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Anthony Sullivan
Under Star and Under Sun

I've felt fingertips, soft upon my lips
an inferno at my core ignite
Fought the longing of the day
for the coming of the night
When that flame of lust so mightily
would dance in wild abandon
Both temptation and desire unleashed
their silken rage to softly deafen
The call of conscience over time
for memories born outside the pain
To shine again come dawn's sweet chorus
if truth would only lend its name
To passions breathless, midnight pledge
of eternity, fidelity and only this
Have deed follow word, to measure worth
let heart and spirit marry in a kiss
For fingertips on yearning lips can lie
so have I had forever promised me
A heart declared my souls protector
opened the wound it swore I'd never see
And claiming then it had to be: departed
well short of eternity, leaving me alone
All words emptied of meaning, my faith bleeding
doubting every touch of all I'd known
So some the end and there's no return
to first nights hearts were free to share
What's done is done, the world still turns
though tears rain down on souls stripped bare
Yet still, the pledge of a breathless midnight
remains to spite my last eternity's demise
And I feel myself give in again, to a smile again
and a kindling desire, it reawakens
to dance again beneath these skies

I've seen the strangest pieces
come perfectly together
And what seemed the strongest bonds
come totally undone
Love: I've known it lost
and known it won
Under star and under sun.

~ Anthony Sullivan

' Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. ' ~ Robert Orben

It's kind of hard not to smile at that one, isn't it. Well, that's fair enough I suppose, because when Robert Orben, the well known American magician, comedy-writer and former speechwriter to President Gerald R. Ford, came up with that admittedly witty little remark, I somehow doubt it was with the intention of achieving anything more than a quick laugh. And indeed, by the very fact of it's being so true, this quip IS actually very funny. But it would be so much funnier still were it not for another simple, yet unavoidable fact; that this perhaps unintended insight into the annals of American history shines a massive, mega-watt spotlight on the terrible and, in absolute truth, by the standards of most fair and just-minded people from ANY time in history, not just modern days, the criminal treatment of the Native American population by those who came from far and wide to make the 'New World ' their home.

It's a sad truth so often overlooked by a majority of people when glancing back in the direction of the founding years of the United States; that the birth of the 'American Dream,' that right to pursue and possess happiness and success in this life, came often at the expense of those for whom the so-called 'New World' had already been home for generation after generation after generation! And, in the majority of cases, those centuries old homelands were lost, by force more often than not, to those 'New World' settlers.

One such case was that of the Wallowa Valley band of the Nez Perce in northeastern Oregon. Among their leaders, Chief Joseph, a luminary of humanity for his attempts at always seeking to first peacefully protect his people, rather than resorting to violence as a primary means of survival. In this regard he was not only ahead of his time, and by some considerable distance, but he was a man of bigger heart than most souls of his time could even begin to comprehend. The Nez Perce found themselves surplus to requirements as far as the fulfilment of the American Dream in it's earliest incarnation was concerned. But their land, however, was much sought after and as such, became a pivotal factor in the positioning of Chief Joseph in Native American tradition.

In 1855 Chief Joseph's father, Joseph the Elder, signed a treaty with the United States which allowed the Nez Perce to retain much of the land that was historically theirs, about 7.7 million acres in what is present day Washington and Oregon. However, in 1863, another treaty was created that reduced the Nez Perce land by an inexorable amount, to a mere 780,000 acres, in order to accomadate the influx of gold-rush prospectors. This second treaty excluded the Wallowa Valley from the lands still left to the tribe, with the result that Joseph the Elder refused to sign. This in turn led to a split between 'treaty' and 'non-treaty' bands of the Nez Perce. The Wallowa Valley band held their ground and refused to give up their ancient territority. For this brave and principled stance they suffered despicable treatment at the hands of the settlers and the prospectors. Chief Joseph, however, never allowed any acts of violence in retribution, instead attempting always to broker and maintain a peace through concessions to the settlers and prospectors. This course of action was heavily influenced by fear of the military consquences which were likely to come from the Americans.

Joseph the Elder died in 1871, leaving his son with these words to fortify his spirit: 'This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother.'

Between 1871 and 1876 a fragile peace existed between the Wallowa Valley Nez Perce and the U.S. Government, and in 1873 Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to allow his people to stay on their ancestral homeland. However, a mere 4 years later in 1877, the government reneged on their commitment, giving Joseph and his people 30 days to move to a reservation or be seen by their continued presence to be demonstrating an act of war. And so, with the government threatening to use force to obtain the Nez Perce lands, Chief Joseph and other tribal leaders decided to lead their people to Canada, also known as 'Grandmother's Land.' This decision, in favor of a peaceful if not just or perfect outcome, was taken in spite of other leaders urging war instead.

However, enraged by the continued acts of injustice perpetrated against them by the government, settlers and prospectors, a small group of young Nez Perce warriors attacked and killed several white settlers. The Army immediately began to chase Chief Joseph's band, and so, like it or not, he found himself forced by circumstance to join with those who urged war to begin with.

After a journey of almost 1,700 miles, through the greater part of 4 months, and leaving over 200 of the roughly 800 that began their epic journey dead, the end came just 40 miles short of the Canadian border, at Bear Paw Mountain, after a final catastrophic five-day battle. There, as the only surviving leader of the Nez Perce chiefs, Joseph delivered a message of surrender to Generals Howard and Mills. The last two lines of this message I have used in my poem and, to my mind, they are among the most poignant and poetic words ever written. They are, 'From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.'

Chief Joseph spent the next 8 months in a prisoner of war campsite at Fort Leavenworth in eastern Kansas. Despite such a promise being made, Joseph was never again to return to his beloved Wallowa Valley. He died in 1904, of, it is often claimed, a broken heart. Perhaps, if it were possible, there is an even sadder finale to the tale of Chief Joseph. He rests, if indeed 'rests' can be the right word, in a cemetery in Washington. There was, at one point, only one tree in that cemetery, beneath which, Joseph is buried. What steals the breath, however, is that he was buried facing AWAY from Wallowa Valley, denied in death the dignity and compassion surely due to him, of seeing his precious homeland once again.


To live, and let live, as was the Great Spirit's way
Such was the wish of Chief Joseph and his people
But such simple aims sadly 'oft fall defeated
By force of flag, and of color, and of steeple

For twisted tongues speak only words that ring hollow
Never laid as more than mere markers of the trail
The coward's bullet and his blade will always follow
To slash and burn and steal, neath their righteous veil

T'was a fragile bond, that unholy written word
All fingers of greed's hungry hand, tight 'round the quill
Gold-rush fever inked that treaty of treachery
Betrayed without remorse and strangled all goodwill

Such then, was the fate of that noble Nez Perce band
Forced to leave behind their Wallowa Valley homes
Where Chief Joseph, for peace, bravely chose to forsake
The very soil that held his own dear parents bones

So the Nez Perce marched for Canada, and freedom
Sixteen-hundred miles, three months, two-hundred souls lost
But at Bear Paw Mountain their journey met it's end
There, Chief Joseph spoke, as his soul tallied that cost

' From where the sun now stands,
I will fight no more forever. '
For Joseph's heart bled always for his people's pain
His heart and they, by deepest love, bound together

On Colville Reservation now, in Washington
Beneath the only tree in that cemetery
Chief Joseph lies, but faced away from Wallowa
His eternal repose denied it's dignity

For he n'er again left his footprints in the soil
Where his forefathers felt fall soft upon their skin
Sunlight, and starlight, and the rain ever gentle
As Chief Joseph's soul, as we remember him

' From where the sun now stands,
I will fight no more forever. '
Chief Joseph's heart bled always for his people's pain
His heart and they, by deepest love, bound together.

~ Anthony Sullivan

The Choctaw Irish Story

For many's a long year now, through times bright and dark for both countries, Ireland and America have shared and enjoyed a very close relationship. To most people on either side of the Atlantic, this relationship would most likely be described in simple terms. Irish emigrants, in search of a better life, resigned to the sight of their Emerald Isle sinking into the distance and below the horizon as they struck out for the New World, usually with more in the way of hopes and dreams to sustain them than anything more substantial to rely on. For many, this was enough to begin with and with which to forge that vision of a better life into a reality. But for many more however, those hopes and dreams remained just that and seldom amounted to anything more.

Either way, generations later that same trans-Atlantic crossing would be undertaken once again, only this time in reverse, as legions of Irish-Americans went in search of those far-away fields of green where their family trees first grew and would still hold root , within the heart at least. And while there's no denying the truth expressed by this view of the relationship between Ireland and America, and the fact that it carries within it a resonance fiercely personal to millions of people, it's NOT the only great link between the two countries.

There is in fact, another bond, although possibly unknown to many these days, but which I for one would argue, given the deeply spiritual nature of it's crystallizing moment, holds at it's core a significance greater even than that created by blood. The Choctaw-Irish story is based on a quality central to the very existence of humanity itself in any meaningful form; that most simple act of kindness. And in the case of the Choctaw and how they reached out to Ireland, across an ocean, across cultures, and indeed, across all other possible barriers that could have prevented them from even considering the course of action they actually did, the kindness in question here was without doubt, a kindness




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