Author Archives: darcyminter

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: The Magic of Plan B, Part 2

Submitted by Taki Telonidis

As I explained in last week’s blog post, we experienced a lot of snafus while filming Healing the Warrior’s Heart. Yet, almost every snafu was counterbalanced with an unexpected positive development.

Medicine Man Leo Pard

Medicine Man Leo Pard

My second example involves the Medicine Man who’d been working with Martin Connelly, the returning veteran we follow in our show. After interviewing Martin during the July shoot, I stayed in touch with him over the coming months. Every two or three weeks I’d give him a call, and often speak with his mother as well. We built a relationship, and in early fall I asked if we could visit him again and he agreed. Since returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Martin had been working with an elder named Leo Pard who conducts sweat lodge ceremonies for returning veterans on the reservation. I was interested in interviewing Leo and perhaps filming him working with Martin. Martin was willing to do this for us, but his permission wasn’t enough; we also needed the okay from the Medicine Man.

Martin gave me Leo’s phone number up in Canada and I called him one afternoon. Leo was pleasant and polite, and I could tell he had a sense of humor…but he would not talk about his ceremonial work with veterans over the telephone. I remember him saying something like, “I’m old fashioned, and our ceremonies are not something I can discuss over the telephone with someone I don’t know. I need to meet you in person, look into your eyes, and feel what’s in your heart.” I explained that I lived more than 800 miles away, and that it wouldn’t be possible for me to make an extra trip up to Canada just to discuss the possibility of interviewing him. He insisted that those were the conditions, however; and I ended up scheduling our second trip to the reservation not knowing if he’d even agree to an interview.

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Pre-sweat prayer

In early November, I drove up to the reservation two days before our Director of Photography Doug Monroe was due to fly in. This was so I could pay my visit to Leo up in Canada and hopefully close the deal. On the day after my arrival, Martin and I drove several hours to one of the most remote locations I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to some pretty isolated places. Our visit with Leo and his wife lasted three hours, and in the end he agreed to allow us to attend the upcoming ceremony he was going to do with Martin, as long as we followed his rules about what we could and could not shoot. Basically, we could record the preparation for the ceremony, but once he and Martin entered the lodge, we had to turn the camera off. We were set…

…until a freak storm that dropped 18 inches of snow forced Leo to postpone his trip by a day. Thankfully, the next day arrived and it was perfect, and true to his word Leo came down from Canada and met us at Martin’s house. We all got goose bumps when we realized the date was November 11th…Veterans Day. The heavy snow had inundated the lodge, and there was quite a bit of work to do to prepare the structure. Martin was behind schedule, so at first, there was a fair amount of tension in the air as Doug recorded the preparations, and he and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. As we got closer to the ceremony, though, Leo and Martin loosened up and we were able to collect great footage, and also do an interview with Leo next to the lodge. When it came time for the ceremony, Leo allowed Doug to record a prayer he says before entering the lodge, and then the plan was for Doug to leave the immediate area and collect some landscape shots. I was asked to join Leo, Martin, and Martin’s uncle Humphrey inside the lodge for the sweat. So Doug left, and I entered the lodge and sat between Martin and Leo. I soon realized that Leo was gazing at me intently, and I began to feel quite uncomfortable. Our eyes met, and after a few moments, Leo’s stare turned into a smile. “So, Geronimo (he could never remember my name), where’s your cameraman?” I explained that I’d sent him away as per our agreement. “Well,” said Leo, “there’s a few things I’d like to say before the ceremony actually starts, and he is welcome to enter the lodge and record them.” Given the sensitivity that normally accompanies Native ceremonies, such an invitation is extremely rare, if not unheard of.

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

Leo Pard in the Sweat Lodge

It was an unexpected gift that I could never have imagined, even as a Plan A.

Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show

By Robin Wignall

NCPG14 Trail's End Ranch Radio by Gib Meyers

Fred Newman, Jerry Brooks and DW Groethe rehearsing the Trails End Ranch Radio Show.

The Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show is produced in the style of Prairie Home Companion and other radio shows of the old-style ilk. It is approachable for folks who are new to the cowboy poetry scene but has enough tooth to keep the veteran attendee interested as well. The show is highly entertaining to watch. I experienced the gambit of emotions—from laughing, to stomping my feet along to a great tune, to tearing up in sadness. It is worth the price of a ticket! And, there are still tickets available for the Friday 8:30 “airing” of the show at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to my inside source.

Written by singer-songwriter Stephanie Davis, the Trail’s End Ranch Radio Show features several vignettes, recitations from various famous cowboy poets, humorous faux ads and music played by the Trail’s End Ranch Hand Band. Fred Newman of Prairie Home Companion fame features prominently in the show. His table of sound-effects “instruments” includes a balloon to make alien sounds, glasses, beer bottles, a box of what sounded like aluminum recycling, a pair of old shoes and a roasting pan. I found myself wondering how he gets through TSA at the airport!

Poets DW Groethe, Henry Real Bird and Jerry Brooks are featured in the show. Groethe and Brooks even play characters in some of the skits. Groethe plays an alien with the assistance of a coffee can (you have to see it to believe it—its quite cool). Brooks plays a chuck-wagon gourmet well-versed in the preparation of roadkill. While Real Bird doesn’t participate in any of the skits. he recites several of his poems, interlaced with his native Crow Indian language.

The opening act is a paean to bailing twine. As any ranch kid knows, bailing twine holds the world together, and according to the show’s song, “is more useful than a ginzu knife at a Donner Party reunion.” Among other uses noted in the song are a leash for your pet lizard and a belt to hold your pants up. No matter what the problem, “the solution may be sitting on the dash of your truck…always carry bailing twine.”

There are multiple ads for made-up companies including Levitation Coffee for when you need to cowboy up, Western Brew Sarsaparilla with its natural mood enhancing agents, and a shady realty company that could take your ranch from cows to condos in 90 days or less.

Not all of the recitations are light-hearted. Brooks and Real Bird both recite  poems that are emotionally and intellectually stimulating. All three of the poems are about love, but not in that sickening romantic comedy way. I think Henry Real Bird said it best: “love is there like a robin in the winter sky.”

The show is sponsored by the Interculture Foundation. Tickets available at westernfolklife.org.

Dame Nevada

“There’s a basin, wrought of reason,
tortoise dry and clean of air
Where rivers hike to meet their fate,
get lost and disappear
Where Grand Adventure had a say
and different would prevail
And where only hardy life hangs on
to all that it entails”

This is the first stanza of Waddie Mitchell’s new poem, “Dame Nevada,” written in honor of the state’s 150th anniversary being celebrated this year. Waddie debuted the poem tonight at the opening show of the 30th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an official event of the sesquicentennial celebration.

The performance was opened by Nevada’s Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki, and featured Waddie with other Nevada artists, including songster Richard Elloyan, writer Carolyn Dufurrena, poet Walt “Bimbo” Cheney, and Larry Schutte singing the classic “Nighttime in Nevada.”

What a great start to what will most certainly be a wonderful 30th Gathering. We hope to post much more during the event, here and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/westernfolklife) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/westernfolklife). Come join us if you can!

Dame Nevada by Waddie Mitchell_sm

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: Turning Ancient Ceremonies Into Cutting Edge Therapy

First Nation title 1 from 38This is the second installment in a series of blog posts about the making of  Healing the Warrior’s Heart, a public television special that presents a Native American perspective on both the soldier’s and the veteran’s experience. The program reveals the central role that military service plays in Native life and explores the spiritual traditions that help returning American Indian soldiers reintegrate into society and cleanse themselves of war. Western Folklife Center Media Producer, Taki Telonidis, is heading up the production team and blogging about his experiences.

PlaneSunset“This was the view from my window seat as I headed back to Utah from Massachusetts after collecting the latest piece of the Healing the Warrior’s Heart story: an interview with a psychotherapist and author named Ed Tick.  More than a pretty sunset, it seemed a fitting coda for a conversation that dealt with spirituality and the soul.”

“I had decided to fly out and meet Dr. Tick after learning of his unique approach to treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and reading his book War and the Soul. Tick’s methods rely heavily on the healing traditions of Native Americans and other tribal peoples, which he has studied extensively over more than 30 years. His work with veterans began not long after the Vietnam War when he was a young therapist and a veteran walked into his office seeking treatment. When their eyes met, they did a double-take as they realized they’d been classmates in high school. But Tick’s friend was almost unrecognizable; his experiences serving in Vietnam had transformed him both physically and emotionally.”

ETick“Doing therapy with his former classmate connected Tick with the community of Vietnam veterans in his corner of upstate New York. Many of them were suffering, and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) system and other therapists didn’t know what to do with them. Tick told me the story of how the head of this group was so desperate for someone to help his comrades, that he “drafted” Tick to be their doctor. Tick came to see helping vets as a calling, although it wasn’t long before he realized that his training had not adequately prepared him for the task at hand. The diagnosis of PTSD (which at that time had recently been coined) didn’t adequately explain the suffering of these veterans. And the treatment protocols addressed only the symptoms, not the problem at its core.”

“So Tick decided to look at how other cultures defined and treated the trauma of war. His quest took him first to Greece (homeland of my family!) where he studied the ancient wars, learned about citizen soldiers, and found references to war trauma and healing in classical writings. His quest then led him back to America and to an examination of the healing traditions of our nation’s first warriors: Native Americans. He discovered that for thousands of years, American Indians, like tribal peoples around the world, have been dealing with the problem we now call PTSD, but in a very different way. Suffering warriors were people whose soul and spirit had been tainted by what they had done and witnessed; so they were cleansed and purified through rituals. There were other ceremonies intended to transfer the responsibility of a warrior’s actions to the entire community, relieving him of the burden of his deeds. Another step was the honoring of veterans by the community, an important rite of passage that put them on a life-long path of service to their people.”

“Learning about the healing traditions of Native peoples convinced Dr. Tick that they hold clues for America as it struggles to better assist its suffering veterans. In fact, Tick and his wife and partner Kate Dahlstedt have incorporated much of what they learned into retreats they conduct for veterans through their nonprofit organization, Soldiers Heart. Their work has caught the attention of the military, which last year hired them to conduct trainings for chaplains that incorporate the lessons of Native American healing.”

Untitled“Dr. Tick’s work has become important to the Healing the Warrior’s Heart project. His book War and the Soul deconstructs how tribal cultures define war and the emotional trauma it inflicts on soldiers. It also discusses Native American healing traditions at length, and identifies their key elements and how they contribute to healing at the core level. Tick’s forthcoming book, Warrior’s Return, maps out how those elements can be applied in a non-native context, and used by chaplains and other professionals in treating veterans who served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“The interview with Tick was a powerful experience, as the information and passion poured out of him; it was a lot like drinking out of a fire hose. Now the challenge will be to absorb it all, and figure out how best to use it in the documentary.”      Taki Telonidis

Healing the Warrior’s Heart: On the Road in Montana

First Nation title 1 from 38The Western Folklife Center’s Media Producer Taki Telonidis and his production team recently returned from a 2-week shoot on the Blackfeet reservation in northern Montana for the documentary Healing the Warrior’s Heart, a public television special that presents a Native American perspective on both the soldier’s and the veteran’s experience. The program reveals the central role that military service plays in Native life and explores the spiritual traditions that help returning American Indian soldiers reintegrate into society and cleanse themselves of war. In addition to Taki, the production team includes partnering producer Gary Robinson, videographer Doug Monroe and sound engineer Paul Maritsas. This is Taki’s first blog entry about his experience shooting the film.

“The film shoot on the Blackfeet reservation was an intense experience, and one that served as a reminder of the poverty and tremendous need that exist among Native populations, as well as the power and hope that reside within traditions and spirituality. The Blackfeet Nation is a place where warrior identity is very much alive in our time, even though many current soldiers have lost the connection with the healing traditions practiced by their ancestors. Yet there are others for whom those traditions remain relevant both during their deployment and as they re-enter society.

MarvMartinFeather

Vietnam veteran Marvin Weatherwax presents an eagle feather to Martin Connelly.

“We spent a couple of days with one young man named Martin Connelly who recently returned from Afghanistan, was suffering acute symptoms of PTSD, and is now finding relief through ritual and spirituality. It seems that warrior ceremonies at Blackfeet were largely ignored as recently as 15 years ago, but are now re-emerging as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to help soldiers who are having a difficult time when they come home.

“We attended a sweat lodge for two returning veterans (one of whom was Martin), and witnessed an honoring ceremony for them in which an elder veteran/spiritual leader presented them with an eagle feather and warrior name, an important rite of passage for combat veterans.

“We also conducted interviews with two directors at the Veterans’ Administration who’ve been instrumental in establishing Native Healing ceremonies at several VA centers including here in Salt Lake City. They expressed frustration with how slowly the VA system has incorporated Native healing into its programs, and also told us that they’ve documented a decrease in the use of medication by both Native and non-native vets who take part in sweat lodges and other Native ceremonies.

“We did an interview with the head of the Crazy Dog society, who are the keepers of Blackfeet spirituality, and who include many veterans in their ranks. We were able to record some of the preparations for their annual Sundance or Okan.

3Horses&Mule

Three horses and a mule

“In strategizing about what visuals could best accompany a section that discusses how the healing traditions of today are carried over from warrior history and ceremony that reach back hundreds of years, we decided to do a warrior reenactment with young riders from one of the local ranches on the Blackfeet reservation. After rain forced us to postpone the reenactment twice, the weather cooperated on the third day and we were able to shoot a very nice sequence of warriors going off and returning from war. Incidentally, this reenactment was organized by a veteran of Desert Storm and the 2nd Iraq war who was given the title of War Chief after his return home.

2Teepees3Warriors

A scene from the Blackfeet warrior reenactment

“We came home from our trip with more than a dozen interviews, and well over 1,000 video clips which we are now labeling and organizing. Right now the thought of boiling down this mountain of video into a coherent story seems daunting, but most big projects feel that way in the early stages of editing.”

Healing the Warrior’s Heart is a production of the Western Folklife Center in collaboration with Tribal Eye Productions and KUED Channel 7, Salt Lake City’s PBS affiliate. The program will premiere in 2014. You can support this project with a stakeholder donation to Western Folklife Center Media Programs.

IntrepidCrew

The intrepid crew scans the horizon: Paul Maritsas (Sound), Taki Telonidis, Gary Robinson (Partnering Producer), Doug Monroe (Director of Photography)

A Tribute to George Gund III

George Gund, III
May 7, 1937 – January 15, 2013

By Hal Cannon, Western Folklife Center Founding Director

CPG2006 General Scenes

George Gund III. Photo by Robert Davis.

George Gund III, friend and longtime supporter of the Western Folklife Center, passed away January 15 in Palm Springs, California, where he had been suffering from stomach cancer. He will be missed.

George was a great friend to many of us and it is fair to say that without his support there would not be a Western Folklife Center today. In 2013 the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is such a well-known and beloved event that it seems as it if it has always been here. Things were different in 1984 when we were out trying to raise funds to start it. We approached many of the corporate sponsors behind rodeo and other cowboy events and virtually all of them laughed us out of the room at the idea of cowboys reciting poetry. Individual supporters were no easier to find. George came forward as the only individual contributor that first year and wrote a check. He saw the promise of the idea and was willing to take a chance.

He joined our Board of Trustees in 1986, making him the longest-tenured board member in the organization. In recent years his son, George Gund IV (Crunchy), joined the board as well. For many years George hosted legendary board retreats at his ranch in Lee, Nevada, or at one of his homes in Palm Springs and on Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands. When the Western Folklife Center had the opportunity to purchase the old Pioneer Hotel out of bankruptcy, George bought the building on our behalf. In recognition of all he did to create a home for the organization, we named the G Three Bar Theater after his brand.

Today, there have been articles published about George all over the country. In Cleveland, his hometown, he is being remembered as former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and as a patron of the arts. In the Bay Area, his adopted home, he is being remembered as a founder of the San Francisco Film Festival and the professional hockey team, the San Jose Sharks. In most articles people talk about his world-class eyebrows, his unconventional ways, his Bohemian nature. But what all these various articles prove is how wide his interests were, how many friends he had, and how generously he supported the things and the people he loved.

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George Gund III with William Matthews at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. By Sue Rosoff.

George helped several cities become better places. Here in Elko we know yet another aspect of George that few of his urban friends had the chance to experience. He was an avid rancher and attended the Nevada Cattlemen’s meetings each year. He was always interested in cowboy traditions but he also wanted to know the latest about breeds and new ways of grazing. George was a horticulturalist. He loved taking people to his gardens in Palm Springs and picking exotic citrus fruits as they strolled the grounds. He had an extraordinary eye for art. His collections of Asian arts, Northwest Indian wood carvings, and western drawings and paintings are all unique. He did not buy art for investment. He collected art that he loved.

George loved ordinary people from bellhops to hockey-playing kids to young filmmakers. He was deferential to everyone. Often people had no idea of his wealth. He did not put on airs. He loved cowboys and ranch people and was involved from the beginning in the Folklife Center’s attempts at ”grass roots diplomacy” through international cultural exchanges with ranching people around the world. He not only funded some of these efforts but acted as photographer and friend during fieldwork documenting Australian drovers and South American gauchos.

It seems that most people who knew George have at least a few stories about him. Every time you were with him, the occasion turned into an adventure. Usually he didn’t initiate the adventure so much as bring it out of those who are adventurous at heart. I’d like to tell a couple of personal stories about George. The first is mine; the second is from my dear wife Teresa who now serves as a Trustee of the Western Folklife Center.

When I was traveling to Australia to find bush poets to bring to the Gathering, George offered to take me Down Under on his plane. Just getting off the ground was an adventure but finally we got underway.

After a long day of flying over the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see, George told the pilots we would land at the Marshall Islands for a night of rest and refueling. We landed on the atoll island of Majuro, and the next morning, on our way back to the airfield from our hotel, we made a quick visit to the village museum. We got to talking with the woman at the desk who had lived on the Islands for many years and learned that she was originally from my hometown of Salt Lake City. She grew up in a neighborhood where I had gone to a yard sale just the day before. When I told her that, she looked at me point blank and asked, “Did you buy my cowboy piano?” Sure enough I had. I was stunned to think the world could be so small. I glanced at George to read his reaction but he didn’t even twitch one of his voluminous eyebrows. Later I asked him why he didn’t seem surprised. I realized in his answer that George was constantly running into people he knew all over the world. This coincidence didn’t seem out of the ordinary. George’s world was a small world. By the way, that cowboy piano that I purchased those many years ago has been donated to the Western Folklife Center and can be heard every year at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in the Pioneer Saloon under the great care of pianist Dave Bourne.

utf-8''_0100This from Teresa: “For our honeymoon, George offered Hal and me his cabin on Stuart Island. He met us at Dutch Harbor to take us over to Stuart on his needle-nose yacht, the Lambada. It was the day of the Russian coup and the San Jose Sharks had just brought a player over. The player’s family was still in Russia and George was terribly worried that they would not be able to get out. As we headed back to Stuart Island, George was talking on his satellite phone to Russia, but being George, he was also fishing, and he caught a big salmon. I remember him on the nose of the Lambada, trying to juggle the phone and the fish and the international conversation… Oh, there are so many more stories, and all of them, at their heart, revolve around his great spirit and generosity and concern for others. I just can’t imagine the world without him.”

George was one of the most original people Teresa and I have ever met. We feel a great sense of loss at his passing. Our hearts go out to his family and our love to all those who loved George.

Please share your own stories and memories of George in the comment section of this blog.

Read George Gund’s obituary in the Elko Daily Free Press.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of several charities, including the Western Folklife Center. To facilitate such contributions we have established the George Gund III Memorial Fund. If you wish to make a memorial donation in George’s honor, please send it to: George Gund III Memorial Fund, Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad Street, Elko, NV 89801, or call Linda Carter at 775 738-7508, ext. 222.

Cooking Ravioli Cowboy-Style

Yesterday, at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Luc Gerber of Luciano’s restaurant in Elko taught about 15 men and women the secrets of ravioli-making from start to finish.

The dough: flour flew as the group went about mixing and rolling the dough. Then it was left to set. A layer of flour thicker than the current snowfall in Elko settled on everyone in the kitchen.

Meanwhile the group created two types of fillings—a crab filling and a sausage and mushroom filling—both with a ricotta cheese base. Garlic was smashed and herbs chopped and added to their respective bowls.

The Sauce: tomatoes were cut and basil chopped. More garlic was smashed. The group cooked up two sauces, one from fresh tomatoes and one from canned stewed whole tomatoes.

The assemblage: the real fun of putting together the ravioli was assembling the parts. More flour flew, but alas, the group was short of rolling pins. In fact there was only one. So they improvised, rolling with bottles of 7-up, hot sauce, beer and even an empty carafe. They each took a turn on the pasta maker, which presses the dough thin through a cranking system much like an old-fashioned bed sheet press. Scoops of filling were spooned onto the rolled dough. Some had more success topping off, sealing and cutting the raviolis than others.

The boil: fresh pasta does not need to boil for very long. About 3 minutes after the pasta hits the water, it floats to the top, ready to eat. But not quite…first it needs some tomato sauce.

The salad: the meal was rounded off with a caesar salad made with romaine lettuce and a dressing consisting of ingredients such as olive oil, mayonnaise, garlic, vinegar, some artichoke hearts and seasoning.

The meal: gulp…not a single boiled ravioli left uneaten.

Posted by Jessica Lifland