7 Generations

by Meesha Johnson

For the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on the things that have occurred in my life during the summer months. I have had the most extraordinary opportunity to visit Tucson, Arizona for a few days on a scholarship two weeks ago. Upon my return to the East coast, my heart and soul has been enlightened to such a degree that I am in the process of evaluating what is truly important to me and vital as I embark on a brand new chapter of life. What I have come to understand at this point of my journey is that success is a result of our relationship with our environment and that all things that make up our surroundings directly impact our lives.

While in Arizona I met the most amazing people and an even more amazing man who is a professor of law at Arizona state college. The two of us had a chance to sit apart and away from the other students who were afforded the Morris K. Udall scholarship opportunity. As I began to express the fears and concerns that I had with moving forward with my education and career, I felt as though I was speaking with one of my best friends. The insight he was able to impart into my life is worth more to me than the scholarship money for school. I not only learned how to effectively interact in group settings with individuals whose position on specific issues were different than my own, I learned the significance of various projects students are involved with that help in protecting our planet. Many of the students at the scholarship orientation are environmentalists who travel the world working on different initiatives to help with global warming. There were also students studying to be environmental lawyers and students who are studying to be lawyers that specialize in Indian law. There was also a period of time where I was able to learn about how some Native American tribes are working together to provide their Nations with the insight and tools to be self-sufficient sovereign nations. These Native American tribes not only exist in America but thrive despite the injustice experienced as a result of decisions made by the American government.

As a creative writer, when I returned home all I wanted to do is sit down and document everything I learned, my feelings, and I wanted to figure out a way to thank everyone responsible for this opportunity. The way I would do this is to write a poem about my experience. It is taking me a while to finish the three poems that I have begun writing because there is so much that I want to tell but I haven’t found the words to accurately describe this inexpressible feeling that I have. During this creative debate with myself, I learned of news that has both contributed to my experience in Arizona, and has helped me to find the words to explain my feelings and what I’ve learned. The news has also forced me to remember how important our own lives are to our community. The news about the loss within our community has a great impact because in a few days, the Shinnecock Nation will be engaged in our annual Labor Day weekend Pow Wow.

Grand Entry Ceremony- Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014
Grand Entry Ceremony- Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014

This is a time where we as a nation remember the triumphs and the challenges faced through the year. MS Elizabeth Haile; Chi Chi as she is fondly known has always as far as I can remember , performed the Lord’s Prayer in our Algonquin language every day during the four days of our Pow Wow celebration. Now as the Shinnecock Nation remembers the life and legacy of one of our elders, I wanted to write a piece that highlights the legacy of our elders and ancestors, our relationships with one another, our responsibility to the environment, and our reverence for the Creator. As a Native American woman, I take pride in teaching my daughter the importance of all things that contribute to our success throughout life. What I know to be truth is a truth that will stay with me for eternity and is the principle thing that Indian Americans teach our youth. This is what we call respect for the seven generations. Although my concept of the 7 generations differs from what many in the Indian community teach, the revelation I’ve gotten is what helps me be a better teacher for the generations to come.

Just as the human body is off kilter when something goes wrong with its smallest member such as the toe, our lives can be off kilter when we do not acknowledge the vital part all things play in our lives and the importance of the part these things play. It is our responsibility to protect and take care of our 7 generations. The challenge of our readers today is to think consciously about the 7 generations in your life and how you can work to protect all 7 generations. As you reflect on the importance of your 7 generations, think of what happens when one of these generations is forgotten about and how it will affect not just your journey, but the generations to come. My hope is that this time of reflection will empower us all to be catalysts for positive change. As always, I wish all reading and enjoying this piece a joyous and peaceful journey. Love is Love 2015 – Eternity

Grand Entry Ceremony Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014
Gorgeous Sunset- Grand Entry Ceremony – Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014

7 Generations

Indigenous people are people who meditate on the essential things ahead of us.  We have always held culture and history close to our hearts and these jewels rest in our thoughts.  To us the 7 Generations are our legacy and is why we have endured for centuries long.  Honor and reverence for the Creator, the Great Spirit is what keeps our culture alive and strong.  We the indigenous people esteem Mother earth highly, the matriarch and sustainer of life and society.  We are reminded of our ancestors that have gone on before us.  We remember their struggles and strength even as we fight the fight of faith that is tedious.  The elders of our tribe are our tradition bearers. As we protect and provide for our elders, we rely on their knowledge, wisdom and insight to guide us.  As a tribal unit, we are a people who are an extended family.  When I care for my brother, my brother can better care for me.  We as the Nation of indigenous people look forward into the future.  The life lessons that have been learned prepare us to be history teachers.  With joy and excitement in our eyes, we watch our children carry our traditions on with pride.  These beautiful Native traditions have been passed down from generation to generation.   Our aboriginal customs teach our youth the importance and respect for all creation.  There is excellent honor given to our children’s children.  We are always mindful of the honor and respect that must be given.  Our future generations, our children’s children are the product of our culture and history that is cherished.  We refuse to allow reverence for our elders, ancestors, Mother Earth, and the Creator to perish.  The story of the 7 generations is simply a story about the circle of life, which is continuous.  This is a story of love, honor, and respect for all things that contribute to all of our success.  As we live, we learn and grow strong through every struggle.  We learn that all decisions made affect us all as a people.  Our 7 Generations, our circle of life is never ending and as we grab tightly the hands of another, we all have our place in this never ending circle.  The circle of life is not complete without all seven generations.   For the number seven is the number of completion.

 

©Meesha Johnson 2015

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Magnificent Muddy Moccasins

By Meesha Johnson

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©Sunshine K. Gumbs 2015


With a face of joy, excitement and with a most striking smile, she glides on her brand new moccasins.  Her petite size 6 feet fit the brand new moccasins magnificently and absolutely perfect.  The moccasins are a dark tan color with beautiful fringe hanging down the sides and going all the way around the top of them.  The tops of the moccasins are also accented with beautiful beadwork that gives the moccasins a hint of elegance.  Inside of the moccasins is soft warm fur from a rabbit.  “Wow, they fit my foot just like a warm pair of gloves”.  As she stands to take a few steps, the moccasins make her feel as if she were walking on clouds.  “Thank you Meema.”  Meema is Sparrow Whitecloud’s grandmother.  Sparrow Whitecloud is a young Native princess just about to come upon her 13th birthday in a few days.       Her Meema has made her a brand new pair of moccasins for her birthday and because of how much Sparrow has grown in just a year.  “You know Sparrow, if you keep growing at this rate, you will have to finally learn how to make your own moccasins soon.”  Sparrow smirks and says, “I promise Meema to learn how to make my very own moccasins before it’s too late.  I am just glad to get rid of my old muddy moccasins.”  As Sparrow sets her old dilapidated moccasins off to the side, she starts to tinker around with her brand new moccasins.  During this time also, Sparrow’s Meema begins to put away all of her sewing materials.  She puts away the raw Hyde and her beading needles in a safe place.  Sewing is not just a craft for Meema; it is a passion of hers as well.  She takes much pride in her work mostly because of what has been passed down to her by her elders and family.  As Meema thinks about the comment that Sparrow has just made about her old moccasins, she sees this as an opportunity to pass down some of the wisdom from her ancestors to her granddaughter.

After putting away all of the sewing materials and cleaning up, Meema begins to put a huge pot on the stove in preparation to make a bit of venison stew.  Once the ingredients are put together in enticing arrangements of deliciousness, Sparrow walks into the kitchen being mesmerized by the smell.  “What are you cooking Meema?” asked Sparrow.  “I am putting together some stew for supper and it should be ready in a couple of hours.”  “Well I can’t wait to have some Meema because I am so hungry and my brand new moccasins are making me feel like a new person says Sparrow as she is dancing around gazing at the boiling pot on the stove.  As Meema looks up at Sparrow still dancing and smiling in her new moccasins, Meema asks, Excuse me young lady, but where are your moccasins?”  Coming to a screeching halt, she responds by saying, “I put them in a bag to put in the trash later on today.”  With a disappointed look on her face Meema says to Sparrow, “Absolutely not!  I want you to go and get your moccasins and meet me in the other room for a talk.”  Then as Sparrow walks away in search of her moccasins, she is confused and upset because clearly she has troubled her Meema.

After a few moments, both Sparrow and Meema sit down on the couch.  “I am so sorry Meema for what I said about my moccasins.”  Meema responds with a smile and says, “I don’t want you to be sorry, I want you to understand the importance of remembering and respecting the things that you are blessed with.  Now take your moccasins out of that bag and look at them closely and tell me what you see.”  Sparrow spends a couple of seconds looking at her moccasins and notices the worn out leather and the dirty fringe that once was a beautiful tan color.  There are also a couple of holes on the soles of the moccasins.  Sparrow then begins to tell her Meema about what she sees.  “Now I want you to close your eyes and think about how these moccasins have bought you to the place of needing new moccasins.  Ask yourself if your old moccasins served their purpose and if you didn’t have those old moccasins, what would you do?”  Sparrow begins to think about the many walks home from school during the spring season.  After a nice refreshing cleansing rain, she remembers the countless times she and her cousins would go puddle jumping.  She also remembered back during the winter season.  She thinks about the times it was so cold outside and there was snow on the ground, her moccasins always kept her feet nice and warm while making snowmen in the yard.  Sparrow remembered back to this one time during the summer when she went to the beach swimming with her friends.  One of her good friends left her moccasins too close to the shore and as the tide came in; her moccasins got washed into the water.  There was another time that Sparrow remembered in the autumn season where she and her mother went to pick potatoes and vegetables in the garden.  Sparrow and her mother spent most of the day harvesting the vegetables in preparation for the Harvest moon ball.  She and her mom had a great day together laughing and talking about how much fun they would have at the ball.    When they were done, her hands and moccasins were so full of dirt that when she put a little bit of water on her moccasins, the dirt soon turned into mud.  Sparrow then began to laugh at the memories that her muddy moccasins bought.  “I remember a lot of good things that happened in these moccasins Meema, but I also remember a lot of bad things that happened too.”  Meema nodded in agreement and said to Sparrow “Yes, but what else do you notice.”  “Nothing said Sparrow.  “Well I notice that even though you had both good and not so good memories in those moccasins, the times came and left, but your moccasins are still here.  They may not look as beautiful as the day you first got them, they are still here and the damage is proof of how they did what they were supposed to do.  “When I was a young girl, I remember how my mother, cousins, aunties and other members of the tribe would sit and teach the young people how to make their own moccasins and regalia for the Pow Wow.  We always had a great time laughing and remembering the seasons and times spent getting prepared to create new memories.  Back then before we could learn how to make our own moccasins, we had to tell the elders of the Tribe what we had learned that year.  After talking and laughing with us, the elders gave us a jewel.”  Wow said Sparrow; you mean to tell me the elders of the tribe gave you brand new jewelry just to learn how to make moccasins?  Meema let out a loud chuckle, “No silly, I mean the elders told us something that we as children kept with us forever.”  “Well what was that” asked Sparrow.  “The elders of the tribe told us that our experiences in life both good and bad are meant for us to respect the past and where we have been, to appreciate the present and where we are, and lastly to teach us how to pursue with diligence and passion your goals and the future.”  “Wow, that is amazing and beautiful Meema.  I love you and thank you for my jewel of wisdom.”  Sparrow then gets up to head toward her room.  After a bit of shuffling around in the back, Sparrow meets Meema in the kitchen stirring and tasting the stew.  “The stew is almost ready.  Maybe in another 45 minutes or so it will be done.”  Meema then starts to prepare her famous homemade biscuits.  Meema then puts the pieces of dough in the oven while the pot of stew simmers on the stove.  As Meema turns around, she sees Sparrow heading back to the other room.  Sparrow then begins to go through Meema’s sewing materials.  Meema then heads toward the room where Sparrow is rummaging through the sewing materials.  Meema then asks Sparrow what she is doing.  “I figured that since you gave me my jewel, it is only right that I begin to learn how to make my own moccasins Meema.  Sparrow turns to face her Meema and she holds up her old moccasins.  “Rather than make a new pair of moccasins, I want to clean and restore my old moccasins.  I am going to keep them forever and one day I will give someone else my jewel too.”

©Meesha Johnson 2015