Trials of an Angry Ojibwa Woman's Life
09/07/2012 Part I
10/19/12 Part II
She grabbed her belly and dropped to her knees. It felt like all of the blood rushed to her head and the room started to spin. She kept saying, “No, no, no, no, no…”!
His parents both started to cry. Her relatives brought her to her feet and helped her outside to get some air. His parents followed. He wasgone. Her relatives and his parents talked around her. She knew she was there, but yet she was very far away. She felt like he came for her. She wanted to go. She wanted to take her baby and go. They had someplace they had to go.
At that time, the only ones who knew she was pregnant was her relatives. They helped her tell his parents. The grief of losing him did not soften with the news. Prayer could not help her. Nothing could help her. The parents and the relatives continued to talk. The parents told her that his body would be delivered back to Pine Ridge where they would have services. They wanted her relatives to make arrangements to bring her with them back to Pine Ridge for the services. The Angry Ojibwa Woman was far away. All she could think about was the future. Memories played over and over again in her head about their walks. Their love. Their dreams. Their baby. His brown hand reaching for the groceries that had fallen to the floor.
When she arrived in Pine Ridge with his parents, she knew why he sent them money every month. They were, “gidimaagenim”. Pitiful: The most pitiful family in the whole world.
The government had found out that he had left a child behind. An insurance check was sent to her. She sent it to his family. He was their insurance. He was their only son.
She traveled back to live with her relatives and to try to continue working. She still held the secret in her belly. She still had not told her father. She now, could not tell anyone. As each day passed, her grief worsened. The rich people were starting to notice that she was not working like she was being paid to do and her relatives could not bring her out of it. They knew they had to do something.
A knock on the door and in came her father. He picked her up and carried her to the car he had borrowed to come get her. They did not talk all the way home. Their relationship had changed.
When they got home, they put her to bed. She could hear them talking into the night. By then, they knew she was pregnant. The old man spoke in a whisper, half in Ojibwemowin and half in English, “Mindimoye, no one must know about the abinoojiiyens! The Father and the Sisters ne manaadis, they will get mad at us! Gaween! They will say to us, NO! Ne boonim, they will stop talking to us! ” The Angry Ojibwa Woman could see her father shaking his hands. She knew he was angry. She knew the secret would be something that was no longer hers.
Her mother was still quietly silent, but the Angry Ojibwa Woman knew that meant. She knew that Nindedee and Nimama had no other choice. She knew that if they let her keep her baby, that the Father and the Sisters would be the next ones to knock at the door. Her tears rolled down her face and soaked every inch of her.
The next morning, her father left to bring the car back to its owner. She heard a soft knocking at the door. Nimama came in to talk to her. From that point forward, her mother would be the one that would talk to her about her future. Her father had to close the door from the past and could not look back.
Nimama helped her each day. She would talk to her about what she was to expect. That she had to eat so that abinoojiiyens would live. She told her about the importance of not looking back. That looking back would hurt her and the abinoojiiyens. That she must let go and pray every day. Each night, her mother would make her kneel and say the rosary. The nights rolled into weeks. The weeks rolled into months. The secret was now between them. The Father and the Sisters did not come to the door. The Angry Ojibwa Woman felt relieved. She felt that maybe Nindedee and NiMama had talked to them. That things were going to be ok if they kneeled every night and said the rosary.
She stayed in the house never going outside. She would look out the window and see her horses. She no longer was able to whisper in their ears. Nimama was taking on all the chores. Milking the cows. Collecting the eggs. She stayed in the house and watched as her memories go away. Each day, abinoojiiyens moved in her belly. He would remind her of the secret and the memories.
One day, as she was washing the dishes, she felt water poor between her legs. It was time. Just like Nimama had told her it would be.
Her father left the house. Nimama and her Aunts all gathered in the kitchen. She could hear them talking, “We are going to take the baby when it comes”, Nimama told them, “The Father and the Sisters all agree that the child would stay with us and that we will raise the abinoojiiyens.” They said that she must pray for what has happened and that she will be forgiven. The Aunts all could be heard agreeing. As each pain came, she would cry. She knew as the pains came closer, her path had been chosen for her and it would never be the same.
It was late into the night and “Joe” was born. The Angry Ojibwa Woman was relieved. The pains were gone. She held him for the first time, kissing him on the forehead and cheeks. She knew that she had done something wonderful, but why did it feel like it was something shameful? The Aunts helped to take care of her after the baby was born. Nimama came in to take Joe. There were no words. Everyone seemed to understand. The Aunts said the rosary for her. She laid there. She felt as if they were praying over her body and that she had died.
They would chant each part of the rosary with the oldest Aunt leading in the prayer. In the background, she could hear Joe crying. Her breasts hurt. They ached. She wanted them to stop so she could go get her baby, but they kept on for hours. Nimama did not come back into the room. The older Aunt would nudge her and make her say the rosary with them. She would say the words but felt nothing as they came out of her mouth.
To Be Continued….
Nimiigwechwindam maabaa bimaadiziiwin
I'm feeling grateful this good life
I am in a state of gratitude for this good life.
Nimiigwechwindam maabaa bimaadiziiwin
I'm feeling grateful this good life
I am in a state of gratitude for this good life.
N'miigwechwindam maabaa bimaadiziiwin
I'm feeling grateful this good life
I am in a state of gratitude for this good life.
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....