Lenore Stiffarm: So that you will know

My Dad, a hock nak, which means the rock, always said, “As Indians, we never give up. Keep going. Keep our family strong. Be good to one another. Care for one another. Get an education. Stand together. Keep your land. Don’t plow it up. Never ask for a hand out. Don’t hang around the Fort. When someone is having good things happen for her/him, put aside your feelings and go wish that person a good life.” These are the mantras that guided me each day.

A hock nak always said to never take a hand-out. Get an education. I followed through, went to the best school I could find because a hock nak said that we could be whatever we wanted to be. I chose Harvard University. It was because of these teachings that I believed that I could go to Harvard University.  He said, ‘Never give up.” When times were tough and I didn’t feel that I could go on, I would remember these sayings.  These sayings gave me strength to go on. “As Indians, we never give up.”

So that you will know as I shoveled snow this afternoon, here is what came to me…

As he held his hands in the sunlight, a reflection of crooked fingers reflected, he would say, “This is how they took my language. This is how they beat the language out of me.” He held a love hate relationship for the Catholic Church. He spent a life time reconciling how to be at peace. He drank, he fought, he was angry, he raged, he was silent. His solitude was in the land; he knew the land was special. He lived on the land. He had his horses, his dog, his log home. He chopped wood, chopped waterhole for the animals. He picked berries, made a garden each year; he tried to find peace for what had happened. He worried about his brothers and sister. He tried to care for them the best way he knew. He helped their children, his nieces and nephews. If they sang, he would call them neebya (singer); if they were crazy and got into mischief, he would call them hakatz (crazy). He would watch and observe behavior because then he would know the name. This is how he came up with names. He compared much of life experiences to his horses. He held a firm belief that horses could teach us about life.

So you will know…



Because I do not know how to give voice to the pain and feelings inside


Because I do not know to express the hurt, pain and abandonment I feel


Because everything feels so unfair and I do not know how to explain the emptiness


Because I was never given permission to say good bye to Dad, Carl, Mom, Dee, Sister


For the loss of my innocence at a young age


For trying to care for my family – my brothers and sister, nieces and nephews – and I could not reach them


For trying to care for my little brothers when they didn’t know to care for themselves


About how I would find food to feed my brothers




By Woman Who Sits on the Rock, Na Gya Tha

Today, I reach into my spirit and what do I find?

Peacefulness, which wasn’t always peacefulness

I thought it was loneliness, abandonment, loss, pain.

Today, I reach into my spirit and what do I find?

Gratitude, which wasn’t always gratitude

I thought it was deprivation, inequality, racism, discrimination

Today, I reach into my spirit and what do I find?

Respect, which wasn’t always respect

I thought it was disrespect, silencing, shame, unimportance, invisibleness.

Today, I reach into my spirit and what do I find?

Love, which wasn’t always love

I thought it was possessiveness, lust, ownership as property

Today, I reach into my spirit and what do I find?

Beauty in each snow flake that drops from the sky

And floats to ground blending into the beauty of the landscape just like the

peacefulness that radiates from within … in gratitude … in respect …in

love for all that is here and not here…all of the teachings that Ba Hatik, Creator,  brings us.

Ginne Hay! Ginne Hay, Ginne Hay! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

So you will know …



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One Response to Lenore Stiffarm: So that you will know

  1. Charlotte Ross January 11, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    what a beautiful story – thank you Lenore for sharing yours and your dad’s teaching.

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