It ain’t easy being Indian (October 2013)

By Ricey Wild
News From Indian Country

Last month I ended my column with the removal of my ancestors and many others of my tribal nation remains from a cemetery dating to the 17th century to a burial ground in a Catholic cemetery. What is so awful about that you ask? Well, I’m gonna tell you.
A village once thrived on Wisconsin Point inhabited by Indians. It was and still is a remarkably beautiful and peaceful place; it had everything. Plenty of manoomin (wild rice), all sorts of delicious and nutritious animals, vegetables and berries were in abundance. To me it sounds like what is now called an eco-friendly sustainable resort town. However, it was home for many generations of families who buried their loved ones in a sacred cemetery.
Then in 1908 the United States government began proceedings to condemn a portion of Wisconsin Point for ‘development’ (I despise that word) by U.S. Steel. The objective was to construct docks for railroads to make easier the cargoes of minerals from northeast Minnesota mines.
I know this sounds like a grade school history essay thus far but believe me that is not my intent. To further understand why I think this is so important is because the entire story of Wisconsin Point is personal for me; I have been grabbed by the spirits of my ancestors to bring awareness, light and humanity to what happened not so long ago; the desecration of Indian graves and the consequences of that action.
During the past 13 years of my residence here in Rezberry I have questioned why am I here? Number one answer is my beloved Gramma Rose and I thought that was it cuz I still don’t fit…in. So rewind to the 1980’s when I lived in Duluth, Minn. for a bit. One night after bar closing I went with some friends to WI Point to continue the party. All I really remember about that night is the soft lap of the waves on the shore of the bayside. I knew nothing of the point’s history at the time so I wasn’t aware of the tragic events that had taken place there.
ast forward to the year 2001 and the trip my Gramma and I made to WI Point after my having been told stories of what transpired there. Okay then, long story short, when I drove past the original cemetery I waved out the window and said, “I’ll be back”. Then Rose said, “Did you see those people? They waved back at you”. I looked at her puzzled, and she went on to say, “they were wearing brown (clothing)”. I’ve never forgotten that, I never will.
See now, a lot of the women in my family are psychic, or sensitive which is how I describe my own intuitive feelings. Therefore I have no doubt whatsoever that Gramma had seen what she saw; nor have I denied my own experiences since then as anything but real. Just this past June while I was learning how to be a nature-knower the class visited WI Point on a field trip. When I stepped out of the van I immediately felt extreme pressure in my ears, I can only describe like when I go down a hill or up in an airplane. I put tobacco down and it the sensation eased a bit but I was left with a question; what do ‘they’ want from me?
A few days later while not even thinking of that it came to me that I am supposed to write about it! To write about what happened there! I was like, whoa! I also felt that my purpose was not to do a clinical chronological narrative but bring compassionate humanity to what happened at the time, for me to tell their personal stories as best I can.
Then, as if I had any lingering doubt in my mind this happened; SMH. My friend Christine Carlson, researcher extraordinaire, loaned me a huge binder of her painstaking research about WI Point. I know, right? I had been wondering how to even begin to write their story and everything I needed was given me. Wow.
If you are wondering how I’m doing; and I like to pretend yooz do, my life is still mostly cartoonish and full of absurdities. A refresher: I re-named my kitten ‘Purrince’ and Mitzi’s kitten THE RZA. FYI two of my other cats have musical superstar names too. Pink is the mother of the kits and Tupac thinks he’s still a kitten, albeit an enormous one. My friend Melissa asked me once why did I name my cat ‘Tupac’? I shrugged and answered that I just like shouting Tupac!
In other news my vans wiring is shorting out, I lost most of my check at a casino and The Mitz is nursing the kittens. So yeah, it ain’t never easy being Indian. ;D