The River In Us

I was asked by someone recently what is it that makes the Kwenitekw, n’sibo, our river, sacred. Is it the traditional fishing places? Is it the burials of the ancestors? What follows is my reply:

Thank you for asking; these are understandings that are foundational and go below the surface of things. I hope we have a chance to speak together again some day, for it is simpler to express these things in person. But I will share a few things:
  • It is important to remember that words have power and they derive from our worldview, which is expressed in the cultural tool we call language. There are many languages, and many ways of seeing the world. They differ dramatically, and the use of a word, or concept, can mean very different things to different people. Thus, “sacred.” When speaking of Abenaki cultural concepts, one cannot look at it through a Western religious lens. The dictionary definitions that fit “sacred” best are (from Merriam-Webster): 1) entitled to reverence and respect and 2) highly valued and important, as in “a sacred responsibility.” It is not a religious designation, but rather a spiritual recognition.
  • So, with regard to your questions of the river’s significance regarding fishing locations or burial grounds, the answer is yes, all of that, and much more. The reason being that we are all related, all equally significant, and part of the same great circle of Creation. Time does not exist in a linear sense, but is a continuum, constantly changing but all part of the same. Thus, we as human beings (in common with, say, plant beings, fish beings, stone beings, wind beings) have a ongoing responsibility to honor these relationships. We cannot act to harm the River, as it is as deserving of respect as anyone else, and in fact, we derive our very life from it – it would be very shortsighted to do otherwise..
  • As indigenous people (defined as the original people of a distinct place), we so identify with our homelands that we see ourselves as part of it, inseparable and continuous. For example, when an Abenaki person identifies him- or herself, they would not say “My name is so-and-so and I live in Brattleboro.” They would state “… I am Brattleboro.” Consequently, one’s attitudes and actions toward the River, are as unto one’s very self and one’s family, because it is exactly that. We (most of us!) consider human life to be sacred. So is the river.
  • You have heard the expression, especially this past year with the action at Standing Rock, that “Water Is Life.” This plays out clearly in the Abenaki language, which by nature embodies its cultural worldview. Let me explain that, in a Native sense, the well-known term “medicine” means anything that promotes or sustains health and vitality – this makes complete sense, but in our Western way of thinking it has been separated and limited into a drug that addresses (often only symptomatically) sickness. It has got the relationship backwards and misses most of the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of life. The word for water in Abenaki is “nebi”; the word for medicine in Abenaki is “nebizon.” So, you can see, that water is at the heart of life. The River is our great provider, for which we can only be grateful.
  • To learn that burials are often at the edge of the River is no coincidence. I don’t think I even need to explain that one! It is a place where strong connections have always been made, and where they can be accessed over and over. We go there to pay our respects to our ancestors, to say thank you to the water, and to pray for the same blessings for the generations to come. It is our “church.” There are certainly other places that are important as well, but the River is at the heart of them all. It unifies and connects – think in terms of a watershed – a flowing cradle, a web, an endless cycle enveloping the people.
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Is Nothing Sacred? Archaeological Reviews and Tribal Lands

willits ca aerial pomo lands

The Northern Pomo people of California thrived in the lush wetland valley known as Bito’m-kai for millennia, fishing salmon from percolating creeks, gathering natural medicines and managing natural resources to feed thousands.

By the time anthropology researcher Samuel Barrett arrived in the early 1900s, many of the Pomo village sites he assiduously recorded had been abandoned. Barrett noted that the village of Yami, on the south shore of the valley, once “supported a considerable Indian population.”

More than a century later, state road building officials emailed chairmen of the Pomo tribes: Yami had been affected during nighttime construction of the Willits Bypass, a $300 million, 5.9-mile roadway that would cleave the valley. The village site had not been recorded by the California Department of Transportation’s archaeologists. Contractors had pierced it with 1,100 wick drains burrowing 60 feet underground and covered the area with tons of fill dirt.

Although it received no national media coverage, the 2013 destruction of Yami presaged what happened at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Sept. 3 – one of the most infamous days of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. With cameras rolling, contractors started pushing dirt over burial sites within view of protesters.

Read the full report by Mark Dadigan in Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock: Screening at Smith College

Awake Film Flyer Smith

On May 2nd, 6:30pm AWAKE, A DREAM FROM STANDING ROCK, a new documentary from directors Josh Fox, James Spione and Myron Dewey, will have a special free screening at Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall, Smith College. The film is subtitled for the hearing impaired and the hall is wheelchair accessible. The film will be followed by a discussion with the film’s director Myron Dewey.

Awake Flyer pdf

Link to the press release for the event: AWAKE – press release Smith

2nd Annual All Species Day in Great Barrington, MA

turtle island universe

Standing Rock Water Protectors and Friends & Supporters in the Berkshires,

We, Northeast Region Standing Rock RISING! NEXT STEPS Solidarity Committee are producing the 2nd annual ALL SPECIES day in Great Barrington, MA at the Fairgrounds on Rt. 7 from 12 noon to 6pm.

We are calling on all environmental, social and inter-faith communities, groups and organizations to come and stand in SOLIDARITY with Standing Rock and OPPOSE all pipelines across the country going under or near rivers, lakes, springs and ponds, especially in Sandisfield, MA where the Tennessee Gas / Kinder Morgan pipeline is proposing to desecrate and/or destroy over 20 Native American burial sites and sacred ceremonial sites as well, as they build this project that also impacts CT and NY.

100% of all donations on day of event will be directly made available to the Native Graves Ancestral Lands Legal Defense Fund (Doug Harris).

All Species day will include LIVE MUSIC, SPEAKERS, Cultural Dance groups and an inter-faith prayer vigil. Free information booth spaces will be made available at no cost to environmental and social justice groups, youth and church groups, community orgs and animal rights groups.

Performers committed to perform are Wicked Hanging Chads, a Reggae & Ska band (returning from last year) Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music, Otha Day, and the Aztec Dancers  (from Rock, Rattle and Drum American Indian Pow Wow, where they have performed for the last 11 years).

Speakers include Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace, Karenna Gore, Center for Earth Ethics, Doug Harris, Historic Preservation Officer for Narrangansett Nation in Rhode Island, Joe Graveline of Nolumbeka Project and Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass.    

More speakers to be invited and announced.

ALL SPECIES DAY SCHEDULE – April 23rd Sunday

12 noon – Inter-faith Invocation for the Earth and All Species to include a Native American tribal elder/spiritual leader, Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi, Buddhist Monk or nun, etc.

12:15 pm – Aztec Dancers perform earth invocation and dances
12:45 – Speaker- Doug Harris
1:00 – Native American Drum and Dance for the Earth-TBA
1:30 – Taino Invocation for the Earth & All Species with Taino Song & Dance
2:00 – Speaker – Rosemary Wessel, No Fracked Gas in Mass
2:15 – ALL SPECIES House Band – Michael and Chris
2:45 – Speaker – Joe Graveline, Nolumbeka Project
3:00 – Wicked Hanging Chads – Reggae & Ska
4:00 – Speaker – Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace
4:15 – Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music
5:45 – Otha Day – African American Drummer facilitates Drumming Circle
6:00 – Inter-Faith Prayer and Moment of Silence, facilitated by Michael
Johnson
See the original posting here.

Brattleboro to Vote on Indigenous Peoples’ Day March 25, 2017

Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting members will be considering Article 22 on the 2017 Annual Warning this Saturday, March 25th, 2017. From Chris Mays’ article in the Brattleboro Reformer’s article following last Wednesday’s (3/15) informational meeting:

“The last article asks whether the town should advise the Select Board to proclaim the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day.

“Why Indigenous Peoples’ Day?” asked Rich Holschuh, who petitioned for inclusion of the article. “It’s because its time has come. It’s a good year, with Standing Rock in the headlines and the move nationwide to embracing those who have not been embraced in the past. It’s a nationwide movement. It’s going across the country.”

He said two to three dozen communities have already made the change. Last week, the town of Marlboro did.

“They were the first in the state,” Holschuh said. “I was hoping to be first. We can be second. Why Brattleboro? I think Brattleboro can offer a great deal of leadership on this because this is where colonization began in the state. Fort Dummer, 1724. This is where the process of displacing the Indigenous People of this area, which are the Abenaki, began and it continues. It’s highly symbolic and I think it’s an important thing to do.”

Water Is Life Rally: Greenfield, MA March 11, 2017

water-is-life-rally

An invitation from the Nolumbeka Project

Join this anti-pipeline rally at noon on March 11 on the Greenfield Town Common. The Standing Rock and Native Nations who are organizing the DC March say: “We ask that you rise in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of the world whose rights protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) for the future generations of all.”

We will gather on the Greenfield Town Common on Saturday, March 11 at Noon for a Rally to Stand With Standing Rock and Native Nations. All are invited to stand together in community prayer, song, and peaceful action in support of Standing Rock Water Protectors and Indigenous people.

Standing Rock and Native Nations have called for solidarity actions to support their March 10th Washington DC march in prayer and action. The Standing Rock and Native Nations who are organizing the DC March say: “We ask that you rise in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of the world whose rights protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) for the future generations of all.”

The Native Nations’ demands for the peaceful DC March include respect for tribal rights and the protection of the environment and future generations.

We will post more information as the organizers provide us with it. If you wish to participate or take part in any way, as a possible presenter or helper,  please e-mail to this address and we will forward your message to the organizers.

nolumbekaproject@gmail.com

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.