The wind whips and howls, raging in the night. Even the darkness sneaks in between window frame and blind searching for refuge. Snow drifts grow into snow mountains, hearty and wet.
I am afraid. I’ve been through storms before. They can rattle me inside chasing peace out in a flurry. All I can do is wait. The room is filled with silent waiting, breath in, breath out.
The morning sun breaches the darkness, I awaken to a new day.
“It’s over.” I sigh. “It’s over.”
When Wanbdi was a boy the storm blew in with such force he had to hang on with all he had to get through. When I asked him about his parents one day, this is what he told me.
“Ina, my mother, was an only child raised by her father and aunties after her own mother died in childbirth. She worked hard all her life and raised seven children. She had a house built for us while my father was in the army overseas. This was an amazing feat. She was a woman with perseverance and strength.
To me, she was gentle, patient and loving. She was also an excellent cook, something I truly enjoyed. I cannot remember a time when we had a babysitter except when she was sick with tuberculosis in the hospital. That was a difficult time for us and I still remember how my younger brother would cry for her. She was a strong cultural person, generous and kind. In addition to caring for her own family, she helped others in whatever way she could. To me, she represents the very best of our Dakota ways, a true Dakota woman.
My father’s name was Hehaka Cuwi Maza, or Elk Ironsides. For some reason, the church people wanted him to have an English name so they told him his name was Philip Wasicuna. Wa sicuna or Bearpaw was actually my grandfather’s name and his father – my great grandfather – was Ista Zanan or Shining Eyes. I am told he was a great medicine man.
My father was a good hunter and provider for his family. When my mother was pregnant with me, he went overseas to fight in World War II. When he returned I was six years old. I remember my sisters running to greet him with excitement, but to me he was a stranger. This distance between us, a
lost opportunity to bond as father and son, was something that it took a lifetime to overcome.
Although they say my father was not wounded in the army, I know he was. His wounds were on the inside where no one could see them. He came back from the war angry and broken. At times the hurt he felt would erupt in unexpected ways.
One day he shouted at me, “You are not my son!”
I thought to myself, ‘Really, I am not your son? Then, who am I?’
This rejection by my own father was devastating. After that, it seemed he was always mad at me and me at him. Perhaps what we were angry about was that we wanted to be able to love each other but we just did not know how.”
Shovel scrapes hard surface as Wanbdi and I dig ourselves out again. We have done this many times before. Life is like that. At least for us it has been. The storms come and we endure. We try to be prepared as best we can. Still when it comes, it can be hard. Today, we have each other. We have our family to help us. We know our strength. We know a sacredness that steadies us. It wasn’t always like that.
Join us next week for Blog post # 4 It was Indian Residential School – a National Tragedy