27 September 2008

Tsa Kiaakaanistsitsspommihtaahpoaawa Maahkohtoomaaistaistsihpi Kippaitapiiwahsinnoon?

llll ) llllllllllllllllllllllllll Tsa Kiaakaanistsitsspommihtaahpoaawa Maahkohtoomaaistaistsihpi Kippaitapiiwahsinnoon?

My thoughts of late have been entirely consumed with the classes I’m teaching this semester. One course in particular, kainaissksaahko, is becoming a great pleasure. It’s an annual round of harvesting the gifts of kitawahsinnoon ki visiting aitapisskoistsi, with weekly thought assignments that we all post responses to on a blog we’re calling our Project Journal. Even niisto ki naahsa ki’naksaapo’p (who is co-instructing) have to do these assignments. I have a feeling that much of my private journal for the next year could be combined with my efforts for this course. Thus my final entry for annohk naato’si, like the contribution prior, is drawn from it:

Tsa kiaakaanistsitsspommihtaahpoaawa maahkohtoomaanistaistsihpi kippaitapiiwahsinnoon?

My first thought, when Ki’naksaapo’p recorded this question for us, was that before I set out to respond to it, I’d better at least learn how to say it myself, and then give some consideration to what it’s asking. So that’s what I did. And like any important question, its simplicity was deceptive. For me, it evoked a number of things.

There are ways in which I can honestly say I live everyday in response to the spirit of this question, that I carry a strong sense of duty with my claim to both Kainaa citizenry and manhood, and that I act on those responsibilities by investing my efforts in long-term projects of benefit to my family and community, risks that I hope will help ensure the persistence of kippaitapiiwahsinnoon. In this respect, I believe that I am continually living-up to my obligations in the following ways:

First, I try to ensure that my daughter has a good life – that she can rely on the strength and stability of her parents’ marriage, that she feels loved, that she has a quiet and secure home, moral support, non-authoritarian guidance, and a healthy degree of creative control over the decisions that will effect her future. I feel bad for some children in our community who are used like pawns in the negotiation of on-again off-again relationships between parents who are still just children themselves, and for those who have to live in homes where they are demoralized or subjected to violence. I’m critical of those fathers (young or old) who do not work hard to give their wives and children a good home and stability. I’m also critical of those mothers (young or old) who do not challenge their men to be real husbands and fathers.

The truth is, I don’t believe a person can be of much help to either wider family or community if he or she is unwilling to hold their own. By keeping our home life stable, Piipiiaakii and I have been able create a place that others can turn to when they’re going through transitions in their own lives. For instance, there was a summer where we took in one of our nieces and one of our nephews, whose mom and dad weren’t really interested in being parents at the time. And during that same period, we also had one of Piipiiaakii’s cousins with her two children staying with us for most of the term of her pregnancy. We take all of the children as our own. That summer, our little family at home was expanded from three to eight.

I don’t think a year has gone by that we haven’t had someone come stay with us for an extended period. It’s tough and expensive for young people to get out on their own these days. It’s not like in the past, where young newlyweds were provided their own lodge right off the hop. If our parents hadn’t helped Piipiiaakii and I out with room and board in the first couple years of our marriage, it would have been pretty rough. We try to play that forward by making sure that, if one of our younger siblings or cousins comes to stay with us, financial burdens like rent and food are lifted, and they don’t have to worry about the intrusions of whatever chaos they might be escaping. On the other hand though, while we’re happy to host our relatives, we’re not about play the role of enabler. Our home isn’t the kind of place anyone can come to avoid their obligations, or sit around in self-pity. If they’re adults, we expect them to use the opportunity to build-up some savings with work or invest in some skills through education, so that they can make the transition into whatever’s next for them.

So that’s one way I feel as though I’m doing something to feed the persistence of kippaitapiiwahsinnoon. But I’ll be the first to admit that, in terms of family relationships, that’s really not enough. I’ve heard so many times the memories of older people who’ve lived in our community for awhile, before Western forms of political organization and social services were adopted. They tell me that, back then, kimmapiiyipitssin was really lived. If a couple needed their own home, they didn’t have to wait to get a mortgage or for the Band to select them. They set to work themselves, called some of their family in, and got the thing built. Everybody just pitched-in. The same with work. Just a few decades ago, a lot of men worked together, more or less in business partnerships, to farm or ranch, what have you. That’s not too much the case today.

I’ve been told that this approach to life drastically changed in the 1960s, when the current form of government was adopted, and when welfare came about. Not that kimmapiiyipitssin was eliminated completely, mind you. There’s a lot of ways that we still help one another out. Heck, if it wasn’t for my relationships and the people I depend on, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at. Unfortunately though, when we work in partnerships today, a lot of times people say its nepotism, as if that’s a bad word.

There are a lot of things I’d like to do in my lifetime to support the persistence of kippaitapiiyssinnoon, and one of those is to build some good partnerships and relationships, where a number of us can pool our resources and commit to collaborative projects. The kind of endeavors that our children could take over when we get too old. The kind of partnered investments that would support us in our older years, as well as future generations. In other words, I think what I’m saying is that I’d like to be involved in renewing ohkowaipisstssin as more than just a label for kinship or a position to place our camp at aako’kaatssin.

This brings me to another aspect of the way I feel that I’m living the fulfillment of the spirit of our assignment question. My strongest personal and working relationships, those which I feel carry the potential to renew ohkowaipisstssin, have been those forged in the context of service to our community. Namely, through the pursuit of repatriations, and in the context of pommakssin.

When I was twenty-three years old, I decided to take on a project. I wanted to learn the significance of certain symbols and drawings, the ones we see in beadwork, on tipi designs, in the winter counts, on rock art. I wanted to be able to understand more about what these meant. I figured one of the first things I’d have to do is find as many examples of these symbols as possible. And at the time, the logical place to look seemed to be in museum collections. This was a mistaken perception, of course, but one that turned out to be beneficial, because as I began surveying the museums, gathering inventories, and learning where things were, my project grew into a resource for everyone. Before long, I was recruited into repatriations. I had the opportunity to travel and work with Ki’naksaapo’p, Ponokaiksiksinaam, Mi’ksskimm, Ninnaisipistoo, Mi’ksskimmiisoka’simm, Stamiksisiksinaam and others, many of whom have become both my relatives and my greatest teachers. And through this journey, I’ve had a hand in helping to bring home four ksisskstaki amopistaanistsi, a ninnaimsskaahkoyinnimaan, part of the leader’s bundle for the kakoyiiksi, a motoki headdress, and the leader’s bundle for the sinopaiksi at aamsskaapipiikani. Each time our efforts to bring something home is successful, I get this overwhelming feeling of having done something really important with my life. The first time this happened, when we brought ksisskstaki amopistaan out of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, my exact sentiment (said to myself) was, “I could die today, and I would have no regrets. My life has served a purpose.” And I felt that strongly because, for five or six month prior to that, every aspect of my being was consumed in assuring its release. I was in communication with the museum daily, and I felt very much guided by that bundle itself.

Having said that, it’s important to note that I would not have been involved in any of those repatriations if I waited for someone else to pay my way. I’ve spent thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to do this, and I’m by no means rich. This was a sacrifice. Which is not to say that I think anybody owes me anything. What I’m saying is that I have paid for the opportunity to serve our community, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life. Nothing good comes without investment.

A very important lesson for me, in this regard, was something that happened about ten years ago. I won’t go into intimate details, because it’s already past now. What I will say is that there was a dispute between some relatives over the disposition of a particular bundle. It got ugly. A lot of people were concerned about what was going on, but nobody wanted to step into the midst of this conflict and put an end to it. Finally, one man did. He went and talked privately to both parties, explained to them how each of their positions made sense, and also how each had been mistaken… and ultimately, how they could amicable resolve the whole thing and put it to rest. They followed the advice they were given, and the issue was settled. For me, the learning came in what happened next. My father-in-law went to go pay the man who had acted as mediator on this occasion. I think he gave him a hundred dollars or so. Why did he pay him? Because he had learned something through that man’s actions, and he knew that in order to really take that lesson and make it his own, he should pay for it. And so he did.

These are the kinds of decisions and moves we can make, as individuals, to keep kippaitapiiwahsinnoon strong. There are so many little and big things we can do. It just takes commitment and diligence. One of my goals is to be able to speak niitsi’powahsin fluently. How am I going to get there? It’s not going to come through taking classes, or wishing about it, or talking about it. The only way it’s going to happen is if I make the decision to do so, and act on it. Maatsiiyiiko.

I’ve been to a number of other reserve communities in both the United States and Canada. Almost nobody has their language or ceremonies in-tact, anywhere near the way we do. We owe it to all those who came before us not to lose what we have here.

Today, Piipiiaakii and I take care of ksisskstaki amopistaan, but we could never do this on our own. When it comes time for our ceremonies, we get a lot of help from our family… including nitakka, Kiitokiiaapii, and his family. Ksisskstaki amopistaanistsi were almost lost completely. In 1963, Akaikinaam, Mike Swims Under, opened his bundle for the last time. He was alone. Not even his family joined him. So afterward, he wrapped it back up, brought it to the creek and made an offering with it. He told the birds and animals in his bundle, “Wherever you float and settle, that will be your new home.” A lot of people criticized him for this. But I wonder, if he hadn’t made this offering, if he had really given up our ways and sold his bundle, or just kept it around as an heirloom, would we have iiyaohkimiipaitapiiyssin today? Akaikinaam wound up, just a couple decades later, being the only man alive who still new this ceremony when finally some people were ready to pursue it again. Now there are over a dozen active aohkiiyaohkoyinnimaanistsi. All of us iiyaohkimiiksi owe it to Akaikinaam, to his father Staahta’potsimi, to his mother Soyii’kayaakii, and to Bad Marriage, and Ponokaatsini, and so on all the way along the line of pommakssin to Matoyaapii, the man who was first transferred ksisskstaki amopistaan. We owe all of these ones who did their part to make sure it was here for us still today. The same could be said for any aspect of kippaitapiiyssinnoon.

One of the practices I maintain, to ensure I’m living up to my obligations to these akaitapiiksi, is that on my way to Mi’kai’stoo for work each morning, nitaatoyinihki. There is no end to the songs of mopistaanistsi, and I feel it’s my obligation to learn as many of them as I can in my lifetime, so that others will continue to have them down the road. Plus, I really enjoy singing them, and I learn a lot from them.

This morning, nohtootaomaahkaani Sikoohkotoki nitainoaa ksikkomahkaayiiksi. Swans. There were three of them in Innoikimi, by B.T.A.P. I haven’t seen them since spring, and their return tells me we’ve only got one more moon left till winter. So I pulled off on the side of the road and sang their song, and then took a picture of them. When I was finished at work today and got in my truck, the first thing I thought about was those ksikkomahkaayiiksi. I couldn’t wait to see if they were still there on the drive home. As I pulled out of Mi’kai’stoo, I tried to pull up their song again. Something else came instead. Just a simple tune, nothing fancy, but I liked it. It sounded like something that would be good to sing to myself when I’m out walking around. And I thought, since we’re going to be travelling together this year, maybe I’d share it here.


16 September 2008

Where Is Here?

llll ) llllllllllllll Where Is Here?

When I was eleven years old, growing up in suburbia, my assumption was that I had a pretty good grasp of who and where I was. That kind of knowledge wasn’t really what I’d consider to be a thought, or a belief. It was something more deeply embedded - the only world I had ever been exposed to, the only one I was conscious of at all. And if I would have been asked the question “where is here?” back then, I surely would have had all the answers, no problem. I would have said, “This is Oregon, part of the United States. We’re by the Pacific Ocean, just under the State of Washington, just above California”. But that year would have been the last time I could have answered with so much confidence….

Because when I was twelve years old, I took a walk. And it wasn’t a very long walk, but it took me beyond both suburbia and America all the same. I left my neighborhood, crossed a creek, and was just plodding through an onion field on my way to explore the forest that was on the other side, when I found an arrowhead. It was tear-drop shaped, made from red and white speckled jasper. I picked it up, looked at it… looked at the old growth forest in front of me… turned… looked back at the creek and suburbia on the other side. Something happened to me in that moment. It’s hard to explain, but just like that my entire sense of place and identity shifted. Suddenly, I recognized the foreign presence of both suburbia and agriculture in that region, and the way they functioned to conceal stories I’d never been told. Stories that were in one sense exceedingly ancient, and yet in another still very present….

They were timeless stories. And not in the way that people speak of Shakespeare and Mark Twain, all those classics of the literary tradition. No. These stories were timeless in that they were, in fact, outside of time altogether….

I’m glad this happened to me when I was twelve years old, and I’m glad my parents chose to keep me completely away from Christianity. Because if I would have had this experience later in life, or if I had been sold on the idea that we were really in the year 1984 (because that was how long it had been since Jesus died), I’m sure that finding that arrowhead would have either messed me up psychologically, or that I would have just taken it as a curiosity, something meaningless….

But at twelve years old, and having never set foot in a church, I didn’t have that kind of baggage. For me, the possibility that something could be outside of time made perfect sense. Because time is not reality. Place is reality. And in that place, as in all others, human life is supported by the non-human life that exists there. The Calapooia man who used that arrowhead I held in my hand, his life would have been supported by the deer, and the fish, and the acorns, and the camas. And that arrowhead itself was one of the mediums that connected him to these others….

I looked back at suburbia, across the creek. I thought, How are THEY connected to non-human life? How are THEY connected to reality?

I thought THEY because I was already, in just that instant, aware of a transformation within myself that made me somehow different from my family, my neighbors, my school-mates, my teachers, everyone I’d ever known….

I also thought THEY because, for some years afterward, no matter how hard I tried, I could never get any of them to perceive the stories that exist outside of time….

And so, who was I in that moment and afterward? That was the big question. Because I already knew where I was, at least in the sense that I was now aware of where I wasn’t. The big dilemma was who. Who was I?

I couldn’t be American anymore, because those people weren’t aware of the stories that exist outside of time. I couldn’t be an Oregonian, because they were American. I couldn’t be a Christian, because I still had all my faculties – my eyes, and ears, and nose, and all that. And so I could readily see, and hear, and smell the reality of this world, which my Christian friends told me was only an illusion….

I couldn’t identify with any of these groups, or even so much with my own family. All I could be, it seemed, was me….

And so I began to return to the creek, and the field, and the forest, again and again. And beyond that, to other forests, and to the river. I walked, sometimes all day. I slept overnight, alone, in trees, on rocks, at the river bank. I began talking to some of the ones who still know the stories that exist outside of time. They were my first spiritual teachers. The trees, the hawks….

When I was old enough, I left home, still trying to sort out who I was. I thought maybe I could be a soldier in the Army. Soldiers were supposed to go around the world delivering freedom, defending the oppressed. Maybe, I thought, the oppressed were people who knew about reality, who could still live in stories outside of time. Maybe, I thought, soldiers were the people in my society who understood them, and helped them destroy the political systems attempting to conceal reality….

But I was wrong. At least about the latter part. I was really wrong….

So I ended up fighting instead for my own freedom, so that I could live the stories myself. I fought for three years. I fought against the Army. And eventually, they spit me out, or let me go. I couldn’t be a soldier. They weren’t who had I assumed them to be. So who was I going to be now?

I remembered, growing up, my mom and dad telling me that I was Blackfoot, that my mother’s grandmother was named Sadie Curtis, and that she was a half-breed who grew up in a residential school, and later became a teacher there, before relocating with her husband to Chicago. I remember my parents suggesting that one day we might even move to the reservation. This alleged Blackfoot-ness was the only identity I hadn’t yet explored. Maybe, I thought, I can be Blackfoot. Maybe they’re the people who still live in stories outside of time….

From that point, it took me two years to travel to “the reservation” and meet “the Blackfoot”. Then it took me another few years before I reached kitawahsinnoon and niitsitapi, which I feel speaks to something different all together. And what I found when I got here was the kind of storied place I could finally identify with, and people who knew something about the timeless reality I’d become aware of at twelve years of age. People who were equally frustrated by how that reality was being hidden, rendered virtually invisible by technologies and sensibilities not at all concerned with our need to connect directly to the sources of our life….

So where is here?

To me, here is kitawahsinnoon. That which nourishes us, niitsitapi. That which feeds the ones who can see and smell and hear the reality outside of time, but not outside of cycles. Kitawahsinnoon is the top. The peak. The place where the radiance of the Sun and the power of Thunder dance with the waters of the Moon and the wind of Crows, back and forth, day and the night, summer and winter. Releasing life, and gathering it together once more. Like a heart, of sorts, with the headwaters of all our rivers as veins. A heart that we the living are inseparable from, not as nursing infants to a mother, but more as appendages of the body that this pulse feeds….

To me, kitawahsinnoon is not just – or even primarily – the land. And it is not really territory, at least not in the sense that “territory” can be something political, attached to time instead of reality. Rather, to me, kitawhasinnoon is almost more of a rhythm. A frequency that moves along a downward slope through our ecology. A resonance that flows into the living, eventually manifesting as songs in our bodies, and as co-existent, respectful relationships between ourselves and the non-human life that supports us.

06 September 2008

Nerd Fort

llll ) llll The Nerd Fort…

I’m sitting in a second-story smoking room of the Park Town Hotel, beside omahksiitahtaa in Saskatoon, here for a meeting of the Aboriginal Knowledge Learning Centre, ki very much wishing I could just go home. Though I’ve only been here one night, that’s long enough for anyone to have to suffer the sensory deprivation of Saskatchewan. I miss piipiiaakii ki ohkomaakii. I miss nitomopistaan. I miss nitsitaipsstsinaaki at mi’kai’sto iitaissksinima’tstohkio’p. Ki I miss my nerd fort.

What’s a nerd fort? That’s a question I hear on occasion, but it’s always surprising for me to learn it’s not common knowledge. Aren’t there lots of nerds out there? Ki don’t we all keep forts? Certainly I always have. I’ve built underground nerd forts comprised of large room-holes ki narrow, twisting entry-tunnels dug in fields ki forests, topped with boards, ki covered over with thick layers of earth ki foliage. I’ve had nerd forts in attic crawlspaces – carpeted, shielded with firecracker tripwires, ki equipped with libraries full of comic books ki novels by Mark Twain ki Fred Gibson. Now that I’m a bit older (but perhaps no more mature), I keep my nerd fort under the basement stairway of nookoowa. I’ll admit, it’s not fully developed as of yet… ours is a rental house at present (although we may buy it), ki I’m not sure I want to put my full energy into creating the ultimate nerd fort if I’m just going to have to relinquish this space in the future. Time will tell. For the present, at least, it’s like this:

Some folks have offices. Some have workshops, hobby rooms, or dens. I have a nerd fort. The foremost rule in the architectural design of a nerd fort, from my experience, is that it cannot be set in an ordinary room. Otherwise it’s just that… a room. My room, perhaps, but a “room” all the same. No. A nerd fort must take advantage of unlikely habitation spaces. Cramped little nooks that no normal person would consider using for anything other than storage, or specially built hideaways like tree-houses, caves, or underground bunkers. A few examples of idealized nerd forts in the popular media include Fox Moulder’s X-Files office in the storage basement of the FBI building, the greens-keeper shed that Bill Murray inhabited in Caddyshack, Superman’s crystal island where he could communicate with the spirits of his ancestors, ki of course the Bat Cave.

I chose a little hollow under my basement stairway. This was an ideal site because I could route an extension cord in there to power my computer (which is now a key component of most master nerd forts). Another important benefit to this selection was its low ceiling. Your average adult person cannot maneuver safely within this space without bending down. This uncomfortable position functions to assure that the nerd fort will receive few visitors, which is important because the activities that occur in there are often geeky ki embarrassing, best kept relatively private. To this same effect, my nerd fort is equipped with a robotic chimpanzee head at the entryway, which can be set to alarm mode, so that I will be alerted of any approaching visitor by the sound of monkey screams.

Just as a nerd fort cannot be fashioned from a mere “room”, nor should it have anything resembling normal walls. In fact, the best nerd forts are those which are rendered invisible to the outside world, because they merely appear to be a pile of some miscellaneous garbage. Cardboard boxes are a good way to create this effect, ki that is what I’ve chosen to form the one wall that is exposed to my basement (although I’ve not entirely completed the camouflage yet). Another advantage of cardboard boxes is that they can hold lots of stuff. I have boxes of dried medicinal plant materials, boxes of books, boxes of martial arts gear from when I was just like Bruce Lee. I even have boxes full of other more important boxes, if that makes any sense. Never underestimate the power of the cardboard box… it was always, itself, the original nerd fort, after all.

Another important element of the nerd fort that, like the cardboard box, hearkens back to the brilliance of childhood, are toys ki other collectibles. Some perceive such things as being unnecessary or even unhealthy for the fully functioning adult. But this view is mistaken. The practice of collecting is the means by which we learn to understand different taxonomic orders ki make sense of our world. In other words, collecting is an exercise in cognitive training. Everyone collects something… it could be sports statistics, movie trivia, specialized academic vocabulary items, political knowledge, whatever. Given, there are collectors who develop pathologies ki fail to grow. I’m thinking particularly of the ones who keep massive toy collections, attempting to maintain each object they acquire in a pristine, packaged condition for their supposed economic value. Or the museum tradition, whose curators even go so far as to wear linen gloves so as to assure that the oils naturally exuded from their fingertips do not somehow effect the rapid decay of, say, an old piece of furniture. Such extreme but all too common collection practices reflect a mistaken view as well. The true worth of toys or antiques is not economic, nor some kind of intangible heritage value. Rather, it is their ability to compel us toward the use of imagination. Ki the significance of a collection is in the cognitive transformation that results, not the accumulation of material product. The master nerd realizes all of this, has the ability to let go, to advance into more complex exercises, but yet also respects the process he or she has been through, ki will as a result keep a shrine of sorts as a reminder of the importance of that experiential history.

The nerd shrine does not have to be gaudy. Just a few items will do. My shrine, for instance, includes a sizeable chunk of dinosaur bone, an ammonite fossil, a few interlinked segments of coyote backbone, a hacky-sack, two jars of dried berries, ki four action figures – Obi Wan Kenobi ki a robotic spider from Star Wars, Data from The Goonies, ki Indiana Jones. Why these particular choices? Well… the fossils ki bones speak to one of our earliest childhood cognitive exercises, our first attempt at collection. As we develop, we progress from learning the names or titles of our kin (mom, dad, sister, neighbor, stranger), to the animals (dog, cat, fish, leather-backed sea turtle), to the dinosaurs. By that point, we understand – in an intuitive way - a little bit about what taxonomies do, giving us vocabulary attached to values (i.e. brontosaurs are nice, tyrannosaurs are mean), ki we are ready to blaze our own trail down other collections ki cognitive exercises of our choosing in a learning process that lasts the remainder of our days. Plus, you’ve got to admit, having a big chunk of dinosaur bone is cool. The berries ki hacky-sack, positioned at alternate sides of my shrine, comprise a polemic. For me, the hacky-sack is a symbol of life wasted. Anyone who has so few creative projects underway that he can bother to train his body to adeptly handle the bouncing of this sack is most surely living without purpose. Berries, on the other hand, represent a commitment to engage one’s ecological community. Like many natural foods, they are in season only briefly, ki it takes a sustained effort to gather as many as would be needed to include them in one’s diet year-round. The ecological community member must therefore be willing to relinquish attachment to unnecessary frivolities like hacky-sack play, in favor of a thorough engagement with life. Then there are the action figures… Obi Wan, a serious Jedi incapable of being swayed by the dark side of the force. The robotic spider, a character completely unknown, alien, a reminder that there is far more out there than we have encountered through our limited introductions or perspectives. Data, the inventor, the gadget man, the one who thinks creatively ahead ki is always, somehow, prepared. Ki Indiana Jones, a brilliant academic who knows many historical ki cultural worlds, yet refuses to stay bound to his desk ki chalkboard. When combined, for me, these few members of the nerd shrine concentrate a wide spectrum of values ki meanings. Plus, you’ve got to admit, its fun to have toys.

Outside of its architectural structure, its camouflage ki shrine, the nerd fort has only two further requisites. First, it must be a hub of intelligence analysis. A command center, in essence. Ki to this ends, there should be some form of archives at hand, as well as a means for communications. Depending on the particular projects ki intellectual slants of the resident nerd, these archives ki communications tools may take various forms. In my nerd fort, they include a small library of authors who cast widely among an array of topics, ki a computer with high-speed internet access. A second ki equally important requisite to the complete nerd fort is a defense system. Now, it’s true, many master nerds are significant weapons in themselves, bearing expertise in various styles of kung fu. Yet, it’s always good to have a back-up system. In my particular nerd fort, there is a crossbow ki a boyga. Most are familiar with the former, so it is the boyga that is truly my last line of defense, the one weapon that will always catch the enemy off-guard. In fact, the boyga has been kept so secreted that I hesitate to share its details here. But, since to my knowledge there are few other boygas in captivity, I suppose it’s safe.

To understand what a boyga is, one must appreciate that it can only be defined by itself. It is not subsumed under any wider ki more familiar classification. In fact, it’s far easier to describe what a boyga DOES than what a boyga IS. A boyga consumes ki destroys. It does so without discrimination. If a boyga is loose in your environment, you will know it, because things will be found broken. Not just material objects, like clocks, or video cassette recorders, or bathroom sinks, but other more intangible things as well. Relationships, memories, all of that which brings us psychological comfort ki joy will begin to fall unexplainably apart. If you suspect there is a boyga in your home, school or workspace, the sure sign of its presence will be random piles of discarded peanut shells. Boygas subsist on a diet of other peoples’ happiness, ki also their peanuts. It is with this knowledge alone that a boyga can be caught. No matter how hard you look, you will not find a boyga unless you set out a pile of peanuts as a lure. Then, when the boyga inevitably approaches to eat them, you must pounce upon it at once, seize its arms, ki as quickly as possible secure it in a manner that would make escape very difficult, if not impossible. I have my boyga blindfolded ki bound tightly with ropes around both its neck ki abdomen to one of the posts of my nerd fort, with knots positioned smartly out of its reach. In this manner, a boyga can be secured in captivity for years at a time, to be released only in the event that the nerd fort itself is on the brink of destruction at the hands of an enemy force.

So there you have it. The science of nerd forts. Architecture, camouflage, shrine, central intelligence, ki defense. There is one feature of the nerd fort I have not yet described, an aspect that isn’t really of necessity, but which is a commonplace element you will no doubt come to experience if you happen to build a nerd fort for yourself. One finds that, while nerd forts aren’t for everyone, many are fascinated by them ki will take it upon themselves to contribute to their d├ęcor. These contributions should be understood as offerings to the nerd fort, signs of respect for the highly misunderstood master nerd. In my case, for example, there have been offerings made of Futurama fan art. While I don’t watch the show myself, I’m happy to accept these contributions… especially the painting of a scantily-clad cyclops woman. Also, the lighting in my nerd fort is provided by two donated lamps: one a black, fishnet-stocking leg in high heels, reminiscent of The Christmas Story; the other a classic plasma ball. Without these offerings, the only light in my nerd fort would be that which radiates from my computer monitor. Ki this brings me to a final observation. Nerd forts do not exist in a vacuum. While they may be geniusly constructed ki inhabited by the nerd, without the social support of a nerd-loving community, they would not exist. So if you are a nerd, ki you happen to have a nerd fort, don’t forget to acknowledge those around you whose reciprocal respect for your vision makes nerd-dom possible.