Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 18, 2017

'Reflections of Dennis Banks,' by Earl Tulley, Dineh

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Reflections of Dennis Banks
By Earl Tulley, Dineh
Censored News
On November 2, my daughter and I started our journey to Leech Lake, Minnesota a 3,200-mile (50 hour) round trip. Our journey provided a lot of time to reflect on and definition of a person with many labels and/or stereotypes with the name Nowa Cumig, which means “in the center of the universe.”
We traveled with weather elements; wind, rain snow, and sunshine from dawn to dusk and into the night. There was much wildlife greeting us, those of the night and day, perhaps blessing our trail or sending their condolence to Nowa Cumig.  
While traveling we maintained contact with relatives who were on the same journey and destination to bid farewell to the Anishinaabe elder. We arrived, after 26 hours to Battle Point Community Center at Federal Dam on Leech Lake Reserve.
When we arrived, his family was hosting a wake, as some tribes believe a soul remains with the body for four days after passing. Relatives and friends kept vigil and comforted family, by offering condolences, and sharing stories, both funny and poignant about their experiences with Nowa Cumig, and the many reasons why he affected their journey's.  Most recently a friend shared a story of being in the hospital, with his feet exposed, and upon entering his room Dennis wiggle his toes to the nursery rhyme of one little, two little three little Indian’s.
Our relation with Dennis Banks as a friend, father, grandfather and an elder offered us much wisdom with the following being the one that moved me the most:  "Men shall be held responsible for every tear shed by our women."  When we spoke, our passionate conversations revolved around our children, grandchildren, maintaining family ties, sustaining tribal culture, our communities and the greater need to speak out against drugs and domestic violence.
Dennis believed that life should be fun - and lived - always evoking humor and laughter into his conversations and interactions with others.  One of his requests was when it was his time for passing - that remembering should be happy and not somber, to put the word FUN in funeral.
Towards the end of his journey here on earth, he became reflective and more at peace - offering stories of what is important - family, friends, and being of service to the Earth.  
He was a man who was very rooted and anchored his soul in spirituality and encouraged those that were within his voice to also do so, and protect our family, communities and Mother Earth.  
Nowa Cumig's final written statement: “It is very clear to me now that I have reached a high hill of my old age, and that then numbers really don’t mean that much, unless you’re counting pennies. But at 80, I have come to understand that old friends are the ones we need to cover our back and to offer a hand of friendship for life. I hope the next 80 will be a lot smoother than the first. See you in the clouds.”
Am honored to have known Nowa Cumig.   

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September 2016 Standing Rock, North Dakota
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September 2016 Standing Rock, North Dakota

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