Living in the Ancient-Present (with thanks)

By Carmen Hathaway, Abenaki artist – As Above, So Below

I received an email yesterday, through the Five College Native American listserv, sent out by Professor Lisa Brooks  (Chair of the Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies Program). Included was an invitation to celebrate the work of the graduating seniors in the program. The dissertation work of Malinda Labriola was to be featured: “Living in the Ancient-Present: An exploration and application of Native American creations narratives and oral traditions.”

Living in the Ancient-Present. It stopped me in my tracks and it caught in my throat. It drifted up silently from a familiar place and looked me in the eye. It said nothing, in volumes, over and over again.

This is the place I find myself. This is the place that found me. I had no choice. It was not mine to choose. It was mine to listen…

I am drawn to John Trudell’s posthumous gift Time Dreams:

Straight talk
With ancestor memories
Free without judgment
Answers to questions
And feelings
Dream time
Is part of our pulse
Memories in the shapes
Of life
We are a part of that
The breath part

Our memories
Come from the earth
And return to the earth
In the reunion
Our pulse comes from the sky
And returns to the sky.

*****

It is all here. We are a part of it, we are what was and will be. It is a great responsibility, it is an honor and a gift. We are given some understanding, we are told a story. We try to listen closely, and put it in a safe place, to ponder and to safekeep. We learn, we know what is the right thing to do – it has always been this way –  we remember. It is good to celebrate the breath, the wind, the spirit. It is all here. We are here. Together, in the Ancient-Present.

N’mikwaldam. Pamgisgak.

 

 

Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch: Serpents & Thunderbirds

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A fundraiser from Christi and Isaac‘s Facebook profiles, two insightful and committed Native artists and activists.

48 Hour Auction! Ends Saturday March 4 at 9 pm ET. Winner gets both canvases!

Title: Serpents and Thunderbirds
By Isaac Murdoch and myself.
Two canvases make up this piece, each canvas is 12″ x 16″. Acrylic on Canvas.
Isaac’s painting of the serpent tells a tale of long ago. My painting is of the Thunderbird as it governs the night skies. The Serpent and Thunderbird keep the world in balance.

Happy bidding!

*****

An insightful juxtapostion to keep in mind, relative to the West River…

Seven Things to Realize About the Standing Rock Action

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Photo from http://www.nodaplarchive.com/

  1.  This is not an ending to a discrete event, a foregone legal consummation, or a notable protest gone silent. This is another page in a long, horrific saga, a continuation of 500 years of resistance and a strong resurgence of spirit.
  2.  This is not an environmental movement. This is a gathering of Native people uniting around the truths of being indigenous, and asserting those original responsibilities to the Earth and all of our relations.
  3.  This is not an isolated media event in a singular disagreement whose time has now passed. Similar situations are happening, and have been for years, in indigenous homelands everywhere.
  4.  This is not fundamentally a physical or political battle. This is a spiritual struggle between separation and connection, appropriation and reciprocity.
  5.  This was and is not simply a reaction by “Natives and allies” to “Western progress”, because colonialism is not a period in the distant past. Rather, it is an ongoing systemic policy of the United States that has now expanded to include almost all of its own people AND the rest of the world.
  6.   This is not about violence, terrorism, and disrespect. This is about life, love, and caring: for each other, for our Mother, and for all of Creation.
  7.   These understandings, and the people who hold them, are not a thing of the past or irrelevant in today’s world. They are more significant and needful now than ever, and that, my friend, is the source of Native resilience. They are still here and still speaking.

Don’t Settle – Watch This One

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Montana, like Vermont, has one Representative in the U.S. House. His name is Ryan Kinke. A single termer, he happens to be President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior, which entails supervision of a great deal of “public” lands, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (for what that is worth). Although nominated in mid-December, well before Trump was inaugurated, his confirmation has been held up during this troubling transition, along with many others. The word is that the final hearings won’t be held until late February or early March.

He is being touted by many, even those across the aisle, as “not so bad” – this in comparison, it would seem, to the balance of the Administration’s inner cadre. He is a devoted sportsman, a “Teddy Roosevelt” conservationist, a westerner among westerners. He has sworn up and down that he does not believe in privatizing public lands, or ceding Federal responsibility for the same to State or local oversight. Yet at the beginning of the 2017 Congressional session in January, on one of his first and only floor votes, he seemingly reversed his publicly stated position, and voted to approve a measure which would have removed Federal budgetary accountability from the transfer of public lands. Having shown his hand and been called out on it, he was (it would seem) quietly asked to refrain by the Administration. Immediately thereafter, he stopped participating in House actions and has not voted since – for a month and a half – lest he incur further less-than-positive reaction before confirmation.

This speaks volumes. Yes, his abstention or absence leaves Montana without its sole voice in the House, an effect that has drawn complaint from its constituents. True, he has drawn cautious praise from several local tribes because of his support of their causes. But having been chosen by the current administration, and already demonstrated his willingness to toe the ideological line, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, it would be well to beware. The League of Conservation Voters, whose mission it is to pay attention, gives him a 3% career approval rating on votes that matter. Just because this fellow likes to go hunting with Donald Trump’s sons does not make him a friend of the Land. Or anyone, by extension. This will become clear, after he is approved by those who are convinced, by juxtaposition, that “he is not so bad.” The current reality will manifest and it will not be kind. Or caring. Or respectful. To our Mother, and by extension, to her Children.

 

Sacred Ojibwa Bark Scrolls Returning After 70 Years

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In the 1930s, an American anthropologist named Irving Hallowell journeyed north to Canada to live among the Ojibwa and study their culture. He left with a wealth of knowledge – and something else. He took a bundle of sacred scrolls, made out of birch bark, and central to the performance of ancient religious ceremonies of the tribe.

The scrolls were never forgotten by those whose ancestors used them. Some elders in the tribe remember the old ways of doing things. Elder Donald Bird still uses the sweat lodge behind his house. There were other rituals, like the drum and the shaking tent, used to conjure the souls of the living and the dead.

Read this archived article from CBCNews.

*****

Traditional knowledge and its tangible representations has been scattered, banned, appropriated, diluted, sold, and destroyed, ever since coercive colonial forces have arrived in indigenous homelands. The principles and understandings of spirit signified by these materials persist, however, in the landscapes which generated them and in the heartss of the survivors who hold them. They are the same. They are still here. They can still be known by those who seek to restore the connection and the relationship. All is not lost… all is still here to be found.

From John Trudell’s “Crazy Horse”:

The Wild Age, the Glory Days live
Crazy Horse, We hear what you say
One Earth, One Mother
One does not sell the Earth the People walk upon
We are the Land…