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Author: Shaawanobinesiik

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Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Kodachrome 50’s’

Weweni go. We’ve already gone west. We’re about halfway out the door mentally, at least. When I sleep, my body lets me see where my spirit went. Last night I was in a room full of almost-elders, their soft faces like frybread dough, the glow of would-be brown under their ghost-white wrinkles.

One of them, a darker woman covered in sunspots, smiled and told me where all the knowledge goes when colonialism hits hardest. I always assumed it was crushed like bones beneath black boots, crushed into a fine powder and beaten into the dirt. She shook her head. Pointed with her lips at a shadow out the corner of my eye.

“Everyone can find their way home,” she said. “Even you,” but she wasn’t talking to me, there. She meant for me to tell you–she was talking about you.

Even you, in the moments where you’re holding onto what’s left of your heart, halfway out of the kitchen or into the bedroom, that quick split second of “Why am I here, again?” When you shake your head and your eyes go soft. You sleep and your body remembers.

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Papa left a little over a month ago, May 8th. The Star Tribune ran an article on him the day before his “Celebration of Life.” He didn’t want a funeral. The idea of everyone making that big a fuss over him didn’t sit right. Even when I was little, he’d tell me he planned to be cremated and that’d be the end of it. We got around his rule by putting on what was basically a funeral, but with no casket or monochrome, just a whole bunch of family at the Indian Center with a lot of food, a lot of pictures, and minimal tears.

One of his kids, Uncle Conrad, explicitly referred to him as “the Native Red Foreman,” and I think that says it all. If that doesn’t sum him up for you, I’ll offer a few quick touchstones on your behalf: he got the name Tuffy coz he was meaner than sin in his youth, and he got the name Papa coz we loved him. He called everyone “big dummy” but hung up his phone calls with “I love you bigger than the moon.” I never saw him dance, but those who have say they could watch him dance forever.

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