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Jimm GoodTracks Bio


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I left Pawnee, Oklahoma after my graduation from OSU (Oklahoma State University) in May, 1965, to begin my first genuine employment and to live as an independent adult. I had been offered and accepted a Case Worker I position with the Conejos County Department of Welfare. Conejos is approximately 30 miles South of Alamosa, CO, which has the frequent distinction of being about the coldest place in the Nation. Conejos and the next biggest town, Antonito, are nearly on the border of New Mexico. It is situated in the San Luis Valle in between the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. It is at this southern mountainous Colorado location, that would initiate my course into linguistics and the commited study of our Elder's Bxoje, Jiwre-t^chi Language.

I cannot really say when it was, that I realized in Colorado, that I had arrived in an encapulated leftover corner of early Spanish colonization. The entire near 100 miles in any direction from Alamosa was a semi-desert, irrigated by a system of antiquated hand dug waterways that nourished small ranchitos organized around many pueblitos off the highways. During the short summers, the mountain snow fed streams and irigation causeways to fields that produced lush green fields for small heards of cattle and sheep, and the many individual gardens of the valley residents. Simple flat roofed homes of adobe, each having its own dug well, and some with archaic hornos (clay ovens still in use by the Pueblo Tribes in New Mexico. Only in the towns, like Antonito, La Jara and Manasa would one enjoy a city water system. The area residents referred to themselves in English, that is, those that did speak English, as being "Spanish", as their predecessors were said to be descendents of los conquistadores of some 300 or more years earlier. In turn, these Spanish speaking mestizo ancestors married into the Native Peoples and settled in the mountain valleys making it their home, while the indigenous people were driven further into the deeper mountains that is characteristic of the heartland in the State of Colorado. I quickly learned that the majority of the people lived out in the ranchitos known by a number of designations, as Ciencerros, Las Mesitas, Capuln and San Antonio.

There were in Oklahoma, I recalled, only the oldest of the old Elders in Pawnee who were monolingual and still needed the assistance of a translator for their Native Language. And indeed, it was common to hear Ponca, Ioway-Otoe, Osage spoken in prayer and conversation at the various community dances, handgames, prayer meeting - both traditional Native American Church in a tipi or in the Indian Methodist and Baptist churches. Of course, the languages were always present in ceremonials, as in the Irushka Society, the AsaKipiriru (Young Dog) Dances or Pipe Blessings. It was only natural that any of us young people would have learned and used some of the Native Language of the Elders. And yet, it was a knowledge all too often taken for granted for the most part. It was oversung by the lure of "fun" and partying, the driving need of youthful passion, the quested need to "fit in", for that special interaction that can only be achieved from one's peer group.

Now, as a novice social caseworker, I arrived back in time, in the immense Valle de San Lus. The area stirred my interest in the historical, to the earlier times of our Grandfathers. So I lived and worked among the Chicanos, as they referred to themselves, rather than "espaoles" as suggested from their English dubbed identity. I become enthralled with their uncommon culture and language. A younger brother stated how these people seemed just like Indian People at home, in Oklahoma. Well, not quite, but close enough.

Young people my age that lived in the outlying communities could not be relied upon to speak English or know sufficient English to carry on business. Most of the Elders had never traveled beyond the mountain ranges that surrounded the Valley. I learned to speak Spanish, and thought to myself, how I came from a small family of relatives who spoke indigenous language(s) of the Land, just as these People. And how did I not pursue developing my limited knowledge with the Elders in Oklahoma.

And thus, I was inspired to write down every word and phrase that I knew and remembered of our Grandmother's Bxoje Jiwre-t^achi language (Ioway, Otoe-Missouria). I arranged during my travels home to Oklahoma, to spend an increasing amount of time with our old Uncles and Aunties. I asked for the words and terms for plants, trees, articles of dance clothing. I became more interested in the personal histories of the old People, of their early days in Oklahoma, the changes they have been oblidged to conform to and their Spirituality which has seen them through their transformation from occupant possessors and spiritual keepers of the land, to a contemporary disparaged minority which seemingly need endlessly to bend to the will of the dominant Society.

During the years of 1965 through 1987 I worked to preserve and research the Ioway Otoe-Missouria Language, oral traditon, history and customs. I researched all manner of documentation on the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria culture, oral literature, language and lifeways, ceremonials and Language, including that of early explorers, fur traders and missionaries. At the same time, I was mentored under several Elders in the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria communities.

In 1970 -1972, I received a National Mental Health Schlarship to attend KU Graduate School for Social Welfare. I acquainted myself with the KU Department of Linguistics, and Robert Rankin and Ken Miner, who have done research and field work in the Kansa, Quapaw and Winnebago communities. They provided much insight in to the study of Linguistics, and provided assistance for further work with the Ioway Otoe Language. I also engaged the services of a professional K-State linguist and a grant for a study of the language with the Elders. A set of Basic and Intermediate level language Books were published and distributed gratis to the students and families of the three communities.

During July, 1985, the Otoe-Missouria Johnson O'Malley Program, after being referred by several local Elders, employed me to instruct the children in the Day Summer Program on the Bxoje Jiwre Language. From that time, various individuals have engaged me in several capacities to assist them to learn the songs, language and the traditional teachings and lifeways of the elders (traditional stories, sweat lodge, Native American Church), under whom I mentored. Meanwhile, I compiled a number of wkan (traditional stories), and a comprehensive dictionary, which combined my own knowledge of the language and that of tribal elders, and manuscript sources going back to the 1830's. In 2002 & 2003, I was requested to provide an Introduction to Bxoje (Ioway) Language at White Cloud, KS, in conjunction with the September 2002 Baxoje Fall Encampment of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska, and have been encouraged to continue the sessions.

I pursued this interest, first, simiply to satisfy my own knowledge. Later, I desired to have knowledge of the Ioway-Otoe elders for the benefit of my family, my children. And, now I wish to create a knowledge resource in print for the younger generations that desire to know about their heritage and language. And it is timely, as now the Elders are gone, and my generation grows older. It would be good when the taped voices of the traditional Elders are saved to teach new generations.

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