A few weeks ago I was on a quest, actually it was a totally unplanned quest- but it happened. I was halfway across the state when an appointment got canceled and decided to explore. I decided to go exploring without a map. How on earth did I get in my car and not have an Oklahoma map in it? I had a map of DFW metro area, Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska, but no Oklahoma map. Which is crazy, afterall this page is "Expedition Oklahoma." Yes, I have maps on my phone but those are only for specific navigational instructions and they often get me turned around in the wrong direction. That is why you have the very brief "Swink" posting- I was going in the opposite direction. It doesn't help that the maps on the iPhone are horrible.
Why did I go to a cemetery? Well this cemetery is of particular importance because it is where my Great-Grandfather Willie Willis is buried in an unmarked grave. It was once marked with Indian Pottery. He died as a young man in 1904, before my Grandfather was born in 1905. He was a full blood Choctaw and we only have one image of him. I look into his face to see something of myself. I wonder what kind of personality he had. We know he liked to play baseball. We know he had family who owned their own general stores. We know he was a very young man when he was struck and killed while expecting a new child who he would never meet. He was born in 1878. He died in Antlers, Indian Territory. His father was Marcus and his Grandfather was "Ste-Me-Liche-Be" according the the data that the family has. They lived in Alikchi. Willie Died August 15, 1904. Sam (my Grandfather) was born January 11, 1905.
This is from a letter my Step-Grandfather wrote to my Mother about the family history: Willie's (pictured above) Mother died in 1882 (when he was four - how heartbreaking), a couple took him and his brother to Paris Texas to raise him. After his father died he came back to take over the store he had owned with his brother. He sold his interest and moved to Ringgold with his wife Gracie. My Mom has compiled copies of all of the historical documents of her Grandfather for me.
I don't know where he is buried in this cemetery. My daughter (who is also named Grace) immediately went to a section of people with the surname of Willis (which seems common in Choctaw country).
I didn't take a lot of time in the cemetery. We did not realize that you could get to the historic ghost town of Doaksville through passing through the back of the cemetery. My daugher was on a quest to find the entrance.
It is the people who are in the unmarked graves who are forgotten, those in the unmarked cemeteries. Whereever we are still laying our dead to rest someone might look them up and remember or say their name.
My thesis is focusing on the ancient Choctaw people. This is actually helping me focus, working on photos within the Choctaw nation. It helps me continue my research while getting my "hobby" of posting on my page out of my system.
These are all dated and difficult to read. But, clearly building a visitors center for Fort Towson is getting a lot of funding. Afterall..military Forts trump towns of the indigenous people who were forced to relocate to this area at the hands of greedy white southerners. Not that those weren't my ancestors too.
I seek out the oldest graves in a cemetery, because it fascinates me to think of what kind of lives these people must have led out west in Indian Territory. Know I can envision the place where Willie was laid to rest.
I have never been a great fan of the falling leaves and the weather that Autumn heralds, but I have to say this is a glorious drive to take in the Fall. I was afraid I would miss it with appointments being changed from late October to early November, but apparently we had perfect timing.
Such a beautiful afternoon in the mountains. People don't really think about the mountains of Oklahoma. They talk of the Rocky Mountains, or the Smoky Mountains in other states but we don't hear about the Ouachitas very often. It's a shame this is one spectacular place. But maybe it isn't a shame, there arent' always hordes of tourists here. It is peaceful.
We could talk about the election? The stock market dropped 300 points. Fear and social issues forced many one issue voters to the polls, and unfortunately religious zealotry keeps many people away from a party who has a realistic grasp on the economic realities that this nation faces.
I believe in opportunity and taking opportunities you are given. I believe if you are given the opportunity to be around, see or hear people who are doing amazing things or have had amazing lives you take the opportunity. If it presents an inconvenience and makes you tired the next day you still have had that opportunity to learn and soak up the wisdom that was offered. You may find that what you learn is not what you expect. You may find your knowledge diverging and intersecting and creating a tangled web of synapse and dendrites which gather together in your mind to create this rich experience called life.
Yesterday evening I made my way to Oklahoma City University, a campus that I had not been to since 1994. Why 1994? The summer between my Junior and Senior year in High School I won a scholarship opportunity to go to a science camp with 15 other kids from Oklahoma. It was a geography camp and we explored "Prairies to Peaks." It was one of those early life changing experiences, to be awarded something competitive and be able to travel throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado for two weeks. For that I will always appreciate the experience that I had been given. It was an experience where I arrived and found out I was chosen to be one out of over 150 applicants.
To hear N. Scott Momaday speak about his work, and his life. You know when you are in the presence of a star. Not all stars look and sound like Josh Turner, Gary Allan, Sara Evans (I invite you to look at their photos also) not all stars are on a stage with thousands of fans screaming at them. This is N. Scott Momaday, a living legend and a incredible personality. He arrived to a packed house in the middle of downtown Oklahoma City on a Tuesday evening.
N. Scott Momaday is a master of words. He takes and creates with his mastery of the language worlds that you can visit and imagine and feel. He creates images in your mind, sensations and feelings. First a poet, inspired by Emily Dickinson. He spent a substantial amount of his youth in the Pueblos of New Mexico, "I saw things in Jemez, I'll never see again that belong in a world different from my own." Said Momaday, when he spoke of the Pueblos it was captivating, because they hold such a unique position in the world. To live within an ancient culture among a people who still hold those ancient traditions close.
Momaday was speaking of the writer Wilie Morris and how he had once said to him that "You know what I like about the autobiographical narrative? You get to lie a lot." "Why do you write?" "Writing is a passion" "You have fulfilled your destiny, you have been true to yourself."
My friend who I met over four years ago at a Seminar at North Dakota State University drove 300 miles to attend this lecture. I loved seeing her and we had a great day. What an impact this six week seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities had in my life! This seminar was one I naturally gravitated to, being a Child of the Great Plains, so I had the opportunity to study as one of the writers who came out of the experience of the Plains. I met Plains Folk, Dr. Tom Isern who led us on a five week geographical exploration of the Northern Plains of the United States and Canada. The opportunity to learn from outstanding educators and to gain a fresh perspective on writing, History and literature.
I appreciate Momaday as a writer, because I was introduced to him in 2008. In 2009, I had another amazing opportunity to take part in a seminar at Stanford University, also shared with a friend from my Fargo experience. I walked down the halls of the University that help shape Momaday as a writer. My children took their first breath in the Indian Hospital where Momaday was born, my grandparents took their last breaths there. The beauty of the Wichita Mountains are the place I run to when I need solace on the worst days. I relate to his stories of the Pueblos because my first year as an educator was spent in an ancient village.
"In the white man's world, language, too- and the way in which the white man thinks of it-- has undergone a process of change. The white man takes such things as words and literatures forgranted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. On every side of him there are words by the millions, an unending succession of pamphlets and papers, letters and books, and bills and bulletins, commentaries, and conversations. He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in upon him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language--for the Word itself-- as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return. It may be that he will perish by the word."
This section, to me in 2012 brings to mind the internet. The words that we throw around here every day which are diminished because there are so many of them, constantly. A constant stream of language that saturates our world with the voices of billions who cry out to each other, every day online. Such a timeless passage.
"I followed their ancient way to my Grandmother's grave. Thoush she lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continential interior--all of its seasons and sounds-- lay like the memory in her blood."
This is the Rainy Mountain that Momaday writes of (this image is an early example of my photography). I ramble here on this post, but it is my page, my work, my life. I love the beauty of the Wichita Mountains and I love Momaday's writing because the images he paints when I read his work are just as real as the photographs that I take. I'm often drawn to writers for their ability to conquer the land with their narratives, I stay for the story.
If you don't know, I'm currently working on my Masters degree at the University of Oklahoma. I'm studying Native American Studies. It has been an intense year filled with learning. I attended the Pow-Wow at OU last weekend. My Great Grandfather was a full blood Choctaw, and my Grandfather was born in Indian Territory and was an infant on the Dawes Roll, he was unfortunately raised without his Choctaw Culture because his father passed away prior to his birth, in 1904. So, I'm interested in that aspect of my heritage and enjoy attending events such as these, despite not being raised with the heritage.
I don't have the patience or attention span to learn beadwork. The beadwork and detail on the dress for the pow wow is incredible. I can't imagine the time that it takes to create the beautiful beadwork that adorns so many of the people who were here dancing. I can't imagine sitting still and working with tiny beads.
My first teaching job was in the Pueblo of Zuni in Western New Mexico. Many of my students did not like showing their faces or being photographed. So, these photos will not show peoples faces. People such as Edward Curtis and early photographers in the American West, photographed Native Americans and used their culture as a means of study and profited from Native Culture.
At one time in American History Native American dances were banned by the Federal Government. Religion was not protected and expressing this aspect of culture was illegal. It was banned by legislators whose ancestors came to this "New World" to find their own "religious freedom." These Intertribal Pow-wows are an expression of Tribal Sovereignty.
Why, you ask am I doing a post titled "Cowboys and Indians"- Simple. I'm behind on posting photos and I attended a pow-wow at OU last week, and last night I went to the rodeo. I need to mow the lawn, go exercise, put up laundry, cook dinner and maybe go to the rodeo again tonight. Finish a paper, take a final and edit some more photos. So I definitely am short on time this week. We can argue, history, culture, wrongs by one group of people to another, but instead we should sit and enjoy the beauty of the culture that surrounds us in Oklahoma. Instead of going to a movie and watching something created out of the imagination of Hollywood you can go enjoy the beautiful expressions of culture that living in Southwest Oklahoma allows us. What can you enjoy about your culture?
This was the Rodeo in Duncan, the PRCA Rodeo.
We are who our ancestors were. Whether we were born with the culture or we have to learn it.
My oldest Son wanted to spend his birthday "out" by going to a Museum. Museum's are his new thing. So we went to the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. Now, if you want to go to a town in Oklahoma that not only has a gorgeous museum and National Recreation area go to Sulphur.
I appreciated the video that they play as you enter the museum and its emphasis on Tribal Sovereignty. I think that most people need to understand that being a member of a tribe, is representative of a special relationship with the United States Government. A political relationship formed by treaties which were in existence prior to Native Americans holding citizenship in this country. Some aspects of sovereignty are "inherent" they existed before any of the colonizers arrived, one of those is water rights (which is currently a hot topic). So, remember the tribes relationship with the United States is not an issue of "race" - it is an issue of Sovereignty and Nation to Nation relations. So enjoy the gaming, enjoy the museums and appreciate all of the wonderful economic developments our other nations are doing for the state of Oklahoma's economy. Because of the tribes we are not struggling like so many states are.
The traditional Chickasaw Village is pretty cool. Now, the Chickasaws and the Choctaws were once the same tribe. Two brothers split and went in different directions. They have also been enemies. Their language is very similar. The Chickasaws came from northern Missisippi while the Choctaws were further south. The Chickasaws formed Alliances with the English/Americans while the Choctaws sided with the French.
Recreation of the mound building culture. Moundbuilders were found all throughout the central United States, from Wisconsin- where we find effigy mounds to the giant Emerald Mound in Mississippi. Some of them are more like pyramids than mounds.
My "little baby" is all grown up looking now! Time goes so fast. He has been learning Choctaw with his Grandma and was speaking Choctaw to the Chickasaw guides. I was impressed. He is really interested in his Choctaw heritage.
Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace. ~Author Unknown
Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. ~Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859
My Tribal Economic Development class from OU had a wonderful day visiting the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur Oklahoma on Friday. I'm not going to write a lot about what a great place this is to take your family to experience, the pictures speak for themselves. I can't say enough about OU and the fact that my Professors do take the extra effort to give the students field experiences. I was a teacher in the Public School system for close to a decade and I've been on more field trips in a semester at OU than I did teaching in Oklahoma's High Schools.
Practical life teaches us that people may differ and that both may be wrong: it also teaches us that people may differ and both be right. Anchor yourself fast in the latter faith, or the former will sweep your heart away. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it. ~Albert Einstein
Friday I attended the Choctaw Nation's Ivy League and Friends recruitment fair in Durant. Here are a few shots that I got while I was there. I love the design of the Casino. I arrived just as the sun was striking the building.
One of the more interesting schools that I visited with was the Rhode Island School of Design
It was hosted by the Scholarship Advisement Program.
It was at the Beautiful Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant.