Part II: Thoughts

by
Ronald Snake Edmo

PART II:    THOUGHTS

Many people ask this question of themselves.

 

What does it mean to be Indian in today's world?

 

Let me tell you of my experiences.

 Many years ago, I was born on an isolated Reservation in Nevada.
Then I was adopted by a White family like so many of my generation.

 Before we left the Reservation,

 I was awe struck by the young soldiers leaving for war.

 That was the beginning of my
life

 as a Nabidengehdaigwahni or Warrior.

 

 When I arrived on the West Coast with my new family

 I discovered that the White world was not like mine. 

This world and it's people

were as different from mine as night and day is.

To survive in it, I had to study these strange people. 

What did I learn about them?

 

 I learned that there were some of them that were good

and others that were bad.

Some of these people also had strange thoughts

 about their relationship with people of
other races.

 

These people with the strange thoughts believed

 that they were superior to the ones that
they called inferior.

 

This I could not understand.

Did not the Creator place all of us on this Earth?


Then I learned about their religions.

These people worshipped a God that they called Jesus Christ.
This Jesus Christ was a pure man, they taught. The Son of God.

I studied their Bible to learn about
this man who is also God.

 

This is what I learned.

This man who is also God is a Jew, a Hebrew man.
Then I listened to the teachings of the men who taught

that the Hebrew or Jew was evil

and should
be exterminated from the face of the Earth.

 

Did this also mean that the Whiteman's God,

Jesus Christ,

 was evil and had to be destroyed along with his people?

 

Of course not, they answered.

Jesus Christ is no longer a Jew,

he is a Whiteman

who came on this earth to only save those who are pure.
And the only ones who are pure are those with white skin.

Dark skin is the sign of the Devil. 

The next thing that I studied was the Whiteman's history.

Here is what they taught.

 

The Whiteman
came to our land, the New World, because their God gave it to them.

There were no people living here, only animals.

Some of these animals

 were called Indians

because the Whiteman, Columbus,
thought that he was in a place called India

but it turned out that he was only lost.

This lost man then
returned to his home to tell his Queen about this new land.

This new land was paved with gold and was like heaven on earth.

 

The result of all of this was

 a flood of Whitemen who came here.

 

These Whitemen

destroyed everything that they touched and stole all of the gold.

Then they came into what they now call the United States.

They wanted the land instead of gold.

 The first white people

who came here were like young children

 who did not know how to feed themselves nor dress themselves.
The kind animals,

 the Indian,

 taught them how to take care of themselves.

 

The first Whitemen

survived

and invited all of the Indians to a big dinner that they called Thanksgiving. Then the Whiteman

started to kill the Indian

because the land was not big enough for both to live on.

This went on until this century. 

At the end of the last century,

the Whiteman decided that the easiest way to take care of the Indian
was to place them on a Reservation.

These Reservations would be a place for the Indian to live
(and, hopefully, die) without bothering the Whiteman.

 

The Indian did not die

so the new solution was
to turn them into Whitemen by sending their children off to school.

That didn't work either.

 

Then

the next new solution was to relocate the Indian

 to the cities and terminate the Reservations.

 

That did not work either because

 the Indian kept sneaking back to the Reservation.

 

 Finally, the Whiteman decided to breed the Indian out of existence

by forcing a blood quantum on them.

This blood
quantum

is used now to determine who the Indian is. 

The next thing that I studied was Indian history.

I learned that the Whiteman

 was lying to me

with his religion and education.

More importantly, I learned that he was lying to himself.

 

What could I,

a young Indian boy, do about this?

 

 I remembered those young Indian soldiers going off to war.

I had learned that the warriors protected the people in the old days.

These young men

were the modern day warriors.

 That day I began my life as a Nabidengehdaigwahni or Warrior. 

What is a Nabidengehdaigwahni or Warrior?

 He is one who protects his people during war and peace.

He goes off to war when called.

He protects his people in peacetime

by preserving their culture and way of life.

His life belongs to the people, not him.

 

I am a Ma'hai mi'agwape,

 a
Veteran of war,

but more importantly

 I am a Nabidengehdaigwahni or Warrior.

 

This is what it means
to be Indian in today's world for me.

You, the Indian and non-Indian reader of my words,

can only
find the answer to that question for yourselves. 

These are my thoughts for all my People

Shoshoni is a beautiful language to write poetry in.

This language allows

the writer to use one or two words to tell the whole story.

The following poem,

 Andebichi-woho'nee Bide'pe,

illustrates how one word bide'pe -- translated as

 

"a few people arriving in a location then multiplying in population"

 

tells the story of the coming of Lewis and
Clark to our country and the aftermath.

ANDEBICHI-WOHO'NEE BIDE'PE

 

(STRANGER ARRIVES)

Beai nemme Newenee', daa "Newe-sogope" ba'a yengade.
Long ago, our people roamed in the "Indian Country".
Subai', sewe-dabai'yi, wahatehwe daiboonehwe bibiide'nnu.
Then one day, two Whitemen arrived.
Egi, egi dabai'yi, ne gahnigahyunde, ne do'aika ----
Now, today, I emerge from my house ----
Ne saitungu hagatungunanna udei buika!
I see them everywhere!

One morning several years ago,

I was standing on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.
At one time,

 before the smog became a permanent feature of the region,

 a person standing there could see into four states.

Now all I could see was a sprawling city
reaching for the far horizon ---- this is my dream.

U NABUSHI'AIPE DAA'GA

 

(DREAMS)

 

Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

ne "East" buika--huku dowope'. 
U buin'nu! Ne bozho'na buika!

Biagwi'yaa' daigwa'hka Gai, mai' u nabushi'aipe daa'ga.

 

        Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

        ne "South" buika--huku dowope'.

        U buin'nu! Ne gwahade' buika!

        Biagwi'yaa' daigwa'hka-- Gai, mai' u nabushi'aipe daa'ga.

 

Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

ne "West" buika--huku dowope'.

U buin'nu! Ne deheya' buika!

Biagwi'yaa'a daigwa'hka-- Gai, mai' u nabushi'aipe daa'ga.

 

          Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

        ne "North" buika----huku dowope'.

        U buin'nu! Ne badeheya' buika!

        Biagwi'yaa' daigwa'hka--Gai, mai' u nabushi'aipe daa'ga.

 

Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

Sogobia',ne nambai dukangu, ne u buika.

U buin'nu hu'kumbe daa'ga!

Biagwi'yaa' daigwa'hka--Haa', nabushi'ainu. U hu'kumbe, naaku daa'ga.

 

              Pikes Peak doyaba' ne we'nne,

            daa Ape'a ne buika, ne bohai waiki'ka.

            Ne yakai.

            Biagwi'yaa' ne ma'i dease yakai.

            Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak,

            looking east ---- a cloud of dust.

            "Look," I said. "A herd of Buffalo!"
            "No," Eagle said. "It's only a dream."


Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak,

looking south ---- a cloud of dust. 

"Look," I said. "A herd of Antelope!"
"No," Eagle said. "It's only a dream."

            Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak,

            looking west ---- a cloud of dust. 
            "Look," I said. "A herd of deer!"

            "No," Eagle said. "It's only a dream."

 

Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak,

looking north ---- a cloud of dust. 

"Look," I said. "A herd of elk!"

"No," Eagle said. "It's only a dream."

            Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak,

            ----looking at Mother Earth beneath my feet. 
            "Look," I said. "It's all dust!"
            "Yes," Eagle said. "It's only the dust of your dreams."

 

Standing on the summit of Pikes Peak, 

---- I looked to the sky for our Creator.
I cried 

---- Eagle cried too.
(Reprinted from COYOTE'S QUEST by Ronald Snake Edmo Woodland Park, CO 1991)

All Rights Reserved

One night I was stranded in a small motel in Utah.
A documentary about Wounded Knee was on the television.
One scene reminded me about
the insults that I heard for most of my life.

APA' BUI'NU, U SEME NEWE

 

(LOOK, DADDY, A REAL INDIAN)

"Apa' bui'nu, u seme newe.
"Look, Daddy, a real Indian.
U sia' ba'a bambi nawasua, u photographer wenangwa yuuwenne. 
He's wearing feathers for the photographer.
U war paint nawasua dease.
Real war paint too.
Apa' bui'nu, u seme newe."
Look, Daddy, a real Indian."

"Wa'aipeanee' dease dainanee',
"Ladies and Gentlemen, you are about to enter
Enne newe cliff-gahni go'aika.
An authentic Indian cliff dwelling.
"World Famous Koshare newe-nekadee' gahni." 
The home of the WORLD FAMOUS Koshare Indian Dancers."
"Apa' bui'nu, udei newe."
"Look, Daddy, real Indians."

Nanna-dua', Lone Feather "Indian" Council newe-neka, gatu.
Lone Feather "Indian" Council Pow Wow.
Neweanee' yegwi'hku. Udei daiboo' nekadee' buitsani.
Indians sitting, watching the white dancers.
Daiboo' nekadee' newenasu'yegwinde, udei Sioux regalia nawasua.
Dancers dressed in Sioux regalia.
"Apa' bui'nu, udei newe nekadee'."
"Look, Daddy, real Indians dancing."

"Hey Chief, enne ha sia'?"
"Hey, Chief, where are your feathers?"
"Hey Tonto, Kemo sabe?"
"Hey, Tonto, Kemo Sabe?"
Gai naniwaigia ---- 
Silence ----

"Apa', u ha gai seme newe?"

"Daddy, he's not a REAL Indian, is he?"

(Reprinted from COYOTE'S QUEST by Ronald Snake Edmo Woodland Park, CO 1991)

All Rights Reserved

My people are scattered in small pockets throughout our homelands,

Today, they sometimes forget that all Newe are one.

This, my People, is a call for unity.

 

Damme Newe--Our People

(in progress)

Modern civilization is a curse for all people.

Many temptations are presented.

My Brother, Coyote,

was following a sacred path one day.

My Brother,

who is a famous traveller,

sometimes forgets where he is going.

So do we.

OTTER'S WARNING

 

Often-times, my Brother, we quest for

That elusive dream.

The dream of a new path that promises to

 Enrich our lives

Resist that temptation, my Brother.

    Walk carefully, my Brother,

    As you follow yonder path.

    Reflect on my words as you

    Near you goal.

    Seek the truth, my Brother.

Come, my Brother, join the 

Others who live here.

Yonder path leads to danger for all

Our tribes.

Trust the Spirits, my Brother, as you

Encounter the unknown

(Sosoni' translation in progress)

(Reprinted from COYOTE'S QUEST by Ronald Snake Edmo Woodland Park, CO 1991)

All Rights Reserved

Indian people feel the heavy hand of our oppressor

in our daily lives.

The States attempts to keep us impoverished

wherever we find a way to make money.

They pass laws to prohibit Indian Gaming

and promise to find other ways to improve our lives.

All lies.

The White farmers lease our lands for a pittance.

The BIA stand up for them,

not us.

Our White neighbors marry our women to steal our land.

We live without protection of their laws.

Our songs are sacred.

Outlaw

 

On the outside, looking in

Unable to comprehend the 

Total subjection of the People.

Laws made by others, the Stranger.

Answer this question for me.

Why?

 

People who are now Aliens

Everywhere in their

Own country.  Their

Prayers unanswered.  God doesn't

Listen anymore.  Did he

Ever?

(Sosoni' translation in progress)

(Reprinted from COYOTE'S QUEST by Ronald Snake Edmo Woodland Park, CO 1991)

All Rights Reserved

Our Songs are Sacred.

The witua drum is sacred because it is also a living thing. 

So is
Tsugupe Izhape, Old Man Coyote.

DAA WITUA'

 

(OUR DRUM)

Waapi-mande, bonzani nameekande. 

        Egi dease, biga'pe.  Wituanamadengahwa.

Iwaa' yeika,

Tsugupe Izhape' been dawinee gaa'ba wenne,

        uku denito'aihwandu'i nanna.

Uku denito'aihwandu'i nanna,

        deasen Tso'apenee udee gaa'ba

Ade'uka,daa "Yeika-Nanisundehai'hubia

        Denito'aigwape, 

Izhapeha kwa'i(mai) nanihade.


The Cedarwood frame is finished. Now, the drumhead.
The Drum is completed.
Tomorrow evening, Old Man Coyote will sing with his brothers.
Spirits will sing with them too.
That's why Coyote is called the Evening Prayer-song Singer.

(All Rights Reserved)

Many people are afraid of ghosts

 

I used to be.

 

Now,

 

I am comforted by them.

TSO'APE

 

(Ghost)

 

Ne Nabidengedaigwahni'i.

Ne'uka Nabidengedaiwahni'i - - suni'yunde tso'ape ne gupa gwizho'naika

Ne woho'a baika - - suden tso'ape ne gaaba

 

Ne Nabidengedaigwahni'i.

Ne'uka Nabidengedaiwahni'i - - suni'yunde tso'ape ne gupa gwizho'naika

Duukwasu'nee' ne beedagihyunde goinnu - - suden tso'ape ne gaaba

 

Ne Nabidengedaigwahni'i.

Ne'uka Nabidengedaiwahni'i - - suni'yunde tso'ape ne gupa gwizho'naika

Andabichidaibonee' deyai'du'iha ne tsaangubuika- - suden tso'ape ne gaaba

 

Ne Nabidengedaigwahni'i.

Ne'uka Nabidengedaiwahni'i - - suni'yunde tso'ape ne gupa gwizho'naika

Ne dua' ne gai ma gwizho'na'i - - u tso'ape ne gaaba

 

Ne Nabidengedaigwahni'i.

Ne'uka Nabidengedaiwahni'i - - suni'yunde ne deasen tso'ape.

Ghost

 

I am a Warrior.

Because I am a Warrior - - (that's why) I live with ghosts.

The enemy I killed - - these are my ghosts.

 

I am a Warrior.

Because I am a Warrior - - (that's why) I live with ghosts.

The soldiers who died in my arms - - these are my ghosts.

 

I am a Warrior.

Because I am a Warrior - - (that's why) I live with ghosts.

The people whose deaths I saw with my hands - - these are my ghosts.

 

I am a Warrior.

Because I am a Warrior - - (that's why) I live with ghosts.

My son who I couldn't save - - he is my ghosts.

 

I am a Warrior.

Because I am a Warrior - - (that's why) I also am a ghost.

 

(All Rights Reserved)

 

            

 

  

 

Author's note:

    This collection of poetry is part of a "work in progress."

It is dedicated to all of our shoshonean peoples.

I wish to thank Drusilla Gould and Chris Loether for all of their help and encouragement in preparing this document.

(All Rights Reserved)