Saving Mother Earth
On February 11 2008 group of Native Americans headed by the American Indian Movements original founder Dennis Banks left the west coast on a five month journey across the United States to Washington DC. They walk to bring attention to Indian issues and for the healing of Mother Earth and protection of our sacred sites.
It is a timely topic. Many ancient Indian village sites throughout the United States are being desecrated in the name of progress. In Port Angeles Washington the Klallam village of Tsewhitzen was unearthed as the State Department of Transportation built a graving yard to repair the aging Hood Canal Bridge.
The Elwha Klallam Tribe worked furiously to save ancestral remains from being overrun by the state’s bulldozers. The body count mounted. The speed destroyed many historical objects.
Over 300 fully intact remains were unearthed before the Elwha Klallam Tribe told the State that this must stop. Millions more shards of human bone were found. They had been destroyed by a mill.
Racism ran rampant in Port Angeles again as angry whites blamed the Tribe for the loss of much needed jobs. The city’s timber and fishing economy had crashed a couple decades before. Tensions hadn’t been this high since the Makah Tribes whale hunt.
Death threats were made against the Tribal Chairwoman. She had to endure racism and insults as signs bearing her name were put up through out the town. A cowardly anonymous caller told the Tribal staff that he could sit on top the hill and shoot Tribal members as they came out of their houses.
A Tribal member parked her car in downtown Port Angeles for a few minutes. She returned to find that someone had thrown bones into the backseat. Testing proved that they were from barbecued ribs.
Insensitive townspeople stated that the Tribe should just get over it. These were just dead bones. It shouldn’t stop progress or the millions of dollars they thought they could make from the construction of the state’s graving yard.
The Klallam Tribe had once stretched from the tip of Kitsap Peninsula to the Hoko River. At the time of first contact we were the largest Tribe in what is now Washington State. European diseases, small pox and influenza killed most of our People. Graves from that time were unearthed traumatizing the Tribe.
We were reminded that at one time the United States government deliberately introduced smallpox and alcohol to us. We had no immunity. Death blew through our communities like a cold north wind.
There has been no psychological study on the effects of genocide on Indian people. How do you live with the knowledge that you are not wanted in your own country? What happens to the survivors of a cold hearted attempt to murder a whole race?
Our people suffered unexplained sorrow and anger. Elders had strokes and heart attacks. We are now left with the problem of how to rebury hundreds of remains.
This is happening to many Tribes across the country as construction of malls and other buildings unearth ancient burials. Many sacred sites have been destroyed or desecrated in the name of commercial progress.
Our own Creation Site and a vision quest site are buried beneath two dams on the Elwha River. We are again vilified because we support removal of those dams. Affluent whites will lose summer homes built alongside those man-made lakes.
The dams had negatively impacted salmon runs. Their numbers declined as they could no longer reach their spawning grounds. We lost access to shellfish beds as the Straits of Juan de Fuca was no longer held at bay by the force of the Elwha river.
Mother Earth and our People are in great need of healing. I appreciate those people who are walking across this country for our curing.
The fate of Indian People and Mother Earth are eternally intertwined. She depends on our prayers songs and dances for her life. She feeds us and cares for us as our Mother. She was hurt as much as we were when our religions were outlawed by the United States government. Many species became endangered or extinct as our songs and prayers could no longer feed their spirits.
The gray whale was hunted to near extinction by New England whalers. The love, prayer, songs and dances of the Makah kept them alive and brought them back. The Makah are now maligned because they want to resume their relationship with the whale.
They have lived in symbiosis with the gray whale for millennia. Special ceremonies were performed as the whalers readied for the hunt. Hunters purified themselves to meet the one that would give up its life to feed the people.
Alcoholism and other social ills set in as the Makah lifestyle was interrupted by the outlawing of our religions. The natural balance between men and women was destroyed by the misogynistic Christian churches and European beliefs. This happened to Tribes across the continent.
Women are Mother Earth’s human representatives. We have the mandate to care for The People as she does. How a man treats the females in his life is spiritually how he treats Mother Earth.
If a man beats his wife or girlfriend or any female he is beating Mother Earth. If a man rapes his wife or girlfriend or any female he is raping Mother Earth.
The healing of The People is intertwined with the healing of Mother Earth. We must heal our thinking and our attitudes. Our spirituality was dismissed as superstition by the invaders.
Our world fell apart as we could no longer do our prayers, songs and dances. Our ceremonies had ordered the world we lived in. Everyone had a place and responsibility. Everyone was important and contributed to the well being of the community. There were hunters and fishermen, cooks, gatherers, artisans, ceremonialists and teachers.
When we forgot the sacredness of ourselves and each other abuse moved in. We stole power from each other. Men forgot that women represent Mother Earth. They began beating their wives and girlfriends. They forgot that children are sacred because they come to us from Spirit. They began beating and raping the children, our future.
As we forgot our teachings the more lost we became. Domestic violence and rape became common place. It is not Traditional behavior it is introduced behavior.
Many women state that they watched their mothers being beaten and thought it was normal. They entered abusive relations and stayed in them for years.
Healing is coming slowly but it is coming. As we return to our prayers, songs and dances we begin to once again see the sacredness in ourselves and each other. We remember our responsibilities.
Mother Earth will be healed as we heal ourselves. We must bring balance back between men and women. It must be more than simply mouthing the words. It will take action.
The American Indian Movement has stated their intent to heal Mother Earth by this walk. That means bringing back respect for the Grandmothers, mothers and daughters in our communities.
As we honor the women in our communities we honor Mother Earth. If we continue to allow the beating and rape of our women and children we are killing our own future.
The death of our environment can be attributed to corporate greed. Healing is in our hands.