A Northern Arapaho oral story told in a nontraditional way

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Wyoming Community Media’s Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with the Maker Space 307 to teach students about virtual reality.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has a tribal priority to reintroduce and preserve the Arapaho language.

Even though the language is taught in school, students spend the majority of their time at home or in the community interacting with family and friends where there is inconsistent reinforcement of cultural cues learned in the classroom.

How can a traditionally oral language be made relevant to young people who are digitally connected to games, and other mass media screens?

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Glenn Reese sets the Vuze camera at the historic Arapaho Ranch mansion.

To answer this question, Wyoming Community Media and it’s producers Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with Lorre Hoffman and the Maker Space 307 summer youth service learning program, based in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation.

Four students participated during the three-day class and production project.

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Arapaho Gary Collins and Arapaho story teller Merle Haas pose with Alan and Glenn after she read the Fox and Woodtick in Arapaho

Northern Arapaho elder and story teller Merle Haas wrote down a short story passed down to her from her great grandfather, Chief Yellow Calf.

“The Fox and the Woodtick” teaches a lesson about “thinking outside the box.”

Northern Arapaho Eagle Drum Society singer and drummer Alison Sage spoke about the traditional importance and healing properties of making music.

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Artist Robert Martinez gives a workshop about tribal art and how it is still a story telling medium.

Artist Robert Martinez gave a presentation about how tribal artwork has evolved over the years and continues to be an important means of storytelling.

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Eagle Drum Society member Allison Sage demonstrates his original songs.

We worked closely with Bob Ottinger and the Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado who loaned us a Vuze virtual reality camera, a Samsung 360 camera and a high speed computer.

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The Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado loaned the project the Vuze camera and a high speed lap top.

When it was all said and done, the youth combined their self-composed music and original art to tell Merle’s folk tale in two dimensions and 360 degree virtual reality on location at the historic Arapaho Ranch Mansion north of Thermopolis, Wyoming.

This is a pilot project that demonstrates an efficient way for tribes to present traditional language and cultural preservation efforts in a not-so-traditional format to tribal and non-tribal cultures.

Last meals – eat drink and be merry!

It’s a toss up for my “last breakfast”. I had eggs over easy, bacon, rice and pancakes at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver.

I spend quite a lot of time on the road traveling around mostly to other towns in Wyoming.

I haven’t had any death-defying driving experiences nor any close calls other than a couple 360 degree black ice spins.

A couple weeks ago I was driving back from Riverton and made a stop in Rawlins for snacks and gas.

The clerk informed me that I-80 east and west were both closed due to snow and blowing snow.

It was calm, sunny and warm in Rawlins, but I was stuck at the Econo-Lodge there for the night. Even as Econo-Lodges go, this one was desolate.

Might as well make the best of it.

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My “last lunch” pork noodles at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver.

I cruised around downtown which has improved over the years. I had a chili relleno at a small Mexican place and went back to the room, if that’s what you want to call it. The Econo-Lodge was more of an Econo-Fridge. The heater hadn’t been on for quite some time.

Closed roads are a growth industry in Wyoming.

The interstate was closed down because there was no more room along the route to accommodate any more trucks, let alone passenger cars.

Pizza Hut advertises on the room keys, bored, I decided to order my “go to” Canadian bacon and mushroom thin crust with extra cheese. I was able to eat half of it. The cable was pretty good in Rawlins – there’s not much to do there in the middle of the week in the dead of an early snow storm.

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

At 2am, the REEEEE REEEEE REEEEE! screeched out on the cable TV. The roads were open. I would still wait to get out around 10am when the sun is higher.

I gobbled the rest of the cold pizza and downed a warmed over cup of yesterday’s coffee before getting on the road.

It was a bumper to bumper parking lot from Wolcott Junction to Laramie. Traffic was stopped by an accident on the westbound lane. It took three hours to go 90 miles.

I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

Wyoming winter driving takes some getting used to. If you can successfully drive in Wyoming during even a small snowstorm, you can drive anywhere.

Riverton, like most other Wyoming communities, is centrally isolated from just about every place else when the weather gets nasty.

I grew up in Cheyenne and let me tell you, if you’ve never experienced a blizzard in southeast Wyoming, I always felt lucky about living in Lander and now Boulder along the front range foothills.

It’s so nice to wake up, look out the window and notice that the snow has fallen into neat little piles on tops of fence posts and not rudely strewn about in seven-foot- high drifts.

I’ve met several people in my travels who have been to Wyoming. Besides having visited Yellowstone Park, the second most frequent comment is, “Oh, yeah, one winter during the War, my train was stranded in Cheyenne at the depot while going to California.”

Midway was probably a fonder memory than Wyoming.

Icky John C'Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

Icky John C’Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

I was in Riverton to document a traditional Northern Arapaho bison ceremony. This was my third trip to the Wind River Indian Reservation in three weeks.

It was a successful hunt and ceremony, which is the subject of another post. I was anxious to get back on the road but didn’t check the road reports.

Hmmm.

Under most circumstances, I’m a calm and collected driver, but when the interstate suddenly disappears in a puff of white, it’s quite a different story.

Luckily, I didn’t get stuck on the interstate and it closed behind me. I’ve been stuck back in the days before cell phones and GPS.

Back in those days, it was cassette tapes and Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra tunes soothing me while my car pounded through invisible snow drifts and crept around several 18-wheeler convoys near Elk Mountain.

White knuckles.

Disgruntled travelers examining their jack-knifed u-Haul trailer and contorted semi0truck silhouettes in the media strip made me realize how out of control these drives can be.

I can’t imagine being killed by a wild and crazy trucker or freezing to death knowing my last meal was cold pizza and day-old coffee.

My romanticism has me eating bacon, eggs over easy with a pancake for my last breakfast at the Red Willow in the Wind River Casino; pork noodles from the 20th Street Cafe as my last lunch; and steak and lobster from Svilar’s in Hudson, Wyoming.

I better get with eating, drinking and being merry.

Northern Arapaho, Jews, Japanese, Passover, Kugel and Me

Passover is happening this week and next and how that relates to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Jews, Japanese, Kugel and me is a circuitous and non sequitur route.

When I first started traveling to Boulder back during the Rockies’ first baseball season in 1993, I befriended a lot of Jewish people. In fact, the reason I stayed in Colorado was because of baseball, having been Major League Baseball starved for most of my life.

I don't know the attraction, but at the time I was working for the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the Wind River Indian Reservation in west central Wyoming.  This is the Arapaho flag.

I don’t know the attraction, but at the time I was working for the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the Wind River Indian Reservation in west central Wyoming. This is the Arapaho flag.

 

There was a nonprofit group in Boulder – now defunct – called the Next 500 Years (N500Y) that had as its mission the repatriation of tribal lands. Turned out that was a bit lofty, but creating a “cultural conduit” between the rez and Boulder seemed to be a bit more doable.

At that time, there were a lot of art galleries on the Pearl Street Mall and the idea was to convince the galleries to dedicate some space for Arapaho artists and artisans. The project started to get some legs but the organization went out of business for a variety of reasons, none of which will be mentioned here.

The tribal cultural conduit went away, but I remained. Most if not all of the N500Y crowd moved out of Boulder.

My N500Y Jewish pals took me along to quite a few Jewish events, including Passover seders in my early days in Boulder. Back then, Rabbi Firestone was just starting up her reformed synagogue in her home and in the homes of members.

Some of my new Jewish friends had fallen away from their roots and I was more of a safety valve as they checked out what the reform movement had to offer. That congregation has grown to point that it took over my former Methodist church on 19th Street in North Boulder which was “deconsecrated” and otherwise went out of business a couple years ago.

To refresh your memories from Sunday school / Hebrew school about Passover, here is a very truncated version of the origins of Passover.

The descendents of Joseph (of the “Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” fame) eventually decided to stick in Egypt. The Hebrews take on the Egyptians, for some reason. That was a hopeless cause.

I think for revenge, the Pharaoh put out a decree to find and kill the first born children of Hebrew moms. Upon learning of this, baby Moses’s sister, Miriam,  hides him in a basket in the shallow the bull rushes. The basket and infant Moses are fished out by the pharaoh’s daughter who brings him up as an Egyptian prince.

Prince Moses gets into trouble – what he does, I can’t remember, but he ends up stealing out of town. He eventually returns after getting the word from God to free his people from Pharaoh Ramses.

Moses makes a demand to the Pharaoh to "Let my people go" - Charlton Heston's Moses and Yul Brenner as the Pharaoh are probably the most widely recognized in American pop culture.

Moses makes a demand to the Pharaoh to “Let my people go” – Charlton Heston’s Moses and Yul Brenner as the Pharaoh are probably the most widely recognized in American pop culture.

 

Unless he does, Moses tells the pharaoh that there will be a bunch of consequences – 10 to be exact – perpetrated by his God in the forms of polluted water, various kinds of frogs clogging up the waterways, bugs eating the crops among other plagues.

What finally convinces the Pharaoh is, after the 10th quid pro quo, his first born child dies after the Angel of Death passes over, but spares the Hebrew households that have smeared lambs’ blood above their doors – ergo, The Passover.

The bummed-out Pharaoh sends the Hebrews packing. In their haste, they don’t have time to let their bread rise and thus the sympolic use of unleavened matzoh during Passover.

Things don’t get much better, since the Pharaoh and his troops go after them, but get swallowed up after the Red Sea parts. Moses and his people are out wandering around in the middle of nowhere searching for the “Promised Land” having faith that Moses knows where he’s going. There’s more, but you can read the book of Exodus as well as I can.

As for myself, being a gentile, I was accepted at the Jewish ritual events, including Hanukkah (not-so-ritual) and Passover (very ritual), but haven’t really participated much in recent years, although writing all this reminds me about that old joke about Japanese Jews.

These two guys are walking down the street and wonder whether there are any Japanese Jews. They finally decide to put their debate to rest and wander into a Sushi restaurant.

One guy asks the Sushi chef, “Excuse me, but my friend and I are having a debate and wondered if you could help settle it. Do you know of any Japanese Jews?”

Of course in Boulder, there are plenty of Jewish Buddhists.

When I ran the Boulder Asian Film Festival, a documentary called "A Zen Life" screened at the Shambala Center about a Japanese scholar named D.T. Suzuki.

He is credited for bringing Buddhism to the west back in the early part of the 20th century.

Of course in Boulder, there are plenty of Jewish Buddhists. When I ran the Boulder Asian Film Festival, a documentary called “A Zen Life” screened at the Shambala Center about a Japanese scholar named D.T. Suzuki. He is credited for bringing Buddhism to the west back in the early part of the 20th century.

 

The sushi chef thinks for a moment and says, “I don’t know, let me go back and ask the owner, he’ll know.”

A few minutes later the sushi chef comes back out and says, “Oh, no Japanese Jews, but we have orange jews, tomato jews, grape jews, but no Japanese Jews.”

Pretty bad, but generally gets a laugh.

World War II Exodus

There is another historic link between Japanese and Jews.

My friend Chris Tashima did a short movie that won an Oscar for “Visas and Virtues” about Jews during the World War II diaspora fleeing Germany through Lithuania many heading for Shanghai in China which also was a safe haven. I suspect this is where Jewish women began their interest in Mahjong.

The Japanese Consulate Sempo Sugihara (Chris Tashima), risked bad repercussions for his actions there when he processed hundreds of documents of transit.

The Japanese Consulate Sempo Sugihara (Chris Tashima), risked bad repercussions for his actions there when he processed hundreds of documents of transit.

I’m working on screening “Visas and Virtues” at the Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp Interpretive Center by Powell, Wyoming in June.

What next?

My colleague Michael Conti asked if I could help him on a live video stream from the house of a “Boulder Rabbi” next week.

Turns out it's Reb Zalman Schachter, who I've been following around since I moved to Boulder starting with my stint on the Boulder Human Relations Commission.

Turns out it’s Reb Zalman Schachter, who I’ve been following around since I moved to Boulder starting with my stint on the Boulder Human Relations Commission.

 

He wrote a book called “From Aging to Saging” which is how I first got to know about him. I gave my dad a copy of the book when he retired and was figuring out what he wanted to do.

Reb Zalman can’t make the trip to a conference himself, but will be there via the internet. I am quite honored to set up this remote which will be happening next week.

Where does that leave my story …

Kugel. There's a microwave recipe for sweet noodle kugel I'll whip up today.

Kugel. There’s a microwave recipe for sweet noodle kugel I’ll whip up today.

Sweet Noodle Kugel

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) package egg noodles
  • 2 apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

  1. * Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the egg noodles, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink.
  2. * Grease an 8-inch square microwave-safe glass baking dish. Beat the eggs together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooked noodles, white sugar, chopped apples, sour cream, cottage cheese, cinnamon, salt, and raisins; mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
  3. * Microwave on medium high (70% power) for 7 minutes.
  4. * Combine the brown sugar and chopped walnuts in a bowl, and cut in the butter to form a crumbly topping. Sprinkle the topping over the pudding. Return the pudding to the microwave and cook on medium high (70% power) until the pudding is firm in the center, 7 to 9 minutes.

Shabbat Shalom!