Plains Indian Artifacts–Beaded Moccasins


Last evening I attended a new exhibit at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.  The exhibit featured moccasins, paintings, and various artifacts made by different Great Plains tribes, including a headdress worn by Quanah Parker.  The exhibit also contains many old photographs.  A number of Comanches were present including a lady over 100 years old.

After I left the exhibit, I kept thinking about it and wondered how current Comanches might feel when they come to something like this which in many ways honors them but also displays a past that will never return.  While contemplating, I wrote this poem about what I saw.

Beaded moccasins,

moons of work.

Ceremonial beauty,

now encased in glass, labelled, dated by someone’s guess,

for strangers who believe in a strange god,

desecrate the land,

waste invaluable water,

kill bears for sport.

Weep

Wait

 

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Palo Duro Canyon, Comanche Country, where they made their last stand and were forced to go to a reservation in Oklahoma after federal troops killed over a thousand of their horses.

 

 

 

Quote for the day


Sadly, this quote seems appropriate given the events in Virginia.  I had hoped we were beyond this but apparently not.

 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you picking his pockets.  Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you”.  Lyndon Johnson, 1970.

ACoE Invades South Texas


No regard for precious wildlife, no regard for property rights, no regard for anything.

Jude Lieber

Photo caption: Snapshot from one of my trips to the Rio Grande — Big Bend National Park hot springs with with wild mustangs on the Mexican bank.

We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Trespassing on private soil, our own Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) have begun clearing areas for the border wall. Rather than steal land legally through eminent domain, they have arrived without permission or notification. Instead of cutting through ranchland, they have begun where it will hurt the most — nature preserves. The first location to fall beneath the saw, machete, and blade is a strip through the National Butterfly Center. Scientists had purchased the area from farmers and restored it with plant species vital to the survival of the threatened monarch butterfly. Now, only brown stubble remains. The wall will block the migration of thousands of land-based animals, cutting their territory…

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Wickeder and Wickeder by Barbara Ardinger


A tale for our times.

The raven was standing on the little table in the wicked witch’s private room. Expecting a new kind of feast, he dipped his beak into a bowl of wiggly white worms. And spat them clear across the room. “Great Suffering Succotash!” he exclaimed. “What is this stuff?’

“It’s ramen noodles,” the witch replied calmly. ”They’re cheap. And you know we need to save money. El Presidente’s got men cruising around the country doing whatever they want to obstruct justice. We’re all trying to save money and build up the resistance.”

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Why Teachers Suck …


I was going to write a nice little poem for my blog post today but instead decided this was more important to post. As I teacher, I can verify the veracity of this post. In some ways it may be a little easier for me because I teach mostly seniors in high school who are somewhat self sufficient but many still get free or reduced lunches, some are homeless or drift from one friend to another since thrown out of their own house, some work so late they can barely stay awake in class, some self medicate because no one can afford the meds they need. Most graduate in spite of this. How? Because the school and teachers go to great lengths doing everything imaginable to help them succeed, e.g. online programs, extra time, alternative assignments. Why do I continue to teach? I love teenagers; I never have a boring day; I work hard to make a difference; I think public education is the foundation for a working republic, for this country to flourish and succeed.

Bert Fulks

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one question:  “How has education…

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An Open Letter to President Obama about the Dakota Access Pipeline by Elizabeth Cunningham


Since the election results, I have become increasingly concerned not only about the plight of Standing Rock, but also about water safety throughout the USA. President-elect Trump has major interests in the company building the pipeline. North Dakota seems determined to go to extreme policing to make sure their fracking results get into this pipeline. This state has a long history of mistreatment of its native people.

Elizabeth_Author Photo 2I wrote this letter to President Obama on November 18, the morning after I returned from a few days at Standing Rock. I am not an activist by temperament. I went to Standing Rock to support a friend who felt strongly called to go, as well as, to support the cause. I did not participate in direct action, because I did not fully grasp till I was there the preparations I would need to make in terms of clearing my calendar for jail time and a return to North Dakota for a trial. Gratitude and respect for those who are taking this risk and dedicating their lives to this cause.

One thing this letter below does not address is how to donate to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Given the overwhelming donations of food and clothing that are still pouring in, financial donation is more practical now. Here’s a…

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Racism: We Still Don’t Get It by Esther Nelson


Sometimes I wonder if it will ever end, the hatred, the racism.

esther-nelson

I was in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this summer for several weeks, spending much of my time unpacking boxes the moving van had delivered while simultaneously trying to create an aesthetically-pleasing and comfortable home.  I also went to the Unitarian Universalist church–twice!  (I haven’t attended church or any other place of worship regularly for decades.)  But, moving is a socially-disruptive experience and church is one place you can connect with individual people as well as with the larger community.  So, I decided to visit the local UU congregation.

Unitarian Universalism has a fairly long and circuitous history in the United States.  It’s roots are in liberal Protestant theology and practice, but the institution has branched out from its roots, seeking to be more “inclusive and diverse.”  Some of the historical background and development of the church can be found on Wikipedia.  As fascinating as this history and development…

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Human Trafficking


Slaves today outnumber all the past,

more than thirty million.

Eleven year old girls,

locked in motel rooms, never see light,

told you’re a whore, worthless, until

they believe it.

Respectable hotels, brothels in disguise.

Senegalese boys chained in hovels, fake

madrassas, sent to beg on streets.

Texas parents of three daughters, forcing them

into prostitution for drugs. Everyone knows;

no one can catch them.

Famous men running sex slave rings, immune

from prosecution.

Young women who think all men watch

pornography; it’s normal.

Innocence promised, endlessly betrayed.

People as commodities.

 

 

 

 

 

Poverty


Proofs sent to the library at work–a high school–cannot legally be used on the shelves so they end up in various places.  Somehow I end up where they reside and read them.  My latest, The Boiling Season by Christopher Hebert provides abundant food for hard core thinking.  The setting, a Caribbean island, reeks of political turmoil and the legacy of slavery.  Unless you are totally ignorant of Caribbean history and the various cultures there, it does not take long to figure out the setting is Haiti.  In case you want to read the book, I will give you only a cursory introduction.  The main character grows up in basically what we call here a slum.  His mom dies of malaria when he is quite young and  his dad owns a small store.  He hates it and focuses most of his life on getting out of these circumstances.  He gets a job and a place to live with a senator, meets important people, and eventually discovers an abandoned estate out in the country.  He moves there after it is bought by a wealthy foreign white woman who hires him to restore it.  He absolutely loves the place.  It is an island of beauty and peace in the middle of squalor, poverty, and strife.

The details you can read for yourself.  It’s focus is the dilemma many who grow up poor and want to better themselves face:  if you progress, are you abandoning your roots, to whom do you owe loyalty.  And, indeed, what is progress?  Civil war breaks out and the main character is torn between his desire for peace and a more elegant lifestyle in this beautiful place and the needs of the poverty stricken people who surround it and who at one point work there.  Is he a free person or just a fancier slave for the rich who own the place?  Has he deluded himself into thinking because he worked hard to get where he is that he is better?

Although the book’s setting is a particular place, the theme remains universal.  I think of individuals I personally know who could not cope with success and riches, who felt they must “save” all their relatives and then were left with nothing themselves.  The thinking is this:  if you come into money, you must share it with everyone; to keep it for yourself is morally wrong.  If this is the case, how can the cycle ever break?  This sort of thinking is very difficult for those of use who work hard and save for the future to understand.  We question why we should help them when they hit the bottom.

Yesterday my hard working, single mom, going to graduate school daughter went on a rant about people she knows who get food stamps, Medicaid, etc. while she works and goes to school and gets nothing.  They have fancier cars, better TVs, etc. than she does.  I do understand both viewpoints although I admit I am the frugal without being austere.  I remember a time several years ago when several of my poorer students–I teach at a Title 1 school–wore jeans more expensive than I would ever buy–its jeans.  We got into a discussion about this.  I informed them that all the clothing I had on except for underwear and socks came from a thrift store.  When I take things to the thrift store, I actually shop.  Thrift stores are full of “finds”.  The response of one student was echoed by others, “I would never go into a thrift store.  Someone might see me go in there.”  Because they were poor, they wanted to avoid anyone seeing them do anything they thought might confirm this.

Although fraud exists in programs for the poor, it also exists in high end banking and just about everything.  The solution is to work hard to investigate and prevent it.  I keep wondering what is the solution for the people truly in need?  Do we punish everyone to prevent the fraudulent acts of the few?  And what about the children?  What happens to the dependent young?  Obviously, the world has not found answers.  I wonder if we ever will.