Blog

Hobos

When I was young in a small town in northern Minnesota, hobos stayed in the stockyard by the railway tracks not far from our house. We—a small group of 6-and-7-year-old urchins, would throw rocks on the tin roofs of the stockyard sheds, and, seeing or not seeing a face peer around a corner, we would run, with just enough titillating fear to bring us back another day. Read The Article

Steve Kerr, Rez Ball, and Hope in Sport

“Sports is a refuge but not a hiding place from the world of violence.”

Golden State Warriors basketball coach Steve Kerr said that in an impassioned press conference right after the Uvalde shootings. Or someone retrieved an old quote to go along with his new press conference tirade about gun violence and Congressional inaction.

It doesn’t matter when he said it. The knowledge that Steve Kerr’s father, who in 1984 was the President of the American University in Beirut, was killed by a gunman, gives him creds beyond his basketball celebrity. Read The Article

WASP—White Anglo-Saxon Protestant—Men


Men! And, yes mostly white men of Anglo descent, the ones who took Indian lands away with treaties and wars, lies, legislation, disease, and depleting food stocks, who brought the slaves and wrote the Constitution and engaged in a Civil War over Black men and women as property—commodities to be bought and sold.

These white men manned the pulpits and kept women quiet and hung some of them as witches. (No wonder some women and girls “captured’ by Indians refused negotiated releases.) They set our nation on its course. Read The Article

Nez Perce Music–Three Years Later

Three years ago, we had a summer exhibit featuring Nez Perce music, from drummers and dancers of long ago to the “Nezpercians” and “Lollypop Six” jazz and dance bands of the early and mid-twentieth century. We gave a nod in that exhibit to a young Nez Perce jazz singer named Julia Keefe.

Julia wasn’t done with music and with her Native past. With a grant in hand, Keefe and co-leader, Delbert Anderson of the Dine Tribe of the Navajo Nation, set out to build an all-indigenous big band. They worried that they could find enough talent and interest among indigenous musicians, but, in the end, according to Tom Bance of NPR’s Northwest News Network”:

“Keefe and Anderson said they could have assembled two all-Native big bands with the talent that came out of the woodwork. The selected participants had connections to Native peoples across the Americas, including Alaska, Hawaii, eastern Canada, the U.S. Southwest, the Great Plains and Caribbean.” Read The Article

Boarding Schools and Religion

What do we make of it, the long and sickening stories of abuse of Indian children in boarding schools in Canada and our own country? How can men—mostly men, but some women too—have done these things to children?

My friends raised in California Catholic schools laugh now about a nun who liked to rap knuckles with a yardstick, but even that, the hitting of small children by a grown woman pledged to teach them, seems to reflect more on her perverse personality or the crazy institution that had aligned with it than it does on the children.

Sure, there were and are trouble-making children, kids who bring sad stories from sad homes to school with them every day, and work out their home problems by being nasty to other students or contentious with teacher nuns—or any teachers. And there are kids with “just mean” in them that we struggle to understand. But—as we often say—who and where is the adult? Read The Article

Help from the Natives

It’s a heavy job to give to Indians—and I use “Indians” here in deference to older tribal people who still use that term comfortably—but I don’t know who else we turn to. Young white men are killing African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Young Blacks are killing each other on the streets, and I don’t know about today but know that in the past Latino and Asian gangs also killed their own. Read The Article

Eleventh Grade in Ankara

I spent most of a recent two week soujourn in The Department of American Culture and Literature, also known as the American Studies Department, at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Ankara, a modern city of high rises and 5 million people, is the nation’s capital. The university is nearly self-contained, with housing, coffee shops and a market, and is surrounded by hospitals, government buildings, and apartment and business towers.

Bilkent has 12,500 undergraduate and graduate students, and an adjacent k-12 Bilkent Laboratory and International School has over 1000 students. Although early grades are dual-language, upper grades at the BLIS school and the entire university use English as the teaching language. Read The Article

Spring–and baseball dreams

In the midst of War and Covid, my mind goes to baseball. Maybe because it is spring, and some of my best and earliest memories are about baseball and spring. How I hung out at a Minnesota Youth baseball program meant for older kids until they let me practice, and once travel to a game on the Red Lake Reservation and play an inning in right field.

We moved to California, Little League started in our town, and then there was Babe Ruth and high school ball and all-star tournaments—and dreams of Little League World Series, high school championships, and more baseball. Read The Article

Apologies–and Resilience Through Writing

I have had this book, Resilience Through Writing: A Bibliographic Guide to Indigenous-Authored Publications in the Pacific Northwest before 1960, on my desk for over a year! It was sent to me by its editor, Darby C. Stapp, a publication of the Journal of Northwest Anthropology, with which he has long been associated.

I remember when I got it, opening to a random page and reading—and writing immediately to Darby Stapp that it was like reading a novel. I put it on a back shelf, thinking that I would sit down and do a thorough examination of the text and write a real review. That didn’t happen. Opening it now, I remember why. There is too much! Read The Article

Rez Ball Update at Eastern Oregon U.

When i wrote about the Arlee Warrior basketball team and Abe Streep’s wonderful book about them, Rez ball in Montana, and the problems successful Native high school athletes have making it to and in the college game, I did not know that one of the key players followed in Abe’s book, Brothers on Three, just completed a very successful season in my backyard, at Eastern Oregon University. A Montana friend gave me the news, and here’s what I learned from the EOU web page:

“Junior guard Phillip Malatare was named the Newcomer of the Year and was tabbed First Team All-CCC. He garners the award after being a guiding force for the Mountaineers in 2021-22. ..

“Malatare was the Mountaineers’ go-to option on offense this season as he averaged 19.2 points per game 27 games played. He started 26 contests and averaged 30.6 minutes per game. His 19.2 points per game were second highest in the league as he shot Read The Article

Thirty years make a difference–Rez Ball 3

A year ago, I wrote a blog post I called “Rez Ball.” I gave a little Indian sports background, then a nod to Larry Colton’s book about a Native basketball player he’d followed through the 1992-93 season in Montana, Counting Coup, and I celebrated the 2021 Lapwai Boys Idaho State Championship team. I made another Rez Ball post this week, celebrating the Lapwai Boys and Girls 2022 State Championship teams.

Colton’s book, published in 2000, followed one girl, Sharon LaForge, through a season, with the author stepping into the book and trying to help the talented LaForge find a place in college ball. It talked teenage sex and alcohol and racism, lauded and applauded Sharon when it could, but pulled no punches—and landed Colton on the outside of much of her Montana Crow Tribal community. Years later, there was a reunion, and Colton could tell Sharon that while the book might have landed hard on the rez, it had Read The Article

Rez Ball-2

I don’t know when I first heard the term “rez ball,” but I’ve been watching Nixyaawii School on the Umatilla Reservation play basketball for years, and that’s where I got my idea of what it is. It’s more passes than dribbles, move the ball, and offense coming off pressure defense. It’s no-look passes and going to the hot shooter in the game, ofttimes for threes.

Once, in Joseph, Nixyaawii was having their way with the Joseph girls. It must have been 2017, when Mary Stewart led the Golden Eagles to the state championship. She would bring the ball up nonchalantly, then dribble quickly to the side and nail a three, or fire an overhead pass to a girl who’d moved deftly to the rim for an easy layup. Read The Article

It’s the Land!

This weekend “media tycoon” Byron Allen told a TV audience that he now owned the Weather Channel and intended to bid on the Denver Broncos. While the NFL is in a dispute over the lack of Black coaches in the league, Allen intends to be the first African-American owner of an NFL team. NFL rosters have, of course, long been filled with African-American players. The league is more than 60 % Black, but coaches are few, and owners none.

In another, quieter announcement this week, President Joe Biden nominated Harvard University Native American Program Executive Director Shelly C. Lowe to serve as the 12th chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on an Arizona reservation. The National Endowment for the Humanities is our national institution that celebrates “culture.” Read The Article

Alvin Josephy and the “new” science on Native American origins

Several friends quickly sent me the NYTimes review of a new book on the old subject of human origins in the Americas. The book is ORIGIN: A Genetic History of the Americas, and the author is Jennifer Raff. According to the reviewer, Raff consulted the sciences of “archaeology, genetics, and linguistics” in her book—which I have not read, but have ordered! Read The Article

The Education of Little Tree–and Wannabe Indians

When I was in the bookstore, I sold many copies of The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter, AKA Little Tree. It was the story of a child raised by Cherokee grandparents to the wonders of the natural world and Indian ways of living. The book was published in the same year that I opened the bookstore, 1976, and soon gained a devoted following—I remember people reading it and then buying multiple copies to give to friends. Carter had already written and published The Rebel Outlaw, Josey Wales, and worked that title—and Clint Eastwood’s “Josey Wells” movie—into an appearance on Barbara Walter’s celebrity TV program. Read The Article

MLK Day plus one

My friend Tony Robinson, a retired pastor with deep roots in Wallowa County, recounted his church and civil rights journeys in a blogpost yesterday, as answers to a grandson’s queries. The history begins with memories of growing up in suburban Washington D.C., and serving as an usher for the inauguration of John Kennedy when he was 12. And then being at the front, watching JFK’s funeral procession pass by just three years later. He told his grandson that his church, in a segregated suburb, introduced him to area black churches, and sent him to interracial summer camps, setting him on a path of pastoring to Hmong refugees and AIDs patients. His regret was not being at the 1963 March on Washington and hearing Martin Luther King’s famous words. His parents, like most of white suburban D.C., had feared violence. Read The Article

Indigenous Adoptions

Over 400 men and women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were adopted by American parents from Chile during the reign of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) are finding each other. They are learning that their biological mothers were told that they had died in childbirth, and that their numbers might be in the thousands. It was apparently an effort by Pinochet to reduce the numbers of poor children and bring in US currency, an effort aided and abetted by Chilean bureaucrats and medical personnel. Read The Article

Native Foods

It struck me first in the wake of the Vietnam War, when hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, and Cambodian refugees arrived in America—and began opening restaurants. Even then I thought back to small Mexican restaurants in 1950s Southern California, and the ubiquitous pizza places and Italian restaurants that I ate in in the 60s and 70s from Oceanside, California to Washington D.C., and west to Oregon. I thought then and think now that food can bring people together with less rancor and more joy than any other thing or idea I can imagine. Read The Article

Native Wisdom

With the wind blowing hard, the lights flickering and the internet down, I’m reminded of the wisdom of Natives living for thousands of years in this land before the European invasion.

The snow paths that we had carved to cars and dog’s pasture are blown shut, and our Josephy Center, Davis Body Shop, and Vemco Fabrication are closed for the day. There are certainly others, but that’s what I got early from Facebook, before my internet went down. Read The Article