Sunday, November 20, 2016

Standing Up for Standing Rock and Understanding the Shadow of Our History

Artist Mary-Ann Myers and Lawrence Laughing
Last night, people gathered in Grass Valley to raise awareness and supplies for the water protectors at Standing Rock. It was a time to share stories, song, support, prayer and food. 

I was drawn to the breath-taking Standing Rock poster (shown at left and described below) and had a delightful conversation with the artist and flute-player Mary-Ann Myers. There were also first-hand stories from people who recently returned from Standing Rock.

I had few expectations, but definitely did not expect a mental seismic event.

The first tremor came when Lawrence Laughing, a tall, gentle man with a soft, resonant voice said that we were standing on our own Standing Rock, right here in these beautiful foothills. 

He reminded us that the Maidu tribe had been decimated during the gold rush when almost 150,000 people were killed by gold and greed (according to Gold, Greed and Genocide by Pratap Chatterjee, now Executive Director at CorpWatch.)

With a mixture of delightful storytelling and a shocking reminder of our past, Johnny Moses, told us a mystical story about caribou and related a bit of his experience at an Indian residential school. For some reason I don't quite understand, the novel I've been working on this year has led me deeper and deeper into our dark past, especially as it relates to our dealings with the people who lived here when we arrived.

Perhaps the image that most brought home the horrors of the residential Indian schools was this picture of tiny handcuffs ... handcuffs for a child ... handcuffs made by someone, probably in large quantities ... handcuffs used by adults to control children. It's an artifact that carries a thousand stories, each of them horrific.

Lawrence Laughing added to my mental tumult later when he talked about technology as something other than a sign of progress. 

That thought connected with an ongoing conversation with another friend who had recently returned from Europe where time took on a different perspective when she toured a cathedral with a glass floor that revealed older structures. It struck her that the European mindset judged progress on structures … roads, cathedrals, waterworks, bridges and so on.

Therefore, when they (we) came to the Americas, all we saw was empty space, a void to be filled, a people without civilization, since civilization was judged by things made by man.

I don’t know where this thinking is going, but my mind feels like a river that has been knocked out of its channel. 

In the meantime, here is a beautiful piece of music by Lawrence Laughing
Click here to listen to Lawrence Laughing "I Wish You Peace"
 And a full view of Mary-Ann Myers' Standing Rock poster as described by the artist:
  • Background represents water...or even water with oil in it...which is exactly what we don't want to happen.
  • The background is a college Lakota student embracing his ancestors.
  • The woman bending down as if crying is a photo of a Lakota pow wow dancer and she was involved in the 1975 Longest walk that Dennis Banks and others organized after the second seige of Wounded Knee.
  • Then there is Sitting Bull, who once said we are poor but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps.  If we must die...we die defending our right.
  • Sitting Bull was the last of the "wild" chiefs but in reality, he is the first American Indian protester.  
  • So, this college student embraces his past but is sad because his people were oppressed for 500 years and it is still happening.  
  •  We must stop will take prayer.

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