Saturday, June 14, 2008



It’s amazing how fast time passes. We started our Traditional Foods dinners in the year 2000. The diabetes nurse and I went to a workshop put on by Rudy Ryser chairman of the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

We immersed ourselves in Traditional foods of the Coast Salish and the Plateau Tribes. The Yakama man who was to speak on his Tribe’s Traditional foods couldn’t make it because of a death in his family. Bruce Miller is both Coast Salish and Yakama. He spoke in the morning about Salish foods and stepped up to speak about Plateau foods.

This was very exciting for me. I had seen a TV news magazine segment on a Native Hawaiian doctor who had put his Native patients on a Traditional Hawaiian diet. They have the same health problems Indians do.

They didn’t have to count calories or weigh their food. They could eat as much as they wanted to but they could only eat their traditional foods. It was amazing. Their blood sugar normalized. So did blood pressure. Arthritis disappeared. They lost weight.

They caught the taro root before it disappeared. There was some still growing unattended in old gardens. They began cultivating it again. This planted a seed in my mind.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s I had tried to revive the First Salmon Ceremony in my Tribe. No one was interested. There were Elders still living who knew how to do the real old ceremony. A few years later the Shaker Minister would ring his bells and sing to bless the fish at the fish hatchery.

Now the Fish Committee has a blessing of the fleet and a first salmon ceremony. We are going forward, back to our roots, our strength.

This year will be my first time without my Mom. She has supported our Traditional Foods dinners since the beginning. It will be hard not to have her sitting at the table with me.


The dinner is over now. I felt mom’s Spirit supporting me during our dinner. There were new people that came. I went to see a cousin that was decorating the tables and making the buckskin bread.

I came across some boys about 8 or 10 years old. They were cutting branches off young trees by the side of the road. They looked guilty and scared when I stopped. I told them we were having a Traditional Foods Dinner in a couple hours. I told them to come eat with us.

The boys came and filled their plates. I saw them go back for seconds. My grand nephew was one of them. He kept going back for desert.

My older sister had promised to bake bread but wasn’t able to. I got out my flour and yeast and prayed it would taste good. Mom was famous for her yeast bread. My other sisters are good bread makers. So I prayed the whole time. There wasn’t any left after the dinner so I guess I did okay.

It was the first time that a cousin came from Muckleshoot. She had a good time. Another came from Oregon and cooked the duck for us. She promised duck again for the fall dinner.

I tell the same story at each dinner.

On the Elwha River, there is a rock with a deep depression in it like a basket. That is our Creation Site. It is buried beneath one of the dams.

The first People were the Trees and plants. Everything was good but there was something missing. The Creator then made all the animals. This was also good, but there was still something missing. The Creator made all that is Spirit. He then reached into the earth and pulled out the red clay. He fashioned it the way he wanted it. He filled the rock with water and bathed each Creation in it. He lifted his new Creation to each direction so all life would know it. He then worked out from the Elwha River placing each Creation where he wanted them. These new Creations are the human beings.

The Creator gave us simple laws to follow. We were to love one another and take care of one another. As long as we prayed and sang we had a good life. After a while people stopped praying and talking with the Creator. They stopped listening to him. We forgot our mandate to love and take care of one another. We became lost.

We forgot our sacred beginnings. We forgot our teachings. We thought we were the source of power. We forgot the Creator in our lives. We did unspeakable things to each other. Men began abusing women and children. Balance went out of the world.

The Creator became sorry he had made his Creations. He decided he would destroy them. Those that still prayed and listened to the Creator knew his plans. They got their canoes ready. Some made rafts. They gathered food and fresh water.

The rains started. The rivers flooded and the oceans rose. The fresh water became salty and undrinkable. Most of life on earth died.

Our People tied their canoes onto the mountain top so we wouldn’t get lost. The rains stopped and the waters receded. You can find this story in petroglyphs in the mountains. Our People recorded how long it rained, how long the flood lasted, how long it took the waters to recede. They recorded the animals they saw and how many.

After the world dried there wasn’t enough food for all the humans and animals. They got together and discussed the situation. They decided they would play a game. The winner would get to eat the loser. Our Ancestors won the game.

The animals and plants still keep their word. They give up their lives that we might live. We had ceremonies that thanked all the ones that feed us. These ceremonies were outlawed in the 1800’s by the States and the US federal government.

So much time has passed we have forgotten how to do those ceremonies. So now we have a non-denominational dinner and accept the gift of those that give up their lives that we might live. We thank and bless them. I trust that the Creator will give back to us the way he wants those ceremonies done.

The white staff has done much to undermine our Dinners. They have bought farmed clams instead of our Native ones. These clams come from the Philippines. Whites prefer them because to the white palate they are milder. They have bought farmed salmon. It comes from the Atlantic. I guess it tastes milder to them too. This year they did not invite the other Tribes. They said we were feeding more guests than our own tribal members.

That kind of stinginess is not Traditional. It is the white man’s way of thinking. We are famous for our hospitality. It is our pride and joy.

Our Potlatches or give-aways were outlawed because the white man could not understand giving away everything we owned. We knew a secret they didn’t. There was always more where that came from. Giving away keeps the luck and abundance flowing. What makes the white heart so stingy?

We didn’t become poor until the white government outlawed our giveaways. We have started them again. We didn’t ask anyone’s permission. We exercised our sovereignty and took it back.

We have started our Memorial Dinners and giveaways for those that have gone on. Our children started a Potlatch with the school district. They thought it would lessen the racism if the teachers and other school employees understood their culture or way of doing things better.

The students came up with this idea themselves. I think they were in the 5th grade. They are young adults now. The white teachers were embarrassed at first to receive gifts for no reason but the honor their students gave them. They now participate whole-heartedly and bring books for the Tribal Library. The parents put on a great dinner.

That is another thing whites don’t understand about us. We have dinners for everything. It is the most healing thing we can do for our Tribes and our communities.

It is called “Eating out of the same dish.” There was a time when we actually did eat out of the same dish. You can see in museums beautifully carved bowls that extend the length of a longhouse. It would have an animal representative of the owner carved into the bowl. We would sit around that bowl and eat out of it.

When we do that we become one-heart one-mind. We become even and equal. The elders and the sick take what they need from that combined energy for their health and strength. All of us do. The youth and children have the most strength and energy to contribute. We must not chase them away. They must be allowed to know their importance and our need for them in our Tribes and communities.

I did not understand why people had begun telling me that I did not start the Traditional Foods Dinner. Other people began taking credit for doing that.

We may get a grant next year for a Traditional Foods program. We can do so many healing things. We can teach our children to hunt and fish. We can teach them how to clean and prepare those foods. We can teach them how to smoke and other ways of preserving food.

We can bring back our Traditional values. Life will then have more meaning to us and our children. The possibilities are exciting.

All of this has come from a simple dinner, to acknowledge what the Creator gave us and to give thanks. We love our people. We love God, The Creator, by whatever name a person chooses to call that Life Source.

We have taken that first step to get us back on the right road. We have connected with the Creator and brought prayer back into our lives. We are including our Tribe and our relatives and friends from other Tribes in our journey back to healing.

We will be like our Ancestors that knew enough to ready their canoes. We will be the ones that step into the new world that is coming. We will be the ones that know how to gather from Mother Earth’s garden. We will be the survivors.




Jealousy is also one of the seeds of destruction. We can see it in our communities. These seeds are what we banish from our hearts and minds when we purify ourselves. That is when we become humble. Then there is room for God in our hearts and lives.

Each one of us comes here to do something good, to contribute to the wellbeing of our Tribe. Some of us bring humor and laughter. Those ones know how to lift up the spirits of other people.

Some are historians. That is a very sacred duty. They “remember” everything that happens. They can tell the history of our people so we will never forget.

Some people know the plant medicines. They know what will heal our bodies and our minds and our spirits.

Some people are good parents. They raise good healthy happy human beings.

Some are good hunters and fishermen. Some are good berry pickers and know which roots and plants to gather. They feed our bodies and our spirits.

We have artists that record our life and bring beauty and truth into our lives. We have singers and dancers.

Everyone has something important to contribute. We need each other for a healthy happy complete Tribe.

The Creator asks us to do the best we can in everything we do. He doesn’t ask us to be better than anyone else. That is where jealousy sets in.

We see our short comings when we measure ourselves against another. We start feeling insecure and inferior. There will always be someone who does something better than us. Maybe it is their work here on earth.

Each of us has something important to contribute. It is our life’s work. It may not be our profession. There is something that only we can do.

If we become jealous of someone and suppress that person and what they are good at, we may be suppressing what we need for our healing. It is to our benefit to allow each person to be the best they can be. It does not diminish anyone else to do that.

Our jealousy forces us to undermine another’s efforts. We may be jealous of artists or writers. They may have a way of interpreting our life in a way we can’t. That in no way interferes with what we have to contribute.

I have seen people in Tribal education stop a person in their tracks. They won’t fund one person who is doing well, they will fund another who fails in their attempt at schooling. In their jealousy they may be stopping a person who should be a doctor or other healer or a journalist a judge or cop or a playwright or lawyer or biologist or chemist. Maybe they stopped the person that was supposed to find the cure for cancer. Jealousy makes us do stupid things.

Each one of us has come here to do something good and to contribute to our Tribes. Each one of us is important. If we let jealousy into our hearts we are doomed. That European adage that we are only as strong as our weakest link is true.

Sometimes when we put someone else down we fool ourselves into thinking that we are better than that person. We think that we have advanced because we look down on someone else.

That is so silly. We know that we haven’t advanced. All we have done is to destroy someone else’s happiness and the work they came to do. We have stopped that person’s unique contribution to the Tribe. We have stopped their help and healing.

We must allow each other to be the best we can be. We must not measure ourselves against another.

Sometimes in our jealousy to hold someone else back we spend all our own energy. We miss our opportunity to do something good. We don’t do whatever unique thing we came here to do.

Once we stop allowing jealousy to hold us back we will make a giant leap down that right road. Our Tribes will be healthier and happier. Our world will become more balanced.

Thursday, June 12, 2008




This is the big one that has brought so many tears and ruined so many lives. Our children who were raised to believe that they were sacred were kidnapped into schools run by Catholic nuns and priests or federally run government boarding schools.

Those servants of God had taken vows of chastity. They promised God that they would remain virgins in his service. When they had Indian children in captivity for the school year they forced our babies to perform sex acts with them. What happened to their vows of chastity?

If there is in reality a heaven and hell I pray that all those nuns and priests that abused our babies are slowly roasting in hell. They had better be tortured for their sins as they threatened us with God’s wrath.

BIA boarding schools were just as bad. They tried to beat the Indian out of us. That meant our culture, Spiritual beliefs and language.

An Elder told me that the first thing done to him at boarding school was they cut his hair. He crawled on the floor trying to pick up all his hair. They wouldn’t let him. They threw it all into the dump. He was six years old.

He told me this because he was teaching me that we have to take care of our hair. We have to pick up each strand and keep it in a special place. When we are buried it will be buried with us. If we don’t our Spirit will have to crawl over the earth and pick up each strand before we can move on.

Our teaching is that we have to be firm in our discipline. There is a very thin line between being firm and being mean. We have to be careful not to cross that line.

If we have no discipline our children will not learn. If we are mean there are two things that will happen. The child will become mean in self defense. Or we will break their Spirits. Look around at our communities. Our people are either mean or broken-spirited. There are few healthy members of our communities.

Lust of the nuns and priests violated the bodies of our babies in their Catholic boarding schools. They destroyed the child’s sense of self and their healthy boundaries. They created abusers and victims. Those wounded babies were then sent home to plant those seeds of destruction in our Tribal Communities.

Sexual abuse is rampant in our communities. We see abusers in our medicine people, ministers, police, educators and Tribal Council. Abuse runs the gamut of the educated, sober, uneducated, and alcoholic and drug addicted.

We see men spiritually abusing a woman if she tries to leave him or starts asserting her authority over her own life. He may be a medicine man, road man or simply call himself Traditional. He may pray that she be tortured and tormented until she comes back to him or does what he wants her to do.

We see abusive men in positions of respect and power. If they grew up with the belief that they had the right to rape any female they may still believe it is their right. They might still rape a niece or other relative if the opportunity arises.

Packs of boys gang raped girls that they caught alone. Sometimes it was their sister, cousin, aunt, or niece. Sometimes it was their best friend’s sister. That girl’s life was forever ruined. Her sense of sacredness was destroyed. She had no more feeling of safety.

Boys and men don’t consider the lives they have ruined by sexual abuse. In this corrupt society a male may think it is his right to rape anyone he can over power. In his mind that action defines his masculinity. That is so far from our teaching that the first law of a chief is to feed the people.

Those boys sometimes grow into positions of respectability and power. Of course they don’t see that what they did was wrong. Our communities do not hold them accountable.

What they did was as wrong as what the priests, nuns, and boarding school employees did that started this transgression to all that is holy. Rape isn’t sex. It is violence.

There was a time when Indian men knew that they were sacred beings. They chose a wife and honored her sacredness. They raised their children as sacred beings.

Men used their gift of strength to feed and protect The People. We lived within the laws of the Creator.

Sex is a healthy expression of love between two people. What happens when it has become a tool of oppression? Children are sacred and our future. What happens when our future is raped and beaten?

Women are the life-givers. Power and knowledge travel through women. What happens when our source of life and spiritual rights and responsibilities and teachings are raped and beaten?

Sexual abuse is learned behavior. It is not Traditional. We can hold all the nuns and priests and government employees accountable for planting this seed of destruction in all of our communities.

We must hold ourselves responsible for the health or sickness in our communities. We have the right and responsibility to say that the sickness perpetrated on us stops here. We will not participate.

It is within our power to once again live our lives according to our Traditional values. If the outlawing of these principles started us down the wrong path, then reintroducing them will return us to a healthy state.

Our babies are sacred. They come to us directly from Spirit. It is said that they still speak the language from where they came from. The toddlers can still understand them until they learn our tongue and forget their language of Spirit. If we don’t treat them well they can decide to leave us and they will die. That is Spiritual law. It happens whether we know it or not.

Women are sacred. They represent Mother Earth. All life that comes into this reality comes through the female principle. Power and knowledge travel through women. That is why our family line and our right to do ceremonies or Spiritual work are traced through our mother. This is Spiritual Law. It happens whether we know it or not.

Men are sacred. They have the strength and ability to feed and protect our People. We need our men to be the ones that the Creator gave the mandate to be our Chiefs and warriors.

We need only to look out our window to see that Mother Earth is in need of healing. Our future looks bleak. We are on the fast lane to extinction.

Each one of us can change our situation. We need only to see the sacredness within our selves. We will then treat all others also as sacred beings. We will bring balance back to ourselves, Mother Earth and our future.

We need to bring healing and balance back into our communities. Men must step up to the plate and deal with the hurt and sorrow carried by many women.

Statistics say that 3 out of 4 Indian women have been sexually abused. That is a lot. We talk about our broken treaties and our abuse in residential schools and BIA boarding schools. That is over but the seed of destruction planted by those nuns and priests and government workers is still flourishing and destroying lives.

We need our political leaders to acknowledge the devastation done to our sisters and children. We need programs and ceremonies for healing.

If the men cannot apologize for their rape of their own people then they at least need to acknowledge that this problem exists. We need a proclamation that this violation ceases now. We need to prosecute those who rape and ruin a woman or child’s life.

A man may consider rape a measure of his manhood and strength. His victim has been devastated and shamed. She may question God for the rest of her life. Why did he allow this to happen? What did she do to bring this on?

We have to change our thinking very quickly if the human race is to survive. Men are not superior to women. Women are not superior to men. We are equal.

The person who knows that he or she is a sacred creation of God will not abuse another in any way. That is a violation of our mandate to love and take care of one another.

We get back on the right path by getting back in touch with the Creator. We do that through prayer. We know we are doing the right thing when we are happy. Happiness is our marker that we are on the right path.

What’s so hard about that?