G.A. Minutes 3-28-15
A woman standing on the corner waves to us as we drive down the hill on our way to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. It’s the infamous street woman we have known for many years. She follows us down and says, “I hope you guys are gonna make a fire; it’s kinda cold”.
It is kind of cold. The temperature is in the low 40s but the wind is strong. Seeing as it’s still the month of March, we have no complaints.
We’re happy to see the infamous woman. She’s doing well. She stopped drinking and taking drugs early last summer. She was given an apartment in public housing and has kept it so far. She’s fairly intelligent and could probably be reasonably productive but if she went that route, the government would take away all her benefits.
Finding a job would be difficult as she does have a minor criminal history. If she did find one, she’d be working herself to death in order to maintain the same standard of living she currently has. If she then lost her job, even through no fault of her own, she’d be back out in the street and sleeping in doorways and bushes the same as she was before she cleaned up her act.
Come to think of it, she may be more than fairly intelligent. She can see the low wage work situation for exactly what it is. Abject slavery.
We quickly set up everything and get the fire going. The wind makes the flames roar. A few young Native people come over to sit with us.
An Occupier who has been living out of town for quite a while arrives. We take time to hear about what has been going on in his life. He is always interested in discussing the subject of various religions and the fact that most do not practice what they preach. He’s also thrilled about G-tac’s withdrawal from the Penokee Hills mining project.
The out of town Occupier says he’s been thinking lately that the world seems to be dividing into two camps. One camp wants to exploit the earth and everything in it for short term gain while the other camp is attempting to stop the destruction and preserve the earth for future generations. The rest of us agree with his analysis.
A large young Native man who has visited with us a few times in the past arrives. He gets coffee and cookies and asks for the smudge dish. When he is finished he says, “I really appreciate you being here, especially for having sage for smudging available. Miigwitch, miigwitch, miigwitch. It is very good that you are here”.
We hear that a lot from people who sit at our fires. We thank him for joining us.
Some young people we haven’t met before ask us if we will be at CJM on a regular basis. We explain we will. Weather permitting; we will attempt to be at the Memorial every Saturday from about 6pm – 9pm.
However, next Saturday we’ll be in Bemidji joining a protest against Governor Dayton.
We tell them Dayton is throwing his support to the mining companies who want to raise the sulfate levels in MN wild rice waters. Raising the sulfate levels will kill the wild rice. We explain that a Pow Wow is being held next Saturday in Bemidji and Governor Dayton is going to be a guest. The Pow Wow organizers are even planning on having an honor song and dance for him.
The young folks respond in the same way all Native folks we’ve given this information have responded. They say, “WHAT!?!?!” We inform them that we are joining as allies with other Native based groups to express our displeasure and indignation.
An Occupier needs to be reminded what we will be doing on next Tuesday. Another Occupier responds, “We’ll be reviewing what will hopefully be the last movie. Then we will decide what we want to use and we’ll ask the Jefferson People’s House if they will allow us to do a few showings at their place”.
The older African American woman who is also a fixture on the street walks by and waves.
The streets are full of vehicles but few pedestrians. We see a hippie looking guy walking towards us. At first we assume he is someone we know but as he gets closer, we realize we don’t recognize him. He says to no one in particular, “I really like this”. He gives us a power salute and we flash peace signs back at him. He continues walking.
A couple with 3 small children joins our fire. The kids are given apple juice and cookies.
The oldest child plunks down next to an older male Occupier and tells her life story. She is 5 years old and we discover we are acquainted with her biological father. She has many questions and the older Occupier answers her.
The members of her family need to take a short walk. She wants to stay by the fire and the family adults allow her to do so. When they return, they find her still happily asking questions.
During this time we have noticed a DPD SUV drive by several times. Each time slowing way down as it passes the Memorial. We think it wants to make sure we see it.
It’s getting dark and the family needs to go home. Everyone thanks us, waves goodbye and wishes us a good evening. The Occupiers are now alone at the fire.
The street is quiet and if we sit up close to the flames, the atmosphere is quite pleasant.
The gray haired woman arrives. We haven’t seen her since last fall. She is one of our favorite people.
As we chat, she tells us she’s been doing a lot of thinking over the winter. Although she’s in good health, she’s reached the age of 75 and has been mentally reviewing her life.
She seems exceptionally lucid tonight and tells us stories of her childhood, stories of health crises in middle age and many other stories she had not told us in the past.
She says, “So I haven’t had much drama in my life and I’ve never married so am what used to be called an old maid. I’ve never had any particular goals, just took life as it came. I’m surprised to find that I’m actually very happy and have a wonderful feeling of peace and contentment”.
All of our attention has been focused on the gray haired woman so we don’t notice the fire dying until we feel the chill.
We pack up, telling the woman when she can expect to find us at CJM again. She responds, “Now if I can just remember”.