Sunday, October 9, 2011


l-r: chief joseph, sitting bull, geronimo, red cloud

i always hated social studies in grade school. there were tales of feasts shared by pilgrims and indians and those hand-traced turkeys in kindergarten, but something went awry in first grade.

i remember distinctly sitting in mr. stidham's classroom with our history books open to a chapter on american settlers. i remember him explaining that these indians, portrayed in the same photos as were used as a friendly introduction back in kinder, were terrible people who killed the settlers "for no good reason." i recall feeling a little dizzy and totally confused at these words. at six years old--maybe five, i have a late birthday-- i had only a vague inkling of what ethnicity was...there was something about my mom's side of the family, jewelry, a big black fabric hardcover book with a missing dustcover (probably my fault). i didn't understand what any of it meant, really, and could not have come close to articulating it even if i hadn't been extremely shy but mr. stidham's words confused and angered me.

children at the Carlisle school

in high school, i tried several times to speak up during discussions of native north american people. i was met with blank stares, shrugged shoulders, or rolled eyes (and that was just the teachers ;) actually it really was, all except one--thank you ms. hull!).

in 1938, u.s. used the 14th amendment to ban sales of beer to indigenous population
this particular photo reminds me of a story my grandma told me
about her and my grandfather trying to get served [anything at all] when they were dating

one of the first college courses i took was political science (hello, general ed). the teacher opened the class by stating that christopher columbus had died penniless and insane, still insisting that he had made it to india. i think it was meant to shock, but it delighted me, and it led into a discussion of political socialization (yes!). guess you know what i majored in....


in honor of columbus day:

read in the spirit of crazy horse by peter matthiessen
watch incident at ogalala
send support for leonard peltier
connect to american indian movement radio
enjoy john trudell
buy your traditional native american jewelry and crafts direct from indigenous artists


  1. Thanks for the great referrals. I will see if the library has that book available. I did'nt even know it was Columbus Day tomorrow. It is just important to me as the birthday of Mickey Mouse. Oddly , Joe and I were daydreaming today what It would be like if "we" were never here. We honored that the original people lived on this land for thousands of years with out completely destroying it . Yet, we have been here only a couple hundred years and we can no longer drink our water, eat our food, soak up our sun, trade our goods. Pretending that this concrete does not exist, one thing that helps me feel connected with this lands actual is the plants and animals. And, that helps me feel not so angry. Great post Nicole...and that is one of many reasons why I love you.xo

  2. Yes! We recently discovered a hidden gem in our library in the form of VHS documentaries on the First Nations and will surely be dipping into our new stash tomorrow.

    One of our recent favorites was a non-political 70s observer documentary called "The Seasons Of A Navajo". It kind of quietly blows your mind. C. hasn't read "In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse" (he's not a fast reader), but the incident at Oglala left a lasting impression.

    It is so shocking to me that Peltier is still imprisoned, the injustice of it boggles the mind.

    Thank you for a wonderful, inspiring post Nicole.

  3. "the white mans myth, the Red Mans Holocaust"

    great post, xo

  4. This post is really empowering and strong lady. As powerful as it is, i also feel really f*cking sad for a whole history of Native American people - i know my sentencing doesn't make sense, so, I'm sorry about that, but i think you understand what i mean. Glad I'm going to get to meet you next year. x

  5. I love when you guys get all fired up... (just read Milla's post)! That's crazy that that your hairs stood up on edge at your teachers statements at such a tender age. I didn't start my questioning til SO much later. Not sure if that is upbringing or just individual personality. My mom is such a trusting and sweet person that I think I was raised to do the same...especially listening to/trusting my elders.

    Of course, I'm questioning all kinds of stuff now that I'm going through nursing school. There are so many health topics that we are not even touching in our learning. However, we are in school to learn how to take care of people after things have gone wrong (after all, that why people need nurses- in the hospital setting). They are doing a great job at that, but I dig the preventitive approach. That opens a WHOLE bigger can of worms!!! :D hehe

  6. Beautiful and moving. I was shocked to find the post office closed yesterday and then i was like, what the hell? they still call this shit a holiday?!! we already have "thanksgiving" to add insult to injury.

    i, like nicky, was pretty oblivious as a kid to any form of social or historical injustice. not just because of my teachers but i think my own very compliant and optimistic nature. so much started changing around age 18. growing up mormon made me even more sheltered in a happy little societal myth, a world all its own and totally separate from everything real, strong, difficult, and dark.

    once you start to learn, to open your mind, it is crazy how strong your heart gets. it has been quite a journey. darin and i were in pine ridge in 2007. at wounded knee you can feel everything that happened in the air and earth around you.

    i could go on and on. i have a million things to say on this topic, but i will add this: i did not learn until later about columbus dying penniless and hated and i had a similar reaction. i had to teach his writings and those of his contemporaries in a section of early american literature a couple years ago and it was such an interesting experience to watch college students think about the realities behind columbus and his journey. there are letters that describe the rape and destruction of the land and peoples of the west indies. whole entire populations, gone. this tragedy exists on our earth, still in the formations and rocks and clouds and trees, still present. thank you for being one who reminds us all to think and feel the truths.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful post Nicole and as Heather so perfectly expressed: "for being one who reminds us all to think and feel the truths."

    Also, thank you for the glimpse into your past and the opportunity to learn more about YOU, always a treat lovely lady :)

  8. such an amazing post nicole, thank you! like missa, i enjoyed a glimpse into your past, and i must say i am heartbroken for 5 year old you. i send a warm arm of friendship around your shoulders for the little girl you were and the rockin mama you are now.

    i can't wait until fern is old enough to take her to the "un-thanksgiving and un-columbus day" celebrations on alcatraz. i struggle every year with thanksgiving and end up getting through it by making it a day of gratitude. columbus day can kiss my ass. idiot didn't even know what continent he was on.

    i would add to your book list, "bury my heart at wounded knee". it's brutal to read, but so important. xoxo