The Peaceful Warrior, Native American Activist, Traditionalist, Chief Charles TwoDog of the United Western Lenape Nation, discusses his life, then and now.
Chief Charles TwoDog sat across from me, hands tucked gently in his lap. We both sat there motionless, speechless, just staring at one another. We held our gaze for a few seconds, neither one of us saying a word. Still silent, he gently nods his head. He reaches over to grab a cigarette and began to speak in his native tongue. He paused for a moment and took a deep drag on his cigarette, he continued stare into my eyes. My eyes batted a few times trying to force the tears to the back of my eyes. It had been years; finally, I felt I was at home.
Bellesprit: Nice to see you again, my friend! I am looking forward to hearing about your life a little more in detail. I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive for a long time now. Can you believe that we are actually here?
TwoDog: Actually, no! (He chuckles) You contacted me about doing this story a few months ago, and before that, 2 years ago. I thought long and hard about it. I have remained silent for the most part, all these past years.
Bellesprit: Yes, I have been soliciting you for an interview for quite some time now. Let’s begin by telling the readers a little bit about you.
TwoDog: My name is Chief Charles TwoDog. I’m running the United Western Lenape Nation. I was born in 1959 in Kentucky. My father, John Iron Fist was a New York Mohawk. My Mother Dorothy, also named ‘Woman Afraid of Birds,’ was an Eastern Band Cherokee from North Carolina. I wasn’t born on the reservation.
Bellesprit: ‘Woman Afraid of Birds?’ Did I hear that correctly?
TwoDog: Yes, that’s right! She was flogged by a chicken when she was a kid. After that, she had a fear of all birds. That’s how she got her name, ‘Woman Afraid of Birds.’ I remember she used to sit on the porch and throw rocks at the birds that would come a little too close. My dad would come out and watch for birds if she needed to leave the porch. Trust me though, she’s not afraid of anything else! (We laugh)
Bellesprit: I bet not! I wanted to ask, how did you get the name TwoDog?
TwoDog: Before I was born, my grandfather ‘Little Bull,’ named me. He had a dream about the, ‘Dog Star.’ The Dog Star Sirius is a star system and the brightest star in the earth’s night sky. Some say that I’m also like 2 dogs in one. I am like an old dog on the porch; I’m gentle, but if someone was to walk by and kicks me, or if someone hurts those that I love, I will turn into a wolf really fast!
Bellesprit: I take it you were close to your grandfather Little Bull?
TwoDog: Extremely! A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him. I am the only child that he taught the Indian ways to. I really don’t know why that was, but it just was. I remember when he and I would be talking about things in private. If somebody walked into the room, he would just stop talking. He would give me a special look that told me I was not to speak anymore. Sometimes he would call me into another room to finish our private talks. My grandfather was a traditionalist, which means he lived and breathed the Indian ways. He taught me to respect all races/mankind, animal, the earth, family and women. My grandfather believed in all rights for all people.
Bellesprit: Many of the readers may not understand what it means to be a traditionalist, can you perhaps elaborate?
TwoDog: Sure, I can do that. Some people refer to our culture as being religious, we are not. We don’t consider our spirituality, culture, sacred ceremonies, and rituals to be ‘religious.’ We have no sacred books in the way many other religions do. For example, the bible is considered Holy books by many. Our customs and beliefs are the very part of our being. We are very connected to nature, and we respect all life. As far back as I can remember, my grandfather, Little Bull took me outside. He carefully picked up a tiny grasshopper. He told me that all creatures are equal, even this grasshopper. Everything that the Creator has put here on Mother Earth we need to respect, even wasps! Don’t kill them, put them outside. Everything that breathes has a part in our circle of life.
Bellesprit: That makes sense, yes. I wanted to talk a little about your childhood. What was going to school like for you?
TwoDog: I lived in Adairsville, Kentucky. I started like a normal kid, only I wasn’t white. I was in school from Kindergarten to the 9th grade. I was a smart kid and they wanted to promote me to the 3rd grade. My family didn’t want me to do that. I remember every day they had everyone stand up and do the Pledge of Allegiance. I refused to do it. I just couldn’t. It just didn’t feel good to me.
Well, finally when I was in the 9th grade, they started in on me again about doing it. I was 16 by this time. They had no idea what I was about to do. I said, ‘Okay, ‘I’ll do it!’ All of a sudden it got really quiet in there, all eyes were on me. I had all that anger for the way I was treated, built up inside of me for years. I slowly got up from my chair and put my hand on my heart and said, “I pledge allegiance to the flags of all Indian nations, and to the heritage for which they stand, all nations, under the Creator, with liberty, honor and respect for us all.” Well, that was that! They tossed me right out the door, and I mean for good. Let’s put it like this, I was not invited back and I never wanted to go back, and guess what? That was my last day of school.
The other thing that really made me mad was the history class. They lied. I’ll never forget this particular class. They glorified the murderer, George Custer. For those of you who don’t know American History, he was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. This was back in the 1870’s. They made the Indian look weak, ’the strong live and the weak die,’ was preached at me since an early age. I even recall being called a racial slur in class (it’s the N word, with the word red before it) Thankfully for my grandfather, he taught me not to allow people to disrespect me with words. “Little Buddy,” he would say. “Don’t allow others’ belief of you to become your own truth, you know your truth, you know who you are inside there”, as he pointed to my heart.
Bellesprit: I wanted to discuss your Grandmother, Little Bull’s wife, ‘Woman Afraid,’ not to be confused with your mother, ‘Woman Afraid of Birds.’
TwoDog: Yes, that is right. My grandmother, oh my goodness, she was afraid of everything, and I mean everything! She used to have my grandfather walk with her around the bed in the mornings while making our beds.
Bellesprit: Were you really close to her as well?
TwoDog: Oh I loved my grandmother so much. She used to give me money to buy candy when I would go to town. I never did that. I always would buy her something. I was raised to respect her and all women. What most people don’t realize is that the women run the tribes. In fact, when a man and woman get married, the house is considered to belong to the woman. He just goes out and earns a living! Provide and protect that is the job of the man. The family works together. It’s not unusual for a family to have elders in the home. We take care of our elders up until the end of life.
Bellesprit: It seems you’ve been an activist since an early age.
TwoDog: It seems that way. I remember this one time my grandma sent me to buy candy on this particular day. I went to town like usual. I was looking for something to buy for my grandmother. I was walking along and I saw 2 police with dogs approach a black grandmother. I had seen her around town before. They tried to cut her off with the dogs as she was walking towards a public drinking fountain. I asked them not to bother her. I ran over to her, trying to protect her from the dogs. I made myself a human shield for the woman to protect her. I told them that she had just as much right to take a drink of water. The policeman then told me that I must have been taught wrong because she did not have any rights to be in the whites only area. Heck, they treated their dogs better than they treated a human being. I stayed with her until after they left. She was shaken up pretty bad; that was my first official day as an activist!
TwoDog: My wife was working close to my office. She says I scared her to death! She knew I was an activist for Native American Rights. She used to walk to work; she would walk way around me. I was having a lot of racial problems at work and it had me down for awhile. She finally got the nerve to talk to me. I was thirty-seven at the time. She smiled at me and that was pretty much it! We ran around together for awhile. I moved in with her, now 19 years. She’s a darn good woman to put up with me. We used to sit and talk about different things, our life goals and spiritual talk. She really understood me and my way of thinking and doing things, and I knew early on she was the one. It’s funny, because I had the same dream over and over until I met my wife. After that happened, it never came back.
Bellesprit: A dream?
TwoDog: Since I was a small child I had the same dream over and over. It was my wife, daughter and me. We lived in a tipi with the other tribe members. I remember in this dream that I went out to do my prayers. I could remember somebody hollering for me to look to the west. I did, and I could see dust everywhere. I told them to grab weapons, horses and have the women, children and elders hide. It was the Cavalry, I could tell by the uniforms and hats. I somehow ended up ramming my horse into a Cavalry man’s horse and we hit the ground. From there, we rolled, and I hit him in the head with a war club. I kept looking for my wife and daughter. My wife stopped and turned around in the dream and she was shot in battle. I looked around and saw my daughter, Eagle Horse. A Cavalry man in the dream chased her down. I saw him running full gallop and she was pierced by a sword. He then used the sword to swing her around and around.
Someone hollered to look to my left. I saw a gray horse and its rider didn’t have on buckskin. I then remember being hit in the head. That’s all I remember. The strange part about it was that I actually have a dent in my head all my life! After I met my wife, the dream stopped.
Bellesprit: Interesting. Why do you think that is?
TwoDog: I think we are still working on issues from a past life. I should mention that I told my wife about my dream. As I was telling it, she began to finish my sentences and had great detail. I wondered how she knew about the smallest of details. She confessed she had the same recurring dream. She also had noticed some unusual bullet hole looking scar on a part of her body as well. Can you believe that? Our daughter, Eagle Horse has also some strange scarring located around her body, where the sword had pierced her and was being flung around and around, like a rag doll.
Bellesprit: How did you become Chief of your tribe?
TwoDog: Okay, well I got a phone call from the then Chief of the tribe, Red owl. Red Owl was ready to retire as Chief. She had been in it for a long time already. She said that she had not been feeling well for a while now. She then went on to say, ‘Two Dog, are you sitting down right now? You really need to be sitting down.’ So, I sat down. I wondered what was going on that I needed to sit down for. She said, ‘I have to relieve myself as Chief effective immediately.’ I was shocked. I asked her who was going to replace her and she said the tribe has voted and that I had been elected. I told her I didn’t know or was aware that I was even being considered. I didn’t vote on this, or even run for this election, yet I am now going to be running the tribe? Well, that was 3 years ago.
Bellesprit: Some readers may be surprised that a female would be Chief of a tribe?
Twodog: Yes, what people don’t realize is that traditional women don’t only run the homes, but they also run the tribes. It’s very common to have a female Chief. After I found out about the election, she told me to pick my council. I was still shocked by the call, and you know what? I still am to this day! I still can’t believe I was voted in unanimously by the tribe, yet I was the last person to know!
We, as Native Americans, need to bring back the ‘Clan Mother’ system. Many of the tribes are getting away from that, but I believe the old traditions were there for a reason, that being that they work! When I got elected, I got the Clan Mother system back up in my nation.
Bellesprit: Can you explain how the system works?
TwoDog: First of all, let me explain why the women run the tribes. In our culture women are considered to be ‘life givers,’ they bring life into our children. They should be respected as such. Even tribal land used for growing food is managed by women. They decide who and how much land is given, according to a person’s needs.
The Head Clan Mothers title usually goes to the eldest women in the tribe. Depending on how many clans there are in a tribe, there will be a female elder in each one. When I have a problem, I always go to the Head Clan Mother to ask advice, personal or tribal. If I decide to take any actions as a Chief, I also must meet with all the Clan Mothers. If they don’t agree, then I am not allowed to take action, plain and simple. They have the last word and I must respect that, and I do.
Bellesprit: Let’s talk about your working with the Maori from New Zealand and other tribal nations worldwide.
TwoDog: I am currently working with the Maori and have been for some time. I also meet with tribes in Australia. There are even tribes in Scotland and Ireland. The people over there are very ‘clan oriented’ and have been over hundreds of years. Some people don’t even know the history of our brothers and sisters across the water. Believe it or not, we all have the same issues over there that we have over here. For example, water rights and land rights. We help the tribes find a solution. I know that If we can work together to stop the fighting between ourselves, we can move onto bigger issues, like with the government.
Bellesprit: Are you forming a peace movement off the grid?
TwoDog: You got it! It’s a worldwide peace-walk. When we are pulling together as indigenous people all over, we can be of more influence. If we can join forces, we will be pulling resources from all over and get more done. Peace can be a dangerous thing, you know?
Bellesprit: Dangerous, yes, I suppose your right. How long have you been doing this journey?
TwoDog: I’ve been sitting with diplomats for the now going on the fourth year. We don’t broadcast these meetings. You won’t find us in the media, we like it that way. I’m not saying in the future that I would be against talking to the American media. The time has to be right before we do that and we must ALL agree to talk to an outside source. I don’t see any near future plans to do that. The war dogs are barking. They bark louder and louder every day, so that might be sooner than I thought. We’re just not sure yet. I believe that these world leaders the war dogs, are pushing Revelations.
Twodog: The flags were started 2 years ago with the Maori. They were the first nation to give the flag; it was gifted to me when they were here for their first visit. We then joined together to raise both flags while here in America for a peace talk meeting. Since that time, I have been collecting all flags, not just tribal flags. I’d like to have a diplomat’s flag here, no matter where they are from. I’ve also received state flags. So far, I have collected 56 flags and hope to receive many more. I’d like to have all of them before my journey here has ended. It’s really out of respect that we fly these flag during meetings and visits.
Bellesprit: Are you still accepting new flags?
TwoDog: Yes, I am always taking flags and I appreciate that it was sent out of hope for peace. A friend just called and said the AIM, (American Indian Movement) flag will be here by May. If anyone would like to donate a flag to the peace-walk movement, it’s always very much appreciated. I am grateful for all the flags that have been sent.
I wanted to publicly thank Canadian, Native Earth Lady, Cathy Briggs of the Chippewa and Ojibwa Nation, for introducing me to Chief TwoDog. Our lives have been so enriched by his friendship/brotherhood. Native Earth Lady and I oftentimes sit together with TwoDog on Skype and listen as he teaches us about the Indian ways of life. He has inspired us both so much that oftentimes we will be sitting for hours on end, like little children listening to a wise elder. His native accent mixed with his gentle voice is remnant of my childhood on the Hopi Indian reservation. I smile to myself and think, how could I be so lucky. I feel I am at home once again. Thanks, my brother, for carrying me.
If you would like to contact Chief Charles TwoDog you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to send a flag from your nation you can send it to Chief TwoDog, 1479 Salem RD Franklin, KY. 42134.