Saturday, July 29, 2006

Detainee Dysfunctional Descent

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - Lupe' entered the house, saying, "Brrrro, I'm back in the dog's house, again."

"That's, 'Dog House', Lupe'," I replied.

"Dog house, dog's house, whatever, it don't matter. I'm in it," he said. "My ol' lady kicked me out."

"Welcome to da club," I said. "You can pay your membership me."

Move over, Rover. Let Luuuupe' take over. Tom Ballanco, a fellow sun dancer who's taken the position of tribal attourney and is staying in 'Da Big House' here at the base farm, will have to make room.

Me, myself, as they say around here, I'm 'close by', back in my trailer, serving as a focal gathering point and crossroads for coffee, conversation, current reading material, computer land-link, communications, collaboration, chess, and corruption.

Land of concentrated despair and desolation, refugees and desperados. The frustration of dysfunction. Prisoners of war. No. Detainees.

Speaking of dysfunction, over in the tribal council building, everything is in upheaval, or limbo, which isn't all that unusual, seeing as how we still seem to operate in the stone age in many respects, like...this computer, for instance, or our roads, or our health care. Why should tribal government be any different?

Since Tom B. is living right here on the grounds, we get the inside track every night, Tom telling us Cecelia Fire Thunder, the tribe's first woman President, got impeached, removed from office, Alex White Plume, Vice-President, takes over, 4th of July, procedural challenge, more fireworks, no quorum, can't accomplish squat, court upholds challenge, Cecelia reinstated, Israelis invade Lebanon, Tiger Woods wins British Open, more later, stay tuned.

When I say, 'we', that would be the usual crew in the neighborhood; Tom Cook, his brother Louie, Milo Yellow Hair, Bo & Misty, Aloysius Weasel Bear, who just returned from upstate NY, Lupe', Manuel Martin, and me.

On Wednesdays and Sunday nights when we sweat, a whole 'nuther crew shows up on a regular basis; Uncle Joe American Horse, Virgil Goode, Virgil Jr; one or two or three of Misty's kid's, J.R. Afraid Of Bear, Jason Blind Man, and sometimes Adam and Justine. Sometimes Sal Lame. Plus any visitors or transients coming through. Sometimes Cash Jackson and Leroi Levers. Sometimes the ghost of Crazy Horse.

It's watermelon season, Dog Days on the rez, and coming out of lodge after midnight, steam rolling off our bodies, toweling off and coming up to the big house for watermelon is one of the things we look forward to throughout the year, especially during the winter months.

Hot here like everywhere else, the temperatures hovering around a hundred and five degrees, give or take five. Too hot for rattlers. Living on freezer pops. Ceremonies going on all over, Sun Dancing across the rez, people going 'up on the hill', the Vision Quest ('Hanblecheya', like the Sun Dance, four days and nights, no food or water. Or maybe two. Or maybe just overnight. Depends), and Native American Church peyote ceremonies going on.

And besides the ceremonies for reasons to get together, you got pow-wows and the rodeo circuit where lots of people dance, and young bucks see how long they can stay aboard a bucking bronc or two tons of solid, pissed off bovine muscle. There's money in it, they say, but only for awhile, only a matter of time before one of those animals punches your ticket.

Ask any retired cowboy or Indian bull rider if they remember the name of the bull that made 'em hang it up.

"OH YEAH! He didn't have no name, but I remember him. See this here? See that?"

Underneath the grandstand in the bulls' holding pen, the bulls are tense, wide-eyed and anxious, like any athlete, going over their pre-game plans, talking shit about their moves and what they're going to do when their moment in the arena arrives. Talk more shit than the NBA.

"I'm gonna kick that cowboy's ass!" says Yo' Mama, talking about Cody Weismuller, who's name he drew in the draw. "All over the arena!"

The bull's have reputations and rankings, too, you know. Some of 'em, as the cowboys say, "ain't never been rode." Well, they've ALL been rode. They just haven't been rode for eight seconds."

Mr. Bill said, "I'm coming out with a giant leap, do a hind leg double-kick in the air, spin and go down 'into the well', plant my front legs, get him coming forward, then come back up and knock his ass OUT! Then I'm going to launch his ass into the grandstands."

Nervously flexing his rippling muscles, Dynamo said, "I'm gonna let that cowboy ride for two, maybe three seconds, then I'm going to make him retire!"

Last month out at Alex White Plume's annual horse races in Manderson, two riders retired after they collided head-on in a dusty spectacular crunch that awed the onlookers and resulted in the the death of one of the horses, the other being shot, and an ambulance ride for one of the riders, who messed up his neck and back, his brother said later.

As Milo says jokingly, "I gave up bull-riding when they cut the time back to eight seconds."

And so, despite nothing going on on the reservation, there's still a lot of daily activity at tribal council, in and around Big Bat's Gas Station, where the main intersection of Pine Ridge Village has been torn up for two months, and Sioux Nation shopping center, where Bo bought those ropes that some folks at the dance were convinced was the problem with my breaking free from the tree.

"It's the rope," they kept saying. "That's like a bungee rope," they said.

I wasn't so sure, and neither was Bo. It didn't feel like it stretched much when I hit the end of it. "Im still gonna use mine," Bo said.

Last thing I told him after we jerked him to his feet and hooked him up, was, "Nail it the first time, Bro."

He did. So did David. Maybe it wasn't the rope after all. Maybe Bro Tom just pierced me deep. Maybe God had something to do with it.

Don't God have something to do with everything? Christie went up on the hill this year to have a talk with God. Four days and nights, watching the world go by without food or water, seeking the major hi-speed, clear channel download.

Before she went up, we were talking in Carl and Rita's kitchen, and she was talking about taking things down from the shelf, taking a look at them, and then, 'throwing it all away', letting go of it all.

I don't know what was in her jars, but it seems that there are some things we don't want to throw away, not that we should be attached to things, but some things, it seems, we need to carry through life. Say, lessons. Sometimes, maybe we should wear our wounds. Our scars are part of our undeniable load that decades of yoga or your personal rolfer can't undo.

And that thread wove itself right into another conversation down on the corner in Lyons, Colorado, where the remarried widow in the art shop said, "If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger."

"That's a popular myth," I replied. "Tell that to a rape victim, a PTSD vet, or anyone that has suffered a trauma. Maybe it didn't kill them, but it sure didn't make them stronger. There are times when people are crippled for life, physically, emotionally, or otherwise."

Call it Karmic circumstance, but when it became apparent that it wasn't personal, that's when they closed up the monastery, heading out for the New World, wondering if God ever got lonely.


As a believer in self-fulling prophesy and spinning your own universe, I tried acting 'as if', just to see how people would react. It's like the mask we put on every day, only a different one, and sure enough, there was a discernable if not remarkable difference in the manner in which people responded. In fact, I felt entirely different about myself as a result, and so I took off the mask, and the face underneath was the same. The mask was inside out.

'As if', what? Wall Street tycoon? A Chinese businessman? The Dali Lama's protege'? In love? Walking the change you want in the world?

After we leave that arbor, they say, you've got a 361-day walk. "Did you get mad last year?" I asked a fellow sun dancer. His sideways glance was his only answer. Is it ever possible to conquer judgement, anger, self-righteousness, and all forms of negativity and self-delusion?


"You need to get out more," said Misty Sioux, laughing. "You ain't gonna meet no one way out here in the boonies."

"I do get out," I told her. "Where is there to go? The casino? Bingo? Jesus, Misty. I went clear around to the other side of the planet!"

She just laughed.

Everywhere, people on the move. Israelis moving into Lebanon, weaving karmic quilt and fabric, our National Guard moving from house to house in Baghdad, the Taliban on the move, Ethiopians on the move, refugees, people moving to one area or another, one job to another, one house to another, one relationship or marriage to another, one investment to another. One stage in life to another. Weigh the options.

What did our President say? We don't want no 'Cut and run'? 'Stay the course'? Cut your losses and walk away?

Thought about cutting my losses and walking away from this rez. Before I came home, Bro Tom told me in an email, "I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is someone broke into your trailer and took all your stuff. The good news is, your pipe's still there."

They took all my tools, ceremonial drum, Raven shield, wall hangings, artwork, money, all the CDs, an African drum, a 4-way lug wrench, handyman bumper jack, leatherworking tools, a coyote pelt, and drank the rubbing alcohol from the medical supplies, returning the empty bottle to its shelf.

I know who the terrorists are, but can't prove it. One of 'em was sitting on the drum (in the drum circle, 'in a sober phase,' said Tom) at our Sun Dance, and while dancing out there, I began thinking about praying for your enemies and that line about, 'forgive us our trespassers'. And then, from that standpoint, Jesus' or Buddha's or the preacher man's, that puts the onus back upon the head of the victim, don't it?

What about the perps? What do THEY have to do?

Someone causes injury, and it's up to their prey, the aggrieved, to forgive them. If you can't, then that's YOUR problem. You get nailed twice; once by the act, and then again for the guilt of non-forgiveness. That's the way of the Good Book, I think. Allah said an eye for an eye. Around here, a person might look for tire iron justice.

But tire iron justice is what's prevailing in the world, isn't it? Forgiveness, said the Lady in Lyons, is for ourselves, not for others. You've heard that before. If that's so, shouldn't we as a nation be of a forgiving heart to those guys who flew them planes into our buildings? What about John Walker Lyndh? Ready to forgive him yet?


Heading north out of Chadron toward the rez on one of the worst roads in America, up the washboard slope of jagged, tire-gnawing stone with the rez ahead, on that stretch of 'Writer's Road', where phrases, leads, structure, ideas and composition come percolating, bubbling, flooding to the surface, right after the meds were taking effect, right around a blind curve in the White River, there sat two Indian girls from Allen, way out on the other end of the rez, flat tire, dead in the water, middle of the day, one hundred and seven degree heat.

Two young kids and a baby in a van packed with shit from Wal-Mart. They had unpacked their scissor-jack and donut spare, out on the road.

Asked the obvious. "Whazzup?"

Hair soaked in perspiration from loosening the lug nets, she looked up and spoke the obvious. "We got a flat."

Yeah, they could send those detainees, the 'Gitmo Perps' from Guantanamo over here. Have 'em drive the roads, eat the food, suffer the isolation and neglect, be forgotten, and watch the world go by without food or water, dance in the sun.

- end