Friday, March 30, 2012

squatch thoughts, fith

Rain falls onto our bodies, men, them drops fall from our hair; from my long arm, from your stubbed hands, men, they tumble. Them drops fall to the homeground, men, they feed it. That’s water, men.

pulse rivers men

Them drops, men, that rain, run from our bodies, men, run over the ground, men; run to creek, run to river, run to lake, men. We are water, men; our blood is water; our blood runs. Our bodies are a pulsing river, men; our bodies are a muddy lake. Murky water, men, that’s us. Scratch chin, men, rub stubbed hands. Wonder, men. Think rain!

Take it in, men. Water yourselves. Water, yourselves. Bend to creek, bend to river. Kneel there, men. 

See me! Scoop creek to mouth, feed the river, men. See me! Scoop river to mouth, men, feed the lake. See me rise, men, fed with rain. See me step long, men; see me turn to water deep in the trees, men; see my step melt into the homeground. See me escape your measure.

Water beats into the homeground, through my steps, men, and beats through the veins of trees, rising up, men, blood rising to the sun in bursts of green leaf clouds.

Hear me, men, them treeleaves are green water. Drink them in. See them turn to rain; them leaves breathe water into the sky, men; their water rises to the sun and their spent bodies tumble to the homeground, men, to feed it.

Turn to rain, men, make for the sun; tumble down men, to the homeground, spent leaves. Feed it!

dead men; homeground, fed

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

squatch thoughts, fore

step long, live tall
Little one, come! Little one take hold. My hand to you, my words to you. Touch that hand, hold them words. Listen!

Men seek what little ones hold. Men can’t touch what they dream to see. Men reach with plaster and inches. Men see trees but scratch their chin with fingers; men see leaves, not green clouds. Men beat the ground flat, little one; the homeground beaten down! Men don't listen. Men stuff their ears with plaster. 

Listen, little one, listen!

Touch dreams, little one, don’t measure them. Walk with them. Leave inches to men, leave beaten ground. Come! 

Step long, little one, step far.

Leave men, little one, live tall.

(for my friend, jlw)

Friday, March 23, 2012

why squatch

what is coming thru
A dream is just a doorway, right?

They open something up and we can walk through them.

Most of the time we don’t walk too far through them, though; we tend to stop when we find what we think is the key to the dream, and the key is usually, perhaps always, about ourselves: I see a swamp in my dream and wonder why until I connect it to the murky water of my own muddy life. Then I get it; I see what the dream means and come back out the doorway.

But when a dream is a doorway, something might come through from the other side as well; we tend to forget that given our egocentric ways. But this is what’s recently been happening to me. Something has come through that door and is writing strange words in back of my eyelids and speaking to me in a differing, but still recognizable, version of zhaaganaashiimong, the language I live in—English.

You need to know that I have been obsessed with Bugwayjinini since I was a kid. Bugwayjinini, for those of you who don’t know his Ojibwe name, is more familiar to you, perhaps, as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. I call him squatch for short—though it’s funny to call someone so tall something “for short.” And now I know why I have been so interested in him for so long. 

wun, too?
About a month ago he stepped through that dream doorway and wrote a strange word behind my eyelids. All I saw of him was a giant hairy hand, index finger extended and as he moved it up and down, he traced out the letters “W-U-N:” One, I realized when I sounded it out. The  letters glowed there in the space in back of my eyelids as if he had written them with a lit sparkler. They glowed brightly there for a moment, then fizzled out. Once it was dark, he spoke.

A few nights later he visited again. This time he traced the letters “T-O-O”—two I realized—and, again, when the word fizzled out, he spoke.

Last night, he came again. This time he wrote “T-H-U-R-D.” One, two, third made sense I realized for someone for whom English is a foreign language.

I don't know why Bugwayjinini speaks this way to me. I know he  comes to people when they're lost in the murk and mud of the deep woods (or their lives). Holler that!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

squatch thoughts, thurd

holler men
Crow call through tree crown, men. Crow holler, Men come! Crow holler again, Listen! Tip my chin to sky, men; turn one ear to the ground, men, turn one ear to the trees. Listen I do.

Trees I see, men; crow I hear. Tree crowns are green clouds, men, if you see them. Trees rise toward light, men, trees rise up.

Men seek monsters; you seek me. Yet, men are monsters, men. Seek yourself. Kill six million, men; kill twenty million, men; kill thirty-eight, men. You count them, men, you measure them, but still men, more men pile up. Monsters. Shake my head, men.

Men, crow holler. Men!

You men are all dead, I holler, all dead. Listen men! Moving toward it always, men. Moving under tree crowns, beneath crow call, men, walking toward it, the long dark, men, toward your own death, men. Away from the light, men. Away from it.

crow that
Listen! Trees stay put, men, trees seek light. Listen to them trees, men. Listen: Stay put, men, rise to the light! Holler that!

Leave tree crown to crow, men; leave bog to me. Leave them big foot prints on the ground, men. Leave, men, leave. Listen!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


You may have missed the March 13, 2012 edition of the New York Times “Science Times” section in which the proposed law legalizing the hunting of wolves in the state of Wisconsin was discussed. The article by James Gorman appeared under the headline “Before Wolves May Be Hunted, Science, Faith and Politics Clash.”

The article is an admirable discussion of a proposed bill (and it subsequently passed if I heard correctly) in the Wisconsin legislature allowing for a “wolf harvesting” season (bureaucratese courtesy of the authors of the bill) to run from mid-October every year until the end of February. I find the idea of a wolf hunt repulsive: the only reason to hunt a wolf is for a trophy—and if the amendment allowing for the hunting of wolf by dog pack passed one has to wonder what kind of shape the trophy would be in following “harvest.” I find it both morally reprehensible and befuddlingly absurd.

What interests me about the article is not the question of the hunt itself, but rather the fact that it gives extensive space to Anishinaabe testimony opposing the hunt. While this aspect is admirable, the other part of the article that interests me is the phrasing of the headline. Where the part featuring Anishinaabe testimony heartens me, the headline disheartens me, as it is rooted in notions of that science and faith are two different worlds and that when brought into dialogue (through politics) they must “clash.” The article simultaneously legitimizes Anishinaabe knowledge and delegitimizes it as “faith,” not science. Native knowledge is not real (the way science is), it is a matter of belief, of—dare we say it—superstition. This American cultural trope of Native superstition is the all-too-obvious foundation of the headline.

Three Anishinaabe men are given voice in the article, while only one majority culture scientist is. The majority culture scientist, a professor of Environmental Studies at UW-Madison, discusses the matter of the wolf hunt in, not surprisingly, strictly materialistic terms, focusing on demography and the ability of the environment to support wolves. He feels that the woodland of northern Wisconsin can carry a capacity of 1000 wolves. The implication is that an annual “harvest” will keep the wolf population below 1000 and so save the wolves from catastrophic die-offs if their numbers grow too high. Harvest is seen as responsible wildlife management and, perhaps, it can be seen that way.

The Anishinaabe men consulted in the article feel otherwise. All three men are professionals, one is a retired professor, another is the executive administrator of GLIFWC, and the last is a scientist, a conservation biologist who also works for GLIFWC. All three men discuss the importance of the wolf in Anishinaabe sacred history. James Zorn, GLIFWC’s executive administrator points out in written testimony presented to the legislators “that Ma’iingan (wolf) is a brother to Original man” in the Anishinaabe creation story. The author of the headline chooses to read “creation story” as religion, as faith (and thus by implication, I think, as “superstition”).

It’s a good story, but it is not demonstrably true (the way, say, an environment’s projected carrying capacity for wolf populations might be). It’s interesting, as we Midwesterners say when we try to dodge the bullet of something so (seemingly) strange that we risk misunderstanding it (the way sushi is “interesting” to a hotdish grandma, or eating rough fish is “interesting” to the catch-and-release fly fisherperson).

Yet this “interestingness” of the spiritual faith in Native creation stories, ignores the knowledge—demonstrable historically, perhaps even statistically, in the best tradition of material scientism—that Zorn’s statement goes on to provide. He writes, “The health and survival of the Anishinaabe people is tied to that of Ma’iingan.”

This simple statement contains a wealth of historical reflection, tying Anishinaabe experience to the experience of the wolf in the United States. Hunted, trapped, chased from environments in which they provided very responsible wildlife management, wolves were driven to the edge of extinction by American culture and policy at both federal and state levels. Only when they were on the edge of extinction did the feds intervene and create policies to help wolf populations recover and grow.

Likewise, the same generations of Americans that encouraged wolf decimation, also encouraged the “killing of the Indian to save the man” (as Richard Pratt, architect of the Indian boarding school program, put it). Anishinaabe people saw their protected lands whittled away in these generations, saw programs initiated to “help” them assimilate to (superior, non-superstitious) American ways, and watched as their language was driven nearly to extinction here in the United States. In recent generations though Anishinaabe populations have grown and the revitalization of cultural practices, including a revitalization of language education, is spreading.

Wolf recovery and Anishinaabe cultural revitalization are coincidental from the rational perspective of Western science, but from the perspective of Anishinaabe science—of knowledge gained from ongoing experiential observation and of thorough knowledge of sacred histories of creation stories and the secular histories of the recent past—the recovery and revitalization of the wolf and the Anishinaabe in their woodland homelands are implicated in one another. Implication is a demonstrable connection: for instance, our lives as humans are implicated in the lives of the trees. We inhale what the trees exhale. It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of fact.

The Anishinaabe resistance to the wolf hunt is not a matter of faith, but a matter of fact. What happens to the wolf happens to the Anishinaabe, history demonstrates as much. Debate about the wisdom of hunting might imply a clash, but let’s not be so foolish as to believe it’s a clash between “faith” and “science.” Let’s not let newspapers like the Times fall prey to cultural tropes about the religious superstitions of Native people that I see this headline engaging. Let’s think about ways to discuss knowledge. Let’s call Anishinaabe insight knowledge, not faith.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

squatch thoughts, too

fear tree dreams
Them trees are men, men. Listen! Men, not dreams, men.

Trees dream men. And you men people them twisted thickets with fear, the shadow of big feet, the murk and muck of men. Men dream monsters; treemares, men—holler that! Fear tree dreams, men. That’s you men, fear men. Holler fear!

And yet you men pour through them trees, men, water pounding over rock, you the water, and them bootfeet pound the home ground flat, men. Flat with fear, men, pound it flat. Look men, no foot, no print. Holler me, men, my home is not flat! Holler that!

Dream shadow feet among the trees, men. Find tracks in tree crowns, men, find them in roots. Measure track dreams in inches, men, measure them in plaster; men make yourselves in inches and plaster; men lose yourselves in inches and plaster. Lose yourself, men; lose fear dreams, lose inches, lose plaster. Lose yourself men. Find me.

track dreams, lose men

Saturday, March 10, 2012


check out this event next wednesday night. a long one will be reading a short one, or two, perhaps even a third. you've heard about it on the internet, now see it in real life.

Birchbark Books Reading Series

Wednesday, March 14th @ 7pm
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
1917 Logan Avenue South, Minneapolis
The Birchbark Books Reading Series has a new home at  St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The March edition features poets and writers Denise SweetCarter Meland, and Ann Iverson. Hosted by Michael Kiesow Moore. This ongoing series features new, emerging, and established writers presenting their work each month from September through May. View the series flyer for more information about the event and the readers.

Monday, March 5, 2012

squatch thoughts, wun

You and them woods, men. You and them trees. Shake my head, men. Trees you see. Trees! you holler. Home I holler. Listen! Me in them woods, men. Me, your dream.

bogfoot dreamstep

Leave them trees alone, men. Trees, twisted thickets of spruce, men. You know twisted thickets, your head, men, them woods, yet the bog at the center, the muck there, the murk there, you only dream. Skinny legs sunk in swamp, them trees. Them trees, I scratch my chin with them. Dream is what we are, the bog there, me, the murk at the center of what you holler to see, men.

Dreamstep I do, big foot ramble through spruce, through dreams, through muck. Me in the deep spruce there, see me men, yet them blobsquatch photograph you make, them show swamp shadow and murk dream. Proof! holler that men. Holler that, yet men doubt your dream, men.

Dream men! Dream! Them bog foot swampstep show me. Yet, men, twisted steps that get sunk in muck are evidence of absence, men, absence points deeper men, under the muck, men, dream deeper.