July 2016 Archives

Church the Spirit Cat

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When my boys were small I developed the habit of coming home, slinging the door open, and as I slammed it shut I would yell, "Who's home!"  Joel started copying me, he too would come home, slam the door and yell "Who's home"!


 A couple of weeks after Joel journeyed to the Spirit World (July, 1st, 2001) I was lying on the couch thinking about him when I heard the door slam shut.  The day was warm so out of a habit I had since childhood growing up in a log cabin, I had left the door open.  When I heard the door slam shut, I immediately hoped it was Joel so I quickly looked up and there was this, huge, huge, black cat standing on my screen door, peeking his head in where the screen was torn.  As I watched him, he squeezed through the tear in the screen, jumped down, came right over to me and started purring and rubbing himself against me.  I knew immediately that Joel sent him. 


He stayed with us from that day on.  Because he was so big, black, and scary, and I was convinced Joel sent him to keep me company, I called him my Spirit Cat.  My sons named him Church, after the cat in Pet Sematary. He would take turns sleeping with the boys and me. 


Marshall and his girls lived in my basement at the time.  Marshall's girls were small and Church so big that they would be able to lie on him, like lying on a blanket.  They would tug on his ears and roughhouse him and he would just lie there.  When he wanted to leave, he would walk over to the basement window, sit under it, gauge its height for a second, and jump.  Amazingly, he would land on the window ledge and very quickly he would be gone.


When he first came he would calmly sit in the front yard while two or three neighborhood dogs barked and growled at him.  He ignored them.  He could whip any dog, actually, he could whip two or three dogs at once and they knew it, so they made sure to keep their distance.  Just like a dog, he would go on walks with my sons and granddaughters all the time, keeping the dogs at bay.


One fall day he left and never came back.  We had heard that he was dead in the ditch alongside HW 57.  The following winter went by without him returning.  The next summer, on the anniversary of Joel's death, we had a memorial dinner for Joel.  Friends and relatives came over to eat with us.  As we were eating this really scraggly looking cat appeared, walked right by us, and went into the house.  I was sure it was my Spirit cat, but it had been almost a year since he'd left so I wasn't sure.  I walked in after the cat, took a close look at him and it WAS HIM!  He made himself right at home - again - picking up right where he left off when he disappeared several months earlier.  


Church stayed with us well into old age until he finally lost a fight to some dogs.  He made it home, but he died in the front yard, right where he ruled over the neighborhood for so many years.  I was heartbroken, my sons were heartbroken, and we viewed him as the last link to Joel.  I directed my sons to bury Church along the shelterbelt behind the house and to offer tobacco to help send his spirit on its journey.  My sons cried all the while when digging his grave and burying him, he truly was part of our family.  Shortly after my Spirit Cat left us while lying in bed, I felt Church jump on the bed with me, but when I looked, he wasn't there.  After it happened several times I finally stopped looking.  I knew his Spirit was visiting me when I felt him jump on my bed.

Get over it

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I love the UND's new logo. As soon as tee shirts with the new logo are available I will go and buy several, for myself and for my grandchildren.  They will be perfect to wear should I attend an athletic event at UND, something I never contemplated doing as long as it used the old nickname. 


Five years ago I wrote an op-ed titled, "Is the Fighting Sioux moniker cursed?"  I actually received hate email because of it. That moniker is gone; the curse is gone also.  At least here on the reservation it is. We no longer have competing petitions, no one is running to the tribal council to drum up support for one side or the other, our youth are no longer pressured to state their position, and the free Fighting Sioux apparel that was passed out prior to vote that was held here on the nickname has all but disappeared. The curse...err...controversy is no longer mentioned and we are all better off for of it.


Unfortunately, the curse appears to be still widespread off the reservations. Every time progress is made on the selection of a new logo a small group of whiny, self-righteous, privileged, probably racist supporters of the now discredited nickname conjure up a slew of letters and send them to the Herald. And, they comment, along with posting what is now just a generic picture of a good looking Indian man, since it no longer represents UND, or any tribe for that matter, on the Herald's Facebook page. It's one of thousands on the internet. Like zombies, they all repeat predictable childish phrases like, "Sioux forever, or no more donations," or outlandish phrases like, "We are fighting for our survival." Really?  And, could the curse be partly responsible for the spanking gubernatorial candidate Wayne Stenehjem received in the primary election after a picture of him wearing a Fighting Sioux jersey was circulated on Facebook?


Many of those hard-core FS supporters feel they can speak for us Dakota (that's Sioux to Caucasians). They claim how hurt we Dakota are to see the logo gone. This is blatantly false, we Dakota are rejoicing at its demise. We even went as far as holding a celebration at which we invited and honored former UND President Keely for his role is ushering in the new nickname. And, they have this sick, twisted, logic that taking away the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo is somehow an act of oppression against us, when it's the exact opposite. It feels liberating to travel around ND now that that nickname is gone. Finally, they refer to a ceremony held in 1969 that supposedly gave UND the rights to use the nickname. Again, they are speaking from ignorance. If they were familiar with Dakota culture and/or ever attended an actual pipe ceremony they would know that did not happen in 1969.


I am also amused by all the spin off merchandise that is appearing under the guise of supporting the old nickname. In my opinion, those people selling that merchandise are simply taking advantage of the emotions of those few hard core fans by selling them merchandise closely related to the old, discredited nickname. Reminds me of the argument of how the NRA takes advantage of tragedies to sell more guns.

Some people are becoming irate by the Herald's constants coverage of the on-going non-controversy. Not me. Each story is a reminder of a hard fought victory over a deeply embedded racist tradition. I will never get tired of hearing or reading about it. Sort of like my Lakota relatives who every year celebrate their victory over Custer at Greasy Grass 150 years ago.


In closing, what this really comes down to is this; a few hard core, racist, FS nickname fans just can't stand to let the ndn "win one". In their views we committed an unspeakable sin by not only standing up to their racism, but we did the unthinkable; we won, and they can't let that go, any more then can they let their racism go. I make this observation from my 63 years of experiencing racism across the state of ND. It has become my belief that there is no cure for racism, a racist person will more than likely die a racist. Hence, the hardcore nickname supporters', lifelong, ungodly obsession with the nickname.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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