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Posts Tagged ‘heritage’

This blog post is by Petra, a Kindness Investor from Seattle, WA.

Solana in front of wooden wall art carving.

It’s a bit intimidating writing a story about a professional story-teller. But the truth is, as soon as Solana has her baby girl – which is any day now – and is back doing what she loves to do, I will be front and center, mesmerized by her gift of telling tales that are grand and important.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center occupies 20 acres on an extraordinary location in Seattle’s largest park – Discovery Park – located in the neighborhood of Magnolia just north of the city.  The structure itself was built in 1977 and hosts a wealth of original Northwest Native American art.  The center is part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and is a major gathering place for cultural activities and events from business meetings to powwows to weddings. This borough within a park within a city has a dramatic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And Solana enjoys that perk whenever she has a moment to look up from her job as the center’s go-to person for all things regarding prenatal/Headstart programs and Operations. It even says so on her business card.

This exquisite 30-year-old woman, whose own Native American Indian ancestry is both Lushoolsled and Kostalish, has been an integral part of Daybreak for 10 years.  She began as a lead teacher and then spread her wings into other education related horizons – and of course – storytelling. The center’s Headstart program embraces 108 children – 42 are Native American. The other 66 kids complete the tapestry, coming from an eclectic, precious mixture of cultural backgrounds: East African, Spanish, Caucasian, Black, Asian and more. Suddenly I wanted to be a kid in the Headstart program at Daybreak!

Painting at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Solana is already a mother of two girls – one is old enough to understand the value of becoming positively involved in the lives of those less fortunate. They spend holidays and other occasions helping those in need at various locations throughout the city where homeless people gather. It’s something Solana knows all too well. She was homeless for two of her teenage years.

Then, immediately out of high school, Solana began her storytelling career which she now weaves into curriculum for schools and programs to enhance mental health. Currently she is devoting much of her own education to Chief Dan George who she reports is a major influence in her life and also paramount in her mother’s lineage. I suspect Chief Dan George will also occupy prime real estate in Solana’s storytelling nation.

As for the big question: What is the baby’s name? Oh, no. That was my question. As for the other big question – what will she do with her $10?

Artwork of Native American leaders at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

“I don’t know yet. I find that I am constantly giving. I keep small packages of food in my car in case we meet someone who is hungry. I have change for those who need some money.”

“I’m going to hang on to it until the moment is right. I’ll know. My daughter and I will know when it’s the right time to pass this gift on to someone who could really use it.”

“You know this giving thing is contagious!”

I LOL’d and exclaimed “That’s what I keep saying!”

Solana has a Website which houses the details of her work and the importance of keeping the oral history of Native American Indians of all Tribes alive. Although it’s “down” for the moment, she hopes that after her baby girl is born, she’ll have time to tend to it again – it and the million other selfless acts of love which Solana demonstrates every day.

View of Puget Sound from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Spring is around the corner and Daybreak is around the bend. Me thinks I’ll be spending more time with my new friend and mentor when she returns to Daybreak Star with her girls in tow. What fun it will be to sit on the grass, watch the birds, water, and mountains – just like Native American Indians of the great Pacific Northwest have done for centuries.

..and then she’ll tell me a story!

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Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

I have done a poor job this week of updating the blog…but trust me, I have not wavered on my commitment to giving.  In fact, I have some very interesting people to tell you about as I get caught up.  Today is Hari’s story.

Being unemployed has some benefits.  One thing is that I try to go regularly to the different museums and cultural institutions that Washington has to offer.  There is an abundance of information and history here and I have time to soak it up.

I decided to check out the African American Civil War Museum.  It is located on the corner of 12th and U in DC.  A short walk away is the memorial and the Wall of Honor that remembers the 209,145 soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

Hari is the museum’s curator.  He was gracious to spend some time talking with me about the civil war.  Listening to Hari unfold the events that led to the civil war is exhilarating.  Usually when someone tells you about some event that took place deep in our history, it is hard to appreciate the actual event because you don’t have sufficient understanding of contributing events, cultural references, etc.  But Hari anticipated my questions and painted the full picture for me.

Hari at the African American Civil War Museum (Photo: Reed)

He first was drawn to history by his elders in his hometown of Pauls Valley, OK.  The elders took the time to explain to Hari historical events that they had lived through.  In the 8th and 11th grade, Hari discovered that the text books that he was using didn’t accurately portray the involvement of Americans of African descent  in the Civil War.  His teachers at the time, Ms. Bagley and Ms. Wallace respectively, understood that this history was suppressed and taught the true history. 

Hari went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma.  It was there that he had a Kenyan American professor of African American History who was not only ignorant of the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War but refused to teach it saying that it was not on his syllabus. It was this encounter that fueled Hari’s desire to dedicate himself to researching the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War. 

He received a commission in the Marine Corps and later found himself as an instructor at the Naval Academy.  He realized that there was still a lack of understanding of our own history and felt that Americans need a foundation of common understanding about our own history before we are fully capable of dealing with conflict and struggles in foreign lands.  “If we can not understand what went on her in our own history and what cultural attributes were possessed by Americans” Hari explained, “then it will be impossible for us to do it anywhere else.  The only thing that we’ll be able to do is to kill people when we can not get them to understand our way of thinking.”

Hari left the Marine Corps to dedicate himself full-time to the topic.  I encourage you to stop by the Museum and meet Hari.  If he has time, I know he would be happy to share with you his extensive knowledge of our nation’s history.

Here is a clip of Hari discussing our views on race and how a paradigm shift has occurred in our society’s views about race as it pertains to sports and how this represents a much greater paradigm shift in our society’s way of thinking.

It’s no surprise that Hari decided to donate his $10 to the museum. 

For those of you who can not make it to the museum to meet Hari, he recommended two books to me that you might want to check out:

  • The Great Conspiracy by John Alexander Logan
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – A note about Mr. Zinn.  He died unexpectedly on January 27th of this year.  He was 87.  He was quoted as saying that he would like to be remembered “for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality,” and “for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns…ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it.”

 

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