Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Father's Belt

Lila Dielke holding my father's belt.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Close-up of the belt.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

About a year ago, a woman approached me at the Wellpinit Powwow and stated she knew my father (he passed away in January of 1994), and she wished to return to me an item once belonging to him. I agreed to meet with her and gave her my telephone number, but she never called. Apparently, she lost the number, but after a few weeks, I forgot about it altogether.

Then out of the blue, we met again at Edward and Christine’s Summer Solstice celebration. She reminded me of our prior meeting and said she would still like to return item she mentioned before. I gave her my number again, and this time she called.

Her name is Lila Dielke and she is a mental health counselor on the lower South Hill. We met this afternoon at her office in the old Marycliff Hall (formerly a Catholic school for girls). She explained how she met my father years ago when he gave a guest presentation in Pauline Flett’s Salish Language class at Eastern Washington University. He spoke to them about Native American spirituality and the sweat lodge. As it turns out, he was looking for a place to build a lodge, and Lila offered her property. Their meeting opened a door for a deep spiritual connection to form.

My father accepted her offer and built a lodge on her property. To my understanding, they sweat together on several occasions. Even after he died, she continued to sweat in his lodge.

At some point, my father gave her husband a beaded belt in thanks for allowing him to build the sweat on their property. That belt had a special place in their home, sometimes sitting on their mantle, or a buffalo robe, or other prominent locations. They cherished that belt, but after 12 years, Lila’s spiritual intuition prompted her give the belt to me. Her husband agreed and she then delivered it to my hands (after losing my number and finding my again).

As I held the belt for the first time, I noticed several clues suggesting my father not only owned this item, but probably created it too. The design looked remarkably similar to other things I saw him make; the beadwork had his characteristic idiosyncrasies and flaws; the materials were similar to other items I knew him to use. She told me she also believed he created it and that she knew for certain he once used it as part of his dance regalia.

After she gave the belt to me, we visited for another three hours and talked about my father’s teaching and other spiritual knowledge. As I retold the stories of his life, and my experience with receiving his ceremony, I found myself speaking with wisdom beyond my own knowing. Somehow everything made sense in that moment, even though much of my experience came from pain. I felt as though my father returned through Lila and offered this special gift to me.

Now that I have my father’s belt, I find myself pondering what to do with it. The spirits will decide. Until then, I simply offer my gratitude to Lila for heeding the voice of the Higher Power, and I give her thanks for reaching out to me.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Merchant-Chandler Family Reunion

The Merchant-Chandler Family Reunion.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My family attended the Merchant/Chandler Family reunion, though I'm sad to say I did not get much of a visit. I became deathly ill during our first night and spent the next 12 hours vomiting. I hardly remember anything else, except that Rhonda's brother Mike gave me the most wonderful blessing, and I felt somewhat better after that (I posed for this picture after some extreme coaxing and a few trips to the bathroom). I wish I could have spent more time with Rhonda's family.

For me, the best part was the drive down to Utah with Rhonda's mom and grandmother. Everything else is a blur.

Powder Mountain

The view from Powder Mountain at sunset.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Rhonda's family reunion convened on the summit of Powder Mountain, just east of Ogden, Utah. At more than 9,000 feet in elevation, the view was spectacular! We stayed in a condominium nestled among the aspen trees and overlooking the ski slopes, now green with summer vegetation. What a beautiful place to gather as a family!

Rhonda on the Mountain

Rhonda on Powder Mountain.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I love this picture of Rhonda posing on the mountain. Just the two of us took a hike to the summit before I got sick. What an amazing view!

Nathan Overbay

One thing I like about blogging, is I get to talk about all the interesting people I meet in life.

I flew home from the family reunion on Sunday evening and sat next to Nathan Overbay on the plane. Nathan hails from Chehalis, Washington and plays football for Eastern Washington University. He's a sophomore studying criminal justice. We struck up a conversation and I found out he was returning from Toronto where he watched his uncle play baseball. He never mentioned his uncle's name, but he said he plays first base for the Toronto Blue Jays. Based on an internet search later on, I assume his uncle is Lyle Overbay. It's really kind of cool. He flies all over the country to see his uncle play.

Anyway, we were kind of a mismatched pair on the plane (I know absolutely nothing about football or baseball), but we had a very pleasant conversation. I wish Nathan the best of luck this coming season.

Berniece Chandler

Berniece Chandler's grave.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

During our visit to Idaho Falls, we also paid our respects at the grave of Rhonda's beloved aunt Berniece Chandler.

I met Berniece only twice. Back in 1990 she made a brief stop to Spokane and insisted on seeing Rhonda's new boyfriend (me). We spoke all of about 10 minutes, but in that short time, I came to know something of her characteristic enthusiasm and love for life. The following year, we visited her at home in Idaho Falls on my way to the Missionary Training Center. Cancer decimated her body and left only a shell of her former self; and yet, she lost none of her passion or love.

She died a few months later.

Even though I met Berniece only twice, I feel like I know her through my wife's memory. Berniece quite nearly achieved sainthood in the eyes of the loving family members she left behind. I have no doubt she looks down from heaven and smiles; and like a saint, she may even intercede for those still struggling through this earthly experience.

Grandma Great

Grandma Great at the Idaho Falls Temple.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Rhonda's grandmother stayed with us the last few weeks, and made the drive to Utah with my family. She turned 90 years old this year and is now a great great grandmother. We call her Grandma Great with all the love and affection in the world.

During our trip, she told us about marrying the love of her life in the Idaho Falls Temple. She spoke fondly of her life with Grandpa Merchant and their tender last moments together when he passed away last year. As she ponders the temple, she speaks with conviction of the day when she will hold her husband again in the eternities. They were married in life for over 50 years. Her continuing love and devotion inspire me.

I love Grandma Great, and I know she loves me. Every once in a while she wonders why I stopped going to church and looks at me with something like bewliderment or confusion, but in those moments, the love and respect never fade away. It seems entirely irrelevant to discuss differences in theology or life experiences, rather I just throw my arms around her and tell her how much I love her. That's all that really matters anyway.

Grandma Great is an example to me and everyone in the family. I hope I can live as long and as happy as her.

The LDS Temple

LDS Temple at Idaho Falls.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My family stopped in Idaho Falls on our way to Utah and toured the grounds of the LDS Temple.

It's interesting for me to visit the temple again after all these years. I witnessed the LDS Endowment Ceremony in Idaho Falls back in 1991 during a brief stop over en route to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. I remember it as a pleasant experience, mostly. The Celestial Room has an elegant chandelier in the very center, and the walls are covered in murals depicting graceful looking people dressed in white and milling about in a paradise garden. I think the mural is meant to portray the blessed state of those who remain faithful to the LDS Gospel. The images appealed to my longing for eternal happiness, though I seem to remember not one of them looked like me. All the people in heaven were white.

I remember feeling somewhat lonely as I pondered the meaning of those murals, though I don't think I could admit it back then.

My religious convictions changed dramatically since I last visited the Idaho Falls Temple. Even so, I find Mormon temples still hold a sense of archtypal purpose and beauty. Everything about their construction and appearance is meant to reinforce LDS theology; their symmetry, orderliness, and grandeur. Even the way the temples are bathed in floodlights after nightfall speaks of the Mormon ideal of the Gospel light shining in the darkness of a wicked world. Whether you believe in Mormonism or not, LDS temples stand like icons of grace, beauty, and a longing for heavenly things.

I'm still inspired by the imagery and symbolism of the temple, but I'm also saddened by the way it tends to separate families of mixed faiths. For some, the temple is a bridge linking families into everlasting unions; but when even one family member chooses a different religion or life path, the temple becomes an insurmountable wall of division.

Lima, Montana

McKenna on the swing.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Dakota on the slide.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

As we drove to Powder Mountain for Rhonda's family reunion, we stopped in Lima, Montana to sleep over in a motel. The town of Lima is little more than a truck stop on the interstate, with a single exit, a motel, a gas station, and a handful of other buildings. Mountains loom over the treeless, wind swept hills; patches of snow still cling to the highest peaks. Lima seems like a lonely place to me.

The motel has a certain hick-town charm with its yellow and brown spotted carpet, false wood paneling, and portraits of white-tail deer on the walls; like the ones you see on the cover of Guns & Ammo. I could very well imagine folks stopping here on their way to a hunting trip somewhere in the Montana wilderness.

Across the parking lot from our room, the kids played on a vintage looking swing and old metal slide. It reminded me of something they used to build in the late 60s or early 70s.

Funny thing is, the decor of this place may have seemed tacky a few years ago, but may well become something of a prized antique in another generation or two.

Passing Through Missoula

Dakota in Missoula
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Missoula is the kind of place we usually pass through on our way to Salt Lake City or Phoenix. We don't often pause long enough to become acquainted, but this time we stopped for lunch on our way to Rhonda's family reunion. We found a park on the east side of town, with the great Missoula "M" visible on the hillside. I have to say, we loved the beautiful neighborhoods and tree covered streets. We'll have to stop more often and get to know the town better.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spotlight Article

Click on article to enlarge.

The GSE Spotlight is an official publication of Graduate Studies in Education at Whitworth College and recently featured a story about my curriculum work at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. The article highlights the need for Native American curriculum in the Spokane area, as well as my personal connection to the museum.

GSE Spotlight Features Graduates

The GSE Spotlight also featured a photograph of the 2006 graduates from the School of Education at Whitworth College. It's very nice to get some positive exposure in the community.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

Edward, Dakota, and Chief.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My children and I observed the Summer Solstice in a brief ceremony on Edward's property. We made prayers on the mountain and enjoyed lunch with a small group of friends. Later, my children had the chance to ride Edward's horse, Chief Red Cloud.

Spokane Falls

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I took a long walk into the early morning hours with my good friend Carl. We got to renew our friendship after several years apart. It was good to reconnect. At one point, we crossed the Monroe Street Bridge in downtown Spokane and spent some time watching the falls. For one brief season out of every year, the water flows freely, without constraint. This particular photograph captured some small measure of that spirit and my feelings from this time together as friends.

Monroe Street Bridge

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I took these photographs of the Monroe Street Bridge during my walk with Carl. I believe I exposed the frame for about 8 seconds, using a tripod, of course.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Message

Logan and Brannon, again.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I went back and re-read yesterday's post about Logan and Brannon Heftel, and I have to admit, I'm startled by my own reaction to their music. Without question, I recognize their obvious talent, but I'm not a music critic. My reaction had an added spiritual dimension; something intangible and beyond critique.

I've been asking myself what it means. Why did I have these feelings when I heard them sing?

I compare it to a time in my life shortly after my father's death when I struggled with grief and the onset of depression. I was driving to work one day and I started crying because I wondered if people truly live again, or if they cease to exist when they die. In that exact moment, the car hit a bump and the radio turned on by itself in the middle of a familiar song line: "...raise your hands to heaven and pray, [and] we'll be back together someday..." (Hands to Heaven, by Breathe). When I heard those words, I felt electricity from the crown of my head, pulsing through my entire body. It felt like a message from God.

In a similar manner, these songs speak some higher truth as I seek new direction in life. They remind me that God has a plan for me, and if I surrender to his will, the Spirit will lead me. Maybe no one else heard the same message; or maybe no one was even meant to hear that message. I only know the message was meant for me and I thank God I was able to see it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Logan and Brannon Heftel

Logan and Brannon Heftel.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My wife and I went to the Hula Hut this afternoon to hear Logan and Brannon Heftel perform. I have to speak something of my experience, but to do so, you must allow me one small digression.

Several years ago I took a lifestyle assessment as part of a counseling or psychology class at Whitworth College purporting to measure the sum of all lifestyle choices, genetic pre-dispositions, health, and other risk factors to determine my expected lifespan. In other words, it basically told me how long I can expect to live; or more bluntly, the test told me I will die by age 74.

If we trust the validity of this particular instrument, my life is almost half over. I’m optimistic enough to believe the best years are yet to come, but I’m also realistic enough to know I’ve seen my share of disappointment, loss, misfortune, and tragedy. I like to believe my life has been enriched because of my mistakes and that my compassion deepened because of sadness.

Even so, Logan’s music startles me, and I wonder how a teenager can speak of things I only came to know through significant personal loss. This afternoon I heard him sing and his voice was deep, melodic, and soulful; entirely betraying his youth and mundane surroundings. Maybe no one else hears the message, or maybe no one else sees the depth, or maybe I read my own experience into the lyrics, but this much I know: somehow the Great Mystery spoke to my soul once again through this insightful young man. It literally brings tears to my eyes.

Or maybe music reveals a deeper truth; the artist is only a medium or a channel for hidden knowledge. We call it Spirit, the Breath of God.

I believe God sends us messengers to deliver important information in the precise moment we need it. Sometimes those messengers come in the form of a something we witness in nature, the line of a song on the radio, a casual comment from an acquaintance. In my life, at this particular time, Logan is my messenger. Like the North Star he sings about, these messages point the way home. Many thanks to Logan and Brannon for heeding the call.

I have a very high opinion of Logan and Brannon, but they regard themselves with more humility. During their performance this afternoon, Brannon said, "Thanks for listening to us today and not complaining too loudly." They'll get no complaints from me.

Check out Logan's website here: Logan Heftel.

Swearing In Ceremony

Our newest tribal council member.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

A colleague from the Community Colleges of Spokane accompanied me to Wellpinit for the Project Self-Sufficiency class. We arrived early, so I gave her a brief tour of the reservation. When we stopped at the Administration Building, I noticed an assembly of distinguished elders and tribal members were arriving for some event. As it turns out, Matt Wynne, our newest tribal council member, was being sworn in that very hour. My uncle also attended and gave a brief blessing. I told him later I had not planned on attending, and yet I arrived at the perfect moment. He said, "Sometimes the Creator works that way. He brings you where you need to go at just the right time."

Father's Day

My children lay flowers on my father's grave.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Walking to the cemetery.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Speaking of Father's Day, my children and I went to a small family dinner in Wellpinit yesterday afternoon. We arrived a little early and had time to walk from the Little Green House to the Catholic Cemtery, just down the road. Some where along the way, my children spontaneously gathered flowers for my father's grave. They remembered me telling them about his burial in that place. We visit the cemetery so rarely, but somehow it seems appropriate to visit his final resting place on a day dedicated to fathers. I don't think I really let it in when we were there, but now, as I look back at these pictures, I feel choked up seeing my children honoring the memory of the grandfather they never knew.

By the Fountain

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I love this picture of Whitney by the fountain in Riverfront Park, Spokane.

More Recital Pictures

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Well, actually I can't show you any pictures from the recital itself because that would deprive the dance studio of its right to squeeze a few extra dollars out of us parents (they nearly threw me out when they saw I had a camera). Nevermind. My daughters take wonderful pictures no matter where they are. I took these photographs in the park after the recital.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dance Recital

The girls after their recital.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My daughters performed this morning in a dance recital at the Spokane Opera House. They were the cutest little ballerinas I ever saw! They performed in a scene about the change of seasons and the winter snow. It really was quite beautiful.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dakota's Flower

Dakota's Flower.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Our son Dakota is such a funny little guy. The other day, he went to Fred Meyer and bought flowers for our yard with his own money. He came home and planted this flower right in the middle of the lawn. The poor things wilted more than once, but the abundant rain we had recently revived it every time. All the other flowers died, but this one survived and reminds me of our son every time I walk in and out of our house.


Wellpinit after a rainstorm.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

A fierce rainfall swept through Wellpinit early Friday afternoon; thundering over the trees, hilltops, and fields. Just as quickly as it arrived, the winds passed away and opened a window of sunshine through the clouds.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Master's Presentation

My Great Grandfather, Jim Elijah

Well, I finally have a great weight off my shoulders; I finished the bulk of my master's project, as well as the oral presentation. I felt so much stress, but I think the presentation went very well. I spoke about my project at the MAC and the Plateau Salish curriculum I wrote. In addition to everything I learned, I also found old photographs of my ancestors.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Native American Graduation

On June 8, I attended the Native American graduation at Northern Quest Casino. My friend Deb Abrahamson has sponsored these events for the last 10 years to honor Native graduates whether they complete a GED, graduate from high school, or receive their doctorate. It's a wonderful opportunity to encourage academic excellence in the Native American community in the Spokane area.

I felt such an honor to stand side by side with graduates from our community, including some of my former students, like Luke Wynecoop. Isaiah Wynne wrote a very touching poem about acceptance and several people sang some very moving songs.

Thanks Deb for this inspiring event!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bitterroots in Spokane

Bitterroots in bloom.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Earlier this year I went root digging, but did not find very many bitterroots. I thought I wouldn’t obtain any, but just the other day I went for a walk with my family, and discovered a patch of bitterroot in the most unlikely place: they were growing in large quantities right in the middle of the city! When my sister and I returned to dig, I thought these fields have not seen Indian People digging here in a hundred years or more.

I once heard a traditional story from the Montana Salish about the bitterroot; something about how the people were starving and a grandmother went out into the fields crying. Everywhere her tears fell became a root, still bitter from her tears. Her tears became bitterroots and saved the people from starvation.

My father used to say the bitterroot is a powerful medicine. He said it has a bitter taste to remind us of beautiful things in life. You have to take the bitter with the sweet, but you sure appreciate the sweet things more once you've tasted the bitter.

Gary R. Flett, Junior

The Spokesman Review published an obituary this morning for Gary R. Flett, Jr. who perished some time last week under the hand of violence. I don’t want to say anything more about the circumstances surrounding his death for fear of spreading misinformation and rumors, but I will leave you with this thought; that I knew him and I mourn his passing. I also mourn the violence on our reservation leading to his death.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wellpinit Graduation

Susan walked Isaiah to the stage.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Mitch walking toward the stage.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Yesterday, I attended the Wellpinit High School Graduation after receiving two separate invitations from Isaiah Wynne and Mitch Henry. I was honored to be invited, and I am very proud of them. Their success is a triumph for all of us.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Synchronicity and Found-Objects

A saw these flowers during my walk today.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I created an unusual assignment for my Colville students combining elements of Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity, personal intention, and found-objects. Each student had to identify personal goals, talents, and challenges. Then they spend seven days looking for unusual objects with a message to support their goals. Jung described synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence. I asked my students to be open to the possibility that they will find objects related to their spiritual intention, whateer that might be.

I went for a walk this afternoon during my break at work and found a number of interesting objects: a hawk feather, a small beehive, walnut shells, a spark plug, and other random items.

Next Tuesday, we will return to class and create an art project using our found-objects. I will report on our projects when we finish them.

Summer Retreat Planned

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Summit Quest is planning its first retreat for men and women at Pyramid Lake, Idaho on July 28 - 30, 2006. Rhonda and I will facilitate. More information to come.


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