?

He said once more, ” they are not here.”

We walked all the way around the stadium and finally, he got another look on his face, a better one.

He smiled, and said, ” they are here.”

I felt sick now, but he seemed to be better.

You see, we were standing at the public bathrooms and it seems that the children were there, buried right at the bathrooms.

Nothing after that day,  would ever hurt either of us more.

No matter where we went, or what we saw, this had been the worst.

 

 

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April is for Pow Wow’s

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drumgroupdean1renato

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Top: Grand Entry, Middle and Bottom rows, some of our friends, dancers and drums.

 

For the past twenty years or so, this time of the year has always meant that every weekend would be spent at a Pow Wow, somewhere.

For those of you not familiar with the word, a Pow Wow, is a cultural celebration put on by Native Americans all across America.

The best place to find one,  is in your local newspaper, or online, under any of the myriad of Pow Wow listings.

Some of the finest ones that we have been to and taken part in over the years, were at Colleges all across the country from Maine to Minnesota and from California to Florida,  they are a joy to be involved in and to witness.

Most of these Native Cultural Events run from Friday thorough Sunday Evening.

The sights, sounds and smells found at a Pow Wow, are a delicious, delightful feast for the eyes, ears, and nose.

The Pow Wow incorporates much of the rich tradition and culture of the Host tribes and those who come to see it leave enriched.

Each day usually begins with a series of Native Pow Wow Customs, or Events.

First,  the head spiritual leader will begin by removing any trash or litter around or near the circle, or close proximity, then he or she, will smudge the area, while working with the fire keeper.

When this has all been finished,  the Head Veteran will begin assembling the dancers, flag bearers and others who will be coming into the circle, on the East side,  for what is called the ” Grand Entry.”

The spiritual leader will now bring the group into the circle.

Once all are assembled in the circle, the Veterans song is drummed, followed by the Flag song and lastly by a prayer.

The drum group which has been chosen for the entire weekend event, then drums for the dancers who represent many Tribes and Nations, who will follow the Veterans around in the circle and out the East side.

When this dance is finished, the Pow Wow is officially opened and the celebrations may begin.

Often, there will be Special Invited Entertainers, such as singers, flute players or dance groups, who may perform during the day with the other traditional dances occurring in between.

The day will be filled with a wide variety of dances, beginning with the Flag song, then many others will follow like,  ” the Jingle dance,”  which is a specific type of dancer’s regalia/clothing, with tiny jingles sewn on the fabric, that makes a delightful sound as the dancer moves around, and  both men’s and women’s ” Traditional dances,”  ” the Round dance,”  ” the Inter-tribals,”  then later in the evening,  many times there will be a special dance which is called the  “ Friendship dance, ”  which invites all those still in attendance into the circle to say hello to each other, or a Native ” meet and greet. ”

Some very tasty Native foods are usually on hand at each Pow Wow, from the very delicious Indian Tacos, or the ” Three Sisters ” of corn, beans and squash, to special local or regional items from an individual Tribe or Nation’s own menu.

There are of course, many vendors selling their own hand-made crafts, of leather, wood, clay, fabrics, metals and stone to share their own particular Tribal culture with you.

Often at the end of the weekend a blanket dance is done to collect money for the drum group,  who might not receive a great deal of money otherwise,  to help with their travel expenses.

After all of the goods have been sold, the dance prizes awarded and the last songs drummed, comes the closing ceremony which is a beautiful, somewhat bittersweet end to a wonderful joyful weekend for all who came.

If you have the time and the chance, I highly recommend you find a Pow Wow in your area and go have a cultural experience you are not likely to soon forget.

But, be forewarned, like the beginning of Spring and the awakening it brings to the world, your first Pow Wow may bring an awakening to your soul, and you will find yourself looking for them everywhere in the future~

 

 

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