15 May 2008


lll ) lllllllll Aakiipisskaan…

Matonni, I had to drive to mohkinsstsis for a FNAHEC (First Nations Adult Higher Education Consortium) meeting, to plan for the implementation of distributed ki distance learning in our tribal colleges. Before departing from Sikoohkotoki, I updated my schedule for the remainder of niipo, ki was somewhat depressed to learn that most ksiistsikoistsi are already booked-up with various speaking, teaching, ki meeting engagements. This practice of setting a predetermined agenda for one’s life, ki anchoring it in a calendar system that is already at least a step removed from what I can only call “real-time”, creates significant obstacles for anyone trying to practice kippaitapiiyssinnoon. The biggest problem I have with such scheduling is that it leaves little opportunity to truly engage in a dialog with kitawahsinnoon. For instance, because of our clocks ki calendars, we’re often made to feel hurried or limited in the amount of energy we can afford to invest in relationship-building activities like visiting with places, plants ki animals, or even with our own families. In fact, any such activities we regularly maintain outside of an employment context become categorized as hobbies or pass-times, as if they’re just something to keep us occupied until we get down to real work again. At the very least, the imposition of mainstream time has us preoccupied with where ki when we are supposed to be next… which in turn may force us to prematurely terminate various engagements, even at their peak of productivity. But the problem is often far greater than this. Our relationships with clocks, calendars, ki agendas dull our senses, to the point where we may not even recognize or perceive the various non-human voices around us. How many people could identify (or would even pay attention to) the sound of a kakanottsstookiikoan, for instance? I wouldn’t have been able to, were it not for the events of matonni.

All day long, on my drive to mohkinsstsis, ki throughout the FNAHEC kanoohsin, I carried a sense of… almost mourning. I was very aware that there were things unfolding all around our region that would not occur again until next year, ki that I was missing out on experiencing many of them due to having my affairs scheduled in advance. How much of kippaitapiiyssinnoon has fallen out of practice, or been entirely forgotten, because of this dilemma? To me, living by the clock is kind of like walking past a group of kaahsinnooniksi, not even bothering to acknowledge them, shake their hands. Not even looking at them. Worse still, turning a cold shoulder to them when they approach bearing gifts. Healthy, mutually beneficial relationships are based on reciprocity ki shared experiences, cyclical exchanges ki renewals. If we go on acting as though the sspommitapiiksi, ksaahkomitapiiksi, ki soyiitapiiksi don’t matter or exist, what can we expect from them in return?

Thankfully, my drive home gave me an opportunity to at least take some stock in present happenings. Naato’si is setting later, so I still had some remaining light to work with. Ki what I decided to do is drop by aakiipisskaan on my way south. There are a number of important aitapisskoistsi between mohkinsstsis ki sikoohkotoki. Aakiipisskaan, the place where the first niitsitapi marriages occurred, is one that I frequent.

The experience there, for me, was completely invigorating. Just what I needed. Along the road leading to aakiipisskaan, I was able to observe that the male ki female sa’aiksi were still travelling around together, which suggests that perhaps they haven’t made their oyiiyiistsi yet. In the grassy plain above the jump, kippiaapiiksi were still in bloom. Ki on the rock shelf below the cliff, two kakanottsstookiikoaiksi had hatched, in the same nest as last year. When I came up on them, I could see that their mother had left a couple dead mice off to the side of their oyiiyis. Then one of the kakanottsstookiikoaiksi, more agitated than its cowering sibling, clicked his beak at me repeatedly - a sound I could immediately imitate, ki will never forget. So I backed off, ki continued down the slope, noticing that the stinging nettle ki gooseberry were just starting to leaf-out, ki that a lot of the black soil dug up by rodents was visible, exposing hundreds of fragments of old iinii bone, ki even the occasional arrowhead. Farther below, by the creek that runs through omi kaawahkoyi, there were swampy areas that resonated with the sounds of matsiyikkapisaiksi. I hiked down ki waded into the water among them, slowly, patiently, to get a few close-up photos of their distended throats in mid-song. I was with the matsiyikkapisaiksi for a while, then made my way back to the truck. On a fencepost in the distance, I witnessed sikohpoyitaipanikimmiksi coupling, something I’d never seen before. All of this made me feel so refreshed. I offered pisstahkaan in gratitude. By the time I was driving away from aakiipisskaan, all of my depression from earlier in the day had completely dissipated. The only unfortunate thought that lingered was new… an awareness of the significance of my camera. Although I may commit myself more often than most to tracking the goings-on amongst these other beings, I’m still something of a tourist among them. The experiences I have are constantly novel, exciting. My learning curve an extreme arch. Certainly one aspect of my photography is its potential to help me share the world I see with others. But another significance of the photo is its presumed ability to capture, via the magical laws of similitude ki contagion, some of the power from that world, to be brought away. It is a kind of taking. Ki I wonder, what are we willing to give in return?