Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kiliii Yu

Kiliii Yu is a man with an extraordinary mission. He offers a unique spiritual connection to nature by leading kayak expeditions to the Puget Sound, Vancouver Island, and Baja California. He also leads a week-long workshop where participants build a skin-on-frame kayak of their own.

Kiliii and I had the good fortune to meet one another this afternoon.

He arrived in a vehicle with multiple kayaks strapped to the top. His workmanship immediately caught the attention of strangers and passersby. As we sat down to lunch, a woman approached and asked about his kayaks. She was a waitress at the restaurant, but she was not even assigned to our table. No doubt, she spoke from her own interest or curiosity.

Kiliii also wore a brain-tanned hoodie of his own creation, with the characteristic smell of smoke. Certainly, his many talents became obvious within moments of meeting.

During our visit, I learned that Kiliii has a unique cultural heritage. His parents are Chinese and his maternal grandmother was Nanai, a small indigenous group that straddles the Russian-Chinese border. The Nanai are a Tungusic speaking people of about 12,000 individuals living near Khabarovsk, Russia. Traditionally, they herded reindeer and fished wild salmon. They were also a shamanistic culture with great respect for the bear spirit.

As he described his ancestry, I found my head swimming with the amazing synchronicity of our meeting. For many years, I have desired to see a resurgence of indigenous identity around the world. I once dreamed of his country, along with many other native places, and now we see one another face to face. I hope someday he returns to the people of his grandmother to reclaim his indigenous roots.


As an interesting side note, our meeting came about because of an email we both received just yesterday from our mutual friend Jon Young. The email simply contained Kiliii's name, a phone number, and a one-line message, "Kiliii is in Spokane today." There was no introduction or explanation whatsoever. Nothing.

When I first called Kiliii, I was addressing a total stranger. I said, "I would normally feel awkward calling someone out of the blue like this, but I trust Jon. There must be a reason he wants us to meet." Kiliii laughed and agreed.

Now that we've met, I feel the synchronicity beginning to move.


By the way, Kiliii has a couple fascinating websites:

Seawolf Kayak
Kiliii Dreaming

Sunday, September 26, 2010


My friend Peter Gilmore invited me to Sandpoint to address the local Hospice volunteers regarding the subject of grief and healing from a Native American perspective. Of course, I only represent one of thousands of possible viewpoints, but I hoped that our conversation would create greater awareness regarding a diversity of cultural experiences.

In my view, grief and healing is an organic process that requires time, patience, and community support. Unfortunately, our modern reality often forces us to disconnect from the natural rhythms of healing. When our loved ones die, we surrender their bodies to strangers who dress and prepare them for burial. We then gather for an hour-long funeral service, after which strangers take the body away and bury it. The whole process is brief, mechanical, and largely scripted. It hardly allows time to truly honor the memory of the deceased. Even worse, our jobs may allow two or three "bereavement days" and then expect us to return as to work as normal. We fail to recognize the basic healing process of grief and we wonder why we encounter so much dysfunction in society.

In contrast, most Native communities recognize the importance of personal and community grieving. Our traditions have given us extended rituals for communal mourning and support. We engage the process in a deeply personal way, and as a result, I believe we have the opportunity for a healthier relationship with death.

In that sense, Hospice helps to fill the gaps left by the dominant culture. I support their work and encourage them to develop their own rituals for honoring the mysteries of life and death.

After my presentation, Peter introduced me to the Healing Gardens. What a beautiful place!


Those of you who follow this blog know that I'm fascinated with local plants and indigenous plant knowledge. I'm always interested in learning plant uses and herbal remedies. Despite my usual interest, I tend to avoid mushrooms. This is probably due to the many difficult subtleties of mushroom identification. I've heard too many stories of illness and even death from people who ingest misidentified mushrooms. To be honest, they scare me, so I avoid them.

Having said that, my friend and I stumbled upon this beautiful mushroom during a hike through the woods. Does anyone know its identity? Also, does anyone know of any stories or uses of mushrooms from a northwestern Indian perspective? This is one area I know nothing about.


This Saturday I drove to Sandpoint, Idaho for a brief public speaking engagement. I arrived about a half hour early and happened upon a farmer's market and Octoberfest celebration organized around a small park and community fountain. I have fond childhood memories of the Pike Place Market in Seattle, so I always love to find an open air market, with all its colors, textures, and sounds. Some people sold flowers, fresh produce, or even homespun wool. Farmer's markets are a beautiful example of community spirit.

This woman sold flowers at the market.

Jars of homemade jelly always give me a sense of warmth.

This homespun wool was also dyed with natural colors.

Wreaths made of flowers.

Homegrown carrots (with a few purple carrots).

Tie-dyed shirts....

After visiting the market, I had a few minutes to wander around the main street of Sandpoint. It was a perfect, sunny day for sight seeing.


As I mentioned a while ago, McKenna celebrated her 13th birthday. She went camping with friends, but she wanted to share lunch with the family at Panda Express. Of course, we can eat whatever we want, but she loves the plain white sticky rice with nothing added. She's also like that at home; she likes plain white bread, plain white noodles, and plain white potatoes. She's a little out of the ordinary that way, but this is just one of her many endearing qualities.

As a father, I'm not sure how I feel about this birthday. It sounds cliche to say this, but time really does get away from us. I just don't feel old enough to have two teenagers at home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Every time the kids audition for a play at Christian Youth Theater, they have to submit a current photograph. This means that our pre-audition routine generally includes a mini-photo shoot with each of my children. We only have to submit one photograph, but we always end up with quite a collection of poses. Of course, this gives us an opportunity to keep a frequent record of their growing years. When they're adults, they'll appreciate taking these pictures.

Dakota's audition pictures...


McKenna's audition pictures...


Whitney's audition pictures...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seussical Audition: Dakota

Dakota auditioned for Seussical the Musical at Spokane's Christian Youth Thearter. He sang "Come With Me" from the Boys from Syracuse. He got a call-back today and read for various parts. We won't know until tomorrow if the kids got parts.

Seussical Audition: McKenna

McKenna auditioned for Seussical the Musical at Spokane's Christian Youth Thearter. She sang "You'll be in my Heart" from Tarzan.

Seussical Audition: Whitney

Whitney auditioned for Seussical the Musical at Spokane's Christian Youth Thearter. She sang "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Audition: National Anthem

Dakota auditioned to sing the national anthem at Gonzaga University athletic events. We should know in about a week whether or not he was accepted. Best of luck, Dakota!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Whitney got a free ticket to Silverwood for completing a special reading program at school. I don't remember the specifics, but she had to read so many minutes per day and keep a log that was signed by either parent. Dakota and McKenna had the opportunity to earn a ticket as well, but they did not complete the program. Summer came to an end, and Whitney was the only one of our children to go. Dakota was a little jealous of his sister, but there's something to be said for natural consequences.

We gave Whitney the opportunity to choose one parent to go with her, and she chose me. In this picture, we're riding to the top of the Timber Terror roller coaster. We have not yet made the first plunge, but Whitney looks on with trepidation and clutches my arm.

We had lunch in the main restaurant and got this picture of ourselves in a giant mirror.

Whitney modeled the consequence of standing up on the Tremors roller coaster.

The Aftershock is a new "high intensity" attraction that drops straight down and then twists all around. I begged Whitney to ride with me, but she refused. It was actually kind of cute how she said it. "I'm not ready for that ride," she said, "Next year, I promise."

Whitney riding the Log Flume.

Whitney holding the sun.

Waiting in line.

What a fun day. It was a memorable experience for both of us.


We're about to have two teenagers in our house.

In a few days, McKenna will celebrate her 13th birthday. She decided to go camping with her friends instead of having a traditional birthday party. And Rhonda, the brave soul that she is, supervised the camping trip.


On Friday afternoon, I started teaching a one-credit class in Native American film at Whitworth University. When I graduated from Whitworth in 2006, I never imagined that I would ever teach there, but this opportunity found me. During this course, we will watch seven Native American films from a variety of cinematic perspectives, and will use Critical Race Theory as a conceptual framework for examining issues of race, culture, and ethnicity.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Wellpinit Powwow was good this year; lots of dancers, good friends, good songs. We spent Saturday together as a family, mostly at the wardance hall. Unfortunately, I got to feeling sick by the end of the evening and had trouble breathing. I'm not sure if I got seasonal allergies or just a common cold, but I didn't get to dance as much as I would have liked. We also missed the family dinner today. I'm feeling kind of sad about that.

We got to visit with my cousin Chad.

Friday, September 03, 2010

California Huckleberries

On my last day in California, a group of us picked California huckleberries (vaccinium ovatum). I was actually surprised to find huckleberries so far south, though they are smaller than the ones we find in Washington and Idaho.


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