G.A. Minutes 9-8-15
Temperatures are in the 70s but falling rapidly. A cool breeze blows across the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial space as we arrive. We’ll need to start a fire as soon as the sun dips behind the surrounding buildings.
The place appears empty but as soon as we start bringing out the chairs and things many street people appear and start helping us.
As we’re setting up, the partner of the stylish Native woman questions one of the homeless Occupiers. He asks, “Did you see what happened to my bag?” Apparently the partner had been arrested by the DPD, without any warning, a couple of days ago. He had a minor outstanding warrant. The police cuffed him and threw him into the squad car. They left his bag sitting on the sidewalk.
The partner continues, “All my most important belongings were in that bag. I can’t find anyone who says they have seen it”. The homeless Occupier was present when the partner was arrested but he didn’t see what happened to the bag.
Another Occupier says, “Did you check at CHUM? When people find backpacks and things that they can see are important but they don’t know who they belong to, many times they just drop them off at CHUM”.
“I can’t go to CHUM,” the partner replies, “I’m 86’d for life”.
The Occupier replies, “I’ll message my friend who is one of the head workers at CHUM and ask if anyone dropped it off”.
The circle is beginning to fill when the infamous street woman arrives. We haven’t seen her in many months because she’d been doing so well. She’d quit drinking and been given her own apartment. She appeared to be happy. The last time we spoke with her she told us, “If you don’t see me around, that will mean I’m o.k. If you start seeing me out in the street again that will mean I’m not o.k.”
Tonight she’s crying, yelling, hopping around and talking about beating people up. She cries, “None of the people who say they are my friends are really my friends. They take advantage of me and then kick me to the curb”.
The tall Native artist enters the circle and sits down next to the infamous woman. He says hello and she tells him, “You’re one of the few people who is really my friend”.
To make things worse, the most infamous street man arrives. He and the infamous woman are close relatives.
First the infamous man walks up and starts the fire. He doesn’t to a very good job of it and thick smoke arises from the fire pit. An Occupier finishes the job properly.
The infamous man then calls the meeting to order. He proclaims, “The first thing we need to do is to take back our former homeless camp.” We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It looks like it’s going to be a long night.
A woman we haven’t met begins praying in the traditional Anishinaabe way. Something distracts the infamous man and he wanders off.
A few of the women from the Skinner apartments take a few of our chairs and begin a meeting of their own on the side ledge.
The infamous woman and a few other street women begin arguing about a misplaced purse. They accuse one particular woman, who is a known thief, of stealing the purse.
A woman we have met in the past butts in and begins talking sense to all of them. The accused woman tells the others where the purse has been hidden and the accusing women go off to look for it.
We have known the accused woman for quite a while and believe she has some type of brain damage. The rational woman tells the accused woman to stick close to her tonight so she won’t get beat up.
During all this drama the Occupiers have noticed squad cars passing by CJM four or five times.
The Occupier who has been living out of town appears. He tells us he will be moving back to the Twin Ports area in about a month. This is great news.
An Occupier reports that several members of Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance are driving down to the court hearing about White Earth vs the US State Dept. early Thursday morning. They may have room for others.
Another Occupier reports that the INM/NWA NdN Taco Sale went very well. She then lists some upcoming events:
The Human Rights Commission meeting will be tomorrow at 5pm in City Hall
The Bridge Festival will be held this upcoming Friday at Bayfront Festival Park. Tickets are $30. A discussion ensues. None of the regular memorial folk will be able to attend as $30 is more than anyone there can afford. None of the occupiers can afford it either.
The gray-haired woman walks up. She usually doesn’t arrive this late. We don’t ask her where she’s been as we know she won’t remember. She quietly listens to the ongoing conversation and then asks questions of the rational woman.
The gray- haired woman is of a generation even older than that of the oldest of the Occupiers. She hasn’t had any close Native friends and has a rather exotic view of Native people. The rational woman answers the gray-haired woman’s questions kindly and the gray-haired woman listens with interest and respect.
A big Duluth fire truck comes driving down the street, stops in the intersection and appears to be checking out ourselves and our fire.
An Occupier says to another, “Are we going to have visitors?” The other Occupiers answers, “It appears so”. The fire truck drives slowly by CJM and then drives away.
The Lakota man from the Black Hills stops by. He smudges himself and sings a Lakota song. He tells us he has fathered 16 children and has 37 grandchildren.
The short white man who is usually drunk and crazy is not so drunk and crazy this evening. He asks if we have a band aid. Unfortunately, we don’t. All we have is duct tape and napkins.
An Occupier takes him into the light to get a look at his injured forehead. When the Occupier returns he says, “It looks like he has a blister”. Another Occupier comments, “You know, we really should carry a first aid kit but I suppose with the way the so called governing bodies harass us, they’d probably charge us with practicing medicine without a license”.
Someone responds, “Two of us are actually licensed medical professionals so I think we’re covered”.
Somehow we get into a discussion about the dangerous lack of pay phones in this city. We know that people who don’t have cell phones will have difficulty calling 911 if they should need to.
The Skinner group on the side ledge has increased at least three fold. They have music playing and some are dancing. We figure they’re drinking but that’s their business, not ours. There’s much talking and laughing. They are certainly LOUD.
They would never be allowed to have a party like this in their own apartments. We’re glad they are having fun but we can’t even hear each other anymore. Oh well….. We quietly sit and watch the fire.
An Occupier who has been at his choir practice rides up on his bike. He joins the fire watchers.
As the coals die down, the street folks say their goodbyes. The Skinner folks say good night also.
It’s just the Occupiers at the fire. The infamous woman returns. She’s come to apologize for her previous behavior.
She tells us that she’s been doing meth and then she has to come down from the meth by drinking. She doesn’t want to do this but has been unable to stop.
She tells us that her father died recently and since then she’s been having a problem with her sobriety. She says, “I just can’t stand this grief. I should be over it by now”.
An Occupier advises, “I’m told that in the Anishinaabe way, the grieving period for a close relative is supposed to last for one year”.
Another adds, “The grief you are feeling is completely normal. It’s something you are just going to have to go through. Trying to run away from it won’t work; it will just prolong the process”.
We hug her and one Occupier offers her a ride home.