White Wolf Speaks Edition 2, Vol 1; Shawn White Wolf The American Indian Digital Magazine is published weekly. Permission has been granted by the authors of the writings that are included in each edition. Specific author’s up-to-date information is included at www.shawnwhitewolf.com The writer’s express their own views or opinions. They are not the views or opinions of Shawn White Wolf. Likewise, the author’s are not responsible for any content published by Shawn White Wolf.
HELENA TURNS 150 YEARS OLD Urban Indian’s Contributions By Shawn White Wolf In celebrating Helena’s milestone, I wanted to share some of Helena’s Indian community’s contributions and reflections. While there are many fascinating cultures throughout the valley, I generally stick to speaking only about American Indians. I am a Northern Cheyenne tribal member. Over the past 150 years of Helena, local American Indians have contributed in many ways shaping who we have become as a community today in Helena. There have been book authors, legal experts, community and social activists, to leaders in politics. Many tribal chiefs have found Helena warm and inviting in their retirement years. Helena is home of the first urban Indian health clinic. Founded by local Indian families, the Helena Indian Alliance/Leo Pocha Clinic has been the guiding force behind the healthcare of millions of urban Indians nationwide for more than 40 years. Even this past year, the HIA stood tall before Congress respectively calling for more funding to help locally and nationally. These defining moments often go unnoticed by local media, but the long-term effects have been priceless. For more than 30 years, the Indian Law Resource Center has been based in Helena. The law center has fought to protect American Indian woman, pushed the United States to accept an American Declaration of Indigenous Rights, and been key players in many other important cases. The impact on all of us, Indian or non-Indian, has helped our society establish a path to a brighter future. Since the early 1970s, the Montana United Indian Association has helped local Indians buy much needed work clothes, pay for work training or attend college. Every year, we invest thousands of dollars into Helena to help Indians find that dream of becoming self-sufficient and self-determining. Our clients
have gone on to become nurses, law enforcement officers, construction workers, EMT’s, business professionals, and even actors. These organizations came about around the same time in Helena’s history. While the American Indian Movement was making national headlines, local urban Indians faced a whole new set of challenges as more people migrated to Helena from the reservations. One major issue was the lack of an advocacy center for Indian people. Fortunately, Helena’s non-Indian residents agreed. This mutual understanding and commitment to our local citizens is one of the principals Helena embraces as a community. AIM’s presence was definitely felt in Helena. AIM often lead protests up by the Capitol and worked to generate more to join their movement. However, the impact of AIM on Helena’s urban Indian community wasn’t as strong as it was in other communities. Local Indian elders advocated working more closely with city, state, and national leaders. As a result, many of Indian Country’s public policies and state-tribal relations were created as a result of Helena’s example of working together. Today, we are more likely to here only about Indian people in trouble with the law or corruption on the reservations. But, out of the public eye is a healthier and empowered Indian community working to help keep Helena as one of America’s best places to live, work and play.
Authorâ€™s note: My plan for February Columns I am planning on this month:
Next week another look at Medicaid. There's a new report out that looks at the health consequences for states that do not expand Medicaid. I'll try to put this into context for the Indian health system. I am not sure when but I also want to update on the Affordable Care Act and the American Indian, Alaska Native exemption as well as what's going on with tribes who are treated under the law as employers. One element worth thinking about comes from Montana where folks are putting Medicaid expansion on the ballot. Is that a way to move the needle? Longer range I want to write about tribes developing metro policies. As the federal government shrinks, more of the action will be in cities. We know from the data that cities, such as Seattle, are becoming economic drivers for regions. Can tribes take advantage of that trend? What "urban" policies can a tribe create and implement? I thought NCAI's reference on international policy was spot on ... but I would add metro policy too. Another story I want to follow up on from NCAI's State of Indian Nations is the Alaska, VAWA and the bigger picture. The story about Alaska being left out of VAWA needs to be put in context with the larger questions of jurisdiction, criminal justice and state opposition to tribal governments. (In March I am working on a nifty story about reindeer policy, possibly a short video.) Last, sometime soon, I want to look at more candidates for office in the 2014 cycle and what the prospects are for Indian Country. Can Indian Country help hold the Senate for Democrats? Is the House still within reach? So I have lots to do. But as part of my transparency efforts, I will post a new budget of story ideas at the beginning of the month. As you can see, I already have a list of more ideas than I can execute in a weekly column. But I am always open to consider story pitches from readers. Thanks for telling folks about Trahant Reports -- either here or on Facebook. Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TrahantReports
NATIVE LANGUAGE PRESERVATION – WORTHWHILE AND ESSENTIAL By Clara Caufield, A Cheyenne Voice I am only half Human Being, Northern Cheyenne (from my mother). My other half is Vihio, of the spider people, the tricky and treacherous, not to be trusted (from my Irish father). I did not know my true Cheyenne name until 15 years old; in my twenties learned the legacy (what it meant and what I should live up to) and finally at 56 learned to correctly write/spell it. Still, I am more fortunate than many Native people. Like many contemporary Cheyenne, I grew up an English speaker, occasionally exposed to the Cheyenne language from my grandmother, Emma Little Whiteman. I often stayed with her as it is traditional for grandparents to take the “oldest one.” Still, I was not a Cheyenne speaker. “You speak English,” she admonished. “It will be easier and better for you.” (Boarding school advice) At a young age I married into a traditional family where the Cheyenne language was coin. We lived with mother-in-law, Moehna (Star Woman) who knew only Cheyenne and father-in-law, August Spotted Elk, Carlyle educated but then reduced to a wheel chair by Parkinson’s Disease and stone deaf, Cheyenne sign language his means of communication. My husband actually had a job leaving me alone daily with the old folks. The first day he taught me the Cheyenne words and sign language for “Come and eat. You are hungry.”
I carefully memorized the signs and wrote the words down. Though the words were not perfect, the old folks smiled indulgently and came to the table. During the next four years, they gave me the teasing name “Coyote Woman” because my big old ears were always perked, trying to figure what they were saying. I learned a wide variety of functional phrases: “What did you say? Please say it again. Say it slower. I am going to the grocery store. What do you want? Sugar, coffee, butter or fruit? I only have a little money. I don’t know where he (my husband) is. Let’s go to sleep. Your relatives/friends are here. We have a deer. Let’s cut up dry meat etc…” As spouse, I supported fasting at Bear Butte, the Sun Dance, Sweat Lodge etc. but, never learned the nuances of the language pertaining to those rituals. No one seemed capable of those translations. “Cheyenne has more power. Talking Cheyenne, will get you somewhere” Moehna said. “But I can’t say it (translate it). My experience was “immersion” based language learning. Sinking or swimming. Getting by, getting the old folks to eat, laughing and sharing stories in our native language. We talked Cheyenne. No matter how imperfect I was. The old folks liked it. Is that important? I hope the State of Montana thinks so. Pėheve voona’o. Netonetomohtahe? (Good morning/Good Day. How are you doing?) Today, fewer than 35 Northern Cheyenne can read that written message. One is Dr. Richard Littlebear, President of Chief Dull Knife College, a strong advocate of Cheyenne language preservation. If they heard it verbally, another 400 or so fluent Cheyenne speakers would respond, perhaps with: “Naahapo’e, pėhevevoona’o. Napėhevovohtahe. (Same to you. Good morning).
A few more of us would recognize this Cheyenne greeting, but could not speak conversationally to other Cheyenne speakers. Most young people would recognize “pėheva’e” (good) but otherwise be limited to single-word or abbreviated responses, which, when taken alone, are not conducive to Cheyenne conversation. These few fluent speakers, out of 10,000 Northern Cheyenne must now preserve the Cheyenne languageconversationally. That is why we at Northern Cheyenne are engaged in a serious effort to revitalize thelanguage so it will once again be used every day. Thus, the Montana Indian Language Preservation Pilot Program (MILPPP) is a wonderful development. In 2013, the Montana Legislature enacted legislation, proposed by Senator Jonathon Windy Boy, Rocky Boy (Chippewa Cree) and widely supported by Governor Steve Bullock and a majority of the Legislature. They recognize that Native Languages enrich Montana culture and also know that many Native languages are endangered. More importantly, they provided grants of $250.000 to each of the eight Montana Tribes for development of language preservation pilot projects. The results will hopefully convince the Legislature that a permanent program is necessary. We are equally encouraged that four U.S. Senators including Jon Testor (Mt) followed Montana’s lead by introducing legislation in the U.S. Congress to create a National Native Language Preservation Program. All Tribes must supportpassage of that act. We at Northern Cheyenne are not alone in the quest to preserve our language. Federal policy was one of the primary reasons for the loss of our Native languages. Fortunately, our language was preserved in dictionaries, the Bible, and in other forms of written literature by a Mennonite minister, Rodolphe Petter, in early 1900’s. Subsequent efforts were done in the 1970’s and 1990’s under tribal bilingual programs. The Tribal Council has approved the Cheyenne writing system. These efforts were supported by fluent elder Cheyenne speakers
who recognized the value of committing the oral word to the written. “The only places you can learn to speak the Cheyenne language are here on the Reservation or in Oklahoma”, Dr. Littlebear emphasizes.”If we have correct dictionaries, that will always be possible but dictionaries alone do not nurture conversational Cheyenne.” For generations, our language was the first spoken by all Cheyenne people. Cheyenne s addressed one another by their tribal names, often not acknowledging “English” names. Our tribal names are important because they honor our ancestors and connect us to the past and the future. Cheyenne names originated hundreds of years ago; each tells a story and are still passed from one generation to the next. Our names live a long time and in that way, so do we. Our ancestors in the ‘next camp’ will recognize us by these traditional names. But, within the short span of two decades, Cheyenne is no longer our primary language. Fluent speakers are journeying on to the next camp. Meanwhile, the younger generation is now only utters Cheyenne from lists of unconnected words. Why is this loss alarming? For one reason: our ceremonies and sacred rituals can only be properly conducted in Cheyenne. Indeed, some spiritual concepts cannot be literally translated into -English because of differing worldviews. “I don’t exactly know to translate it,” Cheyenne speakers will say. “It sounds different, better, more important or funnier in Cheyenne.” Chief Dull Knife College is deeply committed to language preservation. Dr. Littlebear teaches a state-recognized Class 7 certification course for Cheyenne language instructors. They must learn to read and write the language. Burt Medicine Bull teaches the College Cheyenne language courses. The College also works with local schools and with the College daycare center under the direction of Verda King, another certified language instructor.
For several years, the College has collaborated with A Cheyenne Voice (my local newspaper) to promote our language. Dr. Littlebear provides a regular and inspirational language column; local oral historians provide the Traditional Talk Column (stories not to be found in books) and we feature the Cheyenne word of the week. In addition, all of the Cheyenne contributors use their Cheyenne names: Howling Bird, Ve’kesȯhnestoohe, (Dr. Richard Littlebear, Tribal College President); Young Wolf, Ho’neheso, (Linwood Tallbull, knowledgeable tribal elder); Youngest Girl Child, Ma’ko’sa’e, (Mina Seminole, history researcher, tribal college); Red Bird, Ma’eve’keso, (Leroy Whiteman, artist, sun dancer, elder and columnist); Bear Medicine Woman. Nahkȯhma’heona’e, (Jeri McMakin, my daughter, Health/Wellness Tip); Twenty Stands Woman, Neso’eoo’e, (Francesca Pine, Lame Deer School); One Bird, Ve’kesȯhno’kaestse (Tribal Vice-President, Winfield Russell); Kills in Timber Woman, Ma’taa’ena’hane’e (Clarice Wallowing Bull) and of course, me, Teeth Woman, Heveesa’e. We now routinely all greet one another by our Cheyenne names and so do many of our community members. Under MILPPP, Chief Dull Knife College and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe will undertake additional activities: developing computer apps for children and youth to be available to anyone with such connectivity; oral history stories from elders; research and an adult Cheyenne language immersion camp. Other Montana Tribes will develop strategies that fit their situations. Let’s hope the collaboration between the Tribal Colleges; Tribal and Montana governments produce tangible results to convince the Montana State Legislature that the MILPPP should be a permanent program. Thank you, Dr. Littlebear for providing the correct spellings of the Cheyenne words used in this article. There is no word for goodbye in the Cheyenne language. Thus, I close by saying “nėstȧvȧhosevoomȧtse” (I will see you again.)
Included in this edition: Shawn White Wolf - "Indians Contributions to Helena", Mark Trahant - "February Goals", Clara Caufield, "Native Lan...