Sitting there naked in the cell playing solitaire she demanded a fresh cup of coffee. At this point, no one was going into the cell area. The jailers had called the Chief Tribal Judge to come down. It was a dilemma Not for her, she just sat there and played out her game. It was the weekend, they arrested her for peacefully protesting her tribal government on Friday afternoon. It took about a dozen of them take her down. Sitting there with her elegant gold cigarette holder, her black cup of coffee, and her legs crossed - she knew a Friday arrest meant lots of things. She had time on her side.
It all started on Monday. Their chairman got on the radio and started to rant. He ranted about everything from the tribal courts to the victims of rape and child abuse whose cases are not being heard in tribal courts. The more he talked, the more pissed off she was getting.
Victim, violence, justice - the words all started to run around in her head until they ran right into the memories she tries to lock away. I am 71 years old, she thought. What the hell do they know about justice. What they hell does he know about rape? I was raped at the age of 2, again at the age of 13, again at the age of 16, and again at the age of 17. Where was he when I was raped? Where were they all? Instead they sit there, talking on the radio fighting each other. Where is my justice!
She was sitting in her kitchen playing solitaire as usual and looked out her window. Her house sits on the corner of X and Y on the reservation. To do the famous "loop" there is no other way but to drive by her house. All she sees looking out that window is a hundred homemade signs that have been put up by people running for tribal council. His sign was pointed right at her.
She took her gold cigarette holder and screwed her cigarette into the end of it and lit up. She switched the legs she had crossed and drank a cup of coffee. She couldn't get the memories out of her head. Damn him, its my Monday! Everyday I work to get these memories out of my head and there he goes talking on our damn radio station about stuff that does nothing piss everyone off! What does he know about rape!
The phone started to ring off the hook. She knew that the party line was hot; hot and pissed off as she felt. Her neighbor, another Angry Ojibwa Woman, was on the line and she asked her if she had heard. Yes, she heard. Yes, she agreed, they are a bunch of idiots. Her friend starts talking about how ashamed she was to hear it on the radio. She agreed, thinking silently that this was just the start of her day and she could bet just the first of one of these types of calls which messes up her whole day's plan for working to forget those memories. Doesn't he know how much energy it takes to forget! What does he know about rape?
Phone calls came in all day. By the end of the day, the sun was started to fall past the graveyard of election signs. His sign was still pointing right at her.
She worked all week to forget. She washed clothes. She hung them out on the line. The Fall air was cool. Her knuckles were red. She would look at her hands thinking about how they were part of her body when she was being raped as a child. What they hell does he know about rape? Where was he when I was being raped? There was nothing she did that week to get the memories out of her head.
Friday came. She got herself up out of bed. She put her feet on the cold laminate floor. It was cold in her house. Her bed faced the X and Y corner. Staring right at her, was his sign - looking right at her.
She still had her onsie on. She slipped on her mocs. She put her gold cigarette holder, cigarettes, and lighter in one pocket and cards in the other. She grabbed her keys. Got in her car. Started it up. She could see her breath. She drove down the highway. Pissed. What does he know about rape?
She parked in the tribal office parking lot. Got out of her car. Walked passed the secretary-treasurer and into the chairman's office. He looked up and stretched out his hand to say hello. She stood there. Looking at him, she laid on the floor of his office with her hands in the pockets of her onsie. She refused to speak.
That was Friday. Now, as she sits naked in her cell, she still has her cards and her gold cigarette lighter. The gold cigarette lighter was hers. It was special. It had special memories. You see, when she was younger, she was a fighter. She would go to D.C. She would fight. Not on the tribal radio station. Not in the tribal newspapers. Not against her own people. She fought where it matters against those who matter.
She knew about rape. She knows what being a victim means. She knows that no tribal court in the world could have helped her if she was raped on a reservation. She knew that the only ones to provide justice to the people were the ones she had to fight and they were in D.C. What they hell does he know about rape?
"I want my damn coffee!" she yelled. She could see a couple of the jail cooks who were also Angry Ojibwe Women looking through the small square window of the door. They smiled and said they would get her some coffee; giving her a thumbs up. They knew that there were no men that were going to come through that door.
She had to laugh, no one questioned her walking into the tribal office in her onsie and mocs that day. They just nodded her through. He didn't even say anything. He just wanted to shake her hand and have her sit down and talk like nothing was going on in the world. What they hell does he know about rape?
The cooks came in and brought her a whole pot of coffee, fresh cream, and sugar. They also brought in her lunch. A hot beef sandwich with mash potatoes that was piled so high, it could have fed 10 people. A fresh made pumpkin pie with whipped cream. They sat down. Like we were all having coffee together at her house. They wanted to know everything.
She asked them, do they know where the Tribal Judge was and if anyone could get a hold of her? They said, no, she is nowhere to be found. They said, the jailers were frantic. They don't know what to do. She knew, silently, that the Tribal Judge would not be found. Not that weekend, not Monday nor Tuesday. That the Tribal Judge would most likely be sick. They picked up the empty plates and said they were cooking something even better for supper.
The next few days, no one entered the jail cell. What were they going to do, come in and try to dress her? She looked at her knuckles again, this time she would fight them. She wasn't going to let anyone touch her this time. Monday came around, no arraignments. The Tribal Judge was sick. Tuesday came around, no arraignments. The Tribal Judge was sick.
On Monday evening, the cooks came in and told her that the chairperson was pissed. He wanted her charged with "rioting". She giggled to herself, "A one woman riot!"
After lunch on Tuesday, the cooks came into tell her that if she got dressed they will let her go. Smiling, she got her onsie and her mocs and got dressed. She grabbed her gold cigarette holder, the one that she got from Senator Humphrey the year everyone fought in the War of 1968 in Chicago. She put it in the right pocket of her onsie. She put her cards in the other pocket. She was ready to go.
She got home, sat back on her bed and looked out the window. He's damn sign was still staring right back at her. However, it was being partially hidden by a new sign that was put up while she was gone. She got up and looked closer. It was an election sign for tribal judge.
She slipped off her mocs and crawled back in bed. As she starting dozing off into sleep, she said to herself, "What does he know about rape!"
The Two Sisters and The Dance
In Honor of the Flocken Sisters - My Husband, Jim McDougall's, longtime friends from Ceremony
I had dish water all over my belly along with leftover food, gravy, and meat juices. My face was covered with sweat. The other Angry Ojibwe Women were running around in circles, both figure eight and figure fours. The kitchen was only six feet wide. You knew the dance had begun.
It was a delicate dance. They would bow, swerve to the right and then to the left. Never spilling a drop. They would lift a large soup kettle. Bow. Move to the right and then to the left. Bow. Lifting their kettle in high praise.
The wildrice, the venison, the squash were all foods to be thankful for and they would continue to sing over it as they danced throughout the kitchen; raising their pots and pans up and down. Their partners.
The two sisters would dance in the middle of the floor. Once in awhile, their little brother would try to cut in, they would dance in-between him. He would duck and swerve. They would continued to dance.
My daughter and I were the wallflowers. We wanted to stay that way. We kept our bellies next to the sinks in order to give the dancers enough room. It was a glorious grand ball!
The sisters kept dancing in the middle of the kitchen. One would say, "Three Dishes?" The other would say, "No, that needs to go on a platter!" Side step, bow, onto their next partner! "We are out of coffee!" Exchange partners, bow, and move to the right. Yes, their Angry Ojibwe Grandmothers had taught them the dance well.
One sister would say, "Fill the pan, so we can fill the pot!" The other sister would waltz over to the sink with the pan. We would grab the pan and fill it with water. She would then dance back and grab her partner and dance back to her sister. The sister would fill her pot. The sisters would bow and resume as they continued to dance over to the other dance partners and then to the stove.
They knew the "Two-Step", the "Side-Step", and the "In-Between". I was impressed. No talking, no dance cards, they just knew.
I started to wash the pots and pans! I did not want them to see me watch them dance. I wanted to stay in the kitchen. I wanted to learn the dance.
The sisters stopped to take a look at what I was doing. Both stopped dancing. "We don't wash the pots and pans!" one sister said. The other follows quickly, "It is the only way to know what partners go back home with their owners." I pulled my hands out of the sink and stepped back and bowed. The dance continued.
There is no other dance, than the one that you learn in a kitchen full of Angry Ojibwe Women.
Yes, she was a grandmother, many, many, many times over. She didn't expect her life to go like this at all. Actually, being born in 1899, an Angry Ojibwa Woman wasn't expected to expect much. In any case, she loved her life because it was the only life she knew. Getting up at 4:30 am in the morning to milk 16 head of cow, taking care of the two dozen or more chickens everyday; she would whistle as she threw out the feed. Walking over to the pigs; she would call them to the rail as she fed them as well. Taking care of her dad's horses is what she loved the most. She would whisper her dreams to them and look into their eyes as if they understood.
She went to the one room schoolhouse on the Rez. She hated leaving home. She hated having to sit there and learn about life outside of her world. Everyday, she would rush home to work alongside her dad feeding the animals and working in the garden. During the day, she would wash dishes, cook, and then wash clothes. Cooking was something that had to be done. It was never delivered or pre-made for you. You made everything from scratch. Including the beloved headcheese. A whole pigs head in a large kettle cooking on the wood stove all day was something you would never forget. Making blood sausage was something else you would never forget. Most of the time, the only things a person would see is the food on the plate as they came to the table to eat. Not her, she remembered it all and how her life was just as she expected it to be growing up an Ojibwa Woman on the Rez.
As she got older, life on the Rez started to change. The one room schoolhouse burnt to the ground. The stories of a Great War were being talked about by her father and his friends. Stories started to come to the Rez that jobs were available in Bismarck, North Dakota due to the war. They had found one for her in fact. Her and her other women relatives got a job working for a rich family as maids. Her father knew it was time for her to go out on her own. Besides, she would be with her relatives. She packed up and left on the train to Bismarck. It was an adventure. Still in the back of her mind, she missed the cows, the smell of prairie, and the talks she would have with her horses. She never left the reservation much less left her father's embrace and she was lonely.
One day, she walked to the grocery store to get groceries for the rich woman. The younger women all sit around telling her about how their men were worthless. They complained about living in an apartment that had three bedrooms and one and ahalf baths with electric heat and running water. The best time during her day was the walk to grocery store, it was quiet and she could dream of being back home on the Rez, with her father, with her animals, with her garden, whispering her dreams into her horses ear. She finished shopping and started out towards the door. The door swung open and knocked her groceries out of her hands and onto the floor. She started to pick them up and noticed another brown hand helping her gather up what had fallen. She looked up and saw the same dark brown eyes looking back at her. Embarrassed she looked down and nervously continued to gather her groceries.
He introduced himself. He was from Pine Ridge. Pine Ridge, she never heard of that place. He asked her what reservation she was from and what she did in Bismarck. She felt flushed. She never talked to a man by herself outside of her father. He kept after her and offered to walk her home as well as help her carry the groceries. She agreed.
Months later, after many walks with the man from Pine Ridge she knew she was falling in love. They secretly met and had made up there minds that they would marry. By this time, their hand holding and talking had went past the good night kiss. She still missed her father. She still missed being at home. But the feelings she had about the man from Pine Ridge brought change in what she expected for her future.
They were talking about how they were going to tell their parents. If it was even possible, his parents had even less than what her parents did as far as money or property. He worked in Bismarck and sent his family money just like she did. Getting married and starting a family meant choosing to take some hard steps together.
Without her knowing, he decided to join the service. He wanted to make something of himself, for her and their future. His orders came and he had to tell her. She was devastated. She was in love.
He left the following week. She was crazy with loneliness. More than she had been when she first left the reservation. She prayed for him everyday. The following week came, she still felt like half of her was gone. She didn't know what it meant to be "overseas". Hearing from him would take weeks she was told. Everyday felt like forever.
She stared to not feel good. Her stomach was upset. She felt like throwing up every morning. She felt like she was dying of loneliness. He older relative that was with her knew what it all meant. She was going to have a child. Her head was spinning with the news. She wasn't married. She would never be able to go home. Being pregnant, even saying the word pregnant, was not heard of if you were not married.
Working in the big house with the women all complaining about their men was torturous. Everyday she knew she had to hold on until he came back. The third week came and one of her relatives came to get her, someone was at the door for her. She went to the door and saw a small Indian woman and taller Indian man. They were his parents. They came to tell her that their son was killed in action.
To Be Continued....
On our reservation, we called our grandfathers, Mishom. The grandmothers were called, Kookum. Mishom was always happy and loved to be around the grandkids. He could tell a good story just as easy to a young person as he could to an older person. He didn't differ himself from someone who was poor or someone who was rich. He was just Mishom.
He would help Kookum during the day and be with her while she went to visit her friends. He would sit there smoking his pipe while she talked in circles sipping tea. When she struggled with the chores and tasks of daily life, he was always there helping to lend her a hand and laugh with her about stuff that would happen to them during the day. At night, he would lock all the doors and shut all the lights.
He built a one room house out of wood from a house that was torn down. He got some black tarpaper from a neighbor for her roof. The windows were found by his son-in-law, they weren’t much, but Kookum could see the church from one window and sunset from another. She would sit there each day playing solitaire as he sat by her smoking his pipe waiting for her to make their next move.
As the children and grandchildren came into their lives, he would add rooms onto the one room cabin until it resembled a maze. As they left, each room still had to stay in place and held together a loving frame of memories for them as they grew older.
It is not often the Angry Ojibwa Woman finds two people like this Mishom and Kookum in her life; a man and a woman that live as if they were one. Watching a couple that was perfectly paired in every step was a blessing for her.
As an Angry Ojibwa Woman, you knew finding the right friend or partner always took caution and care. You always knew when you have someone you could trust, laugh with, and cry with in an instant of meeting them. As a spiritual partner, that person is someone who leaned on you and you were able to lean on them. You were able to say a prayer and in the corner of your eye, see them praying just as hard with you and for you.
Your Kookum and Mishom told you the secret of happiness was to find someone that lived by the seven teachings: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth. That all had to be present before you knew that person was the right one.
That in finding true love, the Angry Ojibwa Woman finally understood why eagles mate for life. She understood the importance of courting and why it is important to truly understand every good and bad habit of your mate. Why, once you choose that mate, you will soar until you cannot see them in the sky and fall towards the earth with them in a locking embrace not letting them go until the very end.
She understood that building the nest large enough to hold everyone you love is only another example of how big your love will be and that the nest needs to be constantly rebuilt to strengthen it throughout the years. She also began to understand that the nest would become so heavy that it would weigh down any structure; the perfect balance of understanding and care must be taken to ensure it remains stable. And that, during her lifetime, the nest might be destroyed, and if so, they will rebuild it in the same location.
The moral of the story is to take your time in finding the right partner. Your Kookum and Mishom built a strong stable nest and they told you how to find the right mate. Once you find that right mate, stay with him or her throughout your life. Your love will bring you to the greatest heights and the deepest lows but together you can rebuild anything that comes at you.
This story is told in honor of one of the greatest couples I have had the pleasure of meeting in my life, Andy and Mary Favorite. That Andy was a perfect partner for Mary. Their love shows us how to live a good life, the one that Gitchemanitou gave us to live.
All the best,
A Prisoner of Love
Every Angry Ojibwa Woman has one true love. She is taught from early on what it should look like, how it should feel, and when to throw it away. Her grandmothers, mother and aunts told her what it takes to meet their strict standards. The said, “Don’t play with it because it will get hard!” Also, that if you do it right, it will be fluffy, moist, and hard on the outside. Hard enough, they said, so when you tap on the outside it sounds hollow. Then you will know.
The Angry Ojibwe Women in your life told you over and over that, “You will fall in love early and often!” I knew the very moment I fell in love. Grandma would pull the bread pan off the wall. She would get the flour out and her apron on while talking to me about life. She would add baking powder, salt, and sugar to the flour and mix it all up. My brown little face would be resting my chin on the white enamel kitchen table. I knew, if I stayed there long enough, love was coming my way.
She would make a well with the flour. Showing me how it has to be done; never veering from the process. She would pour her milk, add her eggs, and then warm lard into the well. Taking a fork, she would mix the wet ingredients and then slowly but certainly mix it into the flour. I knew it would only be a matter of minutes until it was time and I would fall in love again.
She always sang the same song while making her bread:
Oh, I wish I had someone to love me, Someone to call me their own.
Oh, I wish I had someone to live with, 'Cause I'm tired of living alone.
Oh, meet me tonight in the moonlight, Please meet me tonight all alone.
For I have a sad story to tell you, It's a story that's never been told.
I'll be carried to the new jail tomorrow, Leaving my poor darling alone.
With the cold prison bars all around me, And my head on a pillow of stone.
Now I have a grand ship on the ocean, All mounted with silver and gold.
And before my poor darling would suffer, Oh, that ship would be anchored and sold.
Now, if I had the wings of an angel, Over these prison walls I would fly.
And I'd fly to the arms of my darling, And there I'd be willing to die.
(The Prisoner’s Song, Dalhart, 1925)
I always thought it was a sad song, even when I was a kid. What was her life like to make her so sad? She would look at me and smile as she formed the dough into a perfect ball. I thought, “Why is she saying she was in a prison and how come she wanted to be an angel?” She would take a knife and cut markings into the bread and place the bread in the wood oven. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I would be happier than I would ever be in my life.
She would sit with me by the kitchen table playing solitaire looking out the kitchen window. What was she looking at out that window? Who was she looking for so longingly? She would play another game.
As she grew older; we would have less and less times like that together. Her cards were dusty sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. The wood stove was replaced with an electric one. Commodities were being stockpiled in the pantry waiting for them to be sung into a magical moment of love which seemed to never return.
One day, my brother made a batch of love. She was sitting in the kitchen rocking in her chair. She had a big quilt wrapped around her. Mad, mad as hell. He said she could only have one slice of love. Her sugar was high and he was trying to control it. Meals on Wheels only gave her one slice of wheat bread with one pat of butter! Yes, she was mad as hell. He went into the living room and watched her. She watched him. I watched them.
Thinking she could make a break for it, she ran to the breadbox, grabbed the love and ran out the door yelling to the neighbors, “Help, I am being held prisoner!” My brother rushed out to the yard to grab her and the love fell on the ground.
Now, if I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly.
And I'd fly to the arms of my darling,
And there I'd be willing to die.
The moral of the story is, you never know what people mourn for in life or whom or what they really love. That sadness can be carried a lifetime and played out daily through a deck of cards. Life sometimes holds us as prisoners through our memories. As we grow older, our memories grow weaker, but our love never wavers.
This story is written in honor of my Grandma Betsy Allard Wilkie Davis who gave me a lifetime of love.
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The Angry Ojibwa Woman and Dirty Feet
Her fingernails were dirty. She sat in the chair in the Welfare Woman's Office and hid them under her thighs as she sat there waiting for her caseworker. She looked around the office and saw the degrees and certificates. In her head, all she could think of was the chores she had to do at home and the kids she had to ask her brother to watch while she was gone. Worried, she then looked down at her feet. Her feet were dusty and packed with dirt in-between the toes and around the nails. She tucked them under her chair. How could she have forgot about her annual income renewal! She had to show the caseworker all of her income - and to do that - she had to reach into her purse which was down by her feet! There was absolutely no getting out of showing the dirt on her hands, nails, and feet. She was going to have to buck up and play this like the Angry Ojbiwa Woman she was and give some "stink eye" while she was at it.
Looking at the caseworker's piles of papers around the office, she thought, "Income! What income! My income comes from running the rez and collecting surplus property from others!" In fact, she had a bunch of garden potatoes, beans,and onions in the car that were just waiting for the soup she had planned that night!
Income! She began to track her days during the last year. Well, she ran into the woods a couple of times during the year to gather resources that is considered unaccounted income by most accountants but is eaten up by the time anyone would be able to report under most circumstances. She was out on her boat most of the summer fishing or leaching. She collected more resources there as well. Then she went out for a solid two weeks in the Fall to collect more resources and spent the rest of the time washing clothes and processing food for the winter. In the spring, she ran around in the woods again and then out to berry camp.
Her friend, another Angry Ojibwe Woman, has been collecting Corelle dishes for her to make a complete set at rummage sales and thrift stores. By the time the collection is complete, that could be counted as an asset. The dishes that will no longer be used, by most accounting practices, would then be seen as surplus property. The Angry Ojibwe Women smiled sitting their in the Welfare Woman's Office remembering how she picked up some great deals at rummage sales that were double their worth! Heck, if they really took in the value of them, the sales would triple their value. That is tricky as well when reporting her income. Should she tell her caseworker that she picked up a leather jacket at a rummage sale for $5 dollars and sold it for $100 last month? How about the surplus property in the basement that she is holding for her next rummage sale?
Then she started thinking about the expenditure lines that she had to account for on her annual income report. Well, there was no line for more than 5 people in your household so she couldn't count the grandbabies. There wasn't a check box for pampers or for baby formula. Summer was over and the grandkids were going back to school that meant about $200 a kid x 5 totals: $1,000. The car broke down about 10 times, sometimes she had friends fix it, but most of the time out-of-pocket always was an assured cost in the expenditure line even if the daughter took the car and ran in-between pow-wows with it, it still was her expense. The income reporting form just does not justify what life is really like in her household and does not have an "other" category.
The caseworker came into the room. Smiling had a cup of coffee and sat down. The Angry Ojibwa Woman was ready to shoot out the old stink eye to get the conversation going if it began on the wrong foot! She needed the health care and other resources! She had to watch her balance sheet and it just did not work without those resources.
As she sat there, the caseworker asked for her Income Reporting Sheet. The Angry Ojibwa Woman reached down to grab her purse revealing her hands and feet covered with garden dirt. If anything pisses an Angry Ojibwa Woman off more, it is someone taking time away from her gardening! She found her documents and was steeling herself for the conversation as she saw it based upon her accounting practices. As she saw it, she was running a non-profit - kind of like a boys and girls club of sorts! At the end of her year, her profits were literally eaten up and her losses were all unaccounted for and her budget always came out as zero!
As she rose up to look at her caseworker, she looked under the caseworker's desk and saw her caseworker's feet. They were covered with dirt and outlined with the sandals she was wearing. Looking up, the caseworker smiled at her.
Moral of the Story: Women have a lot more in common than we think and sometimes it all revolves around a little dirt!
Your Friend, Betsy
To The Men of Angry Ojibwe Women:
We take good care of you because we love you. You are served fine meals. Your clothes are cleaned for you. The house is always clean and welcoming for you. We bring you items before you even know that you are going to need them. We do this because we love you.
DO NOT make the mistake of taking us for granted and EXPECT fine meals, to be cleaned up after or to have us at your beck and call...or you will find the true meaning of "Tough Love."
A. Nana Mus
Ojibwe Teachings Do Have Meaning
All my life, I have tried to live by being good and that telling lies is a bad thing. So here is my dilemma: Daughter and I were walking along a gravel road. I found a diamon ring dug into the ground. Look likes several cars drove over it, a little dusty, but definitely diamonds and white gold. I put it on and it fits like it was made for me. Hmmm...
Mini thought...I figure, if people can get away with telling lies or with hurting someone, why is it that I still need to do the right thing?
Reasoning thought...Cause my momma, Betty Laverdure, told me so!
Outcome thought...my mom can still give me a whoopin'
So...If anyone lost a diamond ring in Waubun and can describe it to me or show me a picture, I want to return it.
Moral of Story: The ring was most likely given in love and it was not meant for me. Being good and true is a good thing. Telling lies is a bad thing. It is the way the Creator and my Momma told us to be...pass it on.
I woke up this morning and the ring came to me in my dreams. If I put the ring on, it would give me the power and the permission to fight back for what was right. I had a renewed strength to live on, to wake up, to be the strong Ojibway woman I was meant to be.
... I came to the conclusion that the ring was thrown out the window of an old '57 bright red Chevy by an Angry Ojibway Woman!!!!!