Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Speakin' of Death and Fairness

What with the growing concern over oinker influenza, I was thinking last night about something my dad said as he was succumbing to his mortal illness. Dad was 87 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2007. His sister, who was 90 at the time, had been dealing with lymphoma for a couple of years and was holding her own, so dad figured he likely had a couple of years yet. As it turned out, he had a lymphoma which attacked his central nervous system, according to the oncologist. This is a fairly rare form and it is aggressive as hell, deadly and debilitating. Dad had been strong independent and pretty healthy all his life. He was still working part time and had an active social life up until he got sick. He lived on his own and enjoyed several hobbies, including gardening, which he was looking forward to doing on a more limited basis the following spring.

I loved and admired my father. He had survived the Depression, active combat in WW II, over fifty years of marriage to my mother( the war paled in comparison) and a ne'er do well brood of screw ups that would have sent a weaker man to an early grave. He was relatively stoic man, so I was taken aback by his comment and actually disappointed when he said to me, "This isn't fair".
Jeez, I thought, babies dying of AIDS isn't fair, Tibetan nuns rotting in prison isn't fair, young Mexican adults dying of swine flu isn't fair. Getting sick and dying after a long and healthy life, that's the way it works if you're lucky! I could undestand saying "this sucks", "I feel shitty" , "dying of this stuff blows". All of that was true. But lamenting that it wasn't fair?
Of course I didn't say that, and I quickly regained compassion. He was suffering with a miserable, terminal ilness after all, and he felt like crap almost all the time. I guess a person's entitled to express a dab of self pity. And even if he had pissed and moaned all the way to bardo, I still loved him. But he didn't, and that was the only really self-pitying thing he said during the two months we cared for him as he died. I was reflecting on all this last night and reflecting on my own preparedness for death(one never knows how prepared one is until the knock comes at the door, nicht wahr?). And then this was in my e-mail this morning, and it was good.
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Healing and Curing
Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably. While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is always possible for us to heal ourselves. Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, from Letting Everything Become Your Teacher (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

I pray that we may all be healed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Being Wrong Is Ok Sometimes

Last night we talked to the girls and learned that pretty much all of the girls we work with will have an Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan( Becoming A Woman) ceremony in the Lakota way. So much for all my pissing and moaning in the last post! Maybe I should stick to things I know instead of things I'm ignorant about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Search

Last Sunday we watched a group of Lakota children receive baptism, confirmation and first communion thereby becoming full members or "communicants" in the Roman Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic and I have studied a fair bit of theology, so I understood a lot of the symbols and beliefs of these religious acts the RC.s call 'sacraments'. I know from experience the emotional power these rituals can have, and I know from experience how utterly empty they can feel. Theoogically speaking, the feelings are unimportant, but we are what we are and feelings always matter. One of the recipients of all three sacraments was a high school student I work with and with whom I have a reasonably honest relationship. When I first met her she was adamant in declaring her faith as 'Native religion'. When I talked to her about her decision to be baptized Catholic, she told me frankly that she was only doing it for her grandmother. For a 14 year old, that is not the worst reason in the world to do this; it is an act of love and respect. But it is not what she would have chosen for herself at this time in her life. She is a bright and reflective person and I can't help but wonder if she will pursue any spiritual path when she is able to choose for herself. I hope she will find a way to pursue her people's faith and practices in the Lakota traditions but I have no way to help her with this, and I find that frustrating. I know her family loves her deeply, and I know they respect the old ways, so perhaps she will find the path, the "good red road".

Still, how much more meaningful would it be for her, and for the other children, to be nurtured in the ancient faith of their people, the Lakota; to be given her rite of passage as a Lakota girl into womanhood, the Ishna TA Awi Cha Lowan. How much more worthwhile as a part of the people would the the boys feel if they were able to do the Hanblecheyapi, the crying for a vision?
In all fairness, the mass included an honor song performed in Lakota by a drum group from the school. The drum is sacred and the incorporation of this into the Catholic service was a mark of respect which the priest shows in all the ways he can. He incorporates Lakota into the mass by saying the ancient Christian prayer, "Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy" in Lakota. His vestments were adorned with the Morning Star on the back and the medicine circle complete with the sacred colors on the front of his chasuble. And he is a man who seems to genuinely love and respect the Lakota children he serves. Certainly the children show love and respect for him. It is about as good a situation of this sort as one could hope for, short of a priest who was Indian, fluent in the language and raised in the native culture on the rez. But that aint likely. And that is the crux of my quandary, if this is actually important to the People, where are the Lakota nuns, priests and bishops? You can find Lakota holy men and women around. A couple of the girls claim to have grandpas and uncles who are Lakota 'medicine men'(the term they use). But the people of the First Nations do not seek religious orders. Of course this is the plight of the Catholic Church in America. They are unable to fill the needs for priests and other religious leaders, so perhaps this is not a question of the faith failing to be meaningful so much as it is failing to make the celibate religious life, divorced from family and community meaningful.
I believe that a person's spritual path is one of, if not the most important aspect of human life. I wish I could see these children have the chance to be led in ways that truly belong to them, and in which they would find true belonging.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Indra's net of jewels

Indra's net of jewels
Originally uploaded by Onkel Ulle
I am reprinting a small portion of a wonderful article found in the Spring 2009 issue of Tricycle Magazine. The piece is entitled 'Son of A Gun' and it has to do with a young man's crisis of conscience and a turning point as a result of that crisis. The author is writing under a nom de plume, Shozan Jack Haubner. If you are not familiar with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, you can explore it online at www. tricycle.com

"I thought of Indra’s net, the metaphor Buddhism uses to explain our oneness. The universe is a web of interconnectedness, everything in it a diamond, each reflecting and reflected in all the others. Instead of gems, I imagined bombs, one going off, setting off the rest.

In the Buddhist view, I depend on you for my existence. All things depend on each other, equally. Welcome to the doctrine of dependent origination. It’s teeter-totter metaphysics—I arise, you arise; you arise, I arise. Forget about our presumed Maker, the divine machinist in the sky. Take a look at this moment right now. You are you because you are not something else; therefore, what you are not—the chair beneath you, the air in your lungs, these words—births you through an infinity of opposites. It’s like the ultimate Dr. Seuss riddle: Without all the things that are not you, who would you be you to? There’s no Higher Power in this system to grab onto for support; we are all already supporting each other. Pull a person or people the wrong way, and you immediately redefine yourself in light of what you’ve done to your neighbor."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Treaties, self sufficiency and hemp

See these guys? They are drug war enforcers, government bullies who break into people's homes and destroy things like medical marijuana and cart people off to jail for such heinous offenses as relieving pain and nausea from chemotherapy. In this particular picture they are trespasing on Lakota land on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, specifically a farm belonging to Alex White Plume. Are they after such horrifying stuff as medical marijuana? NO. In this instance the thugs are there to rip up a crop of industrial hemp, stuff that has so little THC(the stuff that gets you buzzed) you couldn't ingest enough to get high! Why, you might ask, was White Plume foolish enough to even try such a thing as planting a wonderfully useful crop that poses no danger to anyone(not that fully active marijuana is dangerous, but it does get you high and according to the puritans running the government, that job is best left to addictive, organ destroying alcohol)?
Well Alex White Plume was acting in response to an initiative passed by the Oglala Lakota tribal government . The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a hemp legalization ordinance in 1998 to encourage agricultural economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The White Plume family planted its first hemp crop in 2000 hoping to establish a business that also would help the environment. The DEA destroyed the crops on Oglala land as part of its "war on drugs." Yhis land was designated "... set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians..." by this exact wording of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. They went in with machine guns and air support. Our tax dollars at work.

For many practical benefits of industrial hemp, see http://alliesanswers.com

A Dance of Deception
(Original article here: http://www.motherjones.com/reality_check/pineridge_contradiction.html

A leading Native American scholar and educator says the federal raid on Alex White Plume's hemp crop is yet another manifestation of the US government's two-faced policy toward Indians. by Don Trent Jacobs Feb. 20, 2001

"Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." -- George Washington, 1794

The US government's raid on Alex White Plume's industrial hemp crop on the PineRidge Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation is merely the latest chapter in a long legacy of genocide that has been practiced on the American continent 500 years.Alex White Plume and his tiyospaye (extended family) planted their hemp inaccordance with tribal ordinances. It was the beginning of hope and a way to emerge from poverty. On Aug. 24, 2000, federal agents robbed them of that hope.If White Plume or any of the other Lakota individuals had resisted, they might have been shot or imprisoned, and who knows for how long. Consider White Plume'snephew who is serving his third year in jail for having broken out the windows ofa car. Then there is Leonard Peltier, another Lakota from Pine Ridge, now listedby Amnesty International as one of the top 10 political prisoners in the world.Alex's wife, Debra, a strong, beautiful woman, has fought relentlessly andarticulately to implement traditional Lakota values for many years. A month afterthe raid, she appeared more ready than ever to continue the good fight. "In theold days," she said, "they could not tell the difference between good Indians andbad ones so they killed us all. Now they do not know the difference between hempand marijuana so they kill all of it."The worldview of Lakota people demands economic projects on the reservation thatare friendly to the earth and beneficial to all. Hemp is one of the few productsthat fulfills this vision. It is a very earth-compatible, pesticide-free crop.Just ask Ralph Nader, who made hemp production a campaign issue and who probablyknows that major chemical, paper, and timber industries have much more to do withmaking hemp illegal in the US than any concern about drugs.The contradictions surrounding this issue are just part of the endless dance of deception the US government does with American Indians. For example, the PineRidge Indian Reservation was designated a federal empowerment zone in 1998 inorder to "help individuals and communities achieve self actualization and fullcitizenship." This goal aligns well with official federal Indian policy aimed atself-determination and viable economic independence.One cannot imagine an industry more appropriate to the empowerment zone goal than hemp production. The White Plumes currently make $450 dollars a year by renting their 160 acres to a white cattle rancher for grazing -- which can do untold damage to the fragile ecology. The seized hemp from the acre and a half they planted was estimated to have been worth between $12,000 and $20,000.After two years, however, the $20 million empowerment-zone allocation has been no more fulfilling than other half-hearted and bureaucratically stifled gestures. As has been the case for the past 100 years, they are just enough to keep the reservations dependent upon and at the mercy of the feds.Consider that the US government sanctions environmentally disastrous pig farmsand the extraction of minerals on tribal lands while denying a right to tribal nations that it gives to many other nations. Recent trade agreements such as GATTand NAFTA have allowed countries such as Canada to grow and export hemp products grown on their sovereign land to the US. The sovereign rights of the Lakota nation as spelled out in the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 and numerous Supreme Court cases should give the Lakota nation similar trading rights.But Indian sovereignty has never been a goal of the US government. Consider theIndian Reorganization Act of 1934, a statute that robbed what was left of traditional indigenous sovereignty by setting up highly corruptible tribal councils whose main function was to sign off on federal development programs on the reservations. Reservation resources, had they not been co-opted by the US government with the help of these corrupt tribal councils, might have made PineRidge one of the the wealthiest regions in the country, rather than the poorest. The US government's treatment of American Indian sovereignty is, for all of us,of great significance. If American Indian sovereignty is under siege, so is American sovereignty. If US wealth is dependent upon impoverishment of its Indian peoples, we are all impoverished.In their 1998 book "Sovereignty under Siege: A Study of Federal Seizure of Indian Jurisdiction," Robert L. Pirtle and M. Frances Ayer say the Supreme Court has, in past decisions regarding American Indians, rewritten the Constitution like so:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men except Indians are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator except in the case of Indians with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit ofhappiness except in the case of Indians ... to secure these rights, governments are institued among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed unless they are Indians."This Anglo folly has finally caught up with us in our polluted environments. At least Indians, refusing to blend into the dominant culture, continue to live insocieties that are more personal and more humane. They continue to fight for ecological sustainable products like hemp houses and clothes. They continue to honor the universal values of courage, humility, honesty, fortitude, and patience.This is not just about giving American Indian people back their dignity by allowing them to prosper economically through ecologically sound, spiritually based farming of hemp. It is more than an issue of justice, sovereignty or constitutional revision and interpretation. Nor is it merely about an out-of-control Drug Enforcement Administration or the negative influences of multinational corporations. Ultimately, this issue is about saving a world viewthat recognizes that we are all shaped and formed by our relationship to the earth. Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.

Don Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is chair of education at Oglala Lakota College on thePine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

You Are Where You Need To Be

Keeping An Eye On Time
Originally uploaded by badboy69

“‘Time passes by!’ we say. Time does not exist; only we move.” Talmud

While reading Lasting Echoes by Joseph Bruchac , I came across the very choicest word for clocks I have ever seen, papeezokwazik. Not only is it a beautiful word, but it means "that thing which makes much noise and does nothing useful" in the Abenaki language.
Bruchac goes on to quote an Arapahoe gent named Carl Sweezy, "White people...thought we were all lazy. That was because we took a different attitude toward time than theirs. We enjoyed time, they measured it."

Of course, due to the way we live and work, I use clocks to get to work, meetings, appointments, movies, "on time". I loathe being late and find myself growing anxious if the clock is ordering me to be someplace and I can't respond for whatever reason. This is particularly true when I am trying to herd our girls off somewhere such as church and I feel that their tardiness will reflect badly upon us as houseparents, tsk tsk. But I do see being late when others are waiting as disrespectful, and so, I use clocks, and I do find them necessary and useful. But oh, how we do obssess.

I lived in Samoa for a couple of years and I was regularly frustrated to nearly frenzy level by the islander's indifference to time. " Ye gods and little fishes!" I would scream in my head as I stood in line at the bank or post office or wherever in Tafuna or Pago Pago, "don't these people have ANY bloody sense of time!??" And they certainly did, but it was quite different from our need for speed and precision. They would bring mats and food and relax in the shade of the post office waiting for mail to come in. They napped and chatted and never seemed to be concerned about time. I appreciated that but I had so succumbed to our western culture, that I had difficulty experiencing it then.
Years earlier, when I was in college, I carried a pocket watch so I wouldn't have the shackle of time on my wrist. As soon as school was out for any break, I left the watch in a drawer in my apartment. I symbolically cast off enslavement to time.
After a lot of years, I no longer wear a watch. There are clocks everywhere and I have few appointments to keep. I watch the clocks so I can get the kids I work with to school and other places on time, but I am detaching from time as the years go by. I love having no place to be at any given time, and the experience of that can almost be tasted. It is sweet and warm. I have no desire to measure time, I want to enjoy it.

"Many of us think that happiness is not possible in the present moment. Most of us believe that there are a few more conditions that need to be met before we can be happy. This is why we are sucked into the future and are not capable of being present in the here and now. This is why we step over many of the wonders of life."

–Thich Nhat Hanh, from Be Where You Are

Saturday, April 4, 2009

International Landmine Day


From AfterDowningStreet.org

4 April: International Day for Landmine Awareness and Assistance
Submitted by danielifearn on Sat, 2009-04-04 08:47. IFPJ


Actiongroupe Landmine-Germany

Albanian Mine Action Executive

Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition

Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action

Bosnia and Herzegovinia Mine Action Centre

Cambodian Mine Action Centre

Canandian International Demining Corps

Chilean National Demining Commission

Clear Path International

Cluster Munitions Coalition

Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise-Laos

Croatia Without Mines Foundation

Croatian Mine Action Centre

Danish Demining Group

E-MINE Electronic Mine Information Network

European Union in Humanitarian Demining

Geneva International Centre for 
Humanitarian Demining

Golden West Humanitarian Foundation

Humanitarian Demining R&D Program

Humanitarian Demining Training Center

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

Internationa Mine Standards

International Test and Evaluation Program for Humanitarian Demining

International Trust Fund For Demining and Mine Victims Assistance

Iraq Mine Action

Islamic Republic Of Iran Mine Action Center

Japanese Mine Action Service

Jordan National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation

Landmine Action

Landmine Monitor-International Campaign to Ban Landmines

Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme

Mines Action Canada

Mine Action Coordination Centre in DRC

Mine Action Coordination Centre South Lebanon

Mine Action Information Center

Mine Advisery Group International

Mine Detection Dog Centre-South East Europe

MINE-EX Humanitarian aid by Rotary

Mozambique National Demining Institute

No More Landmines

Nordic Demining Research Forum

Office of Humanitarian Mine Action

Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement

Program of Assistance for Demining in Central America

Regional Center for Divers Training in Underwater EOD-Montenegro

Rotarians for Mine Action

South-Eastern Europe Mine Action Coordination Council

Stop Mines-Republic of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Survey Action Center

Survivor Corps

Swedish EOD and Demining Centre

The Halo Trust

Thailand Mine Action Center