Film “Good Medicine” Honors Native American Positivity on Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation

James Trosper is featured in Jackson Tisi’s short film, Good Medicine. (all photos are from the film)

“It’s not a physical thing.

“You can’t really put your finger on it, but we all know as Native American people what they mean when they say Good Medicine.”

That is what James Trosper says in Jackson Tisi’s seven-minute documentary commissioned by Facebook.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is home to Northern Arapaho and Shoshone Tribes.

And Trosper belongs to both.

He is the great-great grandson of Chief Washakie and Director of the High Plains American Indian Research Institute at the University of Wyoming.

He says, “Good Medicine includes our ceremonies and the values passed to us from our ancestors.

“We can achieve peace and healing through our traditions and positive core values such as love, kindness, sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, compassion, respect, forgiveness and spirituality.”

Also starring in the film is 12-year old Patrick Smith.

And for him, Good Medicine takes the form of skateboarding.

Patrick Smith.

“Skating takes a lot of stuff off my mind.

“Whenever I’m mad I can go skate,” he says in the film.

“Skateboarding means you don’t have to be any color.

“You don’t have to have anything, you don’t have to be perfect in order to skate.”

Forms of Good Medicine

Director Tisi says, “Good Medicine is a Native term that refers to anything that can bring peace, healing and positivity.”

James Trosper on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

We can achieve peace and healing through our traditions and positive core values such as love, kindness, sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, compassion, respect, forgiveness and spirituality.

James Trosper

“In this film we explore how elders find good medicine through their traditions, and how the youth on the reservation have found it through skateboarding,” Tisi said.

James Trosper says, “I think if ever there was a time for our people to turn back to our traditional values, it’s now.

“We see examples in the world today of people who don’t live by those values and the destruction and harm that it causes.”

This film makes me think.

And it makes me wonder how we outside the Wind River Indian Reservation find our own way to Good Medicine.

Take action!

Watch Good Medicine by accessing it above.

Learn about the High Plains American Indian Research Institute at the University of Wyoming

Read about Facebook’s 365 Days of Love. On Facebook, of course.

See another post about a Native American site in Wyoming, Returning a Sacred Rock’s Name — Bear Lodge, Mythic-Owl Mountain, Tree Rock, Mato Tipila . . . Just Not Devils Tower.

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Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Returning a Sacred Rock’s Name — Bear Lodge, Mythic-Owl Mountain, Tree Rock, Mato Tipila . . . Just Not Devils Tower

Last month my husband, son and I traveled north to Bear Lodge (aka Devils Tower), the first National Monument in the country.

Approaching from the south the land sweeps up — like a lifting cloud into rolling round hills dotted then filled with pines.

Solemnity of place abounds.

Before Europeans

Long before Europeans took this beautiful land as their own, the rock was sacred to those who lived in the Black Hills.

Pilgrimages were part of Native American rituals.

Arapaho • Crow • Cheyenne • Eastern Shoshone • Lakota • Kiowa

The National Park Service’s website states that these tribes were gradually extirpated.

Definition: “Extirpate . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

In the context of American history, this word takes my breath away.

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Translated to English, the tribes’ names for Devils Tower include:

Bear’s Tipi • Bear’s Lodge • Bear’s House • Bear’s Peak • Mato Tipila (aka Bear Lodge) • Bear Lodge Butte • Grizzly Bear’s Lodge • Mythic-owl Mountain • Grey Horn Butte • Ghost Mountain • Aloft on a Rock • Tree Rock (associated with astrological knowledge).

And clearly none of these relate even remotely to “devil.”

Yet this unfortunate and disrespectful mistranslation stuck.

“Extirpate: . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

Returning the Name to Bear Lodge

In 2015, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations, petitioned President Obama to reunite the place with its native name, Bear Lodge.

But it didn’t happen.

Then in 2017 to permanently end present or future Native American appeals, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) introduced H.R.401 to block the name Devils Tower from ever changing.

And she justifies it with commerce.

“. . . Devils Tower attracts crucial tourism and revenue to our communities,” she said.

So Devils Tower is now a brand.

Yet Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Commerce would be sustained and the offensive mistake corrected.

But it would take great courage and deep regard for Native Americans to do this.

It would be the right thing to do while removing none of the magnificence from the site.

Representative Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Native American Stories

No geological explanation can definitively account for this towering stone’s formation.

Yet each tribe has creation stories that ascribe meaning to it.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

I am most drawn to the one from Kiowa.

In it, seven little girls playing together are chased by bears.

The friends jump on a low rock and one prays, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!”

And in response to their pleas, the rock lifts from the ground.

The bears try to reach them, but fall backwards leaving vertical claw marks on the ascending tower.

Still higher the rock rises until the girls are pushed up and into the sky where even today they safely remain as the star formation, the Pleiades.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

Certainly my own treks there have just begun.

And the only thing better than standing quietly in awe at the base of this rock would be to see its name returned.

Restore Bear Lodge, Tree Rock or any other Native American moniker that honors the reverence and history of this place, please.

Take Action!

•  Email Liz Cheney and ask her to:  1) change the name Devils Tower to Bear Lodge; 2) seek funding for a 5-year rebranding plan

•  Devils Tower National Monumenthttps://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/americanindians.htm

•  National Park Service, Devils Tower: A Sacred Site to American Indianshttps://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/sacredsite.htm

•  Who File, Rep. Liz Chenyhttps://www.wyofile.com/tribes-meet-wyoming-resistance-to-yellowstone-name-changes/

•  Devils Tower: First Stories: https://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/first-stories.htm

•  Reuters:  Native Americans want name change for Wyoming’s Devils Tower, by Laura Zuckerman, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-wyoming-monument/native-americans-want-name-change-for-wyomings-devils-tower-idUSKCN0RM2TA20150922

•  The Spaniards brought horses to The United States. Read about Deerwood Eco Ranch that is caring for some in that now populate (over populate) the state.

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

“The world needs more cowboys” — Self Discovery in the University of Wyoming’s New Slogan

Recently the Trustees of the University of Wyoming voted unanimously to adopt as the new recruiting slogan, “The world needs more cowboys.”

It has attracted negative press as well as praise, including from the Wall Street Journal for its unapologetic rebuff of political correctness.

I’m going to take a minute and think out loud.

I don’t have a deep connection to cowboys (we moved to Laramie less than a year ago).

So maybe that’s why I am flummuxed by the lack of unity I’m finding in those five words.

And specifically because of how I felt when I heard this slogan out loud, as I did last week-end.

Awful.

I ached and pinched back tears that threatened to give me away as a dissident of the slogan while it was cheered by a room of supporters.

And, yet, like so many things in life, at the core of my discomfort was a chance for self-discovery.

Within my pain resides an awareness that I want things to be different than they are.

And its that very discontent, I understand from Buddhist friends, that feeds my misery.

Moving Away From Separation

Pistol Pete is the University of Wyoming mascot.

But still, I want there to be less separation in the world.

I want to live where there is respect and acknowledgment for others’ feelings.

I want to be in a place where attitudes of “that’s just the way we do things” is periodically checked and reconsidered.

Even if it’s uncomfortable and takes work.

Because that’s how and when real connection is made.

I  pinched back tears that threatened to give me away
as a dissident of the slogan . . .

I can trace the lump in my throat to lost possibilities for meaningful ways to connect with:

  • Bright Native Americans youth
  • Other peoples of color
  • Ideas that promote women and men moving toward balance
  • LBGTQ folks contributing vibrantly while assured safety in their lives

It seems introspection about this slogan is absent, though I can’t say that with certainty.

Most of us know that self reflections isn’t for the faint of heart because what you find can be hard to face and harder to remedy.

It’s lonely business.

Yet meaningful change and seeing the world in bigger ways can result.

So when I hear, “The world needs more cowboys,” I wonder. . .

If I stay the course with my feelings, especially the hard parts, will it lead me to understanding and empathy or deeper dissension?

It’s too early to tell but I’m willing to stick with it and find out.

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Take Action!

•  University of Wyoming’s promotional video that accompanies the slogan.

•  “Higher Ed Needs More Cowboys: The University of Wyoming sticks to its guns against politically correct faculty,” Wall Street Journal, opinion, 7/13/18.

•  Safe Zone at the University of Wyoming.

 

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West