Manataka American Indian Council
HONORING OUR RELATIONS
A Call from the Wild
By Linda Bear Heart
Red Jacket stood tall and proud, surveying the audience with sharp, watchful eyes, the only male in a circle of women. The women around the campfire sat in appropriate silence and awe. The raucous calls from nearby crows made him nervous, hyper-alert. Like his namesake, Chief Red Jacket, he was ‘always ready’. Red Jacket is a majestic red-tail hawk with only one wing.
Red Jacket was just one of the animal relatives that the women at the Strawberry Moon Gathering in Lily Dale, New York, were honored to greet. Red Jackets family includes a Gidget, a small kestrel hawk; Sweetie, a pigeon whose had been almost totally plucked naked by crows; Peanut, a lop-eared rabbit that had been abandoned by a local school and found starving by a janitor; a full grown grey wolf named Shaman and two women with hearts the size of the moon.
Cathy Eimers and her partner, Dee Garrido, live in Brant, New York. Almost all their time is spent growing food – all organic – and taking care of their animals. Cathy and Dee own and run The Rehab Rez, a 24 hour wildlife hospital for injured and orphaned wild life. “To the best of my knowledge we are the only wildlife hospital run by native people on Turtle Island,” Cathy writes.
Not all the animals that find their way to Cathy’s hospital can be released back into the wild. This single, simple fact speaks to the dedication of two wonderful women. Many animals have life spans of twenty years or longer. If they can’t be released, they become a part of Cathy and Dee’s family.
Red Jacket was named for one of Cathy’s heroes, Chief Red Jacket, the great Seneca orator known for his tolerance. Red Jacket argued for religious tolerance, pointing out that if Creator made so many different people, why would he not also make many different religions? Cathy’s Red Jacket is also a spokesman for his kind and participates in wildlife handling training. “That’s one of the reason I called him Red Jacket,” says Cathy. “He has to tolerate everything I put him through.”
Red-tail hawks tolerate a wide variety of habitats and altitudes. They live throughout North America in deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, agricultural fields and cities. Popular for falconry, red-tail hawks account for 60% of all raptors under one year of age taken from the wild, in spite of being ‘protected’ by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Red Jacket had been illegally taken from the wild. When his captors were on verge of being arrested they threw him out of their vehicle. And shot him. This sacred, winged relation will never fly again. He will live with Cathy and Dee for the rest of his life.
Shaman, another permanent member of the family, is a full grown grey wolf. Shaman was the runt of an illegally bred litter of wolf pups. Being the runt, he was abandoned. One of Shaman’s brothers, Arrow, was rescued later, but did not live. Shaman loves to sing. He not only howled when Cathy did, to demonstrate his musical ability, he joined other songs at the gathering.
Bounce the fox is one of Cathy’s favorite release success stories. Bounce was brought in by a local game warden, almost starved. “She ate 11 or 12 mice immediately, she was so hungry,” tells Cathy. Bounce had to stay at Rehab Rez for two weeks to gain her strength before she could be released. During the late evening and early morning hours, fox hunting hours, Bounce would whine with distress at being caged. “So I tossed her a tennis ball,” Cathy recalls. “You haven’t seen anything like that little fox on her back playing with that ball.” The warden kindly reports back to Cathy when he sees Bounce in the wild. Recently he reported that she had made a den in an old groundhog burrow and had three kits. “I asked him why he was sure it was Bounce,” says Cathy. “Because she still has the tennis ball and the kits are playing with it,” he reported.
Cathy and Dee provide food and care for these animals as an offering of love. They do not receive grant money or funding from any organization. Cathy will not accept “one d*mn dollar from King George”. Yet, she provides holistic medical care to all the injured animals that come to their attention. Cathy is from Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Territory. Dee Garrido and her daughter Amanda are members of the South Cherokee Nation in Texas.
Cathy is well qualified for what she does. She is far from being a well-intentioned amateur. Cathy has an Associates Degree in Pharmacology ECC, EDM, SLS-NASA; is a certified Wild Life Rehabilitator, New York State and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and a spokesperson for Canis Luips for Defenders of Wild Life, Washington, DC.
During the Strawberry Moon Gathering, Cathy and Dee received a call at 2:30 in the morning. A doe had been hit leaving two orphaned fawns. Cathy had to pick them up and take them to a cooperating goat farm where they can be nursed until they are old enough for release.
Dee, who is a Firekeeper, had been up a great portion of the night keeping the sacred fire burning (including covering part of my 4:00 am shift when I overslept). But these two dedicated women were at the gathering with these animals the next day to share their experience and advice concerning caring for our animal relations.
The Grandmother Waynonaha’s Strawberry Moon Gathering supports women with presentations from Native American and other traditions for healing and empowerment. All of the women who made presentations were strong, self-determined women. The Gathering includes a Stepping Up Dance for young women who have reached their first Moon Time and other women who have had a change in status. In addition to bringing the animals to the Sacred Circle and teaching us about each of them, Cathy also prepared a traditional Mohawk strawberry drink for women as part of the Gathering, in spite of her late night labor of love with the fawns.
Cathy recently released a skunk. In addition to Red Jacket, Gidget, Sweetie, Peanut and Shaman, Rehabilitation Rez Hospital is currently caring for a crow, a sparrow, a boat-tailed gracket, four raccoons, 56 rabbits, 12 cats, and 11 chickens – and more raccoons on the way! The Rehab Rez is open 24/7 and Cathy is glad to answer calls concerning treatment of animals in various situations (see number for the Rehab Rez below).
Cathy would never ask for help for her work or her animals. Her dedication and fierce pride are something that will touch me for years to come. But she could use and will accept our help. The feeding of the animals alone is expensive. I am hoping that the members of Manataka will appreciate the important work and the love that these women provide our animal relations and will feel honored to support that work in some way. All of you who honor our animal relations and accept help from them, I ask you to send whatever help you can. It’s a call from the wild, and I hope you will answer it.
Donations can be sent to:
The Rehab Rez, Ltd.
Brant, NY 14081
Cathy is happy to answer any questions concerning the care and rehabilitation of our animal relations at the above telephone number. She is on call for emergencies, 24 hours a day.
Every once in while, not often enough, we meet someone with a heart the size of the moon that we know we’ll remember forever. The tiny woman who picked me up at the airport -- “I’m 110 pounds soaking wet with two bricks in my pocket. I’m the Mohawk woman your mother should have warned you about and if she didn’t, too bad for you!” --is one of those people and deserves our support and honor for the work she is doing.
~ By Linda Bear Heart
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