Mystery School Friends--Greetings from Ojibway land in northern Minnesota!
On August 13 I took off from California in my little Honda for an extended journey across half of the country. After spending the first four days in Ashland, Oregon, studying with Jack Schwarz, I started north through Oregon and Washington, camping out along the way. From Thompson Falls, Montana, where I stayed a couple of days with friends, I struck out across Montana and North Dakota--beautiful country, and arrived here in Red Lake on August 23. The night before my arrival the campground where I pitched my little tent was in the center of a major thunder and lightning storm which provided me with enough excitement to last for awhile, at least!
Here at Red Lake I am staying on some of the most sacred land in the country. These half million acres are the last unallotted aboriginal land in the United States and their preservation is the passion of Francis Blake Jr. and his wife, Clara NiiSka. The Red Lake Peoples’ Council, which the Mystery School has been helping to support since 1989, has as its goal the independence and self-sufficiency of the Anishanabe Ojibway people living in ecological harmony with their land, Grandmother Earth. In order to establish the identities of the Aboriginals and their ownership of the land, Francis and Clara have done extensive research on the genealogies of the people who live on the reservation. This spring, through the money raised at Mystery School, they were able to complete an important part of this research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Francis is now busily writing a book that will tell, for the first time, the true history of the Anishinabe Ojibway. This is the first book ever written by an Aboriginal person from an Aboriginal perspective.
This cozy one room “long house” that I have been sharing for the past few days is crammed with books, research papers, computer, microfilm reader, filing cabinets, and copy machine. In this same space we sleep, talk, and share delicious meals from the organic garden and other local resources such as fish from Red Lake (you haven’t lived until you’ve had sucker patties, hominy, and maple syrup from the sugar bush behind the house!) Francis and Clara have electricity but no running water. We drive 12 miles up the road to fill plastic jugs from a wonderful, clear spring, and wash up in rain water heated on the gas stove. People come driving in at any time of day or night to talk to Francis, who is a revered elder of the Ojibway community as well as an outspoken advocate of the rights of the Anishinabe Ojibway nation.
The days have passed quickly. Francis drives me around the lake pointing out the clearcutting of the forests, the effects of lake pollution, the senseless destruction of old maple trees that once provided maple syrup for the Ojibway economy. We encounter bear, eagles, falcons and blue heron. We cruise the reservation grocery stores (the only ones within a 30 mile radius) where the major items on the shelf are sugar and white flour junk foods and aisle after aisle of pop. This despite the fact that almost three out of four people here are afflicted with diabetes.
Francis wants me to tell you how much he and all the Ojibway people here appreciate the support of the Mystery School. Their pride and self-esteem has been greatly enhanced since they have been able to reclaim their identity. Francis invites any of you who want more indepth information to call and talk to him or come up for a visit. (I highly recommend that you do this if at all possible.)
A great deal of support is still needed in order to get the book published. We will have our usual raffle in September to raise money for this effort. Remember that the first prize this time is a sailing cruise for two on the Chesapeake Bay! Bring all your “fasting savings” from the summer. I’m leaving here tomorrow and will be visiting Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook on the way home. Hope you have all had a wonderful summer. See you in a couple of weeks.
(and much love to you all
from Francis and
Dr. Joy Craddick by Wub-e-ke-niew and Clara's (still under construction) house at Red Lake