The Journey has just Begun.

For the last several months I have been deeply steeped in book and print research, but this is not where my passion lies. I wish to be out and about with my recording gear, searching and digging for more knowledge and just sitting with the sound of the rivers and winds. It really is gathering many stories to piece together one story. The very question that started this whole journey was: “Who were my Ancestors?’ and from that one question, come many tributaries. And still my thirst grows.

Auntie Virginia Miller's Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

Auntie Virginia Miller’s Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

I am about to fully step into the initial aims of this project of documenting what is left of our Stories, meaning, more living persons oral histories. Some of my Watala/Cascade cousins are looking at dis-enrollment from the Grand Ronde tribe (read more here) and fighting for what it means to be ‘Indigenous’. The honest truth is, we are becoming ghosts and I wish to honor a memory, fully and honestly. I want to know what our traditions were. I want to know why Wind Mountain was so Sacred to us and I want it to become sacred again, before we are all gone. I want to know how the landscape shaped our myth and our traditions. Why did we flatten our foreheads? I don’t want to be co-opted into the generalization of the ‘plains noble Indian’, for we were our own People and we are our own People.

BUT….yet, I am the Immigrant carrying goods upriver and I am the hands that would build the dam that would silence it forever. I am of many stories. And giving the way the modern world is swallowing our sense of belonging to place, we too, and our stories, are becoming ghosts.

The journey has just begun.

Skookums and a search for God

Skookum stories are found among the Natives of the Pacific Northwest. The legends existed prior to a single name for the creature. They differed in their details both regionally and between families in the same community. Similar stories of Skookums are found on every continent except Antarctica. An Ecologist argues that most cultures have human-like giants in their folk history: “We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”

My family had no shortage of Skookum stories growing up. My Grandmother, Shirley Amos, would often tell this story as my neck hairs stood on end, hanging on to her every word.

As a youngster, I would roam through the woods near my home, with my bow draped across my shoulders, my ears perked and my nose to the path, on edge, looking for Skookum. My Uncle, Gary Amos, had a similar but different story he would tell of the Skookums and the call it would make… once again, my neck hairs would stand on end as I hung on to every word.

Artist unknown.

Artist unknown.

This need for some ‘larger-than-life creature’ has always fascinated me. I grew up a jehovah’s witness and was fed the ideology and imagery of a ‘larger-than-life’ God from the time of birth. A god of fire and brimstone, but it all seemed so mythical and scary to me. Something that kept me in line because of fear. I would hear these stories of Skookums (ironically told by strict jehovah witnesses), and for some reason, that felt more like God to me. It was a tug a war of spiritual information when I was a child. My Grandmother would tell these Ghost stories and Stories of the Land, but in the same breath, tell us that they were wrong and did not have jehovah’s guidance. This always confused me. How could we have forsaken this land and it’s rituals for some imported mono-theistic ideology, yet I felt a guilt for thinking such thoughts. Then something happened to me on May 18th, 1980 that would change my life forever.

Loowit, May 18th 1980

Loowit, May 18th 1980

I was six years old and bewildered by what I saw and felt that day. I could hear so clearly the call of my Ancestors and the Call of the Land. This was God, this was the true power of God. On this day, I became an Animist. But what was I to do with this new and powerful Spiritual knowledge. Where was the Ceremony? I spent the next 20 years frantically searching for my ‘Ceremony’ in every portal that would open. I became the Volcano, I became the calm and I became my own Skookum. I had to listen for the Ceremony, I had to learn to accept that the Ceremony was right underneath my feet and I had to learn to accept the Skookum inside of me.

These stories I would hear growing up, seem at times, like a code. A code for living that would end up having profound teachings to me. I had to stop and listen long enough to hear what my Ancestors were telling me. I had to stop and listen to what the winds were telling me. I found God here.

All My Relations.

The Hunt Part I

I grew up with hunting. It seems to be in my blood, although I have been disconnected from the Ritual for sometime now. As a child, I remember cruising around in my Grandpa Bob’s Cadillac with my Uncle Les. The smell of coffee, cigarettes and bullshit hunting stories would fill the air as the guns sat next to them in silence urning for their chance to be fired. Their eyes would dart from left to right like an Owl in search of prey. Chain smoking filterless cigarettes, shapeshifting talking sticks sharing stories. Oh, the stories they would tell.

As I got older, hunting became less of a ritual until it was absent from my life all together. When I was 15, I became a self righteous vegetarian and proclaimed the evils of hunting to the world, which my family would laugh at and tell me I would be back. Well, I am 39 and here I am.

CameraZOOM-20131022190357478I have welcomed the ritual back with open arms and loaded guns. I dream about the hunt and wake up each morning before the sun peeks it’s head from behind the fog lined mountains I call home. I awake and journey out onto this beautiful place to hunt and be reminded of a primordial ceremony. As I sit in the cold damp and wait for the elusive Deer to offer it’s self to me, I am reminded how sacred this ceremony is and has been for my family since time immortal. I offer up Offerings to the Hunt and to the animals for which we are surrounded. The Ceremony has changed, that is inevitable, but the core value of taking care of one’s family will never change.

This season, I will be hunting with guns and soon diving into archery. I have been archiving and collecting stories with different people while hunting as of late and will be posting those with other installments. Stay tuned.