Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

K-BEAR

The Voice of Radio Free Native America

The European side of me is a wanderer, it is never so happy as when I am seeing new places and meeting new people. Its bread and butter is being where I have never been before.

My Apache half on the other hand, is like a compass in my heart that constantly points to the mountains and deserts of my home. It knows that the only real colors are the ones found in a New Mexico sunset.

This as you can imagine, will sometimes create conflicts, because as you may have noticed, I do a lot of traveling.

When I am in the States it is not a big deal, I think it is because I know that if I had to, I could walk back home. And I do manage to get back to New Mexico once or twice a year if I am in the US.

But if I have an ocean between me and my homeland I get really "antsy" after a time. This was even true when I lived in Sweden, even though that is where my mother's people came from, though it was not as bad there as it has been in some places.

So, when I had been living in Tanzania just over two months I started getting homesick.

It is a strange feeling. I would look around and feel in my bones that this was not my "place", the land did not know me, and I did not know it. Now this is not to say that I did not like Africa, I love Africa, and I think that Africa likes me as well. But I will never have the same connection that Africans have to their land. In watching the Maasai, it is evident that they have the same sort of connection to their land that I do to mine, something of the blood and bone.

My grandfather used to tell me that our land itself would teach me everything I needed to know to become wise in the way that our old people were wise. My grandfather was right. Every part of our land holds a story, every rock and plant, every stream and mountain is a teacher. The stories that were connected to our land were told to me by my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, until they took root in my bones, and connected me to the land of my people.

As I grew older and traveled about a bit more I began to learn more of the stories that the land told. I have spent considerable time on the Navajo reservation, and my friends and family there introduced me to the stories of the land that define them as a people.

During my twenties I traveled extensively with my adopted father (most Native peoples have two families, their blood relations and the family they make by adoption. in some ways the family you adopt has more importance, because you make those relations by choice) to different reservations all over the US. He was a healer, and he would get calls from reservations all across the US and we would spend weeks traveling from place to place so that he could work on the people who needed him. And in every place I heard the stories from all the different tribes about this place or that place on their land, the stories that told them who they were and their place in the universe. After years of this it is as if what you are made of is the very stuff of your home land.

So when I get homesick it is a major illness.

One of the things that I have found that relieve the symptoms of homesickness is music. So I gave a list of Native artists to a friend who was a music pirate to see if he could put a CD of Native music together for me. It was no luck.

So I started looking around the internet for whatever I could find.

It was not much. The Microsoft Media player has a "native" station listed under "New Age" but it was pretty limited.

Then one day, quite by accident I ran across Live 365, and on a chance I looked for Native American.

I found K-BEAR
I recognized the reference to "Northern Exposure" one of the very few TV shows that justify the medium.

So I tuned in.

How can I describe it?

It was like the smell of creosote bush and sage after a summer storm. It was the taste of cowboy coffee at sunrise, boiled in an enameled pot over a juniper fire. It was fry bread and watermelon made by my grandmother and eaten under the cottenwoods in front of her house.

It was as if God had made a radio station just for me, a combination of contemporary Native Artists, Traditional tribal music, and the best Rock and Roll ever played.

The traditional music is important.

My adopted father could speak about six different Native languages and sing songs from more tribes than I can remember.

This was because he was sent to one of the Indian boarding schools, run by missionaries, that the US government supported.

This was a place where young natives would be educated and civilized so that they could take their rightful place in American society, as servants and menials to the Anglos.

When a child arrived at one of these schools, he would have his hair cut and be dressed in a uniform and be given a "Christian" name. He would also be forbidden to speak his language or do anything "Indian".

My father and his friends taught each other their languages in secret so that they would not lose them, and they would sneak off into the fields, tie a piece of inner tube to an old coffee can for a drum, and teach each other their traditional songs. This was no small undertaking, if someone was caught speaking an Indian language they would be beaten, locked in the attic and starved by the missionaries.

My father always said that the songs helped him keep his identity through the years that the missionaries tried to turn him into a second class white man.

And K-BEAR had some truly great traditional music.

I think I have listened to this station every day since I found it. Wherever I am it is like having a small piece of home with me, and that is a comfort.

So when you have a moment, tune in and check out Radio Free Native America, for my money it is the closest you will ever come to a perfect radio station.

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