The elderly man’s face was lined with creases of the many winters of toil and his fingers were brown from the many cigarettes he had held.  He made a loud slurp noise when he drank his hot coffee and it reminded me of much of my own father who knew it was not ill-mannered to sip loudly or burp over a well-cooked meal or a great cup of coffee, because that was the Dakota way of saying this is waste (good).

Speaking softly as he brushed the snow whitened hair from his weathered forehead, he said. “There are those young Indians and even some older Indians who call Jesus a white man’s God.  But I think there is one God for everyone.  As a Dakota I think Christmas is the best example of this.”

“To me Christmas is a holiday that cuts across all races. It is a day to pause and reflect on the past.  It is a day to share with your loved ones. It is a day to carry on traditions that has always been a part of our Dakota heritage, the traditional giving of gifts,” the old man said as he stared into his cup of coffee.

Like the Dakota of old, he used his hands to strengthen every word.  “Many year ago my wife and me, we were very heavy drinkers.  We got drunk often and neglected our children.  We were really destroying our lives and worst yet, we were ruining the future of our little ones.  Dakota men and women drink for many reasons and the loss of self esteem is probably one of the biggest reasons,” he said with a sigh.

The old man was quiet for a long time as if trying to gather his thoughts and talk about something he found difficult to discuss. “One night – it was Christmas Eve – my children had come home from the Indian boarding school for the holidays. I had been drinking all week and I was pretty sick.  My ife was sitting in the kitchen still drinking. I was feeling guilty as well as sick because I walked into the room where my youngest daughter sleeps to tuck her in.  Just as I got to the door I heard her talking. No, she wasn’t talking. She was praying.

She asked Tunkansidan (Grandfather God) not to bring her a lot of fancy presents for Christmas.  All she wanted was for God to make her Mom and Dad stop drinking. She told God she loved us very much and to please save us for the children’s sake.”

The elderly man was silent for a long time again. When he spoke he said, “It was very cold that night, but I walked outside and stood their shivering and looking up at the million of stars just thinking about the things my little girl said. I felt tears running down my face and I started to pray.  All of sudden the sky lit up like it was day light and I got this warm, safe feeling all over. I think I heard this voice repeat the words of my daughter, “for the children sake,“ but I wasn’t afraid. 

A tear came to his eye as he finished telling me what he wanted to tell me. “Momma and me, we quit drinking that night.  We never touched a drop of alcohol since that day.  All of our children grew up and never got into trouble.  Two of them graduated from college. And all of the others have good jobs and are responsible Dakota people. My youngest daughter went to college and then came home to take care of me and Momma.”

For the sake of the children he had found peace and comfort in Tunkansidan that cold Christmas Eve long ago.  And whether one believes in Christmas or not, it is their choice, I am only relating a story to you that is true and was told to me many years ago on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.
(Credit goes to Tim Giago for this story)

Maybe I shouldn't be telling this one, but ehanna (a long time ago) a bunch of us young bucks went to the Cloverleaf bar in Browns Valley for New Years eve, as usual some oyates got left so we offered to give them a ride back to the fishing village, there was six in the back seat and five in the front seat of the car, coming around the curve on highway 10, i felt my legs go numb but didnt think nothing of it, e-chun when we got back to town and we all got out of the car my pants started to steam up, the winyan sitting on my lap peed on me, killed it all, I had to go home, by the time I got home my pants was stiff as a board.....
 Valerie Red Fish, Allison Renville, Dawn Owen Skenadore and 4 others like this.

    • Barbara Goen Bet you will never forget that one!!! Or her!..hahaha! man, can't stop laughiing..!
    • Darla King Tell who it was? lol
      Vivian Gill-Chasing Hawk Should write short stories..and be our sherman alexie... Serious...
    • Grady Renville all i will say is she is now a pillar of the community......
      Grady Renville i have a bunch of short stories and in the near future i'm going to have my own blog, some political commentary, music, humor, rez ramblings, rez mincings, history, etc, will post the web address when i get in up and running, should be in a couple weeks....
    •  Tri-Polar White That funny as hell, embarasing!
    • lol. too funny
      Tuesday at 11:33pm ·

    • when I was little, 5 or 6 maybe? and in the orphanage there, there was this girl, same age, she was crying, missing her parents I guess. and I had her lay down in my bed, she finally calmed down and we fell asleep, the next morning tho', I ...found she had pee'd in my bed, and sometime during the night, had crawled back into hers. sister Geniset was not happy when she came in and did her rounds. lol. 
    • Russell Thompson was it dark time lol??
    • Lesley Kampeska OH, Shit thats a good one,but i bet she was still thinking she was cho as hell..haha..
    • Grady Renville Ya she probably went inside and sum cool ndn guy was probably trying  to hit on her, I s'pose i could have went inside and been a cool guy and sum winyan oulda been trying to hit on me, I know she wont have minded thst my pants was all wet, just as long as she could have been with me, aaaa's
    • Lesley Kampeska Try to be just as cho as she was smelling all stink with sex on ur mind & pee..thts just rrr..

The local ndn boys called two of the local winyans "The Wrestler," and the "The Bulldog."
The Wrestler if she lucked out and snagged you, you had to wrestle her to get away.
And, the Bulldog, once she got hold of you she wont let you go.
Gotta love dem ndn chicks....

 Charlene Robertson, Valerie Red Fish, Loretta Renville Lineback and 3 others like this.

My ate (dad) and his buddy Scott Rondell were out hunting and stopped at one of their ndn friends house out in the country. They were invited into eat, there was fresh bread, potatoes, corn and a big plate of sumptious deer steaks. When they sat down to eat my dad spied the biggest piece of steak and reached to stick his fork in the meat, just as he was going to pull back the steak to his plate, their host said, "Lets pray."
Chun, my dad bowed his head reverantly, but didnt withdraw his hand and his fork from the big steak....

Tami Seiber, Darla King, Donna German and 7 others like this.

Ehanna, after christmas vacation most of us SK's had to lie about what we got or rather didn't get for Christmas.
Did you know that there are degrees of poverty?
My mom was a nurse at the Indian hospital and so we had a steady paycheck along with other BIA and Indian Health Service employees, we were on the top of the economic poverty cesdi heap, next were those who had a low paying job, next was those who may have received some kind of check from the government or were on ADC (Aid to Dependent Children,) or as one ndn described it Another Daddy Children. On the botton was those who had no income and had to depend on their relatives to support them. There was no tribe then and obviously no tribal programs.
We didn't consider ourselves poor, we just didn't have any money.
  • Joyce Pickthorn That happened to us "farm" kids too!! We didnt care because everyone had the same life. We just thought that was the way life was.

Passed an army convoy on I-94 reminded me back in my FTA days we 5 day 80 vehicle convoyed from arizona to yakima washington for sum simulated war games. When the "war" started my outfit got simulated bombed on the first morning so we were all "killed" and sat out the rest of the "war."

That must have cost the taxpayers a few million bucks. FTA - ($&@# The Army).

Mitchell Hart, Connie Mor, Larry Goette and 3 others like this..

Deanna LaBelle: So good to hear the things about back then.. only other person I've heard talk about it was my uncle Gary Crawford RIP!!

Grady Renville: On the way to the "war" our part of the convoy got stuck axle deep so we stayed there a couple days in the cold washington mountains, our captain was named kadison, so of course we named the place we got stuck Kadison Avenue. After we got back to arizona we had an inspection and i got a gig for having a speck of "Operation Coulee Crest" egg on my mess kit fork....

Grady Renville: We had this real jerk of a lifer (career soldier) Sgt. Dunn, if you got to many gigs (demerits) you had to re-inspect in the evening, i had about ten gigs so i was re-inspected that evening, but I never cleaned or fixed up my gear, i just laid it out the same way that i did in the morning inspection.

At the evening inspection Sgt Dunn looks my stuff over and say, "Good job Renville, were gonna make a solider out of you yet."

After I came back fron Nam i was hurting inside so one sunday I found myself in St Marys Episcopal church, back then the women sat on on side and the men on one side, they were in need of a Lay Reader and they all looked at me, so i had to "volunteer." I became a Lay Reader, didn't know nothing about what I was to do, but I showed up for three years and held services when Father Selwyn wasn't there, Charlie Two Star was my organist, when he didn't show up, I had to start to sing the hymns in Dakota, then the people would join in, one of the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.....
 Patricia Roth, Tami Seiber, Carrie Backman and 21 others like this.

    • Fern Renville That's a cool story! Destiny (Creator) finds us and takes us where we need to go.
    • Lynette Mincks Well, if I'd known all that, I could have just sat and let you handle EVERYTHING!
    • Sylvana Flute Nice:) maybe it's time to go back to lay reading? Churches are always in need!
    • Lesley Kampeska Thats a really good story. I like that.smiles..
    • Martin Brokenleg I wonder if you realized what a blessing you were to those folks then.
    • Joyce Pickthorn That makes me SMILE!! The Lord works in strange ways and he new you needed him and you accepted. Thank you for keeping us safe while serving in Vietnam Nam and thank for serving our LORD!!! You are a GOOd person!!!!

On one of my first nights in vietnam two of our marine patrols got into a fire fight with each other, some jackass forgot to tell the other they were in the same area, fortunately no one got hurt as I recall, I dont know why this comes to mind after all these years......

 I'm glad our troops are getting the hell out of the middle east.
Tamara Stjohn, Jay Grant, Anpetu Wi Kechi Ahanape and 5 others like this.

    • Tri-Polar White are you documenting your storie anywhere other then here! i hope someone is!i wish i could write down all my dads story!
    • Amber K Renville Their still sending troops to Afghanistan tho. A company that graduates this week from lost in the woods got deployed to over there already.
    • Tri-Polar White oh next how is being lost in the woods going to help them in the dessert!

Rez Minincings:
We had a old house on the northside of Sisseton that we rented from a lawyer named Bill Holland, even tho' we never had much money, my mother was a nurse at the Indian Hospital, so we had a pay check every two weeks and always had a meal on the table, often with kids from the neighborhood.  We charged groceries at Phil Helgersons store which was located where video 99 is now.  I think the rent was $30 dollars a month.  We had an outhouse in the 50's, then we had running water but no water heater so we had to heat water on our kerosene two burner.  We did not have a refrigerator, in the winter time we would put food on the window sills to keep cold.  In the summer we never had to worry about left overs, we were always hungry and ate everything up so we had no need for a fridge.

Rez miniscings:
My mom went to be with her relatives and the Creator at 4:00 am this morning.

My mom was what the Bible referred to as the "salt of the earth."
She had neither fame or fortune, but her heart was made of gold. I never heard her gossip or say a bad word about anyone. she worked faithfully as a nurse for forty-two years.

I believe the Great Mystery, Creator, God said this morning "good job Naomi sit, rest, you were the last of your generation."

"Look over there is Jackie, Lance, Wajapa, Nickolas, Anna, Melinda, Francis, Nettie, Elwood, Hank, Reid, June, Allison, Delia, Vic...., and over there is Joe, Felix, John, Rose, Mason, Mason Jr., oh, so many, many relatives, like the grains of sand, too many to count...."

Mitakuya Owasin.

 January 18, 2012 at 10:32am near Bloomington
Dawn Ryan, Wanda Renville, Roger Renville and 93 others like this.

    • Devonna Cloud Sorry to hear about your lose! she'll be missed dearly!!:(
    • Mayvonne Crawford Grady, losing ur mom is one of the hardest things in life, no one can ever take her place in ur heart. My condolences to u & ur family. Naomi live a long & wonderful life & she gave her best to us all.
    • Angela Johnson You always have a way with words sorry but shes in a better place with pain or worries!! Sending prayers!!
    • Kellie Starr I,m so sorry to hear this grady my prayers are with you an your family.
       Misty Fawn Begay ten thousand angels welcomed her home at 4 this morning.
    • Tod Teeple I'm sorry to hear of your mom's passing Grady. My condolences to you and your family.
    • Anpetu Wi Kechi Ahanape So sorry for your loss. May the creator comfort u & your family in your time of need, wipe away the tears & keep her spirit alive within the generations here & to come. I love what u wrote about your mom. Deepest condolence to u.
    • Lee Ann TallBear Yes, Grady, Robin, Bruce and Martha, losing a mother as wonderful as yours is going to be one of the hardest things you have ever gone through. When I lost my mom, I experienced such deep sorrow and it took a couple of years, but through that grieving I truly came to understand what everlasting life means. Now I celebrate my mom's endurance, her teachings, her life everyday through my children and grandchildren. Your mom and your dad gave all of you such a strong foundation and it has supported you all your life. Now is the time to be with each other and give thanks to the Creator for blessing you with such an amazing mother. My prayers are wth alll of you at this time.
    • Angela Johnson sorry " with no pain"
    • Rikki Claymore Sorry for your loss. Sounds like like she lived a very fulfilling life. May the Good Lord watch over your mother and your family until you meet again!!! Peace Grady.
    • Rainee K Marks Condolences to your family & siblings from the Marks family.
    • Tim LaBatte Our condolences, Naomi was a large beacon of hope and life for those who visited the Public and Indian Health Services where she worked and was very concerned for her fellow Indian people, Her light shone on those who she cared and undertaken to care about, often the sick, ill and shutins were placed infront for true humanity by Naomi's education and training as a true mentor. She was often noted on educating the new Doctors and nurses on the Reservation needs as a Lifelong Nurse as Well Educated Indian Woman, May God bless you and yours during your loss.
    • Robert Upham Grady. Your Mom raised a Good Man. You are one of my heroes. I appreciate how you stand up for what is right. My thanks goes out to your Mom for raising good kids and grandkids... Pidam'
    • Mary Cook So sorry to hear this and my thoughts and prayers are with you and the family.
    • Martin Brokenleg I am so sort for your loss. I remember her. May she rest in peace.
    • Sky White Grandma Gladys sends her condolences and prayers..
    • Vernon Renville Sorry for you loss
    • Darla King My prayers are with u and ur family!!
    • Barbara Goen From Barb Hill-Goen family..our sorrow for what you are feeling right now is heavy for its never easy, for this we all know...God is always with you in times of sorrow..God Bless
    • Kellie Conley HighEagle My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.
    • Nettie Crawford Grady & Family...Prayers & THoughts are with you and ur family. From Nettie & Family
    • Joan G Little many thoughts n prayers going out to naomi's family. MAY SHE REST IN GODS PEACE.
    • Katy Heinecke My thoughts & prayers to you and your entire family. She had to have been a wonderful woman to raise such remarkable children.
    • Crystal Owen Those we hold closest to our hearts never truly leave us. They live on in the kindness they have shared and the love they brought into our lives. Mrs. Renville is a beautiful winyan who brought comfort to many people. Im sorry to hear of her passing. My condolences and prayers to your family.
    • Fern Renville All my love to you, Grady, and to Martha Renville, Bruce Renville, and Robin J Renville.
    • Shy Lone Bear Very beautiful way of saying all of that. Prayers to your family from mine.
    • Paul Keeble Sorry to here about ur ina she made some good kids to pass on her wisdom an let me knw wen wakes are ill make some good bread
    • Stacey Owen Wegleitner Thoughts & prayers for you & your family, I am so sorry for your loss.
    • Kyle J. Fisher Grady, I am sorry for your loss....thoughts and prayers for you and your family.
    • Michelle Lynn Deutsch that was awesome mr renville!
    • Joyce Pickthorn Please accept our sincere sympathy in the loss of your Mom!! I just lost my Mom about a month ago and it just isnt the same without her.
    • Vine Marks Nanka hanna topa ape he ehan tukansina hi ka heye, "Micunksi, wicohan cicu he isamyaya yahdustan, hecen nape mausa ka wanna unhdeka unziyakiye oyakihi kte."........This morning at four o'clock our creator came and said,"my Daughter, the task I gave you to do, you have accomplished many times over, so hold my hand and we can go home now so you can rest." ..Hau mitakuyapi.
    • Tracy N Leslie Heminger There are no words to say to u to make u feel better in ur time of loss, you, like ur mom are believers in god and u know she is in a better place watching over her children! So keep the faith, and i'm truly sorry for ur loss!
    • Gladys Renville Kunsi Naomi can rest now, she accomplished so much in her life time. She was such a sweet person and has always had a place in my heart. I will miss seeing her..such a blessing to have known her. She is at peace now and is with her husband, son and others who have passed. Let me know if I can do anything to help. Love you all.
    • Lynette Mincks I am so sorry for all of you. I will keep you and your siblings in prayer. I loved your mom--she was always a bright spot in my life! I know there will be a deep hole in your heart, but I pray you will rest in the everlasting arms of the Lord.
    • Sylvia Isaac Sending prayers to the family
    • Patricia Sam WhiteTemple Sorry to hear of her passing. I remember going to your house with mom and grandma to go visit in Sisseton. I will say extra prayers for her and the family. Mom is in a care center in Mandan and we will let her know. Sam
    • Lorie J Martin my ccondolences to U and ur family grady in ur time of sorrow also prayers to give u and ur family strength so sorry to hear about your mom!!
    • Julie Smith My prays and thoughts r with u!
    • V Keith Tracy I know God said " O Faithful Servant " Time to come home and be with all your Family! Peace in Our Savior Jesus Christ!
    • Rhoda Renville So sorry to hear of her passing; will always be remembered as a great and gentle lady/cousin.
    • David Farmer Grant Sorry too hear of kunsis passing Deksi, may wakantanka be with u today n those to come. Aho
    • Jenelle Burshiem She was my boss for one summer when she the Dir.of Nursing @ IHS. I had so much respect for her & she taught me so much. I can just see her embracing her son Arden. Oh I bet she was so happy!
    • Barb Kirk God bless you and your family in this time of sorry!
    • Grady Renville My niece Allison, who has been her caregiver said that one on my mothers last words to her was, "Your uncle (Arden, her son who was killed in action in Vietnam) is called me.""
      And, at one another point said, "Its awesome."

    • Shayne Cook thoughts and prayers r with ur family grady. sorry for ur loss

Rez Miniscings:

  • You may not have given this much thought but there are degree of ndn poverty, growing up we had a few luxury's that the average ndn did not enjoy.  We got the Minneapolis Tribune everyday, we were the first in our neighborhood to have a black and white TV, and we had a wall phone.  It was an real antique compared to the phones today, it was on the wall and you had to crank it up to get the attention of a live switch board operator.  The reason we had this phone was so the hospital could get hold of my mom in case of an emergency at the hospital, which was frequent.