1. Cigar store Indians because any publicity is good publicity, right? Am I right?
2. Growing up, surviving, thriving, and becoming the all right/sometimes pretty rad guy I am today in a town named after that original P.O.S., Christopher Columbus -growing up in Columbus, Nebraska.
3. Being a ‘Discoverer’ in Middle School, what all of us innocent kids were christened. Our school had a giant Nina-Pinta-Santa Maria boat emblazoned in brick on its eastern wall. Nuff’ said.
4.Taking Native Lit. when I was 18 and really seeing just how fully alive and culturally wealthy our Indian people in these modern times still are, to this very living, breathing moment.
5. Meeting the homeless Lakota guy Levi Spotted Wolf outside of Walgreens on O street when I was a Freshman. He was the first person I ever heard talk about the Sundance. He was the first Sundancer I ever met.
6. The two years I went to Joe Bad’s talking circle every Friday night when I was 21. That was a Niagara Falls of Indian stories, laughter, medicine, ceremonies, self-discovery and healing. I still think of many who I met there often.
7. That dream I had where I got to touch a hawk on our Sundance grounds and then my brother told me where that hawk came from and how good it was to have such a grandfather in my life.
8. Marching with everyone in Seattle on Indigenous People’s Day and seeing all the traffic stop for us, the people on the sidewalks shout out their solidarity, our singing fly up the sides of all the downtown skyscrapers.
9. How many people nowadays are positive and open and interested when me being Native comes up; as opposed to how unskilled or suspicious or outright ideologically prejudiced many seemed about it in my younger years.
10. Getting to go to Standing Rock when our people were making their stand and changing history; getting to experience that mythological ceremonial reality that Mother Earth herself generated from the depths of her being with my own small being, my own body and soul.
11. Every elder’s hand I get to shake and each story they share; these stories my heart is a tireless, passionate collector of.
12. Reading some poems the other night at The Dragonfly, loving and appreciating how real our people/anyone is when you’re really remembering them with love.
13. My blown-out sneakers hanging by their laces from a clothesline for years now at our Sundance and all the jokes we keep making about them, on Facebook, in person, everywhere!
14. Swimming in the lake a couple months ago with my brother Denny, nephew Panna, and my girlfriend, all of us dying of laughter out in the water, just yelling out one Ric Flair ‘Wooooo!’ after another with everything we had.
15. Books. They’re like my second religion. Any recommendations?
16. The Ponca powwow grounds and our cemetery, our buffalo and pasture grouped together with these two places. My tribe’s stronghold; my tribe’s heart. When you’re there the ancestors are always all around you.
17. The gas station I worked at for 10 years. That rough, ‘ghetto’ place took me in its hands and remade me into a poet, gave me that dimension of myself which I treasure every day.
18. Tyrell. That little boy singer I’d always hear every year at our Sundance, who my brother Clark gave a thousand year old buffalo tooth to. I got a boost of strength every time the singers would let him take the lead.
19. My brother Clark, who just texted me from Portugal. He was a Columbus ‘Discover’ too. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for his grace, his art, his love, and his friendship.
20. The little people. Ditto.
21. The many women in my life who have been such a huge part of my story, my road, my growth and healing. “You speak of all these grandpas with such reverence. Maybe it’s time to learn from some grandmas,” a sister once told me at our Sundance. She was right. She was so, so right.
22. The Indian side of my family in Norfolk and my white side in Belden and beyond. I love being Indian and white. I love all my relatives that I got to spend so much precious, priceless time with when I was young and into He-Man or comic books or horror movies or whatever. They loved me and I loved them all; every last one of them. Hi mom!
23. That lady whose name I don’t know if I ever actually knew who asked me when I was 21 if I sweat and then when I told her, ‘no, but I’d like to,’ lined up my first sweat for me. Thanks for the thought, Aunty! I’ve been sweatin’ to the oldies and loving every minute of it ever since!
24. Writing my bad-ass, gore-drenched, balls-out little Native horror novel, The Grunt-Yell of Grandpa Sammy, this year. I always wanted to write my own perfect little horror novel. Congrats, self! Congrats!
25. Our Sundance grounds. It’s the holiest place I know. I’m glad to have such a place in my life. I’m glad to be welcomed there by my family year after year.
26. All my friends who really know how to sing, at the drum, around the fire, in the living room. Thank you for bringing me to such good tears. Thank you for all the perfect, beautiful moments. (I’m thinking of you Fox and Render. “There’s no river I can’t cross…there’s no stump I can’t remove…”)
27. My relationship with my dad. ‘Monstrous grief-stricken barroom brawler’ Indian dads can mellow with time -thank God! We text semi-regularly and feel pretty good about each other. Years ago such a connection was unimaginable for so many reasons. I love you, dad!
28. Watching the Dakota 38+2 documentary with my activist-poet friend Amanda after a night out in Lincoln. It always feels so great to share your real self with someone who’s become a real, indispensable friend.
29. Google-searching Grandpa Sammy and then discovering that he’d played a hand in the returning of a huge collection of repatriated remains to our cemetery up in Niobrara. Seeing that he’d been present in the background of my life for much longer than I knew.
30. For this month, its designation, and all the extra conversations and events and joy it brings for our people and all of our non-Native relatives who might have their own spirit deepened and expanded by learning a little something or a little more about the First Peoples of this land, who are very much still here, still rocking and rolling, and still smiling, still sparkling with the beautiful cultural light of our ancestors. Yeah, that. Happy National Native American Heritage Month, everyone! Aho (wink, wink) and hoka!!!
By Cliff Taylor
Cliff Taylor is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. He has written a book on Native spirituality, The Memory of Souls, a book of short stories about the stand for water in Standing Rock, Standing Rock Stories, and a memoir about coming-of-age in Nebraska, Special Dogs, all of which are unpublished. His dream is to see those books in print and to use his words to help his people. He currently resides in New Orleans, where he is hard at work on his next book. Contact Cliff @firstname.lastname@example.org