These are my poems, essays, and book excerpts. By the way, I'll create a space for viewers like you to post your work. Just let me know.
A Poem: So, this is where you have Taken Us
[A little autobiography to share with you before the reading]: Over the last year or so I have been getting acquainted with my Native heritage. My Anishinaabe ancestors are of the White Earth Reservation. My family has a long history with both the Ojibwe and Oglala Lakota people. It is in this last year in becoming aware of the beauty and uniqueness of my ancestor’s perspective on life and way of being that my life has evolved and my heart has opened to other possibilities. It is a sacred trust now that has descended to me and it is speaking to me. This poem is about two cultures [Native and Western] that co-exist in the same space and time. Long ago the two happen upon a fork in the path of life, each taking its own new path. I have a “foot” in each culture. It is from this vantage point that I wrote this poem and read it to you now.
· “So, this is where you have Taken Us”
§ [NOTE: Prop is SLBM* warhead] by David Fritze
o I was once nearly a practitioner of mass death, genocide
o We were, among us, 126
o If not for the behest, I guess that you would know
o The executioner is us all
o I cry out, we should all cry out, please I intone “The Path not Taken”
o For the path taken with the Siren’s call, is intoxicating but merely a distraction
o And here beside me [uncover the warhead] is the fruit of our endeavor, a species killer
o Forever we will banish ourselves, the 126 and all who do not heed the call
o To consider the other path, the one taken long ago but now forgotten
o As we discover that the way we are, famished of good ideas that will never come, a world void of anything human
o Please Great Spirit, Great Mystery, nudge us back onto the path, the other one
o You, the path taken, have given us the “Scientific Method”, to manipulate nature for manipulation’s own sake
o Where is the wisdom in this, though it is not without merit
o But it is past time to at least allow the other path to inform the one we’re on
o This is my prayer, my crying out to the Great Mystery for a vision, give us wisdom
o The End
o This poem is not a condemnation of any particular way of being. It is a prayer that all of us considers where we are at this moment in our collective history and reflect on what might be a better use of our power as human beings.
o Unpublished work (c) 2018 David Fritze All Rights reserved.
o Narrative about the weapon
§ 68” tall, 22” in diameter at the base, ~ 800 lbs
§ The yield is ~ 1.2 Megaton equivalent TNT
· One stick TNT is 8” by 2 1/2” in diameter and a weight of ½ lbs
· That’s two million four hundred thousand sticks equivalent!
· NOTE: To give some perspective, this single weapon can kill some millions of people
§ “The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost [that what I would intone]
§ Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine [FBMS]
§ *SLBM-Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile
This is art work by my Granddaughter, Zoe Johnson, as the prop for the poem. The sailor is looking in a mirror reflecting on what he is about to do.
"Lawful Orders" the Pondering. Artwork by Zoe Johnson.
A Note for the Poem So This Is Where You’ve Taken Us:
My intention in writing this poem is to convey the bankruptcy of a culture that can invent and then deploy a “weapon” like this. This is not a weapon in the conventional sense. It is a means to commit either mass suicide or mass genocide. The genocide, if that is the purpose, is suicide as its use insures retaliation on the order of nothing less than the extinction of our species.
I cannot contemplate a more compelling metaphor to communicate to you, the reader, of the insanity of remaining on this path. We can rationalize the existence and supposed benefit of a device like this as a “deterrent”. These “ideas”, this intoxication with our supposed mastery of “nature” is but an illusion. This culture has been lured by the Siren’s song of an imagined “destiny” that has set mankind apart from nature and humans apart from one another. One result of this is that everything is to be examined, placed under the microscope. When this occurs, the inevitable consequence is the subject and we are the object of the poem.
What this grotesque set of facts has accomplished is to sharpen the focus of us humans to take a moment and evaluate and contemplate where we are. What has occurred is in stark fashion a fork in the road has been reached. We are given yet again a choice as to which path we will take. I am looking for an inflection point at least on this path that begins nudging us back onto the path taken long ago but nearly forgotten. The original fork resulted in one path leading to the existence of thermonuclear “weapons” and the other path taken by my Native ancestors to refuse separating ourselves from nature and one another. There was a choice then, there is a choice now.
I will flesh these short little paragraphs out in writings to come. So, for now, begin a journey with me to learn how to become quiet, still, calm and prepare ourselves to hear the chorus from within and in the doing of this begin to hear the chorus from without.
The Beginning of the End for Wounded Knee as We Knew It:
Subtitle: Our Childhood Before We Learned to Hate
By David Fritze Duluth MN All Rights Reserved
I dedicate this reading to the Spiritual child within. My child within is beckoning to yours and wants you to come out and play; and play hard. Allow that Spiritual child within to speak to you. Become again this child, full of wonder, untarnished trust, unconditional love and pure awe. This is who I want to engage and share a path, embark upon a journey together and perceive the world anew. So, let’s go! Tag, you are it!
[A little autobiography to share with you before the reading]: Over the last year or so I have been getting acquainted with my Native heritage. My Anishinaabe ancestors are of the White Earth Reservation. My family has a long history with both the Ojibwe and Oglala Lakota people. It is in this last year in becoming aware of the beauty and uniqueness of my ancestor’s perspective on life and way of being that my life has evolved and my heart has opened to other possibilities. I must give much credit to my wife and fellow sojourner Cindy who led me onto a path of Spiritual awakening. It is a sacred trust now that has descended to me and it is speaking to me. This essay is about two cultures that co-exist in the same space and time. Long ago the two happen upon a fork in the path of life, each taking its own new path. I have a “foot” in each culture. It is from this vantage point that I wrote this essay and read it to you now.
[Begin Essay] So, our childhood dream place, Wounded Knee South Dakota, among our Oglala Lakota friends and the magic of the place for us; the end would come, precipitated by events beyond our control; before most of us had lived yet into our late teens. It has a very rich and complicated history; especially from the point of view of children.
When Wounded Knee II went down , I was living in Rapid City. I was a student at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology [SDM&T], things were progressing reasonably. I received a phone call from my then mother-in-law early one morning. She said, “David, you may want to turn the TV on.” Her voice was stressed with emotion and disbelief. At first, it wasn’t resonating with me that something was really affecting her. She said it once more, and then paused. I think that she was expecting some kind of a response but I wasn’t sure if I should ask any questions or just turn on the TV. I finally spoke and said that I would turn the TV on. She said ok, said that she loved me and hung up. When the picture came flickering into view, the sound started right away in those days before the picture flickered into view and I heard “Wounded Knee”, I saw a news anchor reporting the take-over of the small hamlet of Wounded Knee. He said that approximately 200 to 300 armed AIM members and the local “Native” population had taken this action to protest the neglect and attempts at eliminating their Native Culture. They said, “That their people are dying”. There was video of the area though not the village itself in real time with a local reporter describing what was going on. The anchor person returned to the screen and thanked the local guy and then said as going to commercial; “there are hostages”!
I leapt from bed and hurriedly got ready to go to Wounded Knee. I called a good friend Steve, and ask for his help after explaining the circumstances. He said that he would and was ready by the time I got to his place. We drove in from the Porcupine Butte route and as we rounded a curve just before you drop into the valley, that beautiful valley; there was a road block. There was a single car parked across the highway with two men outside the car, their weapons drawn. It turned out that they were FBI agents. We instinctively slowed our car and held our hands up except for the one steering the car. They gestured that we stop and get out of the car. I explained that was my family down there and I didn’t know anything about their status and was extremely concerned. They accepted that and began getting us up to speed. The more important part was that they didn’t know there was anyone in the village apart from AIM. I gave a description of everyone including the Czywczynski family. At the Time, I didn’t know that they weren’t home the night of the takeover.
This information was radioed in after the agents had gathered all the knowledge and detail that I could remember. We asked if we could stay as this might be the best and quickest way to find out about my family. Things settled into a kind of routine. I had brought binoculars, Steve and I climbed to the top of a hill with an unobstructed view of the village. The two FBI guys were armed with side arms only. The hill Steve and I climbed was split by the road, probably rose about 50 feet or so above the road surface. The guys had parked their car across the road at the split thinking this would keep folks from passing. Maybe, but what it did was provide a perfect position to get flanked and not have the high ground as well. They were sitting ducks. Steve and I thought about this and stayed on top of the hill from where we had a 360 degree view. I had brought a few photos of my family to help the agents and Steve identify folks. We took turns looking down into the village hoping to get a glimpse of family. Nope! We could see what appeared to be some few hundreds of folks milling about.
So we lay there prone, occasionally rolling over on our backs to rest and stare up into the sky. I must have drifted off for a minute dreaming about simpler times, more care-free times; then woke with a start. Steve had nudged me and said he sees a caravan of cars starting up toward Porcupine. That is where we are! I took the binoculars and looked down into the valley and sure enough several cars were on the way packed with armed men. We scrambled down the hill to the agents and told them what we saw. They had us take cover behind their car. Steve and I took up a position behind the wheels hoping these might stop any rounds that might come our way. The caravan stopped short of the “road block”. They dismounted and walked a bit toward us. They were just out of effective pistol range. There were scores of armed men. One of the agents had radioed in our situation before the cars had quite reached us. The men started to jeer the agents, and taunting. They hollered out a list of grievances and what had happened historically and was still happening to their people. They yelled out that their people were dying. At a point in time, they all aimed their weapons at us. I looked at Steve and him at me and we nodded as to say nice to have known you. We were anticipating a roar of fire for what seemed an eternity. It never came. All of a sudden they continued jeering. We stood up to see what was happening. It appeared to me that they were getting ready to head back down when a small aircraft appeared overhead, low altitude. The men took aim and fired all at once. The sound was deafening. The small plane maneuvered violently. There were so many weapons and the distance so short that I thought the plane would be shot down. The plane and its occupants flew away not to return. There was no evidence to me that they had been hit. Thank God. Unfortunately, this is how much of the world was introduced to Wounded Knee and the Oglala Lakota people.
As long as I can remember my mom and I would travel to Wounded Knee to be with family whenever my dad went to sea. He was in the Navy. The excitement became stronger as we got close to the highway 27 turnoff and going north from highway 18. The landmark I looked for was the lone pine at the crest of the hill just before descending into the valley. My maternal grandfather and three of his four sisters lived here. Agnes was married to Clive Gildersleeve and together they owned the Wounded Knee Trading Post. There was a museum dedicated to helping tell the story of the Oglala Lakota who lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Grandfather [Wilbur Riegert] was the curator. He was also the postal clerk. Grandpa was wheelchair bound for much of his life. He was injured playing baseball for Haskell, a boarding school for indigenous people located in Kansas. The trading post with built on home was on one side of the street. Uncle Clive had a wonderful outdoor wood fired oven with huge grill top. The construction was of a kind of stone from the Black Hills. The thing was massive, at least from a child’s perspective. It had a chimney which I thought was very cool. We spent many evenings on the patio; visiting and such. Uncle Clive and other men of the community told wonderful stories that had me riveted. There were several cabins across the street. There were horse pastures and up on a hill adjacent the store was a windmill that pumped the sweetest drinking water I ever tasted. It had a sweet grass/sage aroma and the taste was refreshing and divine. I used to “ride” the wooden connecting shaft up and down as the windmill operated; listening to the wind blow through the structure and the repetitive mechanical noise, almost musical. It was an idyllic place to spend much of my childhood growing up. I made friends easily and got on with the kids in the extended neighborhood. We would play hard, inventing all sorts of games, play baseball, and ride horses. Boy, these guys and gals could ride! There was a creek that ran through the valley and at different places fairly deep and wide pools would form; about neck deep. Never once did anyone ever say anything about me being non-Native. I don’t think we were much aware, not yet.
My mom was the oldest of three sisters. When the sisters had children, they all started to come out to Wounded Knee in the summers. In their own way, my cousins had adventures and formed friendships. On one summer day we were playing cowboys and Indians with the neighbor kids. I don’t know how this got started. We were all on horseback; riding hard through the ravine that was located behind the trading post and between the big hill that the mass grave and the Jesuit church was located. We were whooping and hollering and we all had ended up kinda clumped together; our horses prancing and excited. The horses and we calmed down and were taking a breather when one of the neighbor kids says, “Hey we wanna be the cowboys for a change.” Without much thought or discussion, we swapped roles and took off again. The secret was that my cousins and I always wanted to be the “Indians” but could never figure out how to ask. We played at this and had a great time.
You see, one of the wonderful things about childhood when you are allowed to have one, is that in our case all of us were not acutely aware that this ravine was where the 7th Cavalry had murdered Big Foot and his band in 1890. These murdered people where those interned in the mass grave up on the hill. The beautiful thing about this time and in this community; the parents of all us kids let us be kids. There were powwows and Sun Dances that we were permitted to attend, as spectators. I was always in awe of my friends and especially when there were these wonderful gatherings that shown the beauty and majesty of our friends families’ culture. These ceremonies were spellbinding for us kids. A Sun Dance would last four days. Imagine a huge shade in a circular layout perhaps 150 feet in diameter. The shade was ~ 20 or so feet deep. These were constructed of pine and covered with pine boughs. Under the shade were drummers, perhaps 8-10 folks per drum. There were many drums. Some played a kind of flute, and all were chanting or more like singing. The men and women were dressed in beautiful costumes adorned with elaborate and exquisite bead work. Many had elaborate head dress of feathers and other ornamental gear. At one Sun Dance there were many hundreds dancing. My friends did their best to explain the spiritual significance of the ceremony itself and also that every minute detail had meaning and significance. I am sharing this with you as I experienced this as a younger teen. I was nearly overwhelmed. There was not anything in my experience to prepare me for this. I was later invited at the age of 15 to participate in a Sundance and that part of it to do with the Vision Quest. I was invited and mentored by a Holy Man of the Rosebud and Pine Ridge. There were (15) men taking part. I did have a vision, a very powerful one. My mentor explained to me step by step what was going on and what it meant, the ceremony/ritual. He was able to speak with me until I left my body. When we returned to our body, he and the other Holy Men interpreted the Vision of each of the 15 and explained what it foretold. This was my first out-of-body Spiritual experience. I was not able to process this “event” until recently and it disturbed me for all that time between then and now. I knew that it was real and I realized that there was another way of being, an intuitive Spiritual way. I wasn’t able to “square” it with the two realities until now. Now I understand and am on that path, the one taken long ago and nearly forgotten. I will leave the particulars of the Sun Dance and the Vision Quest for another time.
The Gildersleeves, my Grandfather, and my great aunts were all generally respected and well-liked by folks in and around the village of Wounded Knee. I can speak for my family in terms of the love and respect that was reciprocal.
Please keep in mind that these remembrances are from the perspective of a child growing up over a span of time into teen years.
Things began to unwind in the late 1960s. My Uncle Clive and Grandpa were approached by a group representing the Sioux Corporation. Grandpa and that generation were ready to retire. The corporation was proposing a project that would “develop” Wounded Knee that ultimately would provide jobs and a source of revenue for the Pine Ridge Reservation and its people. As it turned out, this was not the case for the proposed project. Over a relatively short period of time, it was discovered the true nature of the enterprise. What became clear was that if there were to be any benefit for the Oglala Lakota people, it would be unintended. Part of the proposed “development” involved dramatically altering the mass burial site. The “plans” were at best grotesque and horrifying. As you might imagine, this precipitated bad feelings and a complete sense of betrayal that these folks could be brought among the people. I was in the room where this conversation took place and I remember getting the feeling that this was not good. I became troubled by these events and a change started to take place with my friends. It took a while, but I came to understand why.
I am now an elder by virtue of my age. Over the last two years being home again in Duluth and recent events around the passing of my mother, a very powerful desire to become aware of my Anishinaabe heritage and to start down the path of learning and discovery has taken hold. I’ve come to understand that a duty and a legacy of my ancestors have descended to me. I am now trying to become what the Anishinaabe and the Lakota consider an elder to be. I am also aware that child within me is happy that this is so.
[The following is from my ancestral perspective].
So, do not be afraid to look and see what is going on around us. I would add do not be afraid of being who you are.
In fact, it is our duty and honor and privilege to know who we are and be then that person. There is a time to be a warrior, but there is also a time to be a peace maker. I will fight if I must. Peace is often the more difficult undertaking but also often the more noble. So, you two-leggeds stand up straight and tall and exhibit the kind of bravery that honors our ancestors and at the same time show respect and love for our children. I pray, become a teacher if you already aren’t; and at the same time learn to honor your elders and learn to listen and in the doing of this, become wise. These things I have been told and I now believe. If you think about it though; it must be true.
I am assembling content and will post it here through the next few days.
Excerpts from the Book “The Path Taken but Long Forgotten”:
By David Fritze all rights reserved
The title is "The Path Taken but Long Forgotten". It is a play on or expansion of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. I will be taking excerpts from the book and reading them in public soon. I’m posting here as well. It is a novel, a book of fiction. It is about two brothers who together discover their “Native Heritage” and how love comes to them and the people of our mother earth. The complete outline came to me while in Corvallis Oregon visiting family and friends celebrating my mom’s passing; Jean Marie. By the way, she is at least one of the folks this work is dedicated to.
A note of personal privilege: I will often use the word or term “Indian”. The reason for this is often in order to have an “official” discussion or conversation with the US Government “Indian” must be referenced as it is from Title 25 of the US code “Indians”. Any legal or official communication hence must reference this term.
Where is the Indian Thurgood Marshall:
This may be a non-sequitur as Indians may not choose to operate in this realm in this manner. This does not imply that Indians are not faced with legal questions to do with protections under the Constitution and in Courts of Law; quite the contrary. Indians need great legal representation and they need to be in a position to practice on their own behalf. The point that I am trying to make is that their Culture and way of being is prejudice toward a different kind of representation and defense. It may be viewed in a way as a departure or more to the point, a betrayal of the path that they have been on. This path was taken a long time ago when there was a fork in the road on the course of the history of us humans. This “fork” was a clear choice to change our collective historical trajectory, or not. Forks like these occur very seldom where events, social pressures of all types, the consequences of evolved human behavior bring into clear and sharp focus that in fact a fork has been encountered. Sometimes these “choices” are binary, yes or no. This occurs when all of the “noise” and “clutter” to do with how humans interact is driven into the background when our species encounters a singular momentous event, a likely existential event. Such a fork was encountered some few thousands of years past. There were two roads or paths that came into sharp relief. The one road leads to the development and deployment of thermonuclear devices. This road gives us the “tools” to examine nature and ourselves. This road results in our expulsion from Eden at our own hand. No other entity is responsible; some of us humans took this choice. The other road taken by others of us is that road our people know through intuitive knowledge; the direct knowledge given by the Great Mystery or Great Spirit; Creator. This road continues our mission, our purpose as shared by Spirit. This mission, our purpose, I will discuss in great detail in writings to come. The veracity of these statements can be “tested” directly by any being and I will show you how.
What I will argue here is that a “place holder” in terms of legal activity can and should be mounted by and for Indian People. This though should not constitute the be all and end all of our case being made. What I hope will be recognized is that legal arguments made on our behalf are useful in these immediate times and circumstances. This activity is the “place holder” for time needed to show and persuade by example and outcomes. What I will argue is that it is past time that the “other path”, the path of the Indian people is considered by the people of the other path. I am not condemning or denigrating choices made and acted upon by our collective ancestors. What I am arguing is that “we” are at a current fork in the road where the stakes are again existential for our species. This again is where a binary choice has been brought into sharp relief. It is my belief based on my personal Spiritual experience that we have or very nearly have reached an inflection point where inclusion of the Indian ways is starting to be re-discovered.
I have been reading much on the topic of “the Indian Intellectual” and where is he or she. I posit here that there are extremely bright and accomplished Indian people. How this brilliance is applied and worked through is different in Native culture than other cultures. This is a good thing. The Shamanistic aspects of Native culture are profound and necessary for the balance, grounded, centered, and being harmonious with Nature and with respect for all things in and on and over the Earth to return. This of course includes the Earth herself. I use the term “Shamanistic” as this is a more familiar term describing an “ancient” way of being in terms of the connectedness of all things in creation. This is not a term that Native American people would use.
So where is our Thurgood Marshall? Ultimately it is the expression of our way of being in relation to all of Nature and one another. For when we find our way back onto the other path, the one taken long ago and nearly forgotten, that what we find now as necessary to argue as points of law will evaporate when we return to the path and take up once again that which is our purpose as Spiritual beings here upon this Earth of ours.
I think if Thurgood Marshall were among us today that he might view the re-awakening of the Native Culture as a good thing. To be sure, there is much work to be done inside and outside the Native community. I’m looking for those bridges between cultures where we can evolve a perspective on a way to be, where we stop doing harm.
Please watch this space for much more to come.