Tag Archives: Native American

I Started Painting: My Four Turtles

I recently started painting. As a creative person I’ve dabbled in and experimented with several different media over the years. Along with performing arts, I’ve drawn and sketched avidly throughout most of my life and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at painting, a serious attempt far more than dabbling, but I never knew where to start and was always too busy with other pursuits to really explore this particular medium.

Well, over the past year my life has changed in some pretty fundamental ways and I found myself at a point where I could finally focus on new pursuits. At first I wasn’t even sure what to paint. I knew that if I got any good at it I would probably paint similar things to the drawings I’ve done, full of traditional Native, historic, and arcane symbolism, heavily influenced by the natural universe, and mythology.

I did some minimal research on the subject and gathered some basic supplies to get started.

In the time I was taking to make up my mind I found an Eastern box turtle drowning in a small fish pond and rescued it. It was the same species that Creek (Muscogee) women use to make their shell shakers in the Southern states. The first night I kept him in a laundry basket before I eventually released him back into the woods behind my house. That night it dawned on me that the turtle was the perfect first painting to make.

I came up in the Muscogee Creek tradition and in this tradition the Earth was created by the turtle. The turtle is the fundamental image of creation – the perfect symbol for art; and of beginnings – the perfect symbol for a new venture. And she is the perfect symbol to respect my heritage in which my life and creative pursuits tend to be grounded. I have worked for years under the name Lojah, anglicized from Loca which is the Muskogee word for turtle. As an enrolled member of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway Tribe, my family belongs to the Turtle Clan,* so it all came together quite nicely. The Turtle would be my first painting. I opted for a traditional Native styled design that has been important to me for years with a medicine wheel on its back to represent the four directions similar to the images found throughout prehistoric and contemporary North American iconography.

So with no instruction, a few meager supplies and a whole lot of inspiration I put paint to canvass and created this.


#1 Buckskin Turtle

Turtle 1I decided to start with a general background, something just to contrast with the turtle image. I mixed up a sort of amber colored yellow and painted the background. Then I laid the turtle down. I found the medium perplexing and unfamiliar so the brushstrokes are pretty obvious in places and the color isn’t as even as I intended for it to be, but overall I was pretty satisfied for my first attempt. I later realized that the background color resembles tanned deerskin and named it Buckskin Turtle.

Naturally, my mother loved it and put in a request for one like it. It took me a little while before I got around to painting another one and by that time I wanted to make one for my sister too. I found my inspiration again and began painting.

 

#2 Space Turtle

Turtle 2I decided to paint another turtle for its meaning to my family and to perfect the techniques necessary to paint something I expect to become a regular staple in my catalog. I decided that it needed a more dynamic background. Since the turtle represents the earth. I figured she should be represented in space kind of like a planet. The fact that I recently watched Star Wars Episode VII, the Force Awakens is purely coincidental. This second painting took a little more time than the first one, and I experimented a little bit more with techniques like layering and scumbling. This one has more breadth and depth than #1, and I was really pleased with the results.

 

#3 Water Turtle

Turtle 3While painting Space Turtle I realized that I should do the next one on water, since the Creek Creation Story describes the turtle living in a world of water. I investigated techniques for painting water and experimented with the “z shape.” The water’s surface didn’t turn out quite like I had hoped, but the turtle was the best one yet. By the time I got into this painting I could tell that I was more comfortable with the medium. The colors are more distinct and smoother especially in the turtle. This one became my favorite pretty quickly.

While painting Water Turtle I had a realization that before I painted anything else I should paint a fourth Turtle. Four is a special number to most Native American traditions and since I had already established that I was beginning this new trade upon a traditional foundation, I decided that I should complete the circle I had begun.

 

#4 Sky Turtle

Turtle 4I painted this turtle on a sky background to represent the idea of the turtle as earth in a terrestrial atmosphere. My youngest daughter, Hailey says he’s flying.  In my opinion this is by far the best one of the four. I was a lot more comfortable working with the paints, and I felt freer to let go of some of the rigidity I had in working on the previous paintings.

 

These are my first four paintings. I plan to make a lot more, but I promise my next one won’t be a turtle.


* Being of mixed Native American heritage and active in both communities I am a part of the Muskogee Creek Panther Clan as well as the Turtle Clan of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway nation.

The Wise Words of Tecumseh

Tecumseh02“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Chief Tecumseh

Shadowyze Bio

Shadowyze (pronounced shadow-wise) is a Native American hip hop artist who comes from a background of Muskogee Creek and Scots-Irish heritage.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of West Florida and his lyrics are woven within a fabric of insight and social awareness.




Shadowyze was born in San Antonio, Texas as Alvin Shawn Enfinger and relocated with his family to Pensacola, Fla. at the age of eight.  In 1989, Shadowyze launched his hip-hop career when his group, Posse In Effect, released the official theme song “Knock ‘em out the Ring Roy” recorded for then Olympic boxing Silver Medalist Roy Jones Jr. which received strong support on regional radio as well as NBC Sportsworld.

The big turning point in his career came after Shadowyze spent ten weeks in Central and South America and Mexico in 1998 where he witnessed the cruelty of the “low intensity war,” military oppression and poverty imposed upon the Mayan Indian population in Chiapas, Mexico which inspired his 1999 multi-single Murder in Our Backyard which was endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams of Ireland.

Shadowyze has appeared on over a 20 compilations and released three full length albums; Spirit Warrior (2001), World of Illusions (2003), and his current 2005 release; the self-titled Shadowyze featuring platinum recording Latino artist Baby Bash, and the production wizardry of Nashville’s DJ Dev of Devastating Music; production engineer of the triple platinum selling album 400 degrees by Juvenile and Happy Perez (producer of Baby Bash’s platinum hit Suga Suga, as well as Frankie J., Mystikal).  In 2006 Shadowyze, DJ Dev and Lojah teamed up to produce the multi-single “Powda & Flow” on Backbone Records.




Shadowyze has supported the Mayan Indian Relief Fund and in 2005 attracted national attention by helping to organize and coordinate a Hurricane Katrina relief effort delivering several thousands of dollars worth of supplies to the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

In 2005 Shadowyze won both the Native American Music Awards and the Pensacola, Florida Music Awards for best hip-hop and has been the focus of several stories appearing in Rolling Stone, Vibe, XXL, Billboard, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Shadowyze was featured on the covers of Downlow Magazine, Native Network and Get’em Magazine.

Through Backbone, Records; Shadowyze released Guerillas in the Mixx, a compilation in cooperation with Big Lo featuring Public Enemy, The Coup, Michael Franti, Spearhead, Afrika and Litefoot.

Shadowyze has spoken on Native American issues and performed his music on many Indian reservations, the Montrose Jazz Fest in Switzerland and the National Autry Center in Los Angeles.  His most recent release in 2009 on Backbone Records is titled after the Mayan prophecy “2012.”



Lojah featuring Sadowyze: Flow

The Ten Grandmothers; Epic of the Kiowas by Alice Marriot – Book Review

The Ten Grandmothers covers the history of the transition of Kiowa culture during roughly a 100 year period between 1847 and 1944 in an epic linear narrative.  As a work of history and anthropology, this book reads as compellingly as good fiction, with the profound depth of meaning as mythology.




The chapter Going Away was the most compelling to me.  This chapter takes place in 1883 with Grass Stem, the son of Hunting Horse and Spear Woman.  Once Grass Stem emerged from the school house in his blue trousers and white shirt, with his hair cut, his earrings removed and with the new name Stanley Hunt, it was clear that Kiowa life had changed permanently.  Nothing else up to this point in the book had quite the same impact regarding the changes to Kiowa life, not the coming of the first white traders, not the near extinction of the buffalo, not even the ending of the Sundance.  At the point Grass Stem is renamed, we get a glimpse not only of what has been lost in Kiowa culture, but the future of it.

The Ten Grandmothers is written in a literary style that reminds me of one of my favorite books, Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm.  It similarly follows the interactions of the Cheyenne, Crow and Sioux in a mythologized fashion over a period of several generations from before the arrival of the white man.  It progresses into the modern era using the old stories and the symbolism of the Sundance in order to convey the teachings of the Medicine Wheel.




Being written from a multi-generational perspective within the same families is what makes The Ten Grandmothers so effective in capturing the sense of change and adaptation from the freedom of life on the prairie to the 20th century.

The story ends with a strong sense of melancholy nostalgia as Spear Woman recounts all the events of the past to her granddaughter while they make their way to the buffalo park.  The buffalo have returned, only this time they are raised behind the fence, like the Kiowa.  And their appearance at the end of the book serves as a beacon that there is an as of yet unwritten future for both the buffalo and the Kiowa.



What is Enlightenment?

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“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.”

This first passage from the Book of Genesis hearkens back to the earliest times, the times even before light. Though allegorical at best, these words illustrate the scene of our great creator, for the first time shedding light on an infant world.

Similar creation myths from around the world illustrate the same basic imagery of a world in darkness which only truly comes to life after the divine powers create the sun, bringing the land out of darkness, enlivening it so it may become fruitful and prosperous. The lesson in these stories seem to be pointing us toward a certain direction, as if to suggest that only after being brought from darkness to light that a person can truly live to his full potential. This is the earliest seed of enlightenment.

The word inlihtan first appeared in Old English around 1382. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the term was used figuratively meaning “to remove the dimness or blindness from one’s eyes or heart.” (1) In this case enlightenment would be the state or process of doing so. Light, figuratively is what has been sought by all of humanity from birth, whether theologian, legislator or scientist. Countless symbols both secular and religious illustrate this point. The solar cross, an equal armed cross within a circle is likely the world’s most ancient invented spiritual symbol. It can be found throughout all of history inscribed from Ireland to Japan, from northern Scandinavia down through Africa, Australia and Pacifica. The solar cross is said to represent the solar calendar, marking the solstices and the equinoxes and is often credited to “sun-worship.”

In the Americas, Native religions also fixated on this solar symbol as the most significant spiritual metaphor. In English, this pan-Indian circumscribed cross is referred to as the Medicine Wheel. Amongst its many uses the Medicine Wheel is not only a symbol of the sun but wheelit is also a gauge by which to judge an individual’s level of knowledge and insight. The four corners of the cross usually represent the four directions, each one associated with a particular animal or spiritual being, representing certain desirable attributes associated with them. In the book “Seven Arrows,” Hyemeyohsts Storm allegorically describes the process by which the individual may come to enlightenment by way of the Medicine Wheel, attaining the various attributes associated with each point and thereby becoming a complete human being.

In more Buddhist circles enlightenment is described as a state of “wisdom that arises from the direct experience of all phenomena being empty of independent existence.”(2) This definition is more literal than the figurative definition previously given; “to remove the dimness or blindness from one’s eyes or heart,” but in essence it still remains the same. When one “sees” the light, he effectively “sees” or comprehends reality on a much higher than mundane level, no longer bound by flawed reason operating in darkness. Light has been shed upon obscure and often mysterious phenomena. The enlightened is knowledgeable and wise regarding his relationships, his role in society and the significance of everyone and everything else with whom he interacts. It is from the human quest for this figurative light that all our arts, sciences and religions were developed, originally as one quest for knowledge and meaning and later breaking up into separate specialized disciplines.

buddha

In the modern western world we have been brought up to think of religion as an organized system of belief and practice, following particular creeds and professing faith in a divine being. This idea certainly fits the definition of religion but the word is hardly confined by it. The Latin origin of the word had a far more pragmatic application regarding its relationship, not only to the divine but to everyone and everything around the person. In Latin the word religre means to bind and comes from the verb “ligre, to close or combine, to create an alliance or to make a deal to form a bond or to create a relationship.

Other words such as legislation and delegation also find their roots in this verb; the process of defining morality and proper behavior between a person, his fellow humans and his government or between governments religre. Ideally, this is achieved through the constant pondering of right and wrong, propriety and impropriety and through discourse with others doing the same. In society both ancient and contemporary, legislation even defines kinship, of who can and cannot marry due to how they are related or how it is perceived that they should or should not relate to each other. As any anthropologist will likely agree; kinship is one of the most vital foundations of coming to terms with a society’s traditions, laws and religion.

It is clear that the word religion in its truest definition reflects a system of relationships, not just a system of belief. It more properly refers to cultural paradigms and organized principles of morality. What is morality other than the proper behavior one human should have towards all his relations? Enlightenment is the state or process of pondering the mysterious or seemingly inexplicable, to organize thoughts, create theories and test them for the purpose of bettering the self and society. Philosophers, physicians and metaphysicians have continuously sought to shed light on obscure and illusive subjects, rendering them into workable formulas of knowledge and theory. Physical science perhaps most of all has sought and often achieved creating light from darkness and knowledge where none existed before and defining relationships between geometric shapes and numbers or strands of DNA. This is the most natural of human aspirations; to learn and develop, to mature into wisdom, organize it and apply it, passing it on to the next generation. This is the process of enlightenment.

Some theories suggest that the linguistic use of the word enlightenment is a remnant of “sun-worship,” an outdated and archaic form of religion. How unfortunate that they should have such an unenlightened perception of the subject. Sun-worship, if it ever really existed in any true form was no doubt an outgrowth of humanity’s natural inclination to seek the light of truth and understanding, the sun being the earliest example of luminescence and its contrast to darkness. In the light of day, primitive man could analyze his environment and learn. Darkness represented ignorance and lack of perception. Therefore it is only through light, even the dim glow of the stars that one could discern, learn and develop.

benfranklin
Benjamin Franklin

It should come as no surprise that the first great period of European discovery, development of the arts, sciences, government and religion, emerging from the ignorance and oppression of the Dark Ages is typically referred to as the Age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment Age was defined by reason and that humans by nature are autonomous, responsible for their own self development and the welfare of society. Self-development was often defined as the citizen’s responsibility through their own efforts to be educated and participate in politics in order to help reform the ills of society. It is from this era of enlightenment that the United States Declaration of Independence was written declaring that it was the people’s right and our destiny endowed by our Creator, entitled by the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God to liberate ourselves from tyranny. This was revolutionary thinking in its day. Political revolution was everywhere and it redefined Europe from the ground up. The Age of Enlightenment was defined by revolution and redefinition

Enlightenment is more than a metaphor and it is not just an abstract idea involving transcendental escapism from worldly suffering. Nor is it the result of diligently following a particular creed or maintaining a particular set of teachings and exercises or any other magical formula. Such things are merely working tools to help along the way. Enlightenment is a process of seeking and uncovering the truth about ideas, traditions, institutions and relationships and then putting them into action. Enlightenment is only enlightening in action even if that action is pursuing stillness. Balance and propriety must be nurtured. Wrong action and reaction must be subdued. The path of enlightenment is a process of discovery, reflection and devotion. It is the continuously seeking of the light of knowledge and defining our world, liberating the human race from darkness and tyranny.  Only in this way will we ever see a truly enlightened age.

(1) Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 13 Nov. 2007. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enlighten

(2) http://www.kusala.org/udharma6/enlightnirvana.html

Freemasonry and the Great Seal on the Dollar bill

dollar bill photo: Dollar Bill before dollarback.jpg

The intriguing imagery of the Great Seal on the back of the United States’ one dollar bill is cause for much curiosity and speculation.  This has been a discussion amongst fans of the occult for decades, but in recent years the success of the movie “National Treasure” has brought the subject to the attention of popular culture and revived the myth that the symbols on the Great Seal represent a secret Masonic code.  While it is true that several of the United States founding fathers were in fact Freemasons, it is not true that the United States One Dollar Bill contains any symbolism adopted from or inspired by Freemasonry.  The true meanings behind the symbolism of the Great Seal on the dollar bill, while having a great depth of meaning is not so mysterious or esoteric.

The Symbolism

The Great Seal of the United States consists of a bald eagle spread with 13 arrows held tightly in his left talon. His right talon clutches an olive branch with thirteen leaves. Supported on the eagle’s breast is an escutcheon or shield containing a representation of the United States Flag-a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes. In his mouth he carries a banner which contains the Latin Phrase “E pluribus Unum.” Above his head is a radiant six-pointed star composed of 13 five-pointed stars.

On the obverse side of the Great Seal, found on the left side of the dollar is a representation of an Egyptian style pyramid with 13 layers and a flat, truncated top. Just above this sits an eye inside a triangle. At its base are inscribed the Latin numerals indicating the year 1776, the year of American independence from Britain. Circumscribing the image are the Latin phrases “Annuit Coeptus” above and “Novus Ordo Seclorum” below.

The Explanation

The repetition of the number 13 on the Great Seal and the United States Flag is a subject of great interest to conspiracy enthusiasts and occultist speculators who parrot inaccurate resources claiming the number 13 has special meaning to Freemasons. The fact is that the number 13 has no special significance to Freemasonry and never has. Freemasonry does place special emphasis on certain numbers such as 3, 5, 7 and 15, but not on the number 13.  The number 13 does however, have a rather special significance to American history. The number 13 happens to be precisely the number of the American colonies who rebelled against Britain, becoming the United States. This is why the designers of the Great Seal emphasized the number time over again.

The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States was adopted from interaction with Native Americans. Many traditional Native American communities have considered the bald eagle the most sacred of all birds and a symbol of the Creator. The founders of the United States in imitation of their Indian neighbors adopted the bald eagle as the greatest symbol of freedom and liberty and the highest aspirations of the new nation.

The escutcheon resting on the eagle’s chest contains the symbol of the American flag. The last man who worked on the seal’s design, Charles Thomson described the meaning behind the colors of the flag and the other symbols in this manner;

“The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.”*

It is also interesting to note that the colors red and white are often used by Native Nations of the Eastern United States to represent war and peace respectively. Many of the Muskogean towns were historically divided into red-military and white-diplomatic communities which were loosely united under various confederacies. It should come as no surprise that the seal of the United States contains so much Native American symbolism when one considers the fact that many of these same founders had stormed a British ship during the “Boston Tea Party” dressed in war paint and feathers just a few years earlier.

The arrows and the olive branch held in the eagle’s talons represent two diametrically opposing principles that help to establish and maintain a nation; war and peace. The symbol of the arrows held together was adopted from the Iroquois Confederacy which influenced much of American democracy.  The Iroquois used the image of seven arrows which represented the seven different ‘tribes’ who composed the Iroquois League.  The symbolism teaches that one arrow alone (a single tribe) is easily broken, but all seven held together in a single common defense are much more difficult to break. The Founders of the US used the same symbolism, altered slightly to account for all the 13 United States.  This coincides with the Latin motto displayed on the eagle’s banner; “E pluribus Unum” which translates as “Out of many, One,” illustrating the Union formed by these States. The United States is after all, many states which make up a single nation.

The olive branch is an ancient symbol of peace and vitality from western cultures. It was used widely by the ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, Romans and Persians. The olive has been a widely adored fruit, the oil of which was anciently claimed to have many healthful and spiritual properties. The many designers of this seal used these two images of both the “Old World” and the “New World” to symbolize the integration of the new nation, based on both European and Native American ideals.

The pyramid side is sometimes called the spiritual side of the seal. The pyramid design was chosen as a symbol of duration, a nearly eternal nation and of the West’s ancient heritage, much of which has its roots in Ancient Egypt. It is important to note that people during the Enlightenment Era marking the democratization of the West were heavily involved in speculation upon ancient symbols and histories. This is also the era that birthed the remarkable discipline of archaeology.

The Eye of Providence sits at the pyramids zenith. Historically the All-seeing-Eye motif has been used by countless civilizations on all continents but interested parties who promote the Masonic Dollar theory like to point out that a very similar motif is in fact used by Freemasons today. This is true however; those who promote this theory often fail to recognize that during the Enlightenment the eye motif was used repeatedly by many different artists and organizations unassociated with Freemasonry. It is also often overlooked that the Eye motif had been an element of the design on the Great Seal since the seal was first proposed on August 20th, 1776 and finally adopted by Congress on June 20th 1782. Freemasons did not begin using the all-seeing-eye emblem until 1797 in “The Freemasons Monitor of Thomas Smith Webb” fifteen years after the Great Seal was finalized. In fact it is more likely that Freemasons adopted the motif from the Great Seal rather than the other way around.

The Latin phrase “Annuit Coeptus” means “He has favored our undertakings,” which refers to the founding belief that the success of the American revolution was a matter of divine Providence as can be found written in the Declaration of Independence. The next phrase is another point that conspiracy enthusiast enjoy kicking around like a rusty old tin can, telling themselves it’s actually a football.

“Novus Ordo Seclorum” does not mean “New World Order” as so often incorrectly translated. It means “New Order of the Ages.” It refers to the Founders recognition that they were creating a new order in a new era. They recognized that they had begun an age of reason, logic, and spiritual and practical liberty from dogmatic institutions. The new order was liberty, democracy and republicanism in opposition to the old order of submission to monarchical regimes.

The seal of the United States is a proud symbol of our heritage, our determination and our history. The symbolism reveals that we are one nation of many different people, unlike any other, striving for peace but prepared to go to war to protect each other. We are free and strive for more freedom. Our nation is divinely inspired and protected by God and its legacy will survive for as long have the ancient monuments of the past. The quest for freedom is not a conspiracy. That is the propaganda of tyrants. The quest for freedom is the nature of the human soul and our natural state, eternal and can never be crushed by the illegitimate rule of dictators.

___

* http://www.state.gov/www/publi cations/great_seal.pdf

-http:// masonicinfo.com/eye.htm

-Exiled in the Land of the Free Democracy, Indian Nations and The US Constitution by, Lyons, Mohawk, Deloria Jr., Hauptman, Berman, Grinde Jr., Berkey, Venables

-http://en.wikipedia.o rg/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

-The Federalist by Hamilton, Madison and Jay

 

Alexander McGillivray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillvray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillivray (1750-1793)

Many great historical chiefs are celebrated in Native American popular culture. The most commonly remembered names include Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Tecumseh and Chief Joseph. Along with these belongs the 18th century Muscogee Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, a great man who is not as commonly spoken about, but is just as significant to both Native American and United State history as those formerly mentioned.

Alexander McGillivray was the principle chief of the Creek Nation near the end of the 18th century. He was the son of Sehoy Marchand, a French-Creek woman from the powerful Wind Clan. His father was the prominent Scottish trader Lachlan McGillivray who immigrated to Creek country in 1736 from Dunmaglass, Scotland, and spent the majority of his time in Little Tallassee and Otciabofa which was also called Hickory Ground [1] on the Coosa River. This is where Lachlan met Sehoy.

Lachlan secured lands amongst the Creek people near the ruins of the French Fort Toulouse close by Little Tallassee. There, he planted a garden and built a plantation house, naming it the “Apple Grove.” In time Lachlan became a wealthy trader, entrenched and well respected among the Indians.

When Alexander was a young man his father sent him to Charleston, S.C. to be educated in the British tradition. After returning to his home on the Coosa River, Alexander was honored as a chief on the Creek National Council and given the name Hopue-hethlee-Mekko or “Good-Child King.” Shortly thereafter he was commissioned a colonel in the British army and installed as the English Agent to the Indians. He donned the uniform of a British officer, with the headdress of a Creek chief, complete with the white feathers of his rank and led a faction of Creek warriors in the Battle of Pensacola.

Before long, Alexander rose to prominence, becoming the principle chief of the Creek Nation. Being a fan of European history, he preferred to use the term emperor, though his actual power in the nation was severely limited and somewhat tenuous. He was a frequent visitor to and property-owner in Pensacola, FL, negotiating treaties with the Spanish who were the dominant European power in the region. He led Spanish funded attacks on American frontier settlements in Georgia. After the American Revolution, McGillivray was invited to Virginia where he received a paid Generalship from George Washington in the United States army.

An eager capitalist, Alexander McGillivray was also an investor and silent partner in Panton, Leslie and Company who opened a trading post on McGillivray’s property, the first brick and mortar building established in Pensacola, FL. His first wife was Vicey Cornells who bore him two daughters: Peggy and Lizzie. His second wife was Elise Moniac, the sister of the Choctaw chief Red Shoes and they had three children: Margaret, Alleck and Elizabeth.

As a native statesman, McGillivray worked tirelessly throughout his career to create a Creek Nation recognizable and respected by European nations, but still distinctly Creek, distinctly “Indian.” Much like his Cherokee neighbors he succeeded, at least until 1830, when the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson, robbing the people of their lands.

In January 1793 McGillivray traveled to Pensacola for a business meeting with William Panton. On the trip he developed a fever and never recovered. On February 17, 1793 at eleven o’clock at night, in the home of William Panton, Alexander McGillivray died. He was buried in the garden of Panton’s house in Pensacola, laid to rest with full Masonic honors [2]. Alexander McGillivray was such a loved and respected leader that he was mourned throughout the lands. His obituary ran in London in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

Feb. 17. At Pensacola, Mr. McGillivray, a Creek chief, very much lamented by those who knew him best. There happened to be that time at Pensacola a numerous band of Creeks, who watched his illness with the most marked anxiety, and when his death was announced to them, and while they followed him to the grave, it is impossible for words to describe the loud screams of real woe which they vented in their unaffected grief. He was, by his father’s side a Scotchman, of the respectable family of Drummaglass, in Invernesshire. The vigor of his mind overcame the disadvantages of an education had in the wilds of America, and he was well acquainted with all the most useful European sciences. In the latter part of his life he composed, with great care, the history of several classes of the original inhabitants of America; and this he intended to present to Professor Robertson, for publication in the next edition of his History. The European and the American writer are no more; and the MMS of the latter, it is feared, have perished, for the Indians adhere to their custom of destroying whatever inanimate objects a dead friend most delighted in. It is only since Mr. McGillivray had influence amongst them, that they have suffered the slaves of a deceased master to live.”[3]

[1] Hickory Ground; a very special town and meeting place within upper Creek Country. Creek; Ocē vpofv, also called Little Tallassee.

[2] It is believed that Alexander McGillivray was the first Mason in the State of Alabama. Some researchers claim that A.M.’s remains were shipped to Scotland and buried on his father Lachlan’s land.

[3] Gentleman’s Magazine, Printed under the caption: Marriages and Deaths of considerable Persons,” August, 1793, Vol. LXIII, London, p. 767

Lojah in Celtic-Folk-Punk

I was covered in Celtic-Folk-Punk at blogspot recently.

Lojah is a Native American-Irish folksinger from Pensacola, Florida. He describes his eclectic sound as Creolized Roots Music, influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and Southern American blues. His music is immersed in social realism, and arcane insight woven together with tongue-in-cheek witticism and a festive vibe. He is currently performing acoustic sets along the Gulf Coast.

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Pub Songs on Palafox” is a four song, lo-fi, EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Lojah solo performance as executed while busking downtown in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.

 Lojah begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, “Dicey Reilly“, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. “The Black Velvet Band” is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is “Looks Like Jesus“, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Lojah original that tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. “Miss Constance” concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women.


Released 21 June 2013

Jay Moody (Lojah) – guitar, vocals
Recorded at Jinks Music Universe, Pensacola, FL

Shadowyze, Native America’s Hip-Hop Activist, Advocate

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. Though his dress may be in the current urban fashion his attitudes certainly are not. Upon first meeting him, many hip-hop officiandos take immediate note of his lack of gold. In fact he has been accosted for not sporting more ‘bling.’

“Some people just want to challenge your hip-hop credentials” Shadowyze explains; “for not being absurdly materialistic or boastful. But I want my listeners to be inspired to do more than just be showy and greedy. I mean, financial success is a good thing, but with the more bling you can afford, I think the more you should be focused on making your community better. Besides, gold really bothers me. I relate so much negative history to it regarding conquistadors pillaging Indian communities for gold throughout the Americas. That’s what greed does to people and I don’t want to encourage that.”

From a background of Muskogee Creek and Scots-Irish heritage, as a writer and producer Shadowyze represents in many ways an atypical strain within an extremely active and empowering social dynamic called hip-hop. Not only does he produce bumping’ tracks and deliver catchy hooks’ but he also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of West Florida. His lyrics are woven within a fabric of insight and social awareness.

shadowyze

Shadowyze was born in San Antonio, Texas as Alvin Shawn Enfinger and relocated with his family to Pensacola, Fla. at the age of eight. He began rapping as a means to express his ideas on the many issues he witnessed growing up. “My mother was really poor and as a kid a lot of times we weren’t sure if we could afford enough to eat. We were always about one paycheck away from living under a bridge. Some days I’d see cops abusing suspects and on others I’d see street criminals shooting at cops. Through rap I found a way to express my views on these things.”

When he was eighteen, Shadowyze launched his hip-hop career in 1989 when his group, Posse In Effect, released the official theme song “Knock em out the Ring Roy” recorded for then Olympic boxing Silver Medalist Roy Jones Jr. This song received strong support on regional radio as well as NBC Sportsworld. But the big turning point in his career came after spending ten weeks in Central and South America and Mexico in 1998 where Shadowyze witnessed the cruelty of the “low intensity war,” military oppression and poverty imposed upon the Mayan Indian population in Chiapas, Mexico. This life lesson inspired him to speak out and compose his 1999 multi-single Murder in Our Backyard which received a lot of media attention and an endorsement from Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams of Ireland.

In addition to the music Shadowyze delivered on this subject, he also involved himself directly by assisting Ricky Long with his Mayan Indian Relief Fund, taking supplies of clothing, books and medicines to the Indians in Chiapas Mexico where Shadowyze was called Corazon de los Zapatistas or Zapatista’s Heart.

Many publications vigorously supported Shadowyze during this point in his career by running stories on his causes and endeavors. By 1999 Shadowyze was featured in such international Native American Centered periodicals as Native Peoples, Aboriginal Voices, Whispering Wind, News from Indian Country and Talking Stick as well as magazines focused in the musical world such as the underground hip-hop magazine; Insomniac, Word Up and Trace.

In the United States Shadowyze has spoken on Native American issues and performed his music on many reservations including Poarch Creek in Alabama, Big Cypress Seminole Res. in Florida, Shennicock in Long Island, The Pueblos of New Mexico and others. But his experience is by no means limited to domestic affairs. As a performer Shadowyze has appeared in Germany and at the Montrose Jazz Fest in Switzerland and his anthropological callings have led him to visit several different Indian communities in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Belize and Guatemala.

Shadowyze sums up his experiences with this description; “Even though there is a lot of poverty and despair in some of the areas I’ve been to, it never brings me down. I see a lot of great accomplishments made by Natives throughout the world. It’s really very inspiring to see how many of the communities have adapted to their current surroundings often for the betterment of their societies. And far back in the jungles I’ve gained a lot of insight from experiencing their ancient ways of life. It’s like seeing how my own people lived just a few centuries ago.”

Since his musical career has taken off with Murder In Our Backyard, Shadowyze has appeared on over a dozen compilations and released three full length albums; Spirit Warrior (2001), World of Illusions (2003), and his current 2005 release; the self-titled Shadowyze. This newest album features such respectable names in the music business as platinum Latino recording artist Baby Bash, and the production wizardry of Nashville’s DJ Dev of Devastating Music; production engineer of the triple platinum selling album 400 degrees by Juvenile.

2005 was a good year for the 33-year-old artist. Shadowyze won both the Native American Music Awards and the Pensacola, Florida Music Awards for best hip-hop and has been the focus of several stories appearing in Rolling Stone, Vibe, XXL, Billboard, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Through Backbone, Records; Shadowyze’s personally owned and operated record company he also released Guerillas in the Mixx, a compilation in cooperation with Big Lo featuring Public Enemy, The Coup, Michael Franti, Spearhead, Afrika and Litefoot. For 2006, there are plans for the production of several compilations including Dirty South Radio and The Best of Florida Hip Hop vol. 1 that promise to be more insightful glimpses of a mixture of funk-driven rhythms and enlightening lyricism.

Though Shadowyze is always the musical businessman, his humanitarian side is never stifled. Recently Shadowyze has attracted national attention once again by helping to organize and coordinate a Hurricane Katrina relief effort delivering several thousands of dollars worth of supplies to the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This reservation was ravaged by the great storm and the people have gone mostly unnoticed by the media. Shadowyze explained the frustrations he felt that encouraged him to organize this effort; “While there were TV commercials asking for relief efforts to go to the abandoned house pets in New Orleans, the Choctaws in Mississippi were going hungry.” In fact the load of supplies personally delivered by Shadowyze was the first, large, independent delivery the Choctaws of Philadelphia received.

Shadowyze is not the typical Grammy-nominated hip-hop celebrity. With one foot in the music industry and the other in indigenous socio-political activism, Shadowyze has established himself in a world much richer than the standard glamorization of sex, drugs and violence. Not only does he orate on the social issues he is impassioned to inform the public of, but he has also been a first hand witness to many of them. Well traveled, well rounded and gifted with the ability to poeticize nearly any idea that comes to his mind, Shadowyze is quite animate and enthusiastic when he describes his thoughts. As a spokesman for unity, Native American identity and environmental respect, Shadowyze and the subjects he brings to the table have caught the attention of countless fans seeking music with a message even-deeper than the bass that bumps in their rides.

Native Tribalism In The Twenty-First Century

nativepride4In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries “Family Values” have been at the forefront of many a politician’s rhetoric in the United States.  Though these social servants may think that they mean well, in truth they often have done and do more to hinder family values than they do to help.  Indigenous family values have been steadily attacked for the greater span of history, often by the goals and aims of the capitalist mainstream of American and Western society through the colonial process.  It is through this process of colonialism and the perpetuation of the values inherent in this philosophy of conquest and assimilation that has brought the plague of impoverished, powerless families in crises to the world.  Indigenous peoples in general have always been the primary targets of these acts of aggression against family values, and since the close of the fifteenth century, Native Americans have been the victims of this war on the family.  As an Indian and a Stomp Dancer at a traditional ceremonial grounds I have some close ties to this subject as I have witnessed first hand some of the destructive policies of the government in these matters which have long standing and far reaching consequences for people of all races.


Traditionally Native Americans have lived in social organizations that anthropologists and sociologists have called bands and tribes.  As Andre Cherlin points out;

Before the twentieth century, kinship ties provided the basis for governing most American Indian tribes.  A person’s household was linked to a larger group of relatives who might be a branch of a matrilineal or patrilineal clan [→p38] that shared power with other clans. Thus kinship organization was also political organization.  Under these circumstances, extended kinship ties reflected power and status to a much greater extent than among other racial ethnic groups in the United States.  American Indian kinship systems allowed individuals to have more relatives, than did Western European kinship systems (Shoemaker, 1991).  Even today, extended family ties retain a significance for American Indians that goes beyond the sharing of resources that has been noted among other groups (Harjo,1993).  Kinship networks constitute tribal organization; kinship ties confer an identity.[1]

Vine Deloria Jr., renowned Native American author and former Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians develops the idea further into more practical detail;

Indian tribes have always had two basic internal strengths, which can also be seen in corporations: customs and clans.  Tribes are not simply composed of Indians.  They are highly organized as clans, within which variations of tribal traditions and customs govern.  While the tribe makes decisions on general affairs, clans handle specific problems.  Trivia is thus kept out of tribal affairs by referring it to clan solutions.

Customs rise as clans rise to meet problems and solve them.  They overflow from the clan into general tribal usage as their capability and validity are recognized.  Thus a custom can spread from a minor clan to the tribe as a whole and prove to be a significant basis for tribal behavior.  In the same manner, methods and techniques found useful in one phase of corporate existence can become standard operating procedure for an entire corporation.[2]

However, this tribal structure has never suited the palate of Western colonialism which seeks to consolidate its power and authority over national as well as individual resources.  The socialistic and communal nature of Native tribalism in America is in exact opposition to the nuclear family oriented and discriminating values of Western colonialism.


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After four hundred years of struggling against the effects of colonialism; disease, wars and genocide the last free Indians in North America were forced onto reservations in1886 when Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua Apaches surrendered at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona.  As soon as the federal government was convinced they had rounded up all the Indians, they forced Native communities to be defined by a set standard of perceived genetics in an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Indian tribal structure.  By applying blood standards to Native Identity the federal government alienated and further factionalized Native families and communities which were often genetically mixed, while also limiting their contemporary as well as future claims to Indigenous identity and sovereignty.  Ward Churchill, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder says;

In clinging insistently to a variation of eugenics formulation — dubbed “blood-quantum” – ushered in by the 1887 General Allotment Act, while implementing such policies as the Federal Indian Relocation Program (1956-1982), the government has set the stage for a “statistical extermination” of the indigenous population within its borders.  As the noted western historian, Patricia Nelson Limerick, has observed: “Set the blood-quantum at one quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed…and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence.  When that happens, the federal government will finally be freed from its persistent ‘Indian Problem’.”[3]

Though portrayed as a means of preserving tribal identity and interests, the blood quantum standards of the General Allotment Act have in fact only served to undermine tribal integrity.

Today tribal membership is determined on quite a legalistic basis, which is foreign to the accustomed tribal way of determining its constituency.  The property interests of descendants of the original enrollees or allotees have become determining factors in compiling tribal membership rolls.  People of small Indian blood quantum or those descended from people who were tribal members a century ago, are thus included on the tribal membership roll. Tribes can no longer form and reform on sociological, religious, or cultural bases.  They are restricted in membership by federal officials responsible for administering trust properties who demand that the rights of every person be respected and whether or not that person presently appears in an active and recognized role in the tribal community.  Indian tribal membership today is a fiction created by the federal government, not a creation of the Indian people themselves.[4]

Throughout the years that followed, interaction between the United States government and Native peoples the federal policy has been one of either complete destruction or dissolution of the tribal structure.  Less than half a century after the last Indian wars the United States government began investigating ways to rid themselves of the impoverished, unified family-based communities surviving off of federal commodities, hopefully this time, without having to shoot anybody.

In 1947, in order to save funds and gain stronger control over tribal reservation lands, Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Zimmerman was pressured to classify Indian Tribes into categories between those tribes that could be immediately terminated from federal service and those tribes who will require a decade or more of intensified programs of development in order to reach a level of assimilation to function within white society.  In 1950 the House Internal Committee based their survey of Indians on The Domesday Survey of 1086 as the model for their investigation on Indian affairs and economic assets.  The Domesday Survey was William the Conqueror’s survey of his recently conquered British territory and subjects nearly a thousand years earlier. The committee’s intention was to expedite the assimilation of Native Americans and the dissolution of their tribal structure, the indigenous family value.  The following years between 1954 –1968 were full of Congressional cases of tribal termination.[5]

Native American communities have continuously been treated more as conquered prisoners to be assimilated rather than American citizens effectively trivializing them as human beings.  While federal policy has tended to always be aimed toward unraveling the tribal structure in order to dissolve Native sovereignty all together, the media and non-indigenous society typically portray Indians in historical romance rather than in contemporary settings; showing Natives dealing with our modern day colonialism.  This lack of accurate portrayal of Natives has served to keep the general populace ignorant and uninformed regarding much of the truth regarding Native America.  Churchill again brings the issue into focus by explaining;

Nothing, perhaps, is more emblematic of Hollywood’s visual pageantry than scenes of Plains Indian warriors astride their galloping ponies, many of them trailing a flowing headdress in the wind, thundering into battle against the blue-coated troops of the United States.  By, now more than 500 feature films and half again as many television productions have included representations of this sort.  We have been served such fare along with the tipi, the buffalo hunt, the attack upon the wagon train and the ambush of the stage coach, until they have become so indelibly imprinted upon the American consciousness as to be synonymous with Indians as a whole (to nonindians at any rate and, to many native people as well).

It’s not the technical inaccuracies in such representations that are the most problematic, although these are usually many and often extreme.  Rather, it is the fact that the period embodied in such depictions spans the barely three decades running from 1850 to 1880, the interval of warfare between the various plains people and the ever encroaching soldiers and settlers of the United States.  There is no “before” to the story and there is no “after.”  Cinematic Indians have no history before Euroamericans come along to momentarily imbue them with it, and then, mysteriously, they seem to pass out of existence altogether.”[6]

It is for these reasons that both of the United States ethnic majorities, both black and white tend to misunderstand, misrepresent, not care or consider issues of native sovereignty and the integrity of the tribal structure to be a joke.  As far as most Americans are concerned Native tribalism and sovereignty does little more than stimulate the imagination.  The most support and understanding or sympathizing with Native family struggles outside of Native America arises in the Mexican and Latino population who tend to feel some kinship with Indians.  Native political concerns do not translate well across ethnic boundaries.  Unlike issues between black and white, which tend to be focused on integration, equal opportunity and employment, few ethnic groups in the United States can identify with modern conflicts over Reservation sovereignty, treaty violations, the right to ethnic self-identification and to maintain self-governance.  As Deloria explains it;

The closest parallel that we find in history to the present conditions of Indians is the Diaspora of the Jews following the destruction of the Temple … The Indian exile is in a sense more drastic.  The people often live less than a hundred miles away from their traditional homelands; yet in the relative complexities of reservation and urban life, they might be two-thousand or more years apart.  It’s not simply a special separation that has occurred but a temporal one as well.[7]

In less than five hundred years once powerful and highly specialized family oriented nations were reduced to ‘fourth world’ poverty .

NATIVE AMERICANS, or American Indians, suffer some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment among racial minority groups in the United States, and conditions are even worse on Native American reservations. In 1989, 27.2 percent of Native American families lived below the poverty level while 10 percent of all American families fell into this category (U.S Bureau of the Census 1990a, Table 112). The 1989 Native American family median income was $21,619, only 67 percent of the average family median income for the total U.S. population (ibid). Census Bureau estimates of Native American unemployment rates across selected reservations in 1990 vary from 14 percent to 44 percent (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990b, Summary Tape File 3c). The Bureau of Indian Affairs reports even higher unemployment rates for these areas, estimating rates as high as 70 percent for some reservations (Stuart 1987). Both series place reservation unemployment rates far above average rates for other races or regions.[8]

Indian tribes have been located to lands, splintered, relocated to other places and then relocated again whenever they begin to show a little too much organizational and political aptitude or when valuable resources are found on tribal lands.  Native Americans are continually losing their cultures and identity through tribal dissolution and general neglect of our current political and social obstacles by the media.  The loss of land and sovereignty is continuing to cripple the societies and render the individuals as little more than impoverished peoples and blood quantum standards encourage factionalism and disintegration by forcing mixed blood cousins off of tribal rolls.

The poor treatment and misrepresentation of social issues of Indigenous peoples by the colonial governments and their respective media sets a bad precedent for other nations.  When the world’s Indigenous peoples are oppressed and maltreated on the land that is rightfully their own then the individuals within the colonial society themselves are subject to similar or worse treatment by their own governments.  When a people whose historic and ethnic, social and religious claim to a land is undermined and effectively nullified, no one can expect to have land rights or social and religious freedom without government interference.

Native American tribalism has been an issue of trivia for western society for the past five hundred years.  The colonial structure has shunned it and counterculturalists have imitated it in their defiance of their corporate culture yet, this is perhaps the most misunderstood, misrepresented and misconstrued aspect of “Indianess.”  The Tribal structure of Indigenous people is the backbone of human culture from its roots to its leaves, but oddly enough this truest aspect of human nature has been enduring a wholesale eradication in the name of progress.  The most unfortunate aspect of this dilemma just may be the total alienation of westernized society from its indigenous roots, its true family nature.

It would do Western societies good to pay heed to indigenous ideas and views.  The world’s nations will likely never come to any justice in social reform if they do not reconsider their modern colonial perspective and come to grips with their indigenous roots.

[1] Cherlin, Adrew J., Public and Private Families, McGraw-Hill Higher Education Publishing, 2005, pg 22

[2] Deloria Jr, Vine, Custer Died For Your Sins, Macmillian Publishing, New York, 1988, pg 232

[3] Churchill, Ward, Indians Are Us, Culture and Genocide in Native North America, Common Courage Press, 1994, pg 42

[4] Deloria Jr, Vine, God Is Red, a Native View of Religion, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, 1994 pg 243

[5] Deloria Jr, Vine, Custer Died For Your Sins, Macmillian Publishing, New York, 1988, pg 60

[6] Churchill, Ward, Acts of Rebellion, the Ward Churchill Reader, Routledge, New York, 2003, pg 186

[7] Deloria Jr, Vine, God Is Red, a Native View of Religion, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, pg 249

[8] Geib, Elizabeth Zahrt, Do Reservation Native Americans Vote with Their Feet? A Re-examination of Native American Migration, 1985-1990 – Focus on Economic Sociology American Journal of Economics and Sociology, The, Oct, 2001