by Jeah Kessha (formerly Patrick Clark)
..And I remember how I really wanted to get in touch with these ancestors since I was 14 years old, when I used to wander around this land alone in the dark. I wanted to connect with them and try to resolve my understanding of what happened to them…I’m just finished a bikeride with my sister out to Clinton Lake and the Saunder’s Mound. I’m biking back home I the middle of the afternoon feeling like I’m not ready to go home. So I cross the trail across the back of campus to the Haskell Indian Cultural Museum. Leaning bike against the bench I find the door appears to be locked. No sign saying either Open or Closed. But door is locked.
So I’m walking away while a Native man and woman are walking toward the door, and I mention I couldn’t get the door open. The well, built, mature man with long braided hair goes over and pulls the door and it opens. I feel a little foolish/embarrassed for a second. I guess I’m feeling awkward like an impostor–not Native American. So I say, “oh it must have just been me,” and we all walk in.
A younger girl is with him. So soon after we’re inside an alarm goes off and we all look at each other and wonder what to do. It is dark in there, no lights, and no security person. So I’m thinking the door was actually locked after all and I somehow must have tripped it with my initial attempt.
So we all just keep looking around with alarm blaring nearby.
I completely tune it out and go into a trance as I’m looking at these 1880’s photos of the first Haskell Students. It is mind blowing! The hardships and depravity of these young kids stripped of culture and identitiy Their faces are innocent. Even after all they’ve been thru hearts and minds still oen. Still an austere peace and resiliency. And I don’t know just what about it fascinates me. In fact, I have a brief moment of feeling crazy and what the ___ am I doing here? And yet I feel like these are my people. I am not making this up like a fantasy. How can I understand what happened here/ How will this give me some sort of orientation, sense of belonging to something on the planet?
And then there is no purpose or reason. I just am there. I just simply feel like being there and absorbing something.
I am looking at a lot of things. The dress, the physiques and facial features, the skin tone, the soul revealed inside the eyes. What is inside their minds and hearts? How did they feel stuck between the transition of Paleolithic and the new techno culture/ Tipi’s and Puebloes to modern brick and wood buildings and the new structured, segregated, fragmented approach to life? Starving due to theft and fraud of provisions, etc. I notice their dress is “stiff wool” and “silk.” Some of them still have their own mocassins. Funny because I have come to see these two fabrics as the best choice for tipi/outdoor living. Noone has any idea how important it is to have these fabrics, which these days are very hard to find.
So in 10-15 minutes a lady comes over and I’m the only one left in the museum at that point. “Oh, am I not supposs to be in here?” She gives me a stern look and escorts me out. “When is it open? I ask and she says it is not open at all as they are looking for a new curater. I later find out some cuts made by the government are likely the real issue.
But then I’m standing out the door with that lady and a young student and the long haired man and the man is talking about early life on campus when he was a student in 1973. And this leads into the complete police-like governance of campus and the ensuring buss-load of 50 students. They head out the first day of spring break to Wounded Knee South Dakota. They settle in for a month long occupation to turn the course of history and repeat history at the same time. Leanard Peltier is still locked up, unresolved.
I ask him some questions and get a real first-hand view of the whole thing. Better than the museum. I am so startled by everything, I can hardly speak. I loose my sense of perspective. Just having watched the documentary on the day before of the whole Battle of Little Bighorn that lead up to the Original Wounded Knee Massacre, this whole package of history is fresh on my mind. I avoid asking some questions out of cautiousness. The young girl has never heard of this Wounded Knee and the early culture and conditions of campus here and she doesn’t show much interest even. I walk away wanting to get his name and meet again but feel completely blown out of the water. I get on my bike and ride away.
So that night I pack my gear in my backpack and bike over to Haskell Campus via the backway. I decided to go down Haskell Ave. to 31st street and enter the campus via the wetlands. That way no one will see me going across campus and look suspicious at night lurking about with a backpack. It’s around 10pm, not a lot of traffic. I have my blinking red light strapped to the back of my backpack. The night is warm for the first time and I’m wearing shorts and there’s a bunch of stars out and a bit of a moon. I am thinking I will sleep very well. All is calm. No wind. I’m going down into the Wakarusa Valley as Haskell Ave. descends into the wetlands. This may be my last chance to sleep on this amazing open expanse of prairie before the Interstate Bypass gets built across the wetlands. I hear the spring frogs and they sound completely different than the ones in North Carolina. There are a few ducks and geese honking, settling in for the night on the glistening water to the right of the road I am on. I’m pedaling in the dark. I cannot even see the road I’m on and hope I will not run off the road or into something I can’t see. I pedal slow.
Right now it is wild and open. The air smells of burnt grass. I feel safe because no-one can spot me entering campus from the backway. I know right where I’m going. I cross the little bridge and walk my bike up the little dirt road that goes from 31st street up to the Medicine Wheel. I walk up the trail to the medicine wheel and find the little patch of ground exactly where I slept 3 nights previous on that fridged frosty night.
I make my bed, unpacking everything and laying out the pad and sleeping bag and tuck my shoes neatly under the groundcloth. I’m all set, exhausted, but I realize I’m not real relaxed. Well, maybe there isn’t the best energy there like I thought. It is a bit noisy. I can hear sounds from very far away, like sirens and trains and traffic here and there. Also a lot of bird sounds, ducks and geese. I work on relaxing, getting in touch with my breath and body and try to do my ‘quantum lasso’ relaxation technique. I hear some voices nearby. It’s a man and woman walking and chatting now and then. It seems like they saw me by how the voice inflections change. I think it could be ghosts but probably real people. I tell myself, either way, what’s wrong with what I’m doing? I’m just sleeping on the ground. No tent. Wrapped up like a cacoon with my bike laying on the ground nearby. I don’t look like a homeless person, but like a long-distance bicycle tourist, rugged, exotic, adventure type man. I’m way far from campus. Noone could see me from there, although I can see the lights and the road. There are also lights shining from Haskell Avenue warehouses that are annoyingly bright though quite a ways away.
Last time I was there I heard a funny sound that was similar to a megaphone blaring from the distance and direction of 31st street, to the west. I assumed it was some kind of football game or something with a megaphone or speaker system, that was somehow blowing in from a long ways away due to strange weather conditions. It was very brief, like maybe lasted a couple minutes or something. Besides that, I didn’t hear any voices or see anything peculiar.
So I wake up in the middle of the night—this time—Thursday night. I hear a bunch of hooting and holloring, like very loudly. It is obviously aimed at me. There is no denying it. I tell myself to relax, everything will be okay, I can handle whatever it is though I don’t know what it is. I very quickly feel like these are not incarnate humans. Noone could rally this kind of numbers and energy at this hour of the night just to intimidate one lone person out on the prairie. This hooting and hollering is very intense and driven and savage sounding–whatever that means. I mean, it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard. I lay there and I do not panic. I just listen and keep consciously relaxing my body. Whatever it is, I can handle it.
The voices go on for a few minutes and I start thinking about my options. Should I pack up and leave? No, I will just close my eyes and ignore it.
Suddenly I hear another sound. The voices stop and there’s a pause and then this sound. What is it. It is ethereal. It is similar to that megaphone I heard last Monday. But this time what is coming through is an eerie sound. It sounds very close to an organ being playing in a haunted house. However, it is not a song or composition but just a single, held chord. And this chord is very painful to listen to. It is full of dissonance. It is extremely off. I start doing some chanting, trying to keep my voice as clear and strong and on key as possible. “Om Gan Ganapatya Namo Namaha”. I don’t even know what that means but I learned it recently. I keep chanting it, loudly.
Now I am really having to keep from panicking. I just try to be present with the sound and the accompanying feeling. What is it? I just listen to it awhile and try to place some kind of meaning or orientation to it. It has an intent. It is full of pain. It is intended to make me leave. It is intended to frighten me. I sorta want to not be frightened in defiance of this. However, I am feeling like these disincarnate souls are in defiance of me being there. They do not want help. Did I come to help? I ask myself. Well, of course I did. Why did I choose that one place. Of course I came to see if I could do some ancestral healing. This is my group, or ancestral line. Why else would I spend my time hanging out here as opposed to all the other places in and around town? I feel that. I feel connected here. So to be honest with myself, I did come to help. And these souls do not want help. They are rebelling. They have their own dignity, their own lives, their own ability to direct themselves. They do not need an imposter. I don’t belong there. I ask myself, do I really feel this is my family? Is it? Am I actually an imposter and really out of line to be attempting this?
I check in with myself and I am feeling like my intention was to come and bring my light and just be present here in this place and hold a high frequency here. Really it was mostly to connect and get in touch with something, to resolve things about the past and my relation to it. And I remember how I really wanted to get in touch with these ancesters since I was 14 years old. I wanted to connect with them and try to understand what happened and find some continuity in my understanding. And right then and there I thought, I asked for it. This is the real McCoy. How more could I actually be with people from the past who are long dead and gone? I was playing with fire. I was feeling like I could feel their feelings and thoughts, not with words but with energy. Right then and there, as unnerving as this was, I had answered/resolved a question/need I had been with almost my entire life. And all the years in Highschool I spent wandering around those very grounds and never come across any of this. What was so different now? Why and how was I seeing this now?
But this sound and this energy is wanting to bring me down. I ask myself, do they want this? Can I be of use? Then I think, I’ll just sleep and stop trying to figure it out. I really don’t want to get up and bike the three miles back home in the middle of the night.
So I lay back down and the noise keeps up, gets a bit louder. What in the hell is that noise? Is it the frequency of these disincarnate souls who are stuck in ignorance and have died traumatic deaths? Perhaps they are from the massacres that occurred at events like Wounded Knee and Sand Creek in the late 1800,s. This school is pivotal to the whole Native American Assimilation. This school has played a major role in the process of Indian Reservation life, serving as a boarding school to send children and strip them of culture and identity. People were sent here from all across the nation for over 100 years. And all the trauma and abuse and genocide that occurred with these people, that energy is very strong.
So there is a really really strong energy here. I am realizing the magnitude. I suddenly realize, this is way bigger than me. I cannot hold my high frequency here. It is just much more than I know how to do. What the ___am I doing here? What the ____did I get myself into? I realize there is no choice. I cannot possibly stay there. I would get sick if I stayed there even just a little bit more. That sound is nauseating. I wanted to believe I had just as much right to be here as they did, to enjoy the stars and openness. But they really see me as an imposter. I start chanting the Moola Moantra and “Om Gam Ganna Patahe Nameha” and calling in Jesus and Amma Bagavan to send me some energy and put their love here.
These souls do not want to be helped. They believe they are justified in their bitterness. I pack my bag and the noise stops as soon as I get out of my sleeping bag and start the packing. In 10 minutes I am on my bike and pedaling back the way I came in, going right through the area where I heard the noises. I make it back under the stars in the middle of the night and I see all the houses quiet and no traffic, just a car or two now and then. I feel like, I may not really feel like a citizen here, but the fact that there is a door somewhere in this town that will open and there will be a safe protected place for me, that means something. I need to contemplate the meaning of that and cultivate a sense of gratitude for that. This is civilization. This is the way it works. You have a ‘shelter’ and family waiting for you as a starting point.
For information on the Wakarusa Wetlands project click here