This morning Shane and I received word that our dear friend Sunrise Chosa has passed away. He was such a special person, with a mind so broad and a heart so large, he was like no one else. He was the first friendly face we met when we moved against our better judgement to a small town in the Northwoods of Minnesota.
It was back in 2005, my father who had retired up there a decade and half earlier had a stroke and needed help. We answered the call, knowing full well this small, remote and narrow-minded place would likely be bad for us. This was back in the days of myspace, and it could be searched by zip code. I plugged in our new zip code looking for some friendly faces, and I was met with dozens of profiles that sited jesus as their hero, or worshipping God as their hobby, I was forlorn as I scrolled the list. We were in a dangerous land and it was becoming more and more obvious. A chill crept down my back, perhaps a sign of the bad things to come. Then, to my delight, I saw a photo of a young man in a Dead Kennedys shirt. I immediately sent a friend request and wrote him a note of introduction. Shane and I met him for coffee not long after and hit it off.
We knew nothing about “Sunny”, or his own struggles in the community, we just thought he was really nice and we could tell he was super smart. He told us he was working on a flying machine that used no oil or gas that he could fly just above the trees and get to the cities – Duluth and Minneapolis in a much shorter time than driving. He literally had the whole machine figured out. About a month into our friendship, he nervously told us his mother wanted to meet us. We still had no understanding of what was going on. A few days later we drove into the small trailer park near the outskirts of town and met Heart Warrior.
As it turned out, she was suspicious of anyone befriending her son and wanted to check us out. She wanted to feel out our motives and intentions, and seeing our sincerity, we all became great friends. To explain, they had a contentious relationship with the community. Heart Warrior was a revered chieftain leader, she was the first Native American to graduate from University of Minnesota, she’d run for Governor of the state, she raised her kids in the Boundary Waters, a deep wilderness running along the borders of Minnesota and Canada. She as an artist and an author, and the people of the town were terrified of her.
Sunrise had been raised in a traditional way, in a cabin in the woods, chopping wood at 5 years old. Heart Warrior home schooled him until he was about 12 and begged to go to school with other kids for social interaction. So they moved into town for that purpose.
The problem was, Sunrise had been raised by Heart Warrior, a brilliant woman, and so he was grades above his peers, plus he had an understanding of Indian ways and the natural world no one else did. He was ostracized, and treated poorly by the school kids, the school officials, and the authorities in Ely Minnesota. He was a genius, it was pretty obvious talking to him. But, he was also lacking in the social etiquette that guides our so-called civilized society.
Truly his heart and his mind were just too big for this world. He fell in with bad relationships, and while those relationships created 3 beautiful and remarkable daughters, he was a tortured soul, trying to fit into a mediocre world when he was anything but.
By the time we were forced to leave Ely Minnesota – under threats of violence and a shunning that had destroyed the small business we had built, Sunrise was in jail on some bogus charges of violence. Sunrise was a big boy, of great strength, had he wanted to be violent, there would have been bodies in his wake. He was not a violent person, misunderstood, confused by the cruelty he was so often met with. He was truly too great for the world around him. He should have been at MIT or on the West Coast, or just someplace where minds were more open and people more welcoming. The northern states of America are not friendly to native Americans, it was shocking to see when I came there. He should have been surrounded by academics rather than closed minded peers.
He passed away on November 1st, at a technical college in Minneapolis. He was a kind, trusting, beautiful person, and I am just so glad to have known him for the time we did.
We find that his death was caused by an enlarged heart, so fitting when I read this post over. As I have head, he was too feeling and sensitive in a world coldness. Fly free dear friend, soar high!