Without a dream, with no hope, with no plan for change, we will have no change. Billy Mills, began his Dreamstarter program on the 50th anniversary of his Olympic win. His dream: to give hope to young native tribal members. LEAD Agency received funding from Running Strong for Loren Waters’ Dreamstarter 2023 Project, and I am serving as her mentor and together we attended his Academy this week.
As one of the opening events three days ago the Dream-team, I will call the group, rode in an open-air trolley touring the monuments in Washington DC, passing but not stopping at the US Supreme Court.
Those of us who served as mentors, came to understand over the next few days, as each shared their dream project, the future will be brighter with these young leaders making their dreams become real.
All that dreaming became contagious. So, I finished up my letter to FERC, got it printed, got on the METRO and headed over Friday afternoon to the federal agency that may be able to protect us from future flooding. Yes, for months, I have been all but screaming at anyone who would READ or listen to me. Contact FERC! Say it NOW, etc.
We have the address, right? It is on every POSTCARD! As I approached 888 1st St. NE, I got photos of me with that letter while approaching FERC. I stopped at the Museum of the Post Office and brought 2 stamps in case they wouldn’t or couldn’t accept a personally delivered letter. Once inside, the guards were puzzled. I don’t think they had ever had a PERSON come in to bring a letter before and it didn’t seem like they knew how to deal with a PERSON who wanted to see officials who worked there. I won’t say it was a standoff, but we were stalled for a number of minutes as they decided they would simply run my letter through the metal detector before taking it to the addressee. They actually helped me with my personal dream, to bring my concerns directly to the only federal entity with POWER in their name, that could use their POWER to protect us from the state agency that we feel is abusing their POWER.
Thinking of power, brought me back to the power the law can have on the lives of all Americans, but for Native People especially. In 2020 the landmark case McGirt v. Oklahoma the US Supreme Court ruled that as pertaining to the Major Crimes Act, much of eastern Oklahoma remains as Native American lands, the Indian reservations of the Five Civilized Tribes were never disestablish by Congress.
Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch opened the majority opinion for the McGirt case with these words: “On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise,” he went on to say, “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”
I had been sitting on the front porch of my parent’s home, looking out the windows at the vista of what at that moment had begun again to be the Cherokee Reservation when my son read those words aloud and caused me to cry. It was as if the 113 years had never happened. With a blink of an eye the Reservation was restored.
Mary Kathryn Nagle started her playwrighting career with the issues at Tar Creek and our children’s exposure to lead poisoning, with Ms. Lead. She wrote the original version strictly using dialog from the news articles that had been published and had it performed as her thesis at Georgetown University before she began law school and her career as both a playwright and an indigenous rights attorney.
I felt compelled to stay connected and attend the opening of her play, On the Far End where she was listed as the only performer at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda. The story highlights the life of Joan Hill Chaudhuri,
a Muscogee Creek, who would have been her mother-in-law.
Joan served the tribal communities where she lived in such ways, she was presented the Jefferson award (to honor those who put others first) IN THE US Supreme Court building. Made speechless, she brought herself to SONG, one heard sung on the Trail of Tears. Chief Justice White was quite sure it was the first time a native song had been sung in that building. His clerk at that time was Steven Gorsuch. Forty years later, it was he who spoke those momentous words: At the Far End … that Joan’s land had not been disestablished as a Reservation!
Not having known Joan before, we all came to know her through Mary’s play, and saw how long justice seems to come in this land, and how sweet it is to dream.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim