Thursday, June 18, 2009

Editing Dakota 38 Film

Currently I’m digging deep into the 60 or so hours of film taken last December on the horse ride. It’s a rainy day in NYC which makes it a little easier to be glued in front of a computer screen for so many hours. It’s been a powerful and humbling process over the last 5 months editing this film. Often times I get very emotional as I’m editing and I feel so honored to be playing a part in telling this story.

Jay McKay has already started working on an amazing original soundtrack for the film and here is one rough track if you’d like to have a listen…..Jay doesn’t like me sharing the tracks until they’re polished yet it’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Right now we’ve got about 20 minutes edited on the timeline and it's exciting to see it taking a solid shape.

The goal is to get a rough cut done by Early July and then share the film with everyone at the Sundance that Jim Miller leads in Alberta. This will be a great place to get feedback regarding the film.

I'll keep you all posted as the editing evolves.

Big Smiles from NYC,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Open Book" -post by Silas

Since returning from South Dakota many people are asking how the trip was. Each time I find myself struggling to put the experience into words. And so I guess that’s why I’m glad we filmed it :).

Today is Tuesday the 20th of January. I’m currently posted up at my longtime friend Gardner Halsey’s kitchen table in Porter, Maine. He’s taking care of a brown lab named Cleo who is overly joyful and continues to make me crack up this morning with her enthusiasm. Gardner has let me use his home this week to work on Smooth Feather things.

Since finishing our filming in South Dakota, Adam flew back to the east coast and Pancho and I said our goodbyes to Jesse, Sarah and the whole Weston crew. Pancho and I then climbed into “Bonne”, Smooth Feathers loyal 1990 Pontiac Bonneville :). We then embarked on a road trip west towards San Francisco. One of the highlights of the trip was when Pancho and I pulled off at a rest stop in the middle of the Utah Salt Flats. See picture below.

When looking out into this endless expanse of glory, we both decided to strap on our running shoes and embark on a long run. With the white salt under our feet in every direction it felt like we were running in a different dimension of space. Soon the distant traffic appeared to be floating 5 feet off the road and the curvature of the earth could visibly be experienced. After crossing the 7-mile abyss we finally came to a mountain, which we summited with burning legs (pancho’s idea, he doesn’t know when to call it quits). On top of the mountain we struggled to make out the rest stop that was wavering in the distance. There is something that the desert does to you, which deeply humbles your soul and can even make you uneasy at points with no bare essentials in sight. In the above photo you can actually make out Pancho if you look very carefully. Although it was his idea to summit the mountain he hadn’t taken into account that we still had to go back,.. and that he hadn’t run in 3 years since his knee surgery. :) So I was able to get this photo of him finishing strong on a wobbly knee.

After this adventure we continued westward on interstate 80 and for the last 300 miles drove Bonne without brakes. :) For a week I was in Berkeley with Pancho and also got some needed rest in Robby Stacey’s hot tub as well.

And so today, I have since traveled to see my family in Maine, and begin gathering my thoughts for our latest film “Dakota 38”. I have so much gratitude for all of the people that I have met in the last 4 months in the Dakotas. Each one of them has given me great insights into life and myself.

A friend asked me the other day what the film is going to be about, and I responded with, “unconditional love”. This is the number one point that I personally have taken away from the journey in December. As Jim Miller led us on this journey he opened every interaction and meeting with the following, “I want to tell each and every one of you that I love you very much.” And as Adam once pointed out, it never got old. It never lost power or became a mundane saying. Every time you could feel the genuine love behind his words. And so that energy trickled down throughout all of the riders. Jim even hugged the guys from the Fox network and told him that he loved them. We got some great footage of their response afterwards.

The second element that I’ve taken away from the ride is another quote from Jim, “I live my life as an open book” I’d heard this saying many times yet this time it was different. I started asking myself what I’m hiding from the world. How can I be more transparent with everyone that I encounter, and most importantly myself? And this is exactly why I’m writing this blog right now. I’ve often times had mixed feelings about sharing my thoughts through a blog and I have actually been less active with blogging in the past year. Yet since the ride, I’m inspired to live in a way that is more transparent and open. I want people to experience the process of making these Smooth Feathers projects and not only the final films.

I’ve gotten lots of emails in the past year from people that want to help out…which is so awesome. Yet I find myself overwhelmed with managing these requests. So if you or someone you know is inspired to coordinate glorious people and find ways for them to fit into Smooth Feather projects than I’d love to talk to you. :) Which brings us to the latest Smooth Feather idea, which was born a couple weeks ago when Adam Mastrelli visited me in Maine. Here are a couple emails that Adam and I wrote to one another last week.

Adam’s Email to me,
So there's something with physical activity, exhaustion, and people sharing that together that brings people closer together into a community. Of course there needs to be an interactive site, where people can share, interact, but I feel there's a deep, deep need for people to connect on a human level and not just in meeting and coming together to have conversations. We need to get them up and moving, physical activity, building something together, being a part of an activity larger than themselves which then will mirror the mental and emotional state of feeling like they belong to something bigger. I'm passionate about this. I thought about it again this morning after watching a TED talk, but was also thinking it over the weekend. There were many examples, you and your father building a tree house together, Kristin and I, walking up that hill and keeping the fire going together, your father, mother, Kristin, Willy, myself, putting logs onto the sled...That's what the ride provided in a lot of ways. An activity. The sharing at night I feel was made possible by people working together during the day on a project. Something physical. This is attempted in office life with projects...the problem being they're not physical enough. There's no sense of play or building. It's too mental. People are dealing with projects (not all the time, but mainly) from their logical, headspace...I believe that it takes physical activity to break that, get blood pumping to our hearts and to incorporate more of what people have been doing for 10,000 years, building, physically working together...I'd like to see whatever we continue to work on incorporate some of these things, activities....:)adam

My email to Adam
That's exactly what I'm talking about son. I really dig it man.
I've begun thinking more about the question you posed about my grandest vision for Smooth Feather.
And today I envisioned pulling into a driveway that lead to the top of the mountain here in Maine. That open field on top of the hill would have a film/music/performance studio space that is solar powered and full of sunshine and glorious people coming together. There would be a couple grills going out front, people tossing a frisbee in that large soccer field to be. And sheep wandering amongst the scene. Willy and the horses are eating the grass close by and then you hear some loud music coming out of the windows of the studio from someone who is getting creative.
Mastrelli then says, "Alright, we've been heart storming & working all morning who wants to take a run to the river for a swim." Then a motley crew of New York City Vagabonds mixed with the dude next door, jump into the back of a pickup and head for a swim break.
After lunch, a few people are inside working on the latest projects, and the other half are outside working to pull weeds in the garden. When the computer people are getting bugged out, we switch.
That night we all have dinner on a large table that is on one side of the studio room. And we laugh about the day’s antics.
After that, people start a bon fire and maybe we project some film work onto a large screen under the stars. Or maybe we host a gathering where the neighborhood sees some footage from our latest project. Or maybe we host an evening with a local band and we have a small stage for them to play from.
After that people head back to their tents that are set up in cool spots throughout the woods. I see this happening in different blocks throughout the year. They could be 2-week gatherings where anyone is welcome to join. Seeing as though many of us are often times on the move with different jobs or tasks, this would be one solid schedule throughout the year where our community could converge on this glorious spot in nature and get recharged, sweat to the bone and create magic for the world.
We've got the land, we've got amazing trees we can cut down to have lumber for building,....Pancho wouldn't have to engage in this part :)
One of my best friends works with a green building company that we can work with.
If we build it they will come. :) Also we can host a triathlon, we can involve local artists, we can build crazy sculptures and play soccer into the night.
Let me know what your thoughts are man, and what you would like to see on this mountaintop. i.e. a room for this, a section of land dedicated to this, a basketball hoop, etc.
Much love from cold air brother,
p.s. I love you buddy :)

So that’s the latest idea, and as you can see we’ve taken on Jim’s “I love you buddy” :) At first it felt a bit awkward, yet I’m getting better at it.
Sending much love to all of you from deep snow in Maine,

End of the ride? -post by Adam

I'm not really that excited to write this right now. I'm 37,000 feet above the ground and I'm not quite sure how to write and complete the journey that I've just been on in writing. I've heard everything about the blog from "I love it" to "That's all you got out of this trip" it's run the gamut. Mainly the feedback has been positive and I'm extremely thankful that people have found it helpful to read the blog and be able to keep up with the ride. You know, over the course of the ride, I would truly wait until I felt like writing and then I would just write. The words and scenes from the day would just ooze out of me onto my computer screen and it really felt like the blog was writing itself and I would inject my own slant every once in a while to keep the story flowing. Today feels different. I'm writing today because I'm stuck. Not stuck like I have writers block but today is Dec 28 and the ride has been over for 2 days. I'm on a plane to see my family in Tampa bay sitting next to a silver haired grandmother in a pink sweater with pictures of her grandchildren on her shirt with the text "Grandma's Angel's" above their picture...I'm in seat 30-A...I'm not following a horse, I'm not on the ride. Yeah, I could tell myself that I'm STILL ON THE RIDE, and I'll always be on the RIDE, but that's different that's an analogy, I'm not on the Dakota 38 ride. That has ended for the year of 2008. Jim Miller's dream that came to him 4 years ago has been completed and next year if the ride continues it will be up to the younger generations to continue the ride as Jim has expressed his desire to "retire". (which he jokingly opinion is he'll be there in some capacity) Personally the last day of the ride was the longest I've ever rode a horse, 10 miles. I had moments where I felt like I was flying, or at least riding a fake horse that wasn't touching the ground. Kind of a mix between the horses from the carousel scene in "Mary Poppins" and the exciting "Tatanka" chase scene in "Dances with Wolves" with a dash of Billy Crystal's enthusiasm (minus the Mets Hat) from "City Slickers". I had my moment of feeling free on the horse, flying, and I wanted more. But the ride is over. These horses are amazing. Take what the people on the 330 mile journey did and multiply it by any number larger than 100 and that's a starting point of how much respect and admiration I have for these animals. They battled poor weather conditions, running on hard, icy roads, (they'd much prefer fields), exhaustian, injury, (cuts, pulling up lame, saddle tears in their skin), all of this and more while carrying us and the completion of a dream. They literally carried us on their backs and I am forever grateful to all of the horses that participated in this years ride. The same reasons I feared riding them in the beginning of the journey are the same that I have come to revere them by the end. Strength, consistency, power, grace, calm, aggression, passion, love, stillness, and their ability to carry a people. It has been truly inspiring. I'm looking for opportunities to spend more time with horses. The ride is over. Then there's some of the things during the ride that I just didn't vibe with and left me wondering. Why on the final day in Mankato, in the middle of the ceremony culminating the 330 mile trek, and honoring of these 38 Dakota warriors, did one of the Native American elders (who was standing in the center of a circle right in the middle of a ceremony) answer his cell phone and begin to have a conversation. Strange. Why when we were at one of the community centers did one of the Native American men who was organizing the event say "And if any of the women want to help out with the serving of the food, then go now". There were women who rode horse during the day and cooked at night. There were no men. It seemed out of balance. Why after giving a plastic plate to one of the riders that we had brought to avoid using styrofoam in the cities we visited, did he smile, agree, take the plate and then simply use the styrofoam plate anyway yet put the plastic plate underneath as a sort of colorful garnish? Interesting.

The ceremony in Mankato went off with out a hitch. We had great support from the community, law enforcement, local establishments. It's difficult for me to put into words all that was happening on Dec 26. At this point, I think I'll let the eventual footage speak for itself. There is one thing I did want to mention though. There was a tragedy on Dec 17 within the Native American community. A young 18 year old boy Seth passed away on Dec 17. His wish and his families plan before his death was to attend this ride and ride with his family from Lower Sioux to Mankato. His family buried Seth on Dec 22, and then on Dec 23 they came to the ride to fulfill Seth's wish. The family brought 5 horses, one of which was riderless that was lead by Dallas (Seth's father) throughout the snowy trails. That families horse was the horse I rode. I didn't realize until midway through my first day of riding. I was hit with a wave of emotion. To see the strength, compassion, and togetherness of Seth's family and his horses, (which would not leave each other's side) was astonishing, something I'd never seen before. On the ride back from Bob Folsom's farm with the family they gave me Seth's mass card and I was able to read what this young man who I had never met but was now connected to was interested in. He was into traditional dancing, horseback riding, running among many other things. Beloved by his friends, he lit up a room. I also read that in years past he had participated in a 98 mile run starting at midnight on Dec 25 from the concentration camp site in Ft. Snelling, and arriving at the hanging site in Mankato on the morning of Dec 26. It's an all night run and has been going on for over 20 years. The run is done in relay legs. I knew when I read that, that I was going to run for Seth. His parents were participating on the ride on horseback and with a wristband that was his given to me by his mother I was going to be able to run for him from Ft. Snelling. Silas, Pancho, Sarah, Crystal and myself after a long day took the drive to Ft. Snelling (1.5 hours from Mankato) and participated in the run for Seth. Together we ran a 2 mile leg at 3:30am for Seth. We then drove back to Mankato to sleep for 2 hours before getting up for the ceremony in the morning. It was a wild night but I felt great that Seth was honored on both fronts for this historic day. During an honoring and funeral service in the morning, I presented Seth's mother Fern with a bracelet of Seth's that I wore during the run. It will remain with her. Love to Seth and Seth's family.

Yesterday Pancho, Silas and myself woke up late and talked all afternoon. We sat on our couch at our house in Flandreau, SD and then moved to a coffee show next door for Mexican Coffee, Tea, Pizza and an awful egg sandwich that Silas attempted to make us both take a bite of. Pancho did and regretted it, I made the smart choice. We caught up, checked in, talked about the ride, God, religion, spirituality, what's next for us, what gets us going, what resonated with us on the ride, what didn't. The one thing we all agreed on was when Jim talks about his life being a open book. Jim Miller is a recovering alcoholic. 27 years sober I believe. Jim Miller is a decorated Vietnam Veteran with 38 confirmed kills. He didn't make the connection to the Dakota 38 until he had his dream 4 years ago and began researching what he saw. Jim Miller is not a Republican or a Democrat. Jim Miller ran guns, served time in Levenworth, and spent 2 years straight in solitary confinement. Jim Miller says "I love you all very much" before he says anything to a group, and when seeing you and giving you a hug says, "I love you buddy"...Jim Miller will tell you all this. Jim Miller is an open book.

We spoke about that all yesterday. How amazing it is to see someone lead their life as that much of an open book. Jim is a humble man and will be the first to tell you he's not a spiritual leader. He always puts the leadership into the hands of the people. The people know who's leading, and that leader empowers the people. It's truly a lesson in leadership and community. I was contemplating whether or not to have this blog contain some of the things that I didn't resonate with here on my journey. Some of the challenges I believe the community as a whole face moving forward. In my opinion the major ones being reducing drugs, alcohol, cigarettes on the reservation and improving the diet, (too much soda, sweets, not enough fruits/vegetables). I wanted my thoughts to be an open book. These are my thoughts, feelings on the subject. Over the course of the past 25 days I have been inspired by so many things in this community and I have written about all of them. I'm truly grateful to this community for their warmth and openness and only ask that in reading this to respect my thoughts and feelings as an open book.

Another thing that I have been thinking of lately is what one of the women in one of the communities said to me after one of my latest blog entries. I had written thoughts of linking the genocide of the Holocaust to what the Native Americans went through at the hands of the US Gov't. For me I was taking a leap. For me that was putting myself out there. Her comment to me was first that the blog was "honest"...I said thank you. She then proceeded to say that "I was actually thinking, that's all you got out of this ride?" I immediately was put on the defensive. I thought to myself that was an odd thing to say to someone. It got me thinking. Did I not go deep enough? Should I have invested more? Could I have invested more? Why was I so defensive when this woman said this? It has stuck with me for a few days. My thought is that I didn't like it because someone who didn't know me questioned my effort. Questioned my heart, what I've been doing on this ride and how I've been interacting with the community. A lot of what this ride is about is very difficult to put into words and I truly feel ill equipped to give the rundown of what's going on sometimes. I have been writing this blog because it felt good to share what had been going on with the ride, tell stories and share. I was putting myself out there. I was sharing my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I would shy away from a difficult topic because I didn't want to offend or I felt I didn't have the knowledge and information to have a complete argument formed. But I, like I have heard many Native American elders say about their ancestors...Did the best I could at that particular time. I usually give people the benefit of the doubt. That's what I did, I did the best I could at that particular time and I went as deep and got as much out of this experience as I could at that time. More importantly I GAVE as much as I could. I feel complete with my involvement in this ride and I hope that all of the riders and supporters do as well. It was an amazing journey, a true experience of a lifetime and I'm so honored to be a part of it. And to the woman who said that statement, if you are reading this blog, I'm writing this all with love and do not mean to demean your question as I'm sure you did not mean to offend me. It raised a red flag with me and I wanted to investigate why. That is all. Open Book.

That also came up recently in someone saying to me..."you're leading with your head not your heart, get out of your headspace and into your heartspace"...This after knowing me for two days over brief conversations. I questioned a belief. I questioned a story someone heard and I questioned whether or not it happened. Or how it happened. I wanted to investigate deeper. I believe in questioning a story instead of simply believing with blind faith, I was assumed to be looking at the issue from a head space over a heart space. I didn't know one was better or worse that the other. Last time I checked the world and most people in it are working towards balance. A mix of head and heart. If we're not questioning stories and history then we're simply living into our own past. And as we've seen if we're living in patterns and past, some of the past is not something we'd like to be living into. I did take a lot away from that conversation. I was not offended by them challenging me with my questioning of a story, but am glad they did because it leads me to question my own beliefs, who am I, what do I believe, how can I help...Thank you ladies.

The headspace, heartspace argument I believe is a central one in allowing people of different religions/spiritual practices to come together. If I question a belief within a certain religion it's most always taken as an attack on the individual. That needs to end. I'm not attacking anyone, I'm questioning a belief system. A story. I want to know what inspires a person about their way of living. Their view on the world, communities, the cosmos, the origins of life...I felt that over the past week especially of this ride. I'm not a practicer of the Native American ancient spiritual traditions, I'm not a Christian. Although I was raised Catholic and baptized in the church I don't associate with the beliefs. I'm not a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. What I can do is respect and understand individuals. I've sometimes in the past looked for ONE method of linking everyone. A magic bullet if you will of spirituality or connection or whatever you'd like to call it. To get rid of the division and bring in the reconciliation. What I've realized through conversations with friends and colleagues is that that's a protection for me. It's too broad. It would allow me to look at people as groups and try to figure out through study and information how to bring people together. (headspace) Not a bad thing, my heart was in the right place, but I would be acting from my head. What I've been seeing through this ride is that any community is truly made up of people. Individuals. Even in a church. I guess I've always known that but I never quite felt it as deeply as I did during this ride. Getting to know individuals, respecting their points of view, religious, spiritual, beliefs, not trying to change them into some futuristic spiritual robot that makes everyone the same. Loving the diversity within a certain community. Getting to know the people. And if I don't get to know everyone within the community on the same level. That's ok. That's real, that's life. I'm not trying to run a Tony Robbins seminar here and make sure everyone gets their money's worth out of a weekend...(keeping in mind, I love Tony Robbins and think what he does is amazing on a lot of levels, but it was just an example)...I'm just trying to be of service and find my place in this world. I don't have a definition for God. I don't have a definition for my spirituality. I don't have a definition for faith. It's not set. I don't know. That's where I'm working from today. It will change, that's inevitable. But being okay with where I am today, and more importantly for me, not judging others for their beliefs and where they are is an extremely important thing for me to take away from this ride. I often hear and have said in the past. Be present, be in the moment, be in the now...What's hot now for the general public of this definition is something resembling a Eckhart Tolle, Secret type, meditation, yoga, Oprah type thing, for the most part. (Give or take an Oprah)...And that's great. I've seen the Secret, I've read the Power of Now, practice Yoga, meditation, watch an occassional episode of Oprah, I think this is all great stuff and extremely helpful. What I've found though is that I have to define what being present means to me. What being in the moment means to me. That's being alive for me. Defining how I feel about life, not taking someone else's definition or story of it. Being present to me is life. Is writing this right now. Taking that deep breath after not looking up from this screen for a few minutes. My definition will change too. I'm not going to be attached to being present. Sometimes I'm more alive than others. That's life. Life is beautiful. I love these days. When life just feels light. I'm not going to chase that light feeling. It will be there and then it won't. And when it's not. It's ok. It's still there just at a different frequency. A little lower. I may not be able to feel it as deeply but it's there. Then it will hit me. Boom, that baby crying which 10 minutes into the plane ride might have annoyed me is now sweet sweet music. Things change. And the grandparents who were sitting in the row in front of me who took a long time to get into their row...Remember that scenario? Hurry up will ya? yeah sometimes we say that to ourselves, but other times we're blown away at how sweet, cute and loving this couple is still after all these years...They kiss. That moment was worth it. The fact that I'm tearing up while writing this as we start our descent to Tampa. This is a great moment. I started this blog not knowing. Not knowing what to write, frustrated about some of the things I was feeling about the trip. I still don't know. I don't know anything more than when I started, but something has shifted. Has changed. Whoa, turbulence the plane is shaking, I'll have to close for now. Things change, but stay the same. To ride it out and keep questioning is something I love. Question and Trust. Head and Heart. Yin and Yang. Dark and Light. Joy and Sorrow. Life and Death. I still don't know, but I feel better, I can breathe deeper, smile broader and end this post and this ride with a feeling of joy, gratitude and Doksha...What's doksha you say? It's the Native American saying for "I'll see you around"...I noticed that very few people say goodbye...They always say Doksha. Like just "see you round"...As my inspiring and awesome new friend Pancho would say, "We are all citizens of the world"...So with that, I'll see you round the world...Doksha..

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 15...Happy Holidays

So tonight is Christmas Eve. Merry Xmas. But I also want to acknowledge all of the other celebrations and I know with my limited knowledge of world religions and ceremony I'll mention a few and then put an etc...Merry Xmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanza...I thought I'd squeeze them all in to one email as our journey is nearing it's final destination and the journey part of the Dakota 38 blog as far as the ride is concerned will come to an end...Let's do some catch up. Yesterday Dec 23 was my first day back on the horse. Literally. I rode a beautiful and at first aggressive horse named Tatankawi...(possible mispelling don't want to offend his family) I rode for about 5 miles and then traded places with Silas on the horse. The great part was that for about a mile Silas carried the camera on the horse and got some really interesting shots. It wasn't really all that it was cracked up to be in the end but basically for the little time that a camera was on horseback, it was pretty wild. What a great feeling yesterday was. Riding through cold, snowy conditions, over beautiful terrain with 45 other riders on horseback. It's a day and an experience I'll always remember. I plan to ride again tomorrow as it is our final day of riding. 18 miles. I want to thank all of the riders, all of the supporters and to Jim Miller for having this dream, all of which made it possible for me to experience yesterday. I'm truly thankful. Ok, blah blah blah about me. On to today. So much is happening it's almost like I can't keep up. Here are some highlights. Pancho rode a horse today with a large flag of the Planet Earth on it signifying his committment to Global Oneness. It was pretty awesome to see this large flag jutting above all the heads of the riders and definitely sent the right message to the other riders as well as the communities that we are currently driving through. We are 18 miles away from Mankato. 18 miles away from the site of the largest mass hanging in US History. It's a lot of mixed feelings right now to be honest. I believe at the end of every journey there is a feeling of completion, joy, community and bonding. This journey although mirroring that pattern in a lot of ways somehow seems different. There's a different kind of energy as we near Mankato. One of hope and reconcilliation, but one also of pain, loss and hurt. Although the hangings in Mankato happened 146 years ago I'm amazed at how fresh these wounds feel to the Native American community. Over the course of American history the numbers go like this...60 million to 800,000...At it's lowest 800,000 was the number of Native Americans living in the United States. That number has gone up a small amount and factoring in Cananda in North America I believe the number of Native Americans living in North America is at 1.7 million. This is going to be strong. But that's genocide. I'm truly not trying to be too political here as I want to remain with the inspiration and how many amazing acts of kindness and generosity we've seen along the road but just read the history. Look on websites. Read articles that are outside of the 1 chapter that you may have read in a high school textbook. I promise you it will be worth your while and extremely informative and enlightening. With all of that being said I was thinking about the Jewish Community and the Holocaust. In linking these two attrocities together, (as there are many scholars who believe Hitler borrowed the US Governments form of concentration camps used on the Native Americans at Ft. Snelling and all along their death march from Lower Brule to Mankato.) I thought about all of the healing that has gone on within the Jewish community. From apologies, court hearings, and punishing of war criminals to museums, monuments, tolerance centers and various mainstream books and films, the Jewish community (at least in my experience) have begun to come together and heal the wounds that stemmed from their time in the concentration camps. To me it doesn't seem like the Native American community has had that healing. Now I don't claim to be a historian, so I don't know exactly who's apologized for what and when, as well as the history of specific treaties, land aggreements, trusts, tribal gov't etc, but it does seem to me in my limited amount of time here that their story has not been told. I mean why had I not heard of the largest mass hanging in US History? Did you know about that? Is there a memorial day to commemorate such a horrific and spectacular loss of life? I've seen this ride and the showing of some of our footage to the communities that we travel through have that healing effect. It brings people together. We talk, we share, we laugh, we cry. This in my opinion needs to happen all over. My hope is that this film and our experience here will spread like wildfire. There is so much wisdom in the land, the culture, the spirituality and the people within the Native American community. What first needs to happen is that the Native American community needs to get in touch with the Native American community. The fact that only 10 people under 30 on the Sisseton/Wopton Reservation speak Dakota is a real crisis. The language is in danger of dying out. The elders are passing away and with them will go the oral traditions of this great culture. This needs to be preserved and these brave warriors need to continue to live and thrive on their original land. From new green jobs, cultural and language education to returning to an organic diet the future truly is bright and this ride has shown me hope. Now I don't want to get all utopian on you. I have seen some of the darker sides of the community (as with any community) and I'll leave it at that. There is work to be done and I encourage the Tribal Governments and will continue to help my new friends in any way possible. I've made new friends. Within the Native American community and outside as well. I'll start small. Smooth Feather will continue to focus on the small. Small acts of kindness and finding out how we can make a difference in one persons life, a family, a community, a nation, an earth, a universe, a solar system, a milky way:)...The last little bit I give thanks to Pancho for his truly inspiring Global view.

I know I know..."Adam, this feels like the final scene, the final chapter of this journey, it's a little bit much and pushy for me. I liked it better when you're funny and getting bucked off horses in Canada"...True that is always funny, but I'm not trying to prove a point, make a speech, prove that I can craft an argument. I'm simply being direct. These men and women I've met are direct. They ride horses all day and will always tell you how they feel. Even if they're quiet, my new friends are as Sarah would say "Telling without telling"...The above statements are direct and I hope you the reader can appreciate that. I''m completely humbled by my experience here and look foward to tomorrrow when I'm back on the horse. I leave you with that tonight. It's ok after you get bucked off a horse to take your time in getting back on. That's natural, it's healing, it's real. But when you get knocked down, bucked off, broken up with, rejected, whatever, breathe, heal, take your time, but then get up and start running again. You and all the beings on this earth are truly made of magic. You were born to run. Run, feel the wind on your skin...Dance feel the air under your feet, sit still...feel the breath in your lungs...Whatever it may be...Get up again, and be direct, honest and you'll never go wrong...

Day 13...Day of Rest....Nanny Nanny Poo Poo and the Mafia

Tonight's blog will be short. A day of rest and a long night of community has left me a little tired. Two points that I wanted to quickly bring up that made me chuckle over the past couple of days. So I'll go in reverse order of my title because the first one cracks me up and I want to save it for last. The Mafia...Bill Miller is Jim's brother. From day one when they met me because I'm Italian they made Mafia jokes. It's kind of like their way of joking with me but also they're kind of serious and I believe it's their way of connecting with me and my background, not knowing a heck of a lot about me. I found it funny though that I came into this project trying to be rightfully sensitive with the Native Americans and the culture and here Bill and Jim are making Italian jokes and tying me to the Mafia basically because I'm Italian. I found it funny, charming and didn't take offense. I actually thought it was great that they crossed the line in that humorous way to make me feel at ease. It's a lesson for me and crossing into other cultures. Basically there's a time to be PC, sensitive and hyper aware of your surroundings, but in my humble opinion the occasional and well placed joke and crossing of the line in certain respects can really loosen up a sensitive and possibly tense situation. Second, Nanny Nanny Poo Poo...This is a quick story of oneness and unity. So I'm playing freeze tag with the kids on the road and as we're playing I heard one of the young guys say "You can't catch me, Nanny Nanny Poo Poo"...It stopped me in my tracks. My first thought was a generational thing. Instantly I thought, kids today still say "Nanny Nanny Poo Poo?"...Who in fact started that? It feels like it's been around for such a long time. I thought kids by now would have evolved out of that and into something I don't know maybe...cooler...I mean this is the Hip Hop generation, I was anticipating more of a "You can't catch me dog...YUP YUP" type of thing. But no, I got Nanny Nanny Poo Poo...It made me laugh. Kids are still kids and stories and history is difficult to break I guess. Which then launched me into a whole other thought. These Native American youth are the same as the white kids I grew up with. I know that sounds like common sense, but I must admit just as the generational thing shocked me, I was also shocked that Native American children would say that phrase. I guess in my mind (and I'd never really thought about this before today) but "Nanny Nanny Poo Poo" was an exclusively white saying. I thought that kids from other cultures would have other sayings. Actually they very well might, but the fact remains that "Nanny Nanny Poo Poo" is one of them as well. It made me chuckle and humbled me at the same time. It also got me thinking that sayings, stories are hard to break or change. If you're on the positive side of history then you're in the pink, but if you have generations of stories of genocide, oppression, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, spiritual practices made illegal until 1978, then those stories and history are tough to break and change. Just a thought. That's what this ride has become for me. A coming to terms with the past. The past of my country, the past of my new friends. Hopefully we'll get to a point where we all and especially the Native American community are playing a game of freeze tag with our pasts. We can run away, leave it behind and with a confident smile say, "Nanny Nanny Poo Poo, you can't catch me"...Our future is a blank slate...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 10/11...The Welu Farm in Milroy to Morton...

This is pretty awesome right now. Pancho and I are sitting in the front seat of the US engineered awesomeness that is our rocket on the road..."The Boneville" checking our emails and blogging while borrowing a signal from the farmhouse that we're staying at. It's a pretty hilarious scene. We're going to sleep in the barn tonight so I think a little technology before sleeping on a haystack is allowed. Today was a day of schools. We were up early to do a presentation and assembly in Russell, MN and then on to Milroy, MN for another later in the afternoon. We had a few of the riders speak to the kids and it was great to see the interaction between the students and riders. Questions were asked, answers were given and nobody blinked while discussing a very difficult subject for young people to understand and feel. A few light highlights came when we interviewed a few of the young girls who saw the presentation at Russell. During the interview it came out that one young girl had a crush on Chris who is one of the riders. Over the course of the next 5 minutes through loud giggles and physical movements that could have either been excitement or sugar(check that school lunch), the girls went on to express their crushes on Chris in a very sweet way ending with a C H R S...chant...I know I know I forgot the I in his name you say. But I'm just reporting what they did. In spelling his name it seemed as though they were so excited that knowledge of the alphabet went out the window. Oh yes, and just to set the scene on Chris' exit it went something like this...

Chris: Thank you everyone for your time, I appreciate it. I gotta go RIDE...(said Clint Eastwood style steely and smoothly)

Middle School girls melt and cue the video...and scene...

Ok, so that was pretty hilarious tonight when we watched the footage enlarged on the barn wall that we're staying at. It's great to be able to share this footage with the riders/supporters as we go. Pardon the cheesy reference but tonight felt like camp. It's pitch black, there's a pig farm, chickens, a peacock, the horses are right outside, there's a few dogs running around and the Welu family and their friends have been nothing short of spectacular. They cooked for us, provided us with a place to stay and even have matching sweaters with their names on the back with a Native American greeting on the front and the word PEACE in rainbow colors on the front. An amazing gesture and really only adds to my camp reference so I feel validated and officially less cheesy.

On a personal note, tomorrow I get back on a horse for the first time since my near bucking experience in Canada. I'm ready. I'm in the third leg of the relay and I believe it's my turn to step up. Some of the riders have gone home to see their families and will return, others are tired and could use the rest, and also I am inspired to get on, show my solidarity and not ride for me, but ride for these people. The people who I've spent the last 10 days with and have gotten to know. I feel their passion and struggle and tomorrow just happens to be the day I ride. All of us on this ride and the people we've interacted with, if you've read this blog, looked at the website, have all played a part during the journey. There is no job that is better than the other, not one person who is above someone else. From riding horse to cooking a meal or from cleaning dishes or singing a song after dinner, we all play a part and I'm happy to be a part of something beautiful and historic.

I can't get over the fact that I'm in the front seat of a car on a random farm in Milroy, MN writing this blog. We truly all are connected. And whether that's the internet, or GOD or what the Natives call Creator, it's nice to know there are people out there who think of you, pray for you if you like. Send you good thoughts and good vibes for a better life and a better world. I have so many thoughts running through my head but lately they've been slowing down and coming out of me at just the way I'd like them to. It sometimes feel like this blog is writing me. Ooooooooo, that sounded so new agey I almost scared myself out here in the dark. My only light is this laptop and a blow up Frosty the Snowman lawn ornament that looks like he's loosing light but still maintains the Frosty shape that we all know and love. That's another thing I realized. The holidays are upon us. Xmas, Channukah, Kwanza, New Years, (my birthday, call me...cough) It really feels like the holidays even though I'm on this ride away from my family. I feel very close to them and I know that they know I'm thinking of them every step of the way. That has been expressed very clearly by everyone here how although they are sacrificing their holidays away from their families, they feel like family here and the 10 day unfolding prayer and journey is for their children, for the youth of all communities. It feels great to be a part of that. You should all feel proud that in reading this you are a part of it. We're all the same, one planet, one people. I used to think that was a little too much, but if you can give yourself some space and find your voice, you might be saying the same thing. And that doesn't mean you have to leave your job or school and become a radical. The real joy is finding your voice and space in your everyday lives. What's your horseback ride? Maybe it's waking up in the morning and feeding your child. Or getting your kids ready for school, studying for a test, saying I love you to someone, giving someone a hot meal who needs it, there are infinite ways to find your ride. Actually here's a trip. You're already on it. We're already on it. Everyday is a different path along the way but the ride always is, always was and always will be. That's something that I've understood while being here. Even though I'm in MN on a ride for healing, my journey is with the people and within myself. It's not magic, there's no spiritual fairy dust I'm sprinkling on myself. It's living my life in different circumstances and doing the best job I can. I like that. I like that a lot.

HAND CRAMP!!! oohhhhh, lesson number 1, when hunched over a laptop in the front seat of a car take hand breaks because the mix of cold and constant movement is not good for the joints. I'm not a doctor but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn express last night...yeah right, I slept on the floor at a community center. So cool. Pool table, good food, good people. Thank you to the communities of Russell and Milroy, MN for their hospitality and good will to all. We could have done this without you...

Alright off to sleep. Early morning tomorrow and I'm riding so I could use the rest. BIG UPS! to the Dakota 38 riders!!! (said in an Ali G type voice) We're creating a character here on the road that keeps us light, wait for the footage.

Day 11...Blizzard #2...I can't really explain the footage we shot today. The riders took off today into driving snow. I was expected to ride the 3rd leg. I must admit that I was a little frustrated with the disorganization this morning. One point that has been stressed during the ride is that we are all leaders on this journey. It has been pretty empowering to the group and actually there have been very few slip ups along the way with this large a project. But this morning for instance there was very little discussion about some of the dangers of taking off into the snow, wind and freezing conditions. My first concern is for the safety of the ride. Recently I've been straddling both worlds of being involved and on the ride and simply helping to document. I've come to the realization that I can do both, and now it's just about going through the process. It was a little messy today. We took off on 19E from the farm with 6 riders. The conditions were very bad and when Pancho and I caught up to the lead team, we could barely see the road ahead of us. Within the messy conditions however we did manage to get some pretty terrific shots so all was not lost. Midway through the second relay the ride was called. In other words, it was being shut down for the day. The conditions had worsened and Gus Higheagle's (our brother from Canada) truck and horse trailer with one horse in it had slid into the ditch. Oh and also, I'm running on EMPTY on my gas gauge. We pull up to the horse trailer in the ditch and everyone is pitching in to help out, Pancho jumps out to help and when I get out to film, I'm told to not get out of the car and move ahead as it was dangerous for my car to be on the road unattended. I wanted that shot of people coming together to help in the middle of the blizzard but the story of it will have to do. I didn't get the shot but moved on and finally got some gas. At the end of the day everyone involved was safe and save a young girl getting kicked in the hand by a horse everyone was was healthy. (she's fine now)

We're currently in Lower Sioux, MN at the Jackpot Junction Casino and had an early dinner at the community center here. We left the camera at home and really had the chance to just sit with the group and bond after a messy and unexpected day. Bill Miller said it best today. Sometimes things go wrong. There's something to learn from both approaches today I feel. Preparing and talking about what everyone feels and then making an informed decision, (the model I'm used to) and the other of, get the horses ready, and let's ride, (one I'm not used to.) We rode about 7 miles today and we'll go back tomorrow and pick up the remaining mileage for the day so all is well. I'm beginning to see a whole world that I was never privy to. Tonight at dinner we heard some great stories from Jim, Bill, Orville and a few others. It really felt like a family tonight. No cameras, mics, just a Xmas tree in the background and people talking about their lives, what they're thankful for and what this ride means to them. Very cool.

It's been a long day and this is a double long post so a quick ending is in order now...Day 12, possible quick ride then a day and a half of rest. That's the plan. But like I'm learning, sometimes there is no plan, it's ok to just go and trust. ADAM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Emotional Ride...Day 8

So it's 10:45pm and in the past 20 minutes I've lead a mini Yoga class, laughed my ass off and teared up from watching footage from the riders sharing their experiences at Dakota State University to a room full of white students. That's a full 20 minutes. You know there's a very popular expression that says "Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt,sing like no one is listening,and live like it's heaven on earth."...that analogy is pretty much running on a 20 minute cycle here on this ride.

From a screening and graduation at the Flandreau Indian School, to a beautiful ride and dinner at our first stop in Minnesota with the beautiful people of Pipestone, MN. Over the past few days I've found so many things that I've been inspired to write about but actually have found it difficult to put into words. And as I'm writing tonight I feel that this blog is actively evolving from a check in of the happenings of the day to really an attempt to capture stories. People's stories. People who look like me. People who don't look like me. People who have completely different beliefs. People with amazingly difficult upbringings, people who inspire me and people who are truly all alike. The stories may be different, the skin color may not be the same, but whether man or woman, elder or child, all of the stories I've heard have touched my heart and soul. As I'm writing this I'm watching footage of the DSU talks with Sarah, Pancho, Kevin and Sarah's son Mikey...We're watching footage of a young man named Craig. Craig makes me cry. Craig is honored to be on this ride and shared his heart, soul, and pain with a room of complete strangers. All of the riders did this that day and I've very rarely seen such transparency. To be honest it's a lot to handle. There's a lot of pain. There's a lot of hurt. There's a lot of history that I didn't know about and when I hear it, does not paint the prettiest picture of what my country did to the Native American people and the struggles the community continues to have.

If you're non native and reading this blog and you're like me before I came on this ride, you know very little about the Native American community aside from what you've read. You've probably never spent time on a reservation except maybe on a school trip when you were younger or a family vacation at some point in your life. My thoughts of Native Americans before I can here were completely general. I knew from what I read that Native Americans received little attention from the main stream media and in textbooks, but realistically all I saw publicly of Native Americans was based upon something in the past, a stereotype. Wigwams, tepees, feathers, war bonnets, bows and arrows, almost something you would see in the Museum of Natural History. Those are all representations of the history of the Native American community, but the fact is that THAT is what passes for current views of Native Americans held by the majority of Americans today. That and possibly Casinos, Alcohol and drug abuse and some of the struggles facing the community at large. I'll be the first to tell you that I was wrong. That's a shallow attempt at the whole story and it's only in being here and living within the community that I can truly see individuals. See beyond a general community to being able to ask questions about people in their specific lives. Their struggles and joys as opposed to a history lesson and macroleve type questions. There's a time and a place for that but starting small and getting to know people is the first step. I'm so thankful to be on this ride and meeting new friends and from this point on, truly being welcomed into a new family.

Kevin is one of the riders. He's sleeping over tonight. I've given him my bed. It's great to have him here watching videos of himself. He's never seen himself on tape like this. Sharing himself emotionally with a room full of strangers. I remember him telling me that he's not much for speeches. In 5 minutes, he moved a room to tears with a simple and honest power that was both healing and refreshing. It made me cry and laugh at the joy and possibilities that I finally see for individuals. Thank you to Kevin and all of the riders for helping me to see past the large and connect with the small. It's something I've connected with before and had lost. Thank you for helping me connect again.

Tonight's blog is all over the place, but I'm pleased with how it's going. Kevin just asked me for a smoke. Pancho breathed deeply while downloading material. Sarah and Mikey just left and Silas has been asleep for an hour. I'm blogging. That's a community moving all at the same time still connecting. I love this.

Ok, a few juicy stories from the past few days. Let me start with today and then finish with something I'd like to say about storytelling and the youth. This morning the MEDIA came...dum dum dum...I say that half jokingly as the we the crew had a 2 hour discussion last night at Subway, (yes there's a Subway in Flandreau and I completely rocked a turkey breast footlong on wheat bread with every topping imaginable...thanks Jared) on the benefits and drawbacks to involving the media into this spiritual ride. I won't walk you through the transcript but will say that it was a very spirited discussion. Fast forward to this morning when the ABC affiliate from Sioux Falls, SD showed up at the Flandreau Indian School to capture footage of the horses the riders and to truly be a part of the ride themselves. I told them this on the phone and I don't think they truly knew what they were in for. Sean and Mike from
ABC show up get some footage of the horses and then begin their interview with Jim Miller. Jim immediately hugs them and says "I love you guys" upon meeting them. They were blown away. Essentially during the interview Jim relayed the importance of the ride and also said something very interesting about forgiveness. He mentioned taking responsibility for the Native American part of the Dakota conflict and basically was asking for forgiveness and truly looking for healing and reconciliation. Mike and Sean expressed after the interview for our camera that basically they had been to Native American ceremony's before and the tone they felt was one of anger. Not here, not today and not Jim. Jim was ALL LOVE. I'm on this ride and it is ALL LOVE. It's all healing and it's all inclusive. These reporters were part of the ride this morning and they felt that energy and that love. It blew them away.

A big thanks to both Sioux Falls, SD ABC and NBC affiliates who participated in the ride today and ran great pieces this evening on the 6pm news.

Second story from the past few days involves Sarah's son Mikey. He's 9 years old, very funny, smart, endearing and a bit of a ham. He loves to jump around, play games and is really a bright light amongst the team. So last night after dinner Pancho, Mikey and myself were left afterwards to clean up while Sarah and Silas captured some footage of a meeting with the leaders of the ride. After about an hour of cleaning, we turned off the lights and took a rest on a couple of couches. Mikey said to me, "Adam, tell me a ghost story"...I was tired, I said "Mikey, not now, you tell me one"...he smiled and launched into a legitimate 7 minute story of action, adventure and suspense with ME as the main character. I closed my eyes and felt great. It brought me back to times when my mother, father and grandfather would tell me stories with me as the main character. My grandfather specifically used to tell a story called the "Three Golden Pears" where I was a young Prince hunting a giant who was threating my kingdom. It had it all and I loved hearing him tell me that story. Strangely enough, last night was the first time I felt like that since my grandfather past away, and it was from a 9 year old. One of the big themes of this ride is that the ride is for the youth. To preserve their language, culture, ancient ways. Another big theme is respect your elders. Both of the previous statements I 100% agree with. I'd also like to add another one....

Listen to OUR YOUTH. They are the ones telling the stories that we're going to live into. They are the ones who are going to preserve and thrive within our culture whether native, non native. OUR YOUTH are storytellers like no other and their imagination runs as wild as the magical horses we ride on this journey. I felt that last night. Thanks Mikey for being yourself, being creative and sharing it with me.

Tomorrow morning we leave Pipestone, MN and travel to Russell, MN. The ride continues. It's quiet here. I like when you can hear just the ticking of the clock. You can really take in your day. And when you've had a day where you've laughed, cried, danced, sung, prayed, questioned, answered, listened and shared yourself with others, your head can hit that pillow and know you did everything you could that day to live now. As part of the Dakota prayer stated before the 38 men were hung on Dec 26, 1862 "It's a good day to die" other words, I've LIVED!!!

Live, Love, and do something today that scares you. much love from the Smooth Feather Team on the road...