There would be no crackers named Little Ragghi, if not for Jean Norwood and her husband Tee Norwood.
I have not forgotten the day, walking into The Gourmet Store behind the restaurant. After baking crackers the day before and wondering how could the owner of the store need more crackers? They couldn't have used a 10 gallon container, already. To my shock there was a sign above the counter, stating Little Ragghi's Cracker for sale. First of all the crackers were for tasting, not selling, but most important, who said they could take my name. I remember, running not walking, to find the owner and let him know that was my name and to take it off the crackers. As, Guy tried to explain he had written about me and would make a donation to any organization of my choice, it didn't matter because our names mean so much more. That is a story for another time.
I walked out the door and called Jean Norwood to explain what had happened and asked would she and Chief Tee come and talk to Guy because he didn't understand why I was upset. Jean asked me to fax the information and she would call back. As I worked I would look out the window watching to see Chief Tee and Jean riding up in their 1951 Chevy Truck named Possum. No such luck, Jean called to say thy both agreed that it was a way to give back to our people and as long as Guy did things in a good way, it was okay. But that would mean I was responsible to make sure things were done in a good way, after all I know what our names mean to our people.
It has been an exciting advantage and hard journey these past years and many things have happened to change our lives.
On June 28, 2010, Tee Norwood was diagnosed with cancer and life was changed forever. Because of the cancer Tee found it almost impossible to eat. Jean would cook or buy whatever Tee thought he could eat or wanted to try to eat. Often he would say "I think I could eat a few of Rag's crackers.' Tee never called me Ragghi just 'Rags'. I made sure there were always fresh crackers for him to eat and share with his visitors. We give bulk bags of crackers to the cancer center on every visit.
On October 22, 2010 Chief Tee Norwood crossed over and we cried out and continue to grieve hearing Tee call out my name 'Rags'. When I think about the crackers I remember Jean and Tee Norwood gave me the wisdom to trust that it would be a good thing.
Participants in the Flying With Eagles camp are Native American youth
aged 13-18 years, who are emerging leaders in their communities. Each
person makes a covenant to act in an honorable way, "It means to be in
touch with the Creator to get you spiritually, physically, and
educationally ready to be a messenger and to help other people." The
Flying With Eagles training builds leadership skills and helps the youth
to achieve their vision and make a difference in their communities;
these communities that face many challenges. The camp is run entirely
by volunteers, and funds are raised so that the youth do not have a
financial barrier to participate.
Flying With Eagles grew out of a gathering of Native American youth from the Northeast/Central Region in 1994. Elders and youth discussed how to address challenges faced by Native American youth, including drug and alcohol use, broken-ness in families, suicide, and connecting Native American identity and Christian faith. Today, Flying With Eagles events have been held in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Rhode Island. The last Flying With Eagles camp had 20 youth participating and included training on the Return to the Earth project, flute making, and leadership development.
We are currently in the planning stage to hold the next Flying With Eagles camp in Fall of 2011 in New Jersey. The program receives funding from the North Central Jurisdiction, United Methodist Church, several annual conferences, and this year greater New Jersey CONAM is hosting the Flying With Eagles camp. We are celebrating 15 years of making a difference in the lives of youth, and supporting them as they take on the role of being messengers for the Creator in their communities and the world.
Thank you for the team, who gives so much and asks for nothing in return.
Honoring the passing of an influential elder in our community. Tee was a
faithful and involved member of Indian Mission UMC. His life was a
prayer of service to the community. He brought people together, and he
was a living example of the Spirit of Christ. We miss him.
Tidewater Laughing Wolf. James Tyrone "Tee" Norwood. Chief Tee. Nanticoke Indian Chief. President Emeritus of Indian River Fire Company. Beloved Husband. Son. Brother. Uncle. Nephew. Steadfast friend. Veteran. Farmer. Possum driver (1951 Chevy pickup truck). Care giver. Singer. Traditional dancer. No single name can capture this man, whose spirit walked on to join Creator on October 22, 2010 after 68 cycles around the sun.
The tide has moved out, and we are left amazed by all of the gifts left on the shore, glittering in the sun. Homegrown fruits and vegetables. A higher education scholarship for Nanticoke youth. Transfer of ownership of Nanticoke Indian Center from state of Delaware back to the Nanticoke people. A warm smile, laughter, and good feelings that come from the heart, and a love that never ends. Tee's influence will continue, as we take the leadership example and inspiration he provided and apply it to the work we do and the why we live our lives.
Leadership Academy was held in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2011. To address
NAIC mission to be educated about Native peoples of the American tribes
that includes Native Hawaiians, 2011 was all about meeting, listening
to, visiting with and being a part of Native Hawaiian issues and life
for a few days.
We arrived Monday, July 18 to news that a Japanese Tea Ceremony is planned for sunrise the next morning at Pearl Harbor to "honor war dead and all those who gave their lives to bring democracy and peace and heal the wounds of war." Meant as an act of reconciliation and a symbol of peace, I felt this was a sign for us at NAIC that an act of reconciliation and peace welcoming us to our journey with Native Hawaiians also.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Leadership Academy was opened with a welcome by Anne Marshall and Rev. Dr. Kaleo Patterson. A welcome chant and overview of the coming week was presented. Rev. Patterson is UCC Clergy, Native Hawaiian, Professor at University of Hawaii. Haaheo Guanson, PhD, presented gifts to NAIC leadership and explained the symbology of the print on fabric that was gifted. Dr. Watson is Professor of Peace Studies at University of Hawaii Board member of Homeland Ministries, UCC, and Executive Director at the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center.
Dr. Ku Mu Kapu Jean Rasor, A lead anthropologist and Native Hawaiian elder and knowledge keeper, briefed us on burial, sacred sites and political issues. Dr. Rasor explained burial beliefs and practices among the islands and communities and history. Islanders have always been monotheistic (one God) as have the mainland Native people, therefore, Christianity was very compatible – until some systems wanted to control, change and diminish Native beliefs.
Mr. KanaLoa Koko, Native Hawaiian descendent of the Monarchy and a worker for sovereignty spoke to us about the past occupation issues and current political sovereignty issues. He shared his contemporary perspective about found burials and the process of handling reburials. He believes the ancestors would not want to stifle progress and change for the future generations. To be respectful and caring culturally is more important than stopping all progress and leaving remains as found. Ask: what does the community believe? What are the issues involved?
Rev. Patterson explained the apology offered Native people by the United Church of Christ in 1993. The essence of this apology was about confusing the ways of the 'west' as the ways of Christ. He encouraged Native people of UMC to have a 'special forces team' to keep the wheels turning in the church, as well as the Native communities.
Tuesday and Wednesday was filled with information and prayers and hopes for a future of goodness and understanding and respect for our Native peoples and communities and churches.
Several hours was spent with Dr. Kujhio Vogeler and his thesis concerning the different perspectives of the Hawaiian recognition and sovereignty issues. Self Determination is the core of any of the issues and you can see his thesis at www.KuhioVogeler.wordpress.com. Different factions hold some similar beliefs, but main differing desires for recognition. Whether, citizenship before occupation, Native blood line, or resident issues, the questions will continue to divide camps.
Wednesday morning, Bishop Swenson joined us to speak about Acts of Repentance 2012 and visit with participants.
Rev. Patterson had a few recommendations for post AOR: Hold annual events at large UMC's and ask, "What have you done? What are you doing? What will you do?" I would add, ask these questions of our UM Boards and Agencies, as well as our Conferences.
Wednesday afternoon we boarded city buses to visit the Palace of the last Queen of Hawaii who was imprisoned there by US military. Rev. Patterson had us walk through the east gates backwards as a symbol of always looking forward from the Palace. He walked us around the grounds and explained the burial site on the palace grounds and the alter constructed there by contemporary activists.
Thursday we boarded a yellow school bus (no air conditioning) to tour a local site along the Waianae shores. Rev. Patterson explained the 'homelands' issues and showed us where he grew up in Makaka area and how expensive, even for Native people, to own a home there. We were honored to experience the ancient sacred temple site at Kaneaki Heiau. We saw the Makua Valley and heard about the militarization by the US of this beautiful homeland valley. A barge in the harbor was busy clearing an old ammunition dump visible along the highway. That afternoon we were met by Rev. Patterson's daughters and nephew who spent the morning making lunches for hundreds of 'houseless' families who live along the Keaau beach there. [Houseless – not homeless. They are home; they just can't afford to have a permanent house to live in.] We were privileged to say a prayer with some of the folks and hand out lunches.
Friday we got on the yellow school bus and headed for the other side of the island to visit the women's prison. We heard the stories earlier in the week about the US prison system sending Hawaiian Native people to private prisons on the mainland. What a hardship it, obviously, was for family to visit – if ever and the religious practices issues in the mainland systems. Awful stories. A federal suit was won to allow Native harvest ceremony (Makahiki) and cultural education in the prisons for Native inmates. In Hawaii local elders are working with three facilities and inmates.
Our designation Friday was the women's prison facility. We were greeted by the signs listing all the things we could NOT take in the facility with us. The warden (Red. Patterson's little brother) allowed cameras, water bottles and approved gifts for the women. Everything else – locked in a car in the parking lot. This visit will be remembered by all who attended as a unique and moving experience. The ladies (inmates) introduced themselves to us and in Native Hawaiian fashions made by them for the occasion, dances hula and sang for us. One of our youth participants brought her regalia and demonstrated a fancy shawl dance. Then everyone joined in a huge circle to round dance. There was much laughter and visiting. The ladies sang several songs they learned in church services and Rev. Kirby Verrett (Houma) shared a message of hope and goodwill. Warden Patterson explained the 'system' in Hawaii and how he hopes to make many positive changes for his facility, with gardens and vocational training among them. Gifts were exchanged and Rev. Patterson's support crew brought lunch for NAIC visitors.
Friday closing dinner and gift giving was a photo op for all. Chants were offered and taught to participants. Thanks were said and truly meant – ma halo to all NAIC planning team and Hawaiian leadership for a memorable learning experience.
The crispness of the air and the beauty of the fall skies were signs that the winter moons were soon approaching. The indigenous people of this land were gathering and preparing, for the winter moons were long and food would be scarce.
Winter was story telling time. A time when those who had crossed over were remembered in a story. A time when those who had done good things for the people were honored in a story. A time when the children heard stories that taught them their history and lessons that would help them understand the circle of life and their part in it.
Winter, a season of reflection. Time to reconnect with others in our circle of life. Sharing a meal, hearing other’s stories, sharing stories of our own. Reflecting upon season’s past and the people we met, experiences we had. Taking the lessons that have been given to us and committing to use them to become a better person in our short but purposeful life.
As winters of ole fade away into distant memories, we face the winter of now. Take time to gather with those dear to your heart. Share a meal, listen to stories, share your own story and reconnect so the circle of life stays strong.
Little Ragghi’s crackers wishes you a Happy New Year and a winter that will linger in your memory for many seasons to come. May you walk the path of peace and bring to others the gift of connection.