11 May 2008


lll ) lllll Akaiksisiikini…

Iiksskonata’piiyi amopistaanistsi. Living attentively with them everyday, I find that they constantly reveal aspects of our experiences that are either hidden under normal conditions or, more often, outright avoided because they challenge the stories we want to believe about ourselves. Sometimes, the manner in which amopistaanistsi communicate with us is very blunt ki straightforward. But it can also be extremely subtle, leading us unknowingly toward lessons that require years to unveil.

When piipiiaakii ki niisto first brought ksisskstaki amopistaan into nookoowannaan, I entered a period of heightened agitation. Loud noises ki voices began to really bother me, especially the distinct sounds of naapi’powahsin… which I thought was odd, because it’s our first language. None-the-less, I stopped listening to the radio, cut down considerably on television, ki began secluding myself in either my bedroom or office whenever we had too many visitors chattering in our living-room. Initially, my assumption was that I was either sensing what nitomopistaan itself felt in this new environment, or that perhaps something had been done to me physically during the pommakssin process that fundamentally transformed my aesthetics. In any case, after a full winter season living in frustration over the abundance of noise around us, my sense of intense annoyance began to dull somewhat, although never completely subsiding.

It was around that time that an altogether different agitation began to trouble me, namely a growing intolerance for some of the short-sighted ki foolish behaviors I was witnessing in others, especially family. Ki in this respect, my life became a considerable challenge. Nitaatowa’pakka, kiitokiiaapii, who I was relying on to responsibly carry his role as partner with nitomopistaan, repeatedly bowed to an addiction that jeopardized his marriage, his employment, ki the trusting relationship we’d built (in addition to being a terrible influence on ohkoyiiksi). At the same time, nitaakiim, ni’tsitstakiaakii, was trying to use procreation as a means to secure her relationship with a boy who didn’t really want her, ki who was not remotely interested in taking care of her… a decision that I knew could only bring more hardship into her life ki ours. Then, after forty years of seeming stability, ninna iiponiowatsiiwa niksisst. This latter event was, of course, particularly devastating for me. Before I’d learned what had happened, I felt intuitively that a radical change had occurred, ki that it had something to do with my parents. I’d even used the satellite imagery of GoogleEarth to look down on their house, so far away, trying to figure out what my intuition was about. I wouldn’t have to wait long. Just a few sleeps passed before ninna phoned to confide with me the news of his infidelity, ki the certainty that he’d be leaving niksisst. With both kiitokiiaapii ki ni’tsitstakiaakii, my responses initially took the shape of concern, then moved toward disappointment, ki eventually a kind of judgemental disinterest. With ninna, who I had tremendous respect for, my first reaction had been similarly concerned ki supportive. I even attempted to help him strategize the separation for minimal damage. But then came a day when I had to confront the pain ki despair carried through the devastated voice of niksisst, ki all of my respect ki support for ninna turned immediately to a resentment so strong that, almost two years later, I’ve still avoided speaking to him again.

These are only a few of the most extreme examples of what I’ve experienced in terms of heightened agitation since ksisskstaki amopistaan came into nookoowa. Yet there have been countless lesser disturbances, some too brief even to warrant memory. The point is, when faced with these kinds of challenges, my reaction has generally involved intolerance ki, if carried on, eventually a fair bit of disdain or resentment. In fact, one might easily interpret my emotional response pattern as something unbecoming of an iiyaohkiimi, or even potentially dangerous for those around me. As the public discourse in our region goes, those who are involved in naatowa’pii are supposed to practice kimmapiiyipitssin - a habitualized compassion for the interests ki needs of each member of society, as if they were our own children, ki as if the whole of the community were one close-knit family. Our inner sentiments, especially if given any voice, are thought to be communicated to amopistaanistsi, ki therefore carry the potential for realization. On the other hand though, aakaaniiyo’p “iihtsipaitapiiyo’p isstsskimaanitapi”. This was certainly true during the period leading up to our transfer, ki naahsinnaaniksi warned us that more challenges would follow. What piipiiaakii ki niisto were advised, ki what we’ve stuck to all along, was to maintain diligence in attending to nitomopistaan – through aamato’simaan, aatsimoyihkaan, ki’sommainihkssiistsi, etc. We’ve done that, ki we’ve learned a great deal in the process. At times, that learning has been immediate, or at least easily recognizable… direct lessons from mi’ksskimmiisoka’simm, the catching of naatoyinihkssiistsi. On other occasions though, the growth one gains through naatowa’pii is gradual, an embodied consequence of steady diligence in practice or saponihtaan. Annohk, for me, ki perhaps through this more gradual process, although the heightened intolerance ki agitation of recent years has not by any means completely abated, I’m beginning to sense a shift in my understanding of its meaning, ki also in the potential for positive action that it could ultimately produce.

Over the past few sleeps, my awareness of the changes underway in this respect have intensified. I’m not sure why this is… there have been a number of simultaneous events that I’m currently associating with it. What almost certainly brought it to a head, though, was a recent visit from ni’tsitstakiaakii ki otani, aanataakii. Piipiiaakii ki niisto had returned from mi’kai’stoo that evening to find aanataakii running around in our living-room with just her diaper, acting silly ki trying to get someone, anyone, to pay attention to her. The other aakiiksi were huddled around isskohkitopiiaahkoyinnimaakii, poking at her, kissing her, laughing hysterically at her every expression. Seeing that we had visitors, I was at first very cordial. But it wasn’t long before the volume of noise in our living-room, especially in the form of naapi’powahsin blaring from both the television ki the aakiiksi, began to annoy me. Under normal circumstances, I can sense nitomopistaan as a congenial presence throughout nookoowannaan. But when there’s too much loud activity around, as there was that evening, I get the feeling that nitomopistaan recoils ki hides away behind our bed. Nimaatssksinihpa whether this is just projection on my part. I don’t think so. It seems every bit as real as when I’m aware that nitomitaa is hiding under her blankets in our closet, in similar avoidance of such frenetic activity. Ki soon I myself feel compelled to join them.

Closing myself off behind our bedroom door, ki laying down, I hope that I might sleep through the ruckus. Ki I’m almost successful when I hear aakiikoan hollering excitedly for ni’tsitstakiaakii. There had been an accident. Aanataakii, crouched behind a chair, was suddenly overcome with a diarrheic urge, the results of which had burst out of her diaper ki all over our carpeted living-room floor. Once the accident was noticed, nookoowa erupted in excited noise, ki ni’tsitstakiaakii rushed aanataakii to the bath. The little girl was humiliated, crying, ki oksisst consoled her by saying, “It’s okay, honey. Nobody knows it was you, and I don’t care”. From my bed, I could hear ni’tsitstakiaakii saying this. Ki I thought, why don’t you care? Then I came out to survey the damage ki order an immediate, thorough clean up. My first reaction when seeing the pile of diarrhoea was irritation. I thought, this was so easily avoidable. She should have been wearing more clothes, someone should have been attending to her. As the aakiiksi cleaned up, I went outside to smoke ki distance myself from the loud, messy scene. At that point, a wave of intuition hit me… I suddenly felt that the whole event was unavoidable, that it was meant to happen, that it had occurred as a natural result of aanataakii visiting nookoowannaan, being in the presence of ksisskstaki amopistaan. We were being shown something. What nitomopistaan was telling us was that there’s something really wrong with this poor little girl’s diet, something we need to begin taking seriously. In other words, what I felt was that the whole incident was a kind of warning. Ki moreover, that perhaps many of the agitations I’d experienced over the last couple years were similar in nature. Perhaps I had not just turned into a grumpy old man. Maybe there was more to it, ki the negative sentiments were merely a means of directing my attention to important matters.

I considered this possibility for the rest of the evening, ki the following morning drove up to siksika with naahsa, ki’naksaapo’p. On our way there, aiksisiikiniwa ki nitsinoaayi a number of omahkai’stoiksi. Both observations I took as signs that the transition into niipoyi had arrived. Ki at that point, again, intuition came. I was reminded that there are cycles to learning just as there are to the seasons. Perhaps, I rationalized, my winter training with nitomopistaan has come to its conclusion through the newfound awareness that states of agitation can be potentially functional. That they might serve as a kind of early warning system for significant issues to be dealt with. The challenge is no longer a question of what is wrong with myself or others, but rather what to do about the things I’m being shown.