Monday, March 31, 2014

NDN Silver: LoveBlossoms

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Signs of Spring are everywhere, and flowers are not the only thing blooming.

Sterling silver squash-blossom flutes, watered by the magical Skystone, flower into bezel-set hearts. All metal — flutes, findings, and settings — are sterling silver. The hearts are spiny oyster shell in beautifully brilliant flame colors. The tiny turquoise drops are Sleeping Beauty turquoise, the crystal-clear blue of the morning sky.

And I can vouch for the fact that they hang perfectly, facing forward. Because, of course, I had to try them on. [And now i want them, but they're meant to go elsewhere.]

$195 + $10 s/h/i.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

NDN Silver: Holding the Sky

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Another ingot pendant, slightly larger, very solid and substantial. Against a backdrop of a round silver sky, sunrise symbols ring a hand overlay holding a star in the palm.

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
On the reverse, a central Morning Star is tilted to the ordinal points, with hand-stamped rays of light reaching in the cardinal directions.

For those unfamiliar with the ingot-smithing process: Wings takes a lump or block of sterling silver, generally in a shape that's otherwise unusable, and melts it into a round ball. He then hammers the ball by hand on an anvil, until it reaches the desired size, shape, and thinness. Because it's all done by hand, shapes and edges are irregular. That's by design: He prefers the natural flow of the silver to a trimmed and tailored version that looks like it rolled off an assembly line.

The bail is stamped; it ships on a 17" snake chain.

$275 + $10 s/h/i.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

NDN Silver: Wheels In the Sky

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Sometimes they stand still, at least for a moment.

Especially with the spokes of the Morning Star at the center, surrounded by the halo of the rising Sun. 

And sometimes, they appear to turn:

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Sixteen spokes whirling and dancing like feathers made of flame.

This is a heavy, solid piece of sterling silver ingot. As always, all the stamp work is done by hand. It hangs from a 17" sterling silver rope chain.

$255 + $10 s/h/i. 

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved. 


Image credit Suey Park and Colleagues of the
#NotYourAsianSidekick social media campaign
This seemingly won't go away, and people keep asking about it. Most of the opinions I see, inevitably expressed as fact, are not coming from POC. They're also not listening to POC — they're too busy defending a celebrity, apparently in equal parts because he's a celebrity, and because he's perceived to be "on our side."

So, here's my take. Yes, it's a rant. What's your point? And let's be clear: I'm not interested in defenses of Colbert. If you really think I haven't heard them all before (and analyzed them all before, and dispensed with them appropriately), you're not paying attention.

Here's what I said on Facebook the other day:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Dance!

This time, in Congo.

[Sigh] bad weekend here, for a lot of reasons. Even worse night last night. So I got up this morning sleepless, in a lot of pain, thoroughly depressed and completely out of sorts.

And there, sitting in my e-mail in-box, was a message from a friend with a link to the blog of former Seattle P-I reporter Tom Paulson, and at the top of his blog was this — the video shown above.

And now I have a big old smile on my face.

Thanks, rb137. My day's starting out just fine now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

When Music Spreads Hope

Image courtesy of rb137.

Finally, some good news to report.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a Kickstarter project to benefit the "girl mothers" of Congo. The project is called Succeeding Together: Uniting Music and Hope. Coordinated by a former student and friend of a friend of mine, it unites Congolese pop stars with one of the most disadvantaged populations in Congo. Together, they're making music: Specifically, they're making a music video with a message of hope, with plans to sending it viral across Congo (and, thereafter, the world).

The video's finished! The image above hows Modestine Etoy, the program coordinator at HOLD-DRC, the nonprofit organization in Congo that is coordinating the project, holding finished copies.

For more about the project, read on. As I said a couple of weeks ago:

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Last Halfway-Decent Photo This Camera Will Ever Take

Photo copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.
Well, today is the day I have to say goodbye to my camera, apparently.

On March 20th, I took some shots of the new little chickie girls that came out brilliant in color and sharply defined. Four days later, I tried to get some of Miskwaki, and got a lot of white glare for my trouble.  I thought it was a setting.

So, having recharged the battery and skated through the settings to make sure everything was as it should be, I took a few of Lilith with her new present from Wings: a gigantic rawhide bone. And of a half-dozen shots, this — the first one taken — is the only one that's remotely useable.

Turns out it's a sensor. And it's a problem that been known since October, 2005 — a year before Wings bought the camera. Yes, this was his first digital; after he upgraded to a more professional model a few years ago, he bequeathed this one to me. So the professional in the household has a functional camera, and all is well. And frankly, we're lucky that this one lasted eight years; that doesn't appear to be the norm.

I'm strictly amateur hour, and I know it. The one he uses? Waaaaaaay over my head. But it's been fun to have a decent-quality little piece that could take the casual shots I want to grab at any given time.

So all this is by way of saying that from here on in, any photos by me that are posted here are going to ones taken previously. But I guess it's appropriate that the last shot using this one should be of my beautiful little girl having so much fun.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Watery Trading Posts, Where the "Trade" Is in Indian Women

Photo copyright Wings, 2013. 2014;
all rights reserved.

Author's Note: This piece first appeared as the second of a two-part series at Daily Kos on September 8, 2013, as part of the RaceGender DiscrimiNATION diary series there. Since this is Women's History Month, and since indigenous women remain invisible to the dominant culture except as cartoon characters and subjects for appropriation, it seemed an apt time to run them again. What follows is Part II; Part I appeared here yesterday.

 photo DSCN0320_zpsd2be030a.jpg In Part I, I wrote about the escalating rates of rape and other violence inflicted on Native women in and around the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota — a deadly byproduct of the new colonial invasion of Indian land courtesy of the fracking companies drilling in the Bakken oil shale reserve. Last Monday, I posted a companion piece in last week's edition of "New Day: This Week In American Indian News.", noting that it would be expanded into a full-length diary today, covering the story of the colonialist trafficking in the bodies and spirits of indigenous women in the shipping lanes separating the U.S. and Canada.  

As I said last time:
This series is, among other things, about the intersectionality of race and gender in this country's culture, both historical and contemporary.
Intersectionality is simply a fact of being, of existence, for women of color. Every moment of our lives is lived at a crossroads.

Sometimes, the four roads don't lead outward, but rather, inward — toward a vortex of interrelated and competing risks, benefits, calculations, interests, slings and arrows and aggressions micro and macro and everything in between.

Today, I'm going to talk about four very specific roads:

Objectifying. Commodifying. Targeting. Trafficking.

It's spectrum and linear progression, crossroads and vortex.

It's destroying indigenous women's lives.

And today, these watery crossroads meet at a very specific vortex: a whirlpool of colonialist sexual violence in the boundary waters of the Great Lakes.
Author's Note: At the outset, readers need to be aware of the content of this piece. Much of what follows deals with stories of extreme physical, psychological, and sexual violence and human trafficking. If any of these issues presents a trigger for you, you may not wish to read further.
Of course, this one is also an old, old story, and even in its latest incarnation, it's been around for several years now. Unfortunately, it's been mostly women who have done the reporting of it so far, particularly Native women. Which means, of course, that it's gotten virtually no attention in the mainstream.

Much as I loathe Bill Maher's casual racism and sexism, his new multimedia project, VICE, has the capacity to change that: A white man is reporting this story now, for an "edgy" media outlet founded and run by another, much more famous white man. The CBC has also now picked up the story. So I'm grabbing this opportunity.

For what?

To bring attention to the fact that our women, our girls — our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our very selves — are being sold into the sexual slavery of human trafficking. Right here. In the U.S. and Canada. In the boundary waters separating the two countries, just as they are in the filthy, gritty oilfield towns of the Northern Plains.

Indian women are being raped, beaten, forced into prostitution, and worse — on a daily basis, and in an organized way.

And it has to stop.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This is one of the saddest things I've ever seen. This is one we can change.

Shanesha Taylor
I know this has been reported elsewhere today, but I've only now had a chance to read the actual story. My heart has been smashed into little tiny pieces. I can't begin to imagine what it's going to take to glue the remains of Shanesha Taylor's heart back together.

For those who don't know, Shanesha Taylor lives in Scottsdale, Arizona — in Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio's personal little police state. Bad enough, no doubt, to be a Black woman there in the first place. How much worse to be unemployed and homeless, with two very small children (one aged two; one six months)?

Ms. Taylor and her children have been living out of their car. Last Thursday, she got what seemed to be a golden opportunity — she got called for a job interview. But she couldn't leave her children at home in the usual sense, because their car is their home. And so she did the only thing she could do: She left them in what passes for their home, in her car, with the windows cracked for air. 

She wasn't gone long, apparently. But it was long enough for someone to notice the children, and call Maricopa County Child Protective Services. Her babies are now in the system — and Shanesha Taylor is sitting in a cell in the Maricopa County Jail, "guest" of Joe Arpaio himself, charged with two felony counts of child abuse.

Yes. Felony counts. For trying to do the one thing that would save her children in the long run. And in Maricopa County, I have to wonder whether a white woman in similar straits would've been charged only with misdemeanor counts. Or been let off with a warning.

She has no way to make bail. She'll be there at least until her initial appearance, and probably thereafter. Who knows when (whether?) she'll get her babies back.

This matters.

Yes, that image above is her mug shot. In the larger photos, you can see that she's wearing what is probably her one good dress, all ready for the job interview. Those tears streaming down her face are going to haunt me forever.

A kind soul named Amanda Bishop did what no one else up until now, none of the official agencies, none of the representatives of the state's and the country's so-called safety net apparently could be bothered to do. She set up a crowdfunding site to try to raise funds for Ms. Taylor's bail, to get her children back, to get her a cell phone and some food and some shelter and maybe, just maybe, a deposit and first month's rent on an apartment while she looks for a job. Ms. Bishop set the goal at $9,000; it's already nearly double that. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to what it will take to get Ms. Taylor and her babies reunited and safe.

This matters.

We've just given $25. If everyone in our networks matched that, she'd be set in no time. But times are tough, and some folks can't even do a dollar right now. No matter; you can share this post, Tweet it, Facebook it. And if you can donate, so much the better for Ms. Taylor and her children.

We're in. Please join us. Go here.

Chi miigwech.

Indigenous Women at the Crossroads of a "Male-Dominated Dystopia"

Photo copyright Wings, 2013. 2014;
all rights reserved.

Author's Note: This piece first appeared as the first of a two-part series at Daily Kos on September 1, 2013, as part of the RaceGender DiscrimiNATION diary series there. Since this is Women's History Month, and since indigenous women remain invisible to the dominant culture except as cartoon characters and subjects for appropriation, it seemed an apt time to run them again. What follows is Part I; Part II will appear here tomorrow.

 photo WinterCrossroads_zps7a1c79c4.jpg This series is, among other things, about the intersectionality of race and gender in this country's culture, both historical and contemporary. 

Intersectionality is simply a fact of being, of existence, for women of color. Every moment of our lives is lived at a crossroads.

Sometimes, the four roads don't lead outward, but rather, inward — toward a vortex of interrelated and competing risks, benefits, calculations, interests, slings and arrows and aggressions micro and macro and everything in between.  

Today, that vortex is a place called North Dakota. It's a place that at least one writer has labeled, with frightening accuracy, a "male-dominated dystopia." For several years now, conditions have become increasingly dire for women generally. but for women of color — and particularly for indigenous women — they are downright hellish.

The further hell of it is, they've been that way for some time. And once or so a year, a few reports trickle out. They're confined mostly to blogs and Web sites of specific scope and limited circulation, and the corporate media mostly stand by and let the stories go unreported in the wider culture. Politicians and policymakers are nowhere to be found.

In other words, where the lives of indigenous women are concerned, it's business as usual.

Author's Note: At the outset, readers need to be aware of the content of this piece. much of what follows deals with stories of extreme physical, psychological, and sexual violence and human trafficking. If any of these issues presents a trigger for you, you may not wish to read further.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I believe the photo credit belongs to Elizabeth LaPensée;
it appears at Indian Country Today Media Network.

Last October, in one my final editions of my Monday round-up of Native news (before connectivity and site-loading issues made further editions impossible), I wrote about Indian imagery and identity, and the importance of maintaining our sovereignty over both: 
As I was putting together the stories for today's edition, I noticed two distinct and interrelated patterns emerging: themes of imagery and identity, intertwining, diverging, separating and merging again at different points along the continuum of what it means to be Indian in 2013. 
There are many other stories out there right now, true, and they are important. But so are these — and despite the fact that the corporate media would regard these topics as "not hard news," that's incorrect. Today's stories encompass the existential conundrum of being Indian today, the requirement that we walk in two worlds at every moment of our lives when one of those worlds has done its damnedest to exterminate the other, and failing that, still actively works to neutralize its existence. And they do so in an equally dualistic way: in the public perception of who and what we are and what sovereignty and autonomy we have over that identity; and in the most private, intimate of spaces, in our own image of ourselves, both as individuals and as part of the collective culture labeled "Indian. 
To that end, I'm leading with what other coverage would relegate to the "C" Section of the newspaper. It's a story about asserting and affirming ownership of our identities and images, and doing so in a way that forces the dominant culture to face us in all our beautiful, complex diversity.
That story was about Drunktown's Finest, a film by a Diné woman that, among other things, explored the disconnect between what the dominant culture sees in her beautiful town of Gallup, New Mexico, and what she and her fellow Navajo Nation members see, love, and live on a daily basis. [Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, she got the film wrapped in time for Sundance, and it's now premiering in Europe, too. And, yes, we kicked in a little to the film project.]

Lately, i've seen a spate of news items about racist appropriation —of our images, our languages, our cultures, our very identities. It's another form of colonizing, and it carries with it all the carpetbagging exploitation and appropriation — in other words, abuse and theft — that are part and parcel, an inherent element of, colonialism.

Exhibit A, of course, is Dan Snyder and his persistent, obstinate, in-your-face racism. no, Dan, we are #NotYourRedskins, and never will be. Then there are Warner Brothers and Joe Wright, and no, we're #NotYourTigerLily, either. Nor is white actor Rooney Mara. Of course, the movie itself is guaranteed to be a horror show; the Indian plot line in Peter Pan is irredeemably racist. And then there's last year's dead-crow abomination. No, Bruckheimer and Depp, we are also #NotYourTonto. [And, no, I don't want to hear about how these are innocent children's tales. There's nothing innocent about racism. And it's a very immature worldview that insists that your dominant-culture childhood mythologies must trump our lives. Your myth is a tool of my oppression, and I will not be complicit.]

But lately, there's more. A lot more. Over the jump, a look at some of the insidious ways this practice has taken root.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blood Money: #NotYourRedskin

Image credit Mother Jones; all rights reserved.
So Dan Snyder thinks, once again, that he can redwash his way out of public criticism for his vicious racism.
Dan Snyder isn't backing down from continuing to use his team's embattled nickname. Now the Washington Redskins' owner is trying to change perception by making a public overture towards American Indians. 
Snyder announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which will aim "to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country."
The arrogance is breathtaking. Or, rather, it would be, except that Dan has shown us who he is over and over and over again.

This is a person who insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he knows better what one of the most noxious racial slurs that can be leveled at an Indian actually means. he insists that he's honoring us by calling us a term that was a tool of our ancestors' genocide. He even goes so far as to retain the services of a white man who, like Snyder and his fans, dresses up in redface, a race minstrel, to pretend that he's an "Indian chief" so that he can publicly "absolve" Dan of his racism. [No, I'm not suggesting he paid the minstrel, a fabulist, a liar, a very little man. I'm sure the attention and the adulation for his faux-Indian status were recompense enough.] Meanwhile, he and his minions smear a genuine Indian leader — one with enough of our traditional warrior spirit to take him on in as public a manner as possible — as "not Indian."

Dan, you have no right and no authority to do such a thing. No amount of blood money will wash away the stain of stain of your overweening racism. No amount of money will free you from your overriding obligation to do the right thing. You know, that one thing that you, comfortable and arrogant in your racism, continually refuse to do.

"I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life — one tribe and one person at a time," Snyder wrote. "I know we won't be able to fix every problem. But we need to make an impact. And so I will take action." 
That won't include changing the Redskins name, which has been the target of intensified criticism by activist groups in recent months. 
Snyder opened the letter by saying he "believe(s) even more firmly" than he did several months ago "that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents." 
He also wrote he has been "encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive."

Sorry; no. Three "tribal leaders" among 566 federally recognized tribes and all their members does not a mandate make. Any group will have its people who don't get it — and its sellouts. Those are phenomena that cross all demographic lines, including those of race.

And "fans?" Oh, you mean those other racists: The ones who dress up in redface at your team's games and do their fake war dances and their fake war chants and their fake tomahawk chops. The ones who turn every comment section of ever report on you and your multibillion-dollar enterprise's ongoing commitment to racism into a virtual sewer of racism and violence. Those fans.

Pro tip, Dan: They don't speak for Indians, either.

I realize that I'm just one lonely little voice here. Two, if you count our entire household — and it was Wings who brought this story to my attention last night and wanted me to write about it here. But I speak for the two of us when I say that I hope not a single Indian accepts so much as a red cent from Snyder's "foundation." 

In my language, Dan Snyder is a windigo, and what he's peddling here is simply more wétigo, more soul sickness. It's blood money, wrung from the scalps and skins of our ancestors who were massacred, lynched, and otherwise subject to this country's genocidal extermination policies.

We owe them — and our children, even unto the seventh generation — better than that.

And Dan: We are #NotYourRedksins.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Our New Hero. Heroes.

Photo copyright PBR, 2014; all rights reserved.
We've long been fans of bull-riding. 

[Yeah, I know about the animal-rights objections, but you can make the same objections about dog shows and barrel racing. Unlike racehorses, bucking bulls are treated like the powerful athletes they are, with the kind of care the average bull only dreams of getting.]

So, yesterday was the final day of the 2014 Ty Murray Invitational, held annually for the last 18 years at The PIt at UNM in Albuquerque as part of the Professional Bull Riders [PBR] tour. One of these years, we'll actually make it down to Albuquerque to see it live. After all, probably next only to the Oklahoma events, it's the biggest top-level bullriding event for Indians.

Some of the best amateur bullriders are Indians. But it's much harder for them to get on the pro tours, where the money and fame are: Again, it's another example of how, in this society, you have to have money to make money.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree with Ty Murray on a whole host of things. But I give him great credit for his continued efforts to bring Native American riders into the sport at the highest levels. For years now, one of the hallmarks of the "Invitational" that bears his name has been inviting the top Native American bullrider in the country to compete, even if he's not a part of the PBR tour already (and they generally aren't).

So this year, the top Native bullrider is 22-year-old Guytin Tsosie of the Navajo Nation. The kid is good; very good. But on Saturday, he got bucked off before the 8-second mark, and there was speculation about the impact of the bright lights of the PBR tour, and what we used to call "Pit Fever" for the state basketball championships.

No matter. His overall score for the weekend was high enough for him to make it into yesterday's championship round. He draws what's known as a really "rank" bull, one that is fast and powerful and bucks hard and performs "belly rolls" in his attempt to get the rider off his back, which, of course, he eventually does.

And while I'm screaming at the TV, demanding to know where the fricking clock is, Ty Murray and the other announcer, Craig Hummer, are lamenting the "fact" that Mr. Tsosie was "so close" but didn't make it, and already dissecting everything that was allegedly wrong with his "out," as they call it.

I'm still screaming at the TV over the lack of a time clock.

And sure enough, whether it was judge/timekeeper error or mechanical malfunction, there was no working time clock in the arena for one ride: that of Guytin Tsosie. Two judges break out stopwatches, and lo and behold: Guytin Tsosie made the 8-second mark.   For a score of 88.75. [Shoulda been more than 90, but I think he's probably happy.]

And for a few brief, glorious minutes, a Navajo bullrider was the event leader.

He was knocked out of position by, predictably, a Brazilian rider. Next to the Indians, the Brazilians are our favorites, partly for their own indigenous blood, partly because in this country they're underdogs despite their superior skill, partly for the way they treat the animals, partly for their incredible prowess in the sport.

Guytin Tsosie finished 7th in the event. Top ten, and with a high enough score to earn him an automatic spot in the next three PBR tour events.

When he came out of the ring after his ride, Brazilian former PBR world champion Guilherme Marchi was waiting for him with an eye-watering show of support: He threw his arms around Mr. Tsosie in an enormous, congratulatory hug that exemplified a warm welcome to a brotherhood and genuine excitement about his presence and performance.

And it touched us both straight to the heart.

Today, Guytin Tsosie is a hero for our peoples. Come to think of it, so is Ty Murray. And so is Guilherme Marchi.

Thanks, guys.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strong Women: Cathay Williams

Sometimes the title "warrior woman" is more than just a metaphor.

I mentioned Cathay Williams in passing in my piece on New Mexico's Buffalo Soldiers a few weeks ago (and a couple of years ago). Her story is so unique that she deserves her own post.

Her father was a free man, but her mother was enslaved, and so she was born enslaved — in 1844, as nearly as anyone can tell — in Independence, Missouri. It appears she took the name of her birthplace seriously.

She spent her childhood as a "house slave" on a plantation owned by a man named Johnson, in the area of Jefferson City. In 1861, however, when she was seventeen, Union forces arrived in Missouri and took control of Jefferson City. Young Ms. Williams saw an opportunity, and she took it.

The U.S. military was busily pressing young Black men, slaves and former slaves, into service on behalf of the Union. In the U.S., some definitions of "freedom" never change. But freedwomen were regarded as suitable cannon fodder, as well, even though they were relegated to supporting, rather than combat, roles. And seventeen-year-old Cathay Williams was no exception: Because, as a slave, she was property rather than a person, she was now classified as "contraband," giving Union forces the right to seize and dispose of her as they saw fit. That "disposition" turned out the be service in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

That service was the catalyst by which Cathay Williams became William Cathay, Buffalo Soldier.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"But You Look So Normal!"  Living With Multiple Autoimmune Disease

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Author's Note: This was first posted at Daily Kos on October 24, 2010, as part of the twice-weekly series Kosability. Because I was forced by circumstances to spend this week revisiting these issues in gory detail and exposing them and their often-humiliating effects to a host of perfect strangers, it seemed like as good a time as any to cross-post this here. I know some readers will have missed it he first time around, and I know some of them are struggling with their own chronic health issues (or have loved ones who are).  

Most of what follows still applies, although as you will see, I'm no longer permitted medications. That's not necessarily a wholly bad thing, considering some of the side effects. You'll also notice that I don't parrot the line currently in vogue about FMS. That's because it's in vogue among the ads disseminated by Big Pharma, but I haven't seen anything to support the notion that the earlier information does not still apply. Oh, and another thing: I do also use a cane now, at time. Most days, in fact, when I first get up in the morning, and on my way to bed at night. It's a really cool cane, though.

A final note: I have dealt with my symptoms longer than many adults have been alive. I know them better than any medical professional ever will. I also know intimately my own particular mix of sensitivities and reactions and responses, and I know what my body can handle and what it cannot. If it's out there, I've tried it, and it doesn't work for me. It's not Lyme. It's not gluten allergy. It's not any of the myriad things that may have been the case for someone a reader knows. Much of the discussion got hijacked the last time around, and I won't permit that here. I'm not susceptible to evangelism, and I'm too tired to be polite about that fact. So please, no advice in the comments.

I had a couple of alternative titles in mind. Like "Pain: Every Second of Every Hour of Every Minute of Every Day." Or "I Feel Like an Eighty-Year-Old Woman." Both true. But I finally settled on the one that I hear all the freakin' time:

"But you look so normal!"

It's usually tinged with disbelief, sometimes laden with open skepticism. How could someone like me possibly be sick?

And they're right  sort of. By most benchmarks  heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, other indicators  I'm extremely healthy. My diet is very healthy. My weight is pretty good; I put on 15-20 extra pounds while I was away from home taking care of Mom (because I didn't have access to healthy, unprocessed foods), but I've lost most of it. And at a fine-boned 5'9" or so, it looks like less on my frame than it actually is. My skin is good, at least superficially: relatively few wrinkles for my age, courtesy of good genes, having quit smoking, and the fact that I drink water by the gallon. Enough physical strength to lift 50-pound hay bales or a 100-pound dog, when needed (although I pay dearly for it every time I do it). I don't use a wheelchair; I walk (mostly) normally, without a cane.

So what the hell is the problem?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Coyote . . .

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.


Just so he can eff with me, like he's done all week.

There are a dozen [at least] posts in the pipeline. Every time I sit down to write, I get interrupted. Every time I go back to it, TaosNet crashes. Typical trickster stuff.

I'm tired.

And I think I need to swear off whatever it is that used to be Air American Radio. Ed Schultz, that fucking DINO hypocrite, is seriously bad for my blood pressure.

I mean, really, Ed: In one breath, you [former(?) Republican, current overprivileged bubble-blinded jerk] tell listeners that they need to "call Obama on the carpet" because you've decided he's insufficiently sympathetic to the working poor — and in the next, you spend fifteen fucking minutes extolling the virtues of your boats and regaling us working poor with tales of your exploits hiring private guides for your boating trips?

Here's a pro tip, Ed:  We working poor can't afford boats, much less private tour guides. We can't flip them. We don't spend our spring hours paging through boat catalogues, as you've said you do.

And it's really obnoxious to rub our noses in it while demanding that we persecute the first Black president for . . . What? Your ratings?

I know what President Obama has done and is still trying to do for us.

Tell me again what it is that you've ever done for us?

Yeah.  That's what I thought.

You make Coyote look like a saint.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Signs of the Vernal Equinox

Photo copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Yes, of course.  More chicks.

Eight more, to be exact: the eight that were on reserve. I thought they were all going to be black. Turns out we have four Yellow Sex Links and four Black Sex Links.  No, the name has nothing to do with Teh Sexytime. It's a catch-all name for chickens specifically cross-bred so that the sexes can be identified immediately by color. The hens also reportedly have the added advantage of being outstanding layers. A couple of Australorps are supposedly coming to us late next week.

The all integrated with each other immediately: All they see are familiar-looking faces with warm fuzzy bodies, and that's all that matters.

Two-legged types could take some lessons, huh?

Of course, there are many more signs of Spring than these little girls.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Photo copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.
Not those kind of chicks.  What did you think I meant?

Six little strawberry blondes, Rhode Island Reds. We have a half-dozen black chicks reserved, too — Australorps, I hope.

Our four adults have returned to laying regularly again. If all the new girls make it, by this fall, we'll have eggs to give away again.

For now, it's a matter of keeping them warm and safe and fed and watered. I think they're covered.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

La Plaza: Is Elon Musk Coming to New Mexico?

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

So much news, so little time.

Our governor is currently in talks on two big issues, both of which could have big benefits for our state. Sadly, she also felt the need last week to appeal to the lowest common denominator of her party and its Reagan-worshiping base by playing the great GOP superhero, Line-Item Veto Woman. And of course, the line items that were struck were, disproportionately, programs and initiatives to help people of color and members of other underrepresented and underserved populations.

Those will get covered in a separate edition. For now, we've actually got something promising to discuss.

The big economic news in New Mexico right now is the fact that we seem to be short-listed for the proposed Tesla plant. The plant would not manufacture cars, but rather, the lithium-ion batteries that power Tesla's electric vehicles. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lucky Charms

I forgot to wear the green today.

My grandmother is no doubt rolling in her grave. She, of course, was half-Irish, unlike her husband, and unlike the family into which her daughter chose stubbornly to marry — the ones who were not, as she put it, "really our kind of people anyway." 

In other words, Indian.

Of course, the German half of her family no doubt felt similarly about the Irish side.

Fortunately, some of us can embrace all of our ancestry — and even acquire new relatives along the way.

I call this man cousin for obvious reasons, but through him I've acquired a second cousin, on the Irish side of the family: his beautiful wife.

It was she who made the bracelet for me shown in the photo above, to celebrate our shared heritage (and in my two favorite colors!). She also made the card shown below, and sent me a few traditional Irish lucky charms along with it.

Better yet, she somehow managed to time their arrival for St. Patrick's Day.

For those of you who have a need for beautiful homemade greeting cards, I suggest contacting her: She does gorgeous work. And while I'm not sure that she's making jewelry for sale on a regular basis, she does equally gorgeous beadwork — and I'd bet she'd take orders for commissioned pieces. 

If you're a member of Daily Kos, you can send her a private message here. If you're not a member, let me know and I'll put you in touch with her.

And Cousin, chi miigwech and go raibh maith agat!

The Indians and the Irish

Image copyright Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; all rights reserved.

About an eighth of the blood running through my veins comes from the Emerald Isle. Not much, true, but enough for me to feel some connection to that land, as well.

Sometimes, there are connections between our various peoples that are more ephemeral, yet more tangible — certainly more accessible — than the mixed blood that gives life to some of us.

This is one such connection.

The Choctaw, of course, are not my own particular blood. They come from a different part of this land — a land where they no longer live, thanks to the genocidal removal policy of the occupiers of that land (and all the rest of it).

But despite "removal" — such a polite, sanitized, antiseptic term!  the Choctaw not only survived, but thrived, and maintain a large and vibrant culture: With nearly 200,000 members, they are now the third-largest tribal nation in terms of membership. But what most people don't know is that, fewer than 20 years after losing huge numbers of their own during the forced march of their "removal," they heard the story of another people, half a world away, facing extermination from a different source.

And they decided to do something about it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finding Home

Last week, I published a Community Fundraisers post on behalf of our friend Tonya, and my sister River cross-posted it for me at Daily Kos. As a result of that effort, we managed to help Tonya raise a good chunk of the $5,000 she needs to get herself and her children out of a literally toxic housing situation and into a safe space.

But more is needed.

To that end, Kossack JekyllnHyde has generously posted a follow-up diary this evening. In true Jek fashion, it gives a tutorial on how we got here — how we all got here — and what that means for folks in the kind of situation where Tonya and her family find themselves, courtesy of the same people who put the hole country in a similar hole.

So please: Go tip and rec Jek's diary; let's get it on the rec list and keep there for visibility this evening. Share it via Twitter and Facebook and other other social media platforms you use. Share it with your real-life networks. And, of course, if you can, hit Tonya's GoFundMe page and kick in a few bucks.

It all adds up in a truly lifesaving way, and I can tell you personally that Tonya's already busy paying it forward, helping others.

Chi miigwech.


Photo copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.
Author's Note: A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I would be posting some very personal pieces here, too — pieces that will make some very uncomfortable. They are not posted to elicit any response from anyone; I'm doing this solely for myself. The title is indicative; don't read it if you're not currently in a space to handle it. I am not in the space described in this piece, and no one needs to worry. This first appeared at Daily Kos a year ago; it is published here in part to provide context for pieces that will appear in the coming weeks and months, and in part because it's an inescapable part of who I am. 

Her memories go back to infancy, probably no older than age one. It's not a talent or a skill; it just is. It always has been.

The earliest memories are mostly not so bad — neutral, at worst. Until somewhere around age three, when the bad dreams began.

Actually, that's not accurate. Even by age three, she'd had bad dreams. But these are different. These are nightmares. Night terrors, really.

Black. Pouring down, down. It's going to get her. She can't breathe. She wakes up screaming and sweating, dissociated and disconnected from her soul.

It's no use trying to explain it; she's tried that already, but they can't understand. It's also no use when the nightmare grows and expands, encompassing more recognizeable people and places and things. Or when the accompanying dissociative states begin to occur during waking hours, unbidden, unexplained.

It goes on for years, and she doesn't dare tell anyone anymore. She knows she'll get into trouble if she does. She doesn't know why, exactly, but she understands all too well that she will.

Eventually, the dissociative states become an old friend — welcome, safety, something that is hers and hers alone when nothing else is. And when they finally recede in adolescence, she mourns them like a lost friend.

And still, she doesn't tell anyone.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's Official

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Spring arrived three days ago.

It doesn't matter what the calendar says. I know it's spring when I first hear this being's call. That happened at 9:29 AM MDT on March 12th.

Some years he and his mate spend the winter with us. Not this year.

He's back this morning. I haven't seen him yet, but I can hear him. 

And I know, despite the likelihood of occasional snow in the weeks to come, that it is spring.

Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Photo copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.
Around here, even the sky gets in on the act. 

[No, that photo is not from today; we have rain on the way, thank all that's holy.]

Big to-do list for today, and some of it needs to beat the weather, so I may not be around much. With any luck, I'll get to a couple of substantive posts tonight and/or tomorrow.

No pie-ing while you're pi-ing. But if you must, make mine pecan.