Tuesday, April 24, 2012


but this one was far more interesting. I had just finished emailing Jim from Natures Nectar about the divide I was about to do, it was the perfect day for it; sunny and warm. Our bees were in a great mood. I was standing in front of the hive that we knew needed to be divided the most. The pink hive is our oldest but the yellow newer hive had a prolific egg laying queen. At the end of winter it looked as if the hive hadn't lost a single bee, it was insane. Just as hubby and I were standing in front of the hive discussing our plan of attack (we are new to this dividing business), the hive decided to swarm. Um... there they go not following the manual again. Minnesota bees aren't suppose to swarm until late June, early July but apparently these girls didn't get the memo. We watched as they moved around the yard, up into a tree, and then settled on our fence.

Needless to say I was in full panic mode (readers: you do sort of see me as the high anxiety type already don't ya?! - cuz I am). I hate having to tell my neighbors that they can't let their dogs out to potty because my bees are on the move again. I feel like I'm being rude... I am rude. Sorry, but your annoying neighbor purchased a bunch of bees and because they like to swarm all the time you need to keep your dogs stuck inside until the bees move on and who cares if you pooch piddles on the carpet. It's rude, it really is.

When I told the neighbor how I was feeling about the swarm she told me to calm down and stop worrying. Apparently she and her husband think the bees are interesting and a worthy cause. That's a relief! Sadly though, we are getting rid of one hive. There have been waaaaaaay too many bees in the yard. Aside from the swarms making me nervous when it comes to neighbor relations the bees have gotten a bit territorial. The girls in the family (ours, not the queens) have to tie their hair into a bun and wrap a scarf around their heads to keep the bees from getting caught while outside playing (we have that many bees flying around the yard). We are keeping our pink hive though because I've grown attached to that one :)

Onto the swarm.

I called about 5 beekeepers to come and get the swarm and the lucky winner was the man who said he'd be at my house in less than an hour. He came, gathered up our little bunch that attached themselves to the fence and he left.

Funny how smart bees are. Once he boxed up the bees and put them in the van he came over to talk to me, which was 30 feet from where the bees were and the buzzy girls still managed to find him and bop him in the head. I was standing in front of him, no further than 2 feet away, and they didn't mind me at all. They wanted to get the guy who stole their sisters and mother. Smart little suckers.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Shimek (member of Ojibwe tribe) wants the five year moratorium on hunting back. He says in the American Indian creation story, the wolf is a brother so wolves and humans are spiritually bound. He said, It's our feeling that if we do everything we can to take care of the wolves, and the wolf does well, we will do well. He said through history when the wolf has not done well, neither have American Indians.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


It is hard to believe that today is the fifth anniversary of my mothers death. I remember when my mom would count the years after her own parents passed and now here I am doing the same. After losing my sister, watching my mother die was the second hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life and can only hope nothing equally as painful ever comes my way again.

The death of a loved one is life altering in so many ways. I remember after my mothers third heart attack and struggle with breast cancer I'd try to imagine what life would be like without her. It was a defense mechanism in a way. If I prepared for the loss then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be quite so painful. Of course I was wrong. No one is ready to lose someone they are so attached to.

One of the biggest internal struggles I had after my mom died was trying to decide how to honor her life and mourn the loss. We have somewhat of an eccentric family (you may have noticed that already by some of my posts :). My mother was raised 7th Day Adventist but ran screaming from the church when she was 18 (not literally, just figuratively). By my own choice I've had lots of experience with Lutheranism, Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism. Before my mother died she shared with me what she had settled on as her spiritual beliefs and they didn't involve religion. She wanted to be cremated and didn't want anyone coming to mourn her that wasn't a presence in her life when she died.

While sitting with a Hospice Chaplain it came to me. My mother believed in God but she didn't care for religion. She loved nature in all its forms (she could identify every tree, plant and wild berry by name), she raised her children to value all living things and she cherished all the childhood memories she had of her families experience with the Native Americans.

I decided I wanted someone from the Native American community to help me say goodbye to my mother, someone who understood how our family felt not only about my mother but about the earth, its inhabitants and the feeling of loss; but I had feared finding such a person wouldn't be easy. Of course, in traditional Michelle fashion, I marched over to Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis and started looking for "the" person. It should be of no surprise that I was met with a lot of skepticism. It isn't easy going into the Native American community asking someone to conduct a service for your dead mother and it certainly wasn't easy for the Native people to grasp such an idea. As usual though, everything worked itself out. I was very fortunate to find the person I was looking for in the form of Clyde Bellecourt.

Clyde is one of the original founders of AIM (American Indian Movement), a civil rights organizer and a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe here in Minnesota. It is ironic really that he turned out to be what I call my "savior" in the midst of everything I was going through at that time because I had read about Clyde and AIM many times over the years. Clyde, we had discovered, was a friend of my daughters God father. He graciously offered to do a "Wiping of Tears Ceremony" for our family and moms closest friends, all that he required in return was a can of tobacoo (a specific type) used to carry prayers and wishes of our family to the Creator and to cleanse us of any spiritual negativity. Clyde, his niece and great nephew performed the ceremony together.

Again, another odd coicidence, I chose the Minnesota River Valley as the location for the ceremony and it turned out that the Native Americans lived along the river valley prior to Euro-American settlers arriving. We love that particular area because my mother would take our children there for long walks and to teach them how to identify medicinal plants and wild berries. Did she know it's history? Probably.

During the ceremony it was the first time I really felt at peace with all that had occurred. Clydes niece had prepared a bag full of juniper for me to burn in the days after the ceremony to clear my heart and my home of any sadness. We concluded the ceremony with every individual present releasing a single monarch butterfly into the sky. It was a good ending to what had been my mothers life. When I was little my mother told my sister and I the story of how a Native American woman saved my great grandfathers eye sight when he was just a boy and then there we were with Clyde and his family, them helping us heal and move foreward.

I am eternally grateful for what Clyde and his family did for me and my family five years go. There isn't a day that goes by when I think of my mother that I don't think of Clyde, his niece and nephew too. It is the kindness of others that have helped me live with my mothers death to this day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I just finished reading Rez Life by David Treuer and wanted to share my thoughts on it.

David Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe tribe from the Leech Lake Reservation here in Minnesota. As I understand, this is the authors first full length work of nonfiction. Out of all the books I've read either written by or about Native Americans I found this one to be the most thorough when it came to describing not only the Native experience on the reservation but the historical perspective as well. Treuer does an excellent job educating the reader on Treaty rights, Tribal government, Sovereignty and the Gaming industry. He doesn't hold back on any front; shares the good and bad about his own people, exposes the numerous injustices against tribes not only by the American Government in history but by government and individual people today. I definitely came away from this book with a better understanding of what it must be like to grow up on a reservation and why so many Native Americans have an innate distrust of white people.

The only issue I had with the book is the author using the word "greed" to describe members of the Mdewakanton tribe. Now of course I'm not Native American. I don't have an insiders perspective when it comes to the gaming industry or "blood quantum" but I do know tribal members and I have to say this.

In the book David Treuer talks about Mdewakanton Sioux having 250 enrolled members and states that the tribe excludes 20,000 eligible enrollees (according to blood quantum rules in the books). He said that the 20,000 have appealed to the tribe and been rejected so many of them have now brought lawsuits against the Mdewakanton Sioux. He goes on to mention that the Mdewakanton members each make $80,000/month from casino profits and if they were to allow the additional members into the tribe it would cut their share of revenue to $1,000 each/month. He concludes with "they are as greedy as any other Americans."

I won't debate that Native Americans can be greedy because some most certainly are, as are European Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, so on and so forth; greed exists within all groups of people. I will take issue though with the impression the authors statement leaves on the reader.

There is more to the limited member allowance than David Treuer would like to acknowledge or maybe is aware of. Without going into too much detail I will give an example of what I'm referring to:

You are a family of 10, with 2 parents and 8 children. There are 4 boys and 4 girls. Your family is extremely poor. You live on 10 acres of land. Mom and dad ask all of their children to help with the land by planting, harvesting, tending to the animals, etc... but only 2 boys and 2 girls stick around to help out. The other 4 children leave the family to pursue other interests and don't return, even though they are well aware that the rest of the family is working hard to survive on those 10 acres and is in desperate need of their help. One day the family living on 10 acres discovers gold on their property and becomes filthy rich; they can have anything they've ever dreamed of. When the 2 boys and 2 girls that left the family hear of the great news they rush back home looking to cash in along with their parents and siblings that spent years taking care of each other. Do you think the kids that returned home deserve a cut of the profits just because they are related? I personally don't.

I think that David Treuer was focussing on legalities and facts, which a good journalist will do. His book is definitely the best I've read on Native issues and he certainly did his research but unfortunately there are people that reach for these books as a way to understand the Native experience and referring to people as "greedy" doesn't help matters especially when describing a tribe like the Mdewakanton. Last year the Mdewakanton donated $30 million to various groups throughout the United States. $12 million went to "the University of minnesota to help build its football stadium and fund scholarships" and "in a move to address the gross imbalance that exists in casino prosperity between metro-fringe tribes and those in more remote spots $1 million grants were given to tribes in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and North Dakota." (Star Trib. 4/15/12) So I think we need to be careful when putting "greed" and Mdewakanton in the same sentence.

Other than that one little tid bit, I highly recommend this book.