Jun 28, 2017 - Reflections from Camp by Curtis Ray Yaz

I brought the feather I was honored in the old way to the water, introducing it to the place I fought at and fought for because just like us these feathers have spirits that take in medicine from the world around us. I did this after a water ceremony, a ceremony that as I sat at this one, I began to remember the first time I sat at it along the banks where the cannonball river meets the Missouri.


Vivid flashes of emotions that came as I felt the familiar air that sits over the water flowed through me uncontrollably like how you can’t help but feel good as the woman you love approaches you. Rushes of emotions connected to the soft sounds of water pushing against the shore, again began to enter my ears into my mind then into my soul.

Again, soothing the same aches and pains that I continued to carry since then. Not hearing and feeling these sensations of a living river since before it froze over, I sat in a familiar state that carried my spirit back to the beginning. Back to a time when excitement and joy filled the air, and you could see the life in everybody’s eyes still.

Back when there were still children in camp running around, completely immersed in the imaginary realm they all shared together. When the possibilities of a new love flowed as freely as the excitement and vibrant hope of the camp. When this love’s roots were barely beginning to grow into unfamiliar depths, and deeper places, before, when the roots of this love weren’t capable of taking on the winds and storms to come.

Sitting and not wanting to leave this state of familiar euphoria that found me again I began to remember how these memories were all happening exactly right before camp took its turn for the worst, the beginning of the end of our favorite times of camp.

I get up almost cramping but happy reaching for my phone to routinely check my Facebook messages like all new age Indians do after a ceremony. Then I reach for my radio but remember I have developed the habit of storing them in the glove compartments of cars because of you know, security culture. I walk up from the banks of the river towards the glove compartment, seeing a fleet of cars heading north away from camp on 1806.

Truck beds full of warriors honking and waving everybody in camp to follow them. Confused and concerned I unconsciously pick up the pace to the car and turn on my phone, then my radio. Instantly a flood of voices over different densities of static begin to yell over each other. While I’m trying to decipher what’s happening by listening to the voices that have the most static because they are the furthest away, my phone starts to vibrate continuously. A wave of signal encrypted text messages add to the chaos of screaming water protectors as I read them. “GO TO NORTH TREATY CAMP!” they all began to read and yell all at once.

This is when I snapped out of or rather forced myself out of this trip down memory lane. And the feelings of lifting euphoria have now turned to weight. Like the weight I’m sure a stone caught in the ocean carries as it realizes it has no choice but to turn into sand.

These beautiful memories of a time that are oh so very close that even something as simple as a moment of silent peace in a summer’s night air, the smell of a friends coat returning from a camping trip and oddly enough even an old empty bottle of travel sized Aveda can carry you back to the place we will never forget.

As I sat on that bank of that marina after it all has been said and done, ended, I began to remember. Coming back to the present I remembered that everything happened and that it was over, with nothing left but these moments and memories stored inside a place in my mind that I’m afraid to enter, like messed up jokes that some days you get and laugh at and some days you don’t.

These memories have turned into weight, a weight I can no longer run from, ignore, and turn my back on acting as if they doesn’t exist. I know this because I’ve already tried and just like that stone caught in the eternal waves of the ocean, I have to accept wherever these ever flowing cosmic currents of life are going to take me.

And just like the roots of that new love, blind but continuously finding its way through the dark, I have to keep growing. The winds are picking up and the storms are continuously getting stronger, so, so must my love and so must my roots.

by Curtis Ray Yaz

Curtis Ray Yaz (Yupik, Diné and Blackfeet amskapiipikuni) is a community organizer and a hip hop artist. Check out Curtis aka YAZ Like JAWS athttps://soundcloud.com/yazlikejaws/tracks

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