After a February, 1996 cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy and many hospital stays, she has more good news: "I have never said this before, but I can finally say I believe it is in remission. My health stabilized two months ago. I am cautious, but optimistic about 1998. I feel better than I have in almost two years." -Excerpts from the article, "Mankiller To Be Honored," by Rob Martindale in the Tulsa World Online (January 9, 1998) and "Mankiller to Be Awarded Presidential Medal," by Charles T. Jones, in The Daily Oklahoman (January 9, 1998)
Special thanks to Claybert Menard, CCS member who is helping to launch the costume making venture for RNR. Itís great to have his expertise!
Congratulations to active CCS member Judith Bruni, who was a semifinalist in a poetry contest with her poem "Reflections." The piece was published in Sketches of the Soul, The National Library of Poetry, ISBN 1-57553-412-6, Dec. 1997. It was written for Motherís Day originally, and we hope to include the poem in a future issue of the Cherokee Messenger. Judith is also in the Houston Area Professional Chapter of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers & Storytellers.
In the night of winterís cold,
a small child lay and almost froze.
His little feet had no shoes to wear.
They were frost bit, exposed, and bare.
His clothes were tattered,
his eyes were sad,
the pain he suffered mad him mad.
A distant fire did not keep him warm,
as he lay upon the snow so cold.
Then finally to his tired eyes,
sleep brought its magic to his mind,
and he had dreams of food and warmth.
He dreamt his Grandma was standing near,
with love on her face and eyes of cheer.
Her arms were wrapped around him tight.
She hugged him then to angelís flight.
She flew away but first looked back,
and told him not to give in to hate,
but to use his life to help all people,
and to forgive wrong done to her.
Then off she flew into the night,
but around her glowed a light so bright,
and he knew she was safe and well,
from her parting smile this he could tell.
Morning sun woke him from his sleep.
On top of him was his Grandmother.
She did not wake nor did she move,
but passed away in cold nightís air.
With tears he kissed her
as he was forced to leave,
and as he walked he thought of her,
and of the dream from last nightís sleep.
Then as he traveled on the trail of tears,
he did not forget his Grandmotherís words,
and chose to take a peaceful path,
even though his heart was extremely sad.
One thing I would like to address, is a touchy and difficult subject to many people in our midst. I believe it lies at the very core of what will be our legacy in the generations to come. Quite simply, what makes us Indian? Ask ten different people, and likely you will get ten different answers. Is it skin color? Is it hair color or length? Maybe it is where you are from? And then thereís the big one: "Do you have a card?" One could look at each of these issues separately, and to some extent make valid points about each of these being essential to his or her "Indianness." But is it really? I believe I have what most would call a very traditional view of what makes us what we are. I defer to our elders, long a source of wisdom in our community, (but sadly, less now for some than others).
Historically, our societies were open to anyone who was "like hearted and like minded," and would not put the people in danger. These people were sometimes White, Black, or Hispanic; and yet they werenít seen that way. These people were not referred to as "The white man who lives with us," or "the black man who worships with us." No, the people called them Indians, plain and simple. As I remarked earlier, I believe in traditional beliefs, but we must not discriminate against someone who is light-skinned, or has light colored or short hair. What we should use to determine a personís worth or legitimacy in our community is simple: listen to what they say, and most importantly, watch what they do!
We do not have so many resources that we can afford to discard a servant of the people just because they "donít look Indian." As for whether or not a person has a card-well, again, is that really what makes an Indian an Indian? Are the five Seneca tribal council members who were taken off of their own roles by vengeful politicians suddenly non-Indians? Were the scores of Cherokee and others who live too many daysí horse ride away to be put on the roles suddenly "cast out" of the Indian realm? Are these people and all their descendant lost to the Indian world? Did they suddenly talk differently or believe differently? Believe me, these are just a few of the examples of non-card carrying Full-Bloods out there. Granted, most people who identify themselves as Indians without these cards are not full-bloods, but they are still, in many cases, like hearted people; a resource to be utilized. I cannot recall the number of times people have not been allowed to apply their talents in our community because a core group of a personís "credentials." I must admit, I feel a little tinge every time a white person tells me their Grandmother was a "Cherokee Princess," but that is the lay of the land, and we must rise above this impotence! Lastly on this issue, why in the world would anyone allow a government, any government, to determine who they were and who they were not? A man I greatly admire says that when a person does this, he or she stops being an Indian altogether! The day I received my card I was satisfied, but not because I considered myself more or less. And not that I cared what other people thought. My reasons are personal, and I will never allow any plastic to stand between me and all my relations!!!