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:
With ancestor memories
Free without judgment
Answers to questions
Is part of our pulse
Memories in the shapes
We are a part of that
The breath part
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.
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.
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…
John Trudell has walked on, into the western sun, and returned to our Mother. The journey never ends.
Kwai ta kchi wliwni, Az8. Wlibaamkani nijia – adio. Alokada nid8bak.
We Hear what you say
One Earth, one Mother
One does not sell the Earth
The people walk upon
We are the land
How do we sell our Mother
How do we sell the stars
How do we sell the air…