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Vivir es Increible

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Triqui/Trique Indian boys basketball team
Picture credit:  Unknown

Orlando was blessed to have many fine young athletes in town this week for a Basketball event, and one of the teams that made the news this morning on our local station, WESH TV was from Mexico.
Nothing new here, or was there?
This team of fairly small boys, as far as basketball players go, played without shoes.
But, this is not unusual for them, as they nearly always do so.

These boys come from one of Mexico’s poorest regions, a tiny place in the mountains of Oaxaca, that range from 4,000 to nearly 10,000 feet and the inhabitants are called the Trique/Triqui people, a blended group of Mixtec,   (place of cloud-people), who are known for their beautiful weavings.

This area and these people, are not new to me, as one of my favorite Anthropology Professors at CSUN, had related his summers there, for the past 20 plus years.
Every year, he would travel down to Oaxaca to spend a month with the people, then wrote and brought back what he learned about them to his students.

Years later, when I traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I felt that there were strong similarities between it and many places in Oaxaca.
They were both poverty stricken areas, that few outsiders came to and even fewer cared much about.

This young team makes news every time they play, mostly for their lack of shoes, but what people don’t understand is that their lack of shoes, are the least of their worries.
So many where they come from, are desperately poor, with food, shelter and personal safety at the top of their daily wants/needs list, and going without shoes, much lower on it.

Native or Indigenous Mexicans, are at a poverty level of about 80%, compared to the National level in the upper 20’s.

Many of these young players must walk two hours or more, on rough mountain roads just to get to their practices, and Basketball is about the only sport that can be played in such a difficult terrain.

For me personally, the hardest part of relaying this story to all of you, is in knowing that the country where these brave young players live, is in constant turmoil from outside political pressures.

A friend from school traveled down there years ago, quite concerned about the way the people were being treated and was never seen again.

“Accidents” can happen, to those who ask too many questions, or get too curious about local politics.

Just playing their games, must seem like great relief after enduring the conditions that surround them.

Whenever the team travels, they basically have become ambassadors for their people, and the state of Oaxaca, and Global generosity to them and their town, have followed them everywhere.

Their Head Coach Sergio Zuniga, was interviewed by WESH and his pride in their achievements was clearly evident as he spoke.

This week in Orlando, not only was the team gifted with shoes, so was their entire town.

Yes, back home things are very difficult, but as their Team jackets say, ” Vivir es Increible, life is incredible.”

Places to learn more:

Mexican youth basketball team plays shoeless in Orange County tournament

Hoop dreams of Mexico’s indigenous youth provide hope in ‘forgotten’ region

It’s Triqui to play around: Shoeless Mexican team plays exhibition match in LA

Youth Mexican Basketball Team Wins Big Playing Barefoot

Mexican Shoeless Basketball Champions Prove It’s About How You Play, Not What You Have

Trique People – Wikipedia

A History of the Triqui People

 

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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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The Knee~

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The Cemetery at Wounded Knee
Picture credit: Napa

 

So far everything that has been posted on this new Blog has been about people, today it is about a place.

What is the old adage,  “write what you know?”

Of all of the places that I have been in my travels in search of Culture, only one has changed my life forever, and that place is Wounded Knee.

On my first trip to Pine Ridge many years ago, Wounded Knee was my destination.

After reading and studying about it for a year, it was time to meet it face to face.

I could not wait to see for myself what it was really like there.

So  many feelings rush back now as I remember that first time there.

I drove straight to the Wounded Knee cemetery outside of Pine Ridge and walked around for a bit looking at the grave sites, then turned and started down the hill back towards my Jeep.

Just as I got to the dirt road,  a hand was on my shoulder.

I turned and the woman smiled at me and said, ” I have prayed for you to come.”

OK, I was more than a  little startled, but not afraid.

As we walked towards my car she said , “will you come to my house,  I have something for you?”

She lives/lived directly across from the cemetery, so it was not far.

When we got to her house, she went inside and came back in a few minutes with some papers.

She handed them to me and said, “will you take these with you and show them to others?”

I agreed, there was no hesitation.

It may or may not have come as a shock to her when I told her later that I had a business at UCLA and access to thousands of people every day.

When she heard this, she was delighted.

The papers were actually Petitions to stop the sale of some of the land  in the Wounded Knee area.

I knew nothing at that time about the history of all of this, but told her that I would read them when I got home and then ask others to sign if they chose to do so.

This area was/ is so deep and rich in Lakota history and the very thought of this happening, gave me cold chills.

If you have had little or no Native History, the event that happened here was called the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Where she and I stood that day was directly in front of the gully where on December 29, 1890, about 300 (the numbers seem to change with each accounting) innocent men, women and children were murdered by the US 7th Cavalry, using a vicious new weapon called a Hotchkiss or Gatling gun, which was somewhat similar to a present day machine gun.

Many of them were shot in the back, as they ran away.

The US Government  had been struggling for years to try to get all of the Lakota to come into the Reservation at Pine Ridge, but many still were refusing.

So, what happened that day was a result of their misguided idea of a final attempt to get them under control.

Later after she went back into her house and before I got ready to leave,  I stood there alone for a long time, then walked slowly  up the gully, which was several hundred feet long.

I closed my eyes and could feel the sorrow, the pain,  of those victims so long ago.

The whole area near the gully is charged with a distinct energy, the mood of it is unmistakably cold and sad.

Many books have been written about this tragic event, one of the best I believe,  is Dee Brown’s, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”

Not far away,  stands a  sign acknowledging Crazy Horse and ” the knee.”

This is a place of tremendous cultural and historical importance to all Lakota people.

And on that hot South Dakota summer day,  this place and this woman changed my life forever.

She stood in that hot sun next to my car for hours, pouring her heart out to me about the things that were happening on Pine Ridge every day.

While we talked,  a car pulled into her yard and a man got out and asked me if this woman was harassing me.

I gave him a cold look and said, no,  she was a friend of mine.

He looked down at my California license plate,  smirked and then drove away.

She said that he was one of the  “GOON Squad ” who terrorized all those who opposed them.

She and this place made such an impression on me, that as soon as I got back to California I created a website dedicated to  the Lakota people and it has been a source of pride for me for more than 15 years.

Students and teachers all over the world have used it and found it of value.

But it wasn’t me, it was the memory of her and Wounded Knee that built it.

I will not mention her name to protect her, but we communicated by mail and phone for years after that.

I took her petition back to UCLA and hundreds of students,  faculty and visitors on the campus eagerly signed it.

In the end, it was all for nothing, as the area has now been once again, put up for sale.

For now, Wounded Knee, the cemetery,  the church, the gully and the sacred, bitter memories remain undisturbed and basically intact, but who will take over this place of Lakota History and when,  is yet to be determined.

This story has been very well covered in the media, but here are two of the best places to learn more:

Save Wounded Knee

Anger Over Plan to Sell Site of Wounded Knee Massacre

 

 

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tahtonka, in the beginning~

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My favorite place on Earth, Yellowstone and the Tetons.

 

Greetings~

This is a quite personal Blog concerning my passion for the world’s people and places, or to be more accurately defined, Global Culture.

My education was in Anthropology and much of what you will find here shall be conversations regarding the relevant past, present or future of Cultural Issues and News from around our Globe.

For those who may not be familiar with the word tahtonka, it is Lakota for Buffalo or Bison.

The first time that I heard the word, was when it was used in the movie Dances with Wolves, then a few years later, I studied the Lakota people at CSUN.

But the word did not truly reach its full meaning until seeing first hand, the ancestral importance it held for the Lakota people in South Dakota.

For hundreds of years, before the invasion of their homelands, the Buffalo/Bison had been the central part of their Culture.

They depended on it in every aspect of their lives and when it was taken from them by the invaders and our own US Government, they were lost.

Then being forced onto Reservations was the final insult to a once vital and vibrant people, who became only a shadowy reflection of what they had once been.

In 1990, I embarked on my first real journey alone,  driving from just outside of Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

I got absolutely no moral support in this adventure from my instructors at school, nor from any of my family.

They were all united in their complete and total opposition to this “dangerous journey”  for a woman to be taking all alone!

But it was something that I felt compelled to do.

Lectures, books and movies can only educate and define just so much, they do not tell you the true story.

I needed to see for myself about what I had studied.

It turned out to be a revelation that I was not fully prepared for at the time.

The conditions at Pine Ridge were often referred to as what is commonly called, Third World  and as it turned out, this was not to be an exaggeration.

Until you experience an Indian Reservation personally, you could not accurately comprehend the living conditions that Native People there must endure daily.

Deplorable comes to mind.

So, now with a bit of background of what I am about,  this begins a new form of exploration for me, writing a Blog about Global Culture.

As this Blog will not be about topics that are normally given great media or public attention, I do not anticipate many likes, hits or followers, however, I will be quite to content just to put it out there and occasionally receive some sort of feedback from those happen upon it.

It is my hope, that you may find this Blog dedicated to Global Culture, a worthy, educational, experience~

 

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