You should take a look at this morning’s Vallejo Times-Herald (Vallejo, CA). Columnist Richard Freedman interviewed Dennis Banks on the day before the start of Sacred Run 2006. (http://www.timesheraldonline.com/sundayoutlook/ci_3502363). The Times-Herald editors must have been having fun, because the big headline at the top of the Sunday Outlook section is “Banks still an Indian icon” - and they placed this story directly above a story about C.C. Sabathia, the famed Vallejo baseball pitcher, who plays for the Racist-logo Cleveland baseball team. Freedman gives Dennis plenty of space to decry the racism in Indian sports mascots. Looks like he didn’t venture to press Sabathia on the matter. But anyone who reads both articles can’t help but compare Sabathia to the guy in Dennis’ story: “We started fighting mascots in 1969,” Banks said, failing to convince a Native American who played Chief Wahoo that it was demeaning. I said, ‘Why do you do that?’ and he says, ‘They pay my bills. When you guys protesting want to pay my bills, OK, I’ll stop doing it.’ I thought, ‘That’s wrong.’”
The Benefit Concert in San Francisco was great hit. (Friday, February 10, 2006) The artists were outstanding, and it was an incredible high for us to be on the same floor, up close and personal with good-hearted activist/actor Peter Coyote, Jefferson Airplane keyboards/bass guitarist Pete Sears, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Robby Romero, Martha Redbone, Wavy Gravy and his Fish, ..and all the others. I haven’t heard how much money we raised for the run, but I’ll let you know when I hear. I do know that first reports were that we raised far too little, and contributions are still desperately needed. Don’t forget, gas will cost us $2.50/gallon this year! Yipes - please go to our donations page, http://www.redhotpromotions.com/id99.htm.
Alcatraz was amazing. (Saturday, Febraury 11, 2006) We gathered in the dark before sunrise in a great unclosed circle, with a door to the east, preparing for sun with drums and chanting. Seagulls joined in the celebration, circling in the pre-dawn light, crying out what I felt to be a happy sound: air-dancing to the sounds of native people as in days of long ago. But of course I project my own feelings onto these creatures of grace. Only the Great Spirit in them leads them in any and every moment, to do as they do. We humans are too often other-led. But not that morning, February 11, 2006, gathered on Alcatraz. On that morning, as for all time, Alcatraz was much more than an island. As Dennis said, “Alcatraz serves as a reminder to us to stand tall, to stand up, to spark new ideas and pride and energy for Indian people.”
I remember the pungent air, the smokey smudging of sage, the big drums, the voices of so many singers rising and falling, and most especially the presence of our Honored Elders, Nowa Cumig (In-the-Center, Dennis Banks) and Nee-gon-nway-wee-dung (Wind Before the Storm, Clyde Bellecourt). Dennis was soft-spoken and humble, yet profound - and funny - as usual. And Clyde was passionate in his story-telling and his appreciation for the progress we’ve made in these last 30 years. Acknowledging the importance of the struggles his generation went through, he cautioned us, “People think it’s all about Wounded Knee and shooting up and all that stuff. But they don’t see the progress we’ve made, and the beauty we have today in the big pow wows, and the ceremonies that have returned to our people.” He recalled for us the words of an elder in Oklahoma in 1972, who looked into the future and declared “During the 5th generation, the drum will be heard again, and the fires would burn again.” Clyde and his brothers and sisters are that 5th generation, and those drums and fires have been reborn to us. Clyde encouraged those of us in the 6th generation to “reclaim the Indian way of life, the sundance, the drums, the songs, the ceremonies, the healing ways of giving up alcohol and drugs,” and to look to the little ones of today, the 7th generation for “great leaders, doctors and scientists.”
At the end of the ceremonies, Dennis lined up all the runners and walkers, and Clyde blessed us with more sage, and we were presented with medicine pouches. Then the ferry took us back to San Francisco, and we motored to DQ University in Davis, CA. Another ceremony there sent us on our way, and the run began. More tomorrow (IF I can access the internet for upload)...