Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long Overdue

Let's hope THIS happens.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Native Americans? Indigenous People? Or is American Indian Just Fine?

Fool Bull of the Sicangu Lakota Sioux tribe, late 1800s.

I prefer the term American Indian; here are a few other opinions:

Author Steve Hendricks, whose book The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country I recently read, wrote in the book's afterword, "I use the term American Indian rather than the alternatives - Native American, indigine, aborigine, and so on - because it is the word most Indian of the Plains use to describe themselves, because it is simple, euphonious, and familiar to non-Indians, and because although its origins are disputed (possibly it was a mistaken reference to the people of India, possibly it was a reference to people 'of God,' or in dios), it is in any case not derogative in origin. The National Congress of American Indians, the American Indian College Fund, the American Indian Movement, Indian Country Today, News from Indian Country, and many other organizations run by and for Indians see no reason to stop using the word. Nor do I."

Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota Sioux and one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, certainly the most militant of Indian groups, states, "I abhor the term Native American. It is a generic government term used to describe all the indigenous prisoners of the United States. These are the American Samoans, the Micronesians, the Aleuts, the original Hawaiians, and the erroneously termed Eskimos, who are actually Upiks and Inupiats. And, of course, the American Indian. I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins . . . As an added distinction the American Indian is the only ethnic group in the United States with the American before our ethnicity . . . We were enslaved as American Indians, we were colonized as American Indians, and we will gain our freedom as American Indians, and then we will call ourselves any damn thing we choose."

And Christina Berry, a Cherokee writer and producer of the website All Things Cherokee, says:
"In the end, the term you choose to use (as an Indian or non-Indian) is your own personal choice. Very few Indians that I know care either way. The recommended method is to refer to a person by their tribe, if that information is known. The reason is that the Native peoples of North America are incredibly diverse. It would be like referring both a Romanian and an Irishman as European. . . . Whenever possible an Indian would prefer to be called a Cherokee or a Lakota or whichever tribe they belong to. This shows respect because not only are you sensitive to the fact that the terms Indian, American Indian, and Native American are an over simplification of a diverse ethnicity, but you also show that you listened when they told what tribe they belonged to. When you don't know the specific tribe simply use the term which you are most comfortable using. The worst that can happen is that someone might correct you and open the door for a thoughtful debate on the subject of political correctness and its impact on ethnic identity. What matters in the long run is not which term is used but the intention with which it is used."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Belated Halloween Photos

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound: Super Bull (grandson Devin).

Red Chief as a Bear.

The Reluctant Hound: Ali refused all efforts to wear my buffalo hat for Halloween. The Amazing Mr. Baba is seen here in a rare moment of sleep while I'm still awake.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To Camp or Not to Camp

Signed up for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in December in Indiana, and may camp instead of getting a hotel room. Camping. In December. I'll give it more thought. I've camped in 17-degree weather, a night I'll never forget. I was in the Army at the time, and it was a record-setting low temperature for that November night near Augusta, Georgia. We did not have down sleeping bags, of course, and were ill-equipped for the cold snap. Not ideal training conditions for my next military post, Vietnam, where I would be two months later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Tribes and the President

A Native American poses for photographer Marilyn Angel Wynn, who travels all over the U.S. to document the descendants of the first people of the land.

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. I doubt a lot of people know that. In November of this year, November 5, in fact, representatives of the 564 federally recognized Indian tribes, at the invitation of President Obama, will converge on Washington, DC, for the White House Tribal Nations Conference to be held at the Department of the Interior (the White House isn't large enough to accomodate the expected crowd). This is part of Obama's plan, and promise, to address the concerns of Native Americans. The president says he wants to hear directly from tribal leaders about how his administration can meet their needs and help make their lives better. Many Native Americans suffer higher rates of crime and poorer health than the rest of the population. Many tribal leaders hope this will not be just a huge gripe session, but rather a coordinated, meaningful meeting that will produce results. I think this President will listen, and get something done. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Capital Buffaloes

I've been to DC a few times, but have yet to see THESE buffalo. Given a good bath, these are four beautiful animals.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Final Journey of Lone Eagle

See THIS site for a powerful, moving story.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tale of a Tragedy

U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman

Recent photo of weary U.S. Marines resting after an eight-hour firefight against Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of THIS book (see editorial review for a good summary). I have been intrigued by Pat Tillman's life journey for quite a while, and one of my favorite authors now tells Tillman's story. I have a lot of questions, and I hope this book will answer them.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

In the Herd, Ya Gotta Start 'Em Young

Grandson Devin in a nifty new shirt. Wonder who got him that?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Flashback 1969: At the Playground with Joe and His Grease Band

Joe Cocker. Unknown to many before this appearance at Woodstock.

May 1969. With a friend I enter the Kinetic Playground in Chicago where we are to see the Who in concert. The opening act is a group called Joe Cocker and the Grease Band. I had never heard of them. We take our seats, which are actually not seats because everyone sits on the floor. So, Joe and the Grease Band come out and start to play and . . . Whoa. They knocked everybody out. These guys, Englishmen, were quite good, especially Joe, with his spastic moves and guttural bellowing of songs. That band left a lasting impression on me.

Fast forward to a few months later, August 1969. I'm looking over the front page of the New York Times at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I'm in the second week of basic training in the Army. The photo in the paper shows the masses at the music festival at Woodstock. I didn't know it then but Joe Cocker and the Grease Band had played at Woodstock and had made an indelible mark in rock music history.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock this weekend, I will watch my DVD of the Woodstock movie and once again be mesmerized by Joe and the Grease Band's version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends." Watch it above. Starts slowly, then roars. Knocks me out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Like a Stake in the Heart"

Gang member at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota.

Samuel, an adopted youth at the Pine Ridge Reservation, was a 14-year-old ninth grader when this photo was taken earlier this year. Samuel was adopted by a Pine Ridge family who has many other adopted children from dysfunctional families on the reservation. Through the Dakota Youth Project, a sponsor from Germany is sending monthly support for Samuel. The Pine Ridge school dropout rate is reported to be 70% or more. I wonder how Samuel is doing.

THIS article is a sad commentary on gang problems on American Indian reservations, while THIS article is specifically about the Pine Ridge reservation.

Vic Glover, a Vietnam vet (combat medic), journalist, and Pine Ridge resident, has written a series of short essays on life on the reservation entitled "Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge." From his book:

"People out there in the American world don't know how pitiful America's First Citizens really are....They don't know that 67 percent of the population here lives in third-world poverty, and half the people over forty-five suffer from diabetes. People don't seem to know or care that there is more than 85 percent unemployment and an incredible rate of alcoholism and dysfunction, infant mortality, and teenage suicide. The enormity of the problems are as staggering as America's neglect. Like a stake in the heart....When America is having a hard time, life then becomes especially difficult for many of her native people....We rely on each other, get by and keep the fire lit."

And THIS site details the story of troubled Pine Ridge youth. No wonder there is so much despair.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Coexisting: Madeline Rose and Ali Baba

This is my cat, Maddie. She's 13 and has been queen of my house for many years. One of her favorite perches is here on the dining room table next to the buffalo statue centerpiece. She spends a lot more time there now to avoid this intruder into her life . . .
. . . Ali Baba, whom I acquired recently from my son Tim. Ali is a strange critter: he eats from his bowl only when I am preparing my own meals, and he curls into a ball just a couple of feet below me on the floor when it's time for my reading in bed, and, as far as I know, he doesn't move from that spot all night. When I pick up his leash, he knows that means "Outside!" and prances and kicks like a bucking bronco until I get him out the door. Hilarious. Maddie doesn't think too much of him, though: much hissing and arching of her back when he's near. A sure sign that she wants him to know it's her domain: this morning Maddie spots Ali coming down the hall toward the kitchen; she quietly steps in front of him, blocking the entire kitchen doorway. No hissing or arched back, just a rigid barrier presented to the perplexed Ali, who looks up at me with a "What do I do?" look. We'll see how this relationship develops.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New President Meets Old Grunter

With the passing of Walter Cronkite, whose evening newscasts were essential viewing for me, we have seen clips of Walter's life and times. I don't know if Walter had any commentary on this particular stage of President Kennedy's inaugural parade in January 1961, but I thought I'd post this photo. As you can see, there are a lot of smiling faces, including that of the new President (directly above the Presidential seal) and a clapping Vice President Johnson to the right of Kennedy. That's Buddy Heaton passing by the reviewing stand on Old Grunter, a "partially tamed" buffalo he purchased for $500 in 1950.

"Old Grunter didn’t come with a detailed set of riding instructions," Buddy recalled, "and it took two years of trial and error to get the hang of riding the buffalo right side up. A good part of that time was spent sailing through the air and then having to pick my backside up off the ground. It quickly became apparent that a healthy young buffalo is not the gentlest of God’s creatures, y’know.”

While on Old Grunter, Buddy managed to shake hands with Kennedy and Johnson during the parade. Also on Inauguration Day, Buddy rode Grunter up the steps of the Capitol Building.

In 1972, at the age of 25, Old Grunter died after eating some contaminated alfalfa. “Burying an old friend like Grunter was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life,” said Buddy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the Trail

Ethan at the Buffalo Trace Trail last Thursday during the weekly run with the herd. He and I covered about 2.5 miles of the 5-mile trail, alternating running and walking. The prairie grasses and flowers in the background were prevalent in the days when buffalo roamed central Illinois.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is What I Should be Doing . . .

. . . because of the 97-degree heat index, but instead I'm going over to the Princess Palace and cutting up a huge downed treee limb for the city to collect. I'ts such a big limb that I can also get some firewood out of it. All this from the recent rainstorms, of which we've had quite enough.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Senseless, Yet It Continues

This buffalo calf, if it survives predation by wolves and grizzlies and the bitterly cold winters at Yellowstone National Park, may grow to prosper if left to its natural tendencies. But much of the time that doesn't happen at Yellowstone; instead, the following does . . . .

Look closely at this, especially the segment that starts in about the middle of the video: a lame buffalo calf and its irritated mom tell the story; a result of the hazing. You would think that descendants of the wild buffalo that fed, clothed, and sheltered Native Americans, pioneers, soldiers, railroad workers, and countless others in the settlement of America would get a little slack today. They're aren't a lot of wild buffalo left in the country, and these particular buffalo are a special lot. The buffalo here have wandered out of the park boundary and onto the Horse Butte peninsula near West Yellowstone, a favorite area for them in the spring, especially for the births of new buffalo. The "cowboys" of the Montana Department of Livestock are hazing not only buffalo, but also any other wildlife in the area as they are pushed back onto park land. The cowboys are on private property where there are signs posted by residents stating that the area is a welcome zone for buffalo. If left to their natural tendencies, the buffalo would wander back to the park, but the threat of brucellosis, a disease that buffalo can transmit to cattle, is a powerful tool that livestock growers use to protect their cattle grazing interests. HOWEVER, there are NO cattle in this area when this hazing happens every spring, and there has not been a single case of brucellosis transmsitted to cattle by buffalo. In fact, the brucellosis that infects some of the Yellowstone bison was passed on to them by cattle. I am a staunch supporter of The Buffalo Field Campaign, which shot this video. They and many others out West are doing their best to try to stop the hazing, but the political choke hold of the cattle ranching industry is strong. It's a shame that the magnificent buffalo herd is treated like common livestock, not the wildlife that are admired by so many Yellowstone visitors and buffalo lovers from afar, like me. As I was preparing this, a press release by the Buffalo Field Campaign came out:

"June 17. Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents captured three bull bison this morning in the Duck Creek bison trap located on private land less than 200 yards from the western border of Yellowstone National Park. The bison were loaded onto a livestock trailer and shipped to a slaughterhouse. They had been grazing peacefully near the Park border for the past several weeks on and around National Forest lands purchased for wildlife habitat."


Friday, June 12, 2009

Join the Buffalo Fleet? Duty Calls

Well, I've joined the world of Facebook. In that world is a group called the C-U Water Buffaloes, an offspring of our landlocked Buffalo Warriors. Seems this paddling herd has kayaks and canoes and travels the waterways of central Illinois. Several buffalo have tried to recruit me for the fleet, but . . . I ain't got no boat. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time to Stir Things Up

Rejoining the herd on the trail? Tennessee in the fall with Wolf Woman and llamas? A new boarder in my home (Mr. Ali Baba; see cast of characters at right)? And what are they doing to my buffaloes at Yellowstone? Much going on these days as I kick up dust and hope for good days ahead.

Monday, June 01, 2009

With the Awesome Centaur at Bob's Place

Red Chief and I paused to eat lunch here on the steps of the Sun Singer statue at Allerton Park this past Sunday. We were in Allerton for the second time in a week, the trails still muddy from the rains of our earlier visit. We hiked for almost three hours, and Ethan did not complain once. After our hike we passed by a buffalo farm, but none of the 20 or so giants could be seen; all we saw were enormous, sturdy fences and the lush fields of grass that the buffalo crave.

Ethan at my favorite statue at Allerton Park, The Death of the Last Centaur. This is said to be the most expensive of the more than 100 statues at the park because in the bronze are flecks of gold. The sculptor, Frenchman Emile Antoine Bourdelle , called by many the greatest sculptor of his generation, considered the Centaur "the summit of my achievements." The park's namesake, wealthy Robert Allerton, gave more than 6,000 acres of land, including a stately mansion and manicured gardens, to the University of Illinois in 1946. This would become Allerton Park. Allerton visited the sculptor's studio in France and bought the statue directly from Bourdelle shortly before the artist's death in 1929. Red Chief's assessment of the huge sculpture? "Awesome."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Ethan, water bottle and walking stick at the ready, at an observation tower above Fu Dog Garden at Allerton Park. He is already soaking wet and we had not yet started our trail trek.

It was my idea to drive out to Allerton Park and hike on Memorial Day, so I dragged along Red Chief. Had to buy him lunch, a rain jacket and hiking boots first, though. When we got to the park only one other car was in the parking lot. Guess no one else wanted to walk in the rain and mud. We walked all through the gardens, then took a trail and tramped about 2.5 miles in the rain and muck, and I do mean muck. In places the trail was nothing but mud, and when close to the Sangamon River some of the trail was under water. But to a seven-year-old . . . great fun. Red Chief kept saying we were going to survive this. "Hiking in the mud is pretty fun, Grandpa!" And pretty fun it was. We were absolutely soaked, and mud up to our knees. Had to walk off-trail and into heavy woods and thickets to avoid water over our knees. But we had plenty of water to drink, and our hiking sticks helped steady us as we climbed over huge fallen trees and negotiated pooled water and downed timber.

Red Chief wanted to keep going, but it was getting late and the Princess Mother was expecting us.
"We gotta do this again, Grandpa!" Yup. Pretty fun.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Warrior: Rest in Peace, Buddy Lamont

Buddy Lamont is the second person from the right in this photo taken during the siege of the village of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973.

Top photo: Taken a few days after the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, this is the scene of the mass burial trench of the Indian victims. Bottom photo: The burial scene today. Buddy's grave (inset photo) is just to the left of the 1890 memorial marker in the middle center of photo.

One of the Indian bunkers during the siege of Wounded Knee in 1973. In the left background can be seen the memorial marker for the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. The church in the background was burned to the ground by unknown persons shortly after the siege ended. Some say it was destroyed to spare tourists the sight of bullet holes in the building's siding.

While reading about South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and its historic village of Wounded Knee, where about 300 Indians (many of them women, children, and elderly) were massacred by US. cavalrymen in December 1890, I came across a reference to the fate of a modern-day warrior.

Buddy Lamont, a 31-year-old Oglala Lakota (Sioux tribe) Indian and a Vietnam veteran, joined other Native Americans in the takeover of the village of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973. The corruption of the local tribal government combined with the extreme poverty on the reservation had boiled over into a confrontation that turned ugly and forced the FBI and U.S. marshals to lay siege to the town as the Indians dug in to hold their position. Buddy was not a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), but when his people called in AIM members for help, Buddy was ready for whatever came. Many, including Buddy, were armed because the local leader and his GOONs (Guardians of the Oglala Nation) at times used extreme violence.

Buddy, an easygoing, popular, well-repected member of his tribe, was shot through the heart by an FBI sharpshooter from long range when he vacated a bunker that had been tear gassed. The firefight was so intense that medics could not get to Buddy for two hours; he probably died almost instantly.

A week later a truce was called to bury Buddy. Mourners gathered around the coffin, Buddy lying in his military uniform from Vietnam, and wearing his Indian beadwork, moccasins, and holding a pipe. In the casket were placed food, chewing gum, cigarettes, and even a package of shaving cream and razor blades for Buddy's journey to the spirit world.

At the funeral Buddy's mother recalled bringing him food during the siege: "I need you at home," she told him. "Well, Mom, you may need me, but I'm here for a good cause. Watch now, we're going to win. And you're going to be happy. All the people will be happy." It was the last time she saw him alive.

The coffin was draped with an American flag and a Wounded Knee flag, four colors red yellow, black and white for the four races and for the directions of the earth. On it was written "Wounded Knee, 1890-1973." Buddy was given a 100-gun salute at the burial site. His final resting place was just a few feet from the mass grave of the 1890 massacre victims.

Years later a close friend of the Lamont family, while addressing Native American veterans of the U.S. military on Veteran's Day, said Buddy was "the perfect example of a Lakota warrior. Many visit his grave, tourist and Indian, but few know his story. We do, my veteran brothers, and one day that story may be told. But for now Buddy lies in his grave as a symbol of what each of you risked and what your families and tribes risk to survive in America."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Poverty at Pine Ridge

Agnes Ghost plays with a bow in her yard near Wounded Knee at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

A member of the Blood gang at the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre mass grave site on the hill above town. Wounded Knee is the site of frequent gang violence.

Pine Ridge Reservation visitors are greeted by some of the tribe's buffalo. There was great joy at the Reservation in 2004 when yearling buffalo were released to live on Indian land.

To get an idea of the conditions on the reservation by one who was there, take time to read THIS.

By far the best collection of photos I've seen of the life of many residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation is HERE (click Photo Galleries I, then click Pine Ridge and click on individual photos at bottom). Haunting images.

Unemployment rate of 80-90%
Per capita income of $4,000
8 Times the United States rate of diabetes
5 Times the United States rate of cervical cancer
Twice the rate of heart disease
8 Times the United States rate of Tuberculosis
Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
Infant mortality is three times the national rate
Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wounded Knee

A poverty-stricken Oglala Lakota (Sioux) child in the Wounded Knee District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

After viewing "Wounded Knee," the final installment of the PBS series "We Shall Remain," I have become immersed in Wounded Knee and the history of its people. In short, horrible living conditions for most of the district's residents, part of the vast Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Obama Adminstration's proposed 2010 budget calls for the following gravely needed funds for Native Americans of our nation:

$4 billion for Indian Health Services, a 13 percent increase over 2009 and the largest increase in 20 years. The money would be used to contract with health providers on reservation land, raise money for urban health centers that primarily treat Native Americans, and help build health facilities in Alaska, Arizona and South Dakota.

$304 million for public safety funding - a 12 percent increase - through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The money would expand police presence on reservations, refurbish crumbling tribal jails and improve court services.

Almost $800 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs education programs - an 11 percent increase. Some of the money would pay for public schools, tribal colleges and scholarships for Native American students.

I'll soon show through photos and text just how bad conditions are at Wounded Knee. It will be a feeble attempt, but I hope to give you some idea of the plight of the people there.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Hang Out with Mom This Weekend

Happy Mother's Day to all moms, buffalo and otherwise.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mauling by a Bear is in Order

This is pathetic; the worst kind of hunting. "Wild" buffalo, indeed. The "hunt" took place HERE. Yeah, we really have a lot of roaming, wild big game in the Illinois cornfields. Manufactured hunting at its best. Viking devoured by a Chicago Bear? Justice.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Gotta Get Me One of These

Wolf Woman likes llamas. While hiking in the Tennessee mountains she saw llamas used as pack animals. I think she would like to have a small herd of them, so for fun I thought I'd do some research on the critters. THIS site has some basics, while THIS fact-filled site claims "Llamas learn by behavior, all the time. It is part of their survival tactics. They will watch your small body movements, and even the expression on your face." Hmm.

They come in a variety of colors, and apparently make good guardians, as a New York Times article notes: "The rationale for llamas is somewhat different than for other types of livestock. Sheep ranchers acquire llamas as guard animals for their flocks. The sheep's natural predators, foxes and coyotes, generally will not tangle with a llama, which can be more than six feet tall. Llamas get along quite nicely with sheep, and when a llama senses danger, it emits a high-pitched whinny that alerts the farmer to bring the shotgun."

And they seem to be reliable, hard workers, like this train of llamas on the job in the Tennessee mountains. Leading the llamas in this photo is a reporter, who was given temporary charge of the pack: "The llamas didn't make a sound when they walked," the reporter noted. "Despite that my shoes were crunching twigs and kicking rocks, there was no sound coming from the llamas. It was a little freaky. Actually, it was really freaky. If I didn't turn around and look, it felt as if I was holding a rope that was connected to nothing. I might as well have been leading a team of ghosts."

Backpacking llamas. I could have used one of these during my Appalachian Trail hikes. Very useful animals, as THIS article points out. I've thought of becoming a buffalo shepherd in my retirement, but a llama handler could be an option.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Hunter Mentality

The Hunter by N.C. Wyeth: Hunting for food - a necessity

From a taxidermy business web site: hunting for sport - not a necessity

Seeing videos of hunters gunning down buffalo at Yellowstone during during the winter of 2007-2008 was an event that got me to wondering even more about hunters and why they shoot animals. I also have a couple of friends who are hunters, one of whom says he feels closer to nature when hunting, like when he bagged moose in Canada (Geez, can't you just observe wildlife and appreciate nature?). Anyway, this moose slayer referred to the book Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America by David Petersen. I now own a copy and have been poring through its pages. This is an enlightening read for me, and though only about a third of the way through the book, I have some new perspectives on hunters and anti-hunters (myself the latter). Maybe by the time I finish reading Heartsblood I will understand better why grown men act like little kids when gunning down wildlife on hunting programs such as those on ESPN. More on this later.