Posted in First Peoples, Peace & Justice, Writing

Honoring the true history of indigenous peoples

Eel River, Humboldt County, California
Eel River, Humboldt County, California

The Wiyot lived in the Humboldt Bay area of Northern California and they live in my dreams. For about a year-and-half we made our home in Humboldt County, an area about 200 miles north of San Francisco on the far North Coast. It’s a place dense with redwood forests, wild rivers, and creeks that run dry in the summer and overflow in the winter. If you live in a rural area or grew up in one, you might take such things for granted. Having lived in paved-over cities all my life, they seemed magical to me.

Our four acres were rich with sequoia, madrone, oak, and twenty-eight fruit trees. Blue jays flew in to feed in the morning. Quail families visited at night. They marched down our drive in orderly formation. Hawks and hummingbirds put on air shows. Rosemary thrived unattended. There was a beautiful lush 100-year-old rosebush. There were wild roses too. They gifted us hips for homemade cough syrup.

Scotch Broom
Scotch Broom

The colors there were brilliant and varied: smog-free blue skies (you could see the stars at night!), rich brown earth, a population of purple iris in a grove of California bay laurel, orange cosmos and red dahlias, yellow scotch broom lining our creek-side in the company of cascading Japanese quince. The Japanese quince provided ample housing for Rufus hummingbirds. Nearby, Queen Ann’s lace stood unbent by the wind. When it went to seed we collected the seeds for cooking. They have a taste somewhere between carrot and caraway.

The spread of blackberry bushes was both wonder and wealth. They seemed never to run out of fruit. I gathered some almost every morning for breakfast and every morning I thought of the women in buckskins who preceded me more than a century ago. Perhaps there was a mother who stood on this spot, picking blackberries for her son too.

I think the peace, quiet and simplicity of that place made it easy to imagine the first peoples as they might have lived there in other times. I could see them tending fires, boiling and drying acorns and then grinding them for flour, bathing in the river, raising their children, gathering wood, hunting and enjoying sacred ceremony. I knew the very same ancient sequoia that watched over us had watched over them.

Humboldt Bay near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands
Qual-a-wa-loo (Humboldt Bay) near Eureka, traditional Wiyot lands, The 1860 Wiyot Massacre happened on Indian Island

Finally, I did some research. I was sad but not surprised to find that the area was once inhabited by an indigenous people –  the Wiyot people – who were decimated in a genocide ~

Wiyot Mother and Child
Wiyot Mother and Child

“Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the “good citizens of the area”. Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought differently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it “cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children” — then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.” MORE [Wiyot Tribal Council Page]

Note: Originally written in 2012, I’ve posted this today as a an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12. More than 40 US jurisdictions celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the majority of these have replaced Columbus Day with this holiday, but some jurisdictions celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In addition to reading here, please also treat yourself to Michael Watson’s post Silence, Story, and Healing, a short and thoughtful piece.

© 2012, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ Eel River by Jan Kronsell and released into the worldwide public domain; Scotch Broom by Danny S. – 001 under CC BY-SA 3.0; Humboldt Bay near Eureka by Tony via Wikipedia and Licensed under CC A 2.0 Generic; Wiyot Mother and Child, Humboldt State University

WRITING PROMPT, Not for writers only

Perhaps you too grew up in a time and place where the history books taught a one-sided view of the land you live on and the people who originated there. Perhaps, like me, you had to get out of school and meet new people, read books that weren’t sanctioned by academic authority and do your own research to learn about the devastation that was  and is rained upon indigenous people all over the world … the violence, the slavery and the genocide. Perhaps you are a descendent of the original people who suffered so and know the truth from the stories of your elders. Perhaps your roots are in the nations of empire and you are saddened that they perpetrated or were complicit in such unimaginable injustice.

We can’t change what happened in the past but  we can make sure that lies aren’t propagated and that the truth is told and shared. Whether or not you are a writer, try this exercise: write a poem, short story, essay or article that illustrates some aspect of colonialism, racial bias and stereotype, or the modern complications of colonial history. Doing research and writing about our feelings are good ways to clarify circumstance and clear out unconscious bias. That’s one of the possible benefits of journaling, for example.  If you are a professional poet or writer, you have the tools to help set the record straight and win a small victory for the human race.

– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

Posted in First Peoples, Nature, Poems/Poetry, Victoria C. Slotto

Flight Off of Half Dome

 

Half Dome--Yosemite
Half Dome–Yosemite

 

 

Flight Off of Half Dome

An etheree

Walk
alone
in autumn
below the blue
canopy of sky.
Leaves crunch beneath your feet.
Where do crickets go on cold
fall days wrapped up in brilliant hues?
Why do the horses romp in sunlit
fields of green with wind whipping through their manes?

Where do crickets go on chilled winter days?
Yosemite-place of the gaping
mouth-belonged to the Miwok
until the white man came.
“Manifest Destiny”
they called it—God’s will.
The valley was
theirs to romp
in sun-
light.

Mi-
wok fled
in autumn
under the black
night sky in silent
flight off Half-Dome or through
wet leaves that could not crunch. Their
tears fell into the dark chasm
drowning the crickets who hid beneath
scarlet shrouds of all that came before death.

The Miwok Indians, guardians of Yosemite and Tuolome Meadows were driven from their homeland under the guise of “Manifest Destiny.” There was an etching at the Nevada Museum of Art when we had a Yosemite exhibit titled “Flight Off of Half Dome” depicting their “eviction” as falling from the rock.

“Etheree” is a form in which the poet increases from one to ten syllables per line and then in reverse for as many stanzas as desired.

– Victoria Slotto

© 2014, poem and photograph, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x42034ff816cd604d91d26b52d7daf7e8417VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page. Victoria’s poetry collection is  Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012.

Posted in Charles W Martin, First Peoples, Nature, Photography/Photographer, Poems/Poetry, poetry

younger brother’s blindness…

younger brother's blindness

dry grass burns
like a funeral pyre
in the river bed
the river
is dead
cattle kneel
as if in prayer
bowing a parched head
the river
is dead
it flows not
nor holds any life
older brother said
the river
is dead
mother earth
will shed no more tears
filling river beds
the river
is dead
man hears not
wealth’s his only thought
a thirst for silver
but death’s
the river

678ad505453d5a3ff2fcb744f13dedc7-1CHARLES W. MARTIN (Reading Between the Minds) — earned his Ph.D. in Speech and Language Pathology with an emphasis in statistics. Throughout Charlie’s career, he maintained a devotion to the arts (literature/poetry, the theater, music and photography). Since his retirement in 2010, he has turned his full attention to poetry and photography. He publishes a poem and a photographic art piece each day at Read Between the Minds, Poetry, Photograph and Random Thoughts of Life. He is noted as a poet of social conscience. Charlie has been blogging since January 31, 2010. He has self-published a book of poetry entitled The Hawk Chronicles and will soon publish another book called A Bea in Your Bonnet: First Sting, featuring the renown Aunt Bea. In The Hawk Chronicles, Charlie provides a personification of his resident hawk with poems and photos taken over a two-year period. Charlie’s lastest book, When Spirits Touch, Dual Poetry, a collaboration with River Urke, is available through Amazon now.

product_thumbnail.phpCharlie’s long awaited Aunt Bea Collection is out. He says, “Bea In Your Bonnet: First Sting is a collection of germinal poems featuring Aunt Bea. Aunt Bea’s voice is one I’ve heard almost every day of my life. Family observations, lessons, and advice given to me and every other family member who had the good sense to listen. Her homespun philosophy most likely will not be found in any collegiate textbooks or for that matter in any local town crier newspaper catering to city dwellers. Indeed, she has a different way of viewing the world; a bit old fashion, sassy, and steely at times but a viewpoint which has engaged my imagination and heart. I sincerely hope you too will find some morsel of wisdom in her personal observations and interpretations of life’s events, but do watch out for her stingers.”

Posted in Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, Islam, Judaism, Michael Watson, Peace & Justice

An Old Story

Summer_sunsetWe are a Jewish-Native household and events in the Middle-East have deep resonance for us. For the past two weeks we have watched and thought about the fighting in Gaza, our sadness, and sense of helplessness, growing daily.

Of course, it is impossible to know, with any certainty, the truth of things. Propaganda is unleashed by both sides. Still, there is something terribly familiar about the one-sided nature of the conflict. The history of the U.S., like that of Palestine, is usually told from the view of the dominant power. From our Indian perspective, the story is vastly different from that told in most history books.

We watched as the colonial powers invited landless Europeans to emigrate, and forced criminals and others who were disenfranchised to do so. Thus, they created an ever-growing hunger for land, a tidal wave that would eventually sweep over us.  We were under constant pressure to move West, and to relinquish our ancestral lands. The colonists made promises and gave us land that would be ours “forever”. Then they brought in settlers who lived in enclaves, always encroaching on our land. When our people attempted to defend the land the colonial powers had seeded to us, the colonial government made war against us. They killed our children and elders, and raped and murdered our women. They sought to destroy our cultures by stealing the land, our traditional knowledge and life-ways, and our children. Because we hold this knowledge, many of us remember, and observe remembrance of, the Shoah, the Holocaust, and acknowledge our kinship with those who were the victims of that genocide.

Let us remember that, like the Jews who made their way to the Holy Land, many of those early emigrants to our lands were the dispossessed. The British attempted to depopulate Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. They used war, famine, and desperation to drive people from their traditional lands. They employed “Acts of Enclosure” to force their own people to flee to the cities, hungry and destitute; many families eventually found their way to our lands.  Because they understood colonialism and genocide, because they understood trauma, many of these early immigrants married Native people. But soon, propaganda, hunger, greed, and the rising tide of immigration overwhelmed us.

Although they had killed ninety-nine percent of our people, forcing us to live on tiny reserves, starving and desperate, they continued their attack. They banned hunting, and our drums and our ceremonies, the heart of our cultures. This is not ancient history, it continues, as governments grab what little land we retain and willy-nilly destroy our sacred sites. It continues as Non-Natives rape and murder our women, and jail our young people, in vastly disproportionate numbers. When I see destruction of olive groves in Palestine, and hear reports of the rape of women and the murder of children, I am reminded of this. When I see the Bedouins forced into reservations, their traditional nomadic life forbidden to them, my heart breaks in recognition.

This is an old story. Those with superior numbers and weapons take land from people who have lived in a place for untold centuries. They use resistance to their domination as an excuse to make war on the people. As they do so, they often target children, women, and elders. Too frequently, women are raped and/or killed, children are murdered or traumatized, the land that feeds the stomachs and culture of the people is stolen. Thus the future of the people is threatened. These are acts of genocide. We cannot remain silent when we witness them. Our ancestors lived through this. They remember and whisper their experience in our minds. They are always with us, and they do not forget.

This post was originally shown on Dreaming the World.

– Michael Watson

© 2014, essay and photographs, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Art, First Peoples, folk tale, General Interest, Nature, Spirit Animals, story, Story Telling, Photo Story

“Who Speaks for Wolf” … a Native American Learning Story …

Our thanks to Gretchen Del Rio (Gretchen Del Rio’s Art Blog) and Mary Burns (Seeker of Truth and Beauty) for this lovely video.

Gretchen is much appreciated by us for her beautiful spirit as expressed through her spirit animal paintings. Below is one of her watercolors, War Bonnet, which notes that “Wolf is on the warpath. Many of his kind have been destroyed.”

If you haven’t already “met” Gretchen and Mary, we recommend a visit to their blogs.

Original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio (c) all rights reserved; posted here with permission
Original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio (c) all rights reserved; posted here with permission

21A6GA4TWSL._AA160_T

The book, Who Speaks for Wolf was
written by Paula Underwood and
illustrated by Frank Howell.

Posted in Culture/History, Fiction, First Peoples, Joseph Hesch, story

Sweet Grass

Sweetgrass HillsSweetgrass Hills in Montana from Red Rock Coulee
Source: Wikipedia

“His father’s father was Métis, you know…rode with Riel in 1869 and his father fought with Dumont at Duck Lake and Batoche in ’85,” Sheriff Hank Reynolds said as he pulled the glasses off his nose after reading the arrest report on his desk.

“That may be so, Sheriff, but it doesn’t give Liberté Beaubois license to ride into Montana, hunt protected buffalo and take a couple of shots at my head, does it?” asked Reynolds’ new deputy, Linus Philkin.

Reynolds wiped a few drops of coffee off his graying mustache and walked back to the holding cell, where he stared at a buckskin-clad man sleeping on the floor, face to the wall, on a mattress he’d pulled off the cot.

The sheriff rubbed his hand across his bald spot and recalled wind blowing through his hair in the long-ago when he, Liberté and some Piegan boys from over Milk River way would ride hell-bent for election chasing buffalo that would wander onto his father’s place. It was in those days before the Somme, before Liberté came home with a Victoria Cross and Croix de guerre in exchange for his childhood, an eye and, some said, his mind.

“I’ll take care of this,” Reynolds said, and loaded Liberté into his Ford pickup truck and Liberté’s horse with his into the trailer behind it. They drove from Chester up to his old man’s place outside Whitlash, where they mounted and pointed their ponies north, all the while howling like twelve-year-olds, chasing memories through the Sweet Grass back into Alberta.

A true mash-up of prompts went into this little story. First was Lillie McFerrin’s word of the week, Freedom. Then I decided it worked with Canadian writer Sarah Salecky’s daily prompt, which was “His father’s father was Métis.” I can never let a chance to write a North American historical piece go by. Then, as luck would have it, the first Story-A-Day May prompt was Going Home. And there you have it.

– Joe Hesch 
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Posted in Beauty, Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, Michael Watson, Spiritual Practice

A Brief Meditation on Grace and Comfort

GardensAfter a cool, damp week the sun is out! June is in full bloom, our perennial gardens bursting with color. In the the kitchen garden rows of tender plants have appeared in the raised beds, and we are eating mesclun. Lovely!

Here in Vermont the trees are a dense, lush green. Plants need to take full advantage of our four to five months of warm weather, and go about the tasks of reproducing and storing energy with vigor. In just a few weeks, by late July, the foliage will begin to thin, already preparing for the autumn to come.

We have stopped filling the feeders as the birds have other food sources available to them. Now that the feeders are empty we will likely take them down and store them until October. Come the first chilly days of autumn the birds will remind us to bring out the food; we have a good working relationship!

I recently read a post on Australis Incognita, an interview with an Australian Aboriginal elder, Uncle Paul Chapman. The essence of the conversation is that we learn who we are in the world by paying attention to the landscape and Nature. There is an ancient Indigenous knowing that we can’t figure it out by turning totally inward, as that is out of balance. We learn from bridging the worlds of inner an outer, self and landscape.

Reading Uncle Paul’s words reminded me we are of the landscapes we inhabit; we even have our own internal seasons. I often suggest to students that after we watch for a while we may begin to notice that sometimes the inside and outside worlds are in sync, other times not. Lately I have found myself diving deeply into the interior, even as I engage the Natural world as it bursts into furious activity.

Lately, I seem able to stand with a foot in each world, shifting between them as need be, and am rewarded by moments of grace. Grace reminds me to be grateful for my life, family and friends, and the Beauty surrounding me, even as I feel disappointed and angry with much that is unfurling in the world. Grace encourages me to be concerned for my grandchildren, and curious as to how we humans will manage the road ahead.

In dark, difficult, times it is easy to forget that summer invariably follows winter, and life sprouts anew when given any opportunity. This will be so as long as there is life on our precious blue-green planet. May we take refuge and comfort in that.

Evening-Sky The sun has broken through and the sky is a brilliant blue. Over the lake a layer of clouds, white and bubbly, hangs. Trees and gardens are  abloom, and the scent of lily-of-the-valley and lilac saturates the air. The day is beautiful. May we walk through this day in Beauty, together.

– Michael Watson

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, Michael Watson, Nature

Walking In Beauty

Lake-ChamplainThe fog is lifting, revealing a lovely spring day.

There is a Navaho word, Harzo, which can be translated as a life in Balance and Beauty. Balance and Beauty are complex concepts, changing as they move across tribes and cultures. I’m not Navaho and only understand Harzo as it has been explained to me by friends and colleagues. My felt sense of Harzo comes from living in the mountains of New Mexico as a grad student. There one is surrounded by Beauty and Vastness, and reminded of the insignificance of one’s self. It is not that we are unimportant, rather, we are simply part of the unimaginable Vastness of Nature.

One of the challenges many urban folks face is no longer recognizing our place in Beauty. We are drawn to the picturesque, yet so often we are unable to experience ourselves as part of the Beauty of Nature. Perhaps this difficult is rooted in our use of English. I am told by those who speak our tribal languages that most Indigenous languages in North America are verb based. The landscape and the living beings who live there are understood to be complex, evolving processes, rather than things. One is simply a process within a context of other and greater processes.

Walking in Beauty encourages us to recognize our relatedness to one another and All-That-Is. It is a good road that teaches empathy and reciprocity. As we live we begin to understand there is Beauty before, behind, and all around us. We also learn that we are unimaginably complex, filled, as is the world, with nuances of light and dark, and that, too, is beautiful.Trillium

Beauty exists even in the darkest of times and the most violent of places. Walking in Beauty implies remaining open to its presence and influence even when we are afraid or suffering. This can be a difficult task. My Navajo friends families’ held stories of The Long Walk, a trail of misery and suffering, a time when the Beauty of the Navajo homelands was lost, although the memory of Beauty and home was not. Eventually the Navajo went Home to their land bordered by the four sacred mountains, the place of Beauty. Sadly, that place remains under siege.

I imagine most of us have stories about the loss of Beauty, about exile and suffering, and about the journey Home. As I write this, a development project threats the natural beauty of our neighborhood, and perhaps the cohesiveness of the community itself. It is an old story: greed and avarice distract a few powerful people from the Beauty of place. So often, development is simply a code word for the further acquisition of power and the endless search for more wealth. Perhaps greed is simply a part of human nature, sometimes held in check by a collective focus on the good of the whole, and other times freed to wreck havoc on the world. It can only exist when we forget we are totally and irrevocably interconnected, when attachment and empathy fail, and when culture condones placing one’s desires over the good of the whole.

Evening-Sky The sun has broken through and the sky is a brilliant blue. Over the lake a layer of clouds, white and bubbly, hangs. Trees and gardens are  abloom, and the scent of lily-of-the-valley and lilac saturates the air. The day is beautiful. May we walk through this day in Beauty, together.

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Culture/History, Disability, First Peoples, General Interest, Mental Health, Michael Watson, Shakti Ghosal

Trauma, Story, and Healing

Evening-Sky

He sat on the sofa, pulled deeply into himself, almost disappearing before my eyes, as he told me about his dad’s violence. I wondered whether he knew I was in the room with him. “I feel terribly fragmented; I don’t know who I am,” he explained. “I can’t remember ever being like everyone else; they seem so at home in themselves.”

One of my teachers, a Psychoanalytically oriented clinician, always said the real problem is the second trauma. Her view was the first trauma one encounters sets the stage for PTSD and related problems; the second trauma triggers the cascade. Repeated traumas in childhood physically alter the function of the developing brain, leaving one more vulnerable to new trauma. Even if only one trauma occurs in early childhood the person may remain susceptible to PTSD via a second trauma as an adult.

Continue reading “Trauma, Story, and Healing”

Posted in Disability, Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, grief, Michael Watson

PTSD and the Healing Journey

Evening-WoodsThe other night I had dinner with friends. After a traditional ceremonial meal, we watched Skins. I have read about the film, heard others talk about, and planned to watch it, for a long while. The film follows a few months in the life of a tribal police officer on a fictional reservation much like Pine Ridge, and weaves together myth and contemporary experience, violence and healing. Early in the story we are reminded that although humans like to think they are in charge, the spirits shape everything.

Earlier that day I had sat in a local bakery with a couple of medicine women, discussing a Medicine Wheel ceremony we are to hold next month as part of a conference honoring aging. As we come from different traditions and teachings it seemed important to all get on the same page. It turned out we were already in agreement, so the planning went smoothly.

Later, as I thought about the film and my delightful hour at the bakery I decided PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) might well live in the North, the place of night and winter. Fortunately, the North is the home of the Ancestors and the place we seek vision; in winter there is little haze and one can see clearly for a long way. The North is often a place where the spirits seem more immediate and accessible.

As the police officer in Skins discovers, healing from PTSD takes patience and courage, and may involve the workings of mythic beings. When we seek a healing for PTSD, we can request guidance from both our unconscious and the spirit world, asking them to give us manageable amounts of information regarding our traumatic experiences, and to aid us find new, more life nurturing, meaning in those experiences. Healing PTSD may become a vision quest, very like going alone to ask the ancestors and spirits to aid us and our communities, to bring us a vision we may live by.

Of course, we are not truly alone. Whether we are challenging the domination of PTSD in our lives, or praying for a vision, there are others, human and spirit, supporting us. We are blessed by the knowledge and caring of those who walk with, and pray for, us, and we benefit from their experience and companionship. Still, they cannot  make the journey for us; we must each walk the healing road for ourselves.

As we walk sun-wise around the Medicine Wheel we discover that when we stand in the North the path before us faces East. East  is the place of birth and rebirth, the home of insight and understanding. It is also the place, in the view of many Indigenous cultures of the Northeastern U.S., where we pass into the spirit world. Sometimes facing long-held trauma brings us an intense fear of death; indeed, the  journey from the North to the East is fraught with both danger and promise.

When we go alone to seek  a vision, or begin the journey of healing from PTSD, we benefit from telling our families and friends, asking them to pray for us, help us prepare, and honor our return. For many, requesting support when healing from PTSD seems shaming; often asking for aid requires as much courage as does confronting PTSD itself. Yet healing seldom happens in a vacuum; we each need the support of others in our lives and on our healing journeys. Let us honor the courage of those who ask for our aid.

Healing PTSD, like any vision quest, is not for the faint of heart.  On the journey we need courage, perseverance, and compassion for ourselves and others. It is a good journey, holding the promise of healing, renewal, and vision, for Self, family, friends, and community.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in First Peoples, Joseph Hesch, poem, poetry, trees

Beyond the Pines

Once, a squirrel could travel from here
to the place the Kanienkehaka called
Beyond the Pines and never
touch the ground, not leave a track
for the People of the Flint to follow
like they stalked the white-tail deer.
From the River Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk
to Schau-naugh-ta-da the trace ran,
where I follow these tracks each day.

I see where the geese have penned
their cuneiform tales in the pond-side mud,
edited by the turtles’ tail-writ script.
I read the tracks of the students
on the running trail–the one
that runs for a time toward
that western place–like I’m one
with my Mohawk brothers,
trailing Englishmen from the Hudson’s shore
to where they’ll hew more and more pines
and tear down more of this
Haudenosaunee world.

Do their heels weigh heavier
in the dirt than their toes? Walking.
How deep? Carrying books.
Are their toes dug in, tossing behind
a spray of the history of their passing? Running.
Narrow feet? Girl. A pair side by side?
Someone stood to watch soccer practice.
Four feet, two narrow, two wide?
Perhaps a longer story than this moment.

Two squirrels cross my trail,
skittering across the ground
into their place there
behind that one lonely pine. I stopped
to parse their tiny prints, and
wonder about who will pause one day
to ponder all this jumble of tracks
I leave.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph (below), Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change, Essay, First Peoples, Michael Watson, Music

Emergent Universe Oratorio Blues

Breeding Barn, Shelburne at FarmsRecently we traveled down to Shelburne Farms for the world premiere of the Emergent Universe Oratorio, composed by Sam Guarnaccia.  The Oratorio is a work that re-imagines the dominant culture’s physics-based creation narrative, and seeks to universalize the story. Before the Oratorio we were treated to the soulful playing of Eugene Friesen, of Paul Winter Consort fame. New Paintings, created for the event,by our friend, the marvelous artist, Cameron Davis, graced the walls in the remarkable, “cathedral-like” Breeding Barn.

Just prior to the performance, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Co-Directors of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, and whose film of the same title was the inspiration for the oratorio, spoke. They acknowledged, and expressed appreciation for, Indigenous friends and adopted family. (No Indigenous people spoke.) They then spoke about a vision they hold, in which all of the Earth’s people have one creation story, a story that leads us to an Earthly paradise.

The Oratorio draws on texts from many Western traditions, but appears to include no Indigenous authors. This is problematic and, unfortunately, common in the Deep Ecology world. ( I have been reviewing Ecopsychology texts in preparation for teaching and have noticed a paucity of Indigenous voices, even in texts published this year.)

Of more concern is the notion that any narrative should be the ONLY narrative. This is an idea Indigenous people know well, whether presented in the guise of religious or economic dogma. The very idea of a universal point of view is imperial and colonizing, and alien to Native American cultures. We have many creation stories, each loved and valued.

I was feeling rather blue as I read the text and listened to the lovely melodies of the oratorio. I imagined myself to be the only one in the audience of hundreds who was discomforted. Then intermission came and others stopped by to share their concerns. As so often happens following such events, the concert has remained a topic of conversation at our house.

A few days ago I was having coffee with a Six Nations friend. Out of the blue he looked me in the eye and said, “I am so appreciative of time with you. It’s such a relief to not have to explain myself.” When I asked what he meant, he replied that I understood his struggles and, although we are from different tribal backgrounds, we share a similar ethos. Sometimes I forget how wide the divide between cultures can be in one geographically defined country. To be reminded, as I was at the concert, of the chasm we cross daily can be painful indeed.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.