“…I see you and I am glad that you are here.”
I would be remiss in this work if I didn’t refer to Nisqually elder and hero, Billy Frank, Jr. I never got the chance to meet him, but I’m lucky enough to know people who did.
A friend of mine posted this quote several days ago:
“Those who learn to listen to the world that sustains them can hear the message brought forth by the salmon. The message is the same as it has always been; respect Mother Earth and Father Sky and they will continue to sustain you, and your children, forever. Pursue a vision of harmony, rather than bow to greed for short term gains at the expense of long-term well-being, and your descendants will inherit a world filled with beauty and sustenance.” Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually Elder
I had the honor to hear Marco Hatch, Ph.D., speak at Lummi while attending the Vine Deloria, Jr Indigenous Studies Symposium last year. Dr. Hatch leads a group of bright Native scholars in Indigenous environmental research. Of all the powerful things he shared, one comment in particular really stood out: that ecology / environment interpretation without the context of culture is an immature and incomplete approach to understanding a system that has deep complexity and a way of knowing unique to the environment.
I talk a lot about restoring the reciprocal relationship but I’ve recently recommitted myself to more than just talking. I am making time to not only spend time in the presence of relatives, but also to see them with my heart. I have also chosen to change my language from “reciprocal relationship” to “living relationship”.
Today, I fight pain and fear. The two are so intertwined and it’s not lost on me….I reach for and cling to the words of our ancestors, the promise of their wisdom and the hope that they instill. I take comfort in the words of Richard Wagamese, an Ojibway relative who is on his journey to the Spirit World. These are my medicines and my tools for survival.
“I’m going to the land today. I’m going to sing, to pray, to sit in splendid isolation and hear the sound of my own heartbeat mingled with the heartbeat of the Earth that I feel through the bottoms of my feet. I’m going to the only cathedral I will ever need. I’m going to fill geography and allow that geography to fill me. I’m going to remember that I am a creature and that the land sustains me. I’m going to remember that it does not exist for me. I exist for it. I’m going to be joined to all my relations – everything under the sun,” wrote Wagamese, on Facebook in July 2013.