Native American

El Morro

El Morro -New Mexico -1

Just down the road from my new home is El Morro National Monument .  My last visit was in 2010 when I went to a workshop at Crow Canyon sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. 


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This natural pool provided the run off water so people could stop and rest on their travels and have a drink...and autograph the rock.  

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So, natural resources are important.  Water is extremely important in the American west, which made this a great place to stop and have a drink before getting back on the trail.  

El Morro -New Mexico Petroglyphs -1-2

Of course it was an inscription rock long before the colonists arrived.   The Ancestral Pueblo people were busy inscribing on this rock. 

El Morro -New Mexico Petroglyphs -1

Telling their stories in stone a thousand years ago.  

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I love the petroglyphs.  

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If you take the half mile hike to the top of El Morro you can arrive at the ancient village of the Shiwi people.  Atsinna.  

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The Kiva is the church of the pueblo people.  A house of prayer.   

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I've hiked El Morro every week since I've been in New Mexico.  This Saturday was particularly pretty.  

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Of all the things I missed about New Mexico, I missed the sky the most.  I am in love with the sky on these days where the clouds dot the dark azure sky.   

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The passed through here in 1709, the year the little ice age struck Europe.  

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They came in the 19th century and wrote their names besides the ancient ones, beside the Spaniards and marked their journeys west.  

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The oldest inscription from Onate, is dated prior to the Mayflower.   This history in North America that we often miss in our history books,   we forget about the Spanish and the French in North America.   We need to remember they were here too.   

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I like the hike up El Morro, the views are spectacular.   

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It was a beautiful day. 

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There is the volcano that I can see from my back yard.  This landscape is amazing.   

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and you can look down on the other side of the mesa.  

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You can look out and see Highway 53 and in an hour you can be in Arizona.   

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These stairs carved in the rock to make your hike easier.   

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Highway 53 and El Morro is kind of out of the way but it is well worth your time if you are in the area.  

New Mexico  El Morro-1-2

Inscription Rock, a little place in western New Mexico that documents centuries of travelers who were seeking a new life, or were just continuing to live their lives out on the Colorado Plateau.    





Native Women's Voices at OU

Saturday I spent the day with my Native Sisters at Norman as we had a group dinner waiting to go see the film "Drunktown's Finest" at the Native Film Festival in Norman.  

Film Festival Outing-6446

Our group luncheon before the film festival was with a J.D., PhD, Two girls who recently the White House to speak about Native Education,  Those of us with Masters Degrees in Native Studies and Geography.  This is a group of empowered, active Native writers and students.  

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This young lady has represented Native students across the nation by sitting in on a "Student Voices Session" with the Department of Education. Young Native Americans Share School Culture Experiences With Secretary Duncan

Film Festival Outing-6425

He loved the horses.  

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As a student of Native American Studies and a person of Choctaw heritage I am saddened by seeing so many Native films which tell the story of contemporary people and reinforce stereotypes.   I wonder how Native people can overcome contemporary stereotypes while reinforcing them in the stories which make it to mainstream audiences?   But those are the stories that they have to tell.  So, I'm conflicted, I have a friend who calls the type of movies that go into the poverty and dark side of life "Poverty porn"  -  and that audiences like to watch those time of films where people overcome adversity.  

Film Festival Outing-6485

This years film festival was on women's voices.  I missed most of it, since our weather was awful last week.  

Paulette's Luncheon -6496

Accolades for the people who work so hard to put this festival on.  

Paulette's Luncheon -6500


One of the actors in Drunktown's Finest.   

The film that we viewed this year, Drunktown's Finest was interesting on a personal level because it was shot and set around Gallup New Mexico, which we lived 34 miles south of Gallup in Zuni during the 2003-04 School year.  It was my first full year teaching and quite a life experience.   I love the southwest so watching this movie's landscape brought an element of home to it, because that land felt like home while I lived there.  I didn't realize the executive producer was Robert Redford.  Check out the page: Drunktown's Finest. Com  

This film was captivating because it held that element of a personal connection.   Having lived where I did my business in Gallup and a greater understanding of what life is like on a reservation.  I knew that it portrayed a certain reality.

I was going to post this before OU unfortunately made international news for the act of stupidity of a few.  I am not going to use this as an opportunity to get on a soapbox about racism and class in America.  I am not going to use it to rant about exclusive organizations on college campuses (I have a philosophical disagreement that we should have Greek organizations at colleges that promote hazing and exclusive rights).   I'm not going into the word "Sooner" - but it is embarrassing because it is an institution that I have respect for.   I refuse to let the actions of a very few undergraduates color my view of the University.  

Boggy Depot Cemetery- 2015

We were running early on our trip to Atoka on Saturday so I had my husband pull into Boggy Depot so we could stop at the cemetery.   I now think it's worthwhile to revisit places that I have posted about before because I can look at how my photography has evolved over the years.  In June of 2010 I visited Boggy Depot Cemetery for the first time. I did come home with some of the same shots of the same stones, so what caught my eye then, still catches my eye about this very old place that was once Indian Territory. 

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1139

But I can share a new perspective tonight.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1145

I love the trees over this cemetery.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1146

I apparently was interested in the final resting place of C.W. Flint who was born in 1812 during my last visit too.

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1148

My husband joined me in taking in the names of these people who left our earthly realm so long ago.  It is good to read the names of people who are gone.  Just reading their name seems to bring peace that perhaps someday our names will be read in a cemetery and we will be remembered.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1152
The trees tower far above the largest worn headstone.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1156
Names hand scratched into stone.  What we don't think about is these historic cemeteries were probably also once filled with wooden crosses or other types of markers for those who couldn't afford the luxury of a name engraved in stone.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1164

I don't think people who haven't spent time walking these old, abandoned, cemeteries realize how so many of the graves are those of beloved children and infants.  In this age of antibiotics I see the heartache and confusion in the news when a child passes away from strep throat or the flu. The measles outbreak is a wake up call for the importance of vaccination.   If parents spent time wandering old cemeteries they would see that they aren't filled with the elderly, they are filled with children.   Sad, little lambs gracing the grief of a hundred years ago.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1166

When I posted the photo of these old graves a friend who lives in New York State mentioned how the stones were younger than her early 19th century home.  It is fascinating in how your region affects your perception of age.   

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1191

Boggy Depot was a very busy town in Indian Territory.   Boggy Depot  was a town in between Ft Smith, Arkansas and Fort Washita which was closer to Madill and Tishomingo.   During the Civil War it was a Confederate Supply Depot, which my Great Great Uncle was stationed at briefly.   

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1193
Broken stones dot this historical cemetery.  

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1208

It is humbling as a human being to realize that someday this will be us.   

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The items of trade that came to Indian Territory were the stones and items like this fencing, this was before the time of the railroads.   

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1196

The tribes saved Boggy Depot park a few years ago.  I think tribal sovereignty is a wonderful thing that allowed this historic place to be taken from the state and placed into trust in the hands of the Chickasaw Nation.   

Visiting Boggy Depot Oklahoma -1184

I found this interesting blog talking about experiencing a bit of the supernatural here at Boggy Depot Cemetery.  Which I don't usually "sense" anything in a cemetery, if anything cemeteries are extremely peaceful places.  The forgotten ones make me sad, but only because the people whose bodies are forever at rest there - have been forgotten by their loved ones or their entire families are gone now.  

Visiting Boggy Depot Cemetery Oklahoma -1162

Oh here is a Bigfoot story!    Which is funny we were out driving around to do some night photography and this large black animal (clearly furry) darted across the road.  I'm saying it was just a stray dog on the loose - but it seemed huge.   

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1170

One more of the impressive trees that loom over this antiquated cemetery.   

The Cheyenne-Arapaho Cherry Creek Encampment --Near St.Francis, Kansas

In the corner of Kansas on the way to Haigler Nebraska you will find a roadside monument at a place called Cherry Creek. 



Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3470

I was out on an adventure with my sister in law that day, we were just going to places we haven't been.   I didn't expect to find another remnant of the massacre that the Cheyenne and Arapaho faced at Sand Creek in Colorado.  Today is the 150th anniversary of that tragic day so I thought I would share these images. 

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3474

This is where the Cheyenne and Arapaho fled to after the Sand Creek Massacre.   

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3471

It's hard to imagine that people "knew" exactly what places they were going to in these massive plains.   But, they did.   Now all that is left is a stereotypical monument to the generic Indian of the Plains.  

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3475

I have been to the site of the Washita Massacre.  I have not been to Sand Creek.  I don't like visiting massacre sites.   

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3480

Here is some more information on the Cherry Creek camp from the Kansas Travel website.   The images above were taken in June.  

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3481

The names of those who found there way there after the atrocity are posted. 

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3485

From the - you can read "The Horrific Sand Creek Massacre Will Be Forgotten No More"   I noticed people posting these links on my Facebook feed this morning.   

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Here is a Wall Street Journal Piece on the Massacre: My Great-Great- Grandfather and An American Indian Tragedy

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3484'

If you stop at these little known sites, Kansas leaves it's guest logs in mailboxes.  Which I wasn't aware of this until we found this site.  

Cherry Creek Encampment 1864-3454

We had found the Kidder Massacre site and were looking for the Arikaree breaks that day.  

Near St. Francis Kansas-3459

Yet, how can you understand the place or area that a people lived on if you've never experienced it?  If you've never felt it's vastness?   

Cheyenne Bowl in St. Francis Kansas-3463

Yet, the names live on.  The people are gone, but the names of those people who at one time lived on the land continue through place names.  

Cheyenne Bowl in St. Francis Kansas-3525

Yet look at the emptiness that you still find on the plains in 2014.   

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Eastern Colorado looks much like Western Kansas, the High Plains leading up to the mountains.  


Good Earth State Park at Blood Run South Dakota

We drove to Sioux Falls so I could visit the Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, near Sioux Falls South Dakota.  The Blood Run site extends across the river into Iowa.  This is the site of a settlement that dates back 8,500 years.  Yes, you read that correctly eight thousand years ago people were living here.  We're talking people who pre-dated the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans or those other people you like to think of as "ancient." 

Blood Run South Dakota -Good Earth State Park-9017

So what happens when you're over 800 miles from home and you drive to visit a particular place at a particular time?  It rains.  Not only does it rain, there is a regular thunderstorm.   So I patiently waited over a half an hour for the rain to stop and the sky to stop rumbling.  It didn't.  Not totally. 

Blood Run South Dakota-2797

I grew impatient and drove down the road, wondering how to get to the Iowa side of the river.  The road was closed.   My quest to see this ancient Mound Builder city, this meeting of peoples for thousands of  years, was somewhat unfulfilled. 

Blood Run South Dakota -Good Earth State Park-9013

The surrounding farmland gives way to the river valley. 

Blood Run South Dakota -Good Earth State Park-9020

I based a chapter of my graduate thesis around Blood Run; yet I had never visited.  I wrote about the importance of this place based upon the writing of Allison Hedge Coke's book of poetry titled Blood Run.   Because I was fascinated by the idea of this empire of moundbuilders stretching across the eastern half of North America; people who I never learned about as a child.  

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I wrapped the Canon T3i up in two empty plastic bags and put my versatile 18-135 lens on it and finally gathered the courage to take off down the hiking trails. I wasn't going to sit in the car and stare at a field all morning. 

Blood Run-  They were formed not to be forgotten -9099

Had I felt comfortable in the thunder I would have taken more photos and done a much longer hike through this area.

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9055

I hate thunder and lightning. You won't ever catch me on a one mile hike in this kind of weather again.  Above is an example of my photographic artistry in the thunderstorm. 

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9059

It is probable that the Blood Run site (c.1500-1700 AD.) in southwestern Iowa was settled in the late proto-historic area by the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri Chiwere Siouans, along with the Omaha and Ponca Dhegiha Siouans. These groups were allied and known as the Oneota culture that is spread over a large Midwestern area. At Blood Run, they were under pressures from the Teton Lakota and Yankton Nakota peoples who had moved into the same region. According to Tom Thiessen's study of the Blood Run site, it once had 275 burial mounds. This is strong empirical evidence that mound building had persisted among these Siouan groups into late proto-historic times. (

Blood Run -9070

The Oneota people; lived here for hundreds of years, used this as a trading center for pipestone or catlinite which was mined at nearby Pipestone, Minnesota. 

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9090

Across two states this site is there are the remnants of over 400 mounds. I really couldn't tell the natural landscape from the ancient moundbuilder site.  I've been to Emerald Mound in Mississippi a few years ago and that was impressive.

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9068

I'm sure this park will continue to grow and will eventually have a visitors center and be rich with the ancient Native heritage that fills the landscape.   Please go like their Facebook Page: Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9075

I love the wildflowers in the northern plains.  Different from home.  

Deer at Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9101

As I left this ancient mound builder city-  there was an issi  watching me.  She watched me for a few moments as I took a few frames of her beauty.   So this site is a place that was "formed not to be forgotten."  It was a site that shares similarities with our Spiro in Oklahoma.  It holds a shared heritage with our Chahta ancestors.   These people whose stories all converge in the river valleys across the eastern United States; these mound builders-  the great empire builders of North America's past.  

HEY! That's MY IMAGE on that News Story!!!

Sometimes you know your work when you see it..  You know your images and you know your edits. Because there is a strong element of art in photography.   Sometimes images are difficult to work with, so you go home and sit down at the computer and work your magic on them.  I was exhausted and about to fall asleep tonight when someone posted a news story that was in the local news. KSWO story on Mascotry.   The lead photo was a brightly painted storefront in Rush Springs Oklahoma.  I blogged about Rush Springs and their use of the Redskins mascot in March in my post "Of Melons and Mascots."  

Rush Springs Redskins -9348

So I look on a Facebook forum and see this posted... But... this storefront isn't that bright.  


Whoa there! Hold on that image looks suspicious and there is no credit for the photo-journalist who did the work!   WOW... that's my image. Not WOW in a how cool they stole my photo way. WOW in the I'm incredibly ANGRY way!!!   

Photo (17)

You see I had to edit THIS image to get that great pop of color. I know how heavily I edited this image to get the outcome that I desired.  

Original Image of Teels storefront used by KSWO -9348

So I took this image to this... See this is what editing does. I don't always take great photographs.  I often take a lot of boring, uninteresting images and make you believe what I want you to.  

Rush Springs Redskins -9348

So while KSWO covered the issue of hurting people by using Native imagery (which is good). They USED MY imagery without permission.  To add insult to injury I drove to Rush Springs specifically to photograph the Native imagery in the town and their "journalists" could not even use the common courtesy that I ask for to use this image.   I can definitely say this is my image because of the amount of detail work I had to do on the edit.   I'm disgusted.   

You can get from Lawton to Rush Springs in 40 minutes and do your own live shots. You can drive to local towns and pull your own imagery; or you can email your area writers and bloggers and ask for permission.   

I get a steady stream of requests  to use my images now. I grant image usage large and small without pay for credit only for many people.  I deeply appreciate the courtesy I've recieved from large organizations and small in the usage of my images and I'm flattered by it.  It is called courtesy, you do not take anothers work and call it yours.   You certainly don't use it as your lead and clickbait for your web traffic.   It is professionalism, what all journalists learn about when they study ethics.  


So please do not be "this" journalist.  Don't steal bloggers work.  We are working out of passion alone.  We aren't taking home a paycheck.   We are taking our time and money to build a body of work.   Native Americans are NOT YOUR MASCOT.   Bloggers are NOT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHERS, you pay people on staff to do that.  

LeAnne Howe at the University of Central Oklahoma

March was filled with academic excursions reminiscent of my last two years in graduate school.  After the Sovereignty Symposium at the OU School of Law and then the Native Crossroads Film Festival at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the 7th my friend, Surviving Summer and I went to the University of Central Oklahoma to see our fellow Chahta  LeAnne Howe give a reading from her new book Choctalking on Other Realities

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9276

But before I write about LeAnne Howe and her impact upon the story of my life, first I must talk about The University of Central Oklahoma.   I spent 2002-2003 taking graduate coursework here. I must admit that it didn't have the impact on me that attending OU did, but it was still a place of learning to return to.  I was studying special education and I really don't recall that much about that experience.  I vividly remember traveling to UCO's history department one day to discuss seeking a Masters Degree in History only to be told by the rude professor that "You should just read a book instead."  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9283

I quit halfway through a degree program for a Master's in Special Education, after teaching special education I decided that I no longer desired the expertise in the field.  Yet, I continued to teach this subject area for an additional four years.   Now, looking back I can see the impact as I am a strong advocate for special needs students as a parent and a teacher.   I'm a firm believer in individualized education as opposed to the one size fits all approach.  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9284

The best advice I had while at UCO was to not teach forever.  She (I can't even remember the professor's name now)- told us that we should only teach special education for five years and then cycle out for a few years and do something else, so we could return fresh and not burnt out of the profession.  This is the best career advice. I followed it.  Now I'm looking to return to teaching, but with a new perspective and more education than ever before.  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9289

 UCO was the historic home to the "Normal School" where teachers were educated.  The legacy remains in this historic building.   

UCO in Edmond-9296

I've always appreciated the open feel to UCO's campus, plus there usually is a place to park at this school (unlike OU).   The enrollment and price is reasonable and I really did enjoy my year I spent at UCO.   

UCO in Edmond-9302

Surviving Summer attended the lecture with me. It's nice to have real friends who will actually go places with you.  This mural could use some decolonizing, we live in a state based upon giving land to Native people then how the land was taken from them.   The land runs are glorified to the detriment of the people who were disenfranchised and lost their sovereignty.   

UCO in Edmond-9306

In Spring of 2013, I wrote my Master's thesis on the work of LeAnne Howe and Allison Hedge Coke who happens to teach at UCO.   I wrote of their contemporary incorporation of the ancient mound builders in their poetry and novels.   So, I was eager to attend this reading.   

UCO in Edmond-9311

This is a lesson that The University of Oklahoma could learn from UCO.  Clearly defined visitor parking.  OU is horrible for parking.  

LeAnne Howe at UCO in Edmond-9314

I'm afraid photography of speakers and people reading is not the easiest task and most of the images would not make the speaker pleased.  I do have a couple of frames that I will share.  Now, of course my photography of events such as these will improve significantly with the 85mm lens.   LeAnne Howe read from her memoir "Choctalking on Other Realities."   I enjoy all of her writing.  Shell Shaker fascinates me and Miko Kings I draw personal connections to.  But this was Summer's first time to hear her speak so I'm glad I could introduce a fellow Choctaw  Ohoyo to her writing.   

LeAnne Howe at UCO in Edmond-9331

I feel as if Howe's writing incorporates and embraces Choctaw Nationalism in her storytelling.  We need our tribal identity to remain a tribe.  We need a sense of unity and sovereignty to continue to grow.  

Allison Adele Hedge Coke  at UCO in Edmond-9342

I ran across Allison Hedge Coke while I was researching the mound builders for my thesis last year.  I was fascinated by the idea of the northern mound builders and this vast empire of ancient people who resided throughout the northern midwest, into the great plains and throughout the eastern woodlands.  She wrote a book of poetry called Blood Run as a work of activism to promote a sacred, ancient site near Sioux Falls South Dakota.  Here is some more information about the Blood Run site.  


It was an enjoyable evening.  I'm not finished with my Native Lecture series.  I attended a lecture at Cameron University a couple of weeks ago that I've yet to post about.   




Of Melons and Mascots

Before you read this post take a moment and go to the following webpage: Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry .

Rush Springs Oklahoma, a town featured in many posts here on Expedition Oklahoma.   This small town in rural Oklahoma is where my Grandparents settled in 1937 during the Great Depression.  With five kids, a tractor and a trailer to move their family they ended up being share-croppers.  My Grandmother is all I remember, she was born in 1896, never wore pants, wore  her hair in a bun and was about as old fashioned as you could find for a Grandma in the 1980s.  

Rush Springs Iced Over-7617

Rush Springs became an ice kingdom just before Christmas 2013. 

This town is also one of the few towns in the state who uses the controversial mascot name, The Redskins.  Yet, Rush Springs isn't known for its mascot.  It is known for watermelons. Yes, Rush Springs is the "Watermelon Capitol of the World."  My Grandfather was a melon farmer as is my father.  Watermelons are a part of life for many people in Rush Springs.   

Rush Springs Watermelon Festival 2012-5445

The Watermelon Feed at the Watermelon Festival in 2012.  

Small town athletics are the glue that ties a community together.   Communities are no longer united by a universal church where everyone worships the same way, where social conformity demands everyone attend church together.  We are a over-extended stressed society who come together for what we value and to many people what they value is sports. Sporting events begin from early childhood and last a lifetime.  From little league to the big league, amateur to pro sports matter.  Sports are cultural.  Sports have taken the form of a secular religion in America.  Towns love and defend their masscots, however irrational and silly they are. I can't talk I graduated a Bray-Doyle Donkey and to this day I have to defend my mascot.  

Rush Springs vs Velma Alma High School Football -0493

Fall of 2012 we watched our Velma-Alma Comets beat the Rush Springs Redskins on their own field.  At the time my Daughter was playing for Velma band, while she spent her first three years of early childhood at Rush Springs. 

Why am I writing about melons and mascots?  First, let's take a moment and look at the history of the word mascot.  

"talisman, charm," 1881, from provincial French mascotte "sorcerer's charm, 'faerie friend,' good luck piece" (19c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from or related to Provençalmascoto "sorcery, fetish" (cf. Narbonnese manuscript, 1233, mascotto "procuress, enchantment, bewitchment in gambling"), from masco "witch," from Old Provençal masca, itself of unknown origin, perhaps from Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare" (see mask (n.)). Popularized by French composer Edmond Audran's 1880 comic operetta "La Mascotte," about a household "fairy" who gives luck to an Italian peasant, performed in a toned-down translation in England from fall 1881.

Rush Springs Oklahoma Watertower-9359
Native Americans are not "Good Luck Pieces." Native Americans aren't "Good Luck Charms," we are people.  We are members of 500 Nations.  

They are not as Edward Curtis thought "A dying race."  The historical romanticism given to them as warriors is not a true representative of al Native people. They were farmers, living in settled towns, they were mound builders, empire builders, artists, athletes.  The people of North America were amazing creators who networked and built vast societies. 

OU Powow  (1 of 1)


Native Americans are still here, strong in Oklahoma.  We are #NotYourMascot 

Oklahoma is a state named for it's "red people"; as people who argue for the Redskin mascot like to point out.  I am Chahta Okla, the language of my ancestors gives us all Oklahoma.  I am a tribal member, I'm also the descendant of those pioneers and settlers who were seeking a better life. My ancestors were not the plains warriors depicted by these school districts; Chahtas were farmers, they were the descendents of the mound builders.  I am sure these small towns do not intend harm with their mascots.  The narrative has been told over and over again; reinforced over and over again by the cowboy and the Indian.  While hollywood tells the story, athletics reinforce the one stereotypical image of the plains warrior.  It is time for contemporary Natives to remind those who told the story of America about the story of our tribes, our people.  

Redskin Storefront Image-9344

A storefront in Rush Springs Oklahoma.  The image is that of a caricature of a warrior in a warbonnet.   

Cheyenne and Arapaho Color Guard at OU College of Law 2014-8739

Any Conservative would argue that veterans deserve respect for fighting our wars; they sacrificed for our freedom.   The plains warriors deserve respect. Why? Because our contemporary Plains Warriors are often Veterans of the United States Military. Native Americans represent this country at a higher percentage than any other minority group in the nation.  Native people are warriors who will fight for this land.  They deserve their religion and cultural practices respected.  They earned your respect as veterans of the United States Military. They deserve the acknowledgement that they wear those feathers for a reason.  

Rush Springs Redskins -9348

A month ago Representative Tom Cole came out in support of eradicating the Redskins as an NFL Mascot and now Nancy Pelosi has advocated ending the trademark for the Washington Redskins.  This is the first time I agree with Pelosi (yeah, I don't like her).  I feel that seeing two very different sides of the political spectrum supporting the same issue as a huge step in the right direction.   

Melon Heavers Cafe in Rush Springs-9347

My Dad told me that when he was a little boy the school mascot was the Melon Heavers.  

In a town that is the "Watermelon Capitol of the World" where the imagery of watermelons and the mascot is mixed throughout the community, it makes perfect sense to embrace the uniqueness of the melon industry. I remember the summers that we raised watermelons on our seven acres outside of Rush Springs, I remember helping pick melons and "heave" them onto a trailer. I remember breaking them in the field and watch their red juice flow onto the red dirt as we ate the hearts out.   I would never had this experience as a teenager and adult were it not for the fact that Rush Springs built a town on their watermelons.  

Rush Springs Laundry -9366

I love this little town. This was my Grandma's home.  This was my home for nearly a decade.  I still do business here.    But I think that in a town as unique as Rush Springs their culture is more of melons than their offensive mascot.   

Black Diamond Watermelons Rush Springs Oklahoma-5469

The first Saturday in August you will find me here at the Watermelon Festival.   


The Warbonnet and The White Girl

A picture says a thousand words.  

Christina Fallin, the Governor's daughter has created a buzz by posting a photo of herself posing in a Warbonnet (a Native headdress that is often used by Whites as a stereotypical representation of Native people).   This warbonnet is not a stereotypical representation for some tribal members, these are worn by men and are something to honor.   

Cheyenne and Arapaho Color Guard at OU College of Law 2014-8739

The Color Guard for the Sovereignty Symposium at the OU School of Law on February 27, 2014

I can make a guess that we've all been to an athletic event where the mascot of the opposing team or of our own team was a reference to Native people.  Whether it is The Hoxie Indians or The Rush Spring Redskins. We don't think about it, because that's the way it has always been.   We accept that Native American references are so common in our culture that we have The Washington Redskins football team that we just allow it to pass us by without meaning.  

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Dear Christina Fallin, the Man pictured above is rightfully wearing the beautiful headdress.  Chief Gordon Yellowman of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe at the OU Tribal Sovereignty symposium.  

When polled, often far too many Americans do not have a problem with the use of Native symbolism as  mascots.  Yet, we don't consider that the Native population is a fraction of the populace 1% according to the last Census.  So 1% of the Nation makes up a marginalized group of people consisting of 500 Nations.  How can such a small population have their voices heard and validated? Another question we might ask is why is the Native population so small?  At contact in 1490s it is estimated that there were millions of people living in North America.  It wasn't an empty continent so to speak, it was a world that had been occupied and tamed for thousands of years by Indigenous people.  But, disease ravaged the population and the land hungry settlers continually encroached pushing and pushing Natives further and further west.   Eventually we have what evolved into our plains culture which developed the contemporary stereotype that we have been inundated with our entire lives through film and television.  We accept what the media and culture tells us without thought.   

Sherd Sand Canyon


Ancient pot-sherds in Colorado (2010).   

But once we begin thinking we can see issues from a new perspective.  Once we begin reading and studying about the culture of these 500 Nations we will see people with a diverse heritage.  Not a "nomadic" people who didn't "own" lands.  This is far from the truth, ancient cultures existed which had culture and monuments which were as great as those that we study in Europe.  Chaco Canyon for example, Mesa Verde,  people living in earth lodges and fortified towns with hundreds or thousands of community members.  Yet this image of the Plains is what we see in our media.  

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But a thousand years ago this was a bustling city of 10,000 people near the Arkansas River, the mound that you see in front of you was looted for it's ancient treasures, the dead desecrated.  These people didn't wear a warbonnet, they navigated our river systems from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of the Missisissippi.  These Sipokni people the ancestors for many of our contemporary tribes. 

 After the relocations were made many Native children were forcibly removed to boarding schools, my Grandfather attended a boarding school.   We are Choctaws who were raised without a Native culture except for the knowledge of that is what we were.  We were Choctaw.   Many people who hold Native heritage were raised without culture- and this is not their faults!  There are many members of tribes, whose culture was lost to their grandparents or great-grandparents at the hands of assimilation.  There are people who denied their culture to avoid discrimination.   Those of us who were left without our culture have had to educate ourselves to understand that it is okay not to know.  Knowledge is empowering.  We need to know about our ancient people, our heritage or we will lose it.  

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Doaksville Indian Territory in January of 2013.  Nearby is the Cemetery where my Great-Grandfather is buried in an unmarked grave.   

Native Americans were not recognized as dual citizens until 1924, their religion wasn't protected until 1978.  It took the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978 to acknowledge that Native's religion deserved the same protection under law that everyone else has had since the Bill of Rights. I was already one year old at the time a group of American Citizens had their religion protected under federal law.

Inside the Kiva

Inside a Kiva at Mesa Verde (2010)

Mary Fallin's daughter releasted a statement Fallin's Statement Regarding Headdress-  "A woman in a headdress is a beautiful thing."  But, despite the beauty of the photograph -which I would argue is largely due to skilled editing and color.   If Miss Fallin were wearing a red beret or a cowboy hat the photo would be as beautiful.   But "Why Can't a Hipster Wear a Headdress?" Please read more on this topic in this article: Dear Christina Fallin

Joy and Summer OU Graduation 2013-2265

Here is a photo of Chahta ohoyo Myself and my friend  Summer we are Native women dressed for ceremony.   Academic regalia, that is the one ceremony that embraces thousands of years of my English ancestors, the institution of academia in which we sought indigenous knowledge.    

I firmly believe that being Native is about respect.  Respecting your elders, respecting other tribal members, respecting ourselves.  I feel if that overriding sense of respect filled our contemporary American culture that this would not be an issue.  When my daughter was seven she was a first grader in the Pueblo of Zuni and I remember as we left to move to Kansas she asked me "What do I call the elders?"  That has resonated with me that a year in an elementary school on the reservation taught her that the elderly were to be respected and honored. 

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Image: Corey Still hugging Dr. Barbara Hobson (one of my favorite photos that I've ever taken)

I appreciate the fact that people are drawn to the beauty of Native traditional dress and jewelry. I am no different. I find attending a powwow an event that overwhelms my senses with the sensual aspects of the drum, dance and colors.   Native people are beautiful.   But we must consider that there is meaning behind traditional Native dress, there is a meaning behind an eagle feather in a headdress.  There is a millenia of tradition, tradition that we, in our mainstream secular culture may not understand.  Native tradition and religion differs substantially from Christianity.  Native tradition is deeply rooted in a sense of place and the use of traditional dress takes on different meanings and the stories behind the regalia.  

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Fancy Dancers at the OU Powwow Spring 2012

Appreciate the beauty of the headdress, appreciate the dance. Buy Native made arts and jewelry. I appreciate all beautiful things. I do not disagree that the photo is not beautiful, as a photographer I cannot fault the compositon.  But as a human who understands and respects sacred traditions, let this be a lesson.  

Beautiful Beadwork (1 of 1)

If you want to appreciate the beauty of Native art, buy Native.  Support Native artists. Yakoke 

Powow at Tuskahoma 3 (1 of 1)

Photo at the Choctaw Labor Day Festival 2011.  I am not a pow wow dancer,  I'm not a white girl dancer. I'm not a dancer. Like the warbonnet I do not wear the dress, I appreciate it.   I am still a Chahta Oyoho, I'm Ishki to my Son who is learning Choctaw.  I am still for the most part a "white girl" who appreciates the beauty of Native culture, but I respect it.  Like Christina Fallin I adorn myself with beautiful things, but always remember where I came from.  

Tribal Sovereignty Symposium at the OU College of Law

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 Halito!  On Thursday February 27th I attended the Tribal Sovereignty Symposium at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.  Its main focus was "Tribal Sovereignty: A Global Perspective." The day consisted of a morning where tribal sovereignty was discussed by local leaders and an afternoon of tribal Sovereignty with interesting discussion put forth by world thinkers from at Central America and Europe. 

Cheyenne and Arapaho Color Guard at OU College of Law 2014-8739


A moment to reflect on the issue of the use of the Native Imagery in mascots. Naming your athletic team "Redskin" or "Indian"seems to be a widely "accepted" racial slur which his so ingrained in our culture that many people refuse to acknowledge it as an insult to the Native people's culture they are utilizing.  These Gentlemen who are representing our state  flags in their Native dress, do not deserve having their warbonnets dishonored by the secularism represented within mascots.  The use of Native symbolism within sports culture is an attack on Native tradition, ceremony and religion, no matter how long it has been happening within mainstream American Culture.  There is meaning in their dress, the meaning may be compared to the dress worn by a priest or a soldier.  What matters is it holds meaning that goes beyond the superficial and secular.  The hashtag #NotYourMascot and #NotYourTonto on Twitter represent Native voices speaking out against the commodification and misappropriation of Native culture.  

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 Chief Gordon Yellowman of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe gaved the opening statement and prayer at the symposium.  

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 If you haven't heard about the amazing things the Citizen Potawatomi Tribe is doing,  you should. Above is Dr. James Collard speaking of the tribes economic successes. He was followed by 
George Tiger, Principal Chief, Muscogee Creek Nation speaking on the “Engagement in Tribal/State/Federal Decision Making and Affairs.” Another tribe which is showing amazing growth when given their own choices and decision making powers as a government.  

In the morning I kept hearing the words Sovereignty being closely related to economic successes of tribes.  In a more Conservative sense I could plug the word capitalism in and replace the word sovereignty.  Tribes are using a corporate approach to build economic success.  The success of the tribes is to the advantage of the State of Oklahoma.  Oklahoma's growth and economic success during a difficult economic time is a testament to the strength of sovereignty and the ability of tribes to adapt and grow.  With self government some tribes have blossomed and bloomed while under hte strong handed actions of the BIA and DOI they suffered with governmental micro-management.  There still needs to be more work done for many tribes but innovative leaders and strong governance has created an economic boom in Oklahoma that is only due to sovereignty. It is a small reminder to our government leaders that the Chickasaw Nation has a budget that surpasses the State of Oklahoma.  The future of Oklahoma is in "Indian Territory" - the Natives are driving our growth.  

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I had to get a shot of Dr. Bread asking a question.  We didn't get to see him speak today.   

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The Council of Fire speaks on Sovereignty.  Graduate students, and undergraduates.  


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I went to get the chance to see my friends and had a pleasurable day.  It was a reminder of what an impact being an OU student had on my life and I feel strongly about the issues spoken of on this occasion.  We went to lunch and returned to hear our special international topics.  I find myself fascinated more and more with international indigenous topics.  I also find myself using the term indigenous in regards to all Native people. 

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Armstrong Wiggins (Miskito), Director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Indian Law Resource Center.  I just pulled his bio from this website:  

Armstrong Wiggins, as Director of the Indian Law Resource Center, Washington, DC Office, supervises the work of the Center dealing with human rights, standard-setting, and multi-lateral development Banks. Mr. Wiggins was born in Nicaragua and is a Miskito Indian from the village of Karata, Nicaragua. Mr. Wiggins was the Founder of the Indian Organization called ALPROMISU and was the Coordinator of Municipal Affairs of the East Coast for the government of Nicaragua. He was also the national representative of the regional Indian organization MISURASATA. Mr. Wiggins was arrested twice during both the Somoza and Sandinista regimes and became a political prisoner because of his work to promote human rights for his people in Nicaragua. In 1981, Mr. Wiggins was forced into exile. It was at this time that he began working for the Center as the director of its Central and South America Program. For the past two decades he has worked on numerous human rights cases involving indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, including the Yanomami in Brazil, and the case against Nicaragua in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1984, which lead to changes in the constitution of Nicaragua for the recognition of indigenous rights and the creation of autonomous indigenous regions in Nicaragua. He worked on the case for the Maya in Belize. Then on behalf of the Center, Mr. Wiggins played a leading role in the precedent setting Awas Tingni case within the Inter-American system. He has also played a critical role in the Center‘s standard setting work with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, particularly regarding the Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People

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He is seated in a panel with Dinah Shelton, former Inter-American Commission Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Professor, George Washington University Law School.

The duties that these people held involved working in areas that I've never thought about, in an attempt to do good in the world through channels that I have not read, nor researched in any capacity. I have never taken  very much interest in the actions of the United Nations but, I can definitely see how indigenous people need a voice in a world filled with the echoes of imperialism.  Part of sovereignty is not just within political sovereignty it is cultural and being able to resist outside interests in resource aquisition.  

The speakers brought out the difference between Autonomous regions and sovereignty within tribes which was fascinating especially in being able to think about the situation in the Crimea and Ukraine (which is a huge mess and I feel as if we can not solve the problems of a thousand years of history). America is irrelevent in the Ukraine; according to this Reason article.  I feel that often we inflate our duties, when most warfare come down to cultural and linguistic sovereignty and outside intervention always comes down to our global economy.  Oil; speaks.  

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How fascinating to hear a German Professor, Dr. Dieter Dörr, Professor, Johannes-Gutenberg-University of Mainz,  speak of Indigenous issues.  While working on my Bachelor's degree I focused on European History. I love the Early Modern German history so while I found it fascinating that our speaker was an experton indigenous topics. He was joined by Neha Sheth, Attorney-Adviser, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State.  Here is an article about her in the Washington Post:

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 Dr. Robertson introduces the keynote speaker.  While he was many other student's professor, he was a classmate of mine in a Native fiction class.  So, I enjoyed his input on class discussion in our literature course and am glad that he helped bring such amazing people to OU for all of us in attendance to learn from.  

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Jose Francisco Calí Tzay, Chair, UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination gave the afternoon keynote Here is another article about our speaker.  I hope you enjoy the links becausse they are all on topics that I feel I  need more education on. I am a supporter of Indigenous rights and that the money and power behind governments and corporations should not supercede the beliefs of indigenous people living on their land.  

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The closing remarks were given by the President of the OU College of Law.  I also had the opportunity to see the amazing Dr. Weiser and other friends.  She of all the professors at OU influenced me the most and has a genuine passion for Indigenous people and their stories.  I owe her a debt of gratitude for her guidance in my thesis writing process and inspiration to work on the thesis topic that I did.  It was a good day that wasn't over yet.   Yakoke! Please take the time to check out all of the interesting links in this post.