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.

2nd Annual All Species Day in Great Barrington, MA

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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.

New Zealand’s Whanganui River Granted Legal Personhood

whanganui river new zealand

A river in New Zealand has become the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person. The New Zealand parliament passed the bill recognising the Whanganui River, in North Island, as a living entity.

Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people. The Maori had been fighting for over 160 years to get this recognition for their river, a minister said.

“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.

Link to the article at BBC.com.

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

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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

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.

Treaty Truck House Against Alton Gas, Mi’kmaki

first-hwy-shut-down-alton-gas

Alton Natural Gas Storage Limited is  developing a huge storage site for hydrocarbons (natural gas and others) in Brentwood, Colchester County, Nova Scotia.  They will use water from the Shubenacadie River to flush out underground salt deposits. “During construction of the caverns, brine will be released into a constructed channel connected to the Shubenacadie River where it will mix with the tidal (brackish) river water to maximize dilution.”¹  It will be directly discharged into the  Shubenacadie River through the channel.  The amount of salt from these caverns amounts to over 8 million cubic yards – 500,000 dump truck loads, depending upon how many caverns are created.

This is of great concern to Mi’kmaq citizens, fishers, local landowners, environmental organizations and allies since this unique river ecosystem is home to several endangered and at risk species. The discharge site is near the mouth of the Stewiacke River, one of the last breeding grounds for striped Bass and also habitat for endangered Atlantic Salmon. Despite continued outcry and court challenges from First Nations, local landowners and fishers regarding the lack of consultation and meaningful environmental assessments, the company has received all necessary approval.  An overruling by the Minister of Environment, Premier or Federal Critical Habitat designation could still stop the project before the brine dumping takes place.

Learn more about this immediate significant threat to indigenous rights in Mi’kmaki, on the north central Acadian peninsula.