“And they say, ‘Don’t forget where you come from,
Don’t die holding on to your words.
Cause you know you got a whole world to change,
but understand who you got to change first.'”
Macklemore, “Victory Lap”
I’m reading, thinking, observing, worrying, reading, thinking. We need a better lens with which we can see the world: a lens that shows us our errors with crystal clear clarity, so that we can develop better strategies to correct those mistakes. It’s a scary errand, trying to find/develop a better lens. I find it’s too easy to spit words filled with anger. Too often, I pull concepts out of my soul that are wrapped in a cocoon of cynicism. It’s much harder to see through a lens of love, hope, faith, truth. One wouldn’t think it would be so hard. Perhaps that is only my experience and it is a task that gets easier with repetition.
I recently read an article about developing the skill of listening. Deep listening. Listening to the words, the emotions of a speaker, and letting them sink into you without jumping to the pre-determined argument or rebuttal. This too is a skill that requires practice and repetition. We can all learn to listen better, with more integrity, including me. So, as I contemplate being a better listener, but having a ton of words in my soul that I don’t want to die holding on to, I have to look more deeply at what it is I am intending to do with my words.
What is my errand? Is my errand to change people’s minds? Is it a fool’s errand to expect that we re-craft hundreds of years of policy and law as it pertains to lands which are held sacred by Tribal communities? At a point in time, even Vine Deloria, Jr. didn’t think it a fool’s errand. “In those days we really believed that it was possible to re-create nations but only if people, Indian and non-Indian, honestly dealt with the facts. in this context, law and policy depends on the appearance of morality, if not it’s substance.” (“Spirit and Reason”)
Ah. The facts. You know, the history. Those historical stories that no one seems to know. The facts about federal Indian law and policy that most people don’t know and can’t seem to understand.
This topic I have decided to focus on – the care and preservation of lands for future generations – this is not a new issue of concern. The underlying problem is not that the challenges we face are new: the problem is that we can’t continue to ‘solve’ these problems with the same thinking that has led us to policies and practices which continually degrade and poison the land. Which means that we have to have different conversations. Conversations which are based on truly listening. The same old argument between developer, legislator, politician and conservationist cannot be counted on to make any progress in the dilemma. We must learn to listen. More succinctly, we must learn to involve other voices; those whose words are rooted in generations of holistic land practices. I also think what this really means, if you dig in and break it down, is that some of the stakeholders whose voices have dominated the ‘conversations’ really need to learn to be quiet. They need to shut up for a time. I don’t say this to be disrespectful, but I do mean for it to be provocative. It also means that people need to be willing to hear the truth of how lands have been taken away from Indigenous nations.
Broaden the conversation, deepen the listening. Think more critically about the decisions we are facing. Tell the truth. Be willing to hear the truth.
I love what Dr. Dan Wildcat recently cited as one of seven things he believes we need to do to advance the rights of Mother Earth. His non-negotiable position is that we must base all our work on the belief that “this planet and the life on it constitutes a spiritual universe.” That was my rough attempt to quote him from the presentation he made in January to the Bioneers Indigenous Forum. If we listen deeply enough, if we think more critically, we might be able to remember that we are part of a huge, symbiotic universe; that our lives are really as fragile as the planet’s; that what we do to Mother Earth, we do to ourselves; that we can better manage the gifts that our Mothers offers us for a good life.
Here’s a link to his presentation. I highly recommend it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz25Velw6cE&list=PLcrF8lYZY144VBdB-deo9dUxznTlLSG1N&index=8
We need a land ethic. We need a return to a belief in the value of an undisturbed environment that sustains and perpetuates life. All life. Dr. Wildcat reminds us, in his presentation, that there is plenty of work to do. And we all must get busy.
In my next post I hope to lay out some points about why we should engage Tribal and Indigenous principles, knowledge and wisdom in the decisions about land development / management issues. I’m hoping that the more I do this, the better organized and clear my thoughts can be expressed.
I’ll leave you with the words my friend Jessica posted that her mom, Wanda Wilson, had spoken to her. I had the honor of meeting Wanda in January of 2014 and we keep in touch via social media. I admire her greatly.
“We have to understand we are all different, but we share one goal. If the earth is polluted these beings won’t exist anymore, and we lose our gifts. We all share the earth, the water, the air, trees and soil to grow our food. We all want to be loved and to give love, we all want to be friends. But we are all born, special and unique. What is that one goal we all share? Go and do it.” Wanda Wilson