A By-gone Life at Haskell

I used to work at the Cultural Center and Museum at Haskell Indian Nations University.  I had worked with the Archives since I was an undergrad….a long time ago. My job consisted of making sure the research projects were completed; being a docent to museum patrons; and giving AMAZING tours to visitors.  I say amazing for a reason.

Most first time visitors to campus have no idea of the historic significance of the ground they are walking on.  I start most tours by allowing visitors to look at the beautiful exhibit in the gallery called, “Honoring our Children through Seasons of Sacrifice, Survival, Change and Celebration.”

Haskell Cultural Center & Museum

Next, we begin the journey back to a time before the doors opened at Haskell.  We learn to understand WHY our door were opened in the first place…as a response to the “Indian problem.”  I go on to tell them how our earliest students arrived at our doorstep…ripped from their families’ arms and thrust into a foreign world – alone.   When our students arrived on campus, they were not allowed to speak their tribal language, wear their traditional clothing, or fraternize with their siblings.  The youngest student was 3 years old – three. years. old. We then examine the starchy diet of mush, potatoes and gravy…every day.  It’s amazing how our students were being taught the art of farming…their goods sold or given to the local Lawrence community.

An unknowing  local community that celebrated with a parade the day that the City learned of their successful bid to land the NEW US Industrial Training School for Indians. It would be located on the 900+ acres that the school’s namesake, Kansas Senator Dudley C. Haskell had acquired.  It all seemed fitting, after all, the town’s founding “Free State” principles included provisions entitling all its citizens to fair education.

We move onto learn how families hunted for information for their children.  Many times, they searched without response from school or government authorities.  If they were lucky, they would be notified of their child’s progress, or death.  Students at the school had questions about the mysterious deaths…that went unanswered, as well.

Haskell Institute, circa 1889.

Before the turn of the century, the school raised the age limit.  The young were too fragile and died too easily.

The majority of students acclimated to life at Haskell.  They engaged in their classes.  Their bodies adjusted to the diet.  The found a fondness in the lush green campus that sits in the shadow of the Ivory Hallowed Halls of KU.  This became home.  Home became Haskell.  Mutual love and surrender.

Over the years, thousands of students filled the campus with dreams learning trades and skills to engage in a quickly changing world.

 

Advertisements

Smiling souls

Give a look

­deep into a soul.

Then slowly…smile

teeth are a must.

Watch the reaction

uneasy at first.

Their eyes will avert-

don’t break the gaze

or the grin.

They will return a few quick looks, most likely.

Offer a “hello, or “hi”

or heck, “how’s it going?”

Shoulders will drop.

Eyes will soften.

Corners of the lips will curl.

a smile returned

a day made

souls connect.

No worries…no commitments

simply give the gift of…a smile.

Ohh…ouch…life.

I went for a drive one summer evening in New Mexico.  As I drove, I killed a million mice in the attic of my mind.  Yet, the same thoughts kept me captive.  I revisited memories of a few good friends, but no one in particular.  Just this mental collage of  “thems” and “theys.”

They push and pull through life.  They painfully grind through the silky fabric of their existence.  As I drove along, I felt an overwhelming urge to tell them…be…just be.

I understood this to mean:

There is no need to make life fit into your skewed little box, with all the rules that box you in and keep contentment out.  It’s OK to just let go of the control…and let it be.

For me, just the thought of such action created such a euphoric feeling…so free…so limitless…so happy.

What was interesting was in that moment of non-judgement of myself, I realized that that very lesson was actually…for me.

Can you imagine…

Can you imagine a bizarre world where your every thought can be instantly turned into reality?  Where just the simple act of thinking can bring a new reality into existence?  Can you imagine the idea that reality might only exist in word?  What if there are unlimited possibilities just waiting to be created?

For example:

If I stub my toe, I curse the day as a “Monday.”  I then can’t find my keys.  I miss all the green lights to work.  I forget about that urgent meeting at work.  AND then, I spill my morning energy all over my lap.

OR…for example:

I wake up 2 minutes before my alarm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  I head to the local drive-up and I am rewarded for being a loyal customer.  I somehow get across town in 10 minutes…in morning traffic!  My favorite song is played on the radio…followed by my second favorite and my third favorite.  My email has a congratulatory message waiting for me about the coveted workshop that I was selected for.

Oh wait…

I guess the thought isn’t so bizarre after all.  REALITY is relative – the only constant in it is the way it is spelled. We live in a unshaped space that begs us to mold it into something magnificent with our thoughts, emotions and energy.

So, I guess the question is, “What can you imagine?”

Of youth

I was like most youngster in high school.  I listened to all the latests music.  Watched the matching videos on MTV (back when they played videos).  I also was a pretty good dancer.  Most importantly, I was “cool.”  I came to college and carried on in the same “cool” fashion.  I remember once being asked by an admirer, “where’d you learn to dance like that?”  I just shrugged as I broke into a another fit of rythm.  I took it as a compliment.

But, something happened when I had kids…I stopped dancing.  My inner Material Girl, gave way to Barney, Kidz Bop and Blacklodge Kids’ Pow Wow Jams.  I had stopped feeding the “me” that knew what cool was.  There was point at which I remember thinking “who are you and what did you do to that dance diva named Lori?!”  Yeah, it was bad.

My kids were in middle school when a friend invited me to go dancing with her at a local latin club.  That night, I danced and danced….so good!  It felt wonderful to find “me” again.  I didn’t stop.   I was there twirling and swaying on the dance floor as often as I could…and I looked and felt amazing!

There were times after that re-awakening that I used to try to teach my girls to dance.  Or, I’d tell them about how I used to dance like a maniac in high school.  They’d just giggle.  They didn’t believe me.   I don’t blame them…they hadn’t ever seen me “do” such things.   And they could hardly even imagine it either.

I saw a post card once that had a quote by William Purkey, ““You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”   There is only one part missing….make sure your kids see you doing it all….as proof!  haha

I wrote this poem back then about conflicting perceptions:  theirs and mine.  Today, they still giggle when I try to” bust a move”….if they only knew!

——————————————————————————

I guess I always thought I’d be cool
down with the latest dances
up with fashion
know the music scene
speak the speak
Apparently, I’ve been slipping a bit…
I step on toes
my wardrobe suffers from time warp
isn’t “Bow Wow” what a dog does?
…and COOL just isn’t cool for me to say anymore!

According to two young hip chicks on the verge of life…
I’m old…I’m outdated…I’m over!

But, little do they know…
when the night matures
I unbutton to please
and slip on my shiny, slick black heels
that move with ease
to the hot latin beat
that melts the years from
my mind…my body…my soul.

Making good on the promise to live

I’ve been fortunate to have had some amazing friends in life.  I’ve cherished every friendship (good and bad).  I believe we meet each other at the point in our lives when we need one another.  Even if the friendship doesn’t last, we come out having learned something about ourselves that we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the relationship. 

There are times when friendships leave you speechless.  When I just can’t find the words to encourage, console, chastize.  This poem came from one of those moments. 

p.s.  Thanks to Kara Helena for the most amazing photo.

—————————————————————-

Red. Flesh. Soul. Pride.

She stands in her own existence

            Wavering on a ledge

            Peering into a painful past

                        And she hears a whisper

            So loud that she’s taken aback

                        But pain muffles the words.

Her gaze darts heavenward

            Beyond the impending agony

Shiny, stunning blade

            Sleek, intricate silver

Slices air toward the destination

            …or destiny.

            And in a flash the

Silver blade of integrity slices her soul

            And she bleeds

She bleeds

            Hot streams of pride

            Icy shards of selfishness

            Burning streams of jealously

            Razor shards of anger

And the air rushes in as the

            Toxic poisons pool at her feet.

She reaches for the wound

            Healed

            Healed

            Healed

            Healed

Her soul

            Quietly cries songs of joy.

And again she hears the whisper

            Louder…louder…louder

            Until the words are crisp and powerfully clear

“Breathe. Life. Into your Future.”

 

Seeking Serenity

This was written when I was in my 20’s.  I was not unlike a lot of single moms.  My saving grace was that I figured out that I didn’t have to feed the reality of the monster!    Enjoy.

—————————————————————-

My Serenity is repelled by my reality

I’m baffled

              When I actually have a moment to ponder

              Not sure how it can actually be true that

My ancestors lived their lives in harmony with

                Life

                Each other

                The world

                Serenity simply a daily companion

And here…I… am…

I fight, day in and day out

                Hoping to escape the jaws of a (not-so) imaginary monster that

                Threatens my own life if

                I don’t feed it

                                Paper green food or

                                Shiny silver snacks

But how?

How do I provide coveted little morsels to

                The greedy beast

                When I struggle to

                Feed my own?

Ah, yes…there it is

                The struggle

                That I share with the world

More and more these days, I find myself pondering

                The possibility of falling away

                Hiding out

                Running far, far away

                As we all do at some point

Slipping off behind the imaginary boundaries and into the solitude of Dine’tah

                Untouchable by the great white monster that

                Pushed us here in the first place

“Yes, sir!  I’ll go back to where I belong.  I’ll go back to where ‘my kind’ are.”

I’ll wait it out until

                The greedy beast stops growling and

                Slowly begins to wither with starvation and

                Eventually, dies

                            …Eventually

I’ll wait within the sanctity of Dine’tah

                Safe and protected

Live and learn to let my

Serenity find me.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: