Tim Giago: Lakota people were pushed out of nest too early

Perhaps it was appropriate that my wife Jackie and daughter Troy discovered the bird’s nest on our back porch on Mother’s Day.

They were seated on our deck on one of the very rare warm days in May when Jackie spotted the nest. It was low enough on a beam that she reached up and pulled it down and let out a yelp when she saw the single, blue egg lodged in the center of the nest.

She hurriedly put the nest back just in time to dodge an angry mother robin that buzzed mighty close to her head. The robin was chirping madly at this woman who had the nerve to touch her precious nest. If robins could swear I believe this was the occasion to do it; and mama robin did just that.

The rest of May was cold, windy and rainy and afforded us little time to enjoy the comforts of our deck. This gave the mother and papa robins time to catch the many worms that followed each rain storm and ample leisure to feed them and prepare them.

We looked out of our back window everyday to observe the progress of the baby robins. There were now four babies in the nest and we could see them with their little beaks wide open and their dutiful parents feeding them the big, juicy worms.

It’s funny how one happening can jog the memory to another similar happening. I recalled the day in about 1939 when I headed down to Kyle Dam with a can of worms and my fishing pole. I saw old man Red Blanket sitting on a bank overlooking the dam with willow fishing pole in hand. I asked him if he wanted some worms and he graciously accepted. We chatted for a short time and he told me a story about a nest of robins. He said his grandpa asked him to find a bird or animal and keep track of it for a few weeks and learn from it.

He found a nest of robins and watched them from the time the eggs were laid and hatched and he continued to watch as the little birds grew larger and were eventually pushed from the nest by their protective parents. He learned a lot from this and related his findings to his grandfather who nodded in approval. His grandpa told him that he had witnessed a small portion of the circle of life.

And that is exactly what happened to our robins. The babies grew larger with each passing day and pretty soon all four could hardly fit in the nest. One was larger than the others and we assumed this one, a male, came from the little blue egg that Jackie spotted when she pulled the nest down.

On Sunday morning, a nice, bright and sunny day, I grabbed a cup of coffee and went out on the deck to check on the robins. One baby, the largest one, flew from the nest and into our kitchen window and then dropped to the ground. He was alright, just a little frightened. Of course the doting parents were right there to protect him and take him to safety.

I came back a couple of hours later and there was only one baby robin left in the nest. I am led to believe that this was the runt of the flock because he was firmly ensconced in the nest and refused to leave. Mama and papa robin made several trips to the nest pushing, pecking and coaxing the last robin to leave the nest.

After many exhausting efforts the runt was forced from the nest. And I discovered that the robins apparently believed that their nest was a permanent fixture on our deck because when I removed it I was swarmed by the mama and papa and had to make a quick dash for the kitchen door.

Comparing this experience to the human experience I believe that many of us Lakota got pushed from the nest before we were ready. We were shipped off to alien boarding schools before many of us could even speak the language of our new caretakers. Like the last robin to be pushed from the nest, our first flight into life was a traumatic one.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the former editor and publisher of Indian Country Today. He is the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. His book "Children Left Behind" is available at amazon.com.

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