Gee Haw!

No, that’s not me mistyping “yee haw.” That’s me still excited about a little outing I just got back from.

Standing on the ice road from Bethel to Oscarville

I went to Alaska for a work trip last week. It’s the second one to Alaska in three months, which just seems incredible to me. I have a personal goal of making it to all 50 states by the time I’m 40 (by my own rules, I can’t just drive/fly through them. Otherwise I’ve already hit all 50). When I first set that goal, I naturally thought that Alaska and Hawaii were going to be the hardest to check off the list. Of course, that was before I met Maggie, whose family largely resides in Alaska.

Everyone is lining up to take a picture on the ice road

I have now been to the frozen expanse that is our 49th state three times. All in winter.

This time around, the group I was with was going out to the village of Oscarville – one of the easier Alaska Native villages to get to, but one that still requires a flight from Anchorage to Bethel, and a trip down a frozen river to get to.

That’s right. I rode on an ice road.

Fish drying in front of a house

The village itself…actually kind of reminded me of a lot of places in Indian Country, albeit with some challenges that are unique to living in a place that is frozen for half of the year. Waste disposal – both human and physical trash – clean water, heat…all of these things are a part of the huge concept of “energy.” I know most people think “energy” and they think it’s just about putting lights in a house so people can read at night or maybe watch television or use a computer, but it’s a much bigger picture than that. More and more, I think it’s easier to consider “energy” as a giant wheel — what some folks in the industry are referring to as the water-food-energy-waste nexus. Because, really, all of those things — water, food, waste — are affected by our access to reliable energy, whether it be solar power, diesel fuel, or whatever.

Rabbit tracks in the snow

Hoo boy…I feel like things are getting away from me at the moment. Can you tell I’m really enjoying the things I’m learning through my job?

Anyway, in addition to traveling out to the village and driving on the ice road, I had a wonderful visit with the curator of the museum in Bethel’s cultural center. I spent 2.5 hours chatting with Eva (whose name I will remember, as I have an aunt with the same name) about masks, stories, kayaks, and the museum’s new exhibit of Edward Curtis photographic prints. She pointed out the friends and family members who are featured in the photographs, which is a wonderful connection to the photographs that you just don’t get if you see them in other museums.

Honestly? I get much more out of visiting Native-run museums and cultural centers than I typically get when visiting larger, “formal” institutions. The items on exhibit are not empty relics, but instead cultural touchstones. They spark traditional stories and personal anecdotes, and you end up learning far more about an actual living culture than you might by reading a plaque on the wall. I think that visit was the ultimate high point in a stellar trip.

Returning to Anchorage, we had another meeting

Folks were calling this guy “The Polar Bear.” No, that wasn’t made of polar bear fur.

Saturday morning, before letting everyone loose on the street to watch the Iditarod. The ceremonial start of the race also coincides with the annual Anchorage Fur Rendezvous – otherwise known as Fur Rondy, or just plain Rondy. It’s a week(ish) long festival with sport contests and races, art markets, fur auctions, a blanket toss, performances, and dances, and it is absolutely bonkers. At least, that was my takeaway from watching the Reindeer Run on Saturday. Also, there were a lot of people wearing/selling fur, which makes sense….the festival has its roots in the years when trappers and miners used to come in to Anchorage with their yearly “haul.”

I re-visited the Wooly Mammoth yarn shop while I was in Anchorage. This time, I picked up some yarn to make my littlest nephew a sweater. I tend to stick with the Alaska-made yarn and dyers when I visit the shop. It adds a little special something to the finished project – “This yarn came all the way from Alaska.” This time, I picked up a DK weight in the colorway: Ice Road Trucker, from Fiber ‘n Ice. I was very tempted to purchase the “Northern Lights” colorway from The Alaskan Yarn Company, but they didn’t have enough skeins there. Also, I think it would have really clashed with Sam’s hair (the kid has a nice shock of red hair). However, I think I might just order some online to make a sweater for his older brother — Joe’s favorite color is purple. It looks like they only have the sock weight listed, but I’m sure I could contact them or Wooly Mammoth about a heavier weight yarn.

In the Here and Now

[I wrote this last week, while traveling, but didn’t get a chance to post it until now.]

There are several times in my life when I have paused and thought to myself, “How did I get here?” That thought goes through my head in the middle of chaotic messes, when things are either falling apart or burning down or some other nonsense is taking place, and the same thought occurs in the middle of good things, as well. I had those moments when I walked the stage to receive my Master’s degree. I had that moment when I got to see an exhibit I helped create unveiled for the first time. When I looked in the mirror on the first day at my new job, dressed in a suit jacket and looking like a grown-up.

And I was having that moment now. Waikiki

Sitting on a beach in Hawaii.

That’s right. I said Hawaii.

I am there.

Now.

And I kept thinking “How did I get here?”

The obvious answer would be “you boarded a plane and flew for about ten hours.” I understand that. That is, afterall, how air travel works (well, that and a healthy dose of science – read “magic”).

cattle egretIn this case, though, I’m thinking a little more esoterically. I’m here in Hawaii for work, not necessarily a vacation – though, let’s face it, any work in Hawaii is a vacation – which seems incredible. For the past three years, my work trips have been travel to a grant ceremony at a small museum, where I received a particularly heavy brick (yes, that was an actual work task) or driving to Leonardtown for a one-day conference on museum interpretation and exhibits (where the people representing the education and interpretation departments left around lunchtime).

Fast forward to this year. Since starting in February, I’ve traveled to Las Vegas for a conference on economic development in Indian Country, gone to Tulsa for a meeting with people on the front lines of Tribal renewable energy and STEM education, and now Hawaii for a conference on energy efficiency in American Indian Housing. I am surrounded by bright scientists and talented diplomats dedicated to improving life for Native communities and protecting the environment. I am learning so much, and am so impressed by what people in Indian Country are doing…especially considering the number of hoops so many of these entities have to jump through to get business done.

It’s a completely different field than what I grew up with. My experience of Indian Country at-large had mostly been from a law enforcement or cultural studies viewpoint (plus, you know, being Native). Now, I’m looking through the lens of business and other government offices. I’m not surrounded by tribal cops and yet…every day I am reminded of my father.

I’m reminded of his tireless efforts to improve the communities he worked with. I’m reminded of his pride in all Native people, of his ability to straddle traditions and mainstream American culture, and his unmatched skill as a mediator in difficult situations. I’m reminded of how his eyes would tear up when he watched Native people from all regions come together, showing that they were still a vibrant culture with much to offer – I teared up at RES earlier this year, watching representatives from Alaskan villages dancing next to those from White Mountain Apache, Seminole next to Seneca.

I miss him every day. Maybe especially as I make my way through Indian Country for all of these trips. He loved to travel – he especially loved to drive – and he loved talking about the wonderful places he had seen and people he had met. Sometimes that was on a beach in California, sometimes it was in a smoky casino in North Carolina, and sometimes it was in a dive in the middle of a desert town accessed through a literal hole in the wall.

And I miss him here, sitting on this beach. Hawaii was the one place he didn’t get to in his long career in Indian Country. He would have loved it here. There are so many birds and different flowers with lovely names. He liked to say Liriodendron tulipifera – the Latin for tulip poplar. I can only imagine his joy at saying things like Heliotropium anomalum or  Humuhumunukunukuapua`a. Watching the surfers riding waves yesterday evening, I remembered when we learned he knew how to surf. That he had, in fact, surfed quite a bit when he was a Marine stationed outside of San Francisco.

palm treesWalking around the paths near the Byodo-In Temple, I remembered all of the times Dad took us out for walks, teaching us the things we could eat if we ever got lost (and the things we should never eat), pausing to identify birds we heard in the trees, and pointing to game trails that were near-invisible to our untrained eyes. I took in all of the things around me – from the scent of incense in the temple, as people offered prayers, to the splash of the koi fish in the ponds, looking for food, to the feel of light rain on my arms and the natural beauty all around me and I realized…

…this was one of the greatest things that Dad left with us. Not just a love of the natural world, but the ability to notice and appreciate everything about a particular moment. Dad thought about the future and remembered the past, certainly, but he was very talented at living in the here and now. He appreciated every moment he got.

With this realization comes the understanding that the question shouldn’t be “How did I get here?” It shouldn’t be a question at all. Questioning how you got somewhere isn’t really all that helpful or illuminating, in the long run (unless you’re trying to figure out how to avoid getting into a situation in the future, I suppose). The point is…you got there. You are here. If you ask a question at all, it should be “What are you going to do now that you are here?” Experience that “here.” Experience the “now.”

We are never guaranteed another day with the people we love and, when they are gone, we should be able to think back to moments with them and know that we experienced them fully.

Don’t waste the time wondering how you got somewhere or when you grew up. Enjoy that you’re there.

I know I am.IMG_20160512_121254_846

Native Americans in Science Fiction and Fantasy

That was the name of my very first panel at a convention. And by very first panel, I don’t mean the first one I’ve ever attended. I mean the first one where I was a panelist.

What can I say about the experience? It’s simple, really.

HOLY CRAP!

Let me tell you, I was a bundle of nerves leading up to the day of the panel. I was reading and re-reading books, writing and re-organizing notes, referring back to emails I had exchanged with Dr. Eric Gary Anderson (who teaches at George Mason University, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Native literature and totally unrelated random horror movies, and is generally an all-around awesome person to know). I was both excited and nervous about being on the panel, wanting to make sure I contributed something of worth (or at least didn’t totally derailing it with verbal diarrhea), and hoping that people got something out of the event other than an air-conditioned room to sit in.

It turns out I needn’t have worried as much as I did. And why was that?

Because the audience and the moderator for the panel were AWESOME!

The panel was moderated by L.M. (Linda) Davis, and included Diane Hughes, a panelist from last year’s panel on the same topic. Linda met with us briefly while people were drifting in for the panel and went over how she wanted to approach the discussion this year. She said she’d go ahead and let us introduce ourselves, and then she’d turn it over to the audience for questions, to see what kinds of things they wanted to talk and know about. During our brief powwow (see what I did there?), I learned that Linda knew Eric. Oh, Native American Studies academia…it’s such a small world, sometimes.

Quite honestly, the audience for the panel had some of the best questions I’ve heard about Native culture, literature, etc. Plenty of things to get and keep me thinking – and perhaps provide some fodder for upcoming entries here, as I continue to mull over the topic.

In the lead-up to the panel, I went ahead and wrote up a recommended reading list for folks interested in science fiction and fantasy (and horror and mystery) that incorporated Native culture in some way. I was asked to share this list in a public forum and, hey! Whaddayaknow! I have a blog! So, for those of you interested, here is a jumping off point for Native Americans in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Some of these authors are Native, others are not. Ultimately, that’s not what I was looking at. I was looking at “Who has shared a good story?” I hope you find their work as enjoyable as I have. My hope is to continue adding to this over time.

Kirk Mitchell – Turnipseed and Parker series

  • Cry Dance
  • Spirit Sickness
  • Ancient Ones
  • Sky Woman Falling
  • Dance of the Thunder Dogs

Charles de Lint

  • The Onion Girl
  • Medicine Road
  • Someplace To Be Flying – one of the best descriptions of what it means to be a storyteller that I have found so far

Patricia Briggs

  • Alpha and Omega series (to a lesser degree)
  • Mercy Thompson series – particularly River Marked

Kat Richardson

  • Greywalker series – particularly Underground

Orson Scott Card

  • Alvin Maker series

Neil Gaiman

  • American Gods

C.E. Murphy – The Walker Papers series

  • Urban Shaman
  • Banshee Cries (novella in Winter Moon anthology)
  • Thunderbird Falls
  • Coyote Dreams
  • Rabbit Tracks (short story online)
  • Walking Dead
  • Demon Hunts
  • Spirit Dances
  • Raven Calls

Louise Erdrich

  • Tracks – I recommend starting here

Stephen Graham Jones

  • The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto
  • Demon Theory
  • It Came From Del Rio
  • Zombie Bake-Off (comes out this year)

Gerald Vizenor

  • Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles

Sherman Alexie – in particular

  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (the movie Smoke Signals was adapted from this)
  • Flight
  • Indian Killer

Louis Owens

  • Bone Game

A. A. Carr

  • Eye Killers

Joseph Bruchac

Amy H. Sturgis

Drew Hayden Taylor

Daniel Heath Justice

Leslie Marmon Silko

Michael Nicoll Yahguhlanaas

  • Red: A Haida Manga

Trickster: Native American Tales – A Graphic Collection

Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction – edited by Grace L. Dillon

Minisinoo – a fanfic writer who has done marvelous work with Native characters, particularly from the X-Men Universe. I recommend starting with

In addition to the list I put together, I got some suggestions from the crowd. Here they are:

Michael Chabon – Summerland

Scalped comic book

Oh! And for those who asked if I had anything published…here is some of my folklore work. I have not yet found a home for other folklore papers, but, if you’re interested in other pieces, just let me know. And yes, to the people who asked about the “other” work, I have links to that as well, but it has nothing to do with my folklore or usual fiction work.
Also, if you were at the panel, I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve got questions that didn’t have a chance to get asked, or if there’s something that’s crossed your mind since then, send me a message! nerfgunbobbinsATgmailDOTcom

Let Your Geek Flag Fly

Today, if you didn’t know, is Geek Pride Day. A quick trip to my good friend Google provided me with an explanation for why it falls on this day in particular – Geek Pride Day is May 25th because that’s the day of the official release of the original Star Wars movie. I knew that Star Wars: A New Hope was celebrating it’s 33rd birthday this year but I didn’t know the exact day it came out until now.

Geek Pride Day hasn’t been an official day for very long (just since 2006) but that doesn’t mean it’s not observed. Originating in Spain, there are now celebrations and observances of this great day in many other countries.

Geek Pride Day also happens to coincide with Towel Day, the holiday celebrating Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I believe Maggie is wearing a towel around at the coffee shop today, in observance. Not just a towel, mind you. I believe she also took her bathrobe in with her.

These are just four shelves for sci-fi/fantasy. This doesn't even scratch the surface.

Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what exactly to do to celebrate Geek Pride Day. I mean, I’m fairly geeky on a daily basis anyway and I don’t have much desire to hide this fact. I’ve got a number of shirts that reference tv shows, movies and comics. I even have Scooby Doo socks. I’ve got the requisite geek pins that one finds at conventions and comic shops. I have a few graphic novels on my bookshelf, as well as the majority of one bookcase devoted to sci-fi and fantasy. A quick glance at my dvd shelves revealed that, of the 158 movies and tv shows in the case, 78 of them are sci-fi, fantasy or otherwise geek related (I wasn’t sure what to classify Clerks, Clerks 2 and Grandma’s Boy as, but I included them in the count). I should note that not all of my dvds are actually in my dvd shelves. I have more dvds than I have space to house them at the moment, and a number of my movies are currently scattered upstairs or packed away in a box, so the overall count is going to be much, much higher.

I’m not planning anything all that big for Geek Pride Day. Most of today will be spent holed up in my room, working on edits to The Leviathan. I finally got all of the preliminary comments on it back from my advisor and now comes the task of inputing all the suggestions. I forsee this taking up most of the rest of the week.

HOWEVER…I do not plan on letting the day go by wholly unmarked. I’ve already ventured out to Fairfax today. I went with Mom to pick my sister up from the coffee shop. I took greater care in picking out my clothes today than I typically do. I stood by my bed, debating which geek shirt to wear. I opted for the “Puppet Angel” shirt I bought at Polaris a few years back. I figured it was a tad more obscure and geeky than my Superman or Ghostbusters shirts.

I really wanted to wear my “Come to the Dark Side…we have cookies” shirt, but it’s been missing for at least a year. This upsets me.

I also picked up a hand towel from the linen closet before I headed out of the house. Mom saw me carrying it to the car and asked “Why are you bringing a towel?” I replied “Because it’s Towel Day.”

I could have just left it at that and I’m sure my mother would have simply shaken her head and accepted that it was

The towel says "What a fine day for science!"

 just another example of how weird her daughter is. I figured she deserved a little more explanation than that, though, so I told her about the day’s meaning. When we got to the coffee shop, we found my sister sitting outside at one of the tables. She had brought her bathrobe to her to work, as well as a Dexter’s Labratory towel. I deemed it an excellent choice for the day.

Maggie wasn’t wearing her bathrobe, but she had festooned her apron with all of her pins, and had brought along a towel as well. She also had her lightsaber and her sonic screwdriver with her. We took a few pictures inside the shop, and then the three of us trooped outside so Mom could take a picture of us outside one of the display windows at Laughing Ogre Comics. I’m sure people were wondering why three grown women were standing around with towels and sci-fi props. By now I’m used to the odd looks.

Don't mess with us!

I asked Maggie if she was going to spend Geek Pride Day playing Halo and Left for Dead 2, or if she was going to work on her Ripley gun. She replied that she’ll be working on the gun. It’s coming along very nicely. She’s been taking pictures with her cell phone as she goes along. Perhaps I’ll see if she’ll allow me to put them up here.

My friend Mel is spending a good part of the day reading fanfiction. I expected it to be Xena fanfic – one of Mel’s favorite geek-out indulgences – but she replied “Alas, no. Superman Returns fanfiction mixed with a healthy dose of Batman Begins/Dark Knight.” I seem to remember her reading some Superman Returns fan fiction on our recent Fairy Fest camping trip. I’ll admit, I’ve not yet delved much into the realm of fanfic. I’ve come across some absolute crap in some of my searching, which is probably what has kept me from looking for more. I have, however, read a few wonderful pieces. My friend Red used to write Harry Potter fanfic, which introduced new characters and storylines into the official canon. I was reading it about the time Half-Blood Prince came out (I’m pretty sure that was the book) and I remember sitting on my bed, wondering where certain characters were. Then I had to stop and remind myself that Red’s storylines were completely separate from Rowling’s.

There was also an absolutely wonderful X-Men fanfic that I read once. I stumbled upon it with the help of Google, though I don’t remember now what I had entered into the search field. The story follows the character of Dani Moonstar, one of the few Native superheroes I’ve ever heard of. Oh, and as a warning, if you decide to click over to the fanfic link just know that it’s got a little bit of adult material. Nothing huge, but it’s there. Then again, that’s usually the case with a lot of the fanfic that’s out there. I loved the piece for several reasons, but I think a big part of my joy during the reading came from the fact that the other character featured in the story is Lenape. There’s a joke about his shirt early on and, because I know a smattering of Lenape, I got it before the author explained it.

I don’t make a big deal about my Native culture in my day-to-day life. For the most part, it’s just another aspect of my personality, just like being a geek. It’s not something I separate from the rest of me. There are a few things about Native culture that I don’t explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry I meet on the street, and some of these are touched on in the story. One of the reasons I loved this fan fiction was that it was about more than just the geek factor of being an X-Men fanfic. It says something deeper about Native culture and, to a smaller degree, mainstream American culture. There’s more to it that I’d love to delve into, but that’s not really the focus of this entry. Suffice it to say, I loved this story so much that I went ahead and emailed the author after I read it. As I said, I don’t read fanfic very often, and I’ve never emailed any of the other writers whose work I’ve checked out. Well, I’ve emailed Red but I don’t count that, as I knew her beforehand. Minisinoo, however, is a complete stranger to me.

My friend Romeo has plans to have a lan party with his brother-in-law and a friend over the Memorial Day weekend. Though technically not falling on Geek Pride Day, I think it fits in nicely with the theme. He said it was going to be cool. Or rather, “as cool as geeky can be.”

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll probably have already read the entry “Cool isn’t the Operative Word Here,” and so you’ll know some of my feelings about how geekdom is viewed in the mainstream American public. We geeks occupy an occasionally tenuous place in the world. We’re made fun of in movies, picked on by jocks (though I know a number of folks who fall into both the jock and geek/nerd categories), and our well-publicized love of our respective geekdoms often meet with derision from people who just “don’t get it.”

I’d argue, though, that we’re much more important and influential to the daily culture of this country than we’re often given credit for. Obviously, there’s the fact that most of us are technological wizards who program everyone’s computers and troubleshoot the technology that runs our lives. Not all geeks are technologically gifted, of course. If there’s one thing my Intro to Logic course taught be back in undergrad, it’s that you shouldn’t make that kind of general statement, as there will always be someone or something that proves to be the exception. In this case, I would be that exception. I can deal with a good amount of the tech that’s around today, but I’m by no means knowledgeable in how to fix computers, build robots, etc. No, my geek skills rest in other places.

You might have noticed that, more and more, movies and television shows are coming out that seem specially geared towards geeks. There’s Heroes (which, unfortunately, has been cancelled), Fringe, Supernatural (coming back for another season!), Big Bang Theory and, of course, Chuck.

Oh, Chuck. So many geeky intersections in that show. It has Adam Baldwin! And it had Bakula! The two-hour season finale aired yesterday. If you haven’t already seen it…wow. It was pretty awesome. It answered a few questions and paved the way for what I think could be its best season. Originally, this was to be the last season for Chuck. I guess NBC wised up and realized it was one of the station’s biggest draws. I love the show for a number of reasons, but I think a large part of my appreciation comes from the fact that the geek gets the girl in this show. See? Geeks are good!

I’ve been dipping my toes back into the dating waters lately (don’t worry, I’m not completely jumping the shark here). I believe in being up-front and honest with folks when meeting them for the first time, so I don’t believe in holding back the knowledge that I’m a geek. A big one. This has occasionally worked to my advantage (it’s great when you come across a guy who LOVES the fact that you built your own lightsaber out of bits from the plumbing aisle in Home Depot). I’m sure it’s also counted against me. It’s not something I’m going to hide, though.

Quite honestly, it’s not something I really could hide. I mean, there are pictures of me in full Jedi garb, hugging a guy at Dragon*Con dressed as Bumblebee. I have a giant koala-owl head in the middle of my workspace at the moment.

This here's my geekin' cap.

 I’ve got a Jawa bobblehead and an Indiana Jones Mr. Potato head on a shelf in my computer room. My geek factor is a big part of my personality and has been for quite some time. I grew up watching the original Star Wars films (we had vhs copies that my mom had taped off of HBO). There were two things I wanted to be when I was little…I wanted to be a Jedi and I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Now, the one would be kind of difficult, simply because of the fact that, well, I’m not Harrison Ford. But I have since gone out dressed as a Jedi numerous times. I just need to find someone who’ll dress as Indy for me.

Or Han Solo. Mmm. Yeah. Han would be nice. Those pants are awesome.

Sorry. Got side-tracked.

At any rate, I’ve been a geek for a good long while. All three of us kids (my siblings and I) are geeks, really. My parents had a hand in this, though I’m not sure they realize it. All those movie nights with Star Wars and Indy and Gremlins and Jaws, etc. were bound to have an influence on us. My brother has a Boba Fett hoodie. It’s one of his favorite things. My sister had a whole bunch of geeky bumper stickers on her old car, and has a Star Wars ringtone on her phone. So far I’m the only one of us three who’s taken it to the extreme of dressing up in elaborate costumes on a regular basis, but I don’t think my sister is very far behind in that.

The point of today is…

Whatever your specific geekdom is, never be afraid to revel in it. Sure, there are people who might look at you strangely when you get excited about a new comic book movie or the release of the new Jim Butcher book (by the way, Butcher trumps anything else for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading something else when he comes out with a new book. It gets put aside until I’m finished with the new Butcher book), but there are also people who look at die-hard sports fans and people who enjoy flyfishing with the same confusion and derision. Don’t feel like you have to hide your geekiness. As the ever-wise Dr. Seuss wrote:

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Smart is definitely sexy. There is bound to be someone out there in the world who “gets” you and loves that you love painting miniatures, make amiguri in your spare time, or have all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on dvd. Whatever else you do in life, let your geek flag fly!

Final Prep and the Olympics

The opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics are currently on television at the moment. I’m watching it as I write this so if this post makes even less sense than my posts usually do you at least know the reason. I wanted to get in one last post before I leave for Farpoint tomorrow and this is really the only time I’ll have to type anything up. Plus, it gives me a chance to blog a bit about some of the pomp and ceremony that will take place throughout the show.

My new mask is almost complete. The painting has been done and matches the color of the rest of the costume much better than the original did. I think it also looks a lot scarier than the original. It’s going to be a lot warmer inside the mask simply because the opening at the mouth is a lot smaller than it was on the original mask. All that is left to be done on the new mask is to glue some tights fabric over the eyeholes and attach some cording to hold the mask in place.

Attempting the "Buddy Christ" pose in the new arms and an incomplete head-sleeve.

The new arms are much better than the original pair I made, in terms of the painting and -for the most part – fit. Maggie painted my arms like I was wearing them and they look much more like actual stone. I had a little bit of trouble with the fingernails but they’ll do. The headsleeve is also going to be better than the one I was wearing at Shore Leave. In that case the head sleeve wasn’t sewn to the rest of the sleeves and there were huge gaping holes where it was pulling away. With luck, I won’t have the same problem this time around.

The dress was successfully remade. I actually found the old dress the other day. When I pulled it out it was crunchy and stiff and didn’t look at all like stone. It’s a really good thing I had already made the decision to remake the costume. I almost didn’t have enough fabric to make my dress. It took a little more planning than the original dresses had but everything seems to have worked out for the best.

Maggie’s re-design of the wings included extending the length of the back harness and removing a good deal of the foam that had originally been on the top of the harness. The wings sit against my back much better now and no longer drag on the floor. Win! I’m really looking forward to standing around in a corner of the Crowne Plaza on Sunday trying to scare the bejeezus out of people.

And now, on to the Olympics. I was very excited to watch the ceremony tonight. I caught the closing ceremony of the last Winter Olympics in Torino. If you’ll remember, a part of the closing ceremony is given over to the host country for the next Olympic Games, so they can start the ball rolling on the preparations. I figured the First Nations would be featured in that ceremony and I was not disappointed. It seemed only natural to expect them to be incorporated into this year’s program as well.

I am happy to report that the ceremony all but started out with the First Nations! After a short intro video and an entrance via ramp by a snowboarder delegates of the First Nations tribes around Vancouver came out to welcome the athletes and visitors in their native languages, followed by representatives of tribes from the various regions of Canada: Pacific Coast, Prairie, Eastern Woodlands, etc.

Now, if you just happened upon this blog and don’t actually know much about me, you might be wondering why I am so excited about the presence of First Nations people in this program. It’s really pretty simple…I’m a part of the Munsee-Delaware nation, which currently calls Munsee, Ontario, Canada “home.” They weren’t originally based in that area, of course. Originally our group lived in what is now New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Although I’ve also got Welsh/Scots-Irish heritage I grew up more Native than anything else (except when it came time for Highland Festivals). Naturally, I’m excited when First Nations are prominently featured in events as huge as the Olympics.

Anyway…back to the topic. Being the token Native in my group of friends means I usually wind up the de facto “expert” when it comes to questions about the culture. I’ve come to expect this by now so I wasn’t all that surprised to be answering uestions abou somet of the stuff that was going on up on screen when the tribes came out. Since I firmly believe open communication and education is the key to creating understanding and building bridges between cultures I decided to post some of the questions that came up throughout the ceremony and my answers.

“Why do they keep saying ‘aboriginal people” and “First Nations?” — Technically, “First Nations” is the official term for Native tribes in Canada who do not fall into the category of Inuit or Metis. The Inuit are settled in the Arctic area and the Metis have mixed ancestry (Yes, I know that many tribes could actually be considered to be of mixed ancestry but we’re not picking nits here. This is simply how the group is classified and distinguished from other Native groups in Canada). The term “Aboriginal people,” in contrast, actually refers to all First Nations, Inuit and Metis people together. Both are considered correct depending on the situation. However, individually, most Native people (both in Canada and in the United States) are more likely to refer to themselves by their tribal affiliation. I actually kind of prefer “First Nations” to “American Indian/Native American” as it recognizes that there were nations in existance in the Americas before what we refer to as First Contact.

Hmm…the clothing of the Canadian tribes looks very similar to the Southwestern tribes here in America. (Not a question, per se, but sparked a short explanation) — This comment followed the entrance of representatives from the Canadian Prairie. The regalia that they were wearing was the type one typically finds at powwows today. The dances that most of the folks were doing were also the kind that you’ll see at powwows. The modern powwow is made up of many traditions that come from the Plains and Prairie region of the United States and Canada. There’s a tremendous powwow culture in Saskatchewan and this culture has shifted down and become the major backbone of what is known as Pan-Indian culture. A lot of tribe and region-specific regalia traditions had actually started to die out because of powwow culture – too many people choosing to do fancy dance regalia over, say, traditional Seneca dresses. The past couple of years have seen a resurgence in the old forms, though, which I’m happy about. My own regalia is very much specific to my region. Specifically southwestern regalia is actually rarely seen outside of the Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico/Utah area.

Okay…it’s a little after 11:30pm now. There’s still a little left to go in the ceremony but I think I’m going to sign off now. The late hour is starting to get the better of me – I’ve been up since 5am this morning and worked a shift at the coffee shop today – and I want to sit back and relax for a little bit.

The next post should be the Farpoint con report. 🙂