Contents Elise Dudley: Risky Berries
Mark Turcotte: Visit to CMN
Benjamin White: Self Gardening
Katherin Mitchell: Time is Relative
Katherin Mitchell: My First and Only Cat
Wapananahukiw: Indian Mammas
Marcus Grignon: An Otter’s Tale of Revolution
STEM Scholars Pangram Invitational: Pangrams
Michelle Blumreich: Three Poems of 2010
Madona Wilber Long: The Lost Voice and No Name
Madona Wilber Long: The Story of Us
Melissa Wilber: If I Was….
Teri Fairbanks: New Beginnings
Feather Chronicles Spring 2010 edition celebrates poet Mark Turcotte's visit to CMN. His book, Exploding Chippewas, was the text for CMN'a spring literary discussion series. In addition, we welcome several new student contributors including Elise Dudley, Benjamin White, Katherine Mitchell, Wapananahukiw, Irene Kiefer, Madonna Wilber Long and Teri Fairbanks, as well as previous contributors Marcus Grignon, Melissa Wilber, and Michelle Blumreich.
Feather Chronicles is produced twice each year by College of Menominee Nation students and includes contributed work from students and communities served by the college. Submissions are welcome and should be sent to DVickers@menominee.edu. Cover image and logo by Michael Gomeyosh. The content of Feather Chronicles is protected by copyright controlled usually by the original author and in all other cases by Feather Chronicles. U.S. and international copyright laws apply and visitors may not reproduce any content except for personal use.
Risky Berries by Elise Dudley My brother Bucky and I moved to Rome a couple of summers earlier. It seemed like a neat little town to grow up in. There were two main roads intersecting and maybe half a dozen or so other streets running through town. Rome was so small it didn’t even have stoplights; just a few stop signs. The population was 118 people, with all but five families related. Everyone seemed to be kin to everyone else, except us. We were part of the outsiders; the rare few in town not related to the rest of the folks. Bucky, age eleven, and I were blue-eyed, brown haired gangly kids. Bucky had a horribly scarred left arm, the result of an accident as a toddler. I guess that was part of why we were so close. The accident slowed him down physically and developmentally so that while 15 months younger, I caught up with him. Jerry Collins was a pudgy brown haired blue-eyed rather frumpy looking twelve-year-old kid. No matter what time of the day I saw him, he always looked like he had just rolled out of bed after sleeping in his clothes. Maybe, he did. It didn’t seem like Jerry got too much parental supervision. I thought he was kinda nasty but he and Bucky were the best of friends. Colleen Arndt was short to my tall. She was thin as a beanpole and always hungry. She had huge brown eyes in a narrow face with flyaway dark brown hair. Colleen, at eleven, had already been through her parent’s divorcing and having a step-dad to deal with. She seemed sometimes to be a know-it-all, arrogant little cuss. Colleen too ran freely. She’d be at my house from early morning until her mom, brother or sister would come track her down to haul her in for the night. Many nights, she’d wind up back at my house with her paper bag filled with a change of clothes and her essentials ready to stay the night anyway. We were best friends; ‘blood-sisters’ even complete with the mingling of the blood. It was a beautiful clear blue skied summer day. The trees were all adorned with their full quota of leaves. Robins, blue jays, wrens, and cardinals were chirping away, flitting about from tree to tree. The fat bushy grey squirrels were happily chasing each other around and up and down the big old maple tree that provided shade for our outdoor fireplace and picnic table. The grass was a lush green carpet beneath our feet. The four of us were just hanging around the picnic table in our back yard trying to decide what to do for the rest of the afternoon. Summer break was like that. We couldn’t wait for it, but when we got it, we couldn’t keep ourselves content.
I’m sure it must have been Colleen who piped up and suggested, “I know. Why don’t we go see if ole man Schmidt’s blackberries are ripe?” “I don’t know.” Jerry hesitated. “He seems like he might be a mean ole coot.” “Aw, Come on, “Colleen challenged, “You ain’t afraid of no ole man, are you?” “Nope, I ain’t afraid. I just don’t need no trouble.” “How ‘bout you guys? You game for raiding the ole guy’s patch? Jerry asked Bucky and me. “The ole man’s probably napping. It’s that time of the day for the old folks. We’re in.” I answered for both of us, nodding my head at Bucky willing him to agree. True to our nature, he went along with me. Armed with a bucket for holding our intended booty, we headed down the street. There were only five homes and some empty lots separating our house from our destination. Ole man Schmidt’s place was a spooky looking old brick house that set back in at the end of the block. Beside the ole guy’s house was a partially wooded empty lot. His property was backed by woods. Not wanting to come in his place head on, we slipped into that empty lot. Quiet as the calm before the storm, we hunkered down and stealthily made our way into the edge of his prized blackberry patch. He truly had the finest patch around. Great big fat juicy sweet blackberries gleamed in the sun. We were happily munching our way down the row, occasionally tossing a few berries in the bucket for later. All of a sudden, we heard a screen door slam. Almost flattening ourselves to the ground, trying to be a part of the patch, we scarcely breathed. “Who’s out there?” we heard the old man holler. From my vantage point, hidden in the mass of his blackberry patch, I dared to take a peek. He was a crusty looking old man, dressed in faded jeans held up with rattylooking suspenders and a well-worn flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. A snow white fluff of hair circled the dome of his head. I swear the old man could smell us. His hand over his eyes squinting against the sun; he stood like a dog sniffing the wind. He dropped his hand to his hip and I swear he looked right at me. “I know there’s someone out there,” he said, “You’d better scram before I fill you full of buckshot.” With that the old man turned and went back inside, the screen door banging shut behind him. “You think he’s goin’ for his gun?” I whispered to no one in particular. I could feel all the bravery draining out of me. I just wished I were safe in my backyard instead of in this old man’s patch wondering if he was ornery enough to be going for a gun. I guess he was ‘protective proud’ of that blackberry patch because hearing the screen door slam shut; I looked to see him standing there on his porch with a shot gun in the crook of his arm. 3
“Once more, “he warned, “I’m telling you to get off my property.” With that, he loaded his shotgun and clicked it. Buzzing bees decided at the most inopportune time to nose dive toward my face. Not being fond of being stung, I lifted my hand to swat them away. “I said get.” The old man hollered. After seeing my movement, he took aim. “Run!” I screamed. BANG!!! We heard that gunshot blast and off we ran, our hearts beating like they were going to jump right out of our chests. “And don’t come back,” He yelled as he heard us beating our retreat. Buckshot raining down on us, even after we cleared the old man’s yard we kept right on running. I don’t recall my feet touching terra firma until we were safely back in our yard. Landing at the picnic table, we were all holding our sides and gasping for air. That was a mighty long run but the fear of a load of buckshot pushed us home. Somehow, in all the terror and confusion Jerry had managed to hang on to our pickings. Once our hearts settled down and we managed to catch our breath, we divvied up our ill-gotten gains. I savored those big fat sweet juicy blackberries; that those risky berries were worth the risk. We never ventured into ole man Schmidt’s blackberry patch again. We had to admit that he sure did have some of the best berries we’d ever tasted. Even being young and foolish, we still weren’t brave enough to try that adventure again. There’s just something about the sound of a shotgun blast and knowing how close I came to feeling those pellets that stayed with me for a long time.
CMN Communities Meet Decorated Poet Mark Turcotte This spring, the College of Menominee Nation and The National Endowment for the Humanities invited the CMN communities at both campuses to meet award winning poet, Mark Turcotte (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). Turcotte discussed his book, “Exploding Chippewas,” which the CMN campuses read and discussed throughout the spring semester. “Exploding Chippewas” contains three sections of poems exploring Turcotte’s continuing struggle with identity. The first part of the book is a series of lyrical poems that all begin with the phrase "Back when I used to be Indian," a self-contradictory concept that strikes at the heart of Turcotte's identity. His absent father and his own experience of fatherhood are the subjects of a second group of poems, leading him to explore the legacy that burdened his father and, in turn, the different kind of legacy that now burdens him. In a third and final group, Turcotte's imagination reaches again into the many flames of his experience, leading toward the title poem, where even the most dangerous of fires become a guiding light. Turcotte spoke at CMN’s Keshena campus’ Culture Building on Wednesday April 28 and at CMN’s Green Bay campus’ commons on Thursday, April 29. Both events were free to attend, and included refreshments, readings from the text, a question and answer secession, and a book signing. Turcotte’s visit was the second of four speakers in CMN’s Literary Discussion Series, which started last fall and runs through the spring semester of 2011. The Series is funded by an NEH Grant and has the goal of uniting the college and community through American Indian literature and poetry. The central theme of the Discussion Series is to use decorated texts to help initiate discussions about Indigenous people’s identity in contemporary American society.
(l) Mark Turcotte signs his book for a student. (r) Rachel Otradovec and her daughters present Mark Turcotte with hand-crafted Star Quilt, a treasured reminder of his visit to the College of Menominee Nation.
Self Gardening by Benjamin White From a little green chenille couch, I can see the tops of trees and the twisted knurly trunks of the honeysuckle reminding me of what awaits past the wall of books and glass door that separate my bedroom from the rest of the house. The bedroom, with its vaulted ceiling and lofty nooks, more of a boathouse than a bedroom, gives a glimpse of the tops of small trees. It is sometimes easy to forget that I am only four blocks from the capital in downtown Madison. The door of the room opens to a greeting canopy of honeysuckle over the irregular deck, with a stair with solid cedar rail leading up and around the house to the upper balcony. The balcony covers the old enamel stove, with offset oven and heavy iron burners, where the teakettle once sang cheery notes, now a potting table. From this vantage point a courtyard opens to a view of reclaimed cobblestones from a once-bustling Milwaukee street, now slumbering with moss-filled spaces between. A grove of hornbeam and pagoda dogwood covers the courtyard while burgundy blooming clematis with teardrop green leaves give depth to the fence. From the upper courtyard, the garden is still veiled by upright pale green bamboo, but the courtyard still holds hidden treasures unto itself. Ferns, hosta, and other foliage, varying in color and texture, yield deep blue green and vibrant yellows all season. One step outside this courtyard reveals the beginning of the upper garden and the spring that feeds the meandering stream that flows over a bed of gray-blue river stones, its banks lush with reeds and blooms of yellow and purple. To the right is a backdrop of lilac sheltering a lacy split-leaf crimson queen and a carpet of yellow-green sweet woodruff. Out farther in the garden is a flowering crab with pink blooms and twisting branches sheltering a variety of plants. On the left of the stream is a pagoda dogwood gracing the delicate woodland flowers with shade from its crown of branches reaching upward over the path. As the path turns down the right side of the garden, the delicate petals of trillium and hepatica inspire a whimsy, like the giddiness of childhood, with its feel of a woodland forest floor. The other side of the rough gray stone path, edged by arborvitae, curves at a yellow Japanese maple, with five trunks, that blocks the view of the lower garden and ushers me to look uphill at the garden I just crossed. From this view, the topography reveals hidden tiny hosta and other small plants, otherwise overlooked. Separated from the path by flat stones, a bridge made of large boards narrowly passes over the stream. The 6
stream flows between the yellow maple and around the gray-pillar trunk of a towering black walnut, before falling into the pond. On the other side of the bridge and down a gravel path is a teahouse. The teahouse hangs over the pond with a pillar resting on a rock as if it had grown right out of it. The support stone leads to stepping-stones that make their way to an island that contains flowers, a small oak and, on the far side, a magnolia. On the opposite bank, starting at the stream, is a flowering western redbud with large leaves. A hemlock with reaching branches in the corner stretches to a grove of Japanese bloodgood maples against more arborvitae that separate the garden from the outside world. In the pond, koi swim under the lotus flowers and lily pads, making tiny splashes. The sounds of falling water from the stream transport me to a land far from the busy streets outside the walls of this sanctuary. I drift off to a primitive forest with majestic pillars holding the canopy high aloft in the Canadian Rockies. The filtered green light softly defines the forest floor and a gravel path runs along a rushing mountain river. The jagged rock face overhead dwarfs the trees and the winding switch back paths etched along its wall. The forest eventually opens to a high mountain lake, clear from ancient glacial waters. As the path leads on, each corner inspires enthusiasm for exploration and every plateau offers a new environment. While creating this garden I was looking for myself. I was reading the I Ching, the teaching of the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Honh, in an attempt to understand myself and how the garden should look. As the garden’s characteristics changed so did my own. But, as with the garden, the changes I was making were only on the surface because I was not discarding the problematic substances that lie beneath. In the garden I moved the plants to a yard with better soil and a fresh plan. The rest was removed with the ambivalent hand of a backhoe. With me it is a bit more difficult to rid myself of the undesirable underlying content. Through this experience with gardening, I came to an understanding. I can force a tree to grow any way I want, but the tree’s heart knows which way it wants to grow. I believe this to be true with humans. You can force yourself to adapt to almost any situation but is that truly where you want to be?
Time is Relative by Katherine McDermith Mitchell The sand slowly sifts through the thin neck of the hourglass. Gathering at the bottom, or is it the top? Grain by grain; minute by minute; day by day; over and over it turns. Time is relative, passing relatives, just time to visit and run. Momma, Daddy, Auntie, Uncle. Quick hellos, a bit of fun then surely, sadly too soon good-byes. Images that are lost, wandering transient moments in time, like drip-drops from the faucet that slowly, surely windingly seep to the drain. Drip-drops which roll to the river, to the ocean, to the sky and come down as the drip-dropping rain of a cold fall day, seeping, surely, slowly back into the ground. Never ending waves, rolling over and over in time. Dancing up on the sand a single small grain sparkling, shining with the brilliant light of creation, the joyous warm sun. The glimmering sand star shouting upward, skyward as it catches my eye. Momma, Daddy, Auntie, Uncle, memories sparkle, shine in my eye and the tears drip-drop and roll slowly, surely, sadly down my cheeks Back to the sparkling sand, shining in the sun. Peaceful, quiescent, dance of the Divine Creator. Perfect, as it should be. Perfect as He.
My First and Only Cat by Katherine McDermith Mitchell Daddy is a real doggie person and one isn't enough so we have two. I only know dogs. They're cuddly and rowdy, with sloppy kisses, wagging tails and warm bodies as they sleep on your feet when it's cold outside. Daddy, or Sarge as my mother calls him, has them trained well. They know to poop in only a certain area. They are not allowed to go out of the yard, unless they are leashed. No matter the weather, they get up at dawn, are groomed, fed, exercised and in bed by 9 pm. Then it happened. Laura, my best friend across the street got a cat. Naturally, I have to have a cat. Daddy is four-square against it. He's truly a stubborn Scotsman and he's not giving in. But, as his daughter, I hang in the fight. I beg with every ounce of daughter charm I have and I have this begging down to a science. Still, oddly, he doesn't budge. One night I hear Mommy and Dad talking. The next morning, a miracle announcement is made. Since we may have mice, I can have a cat! Between you and me, I think Mommy is sick of the fight and wants to shut me up - well, whatever works. April 3, 1960, we go to the Humane Society to pick out a kitten. There are so many to choose from and they are all so cute! Mama informs me Daddy is drifting toward the dog section and I have exactly one minute to pick out a cat or, knowing him, we will bring home another dog instead. This little orange and white striped one is crying so hard to get out. I want that one even if Daddy thinks she's too loud. I name her Blossom. It is a sunny day and we are all outside playing. Blossom is crying at the back door to get in. Daddy lets her in, but curious to see what she is up to, he follows her. She prances down the stairs and promptly starts scratching in her cat box. Daddy's face can sure get red! Saying some words I am not allowed to repeat, he grabs her by the scruff with one hand and scoops up the cat box with the other. He swiftly marches up the stairs and plops Blossom and her kitty commode in the dog poop area. We no longer have a cat box in the house. Blossom is a fast learner. She only goes in the poop area outside now. As the years pass, we grow up together. She is my friend, confidant, and ally. However, sometimes I wonder if she knows she's a cat. She acts more like a dog. She is quick to 9
give a lick kiss and wag her tail. She runs up when I get home for a pat and scratch and she's always at the bottom of the bed keeping my feet warm. Once in a while she actually nibbles a bit of dog food too. She doesn't climb on the counters or stick her nose up at anything like other cats. Yes, I'm sure she thinks she's a dog, but a very special dog. She is a much better hunter than those other clumsy mutts and has a nice, calm personality as well. Wow! Even Dad warms up to her. I catch him watching football one Sunday with the dogs on the floor at his feet, as usual, but the cat is curled up on his lap sleeping away. Maybe Dad thinks she's a dog too. We are grown up now and I appreciate her even more. She is patient with my little baby boy. He loves to cuddle with her and listen to her peaceful purrs. She loves to sneak a bit of milk from his bottle. One day I notice she is really getting old. It is just after my 27th birthday so I guess she is. She doesn't move very fast and seems to have problems walking. She doesn't sleep as peacefully as she used to and sheds more than usual. The vet says she has cancer. I don't want her to suffer so one day, when she can't get up and soils herself, I know it is time to let her go. I take her to the Humane Society, the same place I rescued her from as a baby, to have her put to sleep. As I walk in, tears streaming down my cheeks, I note a sympathetic glance from the girls at the desk. They tell me I can take as much time as I want to say good-bye. Between my sobs, I tell them I got her from this place 23 years before. I don't think they believe me at first, but to humor me they look up the record. There it was: April 3, 1960 Orange/White Tabby 4wks MSgt K. W. & Elizabeth McDermith I don't have the desire to own another cat again because I don't believe I will ever find such a wonderful, gentle, trustworthy, and loyal dog dressed up in a cat suit again.
Indian Mammas by Wapananahukiw They do a lot, Indian Mammas do They even do Magic, those Indian Mammas. I think that if she needed to, A single mamma could lure down the moon, reach up to it, and pull it down to break off a piece of cheese so to feed her little one. And I bet It would be %100 USDA American, Commodt cheese. - Good by the stick or by the slice Good for making grilled sandwiches Or homemade Mac & cheese. “Momma’s a good cook, Mmm...Yum.”
An Otter's Tale of Revolution by Marcus Grignon Kemaesomaesenowak mesek Maec-Awaetok, nekatatw-maenawac-kiketim naenawetaw (Grandfathers and Great Spirit, I am going to tell a story of a hero). The Mekek walks through the forest of change. The meskikih (native medicinal plants) are on their final days on Grandmother Earth. The wild berry seasons are delayed due to the significant change in the weather. New manitowok (animals) are venturing into the forest The Mekek ask these new manitowok what is going on, they simply state, “The south is getting too hot for us to live in; we need to move north to sustain ourselves and our families. Our habitant is being destroyed by the strong waters of the northern ocean. We cannot survive there any longer. The elders guided us south and here we are.” The Mekek could not believe what the animals said; all this change happened so fast. Mekek started to run in the direction of his elders, for they are the ones who will have the knowledge to sort out the transformation. As Mekek ran through the forest, he found many of his brothers and sisters in terrible shape. Many of them had gone down a road that only leads to sadness and depression. The cause of this is kaeqc nepew – water that comes from the east. Mekek stopped for a moment just a few feet away from the cave of the elders. He sat by the sipiah (river) to think about what had happened. Mekek stared into the sipiah and felt something needed to be done to turn the forest back to how it was – a wonderful, cheerful, and compassionate place to live, where the wild berries and meskikih are bountiful and Mekek’s brothers and sisters live to the fullest capacity rather than drown themselves in water. Mekek broke his mind away from the water; took a deep breath and walked into the cave. In front of Mekek were Niw Awaesaehs, the elders, who looked at Mekek as though they waited for him. Mekek sat down in front of them, took out his pouch and offered them tobacco. They took it graciously and held out their paws, which meant he could speak. He took a deep breath and began to speak: “My elders, there are great changes that have happened in our forest. Our meskikih are on their final days and the wild berry seasons are delayed due to the change in the weather. Manitowok from the north and south have moved into the forest because their lands are too hot and the weather is unpredictable to sustain their families. I feel as though there is something that has happened, but I cannot put my paw on it. Our 12
brothers and sisters have lost their way and have taken the path that leads to destruction. This is the cause of the kaeqc nepew water. I have come here to ask for your wisdom on these events that trouble me and hope you will give me guidance.” The Niw Awaesaehs took in what Mekek told them. They looked at one another as they spoke the ancient language. Mekek listened and observed. This continued for a long time for Mekek’s tail was numb from the rocky floor of the cave. The Niw Awaesaehs stopped their discussion and turned to Mekek. The Awaesaeh with grey fur around the nose spoke. “The things you speak of have not happened in centuries. We need to prepare our future generations for the change that will happen soon. We must preserve our traditional way of life and end this destructive life that has been assimilated into our forest. The kenews (eagles) need to understand this and act quickly if we are to survive as a culture. Can you deliver our message to the kenews?” “Eh (Yes), I will deliver your message to the kenews and return with their answer,” Mekek answered. He felt proud the elders asked him to take on this honorable task. As Mekek stood up from the rocky floor, he felt his tail again and walked out of the cave tall, determined. As Mekek walked through the forest, he thought about what the elder had said, “The things you speak of haven’t happened in centuries. We need to prepare our future generations for the change that is to come.” While deep in thought, Mekek stumbled upon a group of manitowok gathered near the falls. Mekek could hear they were in discussion about the changes that happened in the forest. One of the manitowok’s spotted Mekek and silence followed. “Posoh (hello) Mekek what brings you to the falls?” asked Mos (Moose). “Eh, Mekek why you here and not in the river on this fine day?” chimed in the Otaetchia (Crane). “Posoh mawaw niwak (Hello everyone), I am headed to the sacred tree of leaders to speak to the kenews about the change that has happened in the forest. I just came from the cave of the elders and spoke to them about the situation. The elders asked if I would go to the kenews and inform them on what is going on here in the forest,” Mekek replied with a firm and confident voice. “Mekek do you mind if we come with you? We would like to be there to give our own accounts on what has happened to the forest,” Mos said. “Eh, I’d be happy if you all came with me. I’m a little nervous and would be great to have company,” Mekek said as he felt joy leap from his body. The manitowoks came together and marched towards the sacred tree of leaders. Along the way, more manitowoks saw the group and joined. Before you know it, the group grew to 30 manitowoks, all dedicated to the state of the forest. As the march came upon the sacred tree of leaders, everyone gasped at what sat before his or her eyes. The kenews were different. They’re heads were still like a kenew, but they now had arms and bodies of two-legged beings. Not all of the kenews 13
looked like this. There were three who still looked normal. Everyone was in shock. Mekek took a deep breath and walked up to the stump in front of the leaders and spoke, “Great leaders, there are changes that have happened in the forest that are unexplainable. The berry season is delayed and no berries will be ready at the proper time. Manitowoks from the north and south have come into the forest with their families to start a new life. These new manitowoks state the south is too hot and unbearable to sustain their lives. The manitowoks from the north state the waters are too rough on their habitat,” he paused to take another breath, “I’ve just come from the cave of the elders and they asked me to deliver a message to you: We must start to invest our time and resources for our future generations to ensure their survival in the years to come. We need to revive our culture and traditional ways of life.” Mekek finished and waited to hear an answer from the kenews. Minutes passed and finally the head kenew got up and spoke, “Mekek we are happy to hear the elders are worried about the strange things that have happened. I understand your concerns, but at this moment we do not have the resources to do what you and the elders request. We have already invested in a new suyian (money) palace.” Mekek interrupted the head kenew (leader). “How could you do that? We can’t be worrying about that lifestyle anymore. It has only caused us harm and loss of our traditional way of life. I understand we need to sustain our lives, but I know at one time the forest was enough for us.” The head kenew slammed the sacred branch of order down on the table. Mekek stopped and waited. The kenew seated next to the head kenew began to speak. “Mekek, you must understand that the new suyian palace will help us sustain our traditional way of life. We need to invest in that before we can do anything else. The elders may have told you that we must invest in our traditional way of life, but they need to understand we live in different times. I speak for the other kenews and we feel what we have is right.” There was uproar from the table and from behind. The kenews began to argue with each other. The ones who looked more like kenews shouted, “We need to listen to the elders,” and the kenews that looked more like two-legged beings shouted, “We live in different times and the suyian project needs to come first before this.” The manitowoks behind Mekek yelled, “We never wanted the suyian palace, you wanted that! You are supposed to look out for our well-being, not take the path that is leading our traditional way of life to extinction.” The head kenew called the meeting to a close and Mekek left with anger in his body. Thoughts ran through his mind, “How could the kenews not take what the elders said into consideration? The sacred document states we need to preserve our traditional of life and nothing comes before that.” Mekek walked back to the cave of the elders. He felt drained and saddened by what happened. If only there was something he could do to change this.
Mekek reached the cave of the elders as the sun began to descend on the horizon. He decided to sit in the river and cool off. The river was a wonderful as it rushed passed his fur. He felt so refreshed and enjoyed the setting sun. Suddenly, the grey-haired elder emerged out of the cave and spotted Mekek in the water. Mekek started to get out of the water. “Mekek please stay in the river. It looks like you’re enjoying yourself. I will come sit next to you and we can talk about the meeting with the kenews,” said the grey-haired elder. As Mekek sat back in the river, the grey-haired elder sat on a huge rock next to him. Mekek took a deep breath and before he could speak, the grey-haired elder spoke. “I know what you’re going to say. The kenews refused to invest in our traditional way of life. I knew that before I sent you. I wanted you to see our traditional way of life is in danger. We need the young manitowoks to take a stand and revive our traditional way of life. I need you to do something. I want you to travel to the land of Wasehtanoh (Washington, D.C.) and build connections with the two-legged beings. We need twolegged beings that understand that our traditional way of life is valuable and cannot perish from this forest. Will you take this journey? You are the one who can fit in the two-legged world. I know this is true.” Mekek thought about what the grey-haired elder said. He could not believe it. The greyhaired elder was right; Mekek was the one who would be able to survive out there Wasehtanoh. The grey-haired elder and Mekek watched the sun descend behind the trees and the moon began to rise. Mekek got up out of the river and looked at the greyhaired elder, saying, “I will take the journey. Let me know when you want me to go and I will prepare.” The grey-haired elder looked at Mekek with pride. “Mekek, you will leave tomorrow morning. I’m sorry it is so soon, but we must not waste any more time. Come inside the cave tomorrow and we will give you good medicine for your journey.” He got up off the rock and walked into the forest. Mekek sat next to the river and watched the night sky. He wished to speak to someone. Suddenly, a black cloud covered the night sky and Waqnahwew (flashes before lighting) started to occur before Mekek’s eyes. A voice silenced the sounds of the forest. “My brother, I felt you needed to speak to someone and so I have come to see what is going on?” Mekek replied, “Waqnahwew, the forest has changed and the kenews feel that the only way to amend things is to become more immersed in the two-legged being way. Now, the Niw Awaesaehs have decided that I need to take a journey in order to change what has happened here in the forest. I need to travel to Wasehtanoh to connect with the two-legged beings. But I feel scared and I do not want to leave the forest.” Waqnahwew took a few minutes before he spoke. He answered Mekek’s question. “Mekek, you need to understand that sometimes Maec-Awaetok (Great Spirit) gives you tasks you do not wish to take, but remember the universe never gives you more than you can handle. I feel this journey will show you many things you never saw before. And in doing so, you will change for the good. I have something for you.” 15
Flashes of light emitted from the sky and a dark object fell from the clouds. Mekek stared at the dark object until it landed next to him. As he looked closer, he found out what it was – a brown leather bag with a rolled-up piece of paper inside. Waqnahwew spoke again. “Take this with you and do not open it until you are half way to Wasehtanoh. Promise me you won’t open it till then.” “I promise I won’t open it until half way through my trip. Thank you brother. I appreciate your words and your gift,” Mekek said as he held back his tears. The dark cloud vanished and Waqnahwew was gone. The stars came back and the nightlife of the forest returned to normal. Mekek gazed at the stars and thought about the journey. Another voice from the sky called to Mekek. He looked up to see if Waqnahwew came back and found it was his other brother, Waq sah paeh koh soh anaq (Shining Star). “Mekek, I hear you keep asking yourself questions about this journey that the Niw Awaesaehs have given you. Just sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that you just have to go with the flow. Do not worry about anything and always remember you are protected. You are chosen to do great things and I wish I could be there with you to see everything. Just remember that no matter how hard the journey is, you will overcome and come out stronger than you were before. I love you little brother and remember I will always be there for you.” These were the words of encouragement Mekek heard from his brother, Waq sah paeh koh soh anaq. Mekek wandered back to the river as he felt purpose flow through his body. As he laid down on a rock near the rapids, he felt the electricity of purpose die down as his body went into complete rest. The next day, Mekek felt the sun beat down on his face. He opened his eyes and looked around. All of his friends from the forest were huddled around him. Mekek stood up and looked at them. Each one had an expression of both happiness and sadness. His friend Mawaw (Wolf) walked forward and spoke. “Mekek we know you depart today and we understand what you have to do. We wanted to come here to say that we support you. Even though some of us have looks of sadness on our face, we know you will be back to change the forest back to what it used to be.” “Thank you everyone. It means so much to me to see you all here. I am going to miss you all, but remember that I will return and once I return I am going to need all of your help in bringing the forest back to what it used to be,” Mekek said as everyone nodded their heads. “You have our support!” were the words that came out of the group’s mouths. After that, everyone came up to Mekek and shook paws. Some even touched their noses on the side of Mekek’s face, a manitowok kiss.
As Mekek walked away, he looked back for one more look at everyone. They all stared at him with waving paws and big smiles on their faces. He smiled back and started toward the cave of the elders. When Mekek arrived at the cave, the elders were already outside. Mekek walked up to the elders and they entered the cave together. Mekek waited for the elders to settle in their seats. When the elders were seated, the grey-haired elder began to speak. “Mekek, today is the day you take your long journey. You are headed into a world that is so different from ours. You will encounter many things in Wasehtanoh that will unnerve you, make you want to quit, and come back to the forest. Remember that the universe doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” The grayed haired elder took a deep breath and continued. “Now we come to the part of transformation. We, the elders, feel you need to change your appearance if you are going to blend in Wasehtanoh. We have prepared different herbs from the forest to help you change your appearance. If you will eat all of the herbs in the bowl sitting beside you, it will help in your transformation. Go ahead and eat the herbs.” Mekek took a deep breath and grabbed the bowl that sat beside him. He reached in the bowl and began to eat the herbs. The taste was unbearable and he felt a sudden change as the herbs went down his body. His fur started to disappear; his paws turned to hands; his tail began to shrink. He turned into a two-legged being. After the transformation, Mekek stood up and felt taller. His head almost touched the top of the cave. He took a deep breath, sat down on the cave floor, and waited for the elders to speak again. The elder sitting beside the grey-haired elder began to speak. “You have transformed into a two-legged being because out in Wasehtanoh it would be out of the ordinary to see an otter like yourself walking around. The two-legged beings do not understand our way of life and live in their own world. You must understand this task is going to be hard on you. It’s not easy leaving the forest and blending in with the two-legged beings, but understand once you return change will happen in the forest.” The elder finished and Mekek took in the words. Mekek felt he wanted to leave and begin his journey, but he waited for the grey-haired elder to speak. He sat for a while, waited, and watched the elders. During that time, Mekek felt the words echo through his head then, the grey-haired elder spoke. “Mekek, as you begin your journey today, you must call yourself by something and add background to who you are. From this day forward you will be Joseph Mekek from Wisconsin, a college student who runs his own non-profit organization. The focus of your studies will be on law and sustainable development. You want to gain a better understanding of how the two-legged world works and maintain a world that is habitable for all walks of life. This will give you a reputation out in the Concrete Playground and leverage in completing your journey. 17
Awaesaeh (Bear) will accompany you to the Concrete Playground. Now, Joseph, stand up and take the journey.” A great Awaesaeh came out of the shadows. Every step Awaesaeh took, he changed more into a two-legged being. As Mekek stood face to face with Awaesaeh, they turned and left the cave of the elders. The forest lit up with sunshine as they wandered through it on their way to the Wasehtanoh. They reached the end of the forest and found a long white metal box. Awaesaeh walked up to the white metal box and opened the side. He threw Mekek a long black object. “Put that on Joe. You cannot walk around the two-legged world without that on. Also, you will have respect amongst the two-legged beings. Just remember to take it off when the sun turns into darkness and put it back on when the sun becomes light,” Awaesaeh explained. Mekek slipped on the black object and walked to the white metal box, as Awaesaeh got in and opened the side where Mekek stood. Mekek got in and the white metal box started to move. Mekek looked around and saw the forest shrink before his eyes. He took a deep breath and turned around. Awaesaeh began to explain life in Wasehtanoh. Mekek listened to every word Awaesaeh said and watched the world change. Soon they met other metal boxes and a different world where neither forest nor trees lived. The white metal box stopped in front of a river surrounded by long grey buildings. They stepped from the white metal box and entered a long grey building. Inside there was a line of twolegged beings. They waited and soon the line shortened before a long metal snake where two-legged beings entered the belly. They followed everyone and Mekek felt his body change as the long metal snake moved away from the long grey building and across the river toward the direction where the sun rose. As Mekek sat in the long metal snake, he listened to Awaesaeh tell stories of Wasehtanoh and the tricks of life. He told Mekek to watch out for certain areas and remember to stand his ground. The sun began to set as they sat on the long metal snake. When darkness came, little suns began shinning all around. Awaesaeh said these little suns are called lights and are powered by black stuff that is found underground. Soon Awaesaeh fell asleep and Mekek got up to walk around the long metal snake. He carried the leather bag from Waqnahwew in hand. As he walked, he met other twolegged beings. He sat down next to a pair of two-legged beings and opened the leather bag. Inside was a long piece of a leaf and something else at the bottom. He unrolled the leaf. Something was written on the leaf in the ancient language of the forest. As Mekek read the leaf, he found out he was on a Hero’s journey to save the manitowoks and the forest 18
from the evils that dwell in Wasehtanoh. He read that when he slept, he could tap into an ancient power that would tell him the future and warn him of danger. Half way through, he grabbed the object at the bottom of the leather bag and unraveled it. Inside he found a metal object with blue shiny rocks and claws of bears attached. Mekek began to read the leaf again and found out this metal object in his hands was an heirloom of the forest that gave great power to the being that possessed it. The leaf stated that the metal object was called a necklace and needed to be taken care of. He read the end of the leaf and felt an energy flow through his body that gave him strength. He walked back to the chair where Awaesaeh slept. As darkness overcame Mekek, he started to see something in the distance. He watched the figure come out of the darkness and, to his surprise, it was he. He stood in a room in a circle around many different two-legged beings. As he watched the scene unfold, he heard his voice. “I stand before you a man who is bringing his vision to a reality by going back to my community and launching a PanIndian sustainability movement that will create economic development, revitalize culture and language, and bring nutrition back to the public school system; ending diabetes that has plagued my people. Remember real change comes from the heart and succeeds with unity.” Mekek had no idea what he said nor did he understand the power of this vision. He did feel though that this was in store for him in Wasehtanoh. In time, he will find out what this meant and to whom he spoke. Thought left his mind and darkness came back. When he awoke, he could see tall grey buildings and a huge white dome that was taller than any of the other buildings. Awaesaeh said, “We have arrived inside Wasehtanoh. Time to walk and find your new home.”
The STEM Scholars Pangram Invitational A pangram is a sentence that includes every letter in the alphabet. They are useful for passing time on long car journeys and for testing keyboard functionality. Perhaps the most famous pangram is the classic: The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog. It consists of 9 words, 33 letters, and is easily comprehensible. One morning last fall the STEM scholars spent a few minutes working as a team to compose the pangram: John flunked yesterday’s quiz on fighting wax blimps in Czechoslovakia. It consists of 10 words and 62 characters. This became the basis for the STEM scholars pangram invitational. Entries are judged on two criteria: total number of letters (fewer is better), and (2) overall sensibility. The winning entry, consisting of 9 words and 48 letters, was submitted by Irene Kiefer: Dr. Vickers felt queasy while juggling six pink zombies. Congratulations Irene! Irene also submitted the following (with 13 words and 53 characters, but using the unfamiliar word, 'jodhpur' -- a short riding boot. The quirky Zen monk's classy jodhpur gave Pixie a wee bit of envy.
Poems of 2010 by Michelle Blumriech Let It Go Slivers of anguish slice open my delicate heart. Each tear produces tiny droplets of sorrow… trickling down. Misery cuts my flesh to allow esCape and my hope becomes stained with the bitterness and impurity that hides inside of my veins. I do not want it to be stopped. Let it go. My heart slows and my brain feels slippery but I don’t mind. I am finding a way out of the pain and I have broken the glass. I have let it go just like I was instructed to do and soon…all will be so much better. Free-free!
Herschel Crater on Mimas of Saturn (image from NASA at www.nasa.gov)
Time When will the pain stop ruling my body? Clouds my thoughts and impairs all thinking. I thought that time would strengthen my defenses, and I struggled to manage my disabilities. Time has done nothing for me. Time has not moved forwards nor backwards; simply standing still. Trapped within the standstill and locked inside the waiting.
Moons and Rings before Saturn (Image by NASA at www.nasa.gov)
No Emotion I feel nothing inside. Cut myself but feel no rush… just emptiness when I see the pain gush from my veins.
Molecular Cloud Bernard 68. Concentrations of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The interiors of molecular clouds are among the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. (Image from European Southern Observatory at www.eso.org)
The Lost Voice by Madona Wilber Long at night when they come out all is silent and calm windows shatter and sway the candles so weary and drawn they wander around the house in the still of the lonely night they breathe death and darkness into peoples hearts with fright so when is it my turn what will i do when they come for me that hour shall be my lastand my soul will finally be set free
The Story of Us by Madona Wilber Long I read this beautiful story once. It was interesting and new.. Difficult and true. This story had me dreaming of "What if's" and "Could be's", . like love breathing on lonely trees. It took me to far away lands and even made me fly. Down dark,winding roads that even made me cry. It made me happy and mad, jealous and sad... Claude Monet ‐ Terrasse à Sainte‐Adresse Chapter by chapter, I loved this book wherever I went, its the only thing I took . But living through the pages is not reality, I guess that's why I could never really see. This story has gotten the very best of me. The pages are now weathered and worn, tattered and torn. Its a comedy without the laughter, Its my fairy tale without the happily ever after. This stories a favorite and always will be. Even if i put it down, I still carry it with me.
If I Was... by Melissa Wilber If I was a whale, then I’d want you to have gills swimming from coast to coast with stories of many thrills If I was a monkey, then I'd want you on my back, take you from jungle to jungle and swing the whole way back If I was a rock , then I'd want you to be the dirt, hugging me and holding me so I don't get too hurt and If I was your girl, then I'd want you to be mine too, forever and ever and end with an "I do."
Photo from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce
Southern Right Whale, Peninsula Valdes Author: Michaël CATANZARITI (public domain)
New Beginnings by Teri Fairbanks The white crystallized snow has now become clear, clean, rain -a start of new beginnings for all. The green grasses somehow look much greener and the new buds on the trees and flowers are beginning to show. The young are coming out of their dens with their parents to feel the soft wind and rain and to know their scent for the first time
Published on Dec 6, 2013
Feather Chronicles Spring 2010, College of Menominee Nation's literary magazine of short stories, poems, photos, and other creative work. Fe...