Indigenous Rights

Mama Coca and a Story of Intent

In 2009 when I heard a reporter on NPR infer that the Indigenous peoples of the Andes were addicts because they use coca, a nutrient in its natural form, I was incensed. I was compelled to speak out in my newsletter and again years later on this blog. We have too many incidents of dominant cultures misunderstanding those who are different than their own, supporting marginalization.

Coca

I met dear friends Dr. Emma Cucchi Luini, a humanitarian doctor who modeled herself after Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Christo Deneumostier Grill, her research partner, in 2001. Finally, their legacy is receiving more recognition. The Coca Museum in the San Blas District of Cusco is the location of what was their second storefront K’uychiwasi Qosqo. The original storefront was located within the walls of Koricancha in Cusco.

Emma-2

Christo-2

Without their dream and persistent research, alternative coca products like candies, soaps, even ice cream, would not be flourishing all over Peru now. All were derived from Emma’s and Christo’s determination and products to give coca farmers other choices than dealing with narco traffickers or the Peruvian government who paid them a pittance for their crops. They won the coveted Slow Food Award in 2002. Others took notice and started copying their products. Although, in my opinion, none of them match the quality of those from K’uychiwasi. In the process though, nutritional coca products are more available for wider consumption.

coca products

Both Emma and Christo have gone on to other things having accomplished their mission of training the Quechua staff to take over, and encouraging the product spread as they did. But the story of their beginnings should not be forgotten. It’s one of strong intent in the face of much adversity. For that reason, I documented it in my 2004 book Standing Stark. I’m sharing an excerpt here.

…The bulletin board on the wall just outside the tiny shop front had some very detailed information posted about preventing high-altitude sickness. Alongside was an article on Coca-Cola. I thought it mighty strange that a display partnered the story of the evolution of a commercial product with data on medical advice. Then I realized that the common denominator was the use of the coca leaf. The sign over the door said K’uychiwasi Qosqo, Rainbow House of Cusco. Curious, I glanced inside the small space and was invited in by the brightly colored wares…

 A diminutive woman wearing clothing that seemed to swamp her small frame and a large brimmed black hat covered with folk art pins busied herself with something behind the counter. As I walked in, she glanced up, immediately broke into a big smile, her eyes, crinkling up behind wire-rimmed glasses, greeting me. I took a leisurely turn through the shop looking at cookies, candies, teas and artwork. By then, my friend had caught up with me and came in to investigate as well.

Seeing our apparent interest, Emma Cucchi Luini introduced herself and began to tell us of K’uychiwasi Qosqo’s mission. The central purpose of this nonprofit organization was to educate about the uses of the coca leaf and its connection to the Andean culture. Actually, rather than connection, Emma emphasized that the coca leaf was the backbone of this ancient tradition, its practices and health of the native people.

Beleaguered with the discovery of a chemical extraction known as cocaine, the sacred coca leaf is now being threatened with extinction. Through tighter and tighter governmental controls and concurrent illicit operations, the simple coca farmer has been squeezed. Trying to scratch out a meager existence raising the same crops their ancestors have raised for centuries, these people are being directly affected by an encroaching Western culture in which a number of people substitute nose candy and greed for real experience.

In the last couple of decades, the national governments of Peru and Bolivia, pushed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, have targeted the coca leaf as the enemy, totally disregarding its cultural and quite innocent, but important, use by the indigenous peoples. The chewing of coca leaves is standard practice among the natives in the Andes, not to give them a high, but to increase their stamina for living and working in an environment that is often very difficult. Instead of inducing any undue alteration in their normal consciousness, which the coca leaf cannot relay at all in its natural form, its nutritional makeup provides them with energy and a plethora of nutrients not as available elsewhere in their sparse diet. Also ignored is its elevated status in the spiritual traditions and rituals of the Andean Indians. Mama Coca is the plant spirit invoked and Her leaves used in divinations, blessings and ceremonies. An analogy would be the chalice of wine symbolizing the blood of Christ in the communion ritual of many Christian religions.

PeruCoca-2

As Emma so aptly put it, “There are many, many alcoholics in the world. Do they destroy the grape?”

That question certainly does make one think, particularly relative to what other motivations, political or otherwise, could possibly exist for the shortsighted methods used for eradicating cocaine trafficking through a focus on coca crops…

…Enter Emma. With the in-country support of two Dominican friars, this Italian woman founded K’uychiwasi Qosqo in 1999. Christo Deneumostier Grill, a young Peruvian man, has since joined her in her efforts. In addition to educating about the traditional and medicinal uses, they research new ways to use the coca leaf.  In their quarters they help women, girls and young men in need by training them to produce cookies, candy and folk art using the coca leaf as an ingredient. They look forward to eventually create additional goods such as soaps…

…Emma and Christo are currently making small but painstaking steps within the bureaucracy of the Peruvian government toward wider distribution of their coca wares, the regulation of coca being tremendously tight. The only export of the leaf currently allowed is to the Coca-Cola Corporation in the United States. Ultimately, the success of Emma and Christo will benefit the Andean culture and help to maintain the growing of the coca leaf by offering products to be used by mainstream society.

As she finished her monologue, Emma shrugged and opened her hands in a characteristically Italian way and said, “I’m Italian. This cause doesn’t even belong to me.”

Reviewing our encounter in my mind later, I thought to myself, “This is a cause that belongs to the world. It belongs to us all. Emma chose to take it up.”

StandingCover72Emma’s story continued with a recounting of her remarkable life and humanitarian service that took her to dangerous, remote areas in Haiti, Sudan and Bolivia. It was deep in the jungles of Bolivia that she first met the coca farmers who befriended her and further informed her path. They educated her in the chewing of coca and told her of their difficult lives. When she became their outspoken advocate she was thrown in jail in La Paz, beaten and deported to Italy. But that didn’t stop her.

Both Emma and Christo embodied intent and humility. To me, they’re primary examples of the many unsung heroes the world over who believe in something and get it done.

For the complete story and others on the path of intent, read Standing Stark.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Rights, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truth and Sacrifice: The Leadership of Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down

There are some things held in secrecy because they’re too sacred to tell. Or if uttered at all, are whispered in the night in silent places. There are others whose truths are hidden because to openly relate them at all risks great punishment. Or they’re distorted through misunderstanding by a culture that cannot fathom a different meaning than their own.

I’ve admitted to being greatly distressed by the ongoing acts against truth, understanding and compassion in the current political climate and otherwise. And truly attempting to find grace and balance for myself within it all. I do believe that the Universe does deliver when we open in that way. Hence, some salvation dropped in my lap.

I stumbled upon a 2009 interview by Krista Tippett, host of On Being, of Ernie LaPointe, a direct lineal descendant of Tatanka Iyotake. Closest translation from Lakota being Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down—not Sitting Bull.

In the interview, Ernie LaPointe relayed some of the oral history passed to him by his late mother, Angelique Spotted Horse-LaPointe, about his great-grandfather and their traditions. I was so moved I listened to the two-hour, unedited version of the podcast twice—and then bought his book Sitting Bull: His Life and Legacy so I could return, again and again, to points that particularly inspire me.

The parts about the Indian Offenses Act of 1883 outlawing sacred practices, all the betrayals and ramifications generated a great deal of sadness for me that is hard to put aside. But within that is an example of a man who held utmost integrity and compassion in his heart. The long-term wellbeing of his people informed his decisions. History calls him a war chief when really he was a great spiritual leader. He was killed on Standing Rock Indian Reservation for who he was. But his Spirit lives on. He was humble, preferring to be known as a Sun Dancer. Not a chief. As a child he was called “slow” by some, a misrepresentation of one who notices everything, weighs all sides to come to deliberate decision.

Here’s one about knowing when to fall on your sword and the good karma that comes when rash decisions are avoided. When Tatanka Iyotake, then called by his childhood name Jumping Badger, was 7 years old he was among a band of young boys being tested for their skills. First they had to make the perfect arrow and then were told to hunt and return with a beautiful bird. He and another boy spied a bird at the same time. The other boy let his arrow fly but it missed and lodged in a tree branch. Tatanka Iyotake offered to help the boy by shooting it down with his own arrow. He succeeded but the boy’s arrow broke when it hit the ground. The boy became angry and blamed him. Rather than get into an argument about the whole thing, Tatanka Iyotake gave the boy his own arrow, which he’d labored over to perfect. When their teacher heard through others about the incident, he gifted him with a full set of bow and arrows.

Perhaps my favorite story is this one that foretold his future as a great spiritual leader. When he was 10 years old, his uncle Four Horns tested his tracking and hunting skills for buffalo, a dangerous undertaking with the potential of stampede. Tatanka Iyotake rode into the center of the herd, aimed at a huge bull, let his arrow fly and brought it down. Proud of his nephew, Four Horns was also angered at the dangerous risk he took. When asked why he didn’t go for the cow at the edge of the herd, he responded that he saw the cow. But he also saw her calf. If he’d killed the cow, her calf would die, too.

Four Horns guided him through the ritual to thank the Great Spirit then directed him to run get this mother and the other women to butcher the bull, which he did. But not before he asked his mother to be sure to save good portions for a widow and her children who lived nearby.

From this incident, which displayed his foresight and generosity, Jumping Badger gained his adult name Tatanka Iyotake, Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down.

Stories like these and other sharing about Lakota ways were so good to hear. It was also disheartening to learn how things changed due to outside influences.

Counting coup, the striking of an enemy with a stick, was as a visual way of settling differences and gaining honor. It was after the white man came that young warriors started killing instead.

During vision quest the young men would often see colors that would then be worn as protection, a part of spiritual practice. Not “war paint”—a measure of disrespect by those quick to misunderstand.  Ernie LaPointe spoke of himself and others who carried PTSD as a spiritual wounding because they didn’t wear their colors to protect their Spirit.

The reverence toward women is woven into the culture. The belief is, through their menstrual cycle, women go through a natural, monthly purification process. The wisdom they gain in the process is enlarged upon throughout their lives. So, while the men may consider a direction, the final decision is not made until it is placed in front of the women, who weigh in with their wisdom.

What I’ve shared here is only a token of all I heard and read. For the full richness, view the full interview or listen to it on Sound Cloud.

With so much appreciation to Ernie LaPointe for telling the stories of his great-grandfather, even in the controversy directed toward him for doing so. Because of him, I’ll continue to watch for the leader who Carries the People in the Heart. We’ll know that person by their name. Not because they proclaim it. But because the people have granted it by virtue of the actions that distinguished the honor.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Havasupai Elder Speaks

We drove along the South Rim tourist area of the Grand Canyon and wound our way to the west on a dirt road through tall pines. Leaving the throngs of people behind, with much anticipation, we entered a different world. During opening circle for our spiritual travel program to Hopi just the night before, I’d let the folks know an opportunity had presented itself.

The Grand Canyon is sacred to the Hopi. They emerged into this middle world in ancient times from a point deep in its interior, and the Havasupai people have called it home for at least a thousand years. A relationship exists between these peoples. So when my Hopi partner Char Joseph contacted the Havasupai Tribe inquiring if there was someone who would speak to us about their ways, they were happy to oblige saying…all too often they were forgotten.

We pulled into Supai Camp, once the tribal winter home on the rim where just a few remain. The traditional dwellings are long gone. In 1934 the National Park Service (NPS) tore down or burned the homes without notice to the residents who were away at the time. I Am the Grand Canyon documents more than a century’s devastation of the Havasupai at the hands of the US federal government, NPS, Grand Canyon Association and Sierra Club. In the book, Havasupai Mack Putesoy testified how their homes were burned to the ground with all their belongings inside. Effie Hanna said she lost things she’d been saving all her life. In place of traditional homes on their aboriginal lands, the NPS built cabins and forced the residents to pay rent.

However, I knew none of this at the time we approached the home where we’d been invited.

Havasupai Girl

Havasupai girl, circa 1900. Photo credit unknown.

We were greeted at the door by Colleen Kaska, daughter of Daniel Kaska who was chairman of the Havasupai Tribe in the 1970s. Elder Daniel is now quite frail but welcomed us. He wanted to tell us the story of the Havasupai, People of the Blue-Green Waters named after the beautiful canyon waters running through the area they now mostly live. Colleen shared in the storytelling.

Their aboriginal lands once encompassed areas from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and the San Francisco Peaks west to Ashfork and Seligman. In the warm months they lived in what is now known as Cataract Canyon in the interior of the Grand Canyon and grew crops. In winter months they dwelt on the rim in order to hunt.

Once the Santa Fe railroad came along and interest in the Grand Canyon grew as a tourist and recreational site the Havasupai were squeezed and began to suffer. In 1882 President Arthur declared the majority of their aboriginal land belonged to the American public. The People of the Blue-Green Waters lost their plateau hunting-herding lands and many thousands of acres. They were barred from rim watering holes by cattlemen and the NPS…and relegated to Cataract Canyon. This narrow 518-acre tract doesn’t see sun during winter months, and historically endured flash floods that sometimes took out homes and people.

Colleen had been relating this history in a matter-of-fact way. The more she spoke, the sadder I felt. I had no idea what we would learn when we came through this family’s door. But I didn’t anticipate such a story. I’d thought of the NPS and Sierra Club as entities that conserved beauty…not those who wrought devastation upon peoples of the land (I thought) they were to protect. I said, “This all must be heartbreaking.”

Colleen paused, became still. She had a faraway look in her eyes. “Yes. But when I walk our aboriginal lands⎯the ones taken from us⎯I know it is of my people. My ancestors are there.” The tone of her voice made clear that knowledge gave her strength.

Elder Daniel spoke haltingly of the century-long struggles to be recognized by the federal government, to regain any of the land taken from them, including his own personal involvement as chairman in this quest. Finally, in 1976 they succeeded to a small degree: 185 acres returned to the Havasupai with 95,300 acres named “Havasupai Use Lands” but controlled by the NPS.

Daniel Kaska and Apabyan Tew

Havasupai Elder Daniel Kaska & Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew. Photo: Colleen Kaska.

K’iche’ Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew was present as a sponsored guest on our spiritual travel program. He wanted to know about Havasupai ceremonies. He asked Daniel, “Do you have a story about some time of a spiritual nature you remember?” Daniel shook his head. It seemed the focus for so long had been a fight for acknowledgment, some recognition of their worth, that there was no energy left for anything else.

Mike Weddle⎯Kenosis Spirit Keepers board member, Daykeeper and musician⎯visiting from Maryland was able to join our group for just two days. He brought his flute. I invited Mike to offer Daniel and Colleen a prayer song. The music was sweet. When it came to an end, there was silence. Then Daniel began to sing in words and tones that entered every one of us. The energy seemed to shift.

When we all expressed how it touched us, he uttered softly, “It’s a funeral song.” And then, “We are a lost tribe.” It was painful to hear of such loss.

Our visit was over. We formed a circle outside under the pines and invited Colleen to join us. Elder Daniel was unable to do so. Apab’yan offered a Maya prayer for the People of the Blue-Green Waters and the land.

A few days later I received a note from Mike who had to leave for other business.

I think we all felt the same as elder Daniel Kaska told his story of loss and betrayal, going to Washington where no one would listen, voting against the government deal when his own people would not listen, and his final ‘I don’t know what will become of us’. When he sang his beautiful song, and then said it was a funeral song, I almost wept.

We were invited by Colleen to join a singing ceremony 8 am Saturday at Red Butte. I did go to represent us but there was no one there. There are two forest roads on each side of the Butte, but no people, no cars, and no singing.

So I climbed the switchbacks to the very top of the butte, the summit. At the very top there is a crossing with 4 paths going in the 4 cardinal directions. I’m sending a photo. Colleen called this the Supai place of origin.

I felt that in just 2 days I had been witness to the place where the Supai began and perhaps the place where they end. As there was no one else there to sing, I did the singing, and I sang the Maltyoxb’al, the [Maya] great gratitude song, for the arc of the Supai nation.

Red Butte

Red Butte where the Havasupai were born to this world. Photo: Mike Weddle.

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Four Directions at the summit of Red Butte. Photo: Mike Weddle.

When we held our closing circle at the end of our week with the Hopi and Havasupai people, I spoke to the group.

I never know in advance how things will unfold when we hold a sacred container of pure intent. Things I can never predict come in ways that affect us all. I believe the most important thing we did during this journey was sit in respect, listen deeply to this Elder’s words and witness the grief he carries.

Sometimes that’s all we can do even in the face of our own helplessness at such recognition. And that acknowledgment matters.

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Note: Elder Daniel Kaska singing recorded by Apab’yan Tew.

Go here to learn more about Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World,  and check back for next year’s March travels.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Rights, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Film Review: The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness

I will tell you up front that this is a difficult film to watch and can bring up all kinds of emotion. But if you’re going to watch it, then do so until the end because toward its finish there is much hope conveyed.

During our recent Spirit Keepers Series held in Phoenix on the subject of PTSD and Native healing ways, I had invited Eli PaintedCrow, an Iraq War veteran of the Yaqui Nation and co-founder of Turtle Women Rising, to take part based on her own experiences and to frame further aspects of our Series. She showed a portion of Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness, a documentary produced by White Bison, Inc. They’re a Native American-operated 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to culturally-based healing for Indigenous peoples.

The film starts out with a prophecy given by the Old Ones about the light skins who would arrive, create confusion and great destruction. How everything would be taken from the Native American but their spirituality. There would be tremendous suffering, genocide and a time of testing. But opportunity for healing would present itself. After this time of healing, the buffalo, Native people and all manner of sustenance would return. Harmony would prevail. Native people believe that we entered this time of healing in the early 1990s.

This is the story of that destruction, particularly centered on boarding schools and their effect. If you’re not familiar, in 1879 the first Indian boarding school was opened in New Carlisle, PA. Native children were forcibly taken from their families and shipped off to such schools around the US where they were stripped of their language and anything having to do with their culture. They endured ongoing violence and humiliation in silence—many didn’t survive—and it had horribly detrimental effects reaching all the way to today. This is called intergenerational trauma, certainly a form of PTSD.

As a part of the Wellbriety Movement, Native organizers undertook a 7000-mile journey all over the US to give Elders and their children a chance to tell their stories, perhaps for the first time, and express grief. In this undertaking they hoped to break the cycle of addiction and violence, begin the road to forgiveness and a return to spiritual traditions. The film covers Native values and how to live in harmony as taught by the Old Ones, along with a model called the Four Directions of Forgiveness and a call to Greater Purpose.

This is an extremely powerful film and could be called the Schindler’s List for Native Americans. It was created as an Indian Give-Away by White Bison for purposes of truth-telling and healing.

Whether you have Indigenous members in your family line who suffered the atrocities, have ancestors who perpetrated any part of it, or are born of mixed blood as many of us are…the message presented here is relevant to all. The effects of genocide, abuse and shame are equally carried through the family line. This is a film for anyone whose ancestors have experienced anything of the like. That doesn’t leave out many people on the planet.

This is a move for truth—no more secrets—and healing accomplished when we live in harmony as the Old Ones taught. Seeing the complete film instilled even more significance to me in how I personally live and greater understanding of the important work Kenosis Spirit Keepers does, even if we reach only a few.

This is a film for the Next Seven Generations. Critical mass is important. View the film for free on You Tube and share widely. Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes. Also visit White Bison to learn of their healing institution and classes.

Categories: cultural interests, Film, Healing, Indigenous Rights | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Documentary Review – Dakota 38

Dakota 38

Smooth Feather Productions

I’ve seen the Dakota 38 documentary three times now. Each time it’s stirred something in me that has no words, but much emotion. This film is about the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride first undertaken December 10-26, 2008 and held at the same time each year since.

In 2005 a dream vision came to Jim Miller, a Dakota Vietnam Veteran—one so terrible that he tried to forget it. He said you have a sense when something was real and “it wouldn’t go away.” What he saw was a dark occurrence in the name of justice, largely hidden in history and unknown to Jim at the time.

On December 26, 1862 at 10 a.m. in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 Sioux warriors were hung in the public square, the largest mass execution in the history of the US. President Abraham Lincoln ordered it so on December 6. Two more warriors were executed the following year.

With the influx of more whites and military, the Sioux had been herded into a narrow strip of land, not allowed to leave the enclosure or hunt. As part of the treaty they were supposed to receive rations. They didn’t. They were starving. To defend themselves, they fought back rather than starve. Atrocities were committed on both sides.*

In the opening lines of the film, Jim Miller talks about what it means to be Dakota—”to walk in harmony with every living thing.” Feeling directed by the Creator, he organized a ride on horseback over 330 miles, leaving on December 10, 2008 from Lower Brule, South Dakota to arrive for ceremony at the hanging site in Mankato on December 26. The Memorial Ride was meant to honor the ancestors and as resolution …forgiveness. This was not an easy undertaking. There were blizzard conditions to be endured. Participants faced conflicting emotions related to racism, something openly discussed. There were many poignant moments when the riders disclosed why they were riding: for ancestors, family, to lay something to rest within themselves. Communities along the way heard about their mission and helped out, unbidden, by providing food and shelter for the riders and their horses, especially in extreme weather.

The film lends hope, portraying people pulling together—even in emotional discomfort—attempting to heal and overcome horrible tragedies that never should have happened. We need so much more of this today. And such things kept in the dark must be known.

View the full-length film free on You Tube. Length: 1 hour, 18 minutes.

Follow the public posts on Facebook and see day-to-day photos and videos of this year’s ride.

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Please join me in supporting the Dakota 38 + 2 Memorial Ride with funds going to provide food for riders and horses, plus gas for support vehicles. Donations go through their 501(c)3 fiscal agent, the American Indian Institute.

Send checks (with “Dakota 38 ride” in the memo line) to: Eric Noyes, Executive Director, American Indian Institute, 502 W. Mendenhall Street, Bozeman, MT 59715.

To donate online, go here and scroll down to click on Dakota 38.

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*Further research beyond the documentary showed the trials to be a farce, each one lasting about 15 minutes. In the end 303 were slated for execution, which President Lincoln reduced to 38.

See related material:

The Sand Creek Massacre.

Co-Opting the Memory of the Dakota 38 + 2.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Film Review, Healing, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

How the Dreams of Chief Hawk Pope Came True

In the late 1980s after my return to Ohio, I took oil painting classes for a couple of years from Chief Hawk Pope of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band. I valued his sheer presence and laser-like critiques. He was direct, something I appreciated. I was there to learn, not to have my ego soothed. When something worked, he pointed it out. When it didn’t, he showed how it didn’t and guided correction—explicitly.

I’ve learned that his methods are part of his personality, the make-up of a strong chief, not asking any more of his People than he demands of himself. But that understanding wasn’t even on my horizon when I knew him back then. My interest and passion for preservation of Native ways was yet bubbling beneath the surface, not to fully emerge until the mid-1990s. By that time we had fallen out of touch for some years.

But a strange thing happened.

In the first months of 2014, he began to cross my mind periodically. These occurrences were fleeting; I didn’t hang onto them or wonder why.

In early April I went to Ohio to visit my folks, still living near Dayton. As soon as I arrived I had an overwhelming compulsion to find Chief Hawk—if I could—and reconnect.

I googled his name and discovered his life had taken quite a turn in the 1990s and later. He’d provided vocals for one of the scenes in the movie Dances with Wolves and been extensively involved with the PBS documentary mini-series 500 Nations. In the book Imagining Native America in Music author Michael V Pisani wrote of the musical language he used in the documentary: …the singer Chief Hawk Pope relied on this melodic cadence to underscore moments of great sadness and tragedy such as the Trail of Tears sequence. I also noted he’d been on tour with Spirit the Seventh Fire, a multi-media production conceived by his friend Peter Buffet, with music written by them both. And the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band now had a home on original Shawnee land, previously lost as a result of genocide advocated through the Indian Removal Act, purchased back by the Tribe.

Shawnee SignI found contact information for the Tribe through their Facebook page and sent a private message explaining who I am and that I’d like to reconnect if Chief Hawk was interested. I got an immediate response from one of the Tribe asking me to come to the Zane Shawnee Caverns, on Shawnee land, a few days later for a meeting. Prior to the appointed day, my mom and I ventured out for a day of sightseeing and got hopelessly lost in an area of Ohio unfamiliar to us both. We ended up in the tiny town of Zanesfield looking for a museum we were told was at least 100 miles north. A few days later on the way to my meeting with Chief Hawk, I was astounded to end up in the very area my mom and I got lost, indeed going right through Zanesfield and drove just a few miles beyond!

I really had no idea why I received inner direction to initiate the request I did. I merely followed that strong, not-to-be-disregarded energy. When I walked into the Zane Shawnee gift shop for our reunion, it was evident that I was supposed to be there. The reconnection was powerful for us both. Beyond that day, I returned to spend another in deep conversation prior to my departure on other travels east. We agreed we’re going to work together—although neither of us know exactly what that means at this point.

Before I left I told Chief Hawk about my unprovoked thoughts of him coming to mind the months prior…then the inner urge to initiate a reunion…even getting lost in the countryside near Shawnee land…when I had no idea they were there.

He looked intently into my eyes and said, “Well, I’ve been throwing out a net these last months.”

I’m glad I paid attention and answered.

Below is an open article written in 1998 to his People in Tosãn Shawandasse, the official voice of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band, beautifully illustrating elements of intent and belief.* What Chief Hawk doesn’t expressly share is the tremendous sacrifice he has borne through his 40+ years as chief since taking on this spiritual responsibility as a young man, given to him by his grandfather.

While directed to the Shawnee People, any of us can take heart and guidance here. His words are truth.

HawkArticle_0001

Some Dreams Do Come True

by Chief Hawk Pope

 

In order for a dream to come true, all it takes is the following:

– A real need.

– Believing you can meet that need even if that only seems to be a dream.

– The courage to go for it, knowing you could lose.

– Work as hard as it takes to make it happen.

– Get as many of the People as you can to make a team that can do the job.

– Do all you possibly can, knowing that if you truly do that, Creator will take up where your abilities leave off.

– Convey your hopes, dreams, and needs along with your love and respect to Creator and demonstrate that you are still His Children (The Shawnee). This you do in the way He left for us, the ceremonies.

– Rise above the criticisms and stumbling blocks thrown in your way by the petty, evil or just those much smaller than the dream. You can’t let their fear become yours, their criticism or lack of support shake your faith, or their jealousy pull you down.

– Stay the course, no matter what.

– Be grateful for each blessing, each dream come true, and never forget that your efforts were only half of what made it happen. Sometimes we come close to losing our way. Sometimes we allow ourselves or others to be part of a problem and not part of the solution. If this happens, we lose the blessing. We don’t meet the need. We give up the dream and we just plain lose. So far, by following this plan and philosophy, we have accomplished the following:

 — 1970: Reorganization of the people of the Remnant communities and reformation of the Shawnee Nation, United Remnant Band.

— 1974: Formed an interim core Council and moved back to Ohio homeland.

— 1980: Gained State recognition as the descendant Tribe of the historic Shawnee in Ohio.

— 1982: Brought back the ancient ceremonies after 30 years.

— 1985: Constructed our first Great House since historic Lower Shawnee Town on the Scioto.

— 1989: Purchased the first 31 acres of Ohio Shawnee Homeland-Shawandasse.

— 1992: Built the community center, road, electric and well on Shawandasse. The Great House was moved to Shawandasse and original dress brought back to ceremonies.

— 1995: Total of 228 acres in 3 Ohio counties.

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You are invited by Chief Hawk Pope to visit Shawnee lands located at Zane Shawnee Caverns near Bellefontaine, Ohio. See their website for information on Pow Wows, camping, cave visits and other events and developments on Shawnee lands since 1995.

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* Reprinting of this open article was used with full permission granted by Chief Hawk Pope.

Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Book Review: Indigenous Message on Water

Indigenous Message on Water

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.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Gratitude, Healing, Healthy Living, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Far Vision and the Long Run

Several years ago I heard a program on NPR’s Morning Edition interviewing a former Israeli Army officer about his interactive computer game called PeaceMaker. The game’s setting is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This is what caught my attention: He said it was about “winning peace.”

There are two roles: the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President. You can even take both sides and play “against” yourself, entering into different worldviews and available resources. Crisis situations inspired by real events are presented for a decision. There are political advisors who try to persuade to their side—hawk or dove. So it’s about decision-making and strategies. But the most interesting thing is that it shows the effect of the decision—and how the impact of that one critical act may play out in the future! Not unlike a process I often take clients through when they’re at some important juncture in their lives.

They did a short demo during the interview. The host chose to play the Israeli Prime Minister. A skirmish popped up. The advisors hovered. What to do? After a bit of indecision, the host decided he’d send in the army in the name of security—the hawk’s advice. It worked…for a moment. Almost immediately red lights lit up in a number of places on the map. His decision had sparked other crises! Then he was presented with the dire conditions Palestinian civilians were suffering as a result of his decision.

What to do? He took the dove’s advice this time and sent aid. But wait. The Palestinians rejected it. They didn’t trust the move. Look what he did just a short time ago. And so it goes…you don’t win in this game, or any other for that matter, unless the outcome is balanced for both sides. The inventor said losing and frustration are part of the lesson.

We have to learn to do it differently—for all concerned—until competition becomes moot. A one-sided gain never works in the long run. It’s really about acquiring far vision, following a decision out to the horizon line as much as we can.

San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks sacred to the Native people of Arizona. This view from my own sanctuary inspires me to maintain the far vision every day.

In 2009 I was in Santa Fe at a conference put on by the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples Foundation. I heard many stories about outside impacts endangering Native lifeways. A Zuni farmer from Northern Arizona talked about the challenge he was having keeping genetically engineered corn from blowing into his fields and pollinating his Native corn. The result would be stalks that grow higher but are broken by the wind—and the loss of their pure Native strain that had adapted well to the conditions of their land over centuries. For his people it’s not just about loss of crops and food but also loss of heritage, a spiritual connection.

Shortly after returning I saw the documentary The Future of Food, largely about genetically engineered food and its effect, not only on health but heritage, and the absurd greed of large corporations. You see, these corporations have been allowed to patent their seed, a strange practice. There was a story about a farmer in the Midwest who, much like the Zuni farmer, was having trouble with Monsanto Corporation trucks passing on the highway blowing their corn into his fields. His family had developed their heritage corn over a couple of hundred years. He lost the battle. Not only did Monsanto’s corn cross-pollinate, he lost his family heritage in more ways than one. In a bizarre move, Monsanto sued him for patent infringement and won. Had such an outcome crossed the minds of scientists in the Monsanto labs who were developing the product? I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt but who knows. Since that film came out there have been a number of others with a similar story line.

The examples given here—warring countries, loss of traditions and ways of life—are very big issues. But we can have an impact at the micro level, every day in our own lives, that play into the macro level. Typically we’re untrained. Not many think of wider impact, through time. But if we take the opportunity to project our thoughts and potential actions on down the road and assess the likely outcome, we’d actually find we all have an innate sense of far vision.  We just need to stop, take a breath and then use it.

If you need it, perhaps you can find further inspiration from Neil Young.

***

I’m issuing you an invitation to make a statement for far vision. Participate in our January 31-February 1 Seed Wisdom events in Phoenix. Proceeds benefit the seed saving project founded by Grandmother Flordemayo of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Make an impact. If you’re unable to attend, please donate to the project. Every bit makes a difference.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Indigenous Rights, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Documentary Review – Peru: A League of Their Own

This inspiring documentary short by Rodrigo Vazquez is a true look at Quechua gender roles and the devastating effect of natural disasters in Peru. It tells the story of a young woman named Juana in the village of Churubamba, located in the Cusco region, who took an unprecedented step outside roles traditional for a Quechua woman. She organized a women’s soccer team, which served as a model that spread across a number of the communities. The teams weren’t only about soccer but also served as a forum for the women to talk about their problems and band together to work for the benefit of all their families.

In the village of Kalla Rayan, a young woman named Felicitas gained entry into meetings reserved for men where she was voted as representative, along with the community president, for a special mission. The two were to find their way to Lima and, with no introduction, seek an audience with the next president to seek aid for the devastation wrought on their village by the floods.

It shows what can happen when any of us take a step off the beaten path. In this film, the starting point was one woman who wanted to play soccer, something taken up by some of the women in other communities and became huge; introduced more equality and potentially has saved one village. It reminds us to follow our dreams and trust the path where it leads – even if we can’t see beyond the next footfall.

Mollamarka Women Singers

Mollamarka women singers inside Salk’awasi, the ancestral home of Don Americo Yabar.
Photo courtesy of Mark Jericevic.

On another note, the landscape and villages in the film looked so familiar to me that I did a double-take as I watched. I must have traveled through some of the very same areas on my way to Mollamarka for so many years during our Heart of the Andes program.

Film length is 25 minutes. View for free via Karma Tube: Peru: A League of Their Own .

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Indigenous Rights, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Kate Horsley’s fascinating novel is about an adept caught in the shifting landscape of the Pagan Religion and Christianity in 6th century Ireland.  Not only does it document the times, but also allows us a real taste of the struggle those based in the Earth Religions endured.

Perhaps even importantly, Horsley leads us into the heart and mind of one so troubled, with the internal conflicts she faces between what she knows as her soul’s truth and the instinct for physical survival. This tale is as haunting and bittersweet as it is joyful. Readers may come to find relevance for their own lives in weighing the prices we pay for the choices we make.

Available via Amazon and other bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Rights, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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