Pollen Basket-Blog

The Girls Run: A Review of the Mescalero Apache ‘Coming of Age Ceremony’ and the words written by Claire Farrer & Bernard Second”.

By Crisosto Apache

I am writing this because the month of April begins the ceremonial rituals for the Mescalero Apache, which are the “coming of age” ceremonies for the girls and the host families. Another activity that is held in April is the Annual Centennial Run which commemorates the Apaches being released as ‘prisoners of war’.

There are not very many documented accounts of the Mescalero Apache peoples religious and ceremonial activities. There are however, other resources that were written many years ago from authors to try and gain knowledge or understanding of the ethnography regarding the Apache culture. Many would argue that the information previously written and disseminated by early scholars is outdated, and the approach of observation is subjective. Claire Farrer attempts to bring the Mescalero Apache culture, and its world views to the twenty-first century, and validating the perspectives as legitimate cosmology amongst other Native American cultures and their world views. Within her book Thunder Rides a Black Horse, she works with, Bernard Second, a notable medicine men of the tribe, who has directed many of the ceremonies for the Mescalero Apache people.

With the assistance of Bernard Second, Farrer is guided through many oral stories of emergence, cosmology, etiquette and purpose for the Kádá’idąą’e’ (the girls coming of age) ceremony known to the Apache culture. There are eight chapters dedicated to the specificity of the ceremony, and a map to the stars for the existence in this important activity, which defines the culture.

In the first chapter “Time and the Mythic Present”, Farrer describes her arrival to the Mescalero Apache reservation and meeting Second for the first time. She also begins her field work for her dissertation and is introduced to Bernard’s family and emphasizes the term “fictive kin” in her text. She discusses how this term translates to non-Native culture and her relationship to the Apache people. Farrer develops a relationship and begins to compare, and define the differences in cultural aspect of the Mescalero Apache people. In this chapter she focuses on some of the ritual aspects of the Kádá’idąą’e’ (coming of age ceremony). Farrer also describes the lunar cycles of the moon and the relevancy of its cycle in regards to the girl’s ceremony. The second chapter entitled “Arrive” begins with a brief description of the scenery surrounding the Mescalero Apache reservation. She discusses the creation story or emergence stories of the Apache people which Bernard provided. Bernard introduces the importance of animals and the interaction with animals, because within the oral tradition of storytelling, Second discusses the introduction of plant into the world and its many uses. Second spends some time describing current plants to Farrer and how they are used within the Mescalero Apache culture. One of the important factors within this chapter is the dichotomy which is established between Farrer and the many people she encounters. Because she is an outsider, there is a greater emphasis placed on her and all her amenities and mannerisms, one of them being her dog. Farrer brought her family and her little white poodle with her and many thought it looked like a sheep and often made fun of her small sheep. This made Farrer aware about the good joking that went on the reservation.

Another story that is revealed in the second chapter is the story of Tianashka’da / the three who left together. This is a story told by the Apache people about the social behavior of Apache people and how this is reminded in the stars. The story is about two sisters who fell in love with one Apache man. All three had a good relationship throughout their lives and were accepted by all the other people. While they remained together, the band remained happy and prosperous. When they reached old age, the man could not continue on. The medicine man prayed, and sang songs but the man, who was not getting any better. The band had to move camp, but all three and the medicine man remained behind. The man used his final strength to get up, but as he did he began walking towards the horizon. The medicine men tried to stop him and encouraged his rest, but the man insisted. The two women help him walk towards the horizon. As they disappeared, there was a bright light in the sky. At that moment, a set of three stars added to the sky, ‘within the constellation of Taurus’. The three lovers who will always symbolized the balance and prosperity of the Apache people joined together among the starlight in the night sky.

Chapter two reveals many of the cultural aspects of the Apache “coming of age” ceremonial, as instructed by Second. Second, being the primary source of information for the ceremonial, outlines his lineage and tribal relationships. There are maps which are drawn by Second, which indicate the layout of the ceremonial grounds and those aspects of ceremonial purpose, such as the Holy lodge. The next map is that of the old grounds, before the new one was built. Chapter two clearly embodies the content of the entire text, conceptually. Focusing on the oral nature of stories and astronomical concepts for the ceremonial rituals. These rituals define how they are incorporated into the ceremonial practices.

In chapter three, “On Forming Women”, Farrer begins to explain how Second defines the ceremonial practice, and reasons for the implementation of the ceremonial practices for the girls. The chapter begins when Second wakes with coffee, before the sun rises. This is a time that becomes important for the ceremony. Second explains the preparation for the Sunrise ceremony which will happen later that morning. Another activity which occurs on the ceremonial grounds, away from the preparation of the girls, is the erection of the ceremonial tipi or Holy lodge. These activities are happening simultaneously, as it is all about timing, and the rise of the first light. Second describes in chronological order the erection of the first four poles, which become the structural frame of the lodge. Many people, mostly the men of the host families, assist in the erection of these poles. They first are laid out in the four cardinal directions, and then blessed by the medicine men before they begin to raise the poles. During this chapter, Farrer speaks about the origin story of White Painted Woman or Changing Woman and how this ceremony begins to define the culture and their identity. Each aspect of the first day is depicted in the third chapter. A major aspect to the ceremony is feeding of the people, which the host families are responsible for. Each hosting family must prepare food for the entire tribe and their guests, and anyone who comes to join in the celebrations. In chapter three, Farrer describes the preparation of foods, both traditional Apache foods and modern food types. On the first day, the first meal for the girls consist of traditional style foods, (mescal, mesquite beans, Indian cabbage (yucca bloom petals), and Indian bananas (yucca fruit). There are many people involved in the preparation of the food, which the families will serve all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. All prepared foods and drink served must be blessed by each of the girls, to ensure the people are participating in the continued balance of life.

Chapter two revealed the importance of the ceremonial activities, whereas chapter three reveals more of the preparation activities for these particular ceremonies. There is a conflict stated by Second in the text about the preparation of the mountain dances, with regards to Farrer being a female. Females are not allowed in the area where the mountain spirits are preparing. Second states that the knowledge obtained and retained, is strictly for the males of the tribe. She is given some leniency, due to the research she was conducting. Farrer does not document the mountain dancer’s preparation rituals. She however, gives description of the regalia worn by the deities and the mode of dance.

Chapters four ‘ Ko’io/ Go Around!’ and chapters five, I will give you a bow and arrow…a flint knife…I will make a horse for you…” describe the ceremonial etiquette for the third and fourth day. In the fourth chapter, Farrer touches on the issue of alcoholism amongst women on the reservation and how the numbers have risen in succeeding years.

Chapter six ‘You are the mother of a people. Let no man speak ill of you.’ concludes the fourth ceremonial day. As indicated in the text Second states the fourth day is the most important day of all. Because the ceremony is coming to a close, and it is important because it will signify the continuation in the balance of life. As in the opening of the ceremony on day one, the process begins the same. Beginning with the night before and the alignment of the Big Dipper (Náhaakus) constellation, the ceremony commences. Singers sing for the girls as they dance late into night as the Big Dipper descends. The upper tip of the Big Dipper vanishes, the girls stop and rest. This is prior to the sunrise. The girls do not sleep but begin the preparations for the transformation into White Painted Woman. As the sun raises many aspect of the camp begins to be dismantled. The girls are lead out to the Holy lodge and the “pulling songs” begin. During this time many of the people can be blessed by medicine men, which represents a new beginning under the blessings of White Painted Woman. Mid morning as the sun peeks, the Holy lodge is slowly taken apart by the men of the families. This time is crucial to the ceremony, as it all has to do with the movement of the sun. At the right time, the girls begin to run, and on the final run, the family begins the ceremonial throw. The community throw consists of everything from candy, beach balls, common household items, which are thrown into the crowd. The girls run and disappear into the horizon and are instructed to run to various places, only known to the girls and the medicine people. Upon their return, the girls are escorted into their specific camps, untouched by anyone and emerge as women & mothers for the people.

Chapters Seven and eight conclude the text with some of the dismantling process of the camps and end with personal notes on Farrer’s experience. She concludes her text with the image of the warrior twins (thunder and lightning) riding their respective horses and how the story of the twins continues to define the Mescalero Apache people to this day.

On Farrer’s attempt to grasp the concepts of the Mescalero Apache cosmology. She is given credibility because of her efforts. As I stated in the beginning of this review, there are few researchers who have written about the Apache culture, let alone the intricacies of the ceremonial process. Her writing has allowed other to understand the Apache culture, but most of her information boarders on exploitation. Granted this information is important to the schools of anthropology, and ethnography, it however leads to more questions. The route this information should take from here, should be, from a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. A doctoral credibility acknowledgement should be retained for tribal individuals who retained this information. So often, many of the cultural components identifies specific indigenous cultural aspects, which are scrutinized and analyzed in academic institution without regard where the information originates. Farrer attempts to acknowledge and respect the information she has received. She is careful for the nature of information she has obtained and has given proper acknowledgements to the cultural relevancy to cosmology of the Mescalero Apache people. I recommend that many students read this text, as it offers an introduction to the Mescalero Apache culture, which define them as a people.

Text:

  • Farrer, Claire, R. Thunder Rides a Black Horse: Mescalero Apache and the Mythic Present. 2nd Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.1996. Print.

Copyright © 2017 Crisosto Apache

Lozen and Dahteste

Close inspection of this photograph reveals that it is the original source for both the image of Lozen and the image of Dahteste (sitting together on the upper part of the photo) shown earlier in the article (amertribes.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=chiricahua&action=print&thread=1156,April 2012)

By Crisosto Apache

Originally posted December 8, 2011 on the Qualia Folk Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife website by Mickey Weems.

https://web.archive.org/web/20150716061853/http://www.qualiafolk.com/2011/12/08/lozen-and-dahteste/

Lozen and Dahteste (pronounced Ta-DOT-se) were two Chiricahua Apache women that fought alongside the legendary Native American freedom fighter Geronimo. Although the biographies on Lozen and Dahteste are sparse in detail, their attachment to each other and the resemblance of their close friendship to a Lesbian butch-femme relationship has elevated the couple to iconic status in the Two-Spirit (orientation and gender-variant Native Americans) community.

Lozen

Lozen was a Chiricahua Apache warrior born in the late 1840s. The younger sister of the famous leader Victorio and a leader in her own right, she began riding horses at age seven. Lozen learned the Apache art of war as taught to her by her brother, and fought with other Apache warriors in skirmishes in the states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Chihuahua. Throughout her life, she was never interested in the traditional roles of Apache women, never married a man, and was described as being more masculine than other men in her tribe. When she was not accompanying the men in raiding parties, she would engage in the rough games of the men and earned their respect as an athlete. Victorio described her as “my right hand” and “a shield to her people.”

Lozen was a renowned medicine woman, possessing extensive knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants and minerals. She was also famous for her ability to detect her enemies by means of a ritual in which she sang, extended her arms, and turned in a circle until the palms of her hands tingled, a sign that let her know from which direction they were approaching. Upon Victorio’s death, she went on to join the famed Native American resistance leader Geronimo (Apache name: Goyatła, “One Who Is Yawning”). She eluded her capture many times until she was finally surrounded along-side Geronimo in 1886. She died as a prisoner of war at Mount Vernon in Mobile, Alabama of tuberculosis at age 50, never to see her homeland in the Southwestern USA ever again.

Dahteste

Dahteste was a Mescalero Apache woman and companion of Lozen. Unlike the masculine description of Lozen, Dahteste was a well-groomed, beautiful woman who took pride in her appearance and dressed in feminine attire. Although she rode and fought just as well as Lozen, she was described as carrying herself with more sophistication. Dahteste was fluent in English and acted as translator for the Apache people. She also became a mediator and trusted scout for the U.S. Calvary. Her dual loyalties to the Apache people and the US Army did not keep her from being arrested alongside Geronimo in 1886. She was taken as a prisoner of war and shipped off to St. Augustine, Florida where she remained for eight years. While in Florida she managed to survive pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Later on, she was shipped to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where she remained for another nineteen years before given permission to join the Mescalero Apache in New Mexico. Dahteste was able to live out the rest of her life among her people until she died of old age. Eve Ball, who interviewed Dahteste in New Mexico, said, “I could hardly believe my good fortune in being permitted to know this courageous woman,” and “Dahteste to the end of her life mourned Lozen.”

There is one surviving picture of Dahteste and Lozen. They are sitting close together, along with Geronimo and other warriors in front of the train that will take them away in cattle cars to exile in Florida. The physical proximity of the two women, however, is often disrupted by biographers, despite evidence of their companionship in battle and affection for each other. Their images are cut and isolated into two separate pictures, just as their biographies tend to downplay their emotional closeness to each other. Members of the Two-Spirit community have reintegrated the visual and biographical images of Lozen and Dahteste so that they are once again united.

Close-up of Lozen and Dahteste (amertribes.proboards.com/index. cgi?board=chiricahua &action=print&thread=1156,April 2012)

– Crisosto Apache

QEGF Authors and Articles

QEGF Introduction

Comments? Post them on our Encyclopedia Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/Qualia-Encyclopedia-of-Gay-People-106331582829348/

Further Reading:

Perdue, Theda. Native American Women’s Lives. New York: Oxford University, 2001.

Robinson, Sherry and Eve Ball. Apache Voices: Their Stories of Survival as Told to Eve Ball. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2003.

Roscoe, Will. Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America. New York: St. Martin’s, 2005.

Copyright © 2017 Crisosto Apache

Two-Spirit

By Crisosto Apache

Originally published, December 8, 2011 on the Qualia Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife website by Mickey Weems.

https://web.archive.org/web/20151221155313/http://www.qualiafolk.com/2011/12/08/two-spirit/

Two-Spirit is an identity shared among First Nations Canadian and Native American LGBTQ people that situates same-sex orientation and gender variation within each nation’s cultural framework. Recognizing that many Native North American tribes view identities in their own way, the Two-Spirit community does not demand conformity to pre-set classification of Lesbian, Gay male, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer. Rather, Two-Spirit people privilege each community’s traditional understanding of inclusion, which often includes positive spiritual aspects concerning orientation, gender variance, and the body.

History

Reports of homosexuality and gender variation among Native populations were common during the first centuries after the European invasion of the Americas. These stories became part of literature that both sensationalized local cultures as exotic and condemned them for being barbaric and un-Christian. Later ethnographic research in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries confirmed that many Native societies had identities for gender-variant people, which included them within the man/woman division of labor and ritual. Recognition of those identities may begin with children who prefer activities associated to the gender not assigned to them on the basis of their apparent physiology, such as a little boy who chooses a basket, representing women’s work, over a bow for hunting, representing men’s work.

Travel narratives of Europeans among Native Peoples speak of men called berdaches (from the Persian-Arabic word bardaj for a young male sex slave) who lived as women and would possibly have sex with, or marry, men. The term “berdache”, however, is now considered derogatory to describe Two Spirit people. In the nineteenth century, evidence of manly women, some who would marry other women, came forth as well. Such non-heteronormal identities, however, were rarely mentioned in the histories of First Nations across North America.

The Two-Spirit Movement

After the Stonewall ‘Awakening’, Gay folk historians began compiling evidence concerning orientation- and gender-variant people worldwide. Many of those among Native peoples with Gay-related identities discovered that the growing and ever-diversifying Gay community did not include the positions within Native communities set aside for orientation and gender difference, positions that often had spiritual significance and ritual participation.

 

Gay American Indians (GAI), established in San Francisco in 1975 by founders Randy Burns (Northern Paiute) & Barbara Cameron (Lakota Sioux), gave hope to restoring traditions that recognize alternative orientation and gender expression in Indigenous communities. With the establishment of GAI, the next few years were dedicated to grass roots organizing. Things came together in a gathering that took place in 1988 in Minnesota called “The Bow & the Basket” to address the damaging effects of chemical dependency and HIV. This meeting galvanized the Gay American Indian movement as it focused on better means of expressing identity and community. In 1990, the third annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference was held in Winnipeg, Canada. During the conference, Two-Spirit (translated from the Ojibwa (Anishinabek) words niizh manidooag) was chosen as a ‘new term’ to represent all Native LGBTQ people within the Nations without displacing each nation’s terms for identity and gender variation. This was done so the identity could be understood from an English perspective.

The purpose of Two-Spirit is recognition that LGBTQ terminology may work alongside but cannot replace Native identities and sense of belonging that such identities give LGBTQ people of First Nation/Native American descent. The term is especially popular among Urban Native populations, and as a means of extending community identity to people from different First Nations and Native identities. In more rural Native communities, Two Spirit people are called specific tribal terms, such as winkte (one who speaks with the Creator) among Lakota and nádleeh (one who is changing) among the Diné (Navajo) people. These terns do not always translate well in the European Western concepts of sexuality and gender. Which means, many indigenous people do not use the term ‘two spirit’ because of the difficulty in association during translation in their respective languages.

Coming Out as Two Spirit

The importance of a Two-Spirit identity that complements LGBTQ identities while nevertheless remaining distinct from them should be understood in terms of the challenges First Nation/Native communities have with encouraging the next generation to stay true to its roots. Too often, young people stray from their Native traditions for many reasons, including orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ identity configuration strikes many Native peoples as part of the non-Native world. Two-Spirit identity allows those First Nation and Native people who identify as Gay to have an option that recognizes their identity, but does not alienate them by marking them as non-Native. In addition, the Two-Spirit community gives them membership in a tribe of many tribes, a sense of belonging to a group that appreciates tribal cultural sovereignty and culture, yet also celebrates the three spectra of orientation, gender variance, and non-typical sexual physiology.

In coming to terms with the complexities of First Nation/Native identity and orientation/gender/sexual physiology issues, it is not unusual for Two-Spirit people to have a double coming-out narrative: first coming out as Gay, then coming out as Two-Spirit. In many traditions with alternative identities that have survived colonization, this results in three identities: the designation of orientation/gender variance specific to the nation or tribe, identity as Two-Spirit, and identity as Gay, reflecting membership in a nation, in the Pan-Native collective, and in the LGBTQ collective.

Some Gay organizations have been incorporating Two-Spirit into the identity acronym as LGBTTS or LGBT2S.

Two-Spirit Icons: Pre-Stonewall Ancestors

Native and non-Native scholars have been gathering information about peoples with traditions of non-heteronormal identities, and individuals who possessed those identities within their communities.

Among the most famous Two-Spirit icons is the Zuni lhamana (womanly man) We’wha, a pillar in her community whose physical strength, skills at producing baskets and weaving, temperate nature, and ceremonial influence, made her beloved among her people.

Other icons with articles in the Qualia Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife are Woman Chief, a fierce warrior who hunted and went to battle, identified herself as a woman, but living as a man and marrying four women); and partners: Lozen and Dahteste, two Apache women who lived and fought together for their people. At the same time Dahteste was married to an Apache man named Coonie, and cared for three of his children.

Osh-Tisch, “Finds Them and Kills Them”, was a badé (defined as not man, not woman) living amongst the Crow Nation as a woman who was anatomically male. During Osh-Tisch’s lifetime, he had experienced discrimination from the local Baptist missionaries. This persecution continued against badés even after Osh-Tisch’s death, and the badé tradition declined. During his lifetime, he was celebrated as a quilt maker and renowned for his bead work and leather medicine bags. Osh-Tisch’s role as badé was crucial during the Sundance, a ritual where participants will dance around a tall pole in a sanctified outdoor location from sunrise to sunset for days to fulfill a vow, or to help a person in need. The Sundance may also include piercing the skin on the chest or back with bone skewers that are then ripped out, and the torn skin placed on the pole as a sign of sacrifice. The ceremony was abolished by Christian missionaries and was lost until it was revived in 1941, but without the participation of a badé. Osh-Tisch was so revered by the Crow people that, when he was forced to cut his hair by an American agent, Chief Pretty Eagle ordered the agents off the tribal lands. During Osh-Tisch’s life, he endured much hardship but fulfilled his role as badé and warrior until his death in January 1, 1929 at the age of 75.

Hastiin Klah, (also spelled Hosteen Klah) was a nádleeh medicine man, singer, and weaver. In Diné tradition, males usually are allowed to sing, chant, and become medicine men, while women usually do the weaving. Hastíín Klah fulfilled both roles becoming a well-respected medicine man and weaver. He dedicated his life to learning the complexity of Diné ceremonies and mastering the art of weaving. In later years, he worked with Mary Cabot Wheelwright to preserve many of his songs, sand paintings, and woven articles, along with various sacred objects he used in ceremonies. Wheelwright founded the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Arts in 1937, which later became the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hastiin Klah died in 1937 at the age of 70 due complications of pneumonia. The Wheelwright Museum was dedicated to Hastiin Klah, and a ceremony was performed in his honor. Recently the Navajo Historic Preservation Department’s Traditional Cultural Program Committee recommended viewing restrictions on Hastiin Klah’s ceremonial displays due to the private nature of Dené spiritual traditions.

Organizations

Two-Spirit organizations include Two Spirited People of Manitoba, Inc. (Winnipeg), 2SPR (Two-Spirit Press Room, Minnesota), Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (California), Montana Two-Spirit Society, NativeOUT (Arizona), Northeast Two-Spirit Society (New York), Tulsa Two-Spirit Society (Oklahoma), Two-Spirit Council of Wichita (Kansas), Two-Spirit Circle of Edmonton (Alberta), Two-Spirit Society of Denver (Colorado), Two Spirit National Cultural Exchange, Inc. (Colorado), Nations of the 4 Directions (San Diego), Northwest Two-Spirit Society (Washington State), Regina Two-Spirited Society (Saskatchewan), Red Circle Project (California), 2Spirits of Toronto (Ontario), and the Two-Spirit Society of North Dakota. Others have formed since this article’s publication. Annual gatherings since the initial “The Basket and the Bow” have been sponsored by different Two-Spirit organizations each year and held throughout Canada and the USA. Other organizations that contribute the Two Spirit Gathering movement is the Two Spirit Society of Tulsa, which hosts the annual Two Spirit Gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Osage Hills Park and Recreation site. Montana also hosts the annual Two Spirit Gathering at various locations near the Blackfeet Reservation. Others, have also contributed to the ever growing number of gatherings. The Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS) now have an annual Two Spirit Pow Wow event held in February.

– Crisosto Apache

QEGF Authors and Articles

QEGF Introduction

Comments? Post them on our Encyclopedia Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/Qualia-Encyclopedia-of-Gay-People-106331582829348/

Further reading:

Jacobs, Sue-Ellen, Thomas, Wesley, Lang, Sabine, eds. Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality and Spirituality. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1997.

Roscoe, Will. Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

Roscoe, Will, ed. Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988.

LaFortune, Richard. Native Cultures, 2 Spirit Identity. Minnesota: 2Spirit Press Room, 2008.

Brown, Lester B., ed. Two Spirit People: American Indian Lesbian Women and Gay Men. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1997.

Copyright © 2017 Crisosto Apache

Unedifying A Cultural Misplacement

sand-creek

By Crisosto Apache

“Mixed emotions transformed the ceremony into equal parts celebration and memorial service. On April 28, 2007, the National Parks Service (NPS) opened the gates to its 391st unit, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. Hundreds of people gathered at a killing field tucked into the southeastern corner of Colorado.” – Kelman, Ari, “A Misplaced Massacre”

In conclusion of Native American History Heritage Month, I have given much thought to what has transpired. The election and its aftermath, the continued efforts of the water protectors of Standing Rock, the misrepresented holiday of Thanksgiving, and the Cheyenne & Arapaho runners for the memory of Sand Creek. One amazing collection of words always allows me to continue my efforts in telling a story.

Simon Ortiz is the author of several volumes of poetry and anthology collections; which have won him numerous accolades. From Sand Creek was published in 1981 by the University of Arizona Press. It is considered to be one of his most acclaimed, preceding Woven Stone (1992).

This particular collection of poems or conversations, caught me off guard, and forced me to read and re-read each text, as if opening the book for the first time. The raw usage of images, starkly captures the moments, and residue left out on the eastern plains of Colorado on November 29, 1864. Having visited the site, and reading the words in Ortiz’s book; I was compelled to evoke a conversation through my personal experience as a Native American. Ortiz raises a poignant question, beginning the dialogue of this most important work; “How to deal with history.”

His question addresses how Native American history is documented.  His question, “How to deal with history” ascertains the relevancy and nature of history and direction of ‘who’ gets to authorize its final versions. As a participant in this history, Ortiz reminds me that aspects of my personal history stems from a legacy of survival. This idea of survival not only defines my personal relevancy but the relevancy of those who endured the interaction of this recorded history. Had it not been for the survival of my ancestors and the genocidal impact of a developing nation, I would not be here to continue the efforts in justifying my own existence. The intentions enacted by the United States, in its assimilation, acculturation, and extermination of indigenous people are as Ortiz emphasizes, “Purposely. Intentionally. Deliberately.”

By ‘history’ I mean the history that includes me personally as a Native American, the history that includes Native People and our culture, the American history that I and other Natives sometimes felt foreign too.       

In his writing, I discovered the structure where two types of interactive dialogue face each other. The two dialogues facing each other are forces that reconcile each opposing voice in perpetuity. This juxtaposed style, fulfills the nature of issues I have faced in my identity as a Native American. Through the development of this country, leaders who continue to push the United States in its progressive direction have deliberately forgotten to include its original inhabitants, altering its history, like the grass that has overtaken the landscape, over time. As the statement opens the writing, the epilogue addresses the issue of “covering-up / hiding”, using the analogy of the time it takes for grass to cover a landscape, leaving no trace of an origin, erasing the residue of a ‘misplaced’ crime scene or forgotten memory. Because, this situation happened in a remote location, it is more easily forgotten, until some attention is brought to it.

This America / has been a burden / of steel and mad / death,

but, look now, / there are flowers / and new grass

and a spring wind / rising / from Sand Creek.

The acknowledgement of an event takes a brave assurance, which one must ‘believe’ in the occurrences of a memory, which will be formed and remembered. This convincing notion asserts the primary foundation, in which our memories are based on creating a belief system to a series of events, which establishes our identities. A denial of historical events, or the un-acknowledgement of a particular history, nullifies the existence of a particular event and invalidates the course of that particular history. This is the premise of Ortiz’s collection. The establishment of ‘belief’ or what drives the desire to recollect memory, regardless of a persuaded hypocrisy, or disillusioned history. The repetition of the phrase ‘believe it’ reinforces the notion that the reader and the writer, must be convinced of an occurrence, in this case a history of a specific incident, that being, “Sand Creek” and the battle / massacre which occurred, given the perspective.

Grief / memorizes this grass. / Raw / courage, /              believe it,

red-eyed and urgent, / stalking Denver. / Like stone, / like steel,

the hone and sheer gone, / just the brute / and perceptive angle left.

 Like courage, /                       believe it,      

 left still; / the words from then / talk like that.

 Believe it.

Ortiz forces the reader to analytically approach the historical significance of being Native American, and to view the experience of Native American identity through his use of imagery and persona. In various instances throughout this body of work, he coerces the reader to take on the persona of the voice. This technique creates a closer connection to events and allows the reader to become a sort of avatar within the poem. The imagery is so specific; it eliminates any confusion to the event taking place or identity that is speaking.

                         Yes,

He is Indian. / He hides and tends / the shape of his face.

***

His frozen tongue / is frantic /               with prayer; 

***

His cough / Is not the final blow, / But the glass wall / Stares so closely.

/ Makes him afraid. / Closely, / Toby tends his shadow.

Or,

Strangers, / they accept us / afterall / as the afternoon travellers

our mission / unknown to them.

 The magpie is determined / to freeze.

The unjust nature of the event addressed in this collection is profound. With the many mislabeled massacres that took place during the latter part of the 1800’s, the information became misrepresented. Many tribal people were labeled as rebellious ‘savages’ refusing to assimilate to the progress of the United States. In later years the concept of assimilation had nestled itself within the identity of many Native American people, who choose not to live on a reservation. The constant coding and decoding of European culture dominated, which influenced much of today’s Native American population, furthering the dissolution of Native culture and tradition. Many Native individuals who leave the reservation, often merge the two cultures in a hybridization of identity. This fluid development of survival in the oscillated nature is an experience of a “transitional Indian”. It is an adaptation that is identifiable within the context of Native American memory, cosmology, language, culture of identity coinciding with the existence of living in a Western identity.

There was a re-occurring dream for awhile of driving east, passing near Sand Creek; Tension was a tight string straight as the Kansas border. –Ortiz, p.22

And,

Sky is panned / concave, / the eyeballs /                     blanch.

Memory / is shriven / clean / as Kansas stateline.

We approached /                          winter.

Memory / is stone, very quiet, / like this, / a moment clenched tightly

as knuckles / around gunstock / around steering wheel.

The emphasis on memory, as the basis of identity, is how it validates a historical identity through writing. The use of language and lucid imagery helps shape the telling of a particular history, or any history. This kind of storytelling, offers a new kind of revision towards history, which establishes a relationship with the reader, no matter the intensity of the disparity. In the respect of language and persona, it is important to specify the stitches of memory, to visualize and envelop a more tangible history. History will always be in constant flux. With innovative writing attitudes towards decolonization of Western approaches, indigenous storytelling and poetics can re-document history, and will not undergo the oppressive subjugation by Western influence.

That dream / shall have a name / after all, / and it will not be vengeful /

but wealthy with love / and compassion / and knowledge.

And it will rise / in this heart / which is our America.

These boundaries which define our existence, confine our experience, and blocks our memories, can be unwound. What Ortiz presents within this body of work, can add to a creative attribution in writing. There are many facets to this body of work. Every aspect is influential and furthers the development of story and memory. The mesmerizing orchestration of language and imagery, linger constantly, like the memory in the “steaming rivers of blood” which still remain on those eastern Colorado fields, or on every field which experienced a massacre. This discourse leaves an uncertain quiet heaviness. Ortiz’s writing is the “sieves of helpless hands” in which the blood flows off. I must become a part of the strain of memory, that drip of history, left out on those fields, and finish telling the story.

Further reading:

Ortiz, Simon. From Sand Creek. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000. Print.

Kelman, Ari. A Misplaced Massacre. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. Print.

Copyright © 2016 Crisosto Apache

The Scales

By Crisosto Apache

Perhaps the conflict of competing religions on lands has led to much of our social, political, and military conflict among peoples. It is difficult, therefore, simply to classify the cultural competition and distinctions in community values as differentials on a time scale of social evolution. –Vine Deloria, Jr., “God Is Red”

It usually takes me some time to think about an event or an occurrence. In this instance the event I have been thinking about is the outcome of the recent election. As I sat in my chair at home, nearing midnight, on November 08, 2016, I could only hope for the best. As I sat watching the news, I could feel the stress and anticipation. The heavy feeling wore on me until I could not fight the exhaustion. So, under the weight, I went to bed.

This year’s election happens to coincide with Native American Heritage Month. An ironic annual commemoration. Veterans Day occurs in the month of November, as does the Thanksgiving holiday. During this month, I usually try to pay homage to historical Native American events and use these events as writing prompts to inspire my writing. One of the major event in Native American history is the Sand Creek Massacre, which took place on the eastern plains of Colorado on November 29, 1864. This massacre was led by US commander John M. Chivington and a small force of US Calvary. This military campaign attacked a small village of Cheyanne and Arapahoe, about 200 villagers. After the attack about 25 US soldiers were killed and about 163 villagers massacred. Bodies of the mutilated villagers were pillaged and paraded through the streets of Denver. In 1999, descendants of this atrocity formed a memorial run in November to remember, honor, and educate people about this event. Groups of people run the estimated 200-mile trek, from the memorial site, to the capitol steps in Denver.

But something heavy weighs on my mind following this year’s election. Naturally, I was alarmed and saddened the next morning, who would run the United States for the next four years. As the days went by my sadness turned to anger. I did not want to feel anger, because I have live much of my life in anger. Growing up Mescalero Apache, in an impoverished family, on the outskirts of the reservation, near a small town, with heavy Texan ancestry, (most of whom hated the Apache people), made my presence known. Many of the towns people and people on the reservation believed and participated in some form of organized religion. In a small town, it made very difficult to be yourself without ridicule and judgement. Knowing this I wanted to get out. It took many years of self-neglect, chemical dependency, for me to accept myself, and the many facets of my identity, as well as the color of my skin. This did not include the acceptance of my cultural background and the community I came from. So, the only thing I could do was run. That natural instinct of ‘flee and flight’, in the presence of danger. I had been running for a very long time.

With the he outcome of this election, I cannot help but think about the thoughts and ideas that flood my mind. I think about the retaliation by all those angry uneducated white men and women detailed in many of the media and online periodical. The violence that has followed from this election has many in fear. I think about the person walking on the street, while being called a “faggot” from their car, throwing stones. Or the cars vandalized because they displayed “Vote for Hillary” on them. Or the celebratory parades by the KKK for the victory of the president elect. Or the bystander who was savagely beaten for trying to help a female pedestrian, who was violently groped by a group of male individuals. This civil unrest is disturbing, and who could have predicted this kind of hate, which was always laying and wait. Waiting for this moment to rear its head and express the kind of violence this country, the United States of America, was born from. The United States was not formed from an act of kindness but an act of cruelty. No matter how hard the fight for liberty, justice and equality is, that civil unrest will always be there to remind this country of the legacy and civil unrest, it was born out of. I fear for the direction of this country, by the hidden buried anger of those who now feel entitled to express that anger by acts of violence. And for those acts to feel validated by an elected leader, who will not take responsibility for the political, verbal maleficence of his political campaign. This is what I fear. In the coming days, I can only look at my neighbors with suspicion and contempt. These are not feeling I wish to live with, so I write and create.

Naturally, protest always follow what is disliked in society. People and communities know when they are being threatened, and act in defense. It was a good feeling to know that thousands took to the streets in protest of the electoral outcome. In light of the situation, we cannot turn back now, we can never go back to ‘what was’. We can continue to push forward and try to make better light of this outcome. In my opinion, we were never defeated. I like to think, I am pushing forward, because I have so much still to represent. My color, my race, my ethnicity, my culture, my genders, my sexual orientation, my spirituality, my religion, my political and social beliefs, my family, my spouse, my friends, and most importantly my heart. If I start to feel defeat now, then all is lost in vein.

Copyright © 2016 Crisosto Apache

Indigenous Peoples Day 2016

By Crisosto Apache
“Our education preceded with learning to make our beds and hanging up our new clothes. Our old ones, I learned later, were sent to our families in Florida so that they might know that we were still alive. How they knew from that I do not know.” –Asa Daklugie, as transcribed by Eve Ball, “Indeh; An Apache Odyssey” (University of OK Press, 1988).
What a great way to start out my first blog post of many blog posts. Since I obtained this website, I had been thinking about how to start incorporating my blog, and what I was going to write about. Many ideas, perspectives, and thoughts ran through my head about how to start. Naturally, it stressed me out because, there are times I have convinced myself I have nothing to say.
I have included a quote from my great, great, great, great grandfather Asa Daklugie, from his recollection while placed in boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as dictated by historian Eve Ball. Eve Ball was a gracious woman to my family. I remember as a small child accompanying my mother Evangelina Apache to Eve Ball’s home in Ruidoso New Mexico.
Today being Indigenous Peoples Day, I remember and celebrate the lineages of my ancestors. In doing so, it reminds me how fortunate I am to have had many successful experiences in my life. All I have accomplished have been in honor of my family and ancestors. Memory, how we choose to remember and honor those who have gone before us, can be a difficult task. Sometimes those memories have personal blockades and other time it is a public who do not want to be reminded of a past history. When I read the words in any book about Apache people, I am reminded about my history and legacy. How I choose to delineate my future and interpret my past is how I can begin to leave my own foot prints for the future. Like I stated early in this post, there is so much more to being Native American than just the name itself. So much of me is tied to memory. Creating memorial in writing is my attempt to document my history, my identity, my sexuality, my gender, and all those ties which contribute to my thoughts and emotions. So this is a good beginning. My hope is to continue writing passages that inspire. I have got to try and make something good, here. ‘Ixé‘he (Thank you).

Copyright © 2016 Crisosto Apache