Reflections on my tiblo and Kola, Albert White Hat

25 06 2013

Many of us have a hard time remembering how we first met Albert. It had to be in 1980 for me as I started teaching criminal justice at Sinte Gleska College (now University) then based in Rosebud, SD. I do remember liking him right away. His warm smile, his thoughtful nature welcomed me as the “man who took Frank Pommersheim’s place” (my predecessor in that role). Surely we had also met out at Norbert or Elmer Running’s place, the late medicine man held sweats and other ceremonies west of Rosebud. And I remember participating in Inipi ceremonies at Albert’s place too. So it’s kinda odd that my first memories of Albert include his courage and tenacity. He had taken on a leadership role in trying to create a consistent diacritical rubric for Lakota and I remember all the struggles that entailed. His steady, patient nature ultimately prevailed in a conclave that adopted those conventions helping share the powerful language and preserve it.

Albert was a risk taker too. He and John Around Him decided to create Lakota Ceremonial Songs, a book of traditional songs often used in those ceremonies. Somehow I got involved with “legal assistance” having researched copyright issues and what limitations we could proscribe on the broadcast of the songs. A prohibition was printed on each label. Albert took a lot of flack for producing the cassette tape and accompanying book, but he stood firm against that wind and as a result thousands were able to learn these powerful songs/prayers. I remember with delight sitting in the studio control room listening to John sing so beautifully. Speaking of singing I remember singing with Albert and others at a Ring Thunder powwow where medicine man and announcer Robert Stead, noticing my participation, announced us as the “Singers from All Nations”. We all had a good laugh at that one.

The translations Albert made in 1980 weren’t necessarily the ones he would have made in 2013. Like many of us his world view changed over the course of those years especially when it came to influences on how Lakota words and phrases were interpreted. So “have pity on us” became “hold us close like a grandmother or grandfather would” radically eliminating the need for language that implied original sin. See Albert’s book on Reading and Writing Lakota.

“Wakan Tanka” became “great, powerful creative energy” instead of “Great Spirit”: genderless energy all around us. The root word “kan” for many of us means something mysterious, unknown and revered so “wakan” is with or having those characteristics and wakan tanka suggests having those qualities in a big way. I love telling people about “skan” or in the plural “skanskan” signifying the movement of the universe or how “maza skanskan” the iron that moves in concert with that movement is Lakota for a watch.

Albert also took risks when he urged our Sun Dance to allow non-natives to dance. I remember my favorite cowboy Gary Hacker Sr. was the first to do so and I was the second. Albert supported us in our desire to dance despite substantial push-back. Luckily for everyone concerned Gary and I were first active members of our Sun Dance family before hearing the call to dance. And when the final decision was made that family in the main supported us and others who joined our dance later. I remember Albert and Marlys and their family also welcoming all who came to their camp during dance.

And of course Albert’s last book, Zuya, was risky. He had warned it might be controversial a quality that eluded me when I read it even the second time. I recommend the book to anyone with interest in the Lakota Way of Life. We have a shared copy for our Sun Dance family, Cangleska Tiyospaye Wakan, that has already become worn for wear. For me it’s comforting to hear Albert’s voice throughout the book especially the many stories and lessons.

Albert had a few idiosyncrasies like all of us. I remember we had been roped into helping build a new corral at his place. We were almost finished when Albert decided the last fence post needed to be moved about 3 inches to the left. Dutifully we pulled it out and moved it; I don’t suspect the horses hardly even noticed.

I’ll miss Albert White Hat until we meet again. We’ll have to find another way to “just ask Albert” although I know he will be there for us always.

HHS to award $1 billion to improve health care and lower costs.

19 06 2013

On May 15, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced plans to award up to $1 billion through a second round of Health Care Innovation Awards. Authorized under the ACA, the awards will support projects that test new payment and service delivery models for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). HHS is requesting projects that seek to rapidly reduce outpatient costs, improve care for populations with specialized needs, transform providers’ clinical and financial models, or improve overall population health.

In 2012, HHS award $900 million to 107 projects in the first round of awards. Letters of intent are due by June 28. Applications are due August 15 (HHS, 5/15; CMS, 5/15; CBS, 5/15).

For further information or to request assistance in preparing this application please contact us at Don Chalmers