Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Dakota's fundraiser was an amazing success.

He called upon his many talented friends and organized more than twenty performances that included vocals, piano, dance, guitar, and even a saxophone solo. I expected to see a good show, but I was unprepared for how good it actually turned out to be. The audience felt the same way. Afterwards, people were almost giddy with excitement as they heaped praises on Dakota and all the performers.

These are just a few of the pictures from the concert.

Big Heart

Dakota organized an amazing fundraiser for his eagle project, but I'll talk more about that soon.

In preparation for the event, I wrote a short prayer in the Spokane language. I had everything planned and translated to English, but I was unsure how to express one certain concept. I wanted to say, "I am proud of my son," so I called two Spokane tribal elders and ultimately received an important lesson in tradition.

The first elder called back and said, "The Spokane Dictionary says that 'pride' is: hi q̓exʷ, but I don't like that word. It sounds like 'arrogance.' In the old way, we should never be proud because we're not better than anyone else."

She suggested two alternatives:

nkʷtnels łuʔ isqʷseʔ x̣ʷl hec čnšitms łuʔ sqelixʷ.
(My son has a big heart because he helps the people).

kʷtunt łuʔ ispuʔus x̣ʷl isqʷseʔ.
(My heart is big for my son).

In the end, my elder said that we should not be 'arrogant' for our children, but rather have hearts that are big with thankfulness and love. This is a critical difference in both culture and language.

A little while later, my other elder called. She also avoided making any reference to pride, but instead suggested another big-hearted idea. She said:

hiqs npúteʔem łuʔ isqʷseʔ.
(I will honor my son).

When I prayed during Dakota's fundraiser, I used both phrases.


The concept of big-heartedness runs deep in my memory. It reminds me, for example, of the time I saw my yaya Messie after my parents divorced. I had been away from the reservation for a couple years, and when she saw me again, she dropped everything, wrapped her arms around me, and wept. She showed me a fullness and generosity of spirit that I have only rarely felt since. Her feelings for me harbored no conditions, judgments, or reservations - just pure soul-filled love. Sometimes I imagine that heaven must feel like that.

Ironically, my elders almost never used the word 'love,' but instead they lived it.

When I look at my daughters, I also feel the same big-hearted love. I hope they will always carry my spirit the way I carry the spirit of my elders.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Vickie Downey of the Tesuque Pueblo spoke to a small gathering of friends near Vision Mountain and addressed the topic of ancestral healing. She said that many of our young people today carry the burdens of previous generations without knowing the history of trauma and grief. We have a responsibility to care for ourselves and then reach out to support the healing of others.

My friend Francesca helped organize the meeting.

Eva Boyd also spoke.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Newsies Review

CYT Spokane is scheduled to perform a selection of songs from the Broadway musical Newsies as part of its yearly "show in a week." The entire production happens in less than seven days, from beginning to end, including the audition, the rehearsals, and the final performance. And what a hectic and exhilerating experience it has been to learn all the songs in just a few days! It is going to be awesome.

My family will all perform. Dakota will sing a solo in "Seize the Day." Rhonda will sing a solo in "Raise the Banner," and I will sing a solo in "King of New York."

The CYT Newsies Review will play at the Bing Crosby Theater this Sunday at 4:00 pm. Tickets are free, so bring your family down to see the show.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The Spokesman-Review published a short article regarding the dedication of the new Chief Spokane Garry monument. The reporter photographed several tribal members as we sang an honor song at the drum.

Oddly, the caption named several of the spectators, but not the drummers. This omission reminds me of a journalistic practice from a different age - a different century when white photographers rarely felt the need to mention the names of Native American subjects. Instead, they wrote captions like, "Indian man riding a horse," or "Indian woman with baby." Many of our ancestors may have posed for one portrait or another, but they were unnamed and forgotten as individuals - valued only for their image.

And just for the record, I don't really care about receiving any personal 'credit,' but I am concerned about reporting practices that make people invisible.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chief Garry

Spokane tribal members and city residents witnessed an historic dedication of a new monument at Chief Garry Park. The original monument had been defaced, but after a three year effort, members of the community collaborated to create a suitable replacement.

Susan Garry and Theresa Williams are descendants of Garry who offered inspirational tributes to the life of our former chief.

Susan Garry reminded us that we are entering into the bicentennial of Chief Garry's birth.

Spokane mayor Mary Verner spoke during the dedication ceremony.

Spokane Tribal Chairman Greg Abrahamson also spoke.

My uncle Pat Moses prayed during the dedication.

Participants view the monument after the dedication.

Priest Lake

Last week my family stayed at a friend's cabin near Priest Lake, Idaho. More than anything, my kids enjoyed the beach at Lion Head Campground - they took in the sun, built sand castles, and practiced swimming.

Whitney the mermaid...

Dakota at the beach...

The mountains stood like monoliths above the forest.

Paul and I hiked to a waterfall with Mariah and London.

Mariah and London admired the falls.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Dakota and Whitney enjoyed a day of canoeing with their grandfather on the Little Spokane River.

The Little Spokane River passes by the Saint George's campus.

These are beautiful summer days.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cultural Restoration

My son Dakota is planning a cultural restoration project on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The project will help him earn his eagle scout, but more important, it will restore the structure surrounding my uncle's lodge.

In many ways, the lodge belongs to the whole community. People from many reservations seek spiritual guidance in this place. They also visit from many countries - Canada, Japan, Germany, Ecuador, New Zealand, Israel, and others. My uncle's lodge is open to the world.

However, the old structure is collapsing under the effects of age and weather. Dakota will replace the wall surrounding the fire pit and rebuild the storage shed for the firewood.

Dakota has organized a benefit concert to raise all the money for lumber and other needed materials. He has enlisted a talented group of young people to perform a variety of musical numbers that will include singing, piano, and dance.  

The concert is scheduled at the Lincoln Center on Monday, August 29 from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Tickets are $5 if purchased in advance or $8 at the door.

If you would like to purchase tickets or make a donation, please call Dakota at (509) 868-5510.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Salish Lesson

Last week, I took a small day trip to the mountains above Twin Lakes, Washington. My relatives and I enjoyed the clear, sunny day, surrounded by mountains, bright yellow flowers, and hucklberries.

I spent most of the day with my great aunt, who is fluent in the Spokane Language. At the beginning of the day, she gave me a spontaneous and somewhat humorous language lesson.

The lesson happened like this: 

We were packing the car with everything we needed for our trip to the mountains, and I had gathered quite an armload of assorted items - a cooler filled with food, a lawn chair, long pants for hiking in the underbrush, and bug spray. My aunt helped me organize the items in the car, and at the very end, when my hands were nearly empty, I stood there holding a single shoe. "How did this get here?" I asked, "I don't even remember packing it." Clearly, the shoe did not belong with the other items.

She looked at me for a moment and just laughed. Without any prompting, she reacted in Salish, "hayo... ha kʷec nqʷawqni?" Then I laughed with her.

It was interesting that I had never actually learned this particular word, but I knew enough about Salish grammar to understand her meaning. Later in the day, I asked about it and confirmed my theory.

So here's the grammar:

The root word of this phrase is qʷaw, meaning crazy.
The prefix is n-, which suggests that something is inside.
The suffix is -qn, which has reference to the head.
All together, we get the word nqʷawqn - literally "crazy in the head."

Her full statement was, "hayo... ha kʷec nqʷawqni?" or in other words, "My goodness.... are you crazy in the head?"

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Relics

The Unity Church of Spokane recently hosted a display of sacred Buddhist objects, including relics from the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama. Afterwards, they sponsored an interfaith service from various religious traditions where I had the opportunity to represent Native American traditions.

Offerings of candles and water for the Dalai Lama.

A young monk held a small stupa containing the relics of Siddhartha Gautama.

When Buddhist holy people are cremated, they often find small pearl-like objects within the ashes. These relics are preserved by the faithful.

A monk blessed an eagle feather with the remains of the Buddha.


The Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication was a powerful and transformative experience, but sometimes my head hurt from all the deep thinking. Fortunately, SIIC also gave us an opportunity to laugh and have fun. On Thursday, we all gathered for a night of dancing and karaoke. I would have been happy to just socialize and observe, but Pamm and I got pulled into singing a positively awful rendition of Love Shack by the B52s. By the way, this picture shows me straining to hit the high notes of the song (I had no idea the notes were so high until I actually had to sing them in public).Thank goodness no one seemed to mind the musical quality of our performance. Everyone danced like it was the best song they ever heard.

Reed College

Reed College in Portland, Oregon is a beautiful place. The campus embodies the tradition of its one hundred year history, but it also exemplifies progressive ideals. The school's culture supports an attitude of mindfulness toward others and the environment.  

All throughout campus, I found visual reminders to pause and appreciate the beauty of life. In one instance, I found a literal sign telling drivers to "slow down, observe, & enjoy."

A beautiful lake sits at the heart of the campus, surrounded by wildlife, trees, and hiking trails.  

Several bridges cross the river and connect both sides of campus. I'm told that this particular bridge was constructed without disturbing the trees. That's why the bridge does not cross in a straight line. Even the architecture is a subtle reminder to slow down.

The Portland area supports a strong bicycle culture.

A storm drain reminds people that our actions affect others. What we dump in one location can harm living things someplace else.

"To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing."

Thursday, August 04, 2011


On Wednesday afternoon, Pamm and I had the chance to escape all the deep thoughts of intercultural communication and enjoy a few moments of calm on the beach of Seaside, Oregon.

Lewis and Clark stand in a heroic pose while the American flag flutters atop a high priced condominium. I suppose they achieved their goal after all, not just to explore the west, but to open the continent for American domination. Sacajawea hardly even made an appearance on this monument, despite the fact that the company dog was also featured bigger-than-life at the feet of the two explorers.

We would have loved to spend more time on the beach, but we had to rush back to Portland to meet with the phantom manager of the Chinese restaurant (mentioned in the previous post).


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