Spring Creek Singers at the Community Prayer Ceremony on March 11.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — Cedar smoke rose throughout the afternoon of prayers and song for the Shoshone-Bannock community March 11 at Eagle Lodge and although the attendance was less, the message appeared strong for healing.
Organizer LaGrand Coby said the Community Prayer Ceremony is intended to support one another through cedar, songs and prayer. Three tribal members passed away in the past week and it’s hard, “It’s what we go through, we are here for them to pray – it’s how I grew up and I know a lot of you did too,” he said to those present.
He said there’s a lot of things happening in the community involving drugs, alcohol and elder abuse – he asked some Fort Hall Police officers to attend or Tribal Court staff, he didn’t see any present but that’s okay, “Our prayers are with them and hopefully they will realize.” Coby said there are a lot of drug problems – real bad – these kids don’t know it but they could be taking so much poison up their nose or shooting it in their arm until they are too far gone, then they want help. “I care for everyone and I always try to help everybody out but it hurts inside,” he continued. “I’m still here today – you guys are my family and I feel for you – it’s hard but we are all going to get through it.”
It may be hard for families to let things out but people need to speak from their heart. Coby remembered there use to be round table discussions at Buffalo Lodge and other places in the community long time ago. “We don’t do those now and there’s a lot of trouble.” He believes the tribal council needs to listen because there is a lot of stuff going on out there. The only time they want to open their eyes is when a murder goes on. He noted when they took the Traveling War Staff around and ended at the Fort Hall Elementary, in his mind the prayers should have happened at the trailer house where the murder occurred.
But regardless, he said, “We are here to hear each other, we have a lot of support and concerned people – it’s tough out there and there’s a lot of elderly getting hurt.” In the job he works he witnesses tribal elders adults living with them that are capable of working but they’re just lying around, raising utility bills and eating all the food in the house. They need jobs but sometimes obstacles may be in the way such as losing drivers licenses. Maybe the standards shouldn’t be so high. However there are also tribal members who have gotten college degrees and aren’t able to get jobs with the Tribes. He sees non-Indians in positions where tribal members could be hired.
“I see so many problems, it’s just not here it’s all over – this is our community, let’s take care of it,” Coby continued. “I’m tired of losing our young kids to drugs and alcohol – we need to speak up to them and say what’s wrong or right.” He said long time ago, kids used to be disciplined for example at Sundance’s an elder would say no running around but now kids kind of have an upper hand. He said it was good to see those present; the microphone is available to anyone wanting to speak.
LaGrand Coby speaks as Gifferd Osborne kneels before burning cedar.
Clyde Duke Dixey said he and Gifferd Osborne were helping with cedar. Gifferd learned from his father James and grandfather Leonard Edmo. Duke said he learned as he was growing up. He asked his grandson Lyman to come and learn because one of these days he may be doing it when he’s gone. “I’m trying to carry on what we can – what we know from long time ago – the old ways the way it was done then, his father told him to help your people no matter what because one of these days they might help you.”
Irving Pokibro decided to attend because he said he’s been having a hard time and it’s his chance to say what is bothering him because he’s been holding it inside. It’s hard for him to go out, he stays with his granddaughter but decided to come over and let it out. His grandfather used to say don’t hold back if you’re going to cry, let it go so he would go drive in the hills by himself. His older son told him he shouldn’t be going up there by himself but going in the mountains makes him feel good – a certain place where he would stop and get out and pray. He had two boys but they are both gone – one from the effects of diabetes and the other whom he believes was murdered. It bothers him because he believes the justice system is messed up and the investigators should be doing more. Pokibro said he wanted to come, talk and hear the prayers and songs. He believes all he can do is do his best to move on, as the alcohol is pretty hard to get away from. He quit drinking but walks on slippery ground. “Sometimes I slip but I been keeping good lately – I learned from it.” He speaks the Bannock language and is trying to teach his granddaughter. He learned the Bannock language from his dad but there’s very few that talk it. He does his best to keep going and he’s glad he showed up today.
Summer Baldwin said she had to do what was best for her children as she was in a relationship affected by addiction. She said the underlying issue is to give children confidence – when people smile at you and make you feel welcome it helps. She said the best thing is to be supportive with strength, kindness and love. “Build confidence in our children, in our community and one another.” She said her Cagoo (maternal grandmother) told her to not make fun of people. She’s happy for the meeting and hopes to see it continue, “Thank you for your support.”
Rainelle Edmo told her story about how alcohol and drug addiction affected her life and her children. She’s thankful she got into treatment and is doing work in recovery.
Louise Dixey said it’s good to talk about problems and appreciates LaGrand, Duke and Gifferd, along with those who pray. She’s appreciative of the work Alene Menta has done at Chief Tahgee School as she’s put together Shoshone lessons through volumes of information created. She talked about her background – working for the Tribes for 17 years before going to gaming where she worked as an internal auditor and the Gaming manager. He work as a paralegal is what got her interested in tribal history and believes our own tribal people need to tell our own story. “Our people can do the work, we have intelligence or can be trained to do the work – many have gone to school.” She believes our tribal people need to be trusted. She believes our youth need to be taught our history. A big problem is we trust white people more than our own tribal people especially the educated young people. Academic and cultural education needs to be taught including language passed down from our ancestors. Louise said she’s proud to be Bannock and at one time there were over 10,000 in number. Some were imprisoned at Fort Vancouver and some at Fort Simco – they were strong and fought for their land. She’s fortunate for her grandmother Lucy Racehorse who taught her how to sew and also appreciates growing up in Ross Fork with tribal elders such as Andrew Punkin, Ralph and Nancy Horn, along with others. She appreciated the opportunity to attend and the prayers.
Willow Abrahamson attended to ask for prayers especially for her Cagoo. She thanked everyone because the prayers help and heal us. She said one of the most powerful things tribal people have is the spirit – it connects us to pray for the sick, children with no families and pray for well being for those who are lost, along with animals. She said the buffalo represent perseverance and she’s grateful. She’s thankful for the opportunity to learn. In addition, she’s grateful to be a relative and community member.
Gifferd Osborne said he heard many things that touch him. Some said words about being ashamed about things they may have done in their lives and he is too – he has to live with it. He’s trying to make himself better – be a better person. He knows what it feels like to lose family members but prayers help to take that step to heal. He said anytime there’s prayers its always a big plus for everyone. Hopefully more young people will come out to attend because that’s our future.
Roman Farmer said he’s 11 months sober and quit because he wanted to be there for his kids. He believes he’s stronger.
Alene Menta encouraged the prayer warriors to keep at it because sometimes it’s heartbreaking but the community prayer will take care of it. She said there are broken spirits – spirits that are sick, the heart is sick – but keep on with what we are doing. She added the prayers may bring some to their knees but it’s to wake us up and that is why she came. She was in prayer for five days, may have suffered but that’s prayer life – why we survived because everything came against us. She talked about the work she’s done on the Shoshone language at Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy and is not one to brag about something. She prayed about it when the school first opened because she was already retired. The elders came to her in the morning because that is when she prayers – they said she knew the language, you have the paper and it’s for the future of our children. Working on the language is about giving back to the Tribes – she was raised here and is leaving her work for our Newe.
Lila Perdomo gave thanks to Coby for teaching her grandson about tribal culture and life. She wasn’t raised her so is still learning but thanked God for bringing her home. She asked Creator to give knowledge to teach her children and to keep trying, as she loves them no matter how they are. She will also protect them no matter what. She talked about her health surviving a burst appendix and was on dialysis for seven years until she received a kidney transplant. She advised those in similar situations to not give up and realize they can live longer.
Four Directions staff George Moore and Donna Honena with the Traveling War Staff.
George Moore talked about his recovery and how Four Directions saved his life from addiction and now he works as a recovery coach. He’s not from here as he’s Pyramid Lake Paiute – he grew up in the city but has learned so much about the culture here. He moved here because of his girlfriend and has two sons – one soon to be graduating from Haskell. He’s met so many positive people but also hears the negative. He added they can’t change anyone and it’s up to the individual. He said Donna Honena introduced him to the job and it is a blessing. He added they are trying to help people heal and don’t be afraid to call them.
Donna Honena said when it comes to recovery, it’s a hard job working at Four Directions because they are working with your loved ones and she’s also working with her loved ones that are struggling. She said meth is evil – once one gets hooked on it, it’s hard to get off be she’s seen it happen – I know people can do it. She’s seen the individuals that came from the really dark side of life and see the light. When they find spirituality and Creator something changes in them. When people abuse substances the chemical or bad spirits come in and weakens one spirit. She said there’s a good pathway and a bad pathway – one has to come back to morals, values and principles in their life, adding it’s important to talk to children when they are little. Honena said she’s fortunate to still have her mom and her dad passed on a year ago – she missed him. She didn’t realize how much she picked up from him but the most important was prayer. “It will help our people – you coming here talking, praying it provides better feelings in the community.”
LaGrand said he’s glad tribal elders asked him to put the healing ceremony on – it’s a good feeling and a blessing day today. He asked everyone to form a circle as a prayer song was sung and Duke said a prayer. He encouraged people to pray in their own way, give thanks for the water and for all the special people who shared. “I feel good, this is for a reason.” He said he appreciated the help of Duke and Gifferd, along with all those who brought food.
The next prayer ceremony is Sunday, April 1 at Eagle Lodge.