Twisted Tongues: Volume I Review

Twisted Tongues: Volume I
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Twisted Tongues: Volume I ReviewTwisted 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.
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