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The Turtle Island Explorer
First published by Freya Abbas in 2017
Copyright © Freya Abbas, 2017
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distribute it by any other means without permission.
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I. Humanity vs. Time
The Workings of the Party
The Call to Adventure
The Turtle Island Explorer
The Germanic Sorceress
Omens and Signs
The Bird that Devours Men
Poloma of the Bow
Know your enemy
II. The Love that Everyone Hates
Coaxoch's New Friend
Behind the Obsidian Mirror
A Plague of Questions
The Ominous Bird
No Greater Shame
III. The Need to Belong
The Little Queen
The Hunted Man
Home at Last
The Society for the Restoration of Ma'at
Quest of the Cahokians
Some would die for their people,
they have their loyalties all figured out,
others are cursed to never feel like they belong anywhere,
some may wake up one day to find their nation no longer exists and become history along with it,
others will adapt,
and Time will smile upon them.
Mike stared at the tiny smudge of a region on the war map. It bordered a majestic body of water that the Romans one called the mare nostrum- our sea. He supposed it was a land of olive trees and ancient temples. Whatever it was, its people were about to be crushed by a war monger in the east now. The region had once been well fortified, but now, as he looked down upon it, only two infantry soldiers remained. It was just then that Okashippa, his opponent, noticed the hopeless expression in Mike's eyes and chuckled.
"You're done, Mike."
He was right of course. Mike had learned in all his years of knowing Okashippa that the Native American rights activist was always right. He was much older and wiser than Mike, and spent most of his time encircled by books. There was a reason why the Indigenous People's Liberation Party had designated him as their regional chairman of course. Okashippa was passionate about their cause and was a wellspring of information on the accomplishments of his Native American ancestors. That was all he spent his time on.
A man who spends his time on nothing but books and politics was, at least according to Mike, in desperate need of social interaction. The sooner he could engage in some healthy debates or discussions the better, or else the extreme views would build up inside him and he wouldn't have any firsthand experience with the humans that his opinions concern.
Most of all, he was in need of a good friend or a sidekick.
That's what Mike felt his role was, and he prided himself in it. After meeting Okashippa on the internet and talking to him for over four years, forming a sort of teacher-student relationship, Mike had finally driven all the way from his home in Houston, Texas to South Carolina to visit Okashippa.
Okashippa rolled his two red dice. They were cast onto the floor and turned up as two sixes. He smiled maniacally and gestured with his large, brown eyes toward the three black dice.
"Dude, two sixes from the defender basically means I don't even have to bother rolling. Southern Europe is yours," Mike surrendered.
He watched helplessly as Okashippa moved his troops into Mike's former territory by the Mediterranean Sea.
"Well bro, that settles it. You win again. As usual. I can't even believe I thought I would win this time."
"You thought that attack on Russia was so clever, didn't you?" Okashippa laughed.
"The day I beat you at a game of Risk will surely be the day the world ends!" Mike exclaimed.
"Keep visiting me and maybe someday you will."
Mike wondered how Okashippa managed to get so good at the game if he rarely had visitors to his crumby old apartment building brimming with books and native crafts. He came to the conclusion that the Indigenous People's Liberation Party that Okashippa hung out with had board game nights after their meetings sometimes. Mike thought the recreational events of political parties and cults must be just so glamorous! He imagined the comrades together playing games of trivia and strategy or organizing book clubs together where they read and discussed great works like Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee or Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World. Perhaps when it was some important member's birthday they would all have a potluck and cook dishes for each other, using the Three Sisters as their main ingredients!All Mike could be sure of was that it couldn't just be discussing depressing politics all the time or counting money from fundraisers and constantly revising the draft of their manifesto, which had been rewritten several times and could never be organized and finessed enough for official publication. There certainly had to be some fun bonding time for the members.
Mike completely understood why Okashippa would want to belong to something like that. Since the beginning of time it has been in human nature to want to be part of a group. It's why the first fear in a baby's mind is loneliness. It's a survival instinct passed down from millions of years of evolution. Okashippa's ancestors felt the need to belong to tribes or clans. Just imagine the allure of something as interesting and purposeful as a whole political party, especially to an old, single man like Okashippa who's best friends were thick and ancient volumes with pages upon pages of inky lines of Roman script. It must be such a powerful calling!
The calling stirred deep in Mike's soul as well. He had a wife who was three months pregnant, Stephanie, or he thought he would joined for sure and pledge his life to the cause.
As he thought about all this, he gazed out of Okashippa's window, looking down at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Okashippa's tiny apartment room was quite a few stories up. It was easy to forget that as he seldom let any natural light into his lair. Mike thought it was ridiculous of his friend to live near one of the most popular tourist destinations in his state and never venture out to the coast, but in this weather he couldn't blame him. As a Texan, Mike was not completely accustomed to the sight of snow. Mike squinted through the snowflakes and remembered that no two were exactly alike but that they still shared characteristics that made them all snowflakes. It was like how the Indigenous People's Liberation party was an eclectic bunch. No two members had the exact same views. That was probably why they could never come to a consensus on the manifesto, but they had realized that they could never make any progress if they didn't work together. He wished he could be accepted into something that way.
For dinner that night, Okashippa had roasted a whole turkey stuffed with cranberries, potatoes, and beans to share with Mike. They had a good feast, with a large loaf of frybread and some cornmeal pudding on the side.
"Thanksgiving's not for a few days." Mike said.
"I know. But I don't care for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to eat turkey because it's a traditional Native American dish." Okashippa said, poking at a piece of the roasted bird with his fork. His ancestors hadn't domesticated many animals, but they did have turkeys.
Mike winced, remembering what Okashippa had told him once in an online conversation.
"Thanksgiving has a dark history, Mike." he had messaged Mike once, when Mike had posted a picture of the thanksgiving meal that he had once made with Stephanie. Mike had rolled his eyes at first and sent Okashippa a fed up emoji, but Okashippa had continued explaining.
"What do you think of when you imagine Thanksgiving? A bunch of Puritans sitting around with my ancestors at a table, enjoying a meal together?"
"Well yeah. Your ancestors helped the first Europeans to survive here, or they would've died in their first New World winter. I'm sure they're thankful for that."
"No, Mike. The settlers were extremely violent. The Pequot massacre, Dakota War, and the Wounded Knee massacre should be enough to show you how 'thankful' the settlers were for my ancestors' help."
Ever since the incident, Mike's conscience gnawed at him almost every time he celebrated a holiday. It bothered him during Thankgiving, Christmas, and most off all, during the 4th of July.
"Oka, I was wondering about Thanksgiving..." Mike said, seeing that Okashippa was nearly finished eating.
"Go ahead. Ask anything you want. Don't worry about me being offended, as I am your brother."
Mike felt warm inside at being called someone's brother.
"What do you guys, I mean the Indigenous People's Liberation party, do on Thanksgiving?"
"That depends on which region you're in. In our Eastern Woodlands region, for which I am the chairman, we just have a huge meeting and information seminar in which we invite all members of the public, even white men. The most exciting counter-celebration is the one on Alcatraz island though, where our California-Intermountain chapter launches a protest every year known as Unthanksgiving day."
Mike nodded thoughtfully.
"What are the regions again? and what is your ancestry?"
Okashippa's face lit up. He loved to talk about his personal family history just as much as he liked to talk about his more distant ancestors and how they were before European contact.
"The organization recognizes five distinct cultural regions. These are the Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, California-Intermountain, and the Northeast Coast. South Carolina is considered part of the Eastern Woodlands. I feel honoured that my people chose me to represent this region, and that I had my hand in choosing the Grand Chief of our party, Mikinak Pikwakanagan, who is also from our region. I have the blood of the Chocktaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw people. My grandparents on my father's side were full blood Choctkaw and Chickasaw, but my father married a woman who was part English somewhere down her line, though her soul was fully Cherokee. During the American Revolution, many Cherokees allied themselves with the British. They didn't want the Americans to become too powerful. I am pleased Mike, that you take such an interest in this. Someday I really hope you and I will become full-brothers once you join the organization. I know that you share the blood of my ancestors, at least in part. Perhaps someday I will take you to visit Chief Mikinak Pikwakanagan himself."
Mike felt a stirring, a calling, deep within him. He knew it was a very difficult decision. He would lose many of his friends if he pledged allegiance to this controversial organization, with all its protests and struggles that sometimes ended violently, with all its members sharing bonds that were far deeper than those of mere biological relation. He knew he would have to sacrifice much to join them. Did he dare? What would Stephanie, who was as European as one could be, think?
Waking to the sound of a conch shell being blown can be a beautiful thing, but on that particular morning it had filled Tecolotl's heart with dread. To her it sounded as if it came from an eerie, hollow part of the earth that would split open and pull her into its gaping jaws. She imagined the ground trembling around her as she rolled off her sleeping mat and felt the cold, hard floor against her naked feet.
She felt sick to her stomach. She had the feeling in her stomach for many weeks now, but on this day it was worse than ever before. She felt like dying. The last time Tecolotl had been happy was surely when her family still lived by the small farming settlement at Xochimilco, on the outskirts of this great city, where her father had paddled among the chinampa fields of corn, amaranth and sagein his canoe. She never stopped longing for the old days.
What she missed most of all from her old life was the fact that she used to live in a sort of hinterland on the outskirts of the shining capital of the Mexica known as Tenochtitlan. This had meant that her family was right next to the Walled City, a forbidden settlement of the pochteca merchants, the worshipers of Yacatecuhtli. There were so many things that drew her to their way of life that it would take forever to explain.
She knew that morning she would have to brush her long, black hair and clean her teeth with charcoal before sitting down to the same bowl of atolli porridge her mother made everyday and then go through the rest of her morning routine. The thought depressed her.
She rubbed her eyes and plunged back into her bed. Rolling over, she thought perhaps if she just fell asleep again, the world would forget about her and she could be at peace. Maybe she could stop existing.
It was hard for her to get any sleep nowadays, because the new house had fluffy mattresses stuffed with screech owl feathers and blankets lined with jaguar fur from the southern Hot Lands inhabited by Mayans. They just seemed like the sort of things to her that spoiled rich people slept on and she didn't want to be associated with that kind of lifestyle.
You may be thinking that she was dreadfully lazy, but she was really just anxious. She was really scared of being where her mother wanted her to be that day. She heard footsteps coming to her room and covered her face with her exotic fur blanket.
"Tecolotl! What's wrong with you? You were supposed to be up when the priests sounded the conch shells!"
Tecolotl groaned when she noticed mother had burst into the room.
"We've moved to the inner city now. We've earned a place for ourselves because of your father's courageous and noble deeds! We live so close to the huey teocalli- the Great Temple now."
"Yes, mother, I know. I can see it from my bedroom window!"
"So you must be able to hear the conch shells much better now from the priests at the temple than you did back where we used to live, where the squawking of your father's turkeys would rouse you."
"You really think the problem is that I didn't hear the sound. It's just like you to not understand the real problem." Tecolotl whispered to herself under the sheets, not wanting her mother to hear.
"You don't want to be late for your first day at the calmecac!"
Tecolotl cringed upon hearing the word that she dreaded, the name of the school for noble and gifted children.
However, if there was one thing that scared her more than the idea of her first day at the calmecac going completely horrible, it was invoking the wrath of her mother. This was the thought that motivated Tecolotl to finally get dressed.
Tecolotl's mother may seem like a nice woman to some, but it was impossible to reason with her. Tecolotl learned it is best to comply with her mother's wishes.
Tecolotl's mother hated the skirt and blouse her daughter pulled out of the wardrobe. They were made of rough agave fibers. As Tecolotl looked at herself in an obsidian mirror, her mother crept up from behind, took one look into the mirror, and click her tongue disapprovingly.
"You are a pilli- the child of a noble now. You are allowed to wear cotton. In fact, I think all the girls your age will be wearing cotton skirts at the calmecac."
Tecolotl bit her tongue to conceal the millions of objections she had as she slipped into cotton clothes. Then she canoed to school across Tenochtitlan's many canals.
As mentioned before, the calmecac is a type of school for the children of nobles, or for the exceptionally gifted or talented. You would be taken out of the telpochcalli - the commoner's school to go there and be forced to leave your friends behind.
Now, you must think Tecolotl was crazy for not wanting to go to a school that offered a higher level of education. The truth was she had always been a curious person who would rather be surrounded by codices or gaze up at the stars than interact with people. That wasn't the issue. The thing that bothered her was that the last thing she wanted was to be part of Tenochtitlan's aristocracy.
The school was much smaller and secluded than the telpochcalli. It was nearly in the heart of Tenochtitlan. The astronomical observatories, grandest temples, and even the huey tlatoani's palace were not very far from it. When Tecolotl finally arrived by canoe, she looked around for a mat to sit on in the classroom.
Her first instinct was to look around for where Coaxoch was sitting. Then she remembered that her best friend Coaxoch wasn't there. She was still at the telpochcalli, the commoner school, far away on the outskirts of the city. So she ended up sitting beside a girl who introduced herself as Izel. Izel was a bit shy, but it didn't take Tecolotl long to find out that Izel was an extremely intelligent girl. She wasn't a typical noble's child like most of the students there. She was one of the few commoners that had made it to that room with pure dedication and hard work. Tecolotl wished Coaxoch could have done the same, but she knew Coaxoch wasn't that type of person.
"Quenin otomotlanexiti?" Izel nodded a greeting to Tecolotl, smiling warmly.
Tecolotl tried not to cringe, for in the language of Nahuatl, the greeting that native speakers gave to each other every morning literally meant "how did you wake?" Tecolotl lied and said that she had been very excited to attend the calmecac. Izel smiled and said the same thing, causing Tecolotl to wonder whether Izel was concealing her own true feelings as well. "Of course the commoner would feel strange in a room that was mostly full of noble children." Tecolotl thought. "Most of us don't even deserve to be here the way she does."
After all the students had settled down, a teacher walked into the room. He wore a splendid azure cloak that reached his ankles, a mark of high nobility. The students tried not to drop their jaws in amazement. He was a bubbly and energetic man with a good sense of humor. Tecolotl thought it was wonderful for a teacher to have a good sense of humor. For one, the ability to make others laugh shows a high level of intellect. It also makes everyone in the room calm down and feel more at ease. Tecolotl loved how intelligent and passionate the teacher was.
The teacher began the day by introducing himself as Ce Tepuzmachiyopilcac. The students were to call him Cetzin. Then, he made a very long speech about how the students of the calmecac of Tenochtitlan were the pride and future of the Mexica people. It put a lot of pressure on the students to do well, but it was a good sort of pressure.
Cetzin's glossy hair fell around his shoulders and bounced when he gesticulated to explain one fact or another about the movement of celestial bodies or the history of the Mexica people or how to draw the mysterious picture glyphs that scribes used to make immortal the deeds of their huey tlatoani and warriors. Tecolotl became so drawn into the subjects that she completely forgot about how nervous she had been for her first day at the calmecac. If she finished some of her school work early, she couldn't resist but to stare at the teacher, curious about his background. His straight, mesmerizing hair had been washed with indigo. His deep, dark eyes seemed to smile upon everyone. This man was not one who would fade away with time, no, he would inspire the students to noble deeds that would live on even after the ends of Mexico-Tenochtitlan itself.
It should come as no surprise to you that Okashippa and Mike, though they agreed on many things such as politics, had very different ideas about what fun was. Okashippa's idea of it was like an old man's while Mike's was like a teenager's.
"So, what do you want today?" Okashippa asked after he awoken Mike early in the morning. Okashippa always woke up early. Mike knew that his friend was only asking for his opinion to sound polite, and that Okashippa had already planned everything out that they would be doing that day. Mike would suggest something and then Okashippa would suggest something else, and then Mike would exclaim how smart Okashippa was and what a good idea he had and pretend to be completely swayed to his suggestion of how to spend the time.
"Lets have a stroll on the beach and then go to the mall, the aquarium, the pool, the escape rooms, the public gardens, the movies, and the golf club!"
"I have a better idea. Why don't you go read the copy of 1491 by Charles Mann that is lying on that couch over there and I'll read hmmm lets see..." Okashippa paused for a bit "I think I'm in the mood for fiction. Pass me The Last of the Mohicans by James Cooper. It's on the floor beside the lamp. When we're done we can discuss what we've learned and then watch something."
His last words alarmed Mike, "you mean a movie? Is it a Marvel movie? Or do you want to watch the latest Star Wars that came out?" Mike asked.
"Even better. It's a six hour long documentary called the Americas before Columbus!"
Mike took a nap on the couch for a while as Okashippa enjoyed himself, finishing the book quickly and then watching the documentary on his bulky vintage television set.
Suddenly, Mike's slumber was interrupted by the ringing of Okashippa's doorbell. Mike had told Okashippa many times to install a normal doorbell, not one that would start playing Lakota flute music when pressed.
"Mike? Pssst" Okashippa whispered.
"I'm scared. Go see who it is."
"So that if it's a serial killer it will get me first?" Mike joked, and then immediately regretted it as his friend winced.
Okashippa had a terrible social anxiety. He had to go for speech therapy sessions for nearly six months before he was able to attend his first debate at the Indigenous People's Socialist Party. Part of his social anxiety meant that he always got too spooked to answer the doorbell. When Mike had arrived to visit him, he had to bang the door and yell "Okashippa! It's me, your buddy Mike! From the internet! Remember when you met me on that forum about international politics, five years ago?" before Okashippa felt confident enough to let Mike in.
Mike glanced out the peephole and noticed that no one was there. Puzzled, he swung open the door.
"Hey Okashippa, there's nothing here. Just a big box," he said. Someone had mailed a package to Okashippa.
"Who is it from?"
There was a printed ensign on the brown cardboard box that showed a Native American medicine wheel.
"Bring it in."
Okashippa brought a knife from the kitchen and settled himself on the couch next to Mike's blanket. He was ready to open the box.
"I wonder what it could be. There is still a month left until the Pagan Yuletide... I mean, Christmas." Mike said.
"It's probably something for the upcoming meeting where we will discuss why Thanksgiving should not be celebrated as it is a genocidal holiday, and reflect on our anti-Columbus day protest from a few days ago. Maybe there are some brochures in here that they want me to distribute around the community."
"I see." said Mike, although he noticed Okashippa's hands trembling with uncertainty. He really hated surprises. They both knew the package was much too heavy to contain brochures. Mike instinctively reached out my hands to help, for Okashippa's hands were shaking as the held the knife. "Careful now."
Moments later, Mike pulled a long scroll from the box that had a letter scribbled on it. Okashippa snatched it from Mike's hands and began to read it, his eyes darting from left to right. While he was busy with that, Mike lifted out what looked like a pair of headphones but were much heavier. On each ear-covering the medicine wheel ensign had been imprinted.
"Hey bro, did you order custom headphones?"
Okashippa said nothing, so Mike lifted the box and turned it over to spill out the rest of the contents. There was another pair of headphones just like the first one, two metal armbands, two walkie-talkies, two waterproof notebooks with pens attached to them and a large manual of instructions for some kind of product.
"When you're done with that scroll, I suppose you can read this." said Mike, flipping through the instruction manual and trying to figure out what it was meant for. It seemed strange that someone would write a manual so long just for a set of headphones.
"No! This can not be! I swear on my ancestors, this isn't scientifically possible! It makes no sense!" Okashippa shrieked, waving around the scroll.
"What? What happened? Chill."
"Read this." He thrust the letter written on old, yellowed, rolled-up paper into Mike's hands.
Mike sighed and began out loud the following words:
Dear Chairman Okashippa of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Eastern Woodlands Region of the Occupied United Nations of Turtle Island,