Indigenous Peoples Day and the Cedar-Strip Canoe

JessicaDolanCanoeIPD

In 2015, I won an Adirondack cedar strip canoe at the Putney Grammar School Raffle, at the Strolling of the Heifers. The canoe was lovingly donated to the raffle by master craftsman and woodworker Parker Sterner, of Boulder Junction, Wisc., who has two grandsons at the Grammar School — Henry and Charlie. It is just amazing — he made it. It is not only a vessel; it is a work of art.

It is especially meaningful to me because I also went to the Grammar School, from 1988 to 1990. I loved the Grammar School. It was a place that nurtured my book-smart, outdoorsy, artsy spirit. It also set me on a path to become a scholar.

But, the cedar canoe connects us to another source of hope and meaning. Let me explain. I grew up in Brattleboro, but like many Brattleboro people, I always have been a traveler. This is one of the things that led me to become an anthropologist. Also, like many Brattleboro people, I always yearned to understand the history of Native American people of the area, on whose land we are living. So, I set out to do intense, focused study of this through doctoral research at McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec.

Read the full article by Jessica Dolan in the Brattleboro Reformer, photos by Jess also.

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In the Center of Everything

Tiokasin Ghosthorse was setting the scene for a story at a gathering which I joined this past winter. He recounted a little nondescript location far away, a place which is usually characterized as being “in the middle of nowhere.” But he turned that dismissal in upon itself, and stated that it was “in the center of everything.” It was an illuminating moment, demonstrating the power of words. It has taken root and stayed with me. Language, worldview, perspective, experience – these things matter, everything matters.

Rather than making a zero-sum equation, a calculation of worth, and finding it of little or no value – objectifying, a characteristic of an English-speaking worldview, noun-based and categorical – this place was seen as a core participant in the narration of what was occurring. It was in relationship. It is a very different way of experiencing a moment as part of a whole. It is “being in” rather than “looking at.” The difference between a point on a line / a separation of otherness, and an infinite web of connection in an expanding universe.

Vermonters React to Trump’s Pipeline Push

Abbie Isaacs of MyNBC5 – carried by WPTZ out of Plattsburgh, NY and Burlington, VT – ran a story last night on the reaction of some Vermonters to the news of President Donald Trump’s move to reactivate the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. On Tuesday (1/24/17) he signed a presidential memorandum to move the projects ahead, against longstanding and – to this point – successful opposition. Native people have increasingly stood up as Protectors for the land and water, and have found allies in this increasingly contentious struggle against exploitation and disregard for basic rights. Variations on this theme are occurring everywhere, including here in N’dakinna.

W8bimizi: The Metaphor of the Chestnut

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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.

Who’s In Charge? A Fox in the Chicken Coop

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From the New York Times shortlist of President-elect Trump’s possibilities for Secretary of the Interior, who will oversee the BIA,  National Parks and Forests, public lands and waters, cultural and historic sites, and rule-making affecting all of the above and more.