Indigenous Peoples Day and What the Trees Say

Two years ago, Minnesota declared the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day. Other states and cities have as well, and I assumed Warroad would have some official designation. Yet, last year’s school calendar read “Columbus Day”, and this year there is nary a mention of Indigenous Peoples Day. (In the district’s defense, no other holidays but Labor Day and Memorial Day are listed either.)

This should change. Mayor Marvin and Superintendent Haapala, please make it so (and add a ceremony in the coming years). It would be one small way to honor the indigenous roots of our town and school.

Most everyone understands that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America; Indigenous People had been here for “time immemorial”, to use Governor Dayton’s words in his 2016 Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation. Columbus also wasn’t even the first European here; the Vikings beat him by five centuries – another group we celebrate in Minnesota.

Columbus did bring old-world disease to an entire continent, however, killing untold numbers. And while his journey marked the start of the great age of cross-Atlantic exploration, it was also the beginning of systematic enslavement, starting with the indigenous slaves he took home with him for display and to work on other lands that he “conquered.”

Minorities in this country have been struggling ever since. Yay, white people.

Bleak and terrible segue, I know.

I’m just so exhausted by the course our country is charting, and the last few weeks have been particularly trying. I go from reading everything I can to try to stay balanced between both the Left and the Right (still failing to understand the latter), and then, for sanity’s sake, I force myself to disconnect completely. Deleting social media, unplugging, and escaping into the wilderness – figuratively speaking.

This past weekend, after the especially ugly division over Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, it was a literal escape. My live-in fishing guide, home from the seasonal beet harvest because of rain, took me fishing two days in a row – an extremely rare occurrence. He caught most of the crappies (tricky fish!), and I caught most of the walleye. I also pulled up the biggest pike I’ve ever wrestled. Oh, what a fight!Column 105 Northern Pike.jpg

It felt decadent and incredibly peaceful to escape to the water, a healing luxury I know not many have. I don’t take it for granted. I relaxed and did my best to release the despair of our country’s backwards slide.  Trust, I told myself. Breath, my body answered. Be, the water sighed.

The glorious fall colors are hanging on even in the shallow soil of the rocky Canadian islands. We don’t have a lot of red-leafed tall-standing trees here, but much of the underbrush ages in various shades of brick and umber. That, mixed with the rich golds of the birch and popple, plus the deep greens of the balsam and white pine, created a painter’s backdrop my camera couldn’t do justice.

I let my thoughts dart where they would with the gulls and left my soul open to soar with the eagles. It wasn’t long until I felt tangible strength regathering just as the cormorants were in massive flocks to prepare for their pre-winter’s journey.

The water temperature has plummeted into the 40’s and I could feel it hardening, the molecules tightening their patterns, beneath the ride of the boat.

I thought of the people who came before us. I thought of those born to these waterways. I thought of we interlopers who think we own it all, who have not yet earned our keep on this precious land.

This political trouble will pass, just like the golden leaves of the birch. The old rule of the patriarchy will crumble, just as the sodden, slippery carpet of decaying leaves will dry and nourish the next growth. It is written on the face of the planet and nothing, not even a screaming white male Senator or Supreme Court nominee, can change that.

But, people no longer have the grace of the trees. We killed that possibility when we decimated the Indigenous population. Everything, all social progress in our ridiculously archaic man-made systems of being, has been a fight by the few on behalf of the many. We march, we riot, we fall, we die. We fight on in endless cycles for generations.

Still, we cannot help but keep moving forward. I trust in the cycles of the earth and our connection to her. I abide in her feminine wisdom. I fight for her right (and the Peoples on her) to exist in peace.

I believe her.

The Indigenous will rise again. The strength of the feminine will come back into power. It may not be in my lifetime, but at least I can see the purpose of my life now. It is to pave the way for those who come after. It is to take in the colors of the fall with peace in my heart. It is to catch dinner from the lake and eat with gratitude that same night. For now, I will keep the stories alive that connect us. I will grieve and weep beside those who have lost their will to fight, and I will warrior onward for every cause that deserves my energy.

Social change cannot happen without going to battle on behalf of love. And I love this land and these people. The course is set. The migration begins. Winter is coming.

Bring it on, the trees say.

Dear Lacey

Dear Lacey,

I remember the night you were raped. I remember some of the details clearly, other details not so much.

My parents were gone and I had friends over when I shouldn’t have. We were seniors in high school and you were a freshman. You were my younger sister’s friend, but I don’t remember if she was there. When some of the jock boys showed up, they had been drinking. Continue reading “Dear Lacey”

Letter to the Editor – October 2

What an utter surprise and (selfish) delight to read in this week’s local small-town newspaper a letter supporting similar beliefs to mine! We are few and far between, we blue progressives, in this land of vocal and volatile Trump supporters.  And no where could feel more divided than the rural locale. At least that’s my opinion and perspective of the moment.  Her paragraph “I am not afraid…” literally gave me goosebumps. Continue reading “Letter to the Editor – October 2”

A Girl Can Dream

I want a president, not a predator. I want to read news about her kindness, not another social media attack. I want political nominees who aren’t accused of sexual assault, pedophilia, or all different manner of financial crimes. I want leaders who encourage and add to the melting pot, not those who strain out the white potatoes as their favorite part. Continue reading “A Girl Can Dream”

The Shape of Darkness

When the power goes out, as it does fairly often here at The Angle, the darkness, or rather the small light in the darkness brings the family together. Whatever disparate activities we were all up to, they are put on pause, and we find our way to each other and start the familiar hunt for candles, the lantern, flashlights and headlamps.

First, it’s an adventure. And then, when we have our more primitive lights on, for whatever reason, we always ride out the darkness together. Continue reading “The Shape of Darkness”

I Still Stand with Kap

(Published September 11, 2018 in the Warroad Pioneer)

Apparently, a lot of people in this rural area don’t like Colin Kaepernick and what he stands for.

Some of us think he started his anthem-kneeling protest because he was pouting about his dwindling career. Some of us think he shouldn’t have used his platform to talk about social issues. Some of us think he’s an entitled rich kid who hasn’t truly sacrificed anything. And now, a vocal minority of us are pretty irked that Nike chose him as the face of their new ad campaign that reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Here’s what I think. Continue reading “I Still Stand with Kap”

The Song and Dance of Fall

(Published September 4th in the Warroad Pioneer)

We danced our way into Fall on a recent rainy weekend. During a midday downpour, the five-year old and I stripped down, ran out into the chilly-at-first rain and danced in the grassy puddles with our hands and faces to the sky. It was earthy, delicious, giggling fun, and we twirled and sang until we were as soaked as river moss.

She starts school this week and will be the only kindergartner in our one-room school house. There’s no preschool at The Angle, so this first day of school is her legitimate first. Continue reading “The Song and Dance of Fall”