Twisted Tongues is a book of Native American historical poetry written by Ruth Naphas Gerhardt and Jim Greenwald. The poetry is sincere with the authors opening their hearts to show how history has been misrepresented and mis-portrayed. Both authors are sharing the truth about a part of history that didn't appear in my history books and I wonder about yours.
Having lived in Wisconsin all of my life, you might think that I would know many Native Americans, but I really don't. There was a five year part of my life that I did, however, share with three beautiful Winnebago Indian children. They were a sibling group that happened to be in our county system as foster children. I had the honor and pleasure of being a foster mom to these kids and fell deeply in love with them.
Authors Greenwald and Gerhardt share that there are many stereotypes about Native Americans. My group of three children came to us because their mom was dealing with alcoholism. Their father was not a part of their life. After five years with these children (ages 12, 14, and 16), my husband and I checked into the possibility of adopting the sibling trio. The tribe would not hear of it because they "didn't want their children assimilated into 'White culture.'" When the children were all teenagers, an aunt from out-of-state came into the picture and received custody of the children, after telling lies to the foster care system, and we ended up in court to defend our reputations, which was majorly important considering I am a school teacher, and the false accusations could have lost me my license and the future adoptions of five children. It cost us a lot of money to work through that whole process, but none of that matters to me anymore. What matters is that I "lost" my three children, and it was worse than experiencing a death, because I didn't even get a good-bye.
The ONLY thing that pulled me through the loss was that our first baby (through adoption) came into our life and every time I went to the threshold of his nursery door, I said this prayer: "Dear Lord, please don't let my pain affect my baby. Don't let my hurt transfer to my little boy. Help me, Father, to regain my strength and move on from this." After a year with this aunt, the oldest child contacted me, very unhappy because she felt her aunt had taken them in order to get their "Indian money." This whole situation absolutely broke my heart. I felt like a number of the stereotypic comments about Native Americans were being "proved" to me.
So I have lived with a broken heart due to "my children" being taken and communication cut off forever. I can't say that I've been living with resentment within myself, but I have lived with not understanding the reasons the tribe had for their decisions. Somewhere within me I buried the pain. I didn't have the history that has been shared in Twisted Tongues to help me on this journey in life.
When offered the chance to read Twisted Tongues I had no clue the impact that it would have on my heart and my thinking. I didn't even have a clue that it dealt with Native American history. The authors had no clue that I had any experience with loving three Native American children. I believe that the connection was meant to be, and fourteen years after this painful time in my life, Twisted Tongues has begun to heal the hurts that have been buried deep within me.
Why do I share all of this? Because Twisted Tongues has revealed Native American history to me. Authors Greenwald and Gerhardt have written beautiful poetry to explain history and no condemnation comes through it. I now understand that the birth parents of my three Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Indian children could have had to deal with unbearable hardships. Who knows what their parents and grandparents faced? Who knows what they themselves faced? I now totally understand why the tribe wouldn't want their children "assimilated" in the "White world." Read the poem "Suffer the Little Children" to see what happened to approximately 12,000 Indian children.
Have you heard the expression "Walk a mile in someone else's moccasins"? Well, Twisted Tongues certainly will get you out of your shoes and into a pair of moccasins. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to read this book. I hope that others will receive a blessing from reading it, because of the understanding it brings about Native American history. Thank you, Jim Greenwald and Ruth Naphas Gerhardt, for pouring your hearts into this project. Thank you for working at enlightening people and doing it in such a way that we can learn and hopefully it will make a difference in our thinking and our lives.
Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2010)
The Twisted Tongues collection of "historical" poetry brings together two dynamic poets: Ruth Naphas Gerhardt (With Pen & Feather) and jim greenwald (Mitakuye Oyasin, and Tears for Mother Earth).
History unfortunately is written by the conqueror and therefore lacks the balance of truth one should expect in an accurate historical accounting. This collection presents facts, not fiction, of events that have taken place in this land that is now called the United States of America. In the "settlers" quest" for what was not available to them in their homelands, they set out to take from those who were the original inhabitants of this land. The result of this greed was hundreds of wars, multitudes of lies, and the committing of atrocities whose repercussions still resound today.
The writings within are not intended as complete history, but rather something to whet your curiosity enough to investigate on your own. Do so at your own peril as the truth can and will torture one's mind as it relates to beliefs held close as a result of the Declaration and Constitution. It should be embarrassing enough just to relate this one simple fact: out of the five-hundred plus treaties signed by Native Americans with the government of the U.S.A., the government cannot point to one it has honored.
The Supreme Court record, based on percentages of rulings against Native Americans is appalling. Rarely has any governmental body utilized archaic law with such contempt and disregard for fairness, equality, and reason. The court in one flagrant abuse of its powers used "latches" as an "excuse" to void the claims of land made by the Oneida. "Latches" literally means "they waited too long!" In Sherill (NY) v. Oneida, it was the lone deciding factor to toss out a legitimate claim to land that had, beyond a doubt, been stolen from the Oneida by the state of New York. Not one ounce of reality or consideration was given to the fact that by oppression in many of its forms the Oneida were not capable of mounting a sustained legal fight for what is rightfully theirs. That is why they lost their land.
We hope you enjoy this collection and are stirred to investigate on your own what really happened and still goes on today. Set aside all your hard learned theories and beliefs taught to you by "Hollywood." This is real!