Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Trail of Tears: Andrew Jackson vs the Natives

The Trail of Tears: 1830 nightmare

Hello everyoneTrails of tears

Some of you might have heard about an historic episode referred to as the Trail of Tears. It refers to a path that thousands of Indians were forced to travel, having been deported by then US president Andrew Jackson. Why were they deported you ask? Because Mr. Jackson could. But let me back up a bit.

Andrew Jackson and his Indian Removal Act

Imagine being a little Cherokee girl or boy and waking up to a gun to your face, your family

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

gone, being forced to leave the land you had known as home all of your life. Imagine as a mother or father being separated from your children, not knowing if you would see them again. That is what Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act did. The year was 1830. Andrew Jackson was then the president of the United States. In a bold and heartless move, Mr. Jackson negotiated and approved the Indian Removal Act, ordering native tribes living east of the Mississippi river to move to designated “indian grounds” on the other side of the river. Numerous tribes were affected, including the Chippewa (north) or the Seminole and the Cherokee (south). The reasoning behind the act? Because Jackson was bold, and made one of the most controversial decisions in history. The Act authorized the president to negotiate treaties to buy indian lands east of the Mississippi river in exchange for lands quite further west. 45 000 Natives were forced to move off their own lands.

The fight of the Cherokees

However, in an unprecedented move, the Cherokees (in Georgia), instead of fighting on the ground like their ancestors might have done, took Jackson to court. Yes, they actually went to the legal system for support and justice. And guess what? Judge John Marshall actually sided in their favor! They were deemed to be allowed to remain on their land as it was decided that Georgia could not impose its laws upon Cherokee tribal lands . Yay victory! Think again…

Cherokee chief Henry Wolf

Cherokee chief Henry Wolf, NC

How did Jackson respond? Well I believe his answer went something like this: “John Marshall made his decision, now let him enforce it”. 7000 troops were sent to remove the tribes. Thousand of Cherokees were forcibly removed from their land at gunpoint, in cattle stockades. Families were separated, never to be reunited again. Lands were lost, people died, or were abused and mistreated. Indeed, because the road to be traveled was strenuous, it is estimated that 1 out of 4 people did not make it (about 4000 people). They died of malnutrition, exhaustion, not enough rest, no medicine or simply being killed by soldiers. Just imagine for one second having to live through this. Losing family members, loved ones, friends. And not being able to give them a proper burial as you were forced to leave them behind and keep walking. Burial is such an important part of death within the native culture, respecting the dead, sending them into the spiritual world in the right way. I can only imagine what it was like for them not being able to do so. Hence the name the Trail of Tears. 

trail of tears

What happened next?

Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act marked the beginning of the Removal Era, thousands and thousands of Natives being removed from their lands. Followed by the Land Run era, during which land was disputed and no respect was given to its original inhabitants. The land was wanted for numerous reasons including farming or the belief that gold was present. For years and years, Native nations fought for their land. Oftentimes losing the battle. Can you imagine if one day the land you knew as home that had been yours for generations was suddenly taken from you? That it was suddenly deemed not to be yours anymore and there was nothing you could do about it? The Trails of Tears is a tragedy in US history, representing the largest percentage of deaths in one single native tribe due to the actions of the US government.

The Trails of Tears led to the subhuman treatment of native people. Treating them as though they were not welcomed anymore, they did not matter, they had no rights. When in reality, they were the indigenous people of the land, the ones who were there from the beginning. Through all this injustice and gross mistreatment, however, I see the resilience of the native people. They had to be resilient to go through all of this, never giving up. They fought for their freedom, their rights, keeping their head up. They showed pride and an inordinate amount of strength and resilience. They showed they were survivors. And they still are. Change cannot occur when minds are not open and respect is not given. And respect was certainly not given by Jackson.

The short video included in the link below summarizes the Trail of Tears. Please take 3 minutes to watch it.

Tell me what you think of this post, if you had ever heard of the Trail of Tears, how it affected you or your family, etc. Would love to hear from you!

http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/trail-of-tears

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Native American stereotypes

Native American stereotypes

Hello everyonetepee sunset

Recently, I have been reading about/on stereotypes regarding Native American people. And I find it sad, frustrating and disheartening that those stereotypes still exist. I think they stem from a lack of knowledge. A lack of knowledge of the history of the people, a history that took place right in our backyard. A history, I feel we cannot hide. Through this site, I am trying to share that history, the history of trauma but also the beauty and the healing that is taking place.

Stereotypes?

What are those stereotypes you ask? Well let’s start with the one of the “drunk indian who cannot hold his liquor”. Well maybe if alcohol, a spirit, had not been introduced on reserves by the Europeans, as a way to steal the land from the native people, the stereotype would not even exist. Alcohol was introduced and given to natives as a trade for furs, tools, land, you name it. They did not know what it was. They were at times rendered drunk during trading with European, affecting their judgment in their trades. They could then easily be influenced. Their body was not accustomed to it.

“Free” life

How about “indians get everything for free”? Well guess what, indians do NOT get everything for free. Land was stolen from them generations ago, they were forced to live on reserves due to unfair treaties, reserves they were not even free to operate and could not leave without permission. The lands they knew as home, lands where they would hunt, fish, get food, were taken, their access being restricted. They could not hunt or fish like before, they needed permission to do so on their own land. And contrary to popular belief, Native people do pay taxes. They earn money and do not get everything for free. They have paid for what they have, with the lost of their land, their rights (some places did not allow Native people to vote until the 1960’s) and their dignity.

eagle feather

Keep wanting more

What about “indians just keep asking and asking and asking, they are greedy”? Well let’s look at it this way. For more than a century, the Native people were not allowed to practice their traditions, for fear of being killed. Their songs, their music, their ceremonies, were banned, being perceived as “evil”. When in fact, they represented the total opposite of “evil”. Traditions, language and ceremonies are a way to honor one’s ancestors and the Creator, to be thankful, mindful, spiritually connected. But out of ignorance, songs and traditional languages were banished.

For more than a century, native children were taken away from their homes, their communities, tepeestripped of their cultural identity and were placed in Indian residential schools, or Indian boarding schools, operated by the church. The goal? “To take the indian out of the child” or more accurately “to beat the indian out of the child”. Children were dressed in a uniform, punished if they spoke their language or practiced their traditions. They were physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abused. An inordinate amount of children lost their lives while attending residential schools. They returned to their communities in the summer as strangers. They could not relate to their parents anymore nor could their parents relate to them. Villages without any kids for months at a time. Can you imagine how traumatizing it must have been for families?

Substance abuse

Yes it is true that the Native American population has a higher incidence of substance abuse. Considering what I just said about alcohol as well as the history of trauma in families, is it really surprising? Children were taken away, parents robbed of the chance to be parents, children were scarred for life, families were split apart, abuse of any type was rampant and rights were restricted. Parents were then seen as being unfit and children were taken away by the government, placing them in foster families. In an event referred to as the “Sixties Scoop”, Canadian Aboriginal children were literally “scooped” from their families to be placed either in residential schools, in Caucasian Canadian families or placed for adoption in the United States or Western Europe. An estimated 20 000 children were “scooped” over a period of 20 years. The goal? Cultural assimilation. The result? Intergenerational trauma. For all members of the family, the tribe, the nation. Trauma, including repeating the abuse suffered in residential school, was passed down from generation to generation with no coping skills. A higher incidence of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, a high incidence of native people in our prison system. 

It is said that what we do affect the next seven generations. But it goes both ways, i.e. positive eagleschanges can also affect the next seven generations. I think we are starting to see positive changes. By going back to the traditional ways, to the Red Road principles. By living a honest and simple life. But I get frustrated when I hear some say about native people “why don’t they just get over it”? Would you say that to a Jewish person whose family had died at Auschwitz? I did not think so.

Take the time to watch the video below addressing stereotypes about Native people. Very powerful

 

Mitakuye Oyasin

 

Soapberries: little fruits full of benefits

Soapberries: their benefits and uses

Hi everyone!

Soapberries

Soapberries

I was busy in the past few days and have not had a chance to add new content. However, as I went to my usual Tuesday night Pow wow, I gather some intel for this post 😉 Indeed, I talked natural remedies and plant based products with a merchant there. As she was whipping a pink foamy mixture with an electric mixer, I got curious. So I ask what it was. Her response: soapberry indian ice cream. Well I had seen this foamy “ice cream” before at Pow wows but had never known what it was. As she told me that soapberries are thought to contain numerous positive and healing properties, I decided to research them a bit.

Native soapberries or buffaloberries or foamberries

So as I did my research, I came to the realization that there are two types of soapberries. The kind I am discussing here are the soapberries using by Native nations, especially on the West Coast. They look like the berries above and below, a bright red/pink fruit. The other kind of soapberries are also referred to soapnuts and are used as ingredients in natural detergents. Yes that’s right. That type of soapberries are contained in shells containing saponin, a compound responsible for some of their healing properties and cleaning properties (as it has foaming properties). 

Soapberry

Soapberry

The “native” soapberries grow in a shrub that can survive harsh climates and pretty much any kind of soil. The shrub itself is about 3 to 6 feet high with loose branches. A soapberry shrub will need about 5 to 6 years to produce fruits. it produces a fruit that is often described as bitter (I can attest to that…) but when eaten has been reported as being an effective mosquito repellent. Go figure! Berries are collected from the shrub by placing a tarp under the shrub and beating the branches bearing fruits with a stick. Only the very ripe ones will fall down.

So what can soapberries do?

As I said, soapberries are used by many nations, here in BC at least (like the Lillooet nation or the Shuswap nation). Not only are they eaten in dishes as they contain high vitamin C (like the indian ice cream described below) but they have also been used by native people to treat high blood pressure, digestive disorders, acne and bringing on childbirth to name a few. However, as the native soapberries or buffaloberries also contain saponin, they must be consumed in moderation as they can upset your stomach. They can also be used externally to make cleansers or even shampoo.

Wingleaf soapberries

Wingleaf soapberries

But wait, there is more!! The roots, leaves and bark can also be used medicinally. Boiled inner bark can be used as a laxative or a infusion of the bark can be used as an eyewash (remember it has cleansing properties). The brew has also been used to soothe an upset stomach, to treat stomach cancer, constipation and venereal diseases. Similarly, a brew using the stems and leaves can be used as a wash for cuts, swellings and sores. The roots of his little miraculous shrub also have an anti-hemorrhagic property, in other words they stop bleeding as well as purge and cleanse. They have also been used as an aid to childbirth and to treat tuberculosis. Jeez that shrub does a lot!!! Who wants a soapberry shrub in their backyard now?

Ok but how do we eat them? Indian ice cream!

Well soapberries are rarely eaten directly, due to their bitter taste. They are most commonly mixed into something. They can be crushed and be used to make lemonade or tea. And yes they can be found in indian ice cream! Yes I know you are all wondering what the heck I am talking about. Let me explain by reminding you that soapberries contain saponin, which gives them a foamy quality. Meaning that when beaten, they become foamy. Vigorously beating them raises the foam level. So the soapberries are crushed then can be mixed in different ways. More than one recipe is out there. The woman I saw at the Pow wow was beating hers with water and sugar. That’s it. The result looks like the picture below. I included a larger image so you can see its texture. It’s basically as light as air and is often eaten in large gatherings like Pow wows. It is served in little cups. What does it taste like?? Well…..I can only describe what I tasted. The original taste is somewhat sweet but then an ashy/bitter aftertaste sets in. I was told that it is normal to have that aftertaste and that one gets used to it. I can’t say it was bad, as the texture is very interesting and fun but one cup was enough. I will continue to try it though to see if the ashy taste goes away.

indian soapberry ice cream

indian soapberry ice cream

But as I said, there are variances in how one makes indian ice cream. Indeed, Alaskan natives call it akutaq or agutak. It is basically salmonberries (similar to soapberries) mixed with fat. Yes you read that right. Berries and fat. It can be animal fat or good old Crisco. Same principle of crushing the berries and beating them with fat. The consistency is less smooth and more lumpy, like you can see below. What do they call it? Well Eskimo Ice cream of course 🙂

Eskimo ice cream

Eskimo ice cream

Have you ever had soapberries or indian ice cream?? Share your comments or experience below!

 

 

Native American children: regalia and culture

Native American children: our chiefs of tomorrow

Hello everyone!

Achomawi baby in beaded cradle board-1910

Achomawi baby in beaded cradle board-1910

If you like my Facebook page, then you probably know that I like Pow wow regalia! And that I really like Native American children regalia. Every time, I attend a Pow wow, it just warms my heart to see children dressed in either regalia or traditional wear. You can also check out my post about Pow wows here.

Children are our future. They are the ones who will keep the culture alive when we have passed on to the spirit world. I think they need to be taught about their culture so they can take pride in their traditions. I have attended Pow wows where mothers go dance with infants strapped to their back. The child moves along to the music with their mother. They feel the vibration of the drum and I can honestly say I have never seen a child cry when there is singing and drumming. Even if it can be very very loud. One would think that the music would frighten them but it rarely does.

Traditional music and children

Okibwe-Cree boy dancing, Montata

Ojibwe-Cree boy dancing, Montata

The music, the rhythm seems to soothe children, possibly reminiscent of their mother heart beat (what the rhythmic drumming symbolizes). I have seen many young kids, toddlers, just stop and listen when singing begins. Just like the little 2 year old girl who was attending the Brushing off ceremony I attended. She just sat on her dad’s lap and seemed mesmerized by the singing. I have said before that traditional songs are passed down from generation to generation, songs that are actually prayers. And it is as though children understand intuitively the message contained in those songs.

One reason for this might be related to the fact that children are just out of the spirit world. Remember that we enter the physical world from the spirit world, to return to the spirit world at death. Remember the directions of the Medicine Wheel. We move from the spirit word to the physical world to return to the spirit world. Death is just a change in worlds. When remembering this, it makes sense that children would understand songs that came to be from the spirit world.

Children and Elders

As an example, have you noticed how easy it is for older people to connect with babies? Or how children seem attracted by older individuals? They recognize one another. One just left a world that the other one is entering. It’s easy for them to interact. Their soul is pure, open to the unseen. Older people will often reminisce about their youth. Some will find it annoying, reminding them that it’s in the past. But to them, it is where they are now. They have returned to their child state, in preparation for the spirit world that awaits. I was once told that every child is born an Elder. They are born pure, without malice, they are born teachers and Elders. And I truly believe that. Every child has the potential to later be an Elder. The effects of colonization get in the way though. The teachings, the language get lost.

So when children are involved in and taught their traditions, it is a beauty sight. It is the sight of a culture that is alive. It is the sight of a culture that is not forgotten. Our children need to be taught, so they can keep the culture alive, as they will become the teachers. So, I am leaving you with a series of photos of youngsters involved in and proud of their traditions. It makes my heart smile to see them. Enjoy those beautiful Native American children in their regalia.

2 Hunting Moon Pow wow

2012 Hunting Moon Pow wow

Fancy Pow wow shawl. It moves beautifully when one dances

Fancy Pow wow shawl. It moves beautifully when one dances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012-Santa Fee. How cute!

2012-Santa Fee. How cute!

 

2012-Santa Fe

2012-Santa Fe

Tiny Tots grass dancer-a type of dance often seen in Pow Wows

Tiny Tots grass dancer-a type of dance often seen in Pow Wows

Grass dancer

Grass dancer

Pow wow 2012

Pow wow 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little jiggle dress dancer

Little jingle dress dancer

Little girls in jiggle dresses

Little girls in jingle dresses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jiggle dress in movement. The movements in such dancing are so graceful

Jingle dress in movement. The movements in such dancing are so graceful

Oglala Lakota nation Pow wow-Pine Ridge Reservation-SD

Oglala Lakota nation Pow wow-Pine Ridge Reservation-SD

For beautiful children regalia items, click here.

All My Relations