I did my clumsy best to keep time

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“The white people must think that paper had some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if the white man loses his papers, he is helpless.”

— Four Guns, Oglala Sioux

I’m not sure what weight this carries today, except that I am constantly writing things down. However, I think my age has something to do with that. My “retainer” fails in retaining what I hear.

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At the Human Rights conference I spoke of some weeks ago I probably mentioned The Wisdom of the Native Americas edited by Kent Nerburn the source of the quote. I recall way back when Cousin Ed, Keith, Max and I took a two-week journey to California. I had dropped out of the second summer session. Initially we had planned a trip to New York but then changed our minds and decided on California.

I recall stopping at Custer’s Last Stand Park site, and the building we went through. We were busy looking at remnants of Custer’s last stand while on the other side were remnants of the Indians and a couple Indians looking at that. I remember the impact that had on me. In school little was said about the Native Americans who occupied this land long before Columbus arrived, and I don’t think he even arrived on the continental United States. Then we forced them onto reservations but not before killing so many.

Sunday morning Jeanne called from St. Olaf Church saying there were Lakota Indians in the service with plans to stay for lunch there and some activities, activities for children and some “older children.” I joined them.

Kelly and Susie Looking Horse and, I believe, their son were there from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

After lunch Kelly invited the children to join him in a drumming circle where he introduced the drumming procedure, “First a hard hit, then a soft hit,” Kelly said. When the first group of six commenced drumming, there was some uncertainty as to how united they were in their drum beating.

Then Kelly invited another group of children up and only three of them took a seat and perhaps he saw the look in my eyes and said adults too can come up.

I took a seat and did my clumsy best to keep in time.

Circle dance movements along with gestures, which too are part of the Lakota ways, followed this.

Kelly also presented a clever sense of humor with his descriptions our efforts.

It was my understanding that they had come to St. Olaf by invitation, and they would be heading up to Morton for a pow wow. Kelly pointed out the procedures of the dance that occurs at the pow wow.

Susie said they are making efforts to bring the Red Nations and the White people together in a more peaceful direction. Maybe it would be good for the church to think about going to Pine Ridge for a summer camp-out.

A good read for those interested might be: “Neither Wolf nor Dog” by Kent Nerburn.

Leaving the church and heading for home I decided to take a walk around the Mill Pond with the sun shining bright and to observe all the geese saddled on the thin ice. It was fun watching geese land on the snowy ice.

On Monday there was an article in Star Tribune regarding Minnesota’s first “girl-focused” public school, actually a charter school, to turn out not only better students, but also better citizens.

The school they say “is geared toward creating confidence and competency among girls in science, technology, engineering and math.”

The founder believes this is best accomplished without boys in the classroom, although the school is open to male enrollment.

One of the 10-year-old residents said: “I really like the idea of all-girl because it’s a better learning environment, and you can achieve more in a day, not being interrupted. And we’re learning things that are actually interesting.”

Another 10-year-old girl reported: “Nobody is the odd one out; everyone is included.”

The school takes a holistic approach to education, addressing teaching and learning, resiliency and organizational effectiveness. Not something we are used to hearing.

In closing, it’s been some time since I made mention of Richard Eberhart, Austin’s own poet laureate, who said: “The fact is that we live the truth but cannot tell the truth.”