Indigenous Rights

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

Book Review: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

The Last Report on the Miracles

In The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich has written a book that transports the reader not only to another time, but also to a field where all could dwell with increased respect and understanding.

Agnes is the main character, an inventive person of strong character who found a way to deal with living in a time when women had few choices—the early 1900s. Timing, opportunity and a desire to leave her old situation behind allowed her to step into the identity of Father Damien Modeste, a priest who was expected shortly at a remote Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota called Little No Horse. The narrative takes us over nearly a century of what it was like to have a foot planted in both worldsa woman living as a manministering in one culture yet not intruding with another, developing roots and living with a sporadic fear of one day being found out. Would everything Father Damien built in his beloved community, all trust and love given to him, be discarded if Agnes was discovered?

The telling of this chronicle comes about through the investigation of one Sister Leopolda who is up for sainthood. When the church’s emissary comes to interview Father Damien, we have the opportunity to witness a life well lived, intricately woven and deeply connected to community. Not the life of Sister Leopolda but that of Father Damien.

Equally important is the telling of the Obijwe traditions, the sometimes funny and bizarre antics of medicine man Nanapush and the difficulties often endured. Peppered throughout are enormous gems of wisdom. A couple of examples are shown here.

…even careful plans cannot accommodate or foresee all the tricks of creation…

…We see the seasons pass, the moons fatten and go dark, infants grow to old men, but this is not time. We see the water strike against the shore and with each wave we say a moment has passed, but this is not time. Inside, we feel our strength go from a baby’s weakness to a youth’s strength to a man’s endurance to the weakness of a baby again, but this is not time, either, nor are your whiteman’s clocks and bells, nor the sun rising and the sun going down. These things are not time… (Nanapush)

It’s also punctuated with Father Damien’s frequent, unanswered notes to the Pope such as this one.

Pope!

Perhaps we are no more than spores on the breath of God, perhaps our life is just one exhalation. One breath. If God pauses just a moment to ruminate before taking in a new breath, we see. In that calm cessation, we see. All I’ve ever wanted to do is see.

Don’t bother with a reply.

Modeste

The characters in this novel are so rich and their stories so resonant, there’s a part of me that secretly hopes the writings are based on fact. They have an underlying inherent truth. Life is indeed layers of complexity, with all its attendant emotions. Here it’s delivered to us through Agnes and Father Damien, their voices intermingled. This book is much more than entertainment, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Available on Amazon and retail bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Seed Intelligence: Indigenous Perspectives and Our Collective Birthright

In October 2010, Flordemayo was in Los Angeles attending a conference. At break she returned to her room on the 23rd floor. Before lying down to rest her eyes, she noticed an emerald green glow on the wall. When she opened them again the light had taken up the entire wall and a vision unfolded. “There was a panoramic landscape and everything was emerald,” she said. “It was so beautiful that I said to myself, ‘I’m going into this light.’ I have absolute memory of walking in a field dialoguing with everything. I noticed a mountain to my right. Then everything began to change! At the top, it split and there was movement like an avalanche! The forest and everything in it came tumbling down—trees, animals, stones, water. It crossed the road below and I saw that all domestic life was being swept away! I thought, ‘I have to get to my cornfield!’ I was praying and running as fast as I could, and then I’m grabbing the yellow corn, the blue, the red, the black…and then I grabbed all the rainbow corn I could grab! I bundled all the corn I could carry up in my long skirt. But I couldn’t run fast enough! I heard a voice from above, ‘Flordemayo! What are you doing? The military is coming!’ I answered in a cry to the Universe, ‘It just doesn’t matter anymore!’ Then I was standing in the hotel room again facing the wall. The emerald light was gone. I had tears in my eyes. I fell back on my bed. I was devastated.”

Flordemayo

Grandmother Flordemayo
Photo credit: Linda Rettinger

As a young child, Flordemayo was recognized as a seer. By the age of four, she had already begun her training as a curandera espiritu, a healer through divine spirit, a gift inherited through long family lineage, originating from the Maya highlands of Central America. She is a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, standing for peace and healing of the Mother Earth. When messages come strongly, Flordemayo knows to answer them—no matter the obstacles.

What is the timeliness of this vision?

Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, and spiritual guide of the sacred K’iche Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. His ceremonial work most often takes place in caves, engaging with resident energies of the natural site and timing of the Tzolkin calendar in conjunction with needs of communities or individuals. Like Flordemayo, his gifts evolved from childhood until he ultimately answered the call through a series of difficult shamanic challenges.

Apab'yan Tew

Apab’yan Tew
Photo source: Apab’yan Tew

Apab’yan elaborates on the Maya worldview: “We cannot be who we must be without the land. Another principle is that the body we have is not really ours. It is lent from the Mother Earth herself. So if you create any kind of danger to your body, you are also hurting the Mother Earth. What the Earth produces and what we produce is part of the same cycle, the same system. We are not separated from the Earth—and the Earth is not to be thought of as just another provider of goods. The term that is used in the West is ‘natural resources’ as something to be taken, something to be transformed. For us, we don’t use this term. We use the term ‘elements of life.’ It is our life! It is not a resource.”

In Indigenous traditions, every aspect of life is integrated and sacred. This Maya spiritual leader is quite clear that to surpass a cycle creates imbalance. Nothing should be moved from its place in the Universe. His people think of the seed as a living feminine entity, not a commodity. There is a proper way to carry her, to talk to her, the Sky and the field in the act of sowing according to specific timing. This in itself is a ceremony, integration of a flow that already exists and must not be taken from those like himself who hold these ways close.

There are those who seek to eradicate the sacred ways.

Apab’yan talks about the Maya ways of respect: “It is our purpose not to take more than we can give back. But it is also our purpose not to change. We must not touch what is not ours. It is not ours from the beginning. It is ours to have a dialogue. The seeds talk to us. We have five seeds. Only one of the five is for us. One is for the Sky. One is for the Earth. One is for the brothers in the fields. Maybe there’s a crow that’s going to come. The last one is for anybody who needs it. In my harvesting, maybe I’ll have some extra seeds to give to someone or sell them. There’s no harvesting for commercial purposes. But we have extra if someone needs it. We are Corn Beings. So we must not even play with the seeds.”

He believes there is no current problem with GMO seed infiltration in the high altitude area of his village: “You don’t sell milk to a cow!” For the Guatemalan highlands, there’s not enough room for the politics of Monsanto. What the West calls “organic” these Maya farmers have been doing for eons—and the best selection has long ago been made. However, he sees a danger as any of his people become more influenced, perhaps by emigrating and then returning home, to set aside their ancient ways of living.

That same protection isn’t available to Native and heritage farmers in the US. Five years ago I sat in a conference session and heard a Zuni man sadly express the fear he held: the real possibility of GM seeds blowing into the fields that he and his ancestors had planted with their pure Native strain for hundreds of years. It was disheartening and outrageous.

If the spirits of Earth and Sky are no different than the seeds they sow, the food they eat, what their bodies are made of…then to tamper with any part is an outright act against religious freedom and quality of life, rights the US constitution is supposed to uphold. For giant agribusinesses to also attempt to spread their seed where people have few rights equates to preying upon those who have a voice but are ignored. When spiritual tradition falls apart, grounding dissolves; detrimental influences make additional in-roads; suffering takes over—a process proven over history. Spiritual pride is lost; ethnic groups are additionally marginalized.

A grassroots movement has sprung up.

Learn About GMOsPeople are starting to come together, much as in past times of threat or needed change. Coalitions are appearing like GMO-Free Prescott, a small, volunteer-run nonprofit organization in Prescott, Arizona specifically formed to educate and support everyone’s right to choose food and products that have not been genetically modified. Founder Shea Richland states, “I got involved due to health issues when I was leaving ‘no stone unturned’ to find answers. The more I learned, the more concerned I became. When the documentary Thrive was being shown in our area, I felt it was an opportune time to do more. So, GMO-Free Prescott was born. If people were walking what the Native people teach, then our organization wouldn’t be necessary.”

Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg, is known as an environmental activist. She is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support and create funding for frontline Native environmental groups. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation. Her organization offers a number of naturally derived products that may be found via Native Harvest online to help fund the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

Winona LaDuke Source: Native Harvest

Winona LaDuke
Source: Native Harvest

She shares this: “When I was a young woman, my father would listen to me patiently, with great compassion, as I explained to him the many environmental issues facing our community and the complexities of the world. His name was Sun Bear, or Vincent LaDuke. He used to tell me, ‘Winona, you are a smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy unless you can grow corn.’

I remembered this for many years but was not as smart as he thought. It took me until the turn of the millennium to become a corn grower. I thought about this often and wondered about the corn varieties my ancestors in northern Minnesota would have grown. I began a quest, one of many. The first corn that came to me was a Bear Island Flint corn, eight to twelve inch, multicolored cobs. The seeds were gifted from Ricardo Salvador, then a professor at Iowa State University. He had found them in a seed bank. The corn came from an island in the middle of Leech Lake Reservation, where I later learned, after many interviews and much research, that our people often grew corn on islands, away from predators, in micro-climates surrounded by water. Ingenious. We began to grow. Then, I moved onto Manitoba White Flint, the northernmost varieties of the Ojibwe, grown about 100 miles north of Winnipeg.”

Winona notes the importance of growing Native seeds and seed saving: “Never a crop failure after all these years with this corn! It is hearty (with) twice the protein and half the calories of market corn. And it is resilient. (Through) frost, drought and high winds, it stays. We were the northernmost corn growers in the world. And yet, we had lost much of our corn and our seeds. So, we have grown that corn now for a decade. Again…resilient. Monsanto’s crops failed in 2012, but ours did not. We are grateful. That was the beginning. Today, we are growing an 800-year-old squash, found in an archeological dig in Wisconsin. And we are growing many other varieties. It is our hope to create a northern Anishinaabe seed bank.”

The vision that Flordemayo received was a strong message coming from the Creator to uphold the welfare of our interconnections. As she accepted what seemed like a monumental task, things quickly began to fall in place—as it so often does when a vision is true. Exactly the funds required to purchase the forty acres of land that came available near her home in Estancia, New Mexico appeared. She established the Seed Temple as a volunteer-run project under her nonprofit organization, The Path. Smaller donations came to excavate the underground seed vault, construct the classroom building that covers it, and to create its accompanying medicine circle and fire temple. Flordemayo said, “You can’t have plants without water. We need a place to go and pray…to hold the spirits of water and plants in prayer.”

Rainbow Corn

Rainbow Corn
Photo: Greg Schoen

Local volunteers and those from some distances come regularly to continue building and advise. Greg Schoen is one of them. He’s impassioned about seed preservation: “Crops are being stripped and ‘dumbed down,’ the diversity bred out of them. When we do this to the corn, we do this to ourselves.” He got his start as a seed saver in the mid-1980s receiving his original “Glass Gem” jewel-like kernels from Carl L. Barnes, a mixed blood man of Cherokee/Irish/Scots ancestry now in his eighties living near Liberal, Kansas. Over the years, Greg received other Native varieties from Carl, planted them himself and gifted them to such organizations as Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona.

“I think of corn as holding a knowledge, like a recordkeeper. Sometimes when Carl would grow corn in his fields, Native strains that had gone extinct would re-emerge. When Native people here lost the corn they carried, it’s like they lost the central point that anchored them to the land, like they lost their language. So, when Carl would reintroduce their ancestral corn to them, they would light up. It would be like you were wandering in the desert and your ancient scrolls were returned to you!”

Greg freely gifts baggies of “Glass Gem” seeds to anyone who wants them. In the coming year he will plant at the Sufi community near Silver City, New Mexico where he now lives. When asked what direction the Seed Temple would take, he said, “We’re starting to provide educational support to seed savers. There will also be a ‘seed lending library.’ Individuals can take portions of the seed stock of one of more items from the seed bank, with the agreement that they will grow out the seed according to proper growing practices, and return a portion of the seed produced to the seed bank. Those are just some of our plans.”

Flordemayo affirmed Greg’s statement and added, “The seed has a spirit, but it doesn’t have a voice. We are giving the seeds a voice! We are welcoming Native and heritage seeds from growers. The only restriction is that the seeds are organically grown; and we know where they came from and who is growing them. So we need to have documentation in receiving them.”

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the volunteer-run nonprofit I founded to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions. We see the Native seed issue as an integral aspect of Indigenous spiritual traditions and are helping to support the Seed Temple. More is still to be done in the way of construction and obtaining all things necessary to start up and maintain. One way Flordemayo plans to help fund the project is through classes in the growing and use of medicinal herbs, sacred bathing, and vision and dream work. She has turned the Hogan, located next to the seed vault, into the Temple of the Golden Child, which will be used for this purpose.

More and more independent seed saving operations are being established in pockets around the globe. Greg Schoen continues to quietly do what he can to preserve our heritage by sharing his passion, experiences and seeds with others on a similar track. Shea Richland believes so strongly in our birthright for health and well-being that she reluctantly stepped into the public eye to form GMO-Free Prescott and educate regarding our choices. Winona LaDuke works at the national level through organized environmental activism. Flordemayo answered a vision. Apab’yan Tew performs ceremonies for the well-being of the planet in the dark recesses of caves.

It takes all of us, each bringing our own way, in the face of such forces that would act against us, to support and maintain our collective birthright—and succeed.

***

This article is being incorporated into the Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) Farming Curriculum that will be part of the Tribal Community Colleges in the region where Honor the Earth Foundation is active.

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Kenosis Spirit Keepers is sponsoring Grandmother Flordemayo and seed savers Greg Schoen and Dianna Henry for events on January 31-February 1, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The proceeds from ticket sales go to support the seed saving project founded by Grandmother Flordemayo. For information and to purchase tickets, please go here.

***

Sources:

Interviews with Flordemayo, October 17, 2012 and February 1, 2013.

Interviews with Greg Schoen, October 17, 2012 and February 8, 2013.

Interview with Apab’yan Tew, November 6, 2012.

Interview with Winona LaDuke, November 27, 2012.

Interviews with Shea Richland, November 9, 2012 and January 2, 2013.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

What You Can Do in the Face of Devastation and Make a Difference

I received a very disheartening message. I want to share it with youeven though research statistics show that most people would prefer to see uplifting blog content. My feeling is there are just things I can’t ignore. I discount that, due to the immensity of a travesty, I can do nothing about it. That would be the easy way out, to push something aside.

I subscribe to Glenn Shepard’s blog Notes from the Ethnoground. Glenn is an ethnobotanist, medical anthropologist and filmmaker who lives in Brazil and has spent many years doing on-the-ground research in remote rainforest places. Yesterday his latest post ”A letter of protest: In defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional populations in Amazonia” arrived via email. 

The post is about a proposed change to a law currently in the Brazilian House of Representatives “to make changes to Article 231 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 defining the public interest in demarcating Indigenous Lands.” It has to do with ancestral land rights of the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia. If passed, it would take away many of their rights in favor of those who have encroached: cattle ranchers, mining operations and more.

Guarani People

Photo credit: Survival International

This is not a new issue. It has been going on for decades with terrible consequences. Not only is the rainforest threatened but Terena, Guarani and other Native peoples have been murdered in defending what is theirs. We rarely hear of these things because they don’t get reported. I did some research of my own and turned up this August 8 news article from the Guardian in the UK. It reports on the killing of a Guarani man believed by Survival International to have been ordered by a landowner, as well as other murders of Native peoples numbering “452 between 2002 and 2010, sharply up on the 167 killed during the previous eight years.” The article accuses the Brazilian government of “pandering to agro-business lobby rather than reallocating areas to indigenous peoples.”

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil. Photograph: Celso Junior/AP

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil.
Photograph: Celso Junior/AP

 If you’ve read this far, then you likely recognize a familiar story. Although the struggle of the Indigenous people of Brazil is especially heightened, similar things are happening in Native lands the world over. It’s a form of genocide. When the right to live on their own lands, grow their own crops and perform their own religious ceremonies is taken away, it’s devastating.

Have any of you ever lost a home? Been told your religious practices are evil, antiquated or ridiculous? Has your voice not been heard? Probably many of you have had such experiences. For traditional Native people, connection to ancestral lands, community, the foods they grow and ceremonies runs deep. It’s a matter of survival and what keeps them spiritually grounded. Take away these things and a sense of identity vanishes.

What to do about such things? It’s not an easy answer. Personally, I founded Kenosis Spirit Keepers  in 2007, a grassroots volunteer-run nonprofit organization, expressly because I believe so strongly in the contributions that these traditions make to the betterment of the world through continued existence.

Has it been a walk in the park to support projects we’ve committed to fund? No. We’ve had to be very creative to do so. I wish we were able to do so much more.

Does it feel to me as though my efforts and those of my board are like lonely raindrops in the wind? You better believe itespecially when I hear about such things as Glenn reported.

Yet, I can’t turn away. No matter how discouraged and tired I get…I just can’t. That’s because I truly believe the more people who feel the way I doand stay strong in that intentthat the tides will turn. We can make a difference. Looking back in history, I see the shift has happened too many times not to believe in what’s possible. I hold that you do, too.

***

Kenosis Spirit Keepers

To learn more about Kenosis Spirit Keepers and how you can help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions, go here.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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