Seven Things to Realize About the Standing Rock Action

sept-4th-500-folks-after-sacred-site-bulldozing

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

ryan-zinke-interior

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

torn-birch-bark-terrace-view

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…

Remove the Dust

‎From John Kane on his FaceBook Page “Let’s Talk Native… with John Kane”

Back in 2008 I started a blog http://www.letstalknativepride.blogspot.com. This was my first post. I look back from time to time on what the last decade has brought to us. Check it out:

Time To Learn
Or time to relearn. We have lost our way, not our ways. We have let others define us with their telling of history, their view of spirituality, their laws and their economy. Our belief systems are not lost. They are covered with ignorance, fear and shame; just dust. It is time to Remove The Dust. This is the expression our ancestors used when it was time to remind ourselves who we are. By removing the dust from our old wampums we could revisit their meanings and most of all, talk about it. We are referred to as an oral society as if that is some how primitive. Our voices are the most powerful tools we have. The ability to speak and listen is the power to teach and learn. For all the writing and reading we will ever do, it would teach us nothing if we couldn’t discuss it. Technology now allows us to have voices in this new medium. So let’s talk. Let’s teach. Let’s learn.

A very similar thought is expressed in Keith Basso’s “Wisdom Sits In Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache.” What a wonderful exploration of these traditional ways of knowing!

W8bimizi: The Metaphor of the Chestnut

w8bimizi-american-chestnut-sprout

American chestnut perseveres on the slopes of Wantastegok Wajo.

W8bimizi: w8bi- “white” plus -mizi “woody plant” = “white woody plant”

The metaphor of the chestnut: The tree may appear lifeless or decaying, but the roots are alive and ready to sprout. Indigenous presence here in Sokwakik may be thought of in this light. Although there may not be much that meets the (untrained) eye, it is all “still here”, awaiting only a return to reciprocity: recognition, acknowledgement, relationship.

Toward a Continuity of Life

Reading Vine Deloria’s landmark God Is Red, I came across this striking excerpt from James Jeans’ Physics and Philosophy, tying together an overview of Native spirituality with the relatively recent insights of quantum physics. Using the metaphor of individual components of  basic systems, becoming in turn the components of increasingly complex orders of relationship, he remarks:

Space and time are inhabited by distinct individuals, but when we pass beyond space and time, from the world of phenomena towards reality, individuality is replaced by community.

…When we view ourselves in space and time, our consciousnesses are obviously the separate individuals of a particle-picture, but when we pass beyond space and time, they may perhaps form ingredients of a single continuous stream of life.

T8ni Kizos Wazwasa – Winter Solstice

Terraced lines shine silver,
Layers upon the cross-hatched riverbanks
Threads of smoke rise still and silent from domed shelters
No dog barks at the half moon.

Long night gone in the morning chill,
Slow light gleams at eastward door
Sun comes returning, scarce recognized
But met with quiet welcome.

A long time we will go
A long time ’til we know
A long time still to grow
Along time, ever so.

***

Among the Abenaki people, the winter solstice is the beginning of the new year. As elder Elie Joubert has told us, this time is known as Peboniwi, t8ni kizos wazwasa – In winter, when the sun returns to the same place.

The custom is to begin the new year by offering these words:
Anhaldamawi kasi palilawalian – Forgive any wrong I may have done to you.

N’wikodo io mina, liwlaldamana – I ask this as well, please.