Read more about Oglala Lakota here (top photo)
Here’s a story I wrote about Ellowyn’s life in 2007 and the road blocks to the rez… here
Overnight, America — its past, present, and future — had become unreal….
For me, the symptom of that experience is a constant traumatic alertness, a terrible, exhausting need to pay attention to everything and everybody and not succumb to the temptation of comforting interpretation. Trauma makes everything abnormal, but the upside is that living with and in a mind where nothing appears normal or stable is the best antidote to normalization.
There is no choice, in other words, other than owning a split mind that would probe and test America, all of its parts, all of its lies, all of us. “Reality” has finally earned its quotation marks. This is a consequence of an unimaginable catastrophe, to be sure, but a good writer should never let a good catastrophe go to waste. The necessary thing to do is to transform shock into a high alertness that prevents anything from being taken for granted — to confront fear and to love the way it makes everything appear strange.
Back in December I lost Oglala relative Ellowyn Locke, age 68. Lost in the way that I can’t go visit her in Porcupine on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota or call her on the phone. I can only visit her in dreams. I can reread her letters. Her artist brother Merle told me I can bring a red rose to her grave then I will feel better.
I am not doing well at all, grieving the most important friend I ever had.
Yes, I have memories, her teaching me, teasing me, photos and all the stories. I also have many gifts she made me. My ONE SMALL SACRIFICE book cover has the family beadwork Ellowyn sewed on the doll she gifted me.
Years ago, I bought a hand bag that had Hopi dancers on a bright turquoise fabric to give to Ellowyn. I made the mistake of taking the purse when we went to visit Sara Thunder Hawk. Of course Sara really admired the purse and I knew I should give it to her, but I already planned to give to Ellowyn. I felt so horrible I couldn’t give it to Sara. I had brought gifts for Sara but I knew that purse was what she wanted. I prayed and prayed Sara would forgive me! That was my learning experience. Imagine the most precious thing you own – like a ring. Could you give it up? If a Lakota elder likes it, you give it to them. That is what we do… Material objects are never as important as giving. I could never refuse a gift either, like when Ellowyn gave me moccasins, even though they were too big. It would hurt her deeply if I refused them. I learned to bring a load of gifts every time I went to see my relatives and my car would be full when I left to go back home.
In 2015, I couldn’t reach her by phone and panicked. Ellowyn had been taken to a rehab facility after breaking her ankle. By 2016, she was the longest living dialysis patient on their rez – over 10 long years. I have photos of her on dialysis in Wounded Knee from an earlier trip. My relative had the will to live but her body was getting weak. She said repeatedly she would accept a new kidney if the donor was living but that wasn’t likely to happen. That call never came.
On the phone in 2016, I told her I was not ready for her to die. That was selfish of me, I know. I felt bad when I said it. Like a big sister, she talked to me about all the fun we had… all the years and stories.. so she comforted me!
Here’s a story I wrote about her life in 2007… here
I call Ellowyn Strong Walking Woman, Winyan Washaka Mani. She is very strong and cares deeply for her family, her relatives and her tribe.
Ellowyn taught me the most important thing I know, which is Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates to we are all related, and relatives.
Pilamaye, thank you for letting me speak about family. I thank my relative Ellowyn for naming me and for making me her relative.
Yes, it is often a choice we make as to whether we are a victim, or a victor. In many situations, there is a way to look on the bright side, to take responsibility, to focus on the lesson, in our efforts to grow forward. But let’s not throw the whole victim out with the bath water. Because sometimes there are victims. Sometimes there are people who did not choose their suffering. Sometimes there are people in such horrifyingly difficult situations that positivity alone is not enough to save them. And sometimes people actually need to express their victimhood as part of their healing. They need to express it, and they need to be heard. And sometimes they need our help before they can become victors. When we tell them they have a choice in their suffering, sometimes we forget that WE have a choice too. We can sweep their pain into a swampland of artificial positivity, or we can help them up. We can ignore their challenges, or we can support their liberation. Yes, we have a choice, too. (~an excerpt from 'Love it Forward', image taken by Patricia Dolloff) SOURCE: JEFF BROWN.
Did you know that L.A.’s Native population is actually the second-largest, behind that of New York City?It’s also true that 80% of Native Americans do not live on the reserve…WHY? You can guess: poverty, no jobs, isolation, contamination by oil and mining companies, all the things you’d expect in a Third World environment.
December 23, Monday:
I woke up and saw the email. Call right away. Ellowyn left the message at 4 am. Something was wrong. A month ago we talked, when her niece Maria died after the coma. Alcohol stole another life in Pine Ridge.
I get my coffee and dial. It rings and rings. I hang up and try again.
Ellowyn answers.”We are not even done mourning Maria then this happens,” she sobs. “Now my nephew is dead.”
Her nephew was shot and killed by police on Saturday. Allen was at his mother-in-laws house in Rapid City. There were 5 people in the house when Allen was shot. His young son saw it. His young son Sincere saw it and is ruined, Ellowyn cries.
She hands the phone to Tony. We talk about Vietnam, the drugs, and his skill with setting landmines. He still has dreams, more like nightmares. He smells their VietCong food. Tony asks me to send him small plates so he can feed the spirits. The spirits are haunting his house. He made 32 ghosts. It would take a lot of money to have a ceremony to release 32 ghosts. He explains how to use tobacco to send the ghosts home.
I tell him I will do this. We have ghosts here too.
I hang up the phone. I watch the press conference in Rapid City online. Policeman claims Allen had a knife. He had a criminal record. Allen was 30 and the father of two small children. He worked as a meat cutter. He’d just attended a rally “Native Lives Matter” on Friday. I know Allen’s father Darryl after all the visits I made to Pine Ridge since the 1990s. Ellowyn said AIM would be at the protest Monday in front of the mayor’s office, asking for an inquiry into this slaughter of yet another Lakota warrior.I pray with tobacco and ask Eagle to carry my prayers to South Dakota.
September 09, 2012 7:00 pm • Associated Press
// MANDERSON | Descendants of a Native American man who died more than a century ago while touring with a western-themed show gathered together Sunday to honor his life and celebrate his remains coming home to a South Dakota reservation.
About 75 people gathered at a gymnasium on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to take part in a traditional Lakota funeral for Albert Afraid of Hawk, who died at the age of 20 at a Connecticut hospital in 1900. A ceremony at a nearby cemetery followed Sunday’s service.
My Lakota family Ellowyn Locke has a niece named Maria Afraid of Hawk who is a relative of Albert…. They attended this service….. Lara
Click here: http://www.causes.com/media/1117111
My dream is to build a strawbale for my sister Ellowyn in Porcupine, SD.