Colonoscopy – a scary procedure or life-saving test

My apologies to Susan for not writing before this. I will write again soon.

I often write about things that affect me, like my allergies, complaining, mostly. I hate being sick; not like anyone wants to be sick, likes being sick, but I hate it. I am independent, and want people to be independent, to take care of themselves (which is why I did not become a nurse or a doctor). I’ve had several surgeries in my lifetime. I write about my great test results, because I’m over 60 and I feel blessed in having good health, and I want all people to have great health. I thank my ancestors for giving me the genes that carry good health. 

Many of my first cousins have gone on due to alcohol-related accidents, alcohol-related illnesses, diabetes-related illnesses and cancers. Some preventable; others not. Many of my older relatives, both Pawnee and Cheyenne, are also gone due to the same medical issues. Many times, we’ve gone to dances, either at Pawnee, or in Cheyenne country, and there are few elders over 70. Few, if any, old singers with the knowledge of old songs at the drums. Few elders dancing at the powwows and war dances. That is very telling. And at powwows here and there, I notice young people whose weight may soon cause them problems.

Old story, as my grandma would tell my grandpa but I had bilateral total knee replacements, new knees, at the same time, in December 2010. I have not looked back. I was up the next day, walking, like a robot, but walking. The major pain was momentary, because had I not had them done, I would have been in constant arthritic pain. I worked through the post-surgical pain, doing whatever the physical therapists gave us to do at Healthsouth, an occupational and physical rehabilitation facility in Albuquerque. I knew what the alternative was. What I noticed at the facility was that there were many patients there whose limbs had been removed, a foot, a leg below the knee, or above the knee. And many of these were young people. Young people restarting life with one limb. Please follow your doctor’s orders relating to diet, exercise and medication. Be here for your children and grandchildren.

I have hiked many times since my surgery, and dance at powwows, and do many things, within reason. As many of you know, another “old story”, my third and final goal set in physical therapy was to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which I did in June 2015. I have hiked in the Rocky Mountains, at Chaco Canyon and in the Sangre de Cristos.

I know that a lot of folks don’t have insurance, or good insurance, and Indian Health Services only goes so far, given the number of people who need help. Sometimes, it’s too late. My mother kept trying to reschedule an appointment that had been cancelled by the doctor. She told me that she made another appointment that had to be rescheduled again, and that it took months to get her an appointment again. The appointment was in the early summer. She passed away a few months before. She had high blood pressure, which eventually caused an aneurysm in her brain. She died of a hemorrhagic stroke. Please follow your doctor’s orders relating to diet, exercise and take your blood pressure medication. Be here for your children and grandchildren.

My father died of colon cancer and diabetes-related illness. I have heard that colon cancer is hereditary, and I have also been told it is not. Either way, doctors and specialists tell you to have your first colonoscopy at age 50; but, if you have a first degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who has had colon cancer or a polyp before age 60, then you should get an exam starting at age 40. In either case, it is recommended that you repeat the exam every five years, as long as you are healthy.

Since my father had colon cancer, I was advised to have a colonoscopy done. It wasn’t at 40, as my father had not passed away at that time. Even then, in 1998, when he passed, I hadn’t yet informed any of my doctors about his having colon cancer. About 4 years ago, in a health history with a new primary care physician, I mentioned to my doctor about my dad. I had always brought up the grands and other relatives with diabetes-related and cancer-caused deaths. I am not diabetic, and for many years, have had great A1C. HDL/LDL/cholesterol and other test results. We eat healthy meals, not very much red meat at all, mostly chicken, pork, shrimp, salmon, sometimes tofu, beans, brown rice, rice cauliflower, lots of fresh vegetables, salads and then occasionally, pasta dishes, stews, and then sometimes corn soup, frybread, meatpies, Ndn tacos, Frito pies, enchiladas, and about four times a year, chicharones (fried pork fat). I used to love making big breakfasts with eggs, bacon, hash browns, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, but we only do that now and again, pancakes, too. Did you know that an entire can of corned beef hash has nearly 500 mgs of fat-that’s a lot of calories!

My mom thought I was diabetic, and was always bringing me stuff from conferences she went to, stuff about diabetes, recipes, medication holders, etc, etc, etc. I appreciated those things, but more so, though, that she thought of me and my health. For someone who grew up around lead paint, traipsed through the grandparent’s gardens which had been dusted with Sevin, eating same veggies dusted with Sevin, and ran behind the mosquito-dusting truck in Pawnee, and later, worked in a research lab and was exposed to radioactive isotopes, I am thankful and grateful for my health.

So, a colonoscopy was scheduled. But I did not make it to that test. Another was scheduled. And I did not make that one. And again. The most recent appointment over the summer was rescheduled due to the exam being scheduled on the first day of summer classes. So three times I did not do the colonoscopy due to family-related issues (spouse fell twice, breaking each hip once, and that required many weeks of hospitalization, in-house and outpatient therapy), and one for school. Finally, this time, I scheduled it, and I made it.

I’d heard from people who’d had a colonoscopy before and they reported the icky-est stuff to deal with. Horrible, they said. There were things not to eat within five days (nuts), things not to drink (red, blue or purple kool-aid stuff), and only chicken broth, jello, or other lame stuff, like black coffee, popsicles, soda, and water. And of course, there were several feast days that occurred just before my exam, so knowing how red chile can stain a white shirt, I stayed home, because I cannot be trusted around red chile! Haha! No solid foods after 10 a.m. the morning before. I like to eat, and 24 hours without food, and watching my family eat a delicious, great-smelling meal was agony. But, I was going to get this done and out of the way. Facing my fear and anxiety, I got ready.

I picked up the solution from the pharmacy which I would drink the day before, and yes, it really and truly turned out to be the most vile-tasting stuff you’d never want to drink, I kid you not. I had a final meal, breakfast, and then, after a certain time, was directed to drink half of the gallon of fluid the first day, within two hours. That’s eight 8-ounce cups, or one cup every 15 minutes for two hours. Yucky, icky liquid stuff, disguised with a lemony-flavored packet. Oh, my word, it was awful. They said you could put Gatorade or Crystal Light in it, but no amount of either could disguise the flavor of that stuff. But the colon had to be clean, so I was game for it.

The morning of the procedure, we arrive early. The receptionist was Navajo. She was great, very professional. When we went into the procedure area, the staff in the room were very professional and precise. They were so organized. Things were run just like clockwork. I was given something to relax me. The doctor came in to get my history, and tell me what would occur. He told me that colon cancer is the third leading cause of death. Hello, right before my procedure you’re telling me this? Now, right before I go under? I was already kind of anxious beforehand, but thanks, Doc! That’s the last thing I want to hear, just in case something goes awry.

My daughter was there with me, and was there during the prep, as she was for my knee replacement surgery. Just for a moment, lying on that gurney, anticipating what I did not know, I was nearly overwhelmed by anxiety, mostly due to the unknown. And then I remembered what my grandpa told me: never worry about anything until you know what it is. So, I had those anxiety tears roll right back into my eyes. I have told myself that time and time again, in all sorts of instances and issues. I love my grandpa for giving me that piece of advice, among others, which I have shared with the kids. And so I recovered my wits, because my daughter was worried, too, and I did not want her to worry. Never worry about anything until you know what it is.

With Claire directed to the waiting room, the personnel wheeled me into the procedure room. They told me they were going to give me this drug, to which I replied, “The Michael Jackson drug?!” They said yes, it will put you under. So, they did, and no sooner had I said that, I was apparently out, because the next thing, I was waking up back in the room, and complained that my feet, which were hanging over the end of the gurney, were cold. They brought me a nice warm blankie for my feet. I was somewhat groggy, but got over it rather quickly, as I was surprisingly alert and talking.

Claire was brought back in, and the male nurse was telling me what they did. They found one polyp, 3 mm long, and had taken it for pathology. Other than that, my colon was clear of any additional polyps or abnormal things. I thought I recognized a bit of Cajun in the nurse’s voice. I asked if he was from Louisiana. Yes, but he was born in the Carolinas and raised north of New Orleans. We chatted it up about one of our favorite places, the food, music, Cafe du Monde beignets and cafe au lait, the NOLA area, the people. And then it was time to get dressed and go home. I had no bad side effects, took a nap, and that was that.

I received my report today, and it indicated that the polyp was hyperplastic or inflammatory, with no cancer potential or increased lifetime risk of cancer. “Colorectal cancer usually begins as a “polyp,” a nonspecific term to describe a growth on the inner surface of the colon. Polyps are often non-cancerous growths but some can develop into cancer (mayoclinic.org).” The other, adenomatous polyps, are pre-cancerous and have the potential for becoming cancer, if not removed.

At the bottom, I have given three links to the mayoclinic.org and webmd.com, two credible medical online resources. If I ever need to look something up, research a procedure or get medical information, these are the two sources I look at, either before or after doctor visits. I researched the heck out of knee replacement surgery at least a year before, and prior to that, did research about Synvisc injections that I did for two-three years before my surgery.

I wrote this today, because, again, I am thankful to Atius Tirawahut for the blessings I have. We do not know when we will leave this world. We should do our very best to stay healthy for our children, grandchildren, elders and community, and to live a full and active live, eating well, exercising and following our doctors orders. Some people have knowledge and stories about our tribes that need to be told to the next generations, and to do so, you need to be here. You need to be here for those grandkids, greatgrands, and your family. Take care of yourself.

Good wishes to everyone for a healthy life! If your doctor says you need a colonoscopy, by all means, get it done. It really was not that bad, other than the drink stuff. Something has to make it taste better. Do not be afraid of this test. It could save your life.

Links to information about colon cancer:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colon-cancer/home/ovc-20188216

http://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/guide/colorectal-polyps-cancer#1

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colon-polyps/symptoms-causes/dxc-20346922

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Cobell money

I never thought that I would see what is happening today at Standing Rock, or any place like this. I can only imagine what my great-grandmother, as a child of three, must have felt when she encountered the non-Ndn people, in the form of cavalry. Her father was a Pawnee Scout, but nothing like this.

I think of my Cheyenne ancestors and what they encountered from Chivington at Sand Creek in 1864 and at the hands of Custer at the Washita in 1868, and finally followed by Greasy Grass in 1876.

We lived through the 60’s and 70’s but nothing like this has ever occurred. A gathering of nations (not the powwow), but a gathering of the great Indian Nations, in solidarity with the Standing Rock people.

We need to pray, we need to burn cedar and pray for the people of Standing Rock, and all the tribes there at Standing Rock, witnesses to modern day attocities, from the youngest to the oldest, pray for their health and safety, pray for the hardened hearts of the corporations, the governor, the police, the DAPL workers, for the people in Iowa those with land that was taken, along the path of the “black snake”. Because that is what we do…pray.

It is a lawless country there, and the Great White Father, er…would that be the Great Black Father, in Washington, has abandoned his wards. Abandoned them in favor of money. Money you cannot eat. For oil you cannot drink. Ironically, to move fracked oil that is  not intended for use by the United States!

I can’t help but think…is this payback for Cobell?

The REAL Gathering of Nations: Standing Rock

In a video I saw just now, drum groups at the Navajo Nation Fair united to sing the American Indian Movement song for a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I watched the video, and heard the song which immediately reminded me of the old AIM days. I was never right in the midst, but rather on the fringe when I was attending the University of Tulsa, though many of my friends and relatives were involved in AIM from the beginning, in various instances and protests. Many of them have gone on. Over the years, my grown children and I have joined in on some protests, and supported many others. This is a good song, and it tugged at memories in my brain’s dusty files, remembering those folks and their commitment, and the change that happened as a result.

This showing of solidarity was special. Today, the judge denied the Standing Rock people’s injunction to halt the construction of DAPL under the Missouri River. But immediately an announcement turned that disappointment into a surprising victory for the Standing Rock people as the Obama administration, through the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, announced a requested halt to the construction of the DAPL, 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe, and set in place measures to follow for change, a conference of tribal leaders to discuss potential infrastructures and policies and processes, and possibly changes to laws and the way these agencies work with tribes and treaties. We will no longer be ignored.

In another video found on Facebook, a spokesman relates to the people at the Standing Rock camps about the ruling and the announcement. In the end, after reading of the future plans he states “…this has opened that door to change their laws!” He went on to say “…they [heard] our prayers” and relayed that “seven generations ago” something that happened at that place (Standing Rock) helped the people “hear our cries. And today we are victorious again!”

What the youth runners did, just a few short weeks ago, in their run from Standing Rock to Washington, DC, was to bring awareness to the American Indian people across the United States and to people around the world, the issue that the Standing Rock people were confronting, and anyone living along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, should a pipeline break, and that issue was oil in the water. “Mni wiconi” – water is life. And confront it, they did, promoting protection of the water in a peaceful way, prayerful. My nephew held a Native American Church meeting for the people of Standing Rock and the other nations.

Even when faced with tough confrontation, they held together. When the dogs were there, videos show the people kept their cool. People from across the nation went to Cannonball, to camp, to stand with Standing Rock. The development of the camp, all the events that happened on a day-to-day basis, like the school that was set up for children to go to school, captivated the Indian people and those around the world. Tribal governments sent letters of support, likely knowing that they, too, could face just this situation.

I mentioned before on my Facebook page, as have others, that this gathering was epic, flagsmonumental, a “never-before-in-the-history-of-Indian-Country” event, where nearly 200 tribes, and counting, gathered together, in a great cause, to wield the power of our sovereignty and for our self-preservation. Indeed, the WORLD was watching. Flags of many of those nations flew over Standing Rock. 

The Standing Rock Sioux people made a stand. And they were victorious, not just for them, but for all the Indian Nations. We should all be happy and continue to encourage and support them, for the fight is not over. Victory is not quite complete.

Thank goodness for Facebook, live feeds, updates and such, because thousands of people were able to follow the progress of this peaceful, prayerful movement.

It is getting colder, soon to be winter. Please watch for lists of things needed for the camps. We plan to organize a coats and blankets drive to take up to the people along with other items needed in the next few weeks.

This has been a great day for the Indian nations! Celebrate. Support. Encourage. Pray.

 

One of the many tribal groups that went to Standing Rock.


The synopsis here is a compilation of my own thoughts as the day progressed. The images are those gleaned from various posts as they filtered through my Facebook feed. The images are not mine. I do not own them.

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Irene Edwards received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College of Santa Fe in May, 2010 and has applied for admission into the Master’s degree program in American Studies/Native American Studies at UNM. She is Pawnee-Cheyenne and Gros Ventre (a new revelation) and  was raised in a household that included her Pawnee great-grandmother and grandparents. Her grandfather received a degree from Bacone College in 1926, the first of her family to receive a college degree. He also attended the Chicago Art Institute. Her late mother received a degree in nursing from Kiowa Nursing School and was a professional nurse all her life. Irene is a bead worker, makes ribbonwork, moccasins, paints in acrylics and was accepted into the world-renowned Heard Indian Art Market on her very first try. After more than 25 years as an administrative/executive assistant, she semi-retired, though worked as a proofreader in the 2016 New Mexico legislative session and is working on a new business project. She also spends her time hiking, and in 2015, completed a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, with a return trip planned for 2017 as well as thru-hikes on the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.

“May You Live In Interesting Times”

We were heading to see my niece dance in Arizona on Saturday. I heard about this #NoDAPL Altercation while traveling north of Gallup, right around Yahtahey as we turned to the west. I was so incensed at this senseless betrayal of the fragile law and order that has existed there at Standing Rock.

Using Siri, I called the White House, “Siri, please call the White House” and she called it. I listened to the message. They were off for the holiday.

So, I had to set down my anger because we were going to a dance where only good thoughts needed to pervade. I would have to leave it outside and call the White House later.

We have all been praying, ernest and sincere prayer to our Creator for guidance for the Standing Rock leaders and their people, their community, from the wee babes to the elders, their legal counsel and tribal council, praying for their strength, their health, endurance, protection and their safety. Praying for all the nearly 100 nations who have sent representatives to support the Standing Rock people. Praying for all the individuals who’ve gone up on their own. And for all the people around the US and the world who’ve voiced their support. And for those who have given money, food, prayers and other necessary items for the camp and the school.

This is an epic event in the history of American Indian people, and whether you look to the historical past or recent history, you will not see anything comparable.

Imagine. What if the 500 Indian Nations had sounded an alarm that went across the land when Cristof Columb had arrived. Or when Coronado, Oñate or DeVargas had showed up? 

It was foretold by many tribal leaders and medicine people that Europeans would arrive. Along with their control of time, the Industrial Revolution, and their reverance for individual achievement over collectivist cultures philosophies and ideals, in addition to their religions, the policy of federal recognition, genocide, and a governance model designed not to work for uneducated, non-business tribal people, these non-Natives inflicted a Hell on Earth for American Indian people.

What signal would we have used? Bonfires signaling that danger was coming would have been good. Oh, what a sight that would have been.

But, we are witness to the greatest gathering ever. I glad to see it. I wish our elders who’ve gone on could see it, too. I have an idea they are watching from above and very proud to see what is happening.

Sacred Water

It isn’t enough to just read, post and share about Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL anymore. 
You have to take action. 

You must take action. This could happen to any of us, any of our tribes, our nations could be next. With no regard for treaties, the army corps of engineers gave the “ok” to proceed. Tribe wasn’t contacted. 

This is a monumental event, reminiscent of the 70’s and DC, Wounded Knee, Alcatraz Island, but before that, Greasy Grass, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek and Washita and the Trail of Tears journeys nearly all tribes made.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Sign a petition.
  • Donate to Sacred Stone camp fund.
  • Deliver some food; water.
  • Drive up to Standing Rock.
  • Help cook.
  • Help with the kids.
  • Help keep the camp clean.
  • Stand with The People.
  • Make tobacco ties.
  • Pray.

Most importantly, pray. Pray that the peaceful non-violent occupation of the Standing Rock lands by Indian nations from around the country will remain so.

Our bodies cannot exist without water. We can go for days without food, but we cannot go without water. Water is a part of many of our ceremonies. We are taught that water is sacred.

Do something to help advance this cause, a cause that affects all the people living in the area and beyond.

Someone recently said that we cannot drink oil. So very true. We only run on water.

The money generated goes only to a few billionaires who care less what happens to American Indians and the lands, waters, the vegetation and animals that exist.

While the US and the world are occupied with the athletes of the Rio Olympics, while the US is occupied in finding justice in widespread police shootings, yet a large part of the population is unaware of what is happening at Standing Rock. Even the world knows what is happening.

Please do your part. Your families and generations beyond today will thank you for looking out for them.

If You Are Adopted Family, “We mean it.”

I have three sisters, an adopted daughter-in-law, and my auntie who all need positive thoughts and prayers right now. My auntie (my bio-dad’s sister, my only remaining aunt from that side) is recovering from quintuple bypass surgery and is recovering great at more than 80 years of age. One sister lost her companion a few months ago, and is so sad without him. The other sister unfortunately was thrown into the middle of her daughter’s problems and there are grandkids involved. I just found out that my other sister has been going through chemotherapy, and that radiation will soon be added to her therapy. And in less than one month, my adopted son’s wife is having a baby girl, to add to their little family of two boys who will become big brothers.

I recently had to unfriend and block some people  from my life, people who had called me family. I had done something for them before, and had offered to help with something additional, and it is unfortunate that what was offered, that the special something, unique and of cultural value was reduced to something that “had to be done” within a certain timeframe. Things don’t work that way for me when it comes to devoting my time to a special thing, especially if it has to do with my tribe and my culture. Do not be dismissive of what that means to me, because I was raised in my culture. It is not something I “play” at. There are things that have to be done in a good way, with good thoughts, prayers. Evidently, this “family” relationship was only as a benefit for them.

I have written about this before, that in Oklahoma, among the tribes there, if we call you family, as Richard Attocknie said about his “dad” Kenneth Dan, at the powwow in Marksville, “we mean it.” I keep going back to that, keep remembering that. “We mean it.” His dad took KD as a brother a long time ago, and that relationship has existed now for more than 60 years, well beyond the passing of Richard’s father. Richard’s daughter calls KD “Grandpa”, as she never really knew her Grandpa.

And there are formal adoptions. One tribe adopts someone, not of the same tribe, in a formal ceremony to replace a loved one who has gone on. They dress them.

Friends become relatives. I have a non-Indian friend in Florida who became my sister. We met them at a powwow, and though we haven ‘t seen each other for years, we are still, and always will be, sisters. I have an adopted daughter, too, in Florida. We met at a powwow, she asked me questions. I answered them truthfully and openly. We became friends, and now I am her “mom”. I have a friend from boarding school that I call sister. My brother is friends with someone who he called “brother” and the relationship was carried forward to his sister. When the “sister” needed help, we had a dinner for her and the family because my brother’s “sister” needed help and prayers. It doesn’t matter what the connection is. You are family if we say it. “We mean it.”

It is a big responsibility to take on and adopt someone.

My three sisters that I am talking about here, are not blood sisters. One sister is a cousin, because we are relatives within one of my tribes. One sister is my “sister” because my step-dad adopted her father in a formal way, feeding first the people, and then telling the people that he was taking him as a brother, followed by a giveaway. The other “sister”, that I am not related to, I have known since grade school. But we are all sisters in the truest sense of the word. And the daughter-in-law is as a daughter. I took her husband as a son when we were in Florida at a powwow. Nothing formal, I just said I’d like to take you as a son. He reminds me of my oldest son, quiet, yet witty and can make you laugh. He calls me ” mom”.

Family. Adopted family. No difference. That is how I thought of the two individuals that I had to let go. They called me “aunt”, which was fine. I love to be someone’s “crazy auntie”! I thought we were really “family”. But, I noticed the tendency for one to compartmentalize our relationship to just “powwow” family or “drum” family, not “FAMILY”, and emphasizing, it would seem, that we weren’t blood related, and that if we weren’t “powwow” or “drum” family, then perhaps we weren’t anything at all.

So, I was somehow taken aback, and no apologies were given, or nothing which would indicate that there was an understanding of my feelings, an understanding of my cultural ways, just a “sorry you feel that way”. Sorry YOU feel that way. So, it was just a mercenary relationship, not familial, at all. Who does that?

These adopted relationships expand our extended family by leaps and bounds. It is a feeling like no other. Yes, we have our blood relatives, but this just increases your family and connections. You are never without family anywhere you go. You learn from them, they have lessons for you, and so do you. You share likes and all kinds of great things. 

Yet another “sister” (cousin) needed help two weeks ago, and on our way back from Louisiana, we drove to my hometown of Pawnee, to pick her up and bring her out to New Mexico. No hesitation. You need a ride? No worries. We’ll come get you. And, while we were there, we stayed with her son and his wife, who introduced me right away to her girls as “this is your other grandma”, because I am related to her grandpa, who was cousins, “brother to sister”, to my mom. Our families are related. I now have grandchildren who I never met. On the way, we encountered a storm, in which there were tornado warnings. So we re-routed to the west of our route, and almost called on a sister in Shawnee to go to her home and wait the storm out. And she said, in a heartbeat, she would have given us a place to stay and fed us biscuits and gravy. No hesitation. Sisters. I love my sisters.

As I said, with so much negativity, I had to let these others go. My focus needed to be on my aunt, my sisters and the wee one on the way and her mom. Focusing only on good thoughts, positive thoughts and energies sent across the astral plane to each one, to help with healing them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In writing this, in mentioning this to the world, it is easier for me to focus. My mind is clear because it is not muddied with the drama. The situation is now dispersed and I can concentrate on sending the best thoughts and prayers for all of these strong Indian women, my auntie, my sisters and my daughter-in-law, each going through a difficult time, in different situations, at this moment in time in their lives.

Love them all, my adopted sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces and grandkids. Love me hearties, my friends.

random randomosities

It has been some time since I’ve blogged, and my apologies to the folks who have been expecting something from me. I have two or three blogs in various stages of completion and hopefully, soon, I’ll pick those back up and extend them forward to their final stage.

Life happens, when we least expect it, and we had some rather trying times since November. My husband, it seems, just had to match the first broken hip, and fell again in late November and broke his right hip this time, and had to have a partial hip replacement. In December, one of my younger brothers passed away and we went home for the services. And all this was in the midst of my temporary job that started in October, working for the legislature as a proofreader of bills. I reminded myself that it was similar to 2012, when I had begun a new job at the University of New Mexico. And then a few short weeks later, in March 2012, my mother passed away from a brain aneurysm which caused her to have a hemorrhagic stroke. Her siblings, her brother, passed ten months later, and her sister, the next month. I left my job after only being there a year, because I could not deal with the three people who were significant to my childhood having passed within one year. So, selfishly, I could not help but think that this was some trend which somehow appeared again, i.e., to jeopardize my job. I feel bad for thinking of it, and I am sure my husband has forgiven me for those thoughts which he knows nothing about.

Since then, it has been a series of surgeon, doctor and physical therapist appointments, prescriptions and the gazillion bills that we owe for both of those hips. He is at a high risk for another fall, and so we take care of him as best as we can, not wanting another fall. At 88, though, it is highly likely it could happen again. We also look to the future of potential Alzheimer’s, which both his mother and his sister had at the end of their lives. We see signs of it, and the doctor is aware of his history. Something to be aware of as we move ahead.

Somehow, I manage to pay the bills. Somehow, I manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow, I manage to keep smiling. Somehow, I manage to laugh. Somehow, I get rid of the stress, mostly by finding solace in Nature, in hiking, just being outdoors, the sun beaming down on my face, soaking in the Vitamin D, hearing birds chirp, listening to water flowing in streams and rivers, eating trail mix and summer sausage, putting my boots to trails that I’ve never been on, and on trails that are worthy of a second or third trip.

I also recharge my Indian-ness, as I call it, in dancing and in singing, the two worlds of the powwow circle. I gather energy from those positive forces of the now pan-Indian powwow circle. The arena is for dancing and singing, not a spiritual event, but a social one, full of friends and family, those who truly are on your wavelength, who understand what it is to dance for 30 minutes at a time, to drums as diverse as can be found anywhere.

I am in no way whining, as some might say. Rather, I am saying that no where in your Book of Life does it state that “When your husband falls and breaks a hip, you need to do this”, or “When your husband falls and breaks a rib, do this” or “When your husband falls and breaks the other hip, then you need to do this”. No where in your Book of Life does it tell you how to deal with the passing of your mother, yet somehow you manage to continue. It makes me realize that I need to help my children deal with my eventual passing. God willing and the creeks don’t rise, that will hopefullynot be until I am 100 years old.

I like to think that I am a strong person, strong of mind, strong willed, strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and certainly, physically (because I did, after all, make it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up without problems, and in 120 degree desert heat…and we are going back). I could do a better job, though.

I was fortunate to have been raised to be independent, strong, tough, yet kind and caring and empathic, by my Pawnee grandparents and “aunt” (great-grandmother in non-Pawnee kinship terms). I was raised by them, observed their behavior when it came to times of great stress, sorrow, joy, happiness, in gardening, at our war dances and in their church. They never showed stress. I believe it was their faith in their beliefs of a higher power, Atius Tirawahut, Almighty God, that got them through times of stress, including the passing of their oldest son, my mom’s brother, at the age of 36, and later, when Gran’s mom passed at 96, that very same year. How did my grandmother do it? How did she handle that? And how did my mom handle my Gran’s passing? I never asked.

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My mom was busy raising kids and working, a professional person, a nurse who worked long hours and tended to probably thousands of people in her long career, which included working at the Osteopathic hospital in our hometown, at Indian Health Service, at the first nursing home on the reserve in the 60’s, and later, at the Municipal hospital and the two subsequent nursing homes that were built. My grandma was a nurse’s aide, my aunt a registered nurse, and my grandma told me my “aunt” was a healer. Watching them be active in the community, caring for others, jumping in to help when it was needed and working hard to make sure that there was a roof over their heads, that the bills were paid and there was food on the table. My Upit and Gran would always pay their bills at the end of the week, and what was left, they would split it. I always thought that was a cool way to do your finances. Hard workers, all of them.

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And my Upit worked for the local trading post, making drums and beaters and tipis, using a design he created. He painted them, in an enclosed 8 foot by 10 foot room, with no windows, no ventilation. He was a smoker, and died of lung cancer, but I have no doubt that the paint fumes he inhaled were a likely contributor of the cancer that he had. He and Gran would go out and drive the countryside, stopping here and there to cut willows for the drum beaters and the tipi poles for the tipis they made. By the end of the week, they would have cut yards and yards of goat hide into string, circles for drums and also the tipis. It was a long process from start to finish, and required many stages, the final step being the painting of the dried drums and tipis by my Upit. He graduated from Bacone College and later attended the Chicago Art Institute. An educated person, the first of our family, followed by my mother with her nursing degree. At one point, my mother made drums and beaters for extra money.

Hard workers. There were many in the community who were hard workers and contributing members of our community. Hard workers. There are many American Indian people across the country who were hard workers and contributing members of their communities. I speak of those who were the first generation born on the reservations. Tough people who experienced first hand the racism, the educational system, the boarding schools, the industrial society, clocks, living in square houses, who first drove cars, spoke over a phone and watched television and movies. Those whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born on their homelands which did not have fences, and who hunted buffalo. Those who were led to believe in assimilation, and yet who managed to maintain their language and some semblance of culture, the vestiges of which we honor today.

I was mentally exhausted through all of this. I did not want to do anything. I did not want to go anywhere, but son dragged me out to singing practice. Daughter dragged me out to go grocery shopping. I was tired. No socializing here. With all that had happened, I did not want to do a damn thing. My sewing area was bad…bills had piled up. It was my way of saying “Enough! Enough.” And I am still not over it completely. Maybe soon. I have several projects I need to finish.

I heard my grandmother say one time, “Oh, I’m just lazy.” I heard my mother say one time, “Oh, I wanted to do this or that, but I’m just lazy.” Not lazy. Tired, maybe, but not lazy. And certainly, both deserved a good rest, a good sleep, after going through what they had gone through in their lives, experiencing changes on many diverse levels, changes that we will never know, but certainly changes that were just as profound as the ones that we experience, almost on a daily basis.

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When I started writing this, I was apologizing for my lack of blogging, for not passing my thoughts here about what was happening, or passing on some words of wisdom, which I really don’t claim to have…it’s just practical experience, I say. The randomosity of this, in trying to tie it altogether, is to say that we all go through this life, heading to the end, and we can either smile and go on, saying “I never did mind about the little things” – thank you, Anne Bancroft, in “Point of No Return” (a favorite movie of mine), saying “I shall pass this way but once” or however that goes – or we can wallow in our sorrows. To me, wallowing is a waste of effort. It’s a dishonor to my relatives gone on, to even want to sit and throw a tantrum, to have a breakdown. Because, as they say, whoever, “they” are, this too, shall pass. It’s only momentary and it’s all in our approach to these challenges, those rough spots in the road, that make our character. I occasionally tell myself to “Snap Out Of It!” I guess this was one of those times that writing helped me “snap out of it”.

And that is all I have to say for now. This was only my mother’s side. I haven’t told about my dad’s Cheyenne folks yet, and they are just as great, though I didn’t get to know them until late.

Namaste (I like this – it’s comparable to our greeting “Nawa” in Pawnee).

Peace and blessings.

“Bad Grandpa” “Bad Elders”

There was a movie out not too long ago, titled “Bad Grandpa”. I borrowed that title here for this blog.

When I think about elders, I think, not about the folks who’ve just turned 50 and are eligible for an AARP card, or are in their 60s, even their 70s, but I think about the folks that are in their 80s and 90s, should they be so fortunate to live that long. That would mean they were born in 1925 to 1935. I imagine there are not too many Pawnees in their 90s, and probably not too many in their 80s. I, myself, do not consider myself an elder. I am not an elder. I may be old, but I am not an elder.
However, that being said, there are elders, and then there are “elders”.
There are elders, who are optimistic and encouraging, and the influence that they yield is positive. They smile, and have a twinkle in their eye. They provide guidance to those individuals who need it, to those people who seek their counsel and wisdom. They are gentle souls who know what to say, how to say it, to be that guiding light in whatever aspect of life that a person needs help with. These individuals tend to be caring, helpful, always involved in the community, and in their generosity of time, effort and material things. You know, you just know, that they are the people to hang around, to learn from them and discover how their approach to life has helped them. And they are always willing to share their knowledge.
You wonder: Where did they learn that? What influenced their thinking? I think of Maureen RidingIn Mameah, when I think of gentle souls with knowledge and wisdom. I think of my mom, and my grandma and her friend, the late Lorena DeRoin, when I think of longevity and a positive frame of mind. Always thinking of others; always doing for others.
And there are some elders who just want to play bingo, go to the casino, have a garden, watch TV. They don’t bother anyone, they are quite self-sufficient and can keep themselves occupied in making quilts, doing beadwork or other things that help keep their cognitive, spatial and motor skills going. Some like to dance, and that is healthy and it is good.
Then there are other elders who tend to be a tad bit negative, pessimistic and bullying in their approach at getting their way. These elders are passive-aggressive, who will stop at nothing to do and say things that should really be beneath them as elders. They have no filters on what they say, kind of like “Sophia” in “The Golden Girls”, who pops out critical and negative criticism of her daughter, Dorothy. These elders meddle in things that have changed, and that old way of thinking is gone. It might have been okay for that generation, but these are new times, and new times require new and different ways of thinking. These elders need to let things go, go home, enjoy their retirement, their life and their grandkids, instead of always being critical and berating people. Be a positive influence, not a negative one. Be a joy to be around, not someone to be avoided.
I think of the influence that our ol’ ones, those esteemed elders that have gone on, and even though they had their problems, they didn’t put such a negative light on things around them. I think of the influence the “bad” elders can have on those younger than them, who see what these folks are doing, and they may want to be like them. Hopefully, the parents of these kids can see what is happening, and help their kids and grandkids not see what these elders are doing. Just because they say they are a “grandma” or just because they are a “grandpa” does not mean they are worthy of respect. To get respect, you have to be respectful. Exhibit behavior that people will want to  emulate.
I think of all the elders of the past, and am thankful for their influence. They were one generation from the Nebraska plains, and learned from their parents and grandparents what it was to be Pawnee. The Pawnee people were generous, kind and peaceful. They believed in the Pawnee ways, the ways replaced by the government when they gave all tribes the tribal “business” council model. What did we know of business on the Nebraska plains? This model was not meant to replace the traditional way of life but should have supplemented it. Our Pawnees have traditional ceremonies, vestiges of the past, that we can use to guide us as well. And there are elders who know this information. It should be shared.
Let’s hope future generations want to learn about what it is to be Pawnee. Let’s hope these future generations are just as helpful, generous, kind and peaceful, and that we maintain our true lives as Pawnees. Their are “good” grandpas and grandmas to learn from.

Our future as American Indians is threatened, by our own selves


Recently, a young tribal leader made a mistake. This up and coming leader was a bright star in our sky.

I posted this meme last year and it popped up in my history on Facebook. It’s appropriate for recent events in my tribe.

For what she did, our tribal constitution does not list that infraction as a point for removal from office. Yet, the People would have had her drawn and quartered, given the gossip that’s been put forth.

People are always so ready to pounce on another’s misfortune, most especially our so-called religious leaders and NAC people…the very ones who profess to help the people are the first to throw a stone. Those who claim to be Christian are always the first to cast stones, but they seem to forget what they’ve done. Historically, Christianity has done nothing good for America’s native people, but use the church to take advantage of them. Agree, or not, but it’s true.

That is not to say that non-Native organized religions have not helped Natives because there are times when the need for someone to be “healed” or “saved” likely does heal them or save them, in that religious sense. My grandparents were Christians, but unlike those today, were truly Christ-like in their attitudes and their approach to their fellow Pawnees. In English, I never heard them talk about someone, or be egregiously nasty about someone who did the wrong thing, or acted out. They were truly interested and forgiving.

How would this have been handled historically, under the aegis of the Nasharo Council?  If we still had a Nasharo Council, and not a business council, then this never would have happened. The US Government, in its so-called wisdom, gave uneducated tribes a “business council” with which to govern their people. Think about that. Straight off the reservation, our esteemed warriors and elders were thrown into something they didn’t know anything about. Business. And not only Pawnees, 500+ tribes.

And we are still struggling. Still trying to make it work. We had a bright, shining hope leading us. A young lady with the education, work experience and who knew how to make things happen, navigating the government’s maze. Not being influenced by a parent or others, it appears she relied on her experience and education. And then she made a mistake. Like others have made mistakes.

In a few years, it won’t matter, because some Republican congressmen have been banging their drum, and others have been listening, about getting rid of the “Indian problem”. You may not realize it, but they are watching and have been watching, for all the mistakes, the errors, the in-fighting that has been happening. The Kiowas, the Cheyennes and other tribes have not had good success sustaining themselves with PL-638 due to infighting. They are surviving, however. Yet, there are those tribes that have been successful, and it is because they are educated and business-minded, not narrow-minded like some folks that I know, hence, the reason for the title of this blog.

What will we have left? Vestiges of being Pawnee. Other tribes will be in the same situation.

But we have survived this long, on the histories and what little culture and tradition we have left. Perhaps that will be enough to sustain us into the future. We need to find those leaders who can lead us in our culture and traditions, in learning our language, before it is too late.

Irene Edwards received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College of Santa Fe in May, 2010. She put her application on hold for admission into a Master’s degree program at UNM in American Studies/Native American Studies after three relatives passed in less than one year. She was raised in a household that included her great-grandmother (who was 80 when Irene was born) and her grandparents. Her grandfather received a degree from Bacone College in 1926, the first of her family to receive a college degree. He also attended the Chicago Art Institute. Her mother received a degree in nursing from Kiowa Nursing School and was a professional nurse all her life.