In 2012 a call went out from the coalition of Indigenous leaders of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace (IWFWP) to Native elders, writers, artists, activists—Knowledge Keepers—for poetry, art, chants and prayers on Water, expressions from their own traditions. Over the next several months, submissions poured in, pure harvest from tribes all over the world. The You Tube video below beautifully illustrates the intent to pull together an anthology on this life-giving element that would be called Indigenous Message on Water—and why its needed.
By January last year the editors had begun the process to ready contributions for publication. From June through August 2013 an Indiegogo campaign was opened to pull enough funds together to publish the book, in print and e-book formats, and send copies back to the authors to seed their communities and elsewhere with this important message we all need to hear and hold. They were able to raise $5,000 of their $10,000 goal. I was so glad I was able to support this valuable treatise, even in a small way, having received my copy a few weeks ago.
I am deeply touched by the words and art that leap off the pages from the contributors: Chamoru, Pinay and Maori peoples from the Pacific; Sakhe from Russia; Cree, Tsalagi, Cherokee, Yoeme, Anishinaabe, Lakota, Lipan Apache, Metis, and Gitxan from North America; K’iche’, Kaqchikel, and Q’anjob’al from Guatemala; Maya and Nahuatl from Mexico; Wayuu, Palenque and Kuna from the Caribbean; Uitoto, Okaina and Tikuna from Amazonia; and Kichua, Yanakuna and Mapuche-Huilliche from the Andes.
Spiritual connection and gratitude to Water are ever present in the anthology. It may be used to open community discussions, raise awareness, and as an offering. At the beginning of the book, Juan Sánchez, one of the editors, advises that the passages are meant to be read aloud to the Water; words have the capacity to heal. Grandmother Mona Polacca suggests, “…Once you read them, you may find that you can never escape them, or you may find yourself resisting the narratives in this collection, not wanting to deal with the reality they describe; perhaps it reminds us of our own vulnerability…”
Grief for scarcity, strife and loss of life over water rights is also prevalent in these pages. Forest without Destiny by Judith Santoprieto of Mexico is an example, dedicated to the Indigenous people of Bagua in northern Peru who were senselessly murdered by special forces police during a 2009 protest about natural resources rights.
A crackling is heard in the surroundings
of a forest without destiny,
the first sign of the great uproar;
outside, the bullets:
the rainy season yet to come…
We can be reminded to embody the teachings offered.
Water was our first medicine.
—Gideon MacKay, late Cree Elder, Canada
We’re called to cup Water
carry it carefully cradle
within bare hands or ladle
wood to pour resplendence
from ama who makes us
human, holds us here in
memory brings us back
into ourselves each time
we enter dipping seven
times until we become
who we need to be.
—Allison Hedge Coke, Huron/Cherokee/Cree/Metis, USA
…My oldest brother was 115 years old and died because of his age, not because of illness and this longevity was due to the fact that he used to pray to Water. The Water sang to him. For him, Water was both male and female and, as he practiced meditation, Water rewarded him with a long life.
—Lorenzo Aillapán Cayuleo, (Bird Man), Mapuche Nation, Chile
The e-book version is available to treasure and consult. You may go here to download for the minimal cost of $7.00. When you do, you’ll know you are serving Water. The proceeds go to support the gathering of Indigenous leaders, over 60 organizations and other like-intended folks for the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace 2014 held September 9-13 in New York that collaboratively seeks to resolve issues for the benefit of all peoples. Read a 2009 collective statement from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues about the need for the IWFWP. New information will be posted soon on the IWFWP blog. Go here to subscribe for updates.