Monthly Archives: October 2015

Susan LaFlesche Picotte: One heck of a role model

Susan LaFlesche Picotte: One heck of a role model

Hello all!

How are you doing all? I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Such beautiful weather on the

Susan LaFlesche Picotte

Susan LaFlesche Picotte

West Coast! If you know my Facebook page, you will have seen my post about a wonderful Native woman by the name of Susan LaFlesche-Picotte, who was the first Native woman to become a physician in the USA. You go girl! What a good role model! So, today, I will be discussing her life and her contributions to the Native people. Go Susan LaFlesche Picotte!

P.S. Notice my new header? What are your thoughts about it? It was made by a wonderful artist named Rory CJ Frankson. See his Facebook page. Thanks Rory!!

The early life of Susan LaFlesche and the world she was living in

Susan was born in June 1865 on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Nebraska. Her father was Chief Joseph LaFlesche (Iron Eyes) of the Omaha tribe and her mother was Mary (One Woman).

Mary LaFlesche

Mary, Susan’s mother

Both wanted Susan and her siblings (she had three sisters) to be exposed to both worlds, the Native world and the White man world. She attended school on a reservation and then went into the White man’s world to get the education she felt she needed to get to help her people.

 

Let’s just think for a second about the time period Susan was born into and grew up in. She was born in a time of war. Wars regarding the land, regarding basic human rights taken away from the Native people. A time during which every power of decision was taken away. Parents were forced to send their children to residential school, people were confined to live on reservations that they did not even control. Food and basic essentials were rationed, the land that used to be theirs, actually the land they came from, where they lived with all their relations, was taken away. Ceremonies and traditional ways of living were outlawed. Holy!

And what did Susan do about it? She became a freaking doctor! Talk about showing them! Maybe without knowing it, she used her own experience growing up on a poor diseased reservation. Maybe it helped her choose her destiny. It is said that her seeing a sick Native woman die because she was being refused services by a white doctor, made her want to change her people’s conditions. She might not have consciously known it at the time but she embarked on a mission to better her life and the life of her people.

Her education in the White world

She then went on to attend the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies and later the Hampton Institute in Virginia, from which she graduated in 1886. But she was not satisfied. So she did not stop there. Oh no! Encouraged by a mentor she applied for a scholarship with the U.S. office of Indian Affairs, which she received and used to attend the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. And yes people, she became a medical doctor 4 years later! A Native woman doctor. The epitome of living in both worlds.

Susan LaFlesche at her graduation

Susan LaFlesche at her graduation

Following her education, Susan went back home and worked for a government hospital, caring for both Native and white patients. She did her best to improve the conditions of her people by educating them on cleanliness and hygiene and ventilation (as tuberculosis was rampant at the time). It could be said that she worked with dedication, oftentimes having to buy supplies with her own money (as her salary was little) and making house calls at all times of the day in frigid weather (let’s face it, Nebraska winters are cold!). But the very long days took a toll on Susan, who was bedridden for 2 months in 1893.

Balancing all of her roles

She then went on to marry Henry Picotte, a Sioux man, and they eventually moved to a different Nebraska town. At the time, the typical role of married women was to stay home and raise kids. Well not for Susan! Not only did she raise their two kids, she also opened her own private practice and worked full time. Not only that, she also took care of Henry who suffered from

Susan, her sister Marguerite and husbands, who were brothers

Susan, her sister Marguerite and husbands, who were brothers

alcoholism. Following his death in 1905, Susan became vocal about alcohol on reservations, advocating for its prohibition. All the while, Susan created controversy by supporting the Peyote movement (the use of peyote in Native rituals and traditions). As a medical doctor, her stance put her against numerous of her colleagues. But she also advocated for better conditions on reservations and against the stealing and selling of the land. She also made it a point to show that she could oversee her husband’s estate just as much as a male relative.

 

 

 

Susan was a force to be reckoned with. She used her medical background to teach and educate her people on the importance of hygiene and disease prevention, eventually opening a hospital on the Omaha reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska. She brought the missing care of her childhood to her people. I would describe Susan as a kick ass woman! I am sorry but she rocked. She did not bow down to the traditional roles and stereotypes of the white world. She showed the world she could do more and she did. She stood up for what she believed in and became a role model. She showed the world what a woman can do. She was caring, strong, determined and nurturing. And I can identify a lot with that. I am not the traditional woman. Some say I am stubborn but I say I am determined. I have ambition and I am not satisfied with doing the strict minimum. I speak up when I feel I need to, call people on their bullshit while being caring and nurturing. I have a feeling Susan and I would have gotten along very well. 🙂

Susan LaFlesche Picotte-1889

Susan LaFlesche Picotte-1889

What do you all think about Susan LaFlesche Picotte? Are you finding her to be an inspiration too?

All my Relations

 

Cheyenne Dog Soldiers: The controversial warriors

Cheyenne Dog Soldiers: The Controversial warriors

Hello all!

How are you all doing on this Sunday afternoon? Here, on the West Coast, clouds are looming

Cheyenne Dog Soldier by James Bama

Cheyenne Dog Soldier by James Bama

and it is thus the perfect afternoon to be writing on my site 🙂 Over the past months, I have come across some paintings, by artist James Bama among others. If you follow my Facebook page, you would have seen some of those paintings. I was intrigued by one of those paintings titled Cheyenne Dog Soldier  so I began researching the topic of Dog Soldiers. What I found was a story of warriors who came together to help their people. However, the story is not as black and white as that. Whereas some would consider them heroes, some would consider them a military group whose power got the best of them. Which one is it? Well let’s start from the beginning and look at the story of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.

The Cheyenne and their societies

The Cheyenne people, a Plains tribe, were known to hold their own against even the fiercest of opponents. They had the fight in them and stood their ground. As with other Plains tribes, they were organized into societies with their own rules, privileges and duties. Each had their own songs and dances that distinguished them. The Dog Soldiers society was one of six military societies of the Cheyenne Indians. Beginning in the early 1800’s, this society played an important role in Cheyenne resistance (as I said they had the fight in them) to American expansion in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, where the Cheyenne had settled in the early 19th Century.

The formation of the Dog Soldiers society

The Cheyenne Dog Soldiers society was a “military” society put in place to regulate the members of the tribe, to regulate social problems among the tribe such as theft and murder. The oral tradition says that Sweet Medicine, the Cheyenne’s cultural hero, wished to find a solution to those problems. Thus he went into Black Hills country (yes the same Black Hills that the US government wants to currently take over from the Indigenous people of the land) to find answers. He then encountered a group of older men and women who told him that to solve the Cheyenne’s problem, a “good government” needed to be put into place. And this good government had to be formed of a council of 44 chiefs. Further, military societies had to be formed to provide policing and protection. So eventually, six military societies were formed including the Dog Soldiers. The Dog Soldiers rose among their peers to a position of prominence and power. They aimed to train their members and preserve traditions.

Cheyenne Dog Soldier

Another version of the beginnings of the Dog Soldiers and how they came into their name is the following. A young man without any influence, but chosen by the Great Prophet, tried to rally some of his companions to form a society. As no one would listen to him in the camp circle, he became sad, prayed to the Great Prophet and began singing at sunset. As the people fell asleep in their lodges, the dogs, small and big, howled and whined as the man sang. As he left the camp circle, all the dogs followed him, as he sang four times before reaching his destination at sunrise. He then sat by a tree facing north and all the dogs immediately went in front of him in a semi-circle. As they laid their heads down, a lodge suddenly sprang up around the man. As the dogs entered the lodge, they became humans dressed like the Dog Soldiers. The young man listened and watched as the Dog Men began to sing and dance their own music. The Dog Men blessed the man promising him that his wishes would become reality. The next day as he asked again who wanted to form a society, hundreds joined and he directed them to sing and dance like the Dog Men. Both versions of the formation of the Dog Soldiers are encountered in the oral tradition. I think the main point of both versions is that the society was there to protect using their own traditions, duties and privileges. Let’s then look at what they were

The Dog Soldiers traditions

It is said that each society, the Dog Soldiers included, had their own symbols, dances, songs and traditions. In regard to their outfits, the Dog Soldiers wore not only a whistle made of bird (typically an eagle) bone but also a belt made of four skunk skins. They carried a bow and arrow and a rattle shaped like a snake to accompany their songs. Further, the four bravest leaders in battle wore a dog rope (sashes made of tanned skin) across their chest. The sash passed over the right shoulder and hung to the ground under the left arm and was decorated with porcupine quills and eagle feathers. Tradition says that to each dog rope was attached a picket-pin (the kind you would use to secure a horse to the ground). While in combat, the pin was put into the ground as a sign of perseverance and standing one’s ground. The soldier was then effectively staked to the ground and could not move. They would do that in battle to allow their brothers’ safe retreat. The Dog Soldiers had to remain there in place until every one reached safety or someone relieved them. Even if it meant death. The Cheyenne tall and proud.

Dog Men

Dog Men

Those men were there to not only keep peace but also to guide their companions. For example, in the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, when the Cheyenne joined the Lakota Sioux against General Custer, it is said that the Dog Soldiers advised the rest of the troops to stand down until the white man attacked. They told the troops to stay put patrolling the grounds making sure no one took it upon themselves to go after the white man first. Why? For the welfare of the whole group, for the welfare of the people. So they stood united. And as we know the strategy worked as Custer decided to attack even though he was unprepared and outnumbered, thus fighting his last battle.

However, power can get to one’s head…..

However, probably like in any other military societies, power got the best of some of the Dog Soldiers. Although individual punishment was not approved or sanctioned, some soldiers took it upon themselves to enforce rules furiously. Due some of their actions, and at times, what seemed like abuse of power, some of the Dog Soldiers (who had been led by Porcupine Bear, were ostracized from their village and tribe. They then became governed by their own band chiefs and lived outside of the main camp. The Dog Soldiers camp became independent from the main camp and new recruits understood they would have to move from the main camp. Seen as more extremists than before, the Dog Soldiers began attracting the more militant of the warriors fighting for the land and their boundaries.

By the 1860’s, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and some of the Lakota warriors had joined forces Dog Soldier(working together in the Battle of Little Bighorn as previously stated). Together, they became more persistent and defiant. Some warriors also decided to go against the majority of the Cheyennes by opposing the civil chiefs who wished for peace. The Dog Soldiers had prestige and strength and often chose war over peace. The rest of the tribe often following suit. This led to many conflicts among their own people, with the Cheyenne people who wished for peace. Tribes were divided and the Dog Soldiers somewhat lost sight of their original mission: to think of the welfare of the whole group. 

The legacy of the Dog Soldiers

Nonetheless, the Dog Soldiers remain figures that one looks up to in the oral tradition. They remain a form of heroes, even though they became separate from the Cheyenne. They remain respected and revered.

Indeed, though the Dog Soldiers never approached the political and military power they once had, they remained revered by other Cheyenne. Respect is given to the society still today. Young Cheyenne are still recruited into this soldier clan. During the twentieth century, Dog Soldiers also served with the United States military in World War I and II and in the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf region. The image of the brave Dog Soldier carries on.

White Horse-1895

White Horse, Southern Cheyenne Dog Soldier leader-1895

So in the end, the Dog Soldiers had the right intentions: to keep the peace and to attend to the welfare of the whole group. They were brave men who stood their ground, and were not afraid to fight for what they had (or to keep what they had). However, power can be attractive (it is said to be an acquired need) and the story of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers is an example. Nonetheless, a group that still commands respect for their bravery. I leave you with a short video showing the beauty of the Cheyenne people. Enjoy!

Had you heard of the Dog Soldiers? What are your thoughts on them? Comment below and I will answer 🙂

All my Relations

 

 

Not everything is as it seems: Life as First Graders

Not everything is as it seems: Life as First Graders

Hello all!

For my fellow Canadians, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all having a great weekend. I had to run back to the office quickly today but other than that, I am enjoying the time off! Today, we will be going back in time and see the Red man as a first grader. We are going back in the late 1970’s when nuns were teaching the children. We will be talking about the Red man’s first experience seeing a nun and how things are perceived at the tender age of 6. I will be adding my own two cents here and there as I worked with kids for many years and have my own experiences. Stay tuned because as you will see not everything is as it seems. Let’s look at life as a first grader 🙂

There were all the kids and then there was Lenny

I was a little man in a big world of intrigue and wonder. In the school yard, each and every kid is shrouded in some type of mystery.  They seemed to all fit into a category or another. Fat funny kids, skinny quiet ones, ugly kids, pretty kids and the weird quiet kid, aka Lenny. The kid with orange toquethe orange toque that he never took off. The little awkward kid who never said one word to anyone even if he was taunted or teased. If Lenny was anything, he was a master at avoiding confrontation. He would just walk to some quiet unoccupied piece of the playground where he would almost be gone and forgotten except for the fact that his orange hunting toque was like a beacon in the night.

“Here I am, pick on me” it said. Kids can be cruel and we were cruel. In children, the anxiety associated with the development of social skills can be quite high especially when you have no real social skills to begin with. Children can be cowards, they will take their frustration out on the perceived inferior being and Lenny was the chosen one. He was the one even the weakest child could pick on. He would not defend himself but stuck out like a sore thumb.

School in the 1970’s and the nuns

I do not know how school is today but in the late 1970’s, we had to sing the national anthem first thing in the morning and religion class was mandatory (having worked for a catholic school district, I can tell you this is still happening in some school districts in Canada). So after the morning bell rang we would stand for the national anthem. We would then sit and attendance would be taken. Lenny was so attached to his toque that he never took it off even during the national anthem. The weird quiet kid never took off his toque so he was the butt of the jokes.

When you are a child, time has no real reference point. It is all new and exciting and is hard to comprehend when looking back. A day seems like a month and a month seems like a lifetime (having assessed kids for years I can attest to that! They need to be given reference points otherwise they seem to think everything will last forever. Literally). So I am not sure how long into Grade 1 we were when we got a new nun for religion class. When I walked into the class, an ominous figure sat at our teacher’s desk: a nun in a nun’s cloak, head covering and all. This was my first experience with a nun so I did not know what to expect. If there was ever an intriguing mystery, a nun sure was one of them. If there was a real life superhero capable of extraordinary things, she was it. I thought this nun had some real power, she could send me to hell!

Sisters of St-Francis in 1886

But I was a good kid and that is the truth (I can see him being good, full of wonder for the world). I was afraid to be anything but good, the fear of God was instilled deep inside of me. Indeed, as I have said in the past, I was raised by my grandmother and my aunts. Although I am an Indian, religion was present in my household. My aunt Lulu, well one of my many aunts, would tuck me in bed at night. But Lulu was the one who got in depth about “Hell the place where bad people would go if they were bad. This place where you burn forever and ever and the Devil, this evil monster pokes me with a fork stick”. There was this prayer that scared the shit out of me. “Now I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, pray my soul to take” (what an awful prayer for a child!). So before bed, we would say a few Our fathers, a few Hail Marys and at last I would lay down to sleep. So when I saw this woman with this cloak in my classroom, I was especially aware of my behavior.

Fort Albany residential school

Fort Albany residential school

The prayer and Lenny

So here we are in Grade 1, when the bell rang and all the little rug rats filed in. When the bell rang a second time signaling the start of class, the chuckling and giggling had already began (kids are funny little fuckers, they will giggle and laugh just to giggle and laugh). The nun was a weird sight for us kids and we all knew she was getting none. Wow, I just realized that I knew what “getting some” was all about at such a young age! So the nun gets out of her chair and makes her way to the front and center of the classroom. “Okay children be quiet for a second. I want you to stand and bow your head for the Lord’s Prayer.” The classroom went eerily quiet as soon as she spoke. We were children, we would steal, lie and cheat but in the face of authority we would do our best to appear angelic (yep). As I stood there with my head bowed, I peeked child prayingaround to see who was looking at Lenny. We all wanted to see what his head looked like. We knew there was no chance of him getting away with wearing his toque during our Father’s prayer.

“Hey you in the back of the classroom, you with the orange toque”, the classroom came to life with chuckles and giggles. The conspiratorial looks increased, everyone was aware that the great revelation was here: we would know what Lenny looked like. Rumor had it that he was bald, some even said that his head was possibly full of scars. All the while Lenny stood quietly with his head down looking at the floor. “Hey you with the orange toque, take your toque off for the Lord’s prayer”. The nun’s voice rose a few octaves higher as the classroom began to chuckle and giggle louder. “Hey you with the orange toque” but before she could even finish, a floodgate of emotions shook Lenny’s body. A grotesque sounding noise came pouring out of Lenny’s mouth as he ran toward the door. The entire class erupted in a rumble of laughter until “Shut up” the nun roared. The classroom went nununcomfortably quiet as the nun walked out the classroom door doing her best to find the wounded animal. As she came back a while later, we resumed our prayer.

 

 

And then we learned the truth about Lenny…

We stood there arms at our sides, eyes closed doing our best to stay composed. And then two weeks later (in kid’s time), a message came over the intercom. “We are sad to announce that our school has lost one of its students. Lenny has passed away”. It was a strange and almost divine punishment. We were being punished for teasing Lenny. We were told that Lenny had died of leukemia, his radiation treatment had made him loose his hair. Hence the orange toque… I then began to question the power that the nun supposedly had. She was supposed to be a good person, God’s servant, who was better or greater than the rest of us. She looked more human than ever and not a very good human at that.

You see, as kids, adults are supposed to know everything and they were supposed to tell us what we needed to know. I know we would have treated Lenny better if we knew he was going to die. I know we would have had, I would have made sure of it. When we looked in each others’ eyes, we could see the shame and the guilt we all felt. I began to question religion at this point in my life. It did not make too much sense to me. I felt guilty and wrong for the way Lenny was treated. His last day at school was his worst day in this world. Children will steal, lie and cheat. They will yell, scream and holler but deep down they are innocent and perfect in their imperfection. They are honest and that is the truth about humanity (you can always count on a kid to tell it like it is).

first grade classroom

So where do we go now?

I hope you see inside the mind of a child when you read this stuff. I hope you see me as first grader and how I was seeing the world. And remember this: those little people are just like you. Offend them now and they will offend you later. Lie to them now and they will never grow up and be a liar like you. I ended up failing Grade 1 as our house burned down. And later on in life, I ended up being best friend with Lenny’s brother. The truth is that I still feel guilty for the way we all treated Lenny. The only thing he ever said to us was that scream he let out as he ran out the room. Please say a prayer for little Lenny and all the little bastards who were in that classroom as I bet half of them might remember little Lenny.

Hi it is me, Emily now. Some of you might not know this but I used to be a school psychologist. And the Red man’s story reminded me of this little girl in kindergarten I used to know. A little little girl who was full of life and joy. She was so happy to be in school, to make new friends. She was also a little bit shy but had a few friends. Then I got a phone call from the school principal. The little girl’s parents wanted to meet with her and I. Because not everything is as it seems. You see, their daughter had an inoperable brain tumor. She would not survive it. All at the tender age of 5. You want to hear the twist? Both her parents were doctors, one of them a surgeon. Yet they could not save her. They could only know each and every difficult step she was going to go through in the next months, steps they relayed in a meeting I had with them. So we tried to make the little’s girl last days comfortable and fun. She attended school when she could, kids would help her get around and do her daily activities. And I get the Red man’s point that kids can tease and be cruel but kids are also very intuitive and sensitive. And caring. As the little girl passed away during the Christmas break, a memorial was put up in her classroom. Kids drew cards for her and they stuck them all over the board. So she would never have to miss a day of class.

kindergarten classroom

Does anyone remember their first grade? Do you remember the kids who were with you? Did you have a Lenny in your classroom? Did this story touch you? Comment below and I will respond.

All my Relations

Native American arrowhead necklace review: A little jewel of a necklace!



Native American arrowhead necklace review: A little jewel of a necklace!

Hello all

I recently bought a few articles from Etsy and thought I would share one of them with you by reviewing this Native American arrowhead necklace. If you know this site, you know that I love Etsy! A wonderful site where artists can set up “shop” and sell their art. And plenty of Native American artists and wonderful art. 🙂 You can always find something unique on Etsy! Check it out if you have not already!

Product: Native American Stone Arrowhead Feather Pendant Stone arrowhead necklace

Where: HonuHippie shop at Etsy

Materials: Agate, dragon ven agate, turquoise, blue turquoise, white turquoise, jasper, silver

Price: 52.50$ US

Rating: 5 stars

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