Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Much More Trouble Could A Second Dog Be?

The original Theda bara-not a dog at all

Allie wrote a nifty post about her new doggie and so I decided that, like a proud parent, I will also share my story about Doug and Theda. Theda Bara Dog is the black lab lying on the couch and Douglas Fairbanks Dog(all dogs must be named after old movie stars)is the shaggy guy sitting on the floor.

And here is Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Not Doug's dad.

As I was saying. Or was I...? Theda came to live with us when we had three acres in the country in Michigan and expected to live there forever, so a great big lab would be just super!! Hmmm.
When we moved to SD, we had to buy a house because no one here would rent to us with a dog and two cats. When we realized how much time Theda would be alone when we work on weekends, and her with pretty extreme separation anxiety and all, we decided she needed a doggy companion. We had a back yard and spent a bundle getting it fenced in, and after all, how much trouble could a second dog be?
We went to the closest animal shelter, Sioux Falls, 150 miles away, and tried out a few pooches. Too many beautiful doggies for an easy choice, but there always are too many sweet critters in shelters. Anyway, we kept going back to Doug, who was living under the nom de guerre, 'Albert'. He was cute, soft, fuzzy, friendly and he didn't pull on the leash-a big plus since Theda pulls like a plow horse. We took the friendly guy home and he promptly terrified Theda, chasing her around the yard, nipping at her legs and working to establish himself as cock o' the walk, so to speak. Alpha male really. That lasted for maybe 24 hours when Theda realized that she was a good 25 pounds heavier(no fat) and had bone crushing jaw strength compared to Doug's marshmallow crushing jaws. Our incredibly friendly and gentle Theda has been flipping him over and kicking his 50 pound ass ever since. Doug has become her favorite chew toy and for a while we had trouble keeping his collar on as she apparently enjoyed ripping it off his neck. She also gnawed his rabies shot tag to bits. And it was metal.
While there is considerable rivalry for affection at times, with noses thrust roughly in between petting hands and petted heads, they seem to have grown quite attached, even when Theda is not clamped onto Doug's throat.

Oh, how much trouble could a second dog be? Anyone with two large dogs was smirking at me from the beginning. I will just say, Doug has learned to pull on the leash, I picked up at least 15 pounds of crap in the yard Monday, being with Doug has not cured Theda's separation anxiety as made evident by her habit of chewing the siding off our garage. Oh, and Doug, unlike Theda, runs away if we let him off the leash. Cest la vi, its all for love, nec'st pas?

"We HATES dem both" Artemis le Chat

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Huh, tagged am I?

As it turns out, Aliie of Allie's Answers has tagged me with a tell seven things meme. Never having done one and since Allie is two of my favorite blogs(she also writes Incidents and Accidents) I shall do this thing.

Here are the rules for ’social-networking’ tag:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Share seven things about yourself - some random, some weird.
Tag seven people at the end of your post and link to them.
Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog and/or Twitter.
Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

Seven Super Secrets Regarding Me:

1. When I was a kid we used to get fruit from a horse drawn wagon in Chicago.
2. I,too, was a lousy student in high school. I graduated in the bottom 1/4 of my class, but I graduated cum laude from university.
3. I moved from South Dakota to live on a tropical island for two years. Then I moved to Minnesota. Call me a masochist.
4 I have lived in seven different states(but moved back to two of them once more so all told moved to nine states), a US territory and one foreign country. I have never been in the military and I lived in the same state until I was thirty.
5. Since graduating from college I have been a teacher, an ordained minister, a social worker(case manager for folks with developmental disabilities), a counseling supervisor in a domestic violence shelter and I am currently a house parent at a boarding school for Native Americans.
6. My goal for my future is to live on a commune(check out the website of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and guess which one I am going to do a membership visit to in July).
7. I was profoundly affected by the Jefferson Airplane's song 'Crown of Creation'; especially the line "Life is change, how it differs from the rocks.."

I am tagging
Young Girl Old Life
Musings Of A Minor Mennonite
Chicken Blog
Chile Chews
Arduous Blog
Fr.Peters Environmental Notes

Monday, December 1, 2008

Single Wide Thanksgiving

Originally uploaded by louisbickett

We are "internal expatriates", though there technically is no such thing. We moved from our home state to South Dakota, which is dramatically different in its geography is not exactly a foreign country. In fact, we are still in the "Midwest" since we live on the east side of the Missouri River. Whoever made these rules deemed that THE WEST, starts west of the river.
Anyway, we are pretty far from family and friends and so are quite a few of the people we work with. A fairly large number of us come from Michigan. One such couple recently moved from their apartment to a single wide trailer with their three year old son. They decided to host all the 'foreigners' for Thanksgiving dinner. About 25 of us all told. In a single wide mobile home(plus their two new puppies and their pet sugar glider from Australia). It was not feasible to drive back to Michigan on our three day break, and we really like the people we work with, so we were delighted to be invited. I made a big pot of curry, to spice up the traditional fare. We had more food than 25 of us could possibly consume, and it was delicious. We were crowded but cozy. Clair and I were regaled with stories from one of our colleagues who has been an anthropological forensics person and doesn't seem to have a serious bone in his head. It was really wonderful fun and one of the best Thanksgivings I have had in years. There are way too many people in America ready to look down their noses at people who live in "trailer parks'. But here we were, having a wonderful time with gracious, generous, intelligent and amusing people. It is always amazing how much joy you can create with a tiny space, some folding tables, food and genuine hospitality. I give thanks for the generosity and kindness of Aaron and Melissa.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tang you, tang you(Lawrence Welk)

OKAY< I haven't been here for quite some time. If anyone is still checking in, I will try to be more consistent with some postings. It has been a struggle these past few weeks because, well, just because. We, my beloved partner and I, have taken on the task of being surrogate parents to a group of nine Native American adolescents. They are really sweet girls, for the most part. BUT--- living with 14 year old girls is challenging at best. When you add some of the issues that most Native American kids have, the messed up influence of American consumerist mentality, the pressure of doing well in a fairly alien high school environment, we have issues. But I am doing much better. The girls? Its a mixed bag as they used to say. Some are becoming quite successful at functioning in mainstream America. And isn't that all we ever wanted for our primitive, brown skinned brethren? Seriously, it is a painful thing to think that the only way for these kids to thrive is to accept the really screwed up values that have made our society the mess it is today.
My ambivalent attitude is what has given me trouble in my mind and in writing.
Articulating the struggle may be of value to me and of interest to you. I'll be back with more soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Barack Obama Hope Sticker
Originally uploaded by PEEL

It has been a hell of a long time since I have felt this positive about my country and the future of America. I know that no politician can solve all the problems and things may get worse, probably will before they improve. But this is a great day in the US!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trapped inside mY own [[SELF]]

Trapped inside mY own [[SELF]]
Originally uploaded by Tђβℓ-ωŕdэϊ [[F.e.m.a.l.e]]=P

This is how I have felt. Not only trapped inside but trapped BY my own self.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Although a lot of people laugh at the old, What Would Jesus Do? thing, it is really not a bad way to examine an option. I would also ask, What would SakyaMuni Do?. Add your own favorite wise and or holy guy or girl. What would White Buffalo Calf Woman do? How about St Claire?
Anyway, many winters ago, when I was in seminary, studying the Gospels to beat the band, I got re-radicalized. I read about how the lillies of the field and the birds of the air were in better shape than us and how we shouldn't worry about what we eat or wear. Of course, JC was an apocalyptic preacher saying that the Kingdom of God was about to be ushered in before their very eyes. At least that's what it says in some parts of the Gospels. In another place however, he admonished everyone to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. Short term actions or way to pattern a righteous life? And how about that lay not up gold and silver stuff. Man, did Christians ever toss that one out the window faster than a 16 year old boy can shtoop! So, if we aren't going to save up and we aren't going to worry about eats and threads, how we gonna survive? In the Book of Acts(Gospel of Luke part 2) the early Jewish followers "had nothing they called their own, but shared all things". In other words, they lived communally. The pattern didn't take, and of course Jesus didn't specifically say, 'form communes', but throughout the Christian writings are the calls to love one another and care for one another. And when Jesus described the life actions that got the sheep into the Kingdom, he didn't say,'pray for the sick and the hungry', he said, visit, feed, clothe. Pretty practical stuff. How best to care for one another? Through capitalistic consumerism and trickle down wealth right? I rather think not. I believe those early followers had it correct. You throw in your lot together, you actually share livelihoods and living spaces and clothing and food. And what you have left over, you give to them what aint got enough!
Is that going to get you into heaven? Who knows, if by heaven one means some ethereal after-life in the presence of the Great Mystery. Who cares? Wouldn't it be heavenly if we didn't have babies starving and people gouging out each other's throats for some crappy McMansion on a hill? A life of peace, sharing and enough for all- that sounds like the Kingdom to me. SO-how we gonna do this? More to come.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the evill 3 C's

I have been reading Annie Proulx lately. If you have not read Shipping News, do so. It is one of the best works of fiction I have ever read. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. The language, the characters, the story-all amazingly transporting. Ultimately it is an uplifting story. One can not say the same for her short story collections, from which came the inspiration for the movie, Brokeback Mountain. Her Wyoming stories are unremittingly bleak. They are filled with amazing writing, word pictures, characters, stories but damned bleak!

One lesson I learn from great writers, over and over again, is how remarkably difficult it is to craft even a paragraph of excellent writing.

On to the trickster. What I have been learning in my few months as houseparent at a boarding school for Lakota children is that I am dismally unhappy working to prepare kids for a society I find repugnant. Our society, our culture, is devoted to consumerism, competition and conformity. The evil 3 C's. Actually, they aren't evil in the sense of conciously seeking to actively harm anyone. They are simply real life in the society in which we live. I have NEVER felt that this was my culture. Games should be for fun, not crushing the other team. How much more would we prosper if businesses worked to actually provide for the needs of all? Naieve, yes, and proudly so! Alien is exactly how I have always felt and in spite of my adaptability, life in this culture, capatalist, consumerist, competitive, has been weird(note my "C" theme?) I want out! I want to live with people who see that this mainstream culture is fucked up. I don't think that I can change the world on my own, but I hope I can find a way to live in a counter, let me say again, COUNTER cultural way and make my own little mark against the dehumanizing and grotesque distortion that is what we see in virtually every nook and cranny of our United States life. More on how I plan to do this later.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Trickster Stirring

In all of the American Indian truth stories that I know of there is a sometimes wise,
sometimes foolish and sometimes destructive 'trickster'. This figure is raven to some, coyote to many, Iktomi the spider to Lakota, but always wild and unpredictable. The trickster teaches in ways we often do not welcome. The trickster is at work in my heart and mind. I may not write for a while. I'll wait for trickster to finish.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

YEEHAW, a day off!

Our first week as full time house parents was, first of all, looong. The girls started arriving last Sunday and we picked up the ninth resident last night on the way to a concert. The tenth and final girl comes Sunday. Ten beds, ten girls, full house. We had four volleyball athletes to drive to practice every morning (6:30 AM skills test wednesday- we were up at 5:30). We had kids home all day so our six days on were 16 hour days. Whew. Of course a lot of times the girls are out and about and doing what they like, they are ninth graders, but it isn't like relaxing at home. There is a lot to do and to plan for, phones to answer, paperwork to complete, groceries to buy and meals to prepareetc, and so on. We are in charge of organising the house routines(wake up time, homework and cleaning time, and so on) and instilling and enforcing the rules(curfews, bedtimes, computer use, chores, and so on). We all know how much adolescents love rules! But they have been doing pretty well. School starts Monday and with that comes an hour and a half of reading and homework five nights a week. AAGGGHHH! "I don't haaaave any homework". Oh well, an hour and a half of reading time - a fate worse than death! We have a few girls who really enjoy reading so it may be easier than I am thinking. But this is where the real impact is to be. Can the girls maintain the academic standard they had when they were in grade school now that they are going to the high school in town? It isn't unusual for even good students to drop a full grade point when they do the switch. Our job is to do everything possible to help them succeed. It can't be done without a calm disciplined study environment at home, and that is a big chunk of our job. Another chunk is to help the students learn life skills, cooking, cleaning functioning responsibly within reasonable perameters. Sort of what every parent wants to help their kid develop. If we succeed in helping the girls in our care to get decent grades and mature as caring young adults it will be worth the hard work. If you are interested in learning more about the school we work for and the students we serve you can check out
It is a really cool website with lots of color and pictures, Lakota vocabulary and cultural information.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our first wacipi in South Dakota

Better known as 'pow wow'. We went to the Crow Creek wacipi('dance' in Lakota), the first we have been to since moving to South Dakota. We had indian tacos(of course). which were pretty good. We got to talk to two of the students from St Joseph's and learned that one of the girls isn't coming back-bummer. We startled the other student but it was fun to see her. Another girl from St Joseph's danced in the jingle dress special and took second for teens. ""
We haven't met her yet but know her from the poster for St Joe's wacipi in September, the school's 32nd! She is fancy shawl dancing in the poster pic. I will see if I can get that on the blog. The picture is not from Crow Creek Wacipi because Claire hasn't put them online yet and I don't know how to do it, but this gives you a little idea of what the jingle dress regalia looks like. The jingles are metal cones sewn onto the dress. Some of the dresses are real works of art.

We also watched Miss Crow Creek of 2007 and two other girls hoop dance. Miss CC was spectacular!
This, as you can see is a painting of male hoop dancers. Claire and I had never seen female hoop dancers before and they were excellent. If you have never seen hoop dancing, it is really ammazing with the dancers working their small, flexible hoops into fascinating forms while dancing. If you ever get a chance to go to a powwow, take it. Everyone is welcome and although their is prayer at the beginning it is a social event, not a religious ceremony. For more info you can go to the Gathering of Nations website and find some brief instruction on courtesy at a pow wow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Did You Know

Did you know that there were more Congressional Medals of Honor given out for the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek than for any other single engagement in US history? Twenty medals were awarded for that action. Spotted Elk and his followers were running for their lives in frigid winter temperatures trying to reach Red Cloud at Pine Ridge following the murder of Sitting Bull. They were captured by the Seventh Cavalry and forced to camp suerrounded by Hotchkiss guns and troopers. The army decided they wanted to disarm the band of the few weapons they might still have. A shot was fired, no one knows with certainty by whom, and the gallant forces of the Seventh Cavalry began firing. Since they surrounded the people, most of the 25soldiers killed and 45 wounded were struck by their own shrapnel and bullets. These bold fellows slaughtered at least 200 hundred and possibly closer to four hundred mostly elderly men, women and children. You can go to this site for a lot more informatin and to sign a petition to rescind those medals.

This is actually the gate to the mass grave. When it came time to deal with the bodies of the people that the army had slaughtered in the sub-zero weather of Dec 29, 1890 it seemed expedient to them to dig a trench and dispose of them like so much rubbish.

I feel that the continued honor of this brutal murder of freezing, sick, starving people is a national disgrace.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yes, I have my shoes now. [1]

Yes, I have my shoes now. [1]
Originally uploaded by Ana K A

But no thanks to every eco-friendly, fair trade,hemp and recyclable material using shoe outfit that I could find on the internet. Oh there are plenty of them out there. And they even have some shoes that don't cost like they have platinum insoles. What they DONT have are any in my size. Every stinkin' tree hugger in the bunch only carries shoes up to size 13. Now, I really need 13 and a half, but only europeans seem to consider that people with feet bigger than size 11 may need half sizes. Bui I can go to any shoe store on the web or in the country and find an assortment of shoes in 14. What? Green folk never have big feet?? If we bigfoots are common enough to make it worthwhile for The Cheapshit shoe company to make them, why not Simple Shoes?
I finally found a pair of canvas and rubber slip-ons like we used to wear when we were kids for $34.00, but I said, "Super size it!". And they fit.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back To School

We aren't going back to school, of course, but the kids we work with will be. August 17th the houses open and the kids return. YAY! We start Monday with a week of new employee orientation and then a week of ALL employee orientation. We will be certifying for CPR, first aid, defensive driving, we will receive training on working with the kids, organizing our house and all sorts of stuff. 80 hours worth of stuff, aaaaggggghhhhh! Actually, we are looking forward to a lot of it, but the first aid, cpr and driving we have done so many times and it is usually SOOOOO boring. I sound like one of the high school kids now.
Best of all, we are only working one house! We are what is known as 6 day houseparents; we work six days then we are off three and our alternates cover for us. Since we don't have to do the alternate year, we get to set up the house rules and routines the way we feel is best. Of course we have to follow the rules and guidelines set out for houseparents and students, but within those parameters we have some leeway. And we don't have to listen to, "But THEY let us do it!" HA, we get to be the THEY.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Namesakes

Douglas Fairbanks as Sinbad

Theda Bara vamping as Cleopatra

One More

We have a black lab pal named Theda Bara we rescued from a shelter in Michigan last year. We almost didn't find her(like lots of stories in life). I trapped a feral cat that was killing birds at our feeder and took it to the Alleghan County Humane Society. Since we were there I said, famous last words, 'Let's just look at the dogs.' We saw two dogs we liked and since it was a holiday weekend we decided to talk it over for a couple of days. We decided on Grover, a great looking, friendly black lab. Alas when I called on Monday, he was spoken for, BUT, the lady said they had a younger female lab and I could come see her if I liked. I asked her to hold the pooch and headed right over. Man, was it ever love at first sight! So we have a great friend.
Then the quandary. Our new jobs require that we be at work from two in the afternoon until about 9 AM the next morning. On weekends, we have to be there 24 hours a day. Now, we sleep, eat, read, watch tv, visit with the kids and all so we are happy about it, but what about the poor pooch? We had the back yard fenced so she has plenty of room, but what loneliness would the poor beastie suffer? Well, after agonizing over the decision since May, we went to the shelter and brought Douglas Fairbanks(aka Doug the Dawg)home. Doug is a border collie, black lab mix and he's friendly, affectionate, walks really well on a leash and is busily asserting his dominance in the doggie relationship, damned chauvinist pig, er, dog!
They seem to be doing well and I have faith that these two will enjoy each other's company through the long, cold, lonely, SD winter(and late summer, fall, etc).
Oh, and we have one more week before returning to work. So two one mores.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Akta Lakota?

"Just like us!" Hotchkiss leaned over and slammed the butt of his rifle against Cuthbert's head. "Not hardly."
"You are right," said Asiginak in Ojibwe. "You are a madness on this earth."

The Plague of Doves Louise Erdrich

Akta Lakota means 'honor the people' and the question for me is, does the 'Crazy Horse' monument do that?
Claire and I did pony up the twenty bucks for admission to the Crazy Horse monument site, although this thing is so huge you can see it almost as well on the highway leading into the town of Custer for free. We toured the Native American Heritage Center at the monument site and it was well done with many beautiful artifacts and Native American artists/craftspeople on site. We watched the film about the history of the project and ooed and aahhed at the night explosions from the 60th anniversary celebration. I was very impressed at the hard work and sacrifice of Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor. This project was initiated by Lakota elders; Henry Standing Bear and several other elders approached Ziolkowski in 1948 to undertake a mountain sculpture that would honor the Native Peoples to whom these Hills rightly belong, according to treaty and federal court decision. An interesting thing about the film is that its as much about Ziolkowski and his family as it is about the project. So is the rest of the place, featuring his work, his home etc. Not that they aren't interesting and all, but this almost seems like the Korczak Ziolkowski monument.
I know that lots of Native Americans feel great pride in this monument and that's a good thing. But if justice had been done from the beginning, they wouldn't need a disfigured mountain, spectacular though it may be. They would have the mountain and all the land surrounding this for hundreds of miles in its natural beauty.
Many Indians do not believe in this project. No surprise, most big projects have their supporters and their detractors. Here is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the newspaper, Indian Country Today

Crazy Horse Memorial: a bitter legacy for Lakota
by Tim Ogia
The traditional and spiritual people of the Lakota look upon the carving of the Crazy Horse Memorial as a desecration of their sacred lands. To them, it is like defiling Mecca, the Holy Land, or the Vatican. Such was not the case in 1948 when Henry Standing Bear believed all was lost. A new generation had yet to rise.

Crazy Horse, the magnificent warrior of the Lakota, was an Oglala like me. He never put his name on a treaty. He never sold out. He, it was said, never allowed his picture to be taken. He would never have allowed his face to be carved upon the side of a mountain in the beautiful hills he held sacred.

Charlotte Black Elk, the great-great-granddaughter of Black Elk (of the Black Elk Speaks fame) is bitterly against the carving. Oliver Red Cloud, the great-great-grandson of Chief Red Cloud, has spoken out strongly against the carving. He has said he truly believes it will not be completed because Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit) will never allow it to happen.

Lakota anthropologist Beatrice Medicine of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the tribe of Sitting Bull, is also vehemently opposed to the statue. She believes the mountain is more of a tribute to the sculptor than to the Indian. She calls the carving "a sacrilege that mars the beauty of the sacred Black Hills."

Avis Little Eagle, editor of Indian Country Today, denounced the carving as a "monument of exploitation." She wrote, "Many promises were made to the Lakota when Korczak began carving in 1948, but few of them have been kept."

The national media and even some publications that profess to be published for the benefit of the American Indian have climbed on the bandwagon to praise Ziolkowski's widow for her determined effort to continue the pursuit of her husband's dream. But nearly all of the traditional Lakota believe the promises made to them for a great Indian university and medical center will never be fulfilled. To Ziolkowski they were a dream, and to many Lakota they will always be just that, a dream.

We Lakota have heard white men make promises for 200 years, and we have also seen those promises turn into huge money-making projects. The white man made the money, and the Lakota were left with the promises. Such is the legacy of the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Monument;or Mutilating Mountains

"Everything we see belongs to us."

'Dear John Wayne'

Louise Erdrich

Everybody in the USA has seen a picture of the presidents carved into Six Grandfathers ,as it was known to the Lakota, or Mt Rushmore, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There is no denying that these are impressive sculptures on a truly grand scale. And seeing these statues is bound to evoke powerful feelings, akin to a religious experience for many "true Americans". What was the motivation for this monumental sculpture? Patriotism? A desire to rub the Indian's face in our power?


"--it would put South Dakota on the map."
" Many South Dakotans believed that a colossal sculpture would attract thousands of visitors with heavy wallets."
"Historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 to promote tourism in South Dakota." Wikipedia
That's right, friends, this "Monument to Liberty" was conceived as a tourist attraction. And like most 'patriot' tourist traps in this country hungry for connection to a mythical heroic past, hungry for 'feel good' emotions, it has been incredibly successful. People weep here. Right wingers have orgasms.
You may have noticed that the picture we took of the monument is only GW in profile. There was no way I would pay 20 or 30 bucks to hear all about what it took to deface Mt Eyesore.
Seriously, when you see the sculptures as you are driving, they are quite the work.
My problem is the same one the conservationists had in 1925 when the project was debated in congress, pretty much the same as the Lakota; why deface Maka Inca like this?
Remember, this was Lakota land, declared in a treaty(Laramie Treaty 1868) and found to have been wrongfully taken by a federal court. So we carve white guys in it? The Lakota had a particular horror of digging into Maka Inca, Mother Earth, so for a tourist attraction we bend the Lakota, Cheyenne and all other indigenous peoples who hold these hills sacred over a barrel and stick it up their wazoo?
It could have been worse. They could have carved Custer, Chivington, and Sheridan up there. But how about the faces they did put on the "Monument to Liberty" GW, TJ and AL are shoe-ins,right? Consider, GW and TJ were slave owners and we KNOW Jefferson raped at least one of his slaves. But Abe was the Great Emancipator, no?
Here is what Abe had to say about that:
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Letter to Horace Greeley" (August 22, 1862), p. 388

Abe also said:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois" (September 18, 1858), pp. 145-146.
Probably in tune with his times, but his purpose was to maintain the empire, not to preserve liberty.
TR, as the first conservationist, would likely be apalled at seeing the mountain defaced.
I recommend you read "Skins" by Adrian C. Louis
tomorrow- Crazy Horse monument

Friday, July 18, 2008

Black Hills II(Typical Travelogue)

We had a little chat with some wild donkeys while we were visiting Custer State Park. We were obedient little visitors and didn't feed them, but these two decided to check us out anyway.
This is a gorgeous park with breathtaking mountain views,

spectaular rock formations called 'needles'(yes, that's a climber)

and wonderfully perfumed air from the spruce forests. The Lakota called these Paha Sapa, Black Hills, because they are so thickly covered in the dark blanket of the Black Hills Spruce that from a distance the slopes appear black. And besides,'Dark Green Hills' just doesn't have the same poetic ring to it. A seven year drought ended this spring with great gobs of rain, and the Hills are as green as spring with the soft, lush, sparkly look one sees in May. There are a couple of lakes in the park

as well and miles of old logging roads where you can enjoy beautiful views and forget that you are in a fairly crowded park.

We got to see a big horn sheep way up in the rocks, a small herd of bison, a couple of pronghorn antelope, and many deer. Although deer are common where we come from, we saw at least forty in one day, several with good size racks. And they seemed very calm, as if they know they are in a protected area.
We didn't camp, but having seen some of the camp sites we are going to get a tent and some equipment. We are also going to get some suggestions from people we work with on good spots to camp on the plains closer to home.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Paha Sapa are sacred to the Lakota. It is glib and cliched to go on about how one feels "closer to god" in nature settings, blah blah. But we went up to Cathedral Spires at dusk, the moon had just risen and I really felt the power of this beautiful place in a way that is hard to write about.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Paha Sapa:Not your typical travelogue

Paha Sapa, the Black Hills are so very beautiful! One can understand why the Lakota are still struggling to get at least part of them back.
In case you didn't know, the US government promised not to ever, ever steal the Black Hills in the Laramie treaty of 1868. OOPS, we lied. When Custer's expedition of 1874 brought back news that gold was to be found at the "grassroots level" well, no stopping those rascally miners, ya know. So we HAD to steal Paha Sapa in order to protect those miners, outfitters, gamblers, prostitutes, etc from the savages. In 1877 a small percentage of "Sioux" were coerced into signing paper ceding the Black Hills to the US. A federal judge later commented that "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history." In 1980 the Supreme Court found for the Lakota and awarded $106 million (the equivalent of 17.5 million in 1877 dollars)for "A taking of tribal property". Of course the court did not take into account the billions of dollars in gold, tin and other natural resources taken from the Hills so that what they were offering was a pittance compared to what white people have realized from Paha Sapa. Remarkably, some of the poorest people in the US refused the dough! They said they would rather have the federally held land in the Paha Sapa, please. According to many, the issue is spiritual. Paha Sapa was never for sale, it is a sacred place and so they would prefer that the land that was theirs to begin with be returned as much as possible. The government said not on yer freakin' lives! So it goes. The settlement is currently worth about half a billion dollars and there are lawyers calling meetings with very poor Lakota to encourage them to claim the settlement money. Of corse they aren't working pro bono in this, and so it goes. White folks never get tired of screwing Native Peoples. More later and I promise, less bitter.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Trip!

We are off to see Paha Sapa(Black Hills). Have to go through Custer(cursed be his name)National Park and hope to send evil vibes to the Mt Rushmore desecration. Looking forward to seeing the fabled sacred hills and offering prayer there. Pictures upon return. YAY road trip!

Friday, July 11, 2008

To Promise With

That's what the Latin etymological meaning of compromise is, "to promise with". Of course we know that it means agreeing to give up or 'flex' on something you value to get something else you value in the bargain. Politicians trading off on aspects of a piece of legislation is probably one of the more common examples. Arduous wrote an excellent post about compromising some of her green values for the sake of good relationships.
I have been in a discussion with Shawn on his Tribe site about voting. Here's the jist of it. He has decided in a very Anabaptist-traditional way, to not vote in the presidential(and I assume any other) election, because none of the candidates will govern according to "Kingdom principles". When pressed as to who decided what those principles are and how they would be applied, he stated that they are clearly presented in "Matthew 5ff" in a manner that does not allow for compromise. His reference to the Sermon On The Mount includes the injunction to "pluck out your eye if it offends thee", that is if you look lustfully at another person. Is that mere Hebraic hyperbole, or was Jesus giving a serious command? Who decides? Shawn hasn't addressed that yet, I don't think he will. My question was and is, if you can't find perfection is it appropriate to withdraw from responsibilities?
For example, if Arduous went to her mother's house and her mom purchased all non-local food to prepare dinner, is it appropriate for Arduous to refuse to eat, thereby abnegating her responsibility to honor her mother? If I can't find organically grown veggies at market, do I quit eating veggies, tossing aside my personal responsibilty to strive for healthy eating habits?
I remember reading about, and even speaking to, people who didn't like Bush, but they also didn't like Kerry-so they didn't vote at all. See where THAT got us!
Of course these are not examples of choices that compromise perceived religious principle, but when religious principle and civic responsibility seem to be at odds, what does one do? Note I am not simply saying obedience to law; the Anabaptists were right to violate the prohibitions against adult baptism and preaching beliefs that differed from the state church. These were strictly religious matters and subject to 'higher authority' as the saying goes.
But do Jehovah's Witnesses have the right to withhold potentially lifesaving blood transfusions from their children because of religious beliefs? Do we have a responsibility as citizens to vote, even if it seems to clash with some religious vision of the way things oughta be?
How much compromise is acceptable? Where would you draw the line in the dirt?
If you are interested in a stark but beautiful portrayal of this question lived out, read Silence by Shusako Endo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What to Do With These

Parallel Dreams
Originally uploaded by Meloses (Ladida)

Normally, I don't remember my dreams. When I do remember anything they don't make a lot of sense, like most people's dreams. The last three nights I have had these dreams:
Sunday night I dreamt I was African American. I have NEVER dreamt such a thing before and it was neither good nor bad-that's all I remember.

Monday night I dreamt that I was watching a couple of guys load a truck with beadworked leather garments and dozens of feathered "war" bonnets aas well as other beautiful items that would have been and still are precious to Native Nations of the plains. They were handling these things very roughly. I asked a man who was Lakota who was also watching if it bothered him to see items that were always precious if not sacred to the people handled with so little respect. The dream ended.

Last night I dreamed that I was talking to the pastor of a very large African-American church who had invited me to bring my tiny congregation(a church 'mission')
to his church and then preach a sermon for his congregation. In the dream I was both a new church pastor and a fraud, pretending to have a small church start. The rest of the dream was about planning the sermon. I was struck by an image of a church in a cave or at the foot of a live volcanoe, I was going to build that image into how I felt about living with God, the explosive, powerful, and unknown God.
This was an amazingly detailed,and stimulating dream.

Now, if I haven't totally bored you to tears, let me say that these may well be images from my thoughts recently. I have been thinking a lot about racism(note the July 4th post). I always think a lot about Native Americans, but even more so recently since we are visiting Paha Sapa(Black Hills) next week-more on that later.
I have been reading about religious or spiritual development the last few weeks. Also, I was a new church pastor a long time ago, with a congregation of twenty when I started and 60 some when I left 2 years later.

In the Biblical and American Indian cultures dreams were given serious attention. I feel as if I should be paying attention now, and I guess writing this is a way to do that. Any thoughts at all on this?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Little Hutterite History

My 4th of July post would infuriate many US citizens. At least white US citizens. So I thought a post about some white folks might be in order. Since I have been writing about Hutterites for a few days, I wanted to share this from The Plough
Excerpted from "Hell, Healing, and Resistance"

Daniel Hallock

Of all the accounts of resistance during the First World War, there are few more harrowing than the story of the four Hutterites who were imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth in 1918.

Howard Moore (who met the four men while imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth) writes:

What could be more natural than that their leaders should look to America, the land of the free, a land that had been founded on the principle of individual liberty of conscience, a land settled by men who had fled from the four corners of the earth to escape religious persecution and, having settled, still welcomed all who wished to come to this continent to practice, free from persecution, their religious faith?

By 1874, most of the Hutterites had moved to South Dakota and begun new communities, or “colonies.” For forty-five years they lived in relative peace. But that peace was shattered by Wilson’s Conscription Act, and by the summer of 1918, four Hutterites living in South Dakota had been drafted into the Army against their will. Joseph, Michael, and David Hofer were blood-brothers. Together with a brother-in-law, Jacob Wipf, they were ordered to report to Camp Lewis, Washington, on May 25. Because they objected to military service on grounds of conscience, however, they refused to cooperate with even the basic induction procedures, and were thus considered to be military prisoners subject to military discipline. Persecution began immediately. Already on the train ride to the camp, another group of young men on their way to induction had grabbed the four Hutterites and tried to cut off their hair and their beards.

Upon arrival, they refused to promise obedience to military commands, to stand in formation, or to put on the uniforms given to them. For this, they were thrown into a “guardhouse,” where they were kept for two months before being court-martialed and sentenced to thirty-seven years in military prison. Following their court-martial they were transferred, with hands and feet shackled, to Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. There they were forcibly stripped and commanded to dress in military uniforms. When they refused, they were taken to a dungeon where water trickled down the slimy walls and out over the bare rock floor. The darkness, cold, and stench were overpowering. Their uniforms were thrown down next to them, and they were told: “If you don’t give in, you’ll stay here till you die, like the four we dragged out of here yesterday!”

Shivering in their underwear, the prisoners were forced to sleep on the cold, damp floor without blankets. During the first four-and-a-half days, they were given nothing to eat and received only a half glass of water every twenty-four hours. Then, for the next two days, their hands were chained to iron rods above their heads so that their feet barely touched the floor. They were beaten with sticks, and Michael passed out. All the same, they were separated from one another so as to prevent communication; David later heard Jacob crying out: “Oh, have mercy, almighty God!”

When the men were brought up from the dungeon into a yard containing other prisoners, they had severe eczema and scurvy and had been badly bitten by insects; their arms were so swollen that they were unable to put on their coats. Altogether, they had not eaten for six days. They were finally fed but then were returned to their cells and locked in for twenty-four hours a day, apart from a single hour on Sundays when they were allowed to stand in the courtyard under heavy guard. They endured this treatment for four months until they were chained once again for the four-day journey east to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They arrived in Kansas at eleven o’clock at night and were driven through the streets like pigs, prodded by shouting guards with open bayonets; they fumbled to retain the Bible, bag, and pair of shoes each had been given to hold in his manacled hands.

After being forced to run uphill to the prison gates, they were made to undress in the raw winter air and kept waiting, soaked in sweat, for their prison garb to be brought out. For two hours they shivered naked in the wind; by the time their clothes arrived, around 1:30 a.m., they were chilled to the bone. At 5:00 a.m. they were brought outside again and forced to stand in the cold wind. Joseph and Michael collapsed in pain and were taken to the infirmary. Jacob and David stood fast but refused to join a work detail and so were put in solitary confinement. Their hands were stretched through iron bars and chained together, and they were forced to stand in this position for nine hours each day, with only bread and water for nourishment. After two weeks, they began to receive occasional meals.

Jacob Wipf managed to send a telegram to their wives, and they traveled immediately to Leavenworth. They started out from their homes at night, leaving their small children behind them. But a railroad agent mistakenly gave them tickets to the wrong station, causing a delay of an entire day, so that when the women finally arrived at Leavenworth around 11:00 p.m., they found their husbands close to death and barely able to speak. By the following morning, Joseph Hofer was dead.

His wife Maria was told his body had already been placed in the coffin and could no longer be viewed, but she was persistent and pushed past the guards to the commanding officer, pleading for permission to see her husband once more. Her request was granted, but she was not prepared for what she found: through her tears, she suddenly realized that the lifeless body of her beloved husband had been dressed in military uniform. Joseph had been faithful to the last, and now he was mocked in death.

Michael Hofer died only days later; at the insistence of his father he was allowed to lie in his own clothes. Immediately following Michael’s death, David Hofer was brought back to his cell and chained to the bars, unable to wipe away the tears that streamed down his face for the whole day. The next morning, with the help of a willing guard, David relayed a message to the commanding officer, requesting that he might be placed in a cell closer to Jacob Wipf. The guard returned an hour later and told David to pack up his things for immediate release.

David was at first incredulous, but left a brief message for Jacob and prepared to go. It is not clear what prompted this unexpected and sudden release, but it is probable that rumors of his brothers’ deaths were beginning to leak out, and the prison was worried that they would become martyrs in the public eye. Soon after, on December 6, 1918, the Secretary of War issued an order prohibiting handcuffing, chaining, and the otherwise brutal punishment of military prisoners – a token political gesture to counteract the case’s growing negative publicity. In reality, Jacob’s battle continued.

When two Hutterites visited him at Leavenworth five days later, they found him in solitary confinement, his hands still chained to the iron bars for nine hours a day. He was still receiving a diet of bread and water and sleeping on a concrete floor, although he had been given several blankets. In a message sent home to his family, he wrote:

Sometimes I envy the three who have already been delivered from their pain. Then I think: why is the hand of the Lord so heavy upon me? I have always tried to be faithful and hardworking and hardly ever made any trouble for the brotherhood. Why must only I continue to suffer? But then there is joy, too, so that I could weep for joy when I think that the Lord considers me worthy to suffer a little for his sake. And I have to confess that, compared with our previous experiences, the life here is like in a palace.

Considering that the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, it is hard to believe that the chaining of military prisoners was only stopped on December 12. The prisoners were given planks on which to sleep, and conditions gradually improved as the War Department continued to receive petitions on the men’s behalf. Jacob Wipf remained behind bars for four more months and was finally released on April 13, 1919, after being hospitalized for a brief illness.

But the deaths of the two Hofer brothers could not be so easily forgotten, and by the end of the year, the great majority of Hutterite colonies had emigrated to Canada to escape further persecution – including vandalism by their neighbors because of their refusal to buy war bonds. So ended one of the most shameful episodes in American military history.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Daydreaming

When I was a kid we were convinced that the USA was the greatest country in the world, not only that- in the HISTORY of the world! Then I started reading history. Not the schoolbook propaganda we were force fed as good little assembly line cogs and future cannon fodder, but stuff that included a wealth of facts and alternative viewpoints conveniently left out of our little textbooks. I read a couple of books about American Indians when I was 13 or 14 that included the perspective of the conquered ones. Whoa! Our European forebears hadn't just "tamed the wilderness", they actually slaughtered the original inhabitants and sytematically destroyed every Native culture they had in their power. Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founders didn't really mean "..all men are created equal" but that all white males who owned property were equal-some more equal than others,depending on how much you owned. I learned that they didn't really care about taxation without representation; George Washington declared martial law and personally led an army to suppress a tax rebellion by Pennsylvalia farmers. Well, the list goes on. For a little perspective, read Vine Deloria Jr. or Howard Zinn or Bell Hooks. And then dream about what we actually might have become if our country had rejected genocide and slavery at the outset rather than embracing such evils for profit. Racism and violence are woven into the fabric of the US society and we will die of it if we don't rip out those threads and reweave.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hutterites continued

I like this photo for a few reasons; it makes me happy to look at it, it shows a group of Hutterites having a lot of fun, and it works as a powerful symbol for me. Thanks to Kelly Hofer at Flickr for sharing.
When Hutterites are out and about, they may be shy, as they speak a German dialect at home, so English is a second language for them. They may be shy because they live in a very different society from the rest of us and may not be comfortable relating casually with strangers. It is easy to get the impression that they are a dour people. I like the picture because it shows that they can be fun loving folks, and helps to dispel misconceptions or stereotypes. The picture works for me as a symbol of the Hutterites pulling against the culture, and joyful in the struggle. Remember, these are people who do not earn private incomes, aside from household items and a few personal possesions, don't own anything privately. They dress differently, eat their meals together and have to put in a purchase requisition, so to speak, when they want to buy anything. They work hard, sing a lot and don't have modern electronic entertainment. And yet, from what little I know, they are pretty happy! There are about 500 hutterite communities in North America, about 70 in South Dakota. Not a huge number compared to say, Southern Baptists, and I don't want to idealise or romaticize a people I really know next to nothing about, but it seems that they have something going for them. They have found a way to incorporate what is useful from the modern world and yet live in such a way as to preserve their values of peace, sharing and simplicity. And they really know what community means. Impressive accomplishment in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Most people in the US have heard of the Amish(oh yeah, beards, bonnets, horse and buggies!)but few have heard of the Hutterites, the folks I mentioned in yesterday's post. They spring from similar theological roots and have a few important things in common and several big differences.
The first time I ever saw a Hutterite man, he was drivimg a tractor down main street in Flandreau, SD when I first lived in this state. That's when I learned one of the big differences; Hutterites are willing to use technology for work. Oh, and the guy was wearing a plaid shirt, so different ideas about decoration as well.
These folks were founded by Jacob Hutter (b 1530 d 1536)who was tortured and burned alive for such radical ideas as thinking that baptism should be an adult decision, the Bible should be available to common folk, in their language, and the Pope in Rome isn't the arbiter of faith chosen by God. These people were part of the "radical reformation" and became known as 'Anabaptists' or 're-baptizers'. They also believed that Christians should definitely NOT serve in the military, they shouldn't take oaths and they should own all things in common. HOLY CRAPOLA they are COMMIES! Well, no. They are communitarians, if you must have a label. Communists and socialists hold to a centralized government. Communitarians tend to believe in small, localized groups who own everything in common. There were and are lots of 'anabaptists' around. Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren; all stem from Anabaptist roots and all hold to belief in pacifism(some more than others), believer's baptism(some younger than others),and simple living(some simpler than others). Only the Hutterites hold to a communitarian lifesyle. In my opinion, this is what makes the the Hutterites unique. (To be continued)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hutterite Veggies!

We found that there is a little farmer's market here on the banks of the Missouri River in beautiful SD! A group of hutterite women were selling the most massive cabbages and cauliflowers I think I have ever seen! They also had eggs, wonderful radishes(LOVE radishes), beets rhubarb, and turkey sausage. The food was washed VERY clean and trimmed! The cauliflower and radishes are delicious. I am cooking up the beets today and plan to get one of their bowling ball size cabbages next time they are here. Hutterites are interesting folks and I will write about them as I have been thinking and reading about religion lately. Hooray for the Hutterite gardeners!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Greenest Church?

Not that its a competition, but I think that the UU's have a good shot at the title. They certainly have the "Most Open Minded" title sewed up.
I have attended Unitarian Universalist Churches for about six years now and I have been a member of one for about half that time. Now that we live in South Dakota, the closest UU church is about 150 miles away. Probably won't get there every Sunday. Our minister from Michigan, Jill McAllister, took the time to visit us today while on her way to a retreat in Oregon, and it made me realise how much I miss them. I was perusing the UUA site looking for the online UU congregation which Jill recommended and sure enough at I found the Church of The Larger Fellowship. Yes, it has a minister you can call(toll free) or e-mail, a religious ed person, materials for study and home services and what all. Pretty cool idea. Not sure about joining because the great thing about church for me is going to be with others of similar mind set. But I am going to spend some time with the website and consider joining. If you aren't familiar with the UU, they are from Christian roots, but you can't nail them down to any theology. Lots of my UU pals are secular humanists, some are Buddhists, some pagans, you just never know. I like the guiding principles a whole bunch.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I especially like the wording on the last principle which avoids the term "creation" which avoids offending the atheists in the crowd. I think I'll copy these and keep them handy for to see how I'm doing measuring up.

I have been thinking and reading a fair amount about religion, faith, whatever you like to call it and while I have no interest in converting or convincing, I am interested in writing about it some and exploring the religious connection to living an ecologically responsible life. So I will.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So, Wachya readin'?

I haven't felt much like talking lately, or writing, but I have been reading. I ALWAYS read. That's why I was an English major. Anyway, I finished Skins, by Adrian C. Louis and Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie last week. Skins is the story of two brothers who grow up on Pine Ridge reservation, play football rogether, go to Viet Nam at the same time and choose very different paths. It is a moving story about love and addiction. It was made into an excellent movie starring Graham Greene and Eric Schweig and I can't recall ever having seen a closer movie rendition of a book. Except for the sex. Left that right out. Oh well.
Indian Killer is a very different murder mystery and it is a real page turner too. Set in Seattle, it is very urban and violent. Plenty to satisfy fans of the genre. But Sherman Alexie is a poet too, so the writing itself is mysterious, beautiful in a stark and disturbing way.
In addition to being great reads, each of these books deal with real-life issues of modern American Indians in an engaging, entertaining fashion. Both are written by Indians, both have lots of dry, sarcastic humor, and both books are absolutely seething with anger. The anger American Indians(and African Americans) live with is something very few white people are even aware of, much less understand. But we really need to learn about it and it is much better to listen to a story than a sermon,ennit?.
I would suggest that, at some time, you also read Killing Rage by Bell Hooks. Hooks is African American and she will provide insights into the anger people of color in the US feel that will astonish the average white person.
If you are looking for some damn good reading, you would do well to check out one or both of thse titles.
And check out the movie, Skins, too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Adios, George

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
George Carlin

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holy Geological Phenomena, Batman!

We visited Badlands National Park yesterday and we were, shall I say, frickin' AWED!
I have been a lot of places and seen some splendid sights, natural and human produced, but this place is just plain extraordinary. I learned that it is also home to about 200 Black-Footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in the USA. Hooray for black-footed ferrets! I'm not really all that cranked about ferrets in general, just felt like giving a ferret cheer. Anyway, all through the park and for most of the drive there and back the words "vast" and "scenic" kept running through my head. I've gotta improve my adjective storehouse I guess. All the way there I think I saw one cigarette pack on the side of the road-its so CLEAN! And the sky is huge! One really odd thing is that we saw dozens of turtles, live and (alas)squished on Interstate 90. A seven year drought has ended this spring and we figured the turtles are, what? coming out of hibernation? Migrating? We were picturing vast herds of turtles crawling across the plains to get to the now overflowing creeks, visiting with turle relatives they haven't seen in years. Curious.
On the way to maka sica(lakota for 'bad lands') we visited a homestead museum which was poorly maintained and over priced but which had a sod house built in 1909. Since I am currently reading "Giants In The Earth" by O.E. Rollvaag about South Dakota homesteaders living in sod houses, it was very cool to be able to visit and actually go inside the sod house. What a great place for energy conservation! Built into a rise in the land, it would have been so easy to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. But I would have had to finish the walls with some earth plaster or adobe, the plain old dirt with grass roots in it was just a tad too primitive.
Well, we are burning up some gas visiting places, but you have to explore when you go someplace new. And the Badlands was really worth it! We are going back there to camp in July so we can see the place at dawn and at twilight. YAY fo South Dakota!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thanks Mr.G

We survived our week with the girls. We also made it through our first day and a half without experienced staff to lean on. Actually it was pretty easy except for a bit of confusion about a disciplinary measure instituted before we came on. But no big thing and all went well. One kid was really funny; Thursday evening, when she learned we were there with them on our own she asked,"Aren't you afraid?". I said 'of what?' knowing full well what she meant. She said,"Of us". Claire and I found this pretty amusing considering the kids we have worked with in our careers. By Saturday night, this same girl was telling us about her life and her family. She and two other girls were very open about some of the really distressing details of their infancy and growing up. Maybe they're used to talking this openly with the adults with whom they spend a little time. I hope it indicates that we are easy to talk to and the kids feel safe telling us things that are painful and could be construed as embarrassing. I am really hopeful that we will be able to build trust relationships with some of these (sometimes,usually)sweet kids.
My decision to go to college and work in education was shaped in large measure by my art teacher in my freshman year in high school. He was a first year teacher and a great guy. The best thing he did was to listen to me and treat me and my interests and opinions with respect. Interestingly enough he was going to kick me out of the class. At that time Chicago schools required freshman to take art and sophomores to take music, and the baby-boom classes often had 35 to 40 students in them. What a melee! I guess I was really a jerk though, because he didn't boot Frank Guerrero who wore his Latin Kings sweater to class and called Mr.G 'Geronimo'. Hell, I thought there were at least 20 guys in the class who were way rowdier than I was. Anyway,during the meeting with Mr.Griffin and the principal, my dad expressed surprise saying that I had always loved art and even expressed an interest in commercial art. Mr G offered me the chance to switch to an elective class which was much smaller so he could actually teach me some things. And he did teach me, about art and about how a concerned adult can really make a difference in a kid's life. Thanks Mr Griffin.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A new day and a new house

Not our house; today we started working in a new student house on campus. Last week we worked with high school boys, this week we are in one of the girl's homes. We also have a new partner to train us and he is a vegetarian! Yay! We can get a perspective on how to get by here without being a hunter. We may learn more about green living here as well since he seems to be a pretty earth conscious person. He also seems to have a more positive attitude toward the students. The person we worked with last week was very rule oriented and sort of into catching the kids being bad (read:being kids). Of course we want to know the rules and how to keep the kids and ourselves safe and in line with policy. But we are hoping for a relationship beyond guardian of the gates. High standards of cleanliness and good behavior are important but developing a trusting bond is even more important. I am not naieve, I have taught high school in inner city Chicago and on reservations, so of course kids will test you, push the boundaries and get into trouble. That's what kids do. It is actually their job to break with adult/parental authority, establish independence and learn how to survive semi-intact while doing this. Without good boundaries and guidelines we all struggle with our attitudes and behaviors. I am hoping to be able to, at least in part, be a person the students can count on and turn to if they are struggling. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What we haven't found

I sorta knew this, but to paraphrase Kermit, its not easy being green-in South Dakota. So far the nearest recycling center is 65 miles away. The school we work at is starting to ship paper for recycling back with a supplier's empty trucks. I will try to get in on that. There is no place that carries bulk anything except candy so we can't reuse containers. No organic or fair trade food in town of any sort. There are some locally grown tomatoes at the market, but no farmers market here and we are the biggest town for 65 miles in one direction and 100 or so in another. There is no community garden and my lot has about enough sunshine to grow a few pots of basil and tomatoes-already planted. There are a lot of pluses to being here,but so far, the pursuit of greenness isn't one of them. I feel that I have a chance to make a difference in the community if I can find some like minded people and get some positive stuff going. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Big sky!

We made it to South Dakota all in one piece, with dog and cats intact. We got to town, closed on the house Wednesday morning and we are all moved in and ready to go.
If you have never been out west it is truly amazing. We took a short ride to 'west river' as the part of South Dakota over the Missouri is called (we of course are 'East river', by about a quarter mile). What a spectacular landscape! The vast expanse of rolling green hills and enrormous sky were actually breathtaking. And coming up on the Missouri is wonderful. I know that a few miles either side of the river the plains are, well, plains flat and after a while boring to look at, but so far we are thirilled to be here. The air and land are so clean here it is amazing. Having just moved from an inner city neighborhood, this is really refreshing. We started work today and so far so good. We spend the night tonight at the HS boy's huse so looking forward to meeting the kids and more of our co-workers. Did you ever have those moments in life when you thought, 'How did I get so lucky?'? That's where I am and its a nice place to be.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Leaving the 'Zoo

Kalamazoo that is. We are packing up and moving out TODAY! HOORAY!!. Leaving for South Dakota and a new life or at least a new place to live and work. Before I go for a while I wanted to make a book recommendation.

1491 by Charles Mann This is an amazing study of the Americas just before the invasion by Europeans. Mann presents most of the newer theories and studies in a balanced fashion and draws his conclusions, It is engaging, fascinating and I learned a ton(scholarly term there). See ya later.

Friday, May 16, 2008

This is the limit!

Mike Huckabee addressing the NRA joked today about someone pointing a gun at Barrack Obama. You can see his comment at Yahoo News. Talk about tasteless, rude eointless evil comments! To make a joke like this is tantamount to wishful thinking. I didn't think Huckabee was this big an asswipe, but never underestimate the scabrous wiickedness of a right-wing religious jerk. Actually I don't think its the limit, I think the would-be fascists are just warming up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

To Blazes With It

Its no joke for folks in Central Florida today, wild fires involving thousands of acres are destroying homes and forcing evacuations. This morning I read about people trying to save their homes with garden hoses and I could only imagine how powerless that feels. Well, I could imagine it fairly well as I remembered the first time my son and I burned off the winter dead stuff from an acre and a half rise behind our house back when we lived in the country in Indiana. The wild growth stood about six feet tall, mighty good top soil there, and it hadn't been cut or buned in years. I knew nothing about burning except that we had a good buffer of green grass between the hill and the house, a road on the other side and a creek to the west. And a garden hose. Man talk about a hellacious blaze! I lost confidence in our buffer lawn and it was scary as hell. We had had plenty of rain so the fire burned the dead stuff and nothing more. Oh, and it sort of scorched the power line pole pretty good. We got that put out thanks to Nick's vigilance. But to see the world around your house going up in flames like those must be truly horrifying.
This new story about wildfires came to mind as I read Crunchy Chicken's really thoughtful post this morning about security and what life should be about .
It made me grateful that we are going off to do some really meaningful work and have the wherewithal to make this sort of change without hardship, only minor aggravations. I hope I can maintain this sense of gratitude, for my life, my loving partner, the interesting challenges I have face and remember that security is as fleeting and illusory as misfortune.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Keystone Cops move across country

At the very best, moving is a pain in the butt. As one who has moved 8,472 times I know whereof I speak. When you add in underwriter's heebie-jeebies(does anyone know the etymology of that term?) you get ulcer city. Here's the back story. Our new employer would have provided an apartment for us through an arrangement they have with a rental place in town. Apartment building doesn't allow pets. We called around-NObody allows pets. So, carbon footprint be hanged,we drove all the way back out to SD to buy a house so we could take our animals when we leave. This may seem foolish to some, like my brother for instance, but we ARE responsible for the little pests and besides, we love them. The trip went well, we saw a nice house within bicycling distance to work(trying to make up for the extra trip y'know) made an offer, got pre-approved with a bank and headed back to big M. Good news for us,the assessment came in nearly two grand less than we offered and the seller accepted the lower price. We get a closing date and make arrangements for our house in the Zoo, rent a truck,etc. Bad news for us, the underwriters won't release the dough until we get the roof(old but serviceable) replaced and the foundation checked by a licensed contractor. Good news for us, the bid on the roof came in at about half what I expected; bad news for us, they can't possibly replace the roof in two weeks. Good news for us, the banker can do an in-house mortgage until the roof is done and then switch to the fixed rate at no extra cost to us, she only needs the contractor's inspection report. Bad news for us, the contractor goes out of town for a week! This morning, with seven days until we load the truck I am calling SD folks to see if anything is shakin'. As it turns out, the contractor has already looked, said the foundation is fine and we can close on time. So if all goes as planned(HA!) we will be ready to start work on the 27th. By the goddess, this is the last move I make unless we pack a knapsack and move to the commune! Got any moving stories to share?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Curse those price gouging farmers!

As we all know, the fault of the latest food crisis is that farmers have actually started making living wages off their crops(we aren't counting the big guns who live off of government subsidies). Right? Check it out.
"The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world's richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn."
Hmmm, 100 % profit increase, maybe the farmers aren't to blame? Sound like the oil company profits? Will the government ever take action on these fucking price gouging monsters? Once again we gotta say, hmmmm, who makes the big political contributions? These bloodsuckers would watch you starve in the streets before they would surrender their power to wrest every last dime from any venture. Well, I am too angry to write anything terribly coherent or productive but I will say, a slow and painful death would be a very fitting end to all these shitsucking bottom feeders. DOWN WITH MONSANTO, DOWN WITH FOOD SPECULATORS!
Whew, that felt kinda good.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Whoa Dude!

No posting for this blog today because there was this code, see, and it said a buncha 'bx' bs. So I had to do this changing to classic template thing and I will be posting soon. This shit is like witchcraft-well, actually, it is like my car breaking down because I don't know much more about that than computers. Alas, it is hell to be such a doofus.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

This Little Piggy Went To Market

The struggle near Marty SD between the Ihanktowan Oyate or Yankton Sioux and Longview Farms is over a CAFO(confined animal feeding operation). pitches a fit when a farmer moves onto some land with his family, builds a house and outbuildings and starts to raise pigs. Or goats, or whatever. But the 11 man concern building a feeder hog operation near the schools and government buildings of the Ihanktowan aren't going to live there. Their children aren't going to attend the daycare that is less than two miles from this factory. They aren't going to have to dig a well and hope that their concrete cesspool holding the shit and piss from over 3000 pigs doesn't leak and contaminate the groundwater. They won't be doing business in Marty, SD when the nauseating stink blows in. The Ihanktowan people will be doing all that. The owners of this factory farm? They are going to be in Iowa! Its time to make CAFOS pay for the horrors they perpetrate on the animals, the environment and the people who have to live near them. The Union of Concerned Scientists have a petition you can sign at their site
You can read their report on CAFOs at that site also. If you would like to find out more about factory farms in your state and county, check out this cool interactive map at Food & Water Watch. Sierra Club also has a factory farm project you can support. In fact they won a judgement here in Michigan in January! So they can be fought.
Finally, here's an odd thing about the feeder operation construction. Greenpa referenced a report about the dwindling money to be made in hogs "Most farmers today lose $40 to $50 per pig, according to Buhr. " But the CAFO feeder operation in South Dakota forges ahead, garnering the enmity of the neighbors, flaunting White power and privilege to force its way on brown people whenever ther's a stinkin' buck to be made, and they are likely to lose money!? WTF?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Same Old Crap, Different Day

"The Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota is continuing to protest a proposed hog farm in Charles Mix County.Tribal leaders and members say the operation would harm the environment. Long View Farms wants to house 3,350 sows and process up to 70,000 pigs a year at the farm.Tribal members are blocking a Bureau of Indian Affairs road that leads to the site. Long View Farms says the tribe has no authority at the actual farm, which is apparently located on fee land adjacent to tribal land. "

The people standing on a road on tribal land were arrested by sheriff's police and handed over to state troopers. The sheriff of this county is believed to be the father of the contractor who will be installing the electricity for this operation. This is a wanton act of disrespect for the Ihanktonwan Lakota and typical of the strong arm tactics the various levels of government continue to use to destroy the original people of this land.

Yankton Sioux Tribe part 1 - Protectors of the Red People

This is something that should be on the nightly news across the country but you likely won't see it. At least until they start arresting white folks.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moving Days A'Comin

Things are speeding up! We just made arrangements for our Kalamazoo house an hour ago. Thanks be to the Great Mystery(or universe or goddess or karma or all of the above)! It is really good to know the people moving into your house. They are involved in the neighborhood and we feel they will be good neighbore to our good neighbors. We just sold our second car yesterday. It has a quarter of a million miles on it, but it runs well. I thought about donating it but this moving stuff gets expensive. We close on our SD house on the 21st and start work on the 27th. We have the truck reserved, we have some help lined up(at least for loading). sweet C is really sorting and organizing! She took another load to Goodwill yesterday. And now its time for the goodbyes.
We visited my daughter and grandkids in Indiana Monday. You can see that the kiddos and I are totally absorbed watching Veggie Tales. Sweet C is too, but she looks happy about it at least! We are going to visit C's 90 year old Grandma today in Illinois, then we are driving to Chicago tomorrow for my aunt's funeral. She was the last of my mom's sisters and a really sweet person. What a series of visits, what a progression of life. If I were a more profound thinker I am sure I could do quite a lot with this but as it is, I will just leave it alone and sort of savor it all. And we are now about to leave! Be back Saturday.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Being vocal for local

Here is another excellent reason for buying/eating locally grown grub.
"A town of 10,000 can spend roughly $15 million yearly on food products. If only 10 percent of the $15 million is purchased from local growers, $1.5 million would be kept in our local economy. This money could be re-spent to benefit other businesses, the school system, and city and county budgets. "
From the Living River Group, South Dakota Sierra Club

Local shmocal?

Reporting on a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology, The Organic Consumers Association asks the question, do food miles matter? The answer, not so much.
"In fact, eating less red meat and dairy can be a more effective way to lower an average U.S. household's food-related climate footprint than buying local food, says lead author Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University.
Weber and colleague Scott Matthews, also of Carnegie Mellon, conducted a life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gases emitted during all stages of growing and transporting food consumed in the U.S. They found that transportation creates only 11% of the 8.1 metric tons (t) of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food are responsible for most (83%) of its greenhouse gas emissions.
For perspective, food accounts for 13% of every U.S. household's 60 t share of total U.S. emissions; this includes industrial and other emissions outside the home. By comparison, driving a car that gets 25 miles per gallon of gasoline for 12,000 miles per year (the U.S. average) produces about 4.4 t of CO2. Switching to a totally local diet is equivalent to driving about 1000 miles less per year, Weber says.
A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally, Weber adds. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year."

At the end of the article are some responses worth reading that reflect and expand on what I have been writing about for the last few posts.
It seems to me that even if the amount of ghg eliminated by buying local is small, hell, even if there were NO impact on emissions, it still makes sense to buy locally grown and produced food, clothing, furniture and whatever else you can. The more we have our own local farmers, woodworkers etc, the less we are dependent on them nasty old fossil fuels and big time capitalists.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving to Cattle Country

We are moving soon, moving to the middle of South Dakota where cattle is a BIG cash crop. For entertainment there is always....HUNTING!! How am I going to get along with my neighbors, one might ask. Here's how. I do not insist on my view being right for everyone and I work hard at understanding other points of view. That is why I spent hours reading the beef producers website. As a voice of the industry, I expected a skewed perspective, just as I don't go to PETA for objectivity. What I look for everywhere is honesty. Even in a biased presenter one can find honest information if there is honesty about the preconceptions from which the information is given. So, is meat a tasty source of nourishment? I sure think so. Do cattle farmers care about the environment? Some do very much, some do as it relates to their livelihood, and I am sure some could give two shits about clean air and water, especially if they don't live on or near the farm. I have lived around dairy farmers, beef and hog farmers for a lot of years. I have rented houses from them, called them friends and developed a lot of respect for the hard work they do. If you have read the last few posts you may have gathered that we are vegetarians. You would be wrong; we still eat fish. We also eat eggs, yogurt and cheese. So from a more rigorous perspective than my own, one could say those previous posts were pretty hypocritical. I don't think so, because I am now and have always been moving a couple steps forward then a step back. I move toward compassion, mercy, concern for justice and for the Earth. But I fall short by a mile or so. So how would I tell a person who is doing their best to support their family and provide product that a WHOLE bunch of people want that what they do is bad for the Earth? Well, I would if asked. I would put it as honestly and as straight forward as I know how. What I wouldn't do is condemn them for continuing to do it. We ARE omnivores after all. We are built to digest meat, and in moderate amounts, its pretty good for us. I do believe, however, that the time is past for large scale animal production and consumption, given the impact on the environment. Grazing cattle on the arid plains of the American west is not going to add appreciably to environmental degradation. After all, there were some 20,000,000 buffalo and goddess only knows how many antelope, mule deer and assorted other large ruminants fartin' and poopin' all over the West before we White folks got here. But we aren't talking about family farms and ranches here. There are approximately 97,000,000 cattle and calves, 61 000,000 pigs and 455,000,000 chickens in the US alone. That's 613,000,000 critters emitting ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, dropping urine and feces by the tens of thousands of pounds every minute. Furthermore, most of them aren't out there grazing on the arid plains or on the Midwestern family farm :
CAFO's Milk Millions Off Taxpayer- Misguided federal farm policies have encouraged the growth of massive confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, by shifting billions of dollars in environmental, health and economic costs to taxpayers and communities, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). As a result, CAFOs now produce most of the nation's beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs,(emphasis mine) even though there are more sophisticated and efficient farms in operation. "CAFOs aren't the natural result of agricultural progress, nor are they the result of rational planning or market forces," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist in UCS's Food and Environment Program and author of the report. "CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations" enumerates the policies that have allowed CAFOs to dominate U.S. meat and dairy production..... The report also details how other federal policies give CAFOs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to address their pollution problems, which stem from the manure generated by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of animals confined in a small area. "If CAFOs were forced to pay for the ripple effects of harm they have caused, they wouldn't be dominating the U.S. meat industry like they are today," said Margaret Mellon, director of UCS's Food and Environment Program.
And, to their credit, I got this off of another industry site,
So I reckon that is about what I would tell my cattle raising neighbor, if she asks.