Posts By: First Nations Drum

Gary O’Neal: An American Warrior in the Highest Sioux Tradition ‘Guerrero Americano’ Part III

Gary O’Neal
Gary O’Neal


Part III – Part I and II can be found on firstnationsdrum.com

O’Neal became attracted to martial arts, and he trained understanding the superior power of the mind over the strength of the physical. “I always trained my subconscious,” said O’Neal. “I’m a conscious being. I’ll tell you the secret that I did. I trained my mind first, before I did the action. It’s just like watching a video. I would see it, and then I would repeat it in my head a lot. Then I could do it, and I just went out and did it.”

This talent proved invaluable for the dyslexic SF demolition expert with a background as a poorly performing student when studying in a formal, civilian educational setting who is now required to use math to do his job. “I got over on that – as to the [math] formula – I could look at the steel, I could look at whatever we just happened to need to build or destroy, I pretty much knew what the formula was going to do and how much I needed,” said O’Neal. “After memorizing the formulas I could look at something and see the formula in my head and transcribe in my head, and then plant the charges, or whatever I was building.”

O’Neal credits the ability to visualize and then perform a task with saving his life and the lives of men under his command. “I was able to solve a lot of problems like that,” said O’Neal. “In combat, the tactics, I could see what was going on so I knew where I needed to move, I knew where I needed to go, I knew where I could take my guys. I just knew it. I took my natural ability and perfected it and adapted it.”

His talents caught the eye of military brass so O’Neal was often selected to participate in research and development projects like designing parachutes. “I could see something and make it tactical,” said O’Neal. “I was in some of the toughest units in the military. I’ve served with Navy SEALS. I’ve worked with indigenous forces as a UW (unconventional warfare) expert, and learned their language.”

These days, O’Neal said he can read a lot better but relies mainly upon audio books and video instructions – a formula that helped him get through college.

A society without warriors to protect it is not a society for long. O’Neal selflessly served his nation overseas for decades. He served a nation respectful of pluralism and the Right to strident dissent, including the Right to protest against not only the war but their nation’s soldiers fighting the war. I asked O’Neal for his thoughts on those Americans opposing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam – a war he was risking his life to prosecute – including the conscientious objector, the “draft dodger,” the draft-card burner, and those who vented their rage against U.S. service personnel like himself upon their return home.

“I don’t take issue with them because there’s a place for everybody,” began O’Neal. “We’re not all warriors. We’re not all doctors. We’re not all lawyers. We’re not all plumbers, or educators, or whatever. The pacifist and stuff like that, I never had a problem with them. I believe in individuality. I believe in everybody has an opinion. I believe in Freedom. I believe in the U.S. Constitution, and that every man is created Equal. I never see skin color. Yellow or brown man. I’ve never seen that.”

O’Neal’s libertarian views stem from his upbringing. “My dad and my grandparents, they taught me that,” said O’Neal. “They read it in the scriptures. You always give everybody a chance. There are bad people in all races, and there are good people in all races. You just got to weed the bad people out and hang out with the good people.”

In January 2016, during the US presidential primary election season, O’Neal was keynote speaker and introduced then-GOP primary candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally before 10,000 people in Pensacola, Florida. “I only had four minutes, and I think I was up there 12 or 15 minutes,” said O’Neal. “I was wondering why I’m not getting a signal [to stop] but Trump wanted to hear what I had to say.”

He got the gig through a friend, but as a pre-condition O’Neal insisted he be able to spend time with Trump before agreeing to deliver the keynote and introduction. His purpose was to talk with the candidate, man to man, and learn his views instead of relying on reports in the media. “I like him,” said O’Neal of the current president. “He’s brash, but he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He’s not politically correct, and he don’t give a shit. He tells it like it is. That’s why I spoke with him.”

O’Neal made clear he’s not a partisan or political party loyalist and shared his dislike for politicians in general. “To me, there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans,” said O’Neal. “They’re all hogs that eat out of the same hog trough – and that’s feeding off taxpayers’ dollars. We need to cleanse our government.”

Gary O’Neal: An American Warrior in the Highest Sioux Tradition

(Part II, Part I can be found here)

In his book, American Warrior: The True Story of a Legendary Ranger, Gary O’Neal tells about the time when he was still too young to join the military without parental consent, at 16 he “borrowed” an older cousin’s birth certificate – unbeknownst to his cousin – to “legally” enlist in the Army.

O’Neal was eventually caught when the Army noticed two soldiers with the same identification number receiving pay. “I just wanted to be in the Army to get away from where I grew up,” said O’Neal. “I just basically ran away from home. I saw a target of opportunity.”

Growing up with dyslexia caused O’Neal difficulty in school. This was during the late ‘50s and early to mid ‘60s, long before the affliction was recognized as a possible root cause for poor performance. “I had problems reading and I had problems spelling. The math. I’d get things mixed up. Back then, they always called me ‘stupid’ because I couldn’t read,” said O’Neal.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic were O’Neal’s self-admitted “Achilles heel,” his weak points, which led to disrespectful taunting and ridicule by ignorant classmates, often followed by a school yard fight and O’Neal getting in trouble. “I got tired of people calling me stupid. And I knew I wasn’t stupid. I could drive a tractor at 8 years old, I could milk a cow when I was 5. I was riding horses in rodeos, and I’m roping, and I’m doing all kinds of stuff. Tearing engines apart, putting them back together. Planting wheat, and planting corn. At a young age I was doing a man’s job. I wasn’t stupid.”

The military method of teaching – explanation, demonstration, practical application (explain-see-do) – supported with basic written material suited O’Neal well with his talent, or “gift” for having the aptitude for seeing something done then being able to do it himself. “The handouts and books were confusing to me,” said O’Neal. “The training in the military fit my disabilities. I seen it, and I did it. Just like mimicking. It was really easy for me.”

Training to work with demolitions as an infantryman, O’Neal was required to calculate a mathematical formula to do his job. “I had to do formula. I had to do algebra and trigonometry,” said O’Neal, who credited, “good instructors” in the Army, one who in particular noticed and approached him about his dyslexia. “One of the instructors said, ‘Gary, you got dyslexia?’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he said, ‘Let’s check that out,’” said O’Neal. “So I went to the doctor, and they checked it out and said, ‘Yeah, you got dyslexia.’”

Fortunately for O’Neal, the US Army, and the nation, properly training and deploying dyslexic demolition experts for battle in Vietnam was as simple as ensuring recruits had dyslexic demolition instructors. “One of my instructors had dyslexia too,” said O’Neal. “And he showed me how he did it. With one eye. Before this, I’d look at a paragraph, and most people if they saw what I saw would get sea sick.”

Being treated better by the military – “the only color that matters is O.D. Green,” said O’Neal – than by peers in civilian life made military culture one he found attractive. His first deployment to Southwest Asia was an assignment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade (infantry), where he served at Battalion Recon, then Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP – pronounced lurp), and then on to Rangers. O’Neal served with the Rangers for the duration of the Vietnam War when he came back stateside to help form Ranger battalions.

He accomplished all this before becoming a combat engineer in Special Forces (SF), sometime in the 1970s. Applying for SF was a decision he delayed for many years based upon his own erroneous assumption he didn’t possess the right qualities and experience.

“I wanted to be SF in Vietnam, but I didn’t have enough education in the woods to do what they was doing in Vietnam,” said O’Neal. “Come to find out that I did a lot more.”

O’Neal became attracted to martial arts, and he trained understanding the superior power of the mind over the strength of the physical. “I always trained my subconscious,” said O’Neal. “I’m a conscious being. I’ll tell you the secret that I did. I trained my mind first, before I did the action. It’s just like watching a video. I would see it, and then I would repeat it in my head a lot. Then I could do it, and I just went out and did it.”

To be continued in Part III, the final part of this series, to be published in the March First Nations Drum.

Unist’ot’en Demands Stop-Work Order for Coastal Gaslink Pipeline

Brenda on destroyed Unist’ot’en trapline
Photo Credit: Michael Toledano

Unist’ot’en House Group of the Gilseyhu Clan is demanding that Coastal GasLink Ltd. cease work immediately due to non-compliance with BCOGC and BCEAO permits and ongoing violations of Canadian and Wet’suwet’en Law.

RCMP and the Conservation Officers’ Service have refused to intervene in the destruction of active Wet’suwet’en traplines by Coastal GasLink bulldozers in blatant violation of Section 46 of the Wildlife Act. Unist’ot’en was told by the Conservation Officers’ Service this weekend that investigating this ongoing crime is not a priority for their office.  CGL contractors have now completely bulldozed the section of trapline at Camp 9A, with many traps unaccounted for. 

Under the conditions of Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC)permits, Coastal Gaslink (CGL) is required to have completed a site-specific archaeological survey before undertaking any clearing work on the proposed man-camp site in Unist’ot’en Territory known as Camp 9A. CGL acknowledged in their injunction application that these archaeological surveys have not been completed. The Office of Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en House Group have not received evidence of these completed site-specific surveys, as is required by the EAO and BCOGC. Due to the Unist’ot’en House Group’s prolific use of their territory since time immemorial, it is critical that proposed work sites are properly assessed to prevent destruction of historical encampments and artifacts or gravesites.

The provincial Environmental Assessment Office, FLNRO, the BC Archaeological Branch and the BC Oil and Gas Commission have not taken substantive action in response to Unist’ot’en and Office of Wet’suwet’en requests for an immediate stop-work order to address and investigate potential ongoing violations of the conditions of their Environmental Assessment Certificate and their BCOGC permits.

The Coastal Gaslink Environmental Assessment Certificate also requires CGL to notify all tenure holders in the area affected by pipeline construction a full six months before undertaking any construction activity that could impact their tenure. Chief Knedebeas holds trapline tenure for Unist’ot’en territory, and was notified by CGL that site clearing and construction on Camp 9A would not begin until 2020.  

Earlier this month, under the threat of police violence, Unist’ot’en Chiefs reached an agreement with the RCMP to comply with CGL’s temporary injunction. That agreement states that “there will not be any RCMP interference with our members regarding access to the territory for the purposes of trapping and/or other traditional practices.” In violation of this agreement, RCMP have threatened Wet’suwet’en trappers with arrest for attempting to access their traplines, and warned healing centre patients that they could be arrested for participating in ceremony. RCMP escorted CGL into active work zones, while refusing to allow or facilitate access of Unist’ot’en members to attend the ceremony and check on the safety of participants who were beyond the active workzone. CGL workers have been citing breach of the injunction and demanding healing centre clients remove small branches and minor debris from the road way while they were collecting firewood, without causing any obstruction to CGL work. Clients have identified feeling unsafe as a result of continual RCMP presence outside the healing centre and the unwarranted, confrontational conduct of CGL work crews.

 Quotes from Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en Clan Spokesperson:

We honored the terms of the injunction, even though we weren’t given enough time to mount a proper defence at the injunction hearing. We honored all the terms of the agreements we’ve made with the RCMP since the enforcement order came down.

We are witnessing police break all of the agreements they have made with our chiefs, watching them actively protecting CGL and its contractors as they violate the Wildlife Act and the conditions of their permits, and watching the agencies responsible for enforcing these conditions do nothing. We opened our gates assuming that everyone would be treated equally under the law. We see that the RCMP, the EAO, the BCOGC, and the NDP-Green coalition government have no intentions of enforcing any part of the Canadian law that causes any inconvenience to this rich, powerful corporation.

Coastal Gaslink is breaking all their own Canadian laws while we are upholding Wet’suwet’en laws and responsibilities to the land.

NWAC to lead 2019 Ottawa Women’s March with Assembly of Seven Generations

Ottawa, ON – On Saturday January 19, 2019, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) will gather on unceded Algonquin territory to participate in the 2019 Ottawa Women’s March. This year, NWAC will lead the march behind drummers from the Assembly of Seven Generations, a youth-led non-profit organization focused on cultural support and youth empowerment, and the Ogimaakwewak Singers.

The Ottawa Women’s March takes place on the same day thousands of people will rally in the streets throughout Canada and the world. The Women’s March is an annual global movement to raise awareness and advocate for legislative and policy changes concerning women’s rights, Indigenous rights, reproductive rights, environmental issues, 2SLGBTQ+ rights, racial equity, and more.

This year, NWAC marches to put an end to violence against women and girls. Due to the history and ongoing practice of colonization in Canada, Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people experience disproportionate rates of violence. This must end.

For decades, NWAC worked to draw attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) crisis and advocate to end violence against Indigenous women and girls. Any progress made in 2018 is not enough. There is still so much work to be done to achieve safety and justice for MMIWG and their families.

NWAC acknowledges the interconnected nature of our struggles, and looks forward to marching alongside other organizations, individuals, and allies working to create positive change in their communities.

It’s 2019. It’s time we #StopDiscriminating. It’s time all women are heard. It’s time to march. Join the #WomenOfNWAC in our march for equality.

WAG Presents First Retrospective of Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

Mary Yuusipik Singaqti: Back River Memories – on now until March 10, 2019

Mary Yuusipik Singaqti: Back River Memories – on now until March 10, 2019


 

Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 14, 2018: Born in the Back River area north of Baker Lake, Nunavut, artist Mary Yuusipik Singaqti became well known for her wall-hangings and carvings. But Winnipeg Art Gallery Curator of Inuit Art, Dr. Darlene Coward Wight, was “blown away” to discover a collection of her coloured-pencil drawings. Some of these incredibly detailed pieces are featured in the new exhibition, Mary Yuusipik Singaqti: Back River Memories, which opened last weekend and runs until March 10, 2019.

A second exhibit, Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake, opens at the WAG this Saturday, bringing together wall hangings by nine artists, most of whom are women. Nivinngajuliaat, or “wall hanging” in Inuktitut, includes work by Mary Yuusipik’s acclaimed mother, Jessie Uunaq (Oonark). The exhibition is guest curated by Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, Curator of Inuit Art for the Government of Nunavut Fine Art Collections. Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake is on view from November 17, 2018 through spring 2019.

The two exhibitions connected by both family and land will be celebrated at a free opening for the public on Friday, November 30 (7-10pm), 2018 at the WAG.

Mary Yuusipik Singaqti: Back River Memories is the first solo exhibition of the artist who was born in a remote inland region north of Baker Lake. It features 26 captivating drawings recently purchased by the WAG, as well as striking wall hangings and sculptures.

Yuusipik (1936-2017) belonged to the last generation of Inuit to experience the inland nomadic way of life that centred on fishing and hunting caribou. Her artistic motivation was to show her life, “I want the younger generation to know about me, how we used to live [and] how life was before.”

Featured artists include Dr. Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq, Naomi Ityi, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuryuk, Miriam Qiyuk, Jimmy Taipanak, Winnie Tatya, Marion Tuu’luuq, and Jessie Uunaq (Oonark).

The public is invited to celebrate the launch of Mary Yuusipik Singaqti: Back River Memories and Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake, along with three more new WAG exhibitions, on Friday, November 30 from 7:00 to 10:00pm.

The WAG is Canada’s oldest civic art gallery and houses over 27,000 artworks spanning centuries, media, and cultures, including the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

 

Discover the Iniskim Centre at Mount Royal University


 

Mount Royal University’s Iniskim Centre offers programs and services to increase the engagement and success of Indigenous students while raising awareness of Indigenous peoples and cultures.  Mount Royal University is located on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot people, the Niitsitapi. The centre recognizes and respects the diversity of all Indigenous peoples of Canada. The centre also increases the awareness of distinct Indigenous cultures, history and protocols across the University.

With any program a student chooses, the Iniskim Centre will be there to help them prepare to succeed in their academic pursuits and future career. The Inskim Centre is here to encourage students throughout their program of study, providing resources such as academic and cultural support, academic advising, writing support, and scholarship information.

 

ABORIGINAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION PROGRAM

This program is a comprehensive support system designed to support students as they work towards a career in science and technology.

 

ABORIGINAL EDUCATION PROGRAM

Preparing students to pursue a postsecondary education with three levels of study providing upgrading in Math, English, Native Studies, and Science.

 

INDIGENOUS STUDENT HOUSING

A supportive community of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous students who live on campus. There are single units and family units at affordable rates. All students in the program gather for monthly social events.

 

MEDICINE TRAIL (NAATO’OHSOKOY) PROGRAM

Students can visit a coordinator and be a part of small and large group cultural teachings. They may also see a coordinator for support and guidance. The Iniskim Centre offers students a place and the resources to smudge each morning and hosts various ceremonies throughout the year.

A coordinator will also support professors by connecting them with wisdom keepers and elders.

 

STUDENT SUCCESS PROGRAM

Students have access to many of the resources provided by the centre such as, academic support, peer mentorship, counseling services, financial information, instructor office hours and tutorials. As a mentor, a student success coordinator will work with students to help ensure success.

To learn more about the Iniskim Centre and all supports available for Indigenous students, visit mru.ca/IndigenousMRU

Osoyoos Chief Inducted into Business Hall of Fame

From left to right: Claude Lamoureux O.C., FCIA, Chief Clarence Louie O.C., Annette Verschuren O.C., Stephen J. R. Smith. Photo credit: Tom Sandler (CNW Group/JA Canada)


 

Clarence Louie, Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band will be inducted into the 2019 Canadian Business Hall of Fame, which recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of Canada’s most distinguished business leaders. Also being inducted are: Claude Lamoureux, retired president & CEO, Ontario Teachers’ Plan, Stephen J.R. Smith, chairman & CEO of First National Financial, and Annette Verschuren, chair & CEO of NRStor Inc.

Mr. David Denison, Chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame says the 2019 Class of Companion Inductees is a very special group.

“The Canadian Business Hall of Fame is honoured to recognize their enduring contributions to the business community and our country,” said Denison.  “On June 19, 2019, we will have the great privilege of highlighting their excellence in business leadership, outstanding professional achievements and dedication to bettering Canada’s social fabric.”

Clarence Louie who’ll be the first Indigenous person inducted into the Business Hall of Fame was born in 1960 and raised on the Osoyoos Indian Band by his mother. Due to high unemployment, many adults on his First Nation community had to work as transient labourers on fruit orchards in nearby Washington State. Louie was forced to be self-sufficient during his childhood years. At age 19, he left BC and enrolled at the First Nations University in Regina. He then studied native studies at the University of Lethbridge. After receiving his degree, he returned to home to Osoyoos.

At 24 years of age, Louie was elected as chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Louie has won every election but one since 1985. The band has 460 members, and controls 32,000 acres of land. He started the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation (OIBDC) in 1988.Through the corporation’s efforts, the previously impoverished band started or acquired nine businesses, including tourism, construction, and recreation companies. The band now employs 700 people including non-First Nations. A high-profile business started by the OIBDC during Louie’s tenure is Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America.

In 2003, Louie was chosen by the U.S. Department of State as one of six Canadian First Nations leaders to review economic development in American Indian communities. In 2004, he received the Order of British Columbia. Louie has also been involved in land claim settlements with the provincial government.

The Canadian Business Hall of Fame was established by JA Canada in 1979 to honour Canada’s preeminent business leaders for their professional and philanthropic achievements.

This year’s Class of Companions will formally be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame at the 2019 Gala Dinner and Induction Ceremony at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 19, 2019. Proceeds from this gala help JA Canada meet the growing demand for financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship programs for Canadian students, which are essential to youth’s future success

 

Space, full of mysteries, still slowly being understood

These plots show the signals of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO observatories at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The signals came from two merging black holes, each about 30 times the mass of our sun, lying 1.3 billion light-years away.
Photo by Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Corey M. Gray is a Siksika-goo-wan (Blackfoot) who grew up in Southern California. He earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees – one in physics and the other in applied mathematics – from Humboldt State University. Today he is an astronomer at Caltech’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO Hanford Observatory), one of only two LIGO facilities in the U.S.

Built in the arid Benton County, Washington State, the astronomical tool is an eight kilometer long L-shaped structure. Shortly after graduation, Gray was hired to install hardware for the first LIGO detector. He learned to operate the device and collect data on cosmic gravitational waves moving at the speed of light. “Black holes will sometimes merge and create gravitational waves just before merging and then go quiet,” says Gray, who eventually became the lead operator for the Hanford Observatory LIGO.

LIGO collects data on the merging of black holes from long ago and anything else that may make gravitational movement in outer space. Gravitational waves are recorded by using mirrors, laser beams, and hardware installed by Cory’s team. Instruments required frequent modification as this was experimental and the science was new. The second LIGO in Louisiana is necessary because LIGO requires two widely separated detectors operated in unison to rule out false signals.

The machine made its first detection of a real event on September 14, 2015, coincidentally on the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. This detection greatly supports Einstein’s work. From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves as part of the theory of general relativity. In Einstein’s theory, space and time are aspects of a single measurable reality called space-time. Matter and energy are two expressions of a single material. We can think of space-time as a fabric; the presence of large amounts of mass or energy distorts space-time – in essence causing the fabric to ‘warp’ – and we observe this warpage as gravity. Freely falling objects – whether soccer balls, satellites, or beams of starlight – simply follow the most direct path in this curved space-time. When large masses move suddenly, some of this space-time curvature ripples outward, spreading in much the way as ripples on the surface of an agitated pond. When two dense objects such as neutron stars or black holes orbit each other, space-time is stirred by their motion and gravitational energy ripples throughout the universe.”

Asked how LIGO’s detections and recordings of the gravitational waves help us understand the universe, Gray tells First Nations Drum that a good chunk of astronomy can be explained by Newton’s law of gravity (for example how planets move around the Sun). “We can get information from stars by looking at them in telescopes, radio dishes, etc.  But this is only a small part of our universe. Our universe is incomprehensibly large, and in this large universe there are big objects (such as black holes) and strong-gravity events that happen quite often,” said Gray. “Gravitational waves come from these types of events, and we can learn something completely new and different with gravitational wave signals.”

Gray says that before LIGO’s detections “all we had to work with when we looked up at the stars was light. Light is something which happens from atomic reactions going on in objects like stars. Gravitational waves are generated by the actual objects. So it is like we have a completely new sense to get information about our universe. Gravitational wave astronomy has barely just started. We have ideas of new things we will detect, but the real exciting thing is we will definitely get some completely big surprises, too—something we had no idea about. And with all of this we get to learn more about the universe around us.”

The word on LIGO findings spread quickly because they were published translated into multiple languages, including the Siksika language. General Theory of Relativity translates to: bisaatsinsiimaan; Gravitational waves translates to: Abuduuxbiisiiy o? bigimskAAsts (meaning “things that stick together, ripples in the water”); Scientist translates to: mugagyabiguwAx (meaning “all encompassing smart person”); Black Holes translate to: sigooxgiya; Universe translates to: spuu?ts.

Many more translated words, pondered by the mind of Gray’s mother Sharon Yellow Fly, is found in official LIGO documents and online.

 

Gary O’Neal: An American Warrior in the Highest Sioux Tradition ‘Guerrero Americano’ Part 1

Gary O’Neal

Gary O’Neal


Gary O’Neal was shot, stabbed, and riddled with shrapnel while serving his country over four decades in nations spanning the globe from Vietnam to Nicaragua. He hasn’t been awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat because he’s refused to accept it. “In my view the Purple Heart is an award in the enemy’s favor,” said O’Neal, who considers the medal signifying he “had been had by the enemy.”

Retired U.S. Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Gary O’Neal spoke with First Nations Drum about his extraordinary life as one of his country’s most distinguished warriors. As a child growing up in the “Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota area,” O’Neal did not fit in well. He didn’t like school and desired only to be outside tracking, ranching, and horseback riding. “I was always doing things. I was a daredevil,” said O’Neal. “There wasn’t too much I wouldn’t do.”

O’Neal participated in 4H, young rodeo, loved sports, and excelled at running. “I liked the country life. I like cowboying,” said O’Neal. “I wasn’t big on cities.” His Irish-American father was a rancher and farmer who taught O’Neal mechanics at a young age. His paternal grandfather taught him Blacksmith skills and how to care for and handle horses – from shoeing to riding. “When I was 13, I was doing a man’s job on the ranch,” said O’Neal. “I was like a ranch foreman.”

O’Neal’s mother was Sioux First Nation. Growing up mixed race presented challenges for a young O’Neal. “Whites didn’t want anything to do with me because I was Indian, and Indians didn’t want nothing to do with me because I was white,” said O’Neal. “I didn’t like nobody.”

Though O’Neal didn’t grow up on Reservation, he was taught his Native culture when visiting his maternal grandparents living on Reservation.

O’Neal’s lineage has warrior ancestors on both his mother and father’s side, but culturally and spiritually he has always been driven toward his mother’s First Nation heritage. “I’ve had Chiefs from other tribes that would drag me out and show me things because they knew the mixed blood I had and the way my demeanor was on the Native side,” said O’Neal.

Spirituality is central to Native lore, explained O’Neal. “You never did anything that you didn’t give back. You didn’t pick up a stone without replacing it with something.” Prior to every hunt, there was prayer, dance, and a feast. The returning hunting party was greeted by a “thank you ceremony, prayer to the Creator thanking Him for food, and thanking animals for supplying us with food and warmth of clothes made from them. Everything was in prayer,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal successfully completed the Sundance – a four day and four night dance event purifying the mind, body, and spirit through medicines and sweat lodges. The Sioux warrior tradition is to protect children and secure their future by also protecting the elderly who pass down knowledge.

“You dance all day in the sun without food or water,” said O’Neal. “The warriors dance for the people, and it’s all in prayer. It’s so the people don’t have to suffer. They don’t have to go through pain. They don’t have to go through hunger. The warriors take that away from them.”

O’Neal’s Vision Quest took place on the same hallowed ground as done by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Fool’s Crow, and Black Elk – the historic and legendary warrior Chiefs of the Sioux Nation. O’Neal said he took the “old school” Native cultural teachings, which included the Native American warrior aspect, and put that together with the “warrior aspect of the Irish, because the Irish always fought. The English always used the Irish,” said O’Neal.

His father taught O’Neal how to handle guns and he often played with his dad’s rifles. “At 5, I had my first 410 shotgun and a .22 pump rifle. They’d give me rounds to go out and I’d get a squirrel or a rabbit.” said O’Neal. “When I brought it back, that’s what we ate.”

O’Neal’s warrior heritage on his father’s side of the family can be traced back to the home country and “Irish Rangers” in the time of William Wallace days in the late 13th century. O’Neal said his great grandfathers at the fourth and fifth generation back served in the Frontier Rangers – the oldest U.S. military unit. “My fifth great grandfather and his two sons signed the Oath of Allegiance and fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812,” said O’Neal. “So I’ve had a relation on my dad’s side all the way down to me serve in different wars that America has been in since the creation of America in 1776.”

O’Neal is a founding member of the Pentagon’s first antiterrorist team, was a member of the Golden Knights Parachuting Team, and was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia. He has authored a book – American Warrior: The True Story of a Legendary Ranger. “When I was in Central America, South America, working down there we had our enemies we was fighting,” began O’Neal. “They gave me that name, ‘Guerrero Americano,’ which means, ‘American Warrior.’ So that’s where I got that nickname. It kind of stuck with me.”

To be continued.

The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Dana Claxton: Fringing the Cube

Dana Claxton, Headdress–Jeneen, 2018

Dana Claxton, Headdress–Jeneen, 2018

The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Dana Claxton: Fringing the Cube, the first-ever survey of the work of the provocative Vancouver-based Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux) artist Dana Claxton, which runs until February 3, 2019. Photography, film, video and performance documentation trace nearly 30 years of Claxton’s career and her investigations into Indigenous identity, beauty, gender and the body.

Kathleen S. Bartels, Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, says as a prolific multidisciplinary artist, Dana Claxton has been an important voice for reclaiming narratives around Indigenous culture through striking critique of stereotypes and ideologies.

“From the Indigenous portraits captured to stunning effect in her ‘fireboxes’, to the dramatic video installations that retell the stories of her Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux) people, Dana’s emotive works compel audiences to re-examine their understanding of Indigenous art.”

Merging Lakota traditions with so-called Western influences, while utilizing a powerful “mix, meld and mash” approach, Claxton addresses the oppressive legacies of colonialism by critiquing representations of Indigenous people that circulate in art, literature and popular culture. Such potent criticism can be found in early video works such as I Want to Know Why (1994), a searing protest against the depredations of colonialism, and The Red Paper (1996), which parodies Shakespearian drama while providing an Indigenous view of the European invasion of the Americas.

Other early video installations that brought Claxton widespread attention are also represented in the exhibition, including the mixed media installation Buffalo Bone China (1997), which looks at the mass slaughter of the buffalo and the disastrous consequences it held for the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. These works are accompanied by multi-channel video projections, including Rattle (2003), which eschews narrative convention, taking the form of a visual prayer with its mirrored imagery and hypnotic audio comprising traditional Lakota rattles (instruments of healing) along with synthesizers and peyote singing.

Claxton’s widely acclaimed photographic works play a prominent role in the exhibition. These include The Mustang Suite (2008), five staged photographic portraits of a contemporary Indigenous family, with each member appearing with their own form of “mustang”—be it a car, bicycle or pony. Also featured are the AIM photographs (2010), Claxton’s images of declassified FBI documents on the American Indian Movement.

Complex questions regarding beauty, cultural appropriation and the construction of identity are prevalent in Claxton’s photography project Indian Candy (2013), a series of aluminum-mounted chromogenic prints, which includes Tonto Prayer, a work that portrays Jay Silverheels, the Mohawk actor from the 1950s television series The Lone Ranger. Claxton further confronts such questions in her brilliant “firebox” or illuminated lightbox works depicting Indigenous women as seen in Headdress (2015) and Cultural Belongings (2016).

“I am in awe and grateful that the Vancouver Art Gallery and Grant Arnold have selected to curate this survey exhibition spanning twenty-eight years. I am elated to be sharing my video installations, photography and performance with a Vancouver audience. Combined the work speaks of a Lakota sensibility of time/place/space/spirit and the complexities of our shared socio-political-cultural realities,” says Dana Claxton.