Saturday, January 13, 2018

Heroes Are Hard to Find by Peter Reum

The impact that television and similar media present daily has  been life changing, mainly making the viewer's access to world events instant, and, at times quite shocking. With news channels available 24/7, there is very little left to the imagination pertaining to the people whose lives are closely intertwined with stories that broadcast news shows tell.

Pete Townshend's The Seeker conveys glimpses of the interface between television viewers and witnesses to tragic events. The person who is the target of a truth seekerin real life may be an introvert or feel indifferent to the public as a whole, yet is capable of finding the needed presence of mind to respond in a manner that is empathetic in a given situation.

The advent of email, message boards, and sites that are socially complex, like Facebook, has led to the shrinking of the emotional  gulf between family and friends. In my situation,  I have friends that  I have made over a 50 year span who share a strong interest in music. They live in 50+ countries around the world, and we often Skype or chat in real time to keep up with each other.

The advent of use of sites like Facebook for raising money for friends who have been touched by some sort of tragedy has made the world a smaller place and perhaps less xenophobic. Recently, I used Kickstart to help produce a film on a poet whose work deserves more attention than it has gotten. The ease that large nonprofit organizations have in raising funds for short term or long term projects has allowed nonprofits to use their websites to  seek people  from highly diverse backgrounds to discuss how a given project will be structured.

The overwhelming flood of media stimulation that the person who uses online news sites and network national/local news is the effect upon the viewer in question. That person is flooded by media output and is desensitized to the human tragedy or joy.  The most dramatic effect for viewers is that they have lost the ability to empathize or really internalize the implications of worldwide news stories. Part of the problem is the rapid pace that serious and tragic stories are presented. The death of hometown newspapers, combined with the local television and radio stations being gobbled up by national news giants, as well as the blurring of news and opinion on 24 hour news channels has made the world more connected, whether wanted or not. The overall net effect is that events that are tragic on a large scale happen what seems like every week. The desensitization and loss of the effect of feeling empathy due to loss of perspective is profound.

One sad example of this pattern is the high frequency of the massacre of innocent adults and children through terrorism and senseless wars. The reaction that people who are usually nervous regularly have is that the frequency of violence combined with the immigration of traumatized war refugees into their various countries who do not speak the national language of the host nations frightens or offends the sensibilities of some nations' citizens. If the economic picture of such a nation in question is  stagnant, fear rises and normally quiet citizens express their fears openly. Through the media, especially television, the fears of the worried population can be manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and heightened, making despots, once thought impossible to rule to be successful.  The rise of fascism in Germany, Japan, and Italy in the years between the two World Wars was often attributed to economic depression and inflation. In the case of Germany, an added factor is the terrible terms that Germany was forced to adopt to end the World War 1.

The scope of heroism as a paradigm has both broadened and shrunk. To be a true hero in today's world, the heroic consistency and stability of national, local, and family leaders has risen in the collective mind of families, regions, and nations. Today, due to the high rate of divorce worldwide, the couple that stays together and raises kids or exerts local leadership is often considered heroic. Partners in marriages that last with kids who reflect the best aspects of society's norms are heroes. Conversely, for other people, heroes are people who are entertainers or athletes. There are a few other avenues to becoming a hero. People who are towering examples of moving forward their vocation dramatically could include Nobel Laureates, scientists who improve quality of life, Peace Negotiators, and Leaders of Nations and Regions that improve quality of life.

The question directed to you as a person is Who Are Your Heroes and Why Do You Hold Such Heroes as exceptional persons in your life?

Here are some of mine...

Brian Wilson

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Georgia O'Keeffe

George Gershwin

Soren Kierkegaard


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Montanans in Disneyland: Some Observations by Peter Reum

Over the holiday break, my wife, the kids, and I spent 6 days in Southern California. Our plan was to visit Disneyland and the newer California Adventures Park. Our trip to and from Anaheim was paid in advance, including airport transport to and from LAX. Anaheim's local transit  system was also excellent, taking us from outside our hotel to the admission gates of both parks. We paid everything in advance through Disneyland Travel Services, who were very helpful in giving us choices for the decisions we had to make.

Flying economy is difficult in traveling anywhere. Our United Airlines flight attendants made our flights less stressful by pleasantly talking with our kids, who are 8 and 9. Our time at the Anaheim Disney Parks was compromised by enormous attendance at both parks. For anyone planning to go to both parks, I would suggest traveling at a time that is not a vacation period for schools. Crowds at both parks were very large, and park visitors have to be respectful of Indigenous tribe's traditional practices, as they  as they wind their way through park rides and themed sections (e.g. Frontierland).

My last visit to Disneyland was in 1986. I had a two year old child on that visit. I was fortunate to have had several visits. I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was four, in 1957, when Disneyland had been open for two years. The memories from that first visit are somewhat hazy.  Fantasyland and Frontierland are the areas that made the biggest impression 60 years ago. Disneyland has always been crowded on the visits I have made.  As time has marched onward, Disneyland has changed the exhibits and rides to reflect the nation's changes. This is excellent.

I remember Monsanto having had a home of the future, and using the slogan "better living through chemistry." This was in my 1957 visit. Parking was ample, and the way the parking lots that were set up made it easy to find our 1955 Mercury when we were done with the park. The Matterhorn coaster was still on the development plan. Crowds were large, but waits for park attractions were much shorter. As the Fifties passed into the Sixties, Walt Disney World took up more of the Disney Company's time.

When Disney World opened, for a time Disneyland was less crowded on my visits. It seemed that Disneyland was given less attention by Disney Corporation.  Despite the company's priorities being mostly shaped by Disney World, new attractions were periodically opened at Disneyland. As time moved along, new attractions opened at both parks regularly.

The story of Disneyland after Walt Disney's passing in 1966 was for me all about the Disney family carrying on Walt Disney's vision and staying true to the vision Mr. Disney had for the Disney Company's various operating divisions.   There was a point when Disney Corporation appeared  to have lost some of the clarity Mr. Disney brought to the operating divisions of Disney Corporation. At some point in the Eighties, the Disney family holdings in Disney Corporation became a minority interest with other investors holding majority interest.

The Disney Corporation's priorities moved into an international platform with Disney amusement parks opening in Asia and Europe. Disney Corporation placed themselves in the burgeoning cable television market. The Disney Channel and it's offshoots were dominant in the cable television market for programming targeting young viewers. In the Fifties and Sixties, Walt Disney's weekly show dominated Sunday night programming on ABC. In the Nineties, Disney Corporation bought ABC....!

Disneyland, the former flagship park in the Disney chain of amusement parks sadly began to show its age. An intense long-term  development plan brought Disneyland into the Twenty First Century. Attendance at Disneyland expanded and grew. New attractions boosted the public's interest. New areas of Disneyland and the new California Adventures Park made Disneyland competitive with parks like Six Flags and Magic Mountain.

The Disney name became synonymous with excellent service to customers.  Disney patrons were called "guests" and other service and vacation sector market corporations used Disney's customer service model with similar successes. Disney's  reanimated pictures experienced a rejuvenation of box office success that brought awards and an anticipation of each new Disney film that had not been witnessed since the Sixties. Disney rereleased Walt Disney's masterpiece,  Fantasia. The film finally received the artistic adoration it had always deserved, and Roy Disney, Walt's brother, oversaw the release of a 21st Century sequel to Fantasia that was acclaimed.

Over the first decade of the 21st Century,  Disney became an entertainment giant. Disneyland was expanded correspondingly.
That brings me to our visit to the park over the holiday just passed.

Disneyland/California Adventures combines the traditional vision of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom with the overpowering Star Wars franchise. There are the original sections, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and new attractions in Mainstreet, plus all of the attractions in California Adventures.   The price for a day in Disneyland is $125 For an adult and $95 for young children.

Price stated, I would like to offer some observations about my family's experiences in both parks - Disneyland and California Adventures...

1) The two park's "cast members" were unfailingly helpful. We misplaced our son's diabetic medication and testing kit one night. We were given excellent  instructions on who to see and report the lost kit. The staff's instructions were given clearly, and as they predicted,  the kit was in lost and found the next morning as they had predicted.

2) The abuse of the so called "fast pass" insofar as the disparity how fastpass buyers and regular patrons are treated is a very disappointing. The wait time  fit most popular rides until 40 to 50 fast pass holders got their ride on an attraction.  Regular customers are admitted at roughly one regular customer to fifteen fast pass  holders. The regular customers are called "standbys" and on high attendance days have wait times averaging rights times longer than fast pass purchasers. This often results in a 3 hour wait time for popular rides.

3) We found that food quality at both parks was generally fair to good, but that the prices were excessive for what you buy. The problems centered on food quality and presentation. But for the price, helpful staff tried to speak with a supportive understanding tone to our family.

4) The staff people we met were pleasant for small talk. Disney Parks seems to attract high quality staff.  Their loyalty to standards of the original founders has a solid positive impact.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Spread Kindness by Peter Reum

It is said that life cannot be fair
That to believe in fairness is naive
Cynics boast that to show you care
Brings heartbreak with no reprieve

Earthly desires shine with brightness
They sparkle with a persistent glow
The holidays promise the generous kindness,
Giving gifts supposedly can show

Why do we sequester human civility
To a brief period called holidays
People should manifest magnanimity
Year 'round, not 11 months of malaise

Daily empathy offered beats the holidays
Taking a few minutes of listening
Builds a sense of newborn sunshine rays
Open kindness leads to smiles glistening

Consider the possibility of holiday kindness
Becoming a twelve month reality
Putting into practice humanity's finest
Daily holiday spirit consistently

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum
All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mike Love's Unleash the Love by Peter Reum

This new set from Mike Love and his touring band is an album that will undoubtedly rekindle the old comparisons between solo music recorded by Michael and his cousin Brian. Fortunately, the latest album set from Michael offers a pleasant and understated listening experience. For Michael, the songs on the first of two cds in this release, Unleash the Love, are generally well produced in a subtler tone than in past recording projects. Certain songs are from earlier years. This will not matter to casual fans of Michael's.

The annotation from Mr. Love in the booklet that accompanies the two albums is helpful, offering background on some of the tunes. If the listener is expecting a Beach Boys harmonic sound,  the reader is encouraged to go straight to cd 2, which highlights the Brian Wilson and Michael Love songwriting partnership. Michael has cut twelve Brian Wilson and Mike Love compositions previously recorded by the Beach Boys.

In this package, the songs on cd 2 are generally performed by Michael's touring band, with support from guest musicians. It seems that these songs are done similar to the touring versions, but in the studio. Regardless,  the listener will get a good idea of the sound of Mike Love's band, billed as the Beach Boys. In addition to Mike, long-term Beach Boy Bruce Johnston also is a veteran member of Mike's band.

For purposes of this review, most of the coverage will pertain to Unleash the Love. A quick review of musicians playing on this album reveals a few guests. John Stamos appears on two tracks. Michael's daughter and sons appear as lead and background vocalists on several songs on both cds.

In a brief introduction to Unleash the Love, Michael points out that violence, pollution, drug abuse, and income inequality persist as problems plaguing the world. Themematically, the tunes on this cd highlight these issues, but not overwhelmingly. A Beach Boys tune from the 1985 eponymous album, Getcha Back, presents itself as the second tune one hears. Perhaps it is here as a bow to the cousins and friends who first cut the song.

The lead off track, All the Love is Paris, is a gentle opening track, perhaps signaling Michael's long term affection for Paris. It is a mildly pleasant track, continuing a theme begun with Bells of Paris from 1978's M.I.U album.

Some of the tracks on Unleash the Love were first assembled into an album titled Mike Love, Not War. That collection of tunes did not see release. That bootleg was mostly derived from Mike's debut album, entitled First Love. One positive difference with this set is a more polished sound. Daybreak Over the Ocean is another tune from Mike Love Not War that has been redone for Unleash the Love. It has a pleasant melody, but suffers from "moon-june lyrical disease."

I Don't Wanna Know is one of the tunes also cut for Mike Love Not War. It was one of the better tunes then, and this is also true here. Too Cruel is one of the better tracks on Unleash the Love, offering a more edgy sound than many of the songs in this set. Glow Crescent Glow was written perhaps with an approach derived from Transcendental Meditation. It is not one of the better tracks in this set, sounding insular toward the TM population.

Cool Head,Warm Heart is a track again derived from Mike Love Not War. It has a pleasant melody, yet the lyrics are dated and the overall sound of the tune seems fairly weak compared with some of this album's song repertoire. I have a hunch that Mike felt some kinship to George Harrison when he wrote Pisces Brother
Both men were overshadowed by other members of their respective bands
Michael has lived in the shadow of one of the titans of popular music during his entire tenure with the Beach Boys.  Brian Wilson's talent is matched by few if any of his peers. George Harrison for many years was fortunate if he was able to place one or two songs on Beatle album's with Lennon and McCartney writing songs that stood high above most of their peers. Michael felt some connection to George Harrison also due to their time spent together in Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Living in the shadow of the Lennon and McCartney songwriting partnership must have frustrated George Harrison at times as well.

The album's title track, Unleash the Love, is, of course a play on Michael's surname. This track offers some simple suggestions for bringing love to our world. It is a strong track. And it stands out as one of Michael's better performances. Ram Raj is unusual enough to spark my interest musically. It again seems to be a track derived from Hindu traditions. It is somewhat jarring in this album's track sequence. It would benefit from a better placement in the program of songs on Unleash the Love.

John Stamos plays drums on the next track, 10,000 Years Ago. The song is for me, the most interesting tune on the album. It again is derived from the sessions for the unreleased Mike Love Not War album from 2006. Almost a chant, it is a tune that almost sounds like a Dennis Wilson approach production wise. A tune that is important  lyrically is Only One Earth. The tune throws light on the growing ruination of our planet through use of methods that deplete the most important  life preserving resources of our Earth. Among these are the ozone layer, use of mineral mining methods that poison ground water aquifers, and mass extinction of our fellow creatures on Earth through ignorant alterations of sensitive interdependence of environmental systems.

Finishing the album is Make Love Not War. This song seems important for one big reason. Every war on this planet further harms our own species, other life forms,  and shortens the time we have to cease armed conflict and human suffering. Unleash the Love is probably the most commercial of all of the solo work Michael has done outside of the Beach Boys.

The average listener on first blush will find this work by Michael to be derivative, and will most likely write it off. This would be a mistake, because the points each of these tunes make fit together to be a recipe for a more peaceful and caring world. As Michael correctly points out, the problems of this Earth will not be solvable unless we come together to resolve them. No amount of money will ever "fix" the social ills of our planet. Guess we'd better unleash the love.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Childhood Rape: Innocence Lost by Peter Reum

The subject of sexual molestation and rape has been brought to the awareness of our country. A number of adults who were molested in childhood have spoken in the media and have expressed themselves in an angry manner and have identified their assailants, some famous, some not.

The experience of childhood violation is a subject that I have had to come to terms with as an adult. When I was 7, I was violated by a teenage neighbor who passed off what he was doing as a "science experiment." I did not fully comprehend what was happening to me, I only knew that I DID NOT like the feeling I was experiencing. I was asked to participate in another "science experiment" but instinctively declined the invitation.  It just felt WRONG.

The latest Hollywood sexual scandals seem to me to be the only time that public attention is focused upon this societal plague that shrivels the souls of young boys and girls and adults of both genders. The confusion regarding the differences between childhood and adult rape/molestation and acceptable consensual intercourse leads many people to equate rape and molestation with gay and lesbian consensual intercourse. The key word here is consensual. At least here in The United States, the historical page has been turned regarding same sex lovemaking and relationships. That the religious right wing still uses Old Testament Biblical verses to condemn same sex love and marriage between adults is a travesty that is being exposed for the silliness that it is. That there are many sensational cases in extramarital affairs  and hidden same sex relationships among the religious right is not surprising.  Outward piety bears no relationship to repressed but undeniable sexual drive.

I have had the chance to read an excellently researched book concerning  heterosexual and same sexual rape and molestation by Jon Krakauer entitled Missoula.  The first dozen or so years of this new century are the background setting for the drinking and drugging culture at the University of Montana in Missoula. Missoula is a beautiful small city, located in a valley carved by the Clarks Fork River. The University of Montana's student body, and their partying culture unfortunately led to a disregard for consensual sex at the University. Missoula is a town that enjoys microbrewery beers, and parties are often held after sports events on campus, especially during the autumn football season.

Without trying to summarize an excellently researched book that is presented factually, I will say that this volume is a focused and fair summation of several alleged rapes that occurred when students at the University of Montana were drinking or drugging, and incidents alleging rape or molestation led to destruction of the lives of some students at UM.  The women who were raped and molested were often highly intoxicated, as were the men who were accused. There was somewhat of a ho hum approach when these sexual incidents were reported by women to various authorities. The intoxication levels of the victims was used as a mitigating factor that the authorities deemed applicable pertaining to the question of whether the intercourse was consensual or not. In several cited cases, Mr. Krakauer documents an attitude among authorities that casts a doubt as to whether various victim's allegations were valid. When the alleged perpetrators said that they thought they had the consent of the accusing individuals because there was little to no resistance from highly intoxicated women regarding how the sexual incident proceeded.

For children, the idea of consensual intercourse is, of course, absurd. For especially young or mentally impaired children, the possibility of informed consent is impossible. For hundreds of thousands of  younger boys and girls, the incident may be perceived by the child as a chance to please the adult, a chance to obtain some sort of promised reward in exchange for sex, or to prevent an adult from physically beating the child. For me, it was a one time experience that just felt wrong. I did not tell my parents because I was ashamed of what happened, and I was worried that the incident would ruin our family's relationships with neighbors if I reported it. I buried the incident in a dark and dank section of my mind, and did not think of it, until 19 years later, when a female employee at the record store I was managing tearfully recalled the horrible emotions and feelings of being violated and unclean since the rape happened. All of a sudden, I recalled the rape I experienced and blurted it out to the employees of mine sitting at the table. I was trying to empathize, but the people at the table just sat there silently, wide eyed and shocked.

I will digress briefly to say that after I  became a therapist, my experience with rape seemed to help my efforts to assist men and women who had experienced molestation and/or rape to process and work through their grief, anger, and sense of shame that cast a long shadow over their lives. It is a powerful result of research in chemical dependence that 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men who enter chemical dependency treatment have a history of unresolved sexual violation-either rape or molestation.

As a chemical dependency therapist, it became a boilerplate approach that I would inquire as to whether my new addiction group members had a history of being sexually violated. Once, when I had a group of 6 women and 1 man in an outpatient group I was leading, all six of the women shared experiences of sexual violation in their presentation of their life histories. To help my readers here to understand the depth of anguish and violation these women experienced, each was able to recall the  body odor (smell), the sounds, the anguish of the experience in real time, and the shattered feelings each woman experienced for years afterward that they tried to forget. As time went on, their anger deepened, and the unresolved anger that festered became harder to numb with chemicals. For myself, having repressed the experience I had for over 30 years, as the women graphically described the noises, smells, violence, and environmental location of the rapes triggered my mind to open itself to the same memories which for me came roaring back.  I could not disclose these feelings to the group as it would have messed with the positive sharing that these women were using to heal themselves and to end their chemical dependence. I instead sought private therapy for myself.

Group therapy had the cumulative impact of helping these women to process the jumbled feelings they had concerning the sexual violations they had experienced. To this day, some 12 years later, when these women cross my path in the community, they thank me for allowing them the risk of sharing their pain with each other and the resulting group support they still have. Some of them have gone on to become employees of shelters for female victims of  physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

The answers to the problem of sexual violation of minor children and vulnerable adults are still in their early development. There is an excellent array of literature available for any child or adult who is struggling with the memories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. In larger communities, obviously the resources are greater than in rural communities.   Peer support groups, therapists, and bibliographic resources are excellent sources of support.  Obviously, the initial and tentative first steps into disclosing and feeling the emotions lying under the anger and shame are the hardest. As time goes on, most victims empower themselves, and some even enter the field of service to those people who are in need of professional assistance because of their being violated.

Here are a few online resources:

Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse - Adult Resources for Child Sexual Abuse
Adult Behavior as a Result of Childhood Sexual Abuse - Effects-child-abuse-neglect-adult-survivors/
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Effect of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual and Physical Abuse -

Text copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Indigenous Artists: Kevin Red Star - Apsaalooke Interpreter by Peter Reum

Here in Montana, there are numerous Indigenous People organized culturally into tribes. Every tribe has strong traditional beliefs that guide the manner in which the tribe interacts with the world both internally and externally. Tribes that are recognized as sovereign nations have a history of living in what is now Montana for centuries. All tribes have unique languages, spiritual beliefs, and a land area they call their homeland. Numerous tribes have interacted with each other either as allies or as enemies, usually because of a conflicting claim for lands that both historically have occupied. The current cohesiveness of Indigenous People is a strength that all tribes value and strive to maintain. In my opinion, central to each tribe as far as having a unified population revolves around at least four factors that must be present partially if not completely.

The first factor is having land that is  historically inhabited by the tribe. There are numerous tribes in the American West who occupy at least a portion of the area they consider their ancestral home. Perhaps the tribes that excel in this factor the best are the Pueblos, Apaches, and Di'neh tribes of the Southwestern United States. Other tribes that at least partially occupy their historical homelands are the Seminoles in Florida, the Cherokee in North Carolina, the Blackfoot, Apsalooke, and Northern  Cheyenne in Montana, and the Tlinget and Inuit Peoples of Alaska.

A second factor is the quality of life of members of a given tribe. There are several factors that can be placed into consideration regarding quality of life. The first could be the quality of education of children in the tribe. A sense of identity and unity should be present in young people who are tribal members.  There should be a shared language that is traditional. Although the English language is the most utilized in the U.S.A., the heritage of any given tribe begins in the shared culture that avails itself only in a tribe's traditional language. A tribe's spiritual traditions rest in their oral traditions as expressed in their shared beliefs. The closer a given tribe is to the landmarks that it considers sacred, the more likely they are to express traditional spirituality. Hence, there are traditional spiritual sites that various Indigenous traditional tribes believe are sacred.

The third factor that could be considered as a factor germane to quality of life is the economic and collective physical and mental health of a tribe. This particular factor is probably the one that can be most useful in helping other parts of quality of life flourish. If a tribal member's employment is reliable and predictable,  many of the other elements of a healthy quality of life will be better off. The rural nature of many tribes'  homelands makes year round employment elusive, with tribes' scrambling to identify lucrative businesses to locate on tribal lands. Rural healthcare of various tribes is difficult due to several years of healthcare funding on reservations and larger cities nationwide.

The fourth factor, which is somewhat elusive to describe, is the expression of fine arts and music for any given tribe. Fine arts reflect what any given tribal member perceives is his or her view of how healthy or unhealthy the tribe's existence is. Through all of the tribes in this country, art, dancing, and music are the spiritual glue that unify the tribes' picture of themselves. The artists in each tribe bring a vision of life that reflects a collective picture in real time. The importance of fine arts in tribal life has been recognized at the federal level through several forms of expression or training that reflect the quality of life in a given tribe. Music, dancing, pottery, jewelry, paintings,  and textile weaving are examples of this quality of life factor. At times, the differing art forms reflect how a tribe views themselves.

My personal interests in different tribes' quality of life has centered upon appreciating the spiritual traditions that make each tribe unique. While there are many tribes that share common ideas, they are more related on a macro level than a smaller, microcosmic level. As an example, nearly every tribe has a belief in a creator. This is not necessarily a belief in a god who demands prayer and adoration in exchange for life blessings. The role of the Creator in Indigenous life varies from tribe to tribe. Some tribes venerate their ancestors, believing that their presence is constant, and that their presence brings blessings or hardships. The evil spirits are seen to be the source of illness or life setbacks to the whole tribe, families, or individuals. Dancing and drumming is prayer to the Creator.

The art that any tribe produces is a function of spirituality. There is no dichotomy in place between the sacred and the profane. Even if a type of art is produced for people outside the tribe, the spirituality of the art that is created remains with the piece of art itself. These are somewhat gross generalizations,  but many non Indigenous artists hold similar beliefs. Some writers or composers experience writer's block, and see their problem as a symptom of blocked spiritual creativity. Although this sounds somewhat off kilter in Western Thought, the experience these creative folks feels like an internal voice or spirit has gone silent. For many Indigenous artists, the connection between spiritual creativity and prayer to the Creator is unbreakable.

The government saw that creative artists among the Indigenous tribes were self-taught. Some were  extremely successful, and many were not. This was not a measure of the value of the art itself. The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) was established in Santa Fe, New Mexico  for the expressed purpose of helping talented Indigenous artists to channel their talents into one or more media forms that marry their creative spirit with the possibility of making their art talent into a career path. Needless to say, the commercial or business side of the artistic process is often the most disliked aspect of the creation of works of art by young writers, composers, and fine arts creative people. This aspect of "selling myself as an artist worth taking seriously" is addressed in courses taught at IAIA.

One Indigenous artist who was in the first cohort of young people to enter IAIA is Kevin Red Star. Mr. Red Star has distinguished himself as an imaginative interpreter of Apsaalooke (Crow) life. Mr. Red Star has been focused upon the lifestyles of the Apsaalooke People, both in the present time, and in the past. Mr. Red Star's work medium is usually paint, and his artistic pieces have nearly all been depictions of past and present tribal life in the Apsaalooke Nation. He is the subject of a book by Daniel Gibson and Kitty Leaken entitled Kevin Red Star - Crow Indian Artist. The book may be ordered through Gibbs-Smith Publishers. They have a website at It is also for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.  The book opens with several breathtaking paintings by Mr. Red Star, all of which are depictions of past and present tribal life. The art in the book reflects the strong spirituality present in Mr. Red Star and the Apsaalooke tribe.

Cover of Kevin Red Star Crow Indian Artist

The opening sequence of full page color reproductions of Mr. Red Star's art is simply stunning. His work is lavishly presented in color throughout the rest of the book. His use of earth tone colors is striking. The subjects of the opening sequence are either studies of Apsaalooke (Crow) tribal members in various natural settings or in ceremonial dress. Some of the works of art are full facial studies, others depict tribal members on horseback or in studies of tribal members entire bodies with minimal background. Here are some examples of Mr. Red Star's work, some of which may be found at Mr. Red Star's web site:

Mr. Red Star at work in his studio 

Kevin Red Star - Crazy Dog's War Party

Kevin Red Star - Mr. and Mrs. Choke Cherry

Kevin Red Star - Crow Dance at Midnight

Benefit Print for Zoo Montana and Beartooth Nature Center

Kevin Red Star - Yellow Moon

Kevin Red Star -Crow Full Moon Riders

Kevin Red Star - First Snow

All of these paintings depict Mr. Red Star's studies of Apsaalooke Life. The pictures I have shown here are representations of his tribe's culture and daily life in what seems to be a depiction of the Apsaalooke tribe's lifestyle in the late Nineteenth Century and recent times. The tribe was primarily centered in the mountains of South Central Montana, (e.g. Beartooth Range) and life on the Great Plains at a time when tallgrass prairies were common, and hunting for bison was a regular event.

Mr. Red Star is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute. His support of several charities in the Mountain West has been consistent and gracious. The Institute of American Indian Arts is currently benefitting from the sale of prints of his paintings. People who are interested may go to, his official website. He also exhibits his work at several art galleries in the Mountain West. He is an example of an artist whose vision goes beyond his own perspective, and reflects the best characteristics of Indigenous People.

Text copyright 2017  by Peter Reum

All rights reserved

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Voices of Indigenous People 2 - Music for the Native Americans-Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble by Peter Reum

The question I am occasionally asked about my articles on Indigenous Peoples is "why are you as a Caucasian so interested in Indigenous matters?" The answer is that my adopted sister was Indigenous by birth, and my family lived in the heart of the Northern New Mexico Pueblos in Espanola. To walk an Indigenous Path was very hard on my sister. She was in both the Indigenous world and the Caucasian world. Her feet were firmly planted in both cultures, and the experiences she had with Indigenous people were very mixed.

The album I would like to discuss highlights a man with a similar dilemma, Robbie Robertson, whose history is equally in Judaism and Indigenous peoples. When I call Mr. Robertson's situation a dilemma, I mean to say that his own history as a child and during manhood mainly covered his history as a musician with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, then later with The Band. Lyrically, Mr. Robertson chose to speak to a music audience hungry for the experience of American Life. Mr. Robertson was especially perceptive in his songwriting, reflecting perhaps his time spent with Bob Dylan on the road, and later at Big Pink, the home in rural New York state that hosted the famous experimental songs known as The Basement Tapes.

After the the Last Waltz, Mr. Robertson entered into the world of soundtrack production, often for the distinguished American Director  Martin Scorcese.  These experiences seemed to lead Mr. Robertson into a profession that was an excellent match for him, as he is an aficionado of film, dating from his teenage years on through to his adulthood.  What was not as well known was Mr. Robertson's heritage as an Indigenous Member of the Mohawk Nation from Ontario, Canada. Mr. Robertson spent summers on the Six Nations Reservation southwest of Toronto.

Mr. Robertson was asked to supervise the soundtrack for the Ted Turner historical documentary series The Native Americans. The miniseries was the first major video work that was Native American centered rather than a dominant cultural view of Indigenous America. The documentary's influence was more widely accepted by Indigenous Nations because of the presence of Native Americans working in the series, including Mr. Robertson. Mr. Turner chose not to copyright the film, making it accessible to educational and cultural populations.

In making the Music for The Native Americans album, Robbie Robertson actively sought out other Indigenous musicians to perform their music. In this way, a wider sampling of the music being recorded by Indigenous artists could be shared. There is a tendency to think that Indigenous music consists of  drums and hand carved flutes. The diversity of Indigenous Music reflects the various cultures making up Native America.

The album begins with coyotes howling over the chants of a sacred dance. The tune is called Coyote Dance. Ethereal synthesizer sounds accompany the chants, tastefully highlighted with echo, moving across the stereo perspective. The entire recording communicates the complexity of the Indigenous perspective on Nature. Nature is host to the various  forms of life in their infinite diversity, and many tribes consider the Earth to be a living entity itself. This track includes Delphine Robertson, who is Mr. Robertson's daughter. Montana's own Apsalooke (Crow) chief, Plenty Coups is quoted: "...Our dust and bones, ashes cold and white,  I see no longer the curling smoke rising, I hear no longer the sounds of  the women...."only the wail of the coyote is heard."

Cover Art for Music for The Native Americans

Mahk Jchi is a breathtaking prayer from the Cherokee Nation. The three women singing on this track are Cherokee.  The song is termed a heartbeat drum song. The drum is beaten by Benito, the famous drum player from New Mexico's famous Taos Pueblo. Accompanying him is Mazatl, of Aztec blood. Robbie Robertson plays keyboards here. Three distinguished Indigenous women sing the song. One of the women is Pura Fe, an Indigenous singer and instrumentalist. There is an article I wrote covering her early in my blog's entries.

From times long gone come the traditions of Indigenous tribes working together in cooperation for each other's benefit. In the last decade of the Nineteenth Century, a movement, The Ghost Dance, began.
Ghost Dancers believed that the Caucasians would be driven from the Indigenous tribes' traditional land and soldiers would  die. The various tribal members came together to worship and to drive out the settlers and soldiers who had stolen their lands. Tragically, like Crazy Horse before him, Sitting Bull was assassinated at the site called Wounded Knee by several of  the US
Army soldiers. I hope that you can read to your kids about the liquidation policy of the U.S. Army. Every American should read about history of the extermination efforts made by White Americans. Over 300 Indigenous Lakota men, women, and children died that cold day at Wounded Knee, and it was the largest number of Indigenous people killed at one time at the same site in U. S. A. history. Robbie Robertson narrates over traditional Lakota drums on this piece.

A Sioux Ghost Dance Prayer is quoted
"The whole world is coming
A nation is coming, a nation is coming
The eagle has brought the message to the tribe
The father says so, the father says so
Over the whole earth they are coming
The buffalo are coming. The buffalo are coming
The crow has brought the message to the tribe
The father says so, the father says so"

The fourth selection on the album is entitled "The Vanishing Breed. It is again a meditation on the dire condition of Indigenous people in the United States and also the entire Western Hemisphere. Lovely Indigenous flute is played over a beautiful synthesized string track. The music is authored by Douglas Spotted Eagle and Robbie Robertson.

The fifth track is especially moving, as it is entitled It is a Good Day to Die. The title is a quote from Lakota Warrior Crazy Horse prior to the Little Big Horn battle, in which the entire 7th Cavalry contingent led by Colonel George Armstrong  Custer died. Custer made the error of taking 200 soldiers into battle against an estimated 10,000 Lakota and Northern Cheyenne men, women, children, and elderly people. The battle is estimated to have lasted under 20 minutes based on interviews with Indigenous warriors some 40 years after the battle. The narration, written by Robbie Robertson,  contains one of the most sensitive and insightful set of lyrics Robbie ever wrote.

Black Elk, one of the most famous seers and mystics of Lakota medicine men, was a witness of the Little Big Horn battle. He is quoted as saying "Then another great cry went out in the dust--Crazy Horse is coming  Crazy Horse is coming!" Off toward the West and the North, they were yelling, " Hoka Hey" like a big wind roaring, and making the tremelo: and you could hear eagle bone whistles screaming...."

Golden Feather, the next track, was inspired by the yearning of the Cherokee to return to their North Carolina and Virginia home. Written by Robbie Robertson, the song hints at the religious symbolism that a golden eagle feather has that underlies its significance to traditional tribe members. In many tribes the eagle is sacred because it flies higher than other birds. Eagles are in some tribes considered messengers to the Creator carrying prayers from tribal members. Background vocals are by Laura Satterfield, and Rita and Priscilla Coolidge.
In some tribes, when a tribal member finds a golden feather or a stone shaped like a heart, it is considered a blessing from the Creator.

Akua Tuta, the next selection, is a song in the native language of the Innu tribe in Quebec, Canada. Kashtin, the performer's name, is also from their native language. The lyrics are translated:

"Take care,
Take care of your someplace,
Take care of your grandmother,
Take care of youself"

The two men who make up Kashtin spontaneously began dancing when they were singing.

Words of Fire, Deeds of Blood, a song written by Robbie Robertson,  puts into musical form one of the most eloquent chief's  speeches in Indigenous history. After being pursued by the USA cavalry for over 1500 miles, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, exhausted by the tribe's flight, surrenders his remaining tribe members and is taken to the Colville, Washington reservation. His eloquent statement to his tribe and the Caucasian soldiers who guarded him is perhaps the most moving of speeches by an Indigenous tribal leader.

The Cherokee Morning Song again features Rita and Priscilla Coolidge. The song is performed here with instruments that are used  in prayer to the Creator. Also singing here is Laura Satterfield. Many tribes have a ritual that is dedicated to the sun. In some tribes, a certain clan or two run or dance to help the sun rise at dawn. The song is usually done in the tribe's own language.

The Di'neh people are the largest tribe in the United States. Their reservation sprawls over 3 states. The art, healing rites, singing and chanting, and other traditional practices are very old. The tribe has ceremonies that are practised privately  away from prying eyes. When praying, the tribe believes they are open and vulnerable to evil spirits. The skinwalker is an evil presence that can take the shape of any animal or human it wants by slipping inside the body of the vulnerable person that is praying. Skinwalkers usually seek host bodies at night. Vision Seekers go to great lengths to avoid being overtaken by evil spirits.

Ancestor Song, the next track, highlights the importance of respect for deceased relatives. In most Indigenous tribal beliefs they have great influence over living tribal members.  Many tribes believe that their deceased relatives are always present, living in the clouds floating overhead.

In the ancient ways, those living dance in complex dress complete with masks that cover the dancers' faces. They believe that the ancestor's spirits enter the masked dancers. They bring the gift of rain in the parched desert climate that would be uninhabitable without rain if the ancestors did not come to enter the body of their living descendants. They believe that if you lift the mask of the dancer, no one is visible, including the dancer who put on the mask.

Hopi tribal members believe that our planet has entered the fourth and final time in its existence.  They believe that the world will again be destroyed as it was three previous times. They believe that the only way to prevent this eventuality is to live in peace with each other and the animals.

Sandy Kewanbaptewa, a traditional believer offers this prayer to the ancient one: "And now grandfather, I ask you to bless the white man. He needs your wisdom, your guidance. You see for so long he has tried to destroy our people, and only feels comfortable when given power. Bless them, and show them the peace we understand. Teach them humility. For I fear they will destroy themselves and their children as they have done so with Mother Earth. I plead, I cry, after all, they are our brothers."

The final selection on this beautiful album is entitled Twisted Hair. The song is written by Jim Wilson and Dave Carson. The song is written as a prayer to the Creator, and asks for the ways of love of Mother Earth return.  The chorus that you hear in the background of this song is the sound of crickets slowed down. The beautiful voice is by Lakota opera singer Bonnie Jo Hunt. At this album's end, an album of prayer and benevolence, this Crowfoot prayer is quoted: " It is the flash of a firefly in the night-It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset..."

This article is copyright 2017 by Peter Reum excluding quoted material from Capitol Records copyright 1992 by Capitol Records
All rights reserved by Capitol Records and Peter Reum

This article is respectfully dedicated to my adopted sister Susan whose struggle with living in two worlds destroyed her.