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Transitions Arn’t Easy. Best to Take Your Mind Off It.

11930957_10153591547250856_6033306536110665900_oI wrote this, then didn’t publish right away… so a few days late. Darn.

Here it is almost 20 days later from the first time I posted something in my new Denver digs. Thought I would be better about writing… oh well.

Life so far has felt “normal” in the sense that I am doing my chores, cooking my meals, sleeping in my bed, and getting by. I’ve noticed there have been a few things that made me thought, “This is it. I do this thing and I’m ‘declaring’ a new home.” These “things” have so far included washing clothes, opening a bank account, getting a library card, drilling shelves into the wall… each time I’ve felt a little more “nailed down” to where I am now. It brings about a mix of emotions. I guess it’s a good thing to be finding these small grooves, but at the same time I still miss South Dakota.

I felt a little step in my progression to find a “bigger groove” when I joined in an open mic last week. I played a couple of originals in front of a mostly greying audience, which they all seemed to enjoy. The facility itself, Swallow Hill, is folk and americana based, so the audience tends to be a little older. However, I do like the atmosphere and they seem to do some cool things, so I hope to be more involved there.

12006680_10153581496315856_7691007652019669492_oJoining in ultimate frisbee games and going on night hikes with total strangers are just some of the ways I’m attempting to make friends, experience new things, and find my place here. It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve arrived so I guess this transition is going at a normal pace. You always wish that it would speed up, though. And having my Facebook newsfeed flooded with news of South Dakota makes my stomach hurt on occasion.

This happened last time I moved away from South Dakota. And I never did feel like I found my place in the new environment at the time. Maybe I gave up too soon, but I also know that I was meant to go back to SD. These last two years were meant to happen and they’ve guided my journey more than I can express. I have a feeling that SD will always be calling me back. But for now I need to figure out what the Denver Anna is like. I’m here. It would be foolish not to make the most of it. So, to wrap it all up – transitions are not easy and sometimes it’s just best to take your mind off it (like actually doing things and ultimately transitioning).

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Posted by on October 4, 2015 in Denver Days

 

Denver – Day 1

City_Park_Panorama_2Seasons have passed since I last wrote in my digital diary. For the last two years I was an Artist in Residence in a young adult volunteer community on the Rosebud Reservation. I wrote and performed music, solo and with a band, created commercials and PSAs at a local radio station, assisted youth groups and after school programs, and helped with church functions. I liked it – living on the prairie in a peaceful home with a beautiful view of the sky. I liked the people I had gotten to know there – the locals, the volunteers, and wanderers. I liked the culture – going to pow wows and celebrating the many stages of life.

But all of that changed yesterday. Yesterday I moved from a tiny South Dakota town of 1,200 people to the adventurous city of Denver, Colorado. I have a new apartment with a new housemate. Soon I will have a new bed and new furniture (because up until now everywhere I’ve lived, furniture was provided). I will be in charge of my finances and bills, my employment, and my obligations. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been a part of an official program. This is a complete change of lifestyle. I am completely on my own. And it freaks me out.

I woke up this morning with a plan – go grocery shopping, hit the thrift stores for furniture, research local banks, get a library card, etc… I also took my time getting ready for the day. Before I knew it my clock read 11 in the morning and I hadn’t done any of that. I quickly realized, as I stared at the front door, that I was scared to leave the apartment. Not because of the neighborhood, but because of all I had to face today. I had to face a new environment, new people, new schedules – something I had done numerous times before. But for whatever reason this felt different, and as I said earlier, I was freaked out. As I write this my nerves still feel a bit shocked and my stomach a little uneasy. Adjusting will take time. I never denied that, but I wasn’t expecting to feel this out of place, nor this “homesick” for something familiar. I had visited Denver many times before. I liked it. It made me want to move here. Now I’m here. What’s up with this?!

I think part of my fear is the knowledge that I have nothing to retreat to. What was home is now someone else’s home and I’m out (granted it’s of my own choosing). I have to make this work. I’m committed now. At least for now.

And so I begin my adventure in Denver. I have a part time job producing videos (more on that later), and I will be pursuing a career in music. Plus, a life in Denver is not a life without adventures in the great outdoors!! This year will be an experiment. I’ll be testing my self-motivation and dedication, my sense of responsibility, my ambition, my spirituality, and my adultness. Yes, I question my ability to be a real adult. Guess we’ll find out pretty soon…

That’s it for now. I hope to write more regularly as I figure out this new lifestyle. Stay tuned!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Denver Days

 

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Racism: We’re not getting the whole picture!

8688172745_5729def4a1_nI live on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota where I help with a youth program once a week. Last week one of our students was teasing his cousin (with very insulting phrases) for being part Mexican. Of course the other adults and I addressed the kid immediately and told him that what he was saying was racist. His response was, “But she’s not black!” (That’s a direct quote, there!) According to this child, slurs towards a person because of their race only counts as racism if the targeted individual is black.

Recently there’s been a story circling local, state, and Indigenous news circuits about 57 native children who were harassed at a minor league hockey game in Rapid City, SD (see an article here). This story was then followed up by an article by the Rapid City Journal titled “Did Native Students Stand for National Anthem?” Bloggers and other individuals responded urgently that the Journal’s article was justifying the racist behavior towards the children and demanded an apology, which they got a few days later. You can read a news report about the responses here. I think “anger’s some” is an understatement (and you’ll notice that the only people interviewed were white… couldn’t even bother to get a Native’s opinion).  Last I heard, they’ve identified one of the racist men at the hockey game and have brought charges against him. We’ll see what happens next…

Last fall there was a relatively small wave in the social justice circles calling for the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the racist name of his football team. It got some media attention, built up a small movement… and we still have the Washington Redskins. There are still efforts being made to persuade Daniel Snyder, but have you heard of any of them lately? I really haven’t. Every now and then I catch wind of something with that and I think, “oh good, that’s still going on” like I had forgotten it was even happening.

Meanwhile, around the country we have incidents like Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson that has the nation in a fury! Ferguson dominated the national news for months! It still gets national air time! Rallies, discussion groups, and community events are being organized around the slogan “Black Lives Matter!” There’s a hashtag setting off twitter storms. Amidst all of these national “Black Lives Matter” rallies, a “Native Lives Matter” rally was held in Rapid City, SD on December 19th, 2014. Bet you didn’t hear about it, or of the Native man who attended it and then was killed by police the next day (read article here).

I am not writing this post to diminish the honest and needed work behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I’m with you on that one! But I’ve had a lot of conversations around this topic with people lately and needed to get some thoughts out. I’m just trying to spotlight the fact that there’s more to the racial issues in this country then what popular media has decided to focus on. Not that it comes as a huge surprise to some of you, but now I see a VERY scary consequence coming out of this focused, although well-intentioned, cause – children of all colors (like the kid in my youth group) are getting the idea that racism only applies to one race (Black) and that racial slurs/behavior of any kind targeted at other groups is justifiable. Did I mention the child in my youth group is Native?

Even Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged that racism included indigenous people. He once said,

“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”

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I don’t know what the answer is to this problem. I am white. I have not experienced racism. Maybe it’s not my place to write this post. Like I said before, I don’t mean to take away the importance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement or strip the identity of these different racial groups and smash them into the same category. I’m trying to recognize that each group has their own history, their own struggles, their own solutions.  But I am wondering how some people can proclaim #BlackLivesMatter and then go to a Redskins game. There is a very apparent double standard when it comes to the strife for racial equality in this country. There is a common problem and we need to address it before the next generation grows up. I’m nervous for these kids…

Below are two videos that do an excellent job of demonstrating this double standard in racial acceptance. Please comment with your thoughts. Your voice matters as much as mine.

 

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Anna Robinson and The Suitcase Set at the Folk Off

I’m so excited!!! 😀

Anna Robins

Summer is a time of festivals, jamming around the campfire and competing in awesome folk battle-of-the-bands!  At the end of July, myself and The Suitcase Set will appear at the Strawbale Winery Folk Off just north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We’re bringing a driving rhythm and fun harmonies in a set of original songs and popular, folk favorites to the plains.  Winners of the competition headline the Sioux River Folk Festival the following weekend.  We’re out to have fun, make some good music, and make new friends! If you’re in the area come to the festival, check us out, and help support Friends of Traditional Music and Nashville Songwriters Association International.

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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

There Is Much Left to Do

The last couple weeks I’ve spent some time exploring the different activist groups and their events around the rez. For such an isolated area you wouldn’t think much would be going on, but I’ve actually found it to be the home of some major issues that not only affect the local people, but people around the world.

2800-Keystone_Pipeline_RouteA couple of weeks ago I visited the Spirit Camps – a compound of tipis set up as a spiritual presence along the Keystone XL Pipeline route. It’s sponsored by Shield the People (Oyate Wahacanka Woecun) and existing off the efforts and donations of volunteers.  My housemate and I went out there one Friday afternoon with the hand-game team from Sinte Gleska University and brought some donations like paper towels, toilet paper, and coffee.

IMG_20140418_190430There weren’t a lot of people out there, and those who were around were in the dining tent with hot soup and fry bread waiting to be blessed and broken.  After we unloaded our donations we were invited to join them in the meal.  A prayer was offered in Lakota and they began to eat.  My housemate and I joined the hand-game team in a few rounds of the game before we ate.  I learned the game last summer and I still feel like a beginner compared to their confidence.

While we were eating we met a young woman, Lesley, who is following the route of the pipeline, blogging, filming, and talking with people about the issue.  It was nice to meet someone so dedicated to the topic – sleeping on the ground, hitching-hiking, living off the kindness of these other concerned citizens (you can read her blog about the Spirit Camp here).  There were a couple other people like that in the camp. One guy from Montana had just arrived to stay for the weekend in solidarity with the cause.

After visiting with the camp I was more motivated and eager to get involved in the cause.  It was soon after that I heard about Moccasins on the Ground – a weekend of prayer, fellowship and networking, and training in direct action.  It turned out that I was headed to Pine Ridge that weekend anyway for another event, so that Saturday we just made a little detour up to Red Shirt where the training was taking place. We arrived just as the group was finishing up a prayer, then we hopped into a small group discussing non-violent action.

IMG_20140426_151720This group was led by some activists, one who had been a part of Greenpeace actions, and included demonstrations and hands-on examples of different protesting techniques. I had my neck changed to someone else in a stance to block a gate.  It was uncomfortable and I couldn’t move much. Others were chained to fences and some stopped a car from getting into a parking lot – all in a safe and controlled environment. I did find the training interesting along with adjectives dancing around words like “radical” and “extreme”.  It certainly had my blood pumping a little bit.  However, I’m not sure this is the kind of protest I would get involved in, unless I felt it an absolutely necessary last resort.

We ate a great taco lunch, listened to protest stories from activist veterans and ran into Lesley, again!  We were only there for a grand total of three-ish hours, needing to get back to Rosebud before it got too late, but I’m really glad we made part of it.  It was a beautiful day and a good instigator for further reflection on the different ways and need for action.

IMG_20140426_162347On the way back home we stopped at a Badlands overlook and Dairy Queen (ice cream was essential to our survival), but not before we passed by a small river on the Pine Ridge reservation with a bright yellow sign by the entrance of the bridge.  The sign read “WARNING: Radioactive River”. I had heard before, and some people brought it up at that day’s training, that uranium mining was polluting the rez’s water ways, and thus poisoning the water source for many people and animals in the area.  Uranium pollution, oil pipelines…. the South Dakota reservations are facing some very tough and dire circumstances, and that’s on top of the historical and race induced poverty.

If anything was learned by these experiences, it’s that there is much left to do, and there are strong, dedicated people putting every effort towards change.  I could be one of them.  I’m going to see what else I can do… and you can, too.

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Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle

To everyone’s shock I haven’t seen the movie (gasp!).  But nonetheless their title also works for me, because I just got back from a quick, three-night trip to the Seattle area and I’m exhausted!

Saturday my housemate and I flew out of Rapid City airport at 6 am, connecting in Denver, before arriving at the Seattle airport where we waited for a shuttle to take us to the Tulalip Resort Casino on the Tulalip Reservation.  This was the location chosen for Winter Talk – an Episcopal gathering of clergy and lay leaders from across the country representing Native and Indigenous ministries.  Folks came from Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, Nevada, Wisconsin, and of course South Dakota.  It was a couple of days getting to know other people, many from various tribes, learning about different cultures and customs, and exchanging ideas.  I really enjoyed meeting the other participants especially those with ties to the Rosebud Reservation (where I live now) and the Green Bay area (where I use to live). It’s resulted in many new friendships and contacts that I hope continue moving forward.  But that wasn’t the only great thing about this trip. The place itself was one to remember!

PSX_20140218_010402The resort is by far the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. Big rooms beautifully decorated with local tribal art. A BIG screen TV that I enjoyed watching the olympics on every night. A huge window looked out from our spot on the seventh floor towards the east, where on a moderately clear day, we could see the lower end of the Cascade Mountains.  What I could have done without was the Casino. I’m not one for gambling and it was really noisy.  Plus the food is so darn expensive.  My heart was hurting a little bit knowing my stipend was going to buffet that I could barely finish a plate from.

IMG_20140216_163421We did not get to see much of the surrounding land, but took in what we could get – the edge of a very lush, green, and wet forest.  It does rain A TON, but that didn’t stop us from getting some refreshing air that smelled like spring pines.  The mountains were calling my name in the distance and I was very disappointed that I could not go greet them, but promised that I would be back to play another day.

PSX_20140216_143100PSX_20140218_111241We also learned some things about the local tribes.  Tulalip is the name of the land (the reservation), but the area hosts many tribes with names I didn’t catch.  The last night we were there we went to the Hibulb Cultural Center where we saw displays of what life was like before colonization and many more beautiful art pieces.  I really like the style of art there – big, bold lines, usually using black with distinct, contrasting colors.  We heard some local stories including how a couple of orca whales saved one tribe from starvation (by destroying the seals that would hog the fish supply). The orca whale is a very prominent symbol of the area and is beautifully depicted in their native art.  The only whale I saw was the statue outside the resort.

All in all, it was a nice trip to the West Coast, one that teased me by how short and fleeting it was.  I did promise the mountains that I’d be back, and I intend to hold my word.  But I haven’t even mentioned one the best parts of this trip. The airport!

IMG_20140215_131916I love airports.  Love, love, love airports. I love being around other travelers, especially ones who are willing to chat with you while you’re waiting to board or while in the air.  I love the planes.  They look so beautiful and graceful to me, especially against the natural landscapes of the earth below (taking aerial photographs is one of my favorite things). And I love the fact that being in an airport usually means I’m going somewhere and that’s always exciting!

The flight back from Seattle was particularly interesting.  We flew from one major airport to another, Seattle to Denver, without talking much to anyone.  Most people were wrapped up in a book, napping, or preoccupied with whomever they were accompanying. And that’s fine.  I passed a lot of the time writing some new music (I was actually quite productive). But once we landed in Denver and boarded our tiny, jumper plane to South Dakota, the atmosphere changed drastically.  The whole plane was chatty!  People were reaching across the aisle.  I saw strangers help some elderly find their seats and store their carry-ons.  I saw a high-school student pass the flight by talking with the grandmother sitting next to him.  I chatted with the woman sitting next to me.  The flight attendants were really friendly and had a sense of humor I hadn’t seen on any other planes.  They cracked jokes while giving the safety instructions, which probably doesn’t sound good, but a majority of the people being from South Dakota appreciated the references.

There are many reasons I love South Dakota.  I’ve mentioned many of them on here, but I’m adding this flight to the list.  You don’t get company like this in the bigger cities.

 

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A Shot of Unconditional Love

I didn’t have a name for it until I talked with my parents.  We had the usual Sunday chit-chat: how are things going? What have you been up to?  I may never feel bored, but my life here is as much routine as I have ever experienced.  Go play with kids this afternoon and that evening.  Help at the radio station this day and maybe a little that day, as well.  And the stuff I do there is the same: read books, input programs in the system, play games, make a commercial.  I don’t usually have a good story for our phone catch-ups.  We often discus things I’m trying to digest from my experiences here, embedded in the day-to-day activities.

1488267_662935623729422_152042853_nMy experiences here include volunteering at the local Boys and Girls Club one afternoon a week; reading, playing music or games with kids after school.  I am also part of a team of people who organize a Christian based youth program for kids in the area once a week.  Every week we have dinner together, play some games, say (or sing) some prayers, and discuss a theme for the day like God in creation, friendship, and Jesus the Superhero (that week was fun).

Lately what I have been digesting is the joy and frozen-in-time kind of peace I’ve been feeling whiling playing with the kids at these programs.  Like I said, I didn’t have a name for it.  It’s kind of a mystery to me, for I like (and value) my time away from kids.  They can be overwhelming and often want to do things I don’t want to do, like elementary crafts or reading (two things I admit I’m not so fond of, but do anyways).

What do I like to do with kids? Be goofy.  Listen and chat with them about what’s going on in their lives, but mostly be goofy.  I’m not great about giving advice or teaching new things, but if someone needs an ear or a funny character out of one of their books, I know I can help!  The reactions; the smiles, the laughter, the interaction, the hugs make it so rewarding (just note that this character acting will not be delivered to anyone over the age of 13).  Even the thought of some of these kids brings a smile to my face and I look forward to seeing them the following week.

As I explained this phenomenon to my parents, my Dad replied like it was so obvious, “Everyone needs a shot of unconditional love now and then.”  That took me aback for a moment.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Walls usually erect to keep up acceptable appearances around my age group and those older than me, fall like Jericho when I am around these kids.  I let go of any worry or fear of being accepted.  They make it so easy.  They are just happy to have someone to play with.  Someone who shows that they care.  In that way I guess I am also showing some unconditional love.

What I hadn’t realized until recently was how much I needed it as much as they did.  Our country puts a great, weighing emphasis on independency and I believed that I could stand like a pillar, do everything myself with little reliance on anyone.  But as I get older I realize more and more that I am not made of stone or marble.  These kids found and brought out my soft side, much to my relief.

 

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in A Rez-ident: Rosebud Edition

 

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