Saturday, November 27, 2010
The "First" Thanksgiving in America
You've probably heard some version of the story of the "first" Thanksgiving. Tisquantum (Squanto) from the Patuxet tribe, part of the Wampanoag confederacy in present-day New England, was kidnapped by an Englishman, sent to Spain where he was almost sold into slavery until some friars discovered it and took him in (and other Natives from the Americas) in order to teach them in the Christian faith. Squanto insisted on returning home and eventually ended up in London, where he spent several years with a shipbuilder called John Slany, and learned English. Slany took Squanto back to New England. When Squanto finally made it home, he was shocked to discover that his village was now empty, decimated by a plague that took the life of everyone from his family and tribe.
A year later (in 1620) the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower and came upon Squanto's empty village. They were in bad shape and suffered from a shortage of food; nearly half of them died during the first winter. Squanto, who knew English, found them and decided to stay with them for the next few months in order to teach them how to survive in this new place. He brought them deer meat and beaver skins, taught them how to cultivate corn and other new vegetables (organically) and how to build Indian-style houses (that were environmentally friendly), pointed out poisonous plants, and showed them how other plants could be used as medicine. He explained how to dig and cook clams, how to get sap from the maple trees, use fish for fertilizer, and dozens of other skills needed for their survival.
Captain Miles Standish, the Pilgrims' leader, invited Squanto, Massasoit (the head man of the Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration. There was not enough food for the large turnout, so Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and bring more food. They brought five deer, many wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries. This feast is referred to as the first Thanksgiving.
Many years ago in the 1990s, as I was browsing through Christian home-schooling literature, I came upon the First Thanksgiving lesson. The main point of the lesson was God's providential care for the Pilgrims and their children; it said nothing about Squanto’s family or the men, women and children who perished. Planted in the minds and hearts of children was the notion that God eliminated the "barbaric" Indians in order for the Pilgrims to live. Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, who as you know went to prison for his role in Watergate, focused on the Squanto story in one of his radio broadcasts and asked, Why had God allowed Squanto to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead? His answer: God miraculously converted a lonely Indian in the divine plan to save a struggling band of Englishmen, reminiscent of the Biblical story of Joseph. In other words, God had mercy on the Pilgrims, who represent the chosen people, but turned His back on the “heathen” Indians. This is how three different Christian authors interpreted God's grace. One of these authors says, "acreage had been cleared by the Pawtuxets, a hostile, barbaric tribe that had been wiped out by a mysterious plague."
Every Thanksgiving Day brings an opportunity to think of others and count our own blessings. Sometimes people gain from the suffering of others but also from their generosity. The Pilgrims survived, not because God, in his providential care, allowed the "barbaric" Indians to die so that the Pilgrims could live, but because of Squanto's and the Wampanoag's generosity.
There are many misconceptions and misinterpretations about Indians; the above is one example. The Algonkian tribes around Patuxet held six thanksgiving festivals during the year, not just one. Many prayers were offered during those times of celebration.
Prayers before Columbus
Which brings me to the topic of prayer, and an irony that few people, including Christians, seem to notice. Before the Europeans came, prayers to the Creator (God) and ceremonies covered this whole land, but they were outlawed by the new Americans who considered them as witchcraft. Religion in America became compartmentalized so that corporate prayer and worship now usually take place at scheduled times and in certain places that are not public. Compared to how it used to be before Europeans arrived, prayer and worship are now more limited. One reason for this is that Americans separate the sacred from the secular, Indians don't. Also, the U.S. Constitution nowhere mentions God or the Creator, which is very non-Indian.
Indians did not have a written constitution because of their oral tradition; if they did have one, the Creator would occupy a central place in it. The Iroquois Constitution, for example, had existed for hundreds of years in the hearts of the people before it was put into writing; the Creator is mentioned throughout the document. Instead of using it only as a reference document, the Iroquois recite it in its entirety every year.
Thus, Americans were not the first ones to pray on this land or to establish Christian principles. Ironically, whereas Indians have always been praying people, they did not enjoy "religious" freedom until 1978--the year the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. (The word "religion" does not exist in any Native language because spirituality is a part of everything an Indian does.) We must remember that millions of people lived here before America even existed. Owing to war and disease, by 1900 the Indian population had been reduced to about 232,000 --a depopulation rate that far exceeds 90 percent. Where the village of Patuxet used to be, Plymouth now stands. Other villages that were decimated by disease were re-populated by immigrants and given the English names they bear today: Boston, Weymouth, Salem, Charlestown, Dorchester.
Indians who are living today within the territorial boundaries of the United States are the descendants of the small number who survived. They don't pray to an unknown God; they have had a meaningful relationship with the Creator since long before Europeans arrived and before they knew about the Bible. When I taught courses and directed an academic program at a tribal college, the students, faculty, and staff prayed every time we came together. The students in the program I directed prayed frequently with me, sometimes in their own language, and when I meet today with American Indian scholars and elders, they usually pray in their own language--we always pray before any meeting begins. Prayer and ceremony are a way of life, like breathing. In contrast, I spent 40 years on two large (secular) university campuses where not a single prayer was offered in hundreds of meetings. In tribal communities and inter-tribal groups, prayers are offered to the Creator every time the people come together. Yesterday, for example, my wife and I were at Bosque del Apache (near Socorro, south of Albuquerque, NM) where we spent all day with an Indian group who invited us to participate in helping a young man celebrate his "coming of age" and receive his Indian name.
Both major political parties in the United States claim with equal zeal that it's time to "re-take America." Can we really trust a political party to save the nation? I don't think so. Changing the nation's course to what one party thinks is right upsets the other party. After a few years the pendulum swings back in the other direction but the goal is never reached; it's an endless cycle. In my opinion both parties are wrong and both are right. We never get what we vote for, or even what God wants, because election results are decided on who had the best strategy, not necessarily the best platform. And strategies often involve dishonesty, deceit, and intolerance--all this to get people to the polls. It seems that Christians are increasingly cynical and contentious, ignoring Jesus' teachings about loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, or following the golden rule. All we have to do is notice how differently some of them behave in sacred and secular settings--pious in one and irreverent and vulgar in the other; their language reveals it.
I participate in the political process but with the strong conviction that America's problems have a spiritual cause. The America that most people envision ignores or forgets the acts of aggression and conquest that have been, are are being, committed, often against the innocent. I, too, believe this is a great nation but the citizens of any great nation demand an honest and compassionate government, one that makes a sincere attempt to help its victims empower themselves--and many of the victims are the nation's own citizens. For example, the U.S. has never acknowledged or offered any form of restitution for its role in the near extinction of the (tribal) people who were already here, sustaining their families, communities, and the natural environment, or in attempting to eradicate Indian cultures. The consequence is today's high incidence among Indians of PTSD, poverty, an average unemployment rate of 50 percent, and severe problems that now afllict Indian families .
Can a government steal the land of another nation? It happened to New Mexico. Probably few people are aware of how New Mexico was literally stolen by the United States. General Stephen Watts Kearny marched into New Mexico in 1846 with his "Army of the West" (an army of volunteers) and as he stood on a rooftop, he told the crowd assembled around the plaza, "I have come amongst you by orders of my government to take possession of your country and extend over it the laws of the United States..." (Actually, those orders came from one senator.) Kearny then proclaimed New Mexico as part of the United States. It happened just like that; there was no fight or negotiations because New Mexico, then a part of Mexico, was defenseless.
And then is happened to Mexico, almost in the same breath. The war with Mexico was intentionally provoked because of greed. In violation of international law, President Polk wanted the entire Continent. He sent an army all the way to Mexico City, where it had no business, to invade a foreign and sovereign country. Nicholas Trist, the American envoy who was sent to Mexico City to negotiate the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, remembered the shame he felt before Mexican officials, expressing in his own words how he tried to hide his guilt about concluding a treaty that sheared from Mexico nearly half of the territory: "Could those Mexicans have seen into my heart at that moment, they would have known that my feeling of shame as an American was strong ... that was a thing for every American to be ashamed of..." These words unquestionably tell us that it was an unjust war.
I don't have any Mexican blood in me but I sure love my wife's relatives from Méjico. Read my poem on Chiapas: http://www.dr-ricardo-sanchez.com/duran-chiapas.html. Or visit http://www.dr-ricardo-sanchez.com/duran.html to see other poems, like "Maria and the Blockade." A major tenet of Indian thought is that all things are related; "the hurt of one is the hurt of all; the honor of one is the honor of all." I think of this because I know that some of the relatives in Juarez have been threatened by drug traffickers.
I'm proud of the men and women who go to war for the United States, but here also I feel much sadness. When some of us visited the Vietnam memorial at Angel Fire recently and watched the film, it was heart-wrenching to hear soldiers express their feelings about the war; many believed it was wrong. In his Gettysburg address, President Lincoln said concerning the brave soldiers, living and dead: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." I think these words also apply to the examples of war and conflict I've already mentioned, if we change "can never forget" to "must never forget."
The U.S. is a great place to live but I do not think God looks at our country in the same way we do. Our vision of past, present, and future events is very limited. Where would Jesus choose to live if he were to return in human flesh, considering that when he came for the first time, he chose to be born in a stable with the stinky animals?
Christians' Fear and a President's Courage
As I said, there is a spiritual problem. A black man who became our president, whose middle name was repeated numerous times on Christian television to convince viewers that he's not "one of us," is finally doing something about the poor and the environment and about reducing the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help pregnant women and to care for the sick and uninsured--something that seven presidents before him failed to accomplish. (We were reminded of this recently by Frank Schaeffer, the former-evangelical son of the famous conservative evangelical Swiss author, Francis Schaeffer, who together started the pro-life movement). Obama stood up to the governor of Arizona at a critical time, banned the torture of American prisoners, made a tough choice among bad options concerning an economy that had collapsed, advocated for educational reform, took a bilateral, instead of a bully, approach on international affairs, and more. And if we allow him, he will continue to bring an end to both wars, restore America's image in the world, put together a comprehensive and compassionate federal immigration policy, and much more.
A highly respected Indian leader, Billy Frank, Jr., thanked him for keeping his promises to Indian country. This president held the first ever White House Tribal Nations Conference last year and told the tribes (564 federally recognized tribes were invited): "You will not be forgotten as long as I'm in the White House. I know what it means to be an outsider. I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten." No other president was able to say this. He told all Cabinet members to develop a plan for consulting Indian tribes on issues important to them. He gave attention to a national ocean policy. The BIA and Indian Health Service have also seen bigger budgets. And a number of high caliber (i.e., effective) Indian people were appointed to his Cabinet and other agencies. I'm proud of this man and his family, whether or not he "fails." A perfect storm may be forming, perhaps like never before for any president, but I plan to ride it out with him, not because of my political views but because of his character.
There is fear, insecurity, and anger behind the voices of many critics who believe the sky is always falling--on them. They are afraid that America is changing, or that Muslims or "illegal immigrants" will take over the country, or that future coins will no longer have the inscription "in God we trust," or that they will lose the freedom to pray, etc. Yet the Scripture says that "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind." No doubt about it, America is changing; more Muslims and others are coming. But Christian Muslim communities are also growing; those are Muslims who accept Christ and choose to remain in their communities. It has also been happening among American Indians who choose not to join the churches.
If this president is not allowed to fulfill his promises to the American people, he will be forced to compromise, making those who've never liked him very happy because their prophecies of doom would be fulfilled and they will claim credit for progress. Because the political process is competitive, those running for office have to make promises, even unrealistic ones. In a two-party system, the parties are diametrically opposed to each other instead of working together to solve problems; bipartisanship is the exception instead of the rule. Every election cycle produces winners and losers. Did you know that George Washington and other founders (except one) warned against political parties? Washington's vision for America was shaped by the wilderness and a direct relationship with nature--an Indian concept. He said that "the spirit of party" (i.e. political parties) destroys the moral foundations of community, and he believed in a spirituality that is stripped of sectarian association or language (he had trouble with established religion).
Some people (Christians?) have quoted scripture (Psalm 109:8), even put this Bible verse on T-shirts, to target their prayers against the president. Before he was elected, he and his wife were the targets of degrading cartoons, and his wife was compared to apes. In my book, the Obama family is an excellent example of personal courage and what it means to turn the other cheek, even when some Christians are the ones who belittle them and others condone it by their silence. (I know this because I listen to Christian radio and used to watch "God's Learning Channel" on tv.)
As the years pass I realize more and more that everything I do--my body language, the words I use to communicate, even my e-mails--has an influence on others. The one thing that drives everything we say, do, or think is invisible; only our Creator knows; it is our Christ-consciousness, the extent to which we are aware of his presence within us.
Accept our honor song and strengthen our faith in your power to heal. Give the leaders of a sick world the resolve and moral courage to expose wrong and do what is right and give them listening ears to hear the indigenous voice. Make our hearts strong in the service of our people who need to become whole again. The world is longing for light again, and your Son, who became a common Earth man like us and is not ashamed to call us his relatives through suffering, feels what we feel. He is both Purifier and Light. --from by book, Bringing Back the Spirit (available from amazon.com)
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Rio Rancho, NM
June 7, 2010
Our nation is becoming increasingly divided on several issues. Some of the polarized attitudes and views are extreme with no signs of abating. Amidst this climate the oil spill along the Gulf Coast is causing damage, heartbreak, and the need for healing and wisdom to bring about restoration. Meanwhile, emotions and dangerous rhetoric on political issues are high with the potential of escalating to frightening levels.
Arizona Senate Bill 1070 has spawned a flood of reactions from people across the country. Once again, a governor follows the historical pattern and falls back on her vested authority by taking a legal approach. To the average citizen, she is only enforcing the law. But viewed from a moral and historical perspective, could this law more accurately be interpreted as a continuing act of conquest? When a government in power wants to keep a people subjugated, it simply passes laws. But in the eyes of the people, these actions are not solutions; they only postpone justice until the electoral process, which will bring change inevitably, installs officials who will pursue a different approach.
Scantily communicated in the media, if at all, are the relevant historical contexts in which immigration and related issues have arisen. Yet they are crucial to understanding the reactions to this law and the conditions most likely to promote justice, fairness, and peace.
As the pressure to develop a comprehensive federal immigration policy intensifies, we can expect anxiety—and hopefully relief—among people most likely to be affected by the final product. How will Americans react? Will its provisions be enforceable? These are political/legal questions. Will immigrants be treated justly and fairly? Will families be forced to suffer? These are moral questions.
A society that is guided primarily and culturally (i.e., as a way of life) by moral and practical concerns is more likely to see conciliatory and healing effects in dealing with conflicts. In such a scenario, everyone together examines the issues rationally through respectful dialogue, considering also the historical and contemporary context, instead of engaging in confrontational debate where each side argues against the other. There is a flow of meaning instead emotion, and moral concerns are central.
A conciliatory approach is not new among societies residing within the territorial boundaries of the United States. Many American Indian tribes have preserved their traditional values by which they have sustained their communities for untold generations, despite many attempts by government, church-operated schools, and mainstream society to eradicate them. Tribal nations have survived, in part, because of the principle that each generation must consider the welfare of future generations when making decisions. (By the same principle, gratitude is expressed to the ancestors who made sacrifices on behalf of the current generation.)
Perhaps the greatest challenge in considering this alternative approach is creating the right climate. On the other hand, Americans may be sufficiently tired and ready to turn away from the polarized politics, emotionally charged talk shows, anger, and blogger animosity.
Indigenous perspectives on many aspects of life, including conflict resolution, differ strikingly from those of Western societies. The primary objective is to restore wholeness and balance to every individual, regardless of who is right and who is wrong. Americans could learn from their example; unfortunately, many stereotypes have blurred and distorted the true image of the Indian who, today, also suffers from historical trauma and high (50 percent) unemployment.
Some of the perspectives expressed below are probably new to most readers. They derive from a long transformative journey after discovering my own tribal heritage almost two decades ago (I do not have Mexican ancestry). I offer them with the hope of helping create conditions that nurture common understandings, address everyone's needs, and influence future planning and public discourse.
I was a Catholic as a child and later became an active conservative evangelical for more than three decades. I spent 45 years in higher education as a physicist, computer specialist, information technologist, educator and administrator. Outside the campus, the study of American and tribal histories and issues, as well as works from many disciplines and viewpoints, is a continuous and life-long commitment of mine. Also, with my wife, I am personally acquainted with life in several tribal communities, where we spend much of our time. Our friendships extend to all people and we no longer belong to any church or denomination but we are Christians (a personal commitment, not institutional loyalty or ideology) and our spirituality is genuine and deep, respecting other traditions.
Click here to read the entire article.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
April 20, 2008
"The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation’s most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea’s legal authority.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department’s new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities — such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps."Read the whole story at http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/04/12/8238/
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Phillip H. Duran
Tigua Indian heritage
April 18, 2007
There must come a time when the restoration of Native peoples and the hope of all humanity are taken seriously. Who is responsible? I write in the form of a letter because I want to speak from the heart to everyone who will listen.
Let’s begin with some assumptions. There is abundant evidence that the government’s shameless attitudes toward American Indian tribes will not change in the near future. If you are keeping up with the federal case, Cobell v. Kempthorne, regarding the money that the federal government owes to individual Indians, or the ongoing struggle of the Western Shoshone people, you know what I mean about the government’s attitude. But I also know from experience that many people individually care deeply about Native issues and are generous with their resources.
With these two assumptions in mind, what can be said that has not already been considered? What can be done that has not already been tried? Please explore with me some ideas. We are familiar with some of the symptoms that plague Native America: alcoholism, poverty, dependence, violence, illness, suicides, a breakdown of values, and other ongoing issues.
These are symptoms, but what are the causes? Symptoms are visible signs that something is not right. Symptoms stem from causes; they are the effects of abnormal conditions. The same causal relationship applies to disease and treatment; if the disease is cured, the symptom(s) should disappear. Some symptoms stem from multiple causes, but the principle of cause and effect still applies. In any case, by treating the symptoms, some relief can be obtained but it will not cure the malady.
This letter is an appeal to the conscience about the need to understand and effectively address the root problems in Indian country. This is the work of restoration, which requires knowledge of the factors that affect Native people and the principles that govern how those factors are related. I would like to discuss how restoration is related to land and spirituality.
Let’s continue by asking some basic questions:
1. What is the source of America’s wealth?
2. What is the source of hope for America?
3. What is the source of hope for Native America?
4. What would represent the greatest loss to Native peoples?
5. What are the best kinds of activities to which money should be funneled?
6. Should support for Native ministry be confined to Natives?
7. Should support for Christian ministry be confined to Christians?
8. What part of Matthew 25:31-40 applies only to Christians? Does your ministry exclude others from involvement, either by intent or in practice?
Also, consider the following assertions:
1. Money is a human invention but not inherently evil.
2. The political democracy under which we are now governed, and which requires our allegiance, is a human invention that has no relationship to the earth on which we walk.
3. Land ownership is a human invention.
4. The real estate business and land development represent a deviation from the sacred because they use land for profit instead of its original purpose.
LAND and SPIRITUALITY
I suspect that the above questions and statements have triggered reactions in your mind. All of them, including the first question, involve land. When European immigrants first came to this continent, they had nothing, not even rights, only what was in their travel bags, and possibly some of the gold that had been stolen earlier from Meso-American tribes and taken to Europe. We must remember that there were two waves of immigrants, first from Spain, then England. English immigrants practiced trading for a while and eventually created money and banking. The Spanish not only stole the land; they also stole the people and used them as objects to produce wealth for themselves, not for the people.
We have to conclude that America’s source of wealth is the land, all of which once belonged to the tribes but not in terms of private ownership. The tribes did not need money; they lived off the land and were primarily concerned with practical living and survival, not with materialistic “wealth.” American values, on the other hand, which are rooted in Western thought and ideology, are exceedingly materialistic; this fact is reflected in the English language, as is obvious from the large percentage of English nouns that represent objects, or things that satisfy, including those that are unnecessary for a life of happiness.
Is there a principle connecting land to restoration and hope? It is the earth that supports life. With land I am of course including all of the elements that form the Indian’s natural/spiritual world: water, earth, air, and solar energy. Spirit is everywhere. When the land is healed, the people will be healed.
But there is a gaping hole in the American consciousness about indigenous knowledge and wisdom. Conventional (American) culture exploits the earth for human gain instead of respecting nature’s authority. America was built on an ideology that denies everything that the American Indian represents, albeit what most Americans perceive is a false image of the Indian. The traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, on the other hand, was acquired and practiced through countless generations of living in one place for a very long time and is scientifically sound, ethical and moral.
This indigenous spirituality isn’t just “religion”; it represents the sustainable science upon which the world’s future ultimately depends, even if it is not acknowledged. This is why restoring Native peoples to their rightful place is crucial. Western science has given us many conveniences; however, ingenuity is not equivalent to wisdom.
Think of the implications of the apostle Paul’s divinely inspired declaration: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26). When the Creator, the only Sovereign, populated the earth with his nations, did he not also grant them rights and sovereignty to accomplish their purpose? These tribal rights are therefore original and inherent; they were not granted by any nation and have never been surrendered. The future therefore rests on the fulfillment of Creator's original intent for his nations. Do you see this connection? This is what I believe.
When a nation breaks its numerous treaty agreements with the original peoples, which were pledged under oath in Creator’s presence and even in the presence of ministers of the gospel, and gives no priority to the restoration of American Indian tribes while helping the wealthy acquire more wealth, does it represent the spirit of Christ and Christianity?
Probably the most important difference between the Indian and Euro-American way of life is that the Indian perceives and experiences a spiritual universe, one that is alive, with interconnected social networks, while the Euro-American perceives a dead universe. The Great Spirit breathed on everything; thus all things are imbued with spirit. The Euro-American sees beauty in nature; the Indian relates to nature. The non-Indian is inspired by this beauty and majesty; the Indian relates socially to all that is alive. You can see how indigenous spirituality is practical; it is not just “religious.”
The tribes cannot depend on America as their ultimate source of hope. It is the other way around: America’s hope, like the hope of all nations, including the plant and animal nations, depends on the healing of the land. This spiritual principle is one strand in the network of interdependence that directly connects America’s hope to the knowledge, example and wisdom of Native peoples, who have never built weapons of mass destruction capable of annihilating other nations.
Considering that Christian America is expected to reflect a spiritual perspective on matters of war and peace, and in view of the influence that churches can have on national policy, it is appalling that they are denying a principle that applies to all nations and is clearly expressed in the Bible. Israel in the Old Testament was a nation of twelve tribes whose blessings and survival did not depend on military strength. “A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine” (Psalms 33:16-17).
Likewise, the hope of America or any nation does not depend on military power. All peoples depend on the earth; if the earth suffers, the people suffer. The laws that govern our bodies, the lives of creatures, and the life of Mother Earth were given by the Creator. To Native peoples, these laws are also spiritual and they govern their relationship to the land on the basis of stewardship, not exploitation. Do you see the connection between land, stewardship, and hope?
A LIFE of SUFFICIENCY
A basic change needs to happen in the way we think about what we need for our happiness. To illustrate the idea, I will tell a personal story. Recently my wife and I had dinner at a nationally known chain restaurant. Some items on the menu were half-orders at a reduced price but I asked for a full order and I got full before finishing everything on my plate. This is not the first time it happens, but on this occasion, my conscience was prompted about having ordered more than I needed.
The amount of money I would have saved by ordering the smaller meal was small (about $6.00) but something I had learned earlier in the week helped rekindle an important Native traditional value. Our society is conditioned to feel like we don’t have enough. Not enough rest, money, influence, feedback to our ideas, interaction, wealth, space, vitamins, or whatever. We buy things that are unnecessary, always wanting more. We are bombarded by clever advertising that reinforces the idea that we need more.
As I sat in the restaurant I remembered an old teaching: “Take only what you need. When you take a gift from the Earth, offer thanks and give something back.” Jesus said: “ A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15) and then taught a parable about the consequences people face by storing up things for themselves and not being rich toward God. In other words, we must re-direct those things we don’t need to the highest causes or suffer the consequences. This spiritual principle has global significance.
It was Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, who triggered this idea in my mind. She expresses the principle as follows: “If you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up all that energy to make a difference with what you already have.” She further states that this difference will expand; Jesus taught this, too, in the parable of the servant who gained five more talents from the original five (Matt. 25:20). If we transform our lives from a condition of always wanting more (scarcity, the delusion that we never have enough) to one in which everything we have is exactly what we need (sufficiency), we will have more resources and energy to work with the things we already have. It will lead to freedom from want and the ability to help others funnel their money in the direction of the highest causes for humanity. Money will always flow in the direction of a person’s commitment, and an awakened consciousness can change that direction.
But that’s not all. The money and energy that have been freed up, which can be directed toward a higher cause, is not given as an act of charity, in my opinion. The anticipation of giving does something to our spirit. The spiritual experience begins at the moment of intent and anticipation even before the money leaves our hand; this is a spiritual act. It conforms to the divine order.
I do not want to cause offense by writing carelessly about the profound sense of spiritual loss that the separation from one’s land represents to Native people. This loss is difficult to convey. It is an experience that cannot be understood simply by quoting statistical facts. This is why stories are so important. They expose those things that are sacred. The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote recently.
“Consider what happened to the people in Alaska as told by Harold Napoleon, a Yup’iq Eskimo. Deeply troubled by the problem of alcoholism and alcohol abuse among Alaska’s Native people, and the death of his own son, Harold wrote handwritten letters for four years to address the problem. In one such letter, now published as a book, He discounts the theory that Native people are biologically susceptible to alcohol, concluding that the primary cause is not physical but spiritual and that the cure must, therefore, also be of the spirit. He tells of the spirit world in which the Yup’iq Eskimo lived, the world they knew before an influenza epidemic struck the people in 1900 due to exposure to white immigrants. For fifty years, the Yup’ik people saw their family members suffer and die until eighty percent of the Yup’iq people perished. In their stories, they refer to this experience as the Great Death. The extraordinary force of the story can be felt only by reading the book. Napoleon describes how the people viewed their world as complete. ‘It was a very old world. They called it Yuuyaraq, the way of the human being … Although unwritten, this way can be compared to Mosaic law because it governed all aspects of a human being’s life.’ He describes not only the physical and spiritual universe in which the Yup’iq lived but also what they lost when they had no choice but to accept another way of life.”
Please try to imagine the similar experiences that occurred all across America as tribes were displaced during the settling of the West and during a thirty-year period known as the Indian wars. Broken treaties, land transfers, forced removals, contempt for ceremonial practices and spirituality, war, and disease belong to that part of history, creating a multi-generational condition that Native psychologists refer to today as the soul wound in Native America, evident by the high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The spiritual world that Harold Napoleon describes represents the spiritual dimension that is lacking in this modern world of technology, exploitation, and an economy based on greed. Can we bring the spirit back into our Native world? I don’t know, but you can help. We can begin by making an honest effort to promote a lifestyle of sufficiency and, as a spiritual act, use our freed up resources and energy to increase the amount we give to Native ministries and help awaken everyone’s consciousness about the need to re-direct their resources away from further destruction of land and people in order to support causes that bring restoration to Native people. We must build relationships that involve everyone. If we do not involve everyone in supporting and participating in our work, how will they witness and be blessed by the presence of Christ? If they do not know how our mutual destiny is connected to the land, how will they be motivated to give?
Does it make sense to support the current direction of this society? No bomb shelter or military power can save a people or a government indefinitely from its own vices. If purification comes, the pure in heart are the ones who will survive into the next world.
This letter is a general appeal to help support all worthy causes in Indian country. Natives in ministry in particular should never have to suffer from lack of resources. Also, in my April 5 letter, I announced Hamaatsa, the place where the people of White Dawn House will build an indigenous model for restoration. To be added to the HAMAATSA e-mail list and receive our future newsletter, send an e-mail with “Add Me” on the subject line (exactly, no quotation marks) to
Phillip H. Duran
Tigua Indian Heritage
April 5, 2007
I want to tell you about an unfolding vision that is soon to become a reality. It is unprecedented, at least in the state of New Mexico, and it needs to be told as a personal story.
When the United States passed the Dawes Allotment Act in 1887, it broke up tribal reservation lands into privately owned parcels and allotted individual Indians some of those parcels, giving the rest to the U.S. government, which took legal title to the parcels and became trustee. Indians were thus forced into the practice of private land ownership. The U.S. opened surplus land to non-Indians. In time, out of economic necessity, many Indians sold their parcels to non-Indians. The result is a “checkerboard” pattern of land ownership on reservations. In less than 50 years after the Act was passed, the tribes lost about two-thirds of the 1887 land base to non-Indians. It is estimated that the tribes altogether now “own” less than four percent of the land.
Today First Nations people are plagued by the symptoms of alcoholism, poverty, dependence, violence, illness, suicides, a breakdown of values, and other ongoing issues. But this is not the whole picture.
For many years, I have been deeply troubled by the portrayal of the American Indian as helpless, primitive, dependent, and spiritually deficient. A vision began to form in my consciousness about reversing this false image and recognizing the inherent strengths and purpose that the ability to survive represents. I tried to convey this truth in my book, Bringing Back the Spirit, which speaks to the American conscience and to church leaders. As I continue to write, my current focus is on indigenous perspectives in science.
During the early 1990s, I began to seek a people with the same vision that I had been given who would welcome my own spirituality, which has undergone a deep transformation, and allow my wife and me to assist in preservation and restoration efforts for First Nations people.
After thirteen years of expectant prayer and vigilance, I received e-mail from Ray Levesque, announcing a Listening Conference in Albuquerque hosted by White Dawn House, an organization founded by Larry and Deborah Littlebird. These are the people I was searching for. After spending 34 years in the Northwest, except for a brief time in South Dakota, my wife Norma and I moved to the Albuquerque area at the end of October 2005.
Larry is from Laguna/Santo Domingo Pueblo. He is a master storyteller, fluent in the Keresan (Pueblo) language, a spiritual teacher, an education specialist, and a wilderness facilitator with more than forty years of experience with holistic health practices from his Pueblo culture.
From Larry we learned about the Creator’s original mandate to the Pueblo People: to build a “white house,” a “house made of early light”; i.e. a pure, spiritual house, and not remain confined to one place. This points to the meaning of White Dawn House and to a vision that honors the mandate: Build a model, outside of the confining boundaries of the reservation, where First Nations people can again learn healthy ways of living. This vision requires land.
And we have found it!
The 320-acre plot of undisturbed, environmentally protected land is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We are buying back land that is privately owned but once belonged to Santo Domingo Pueblo; this is Larry Littlebird’s grandfather’s tribe. As you can see, two visions have converged and the land will soon be ours through a redemptive act. It will be owned by aboriginal people instead of the government. It is called Hamaatsa, which in the Keresan language means “a place arriving, coming into being now.”
This is the land where we will build an indigenous learning center committed to spiritual wholeness, cultural revitalization, ecological preservation, and sustainability. The Puebloan buildings will consist of adobe and stone using Chacoan architecture. A few acres will be set aside for staff housing and a building to accommodate a maximum of thirty guests. There will be a separate ceremonial area and another area for indigenous gardening projects to reintroduce healthy Native foods. No development will occur on the rest of the property, either now or anytime in the future.
Native people cannot wait for governmental and societal attitudes to change. The problem, at the root, is that separating them from their lands was a spiritual act. It’s all about land and spirituality. As they are restored, one family at a time, through an indigenous model that honors the Creator’s original instructions, they will experience healing. Metaphorically speaking, this model is like medicine that is applied at the root, where the ailment is located, and is further tested and proven for the healing of others.
White Dawn House is the spiritual house that will be built at HAMAATSA. But is it not true that each of us must build our own spiritual house, a house of purity, which breaks the chains of confinement? The people of White Dawn House are personally acquainted with Yeshua (Jesus) who lives and moves in his resurrected body. His name, ja+shua, means “Jehova saves” or “God (Creator) heals,” a truth about Creator’s spiritual power to heal, which Native people universally acknowledge.
By mid-June of this year, the land acquisition will be complete and the moment we have been waiting for will have arrived. We will roll up our sleeves, break ground, and begin to build. At that time, our fund-raising efforts will shift from land purchase to building and operating costs.
We invite you to come alongside us, whether or not you are able to support the effort financially, by adding yourself to our e-mail list. You will witness with us the same miracle of abundance that the White Dawn House family has experienced. We have raised open hands with thankful hearts to receive what Creator already knows we need. This is how we prayed for the land. We did not pray for people to give; we gave thanks for what we were going to receive. Let us walk together as relatives and discover the abundance that awaits all who appropriate it.
Our building effort will be based on relationships. You will be kept informed through a regular newsletter as work progresses. A website is also planned.
To be added to the HAMAATSA e-mail list and receive our future newsletter, send an e-mail with “Add Me” on the subject line (exactly, no quotation marks) to
Phillip H. Duran
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
America is still a young nation of immigrants, struggling to maintain a government based on a political democracy, which set aside the traditional form of tribal governments based on an intimate relationship with the land. This democracy allows rich bankers to control the media.
During the entire 2004 presidential elections, including the debates on television, neither the media nor the candidates made reference to issues that are relevant to American Indian tribes when addressing the American people. (If I am wrong about this, it is because nothing was said in any significant way.) Yet these issues are relevant to all American citizens. Some candidates did include Indian Affairs on their websites and met separately with tribal leaders.
But such acts could be thought of as platitudes, because the candidates were otherwise silent on tribal issues when they spoke directly to the American public. Tribal affairs were never a part of the national agenda.
In his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama said: “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” a statement that drew cheers.
Why didn't Obama mention Native America? It is because in the mind of many Americans the American Indian has disappeared. This is one of the insidious aspects about the notion of “One America.” Politicians speak as if referring to Indians, America's First People, is like mentioning a relic of the past. Look for the words “once” and “great” in the rhetoric often expressed in patriotic language: “This great land once belonged to the American Indian.” “Great nations once roamed the American West”. But after these “once great” people have been cleared away like brush, the past seems to vanish and in false humility someone expresses regret for past wrongs, then portrays a grand new vision of unity among all people. In this vision, only the present and the future are important; everyone belongs and shares a common origin: the founding fathers, the flag, the defining documents—all belonging to One People who share a common beginning. No one is excluded but everyone must now march in step; everyone must conform. And anyone claiming uniqueness will be ostracized for being different and severely criticized for being "divisive."
The concept of a homogeneous humanity reflects an erroneous view of nature and a violation of Creator’s purpose for humanity. One consequence of this fundamental error is to disregard, and thus fail to apply, the wisdom and knowledge that have been accumulated by Native societies as the result of living close to their environments for millennia.
To read more of my views on different issues, link to my website: http://myweb.cableone.net/phil-duran.
As we begin a new cycle of presidential campaigning, it should be obvious to everyone that the media virtually decides for us who will be the top candidates because the media focuses on certain personalities and blocks out others. They are blocking out Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich and placing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before the American public. Except for the fact that Obama is black and Clinton is a woman, one has to wonder why they are favored to the exclusion of the others; i.e. why merit is not important.
I was a Kucinich supporter in 2004 and I'm still on the mailing list. The media are again misrepresenting the facts. Please read the following letter from Kucinich, which states that Obama was wrongly credited for being the only Democratic candidate who opposes the Iraq war. It was Kucinich who led the effort in the House of Representatives against the Iraq invasion.
This week, Congress will have another great debate about Iraq. Unfortunately, Congress is going to be discussing a nonbinding resolution at a time when Congress ought to be taking a stand to cut off funds, to implement a plan - my plan, the 12-point plan to get out of Iraq.
But instead, Congress engages in these meaningless resolutions. We need the Congress to take a stand, but we also need presidential candidates to take a stand. As you know, I led the effort in the House of Representatives in 2002, in challenging the Bush Administration's march towards war. As you remember, among all the presidential candidates today, I not only voted against authorization, but I voted against each and every effort to try to fund the war. The only way we stop the war is stop the funding.
Yesterday, 60 Minutes had a show which credited Senator Obama with being the only Democratic presidential candidate who opposed the war. The fact is that Senator Obama wasn't in the Senate at the time, he didn't vote against the war, and the fact is that, as a Member of the Senate, he's voted eight times to fund the war.
Now, I can't say the media is always going to tell the truth. But it's important for you to fund this campaign, so we can get our message out. It's important for you to fund this campaign so I can challenge Senator Clinton, who, in voting for the war and voting to fund the war, now says that if she's elected President, she'll end the war immediately, and, if she had been President at the time, we wouldn't have gone to war.
Now think about it. The role of Congress is superior to the President when it comes to war-making power. The role of Congress is to give the President permission to go to war. The Democratic Senate could have stopped the war. Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards gave George Bush permission and, in effect, made it possible for the war to occur.
It's good that, now, everybody thinks the war is a bad idea. But the real question the American people are going to have to face is who had the clarity, who had the vision, who had the judgment to make the call at that time that the war was not supportable, that there was no evidence that merited a war.
I stand before you, not only as the only candidate who can say that, but as the one who is prepared to lead this nation forward in the cause of peace, in the cause of a world where we use diplomacy to solve our differences.
We're at the threshold of a war with Iran, right now. The same people who were buying the drumbeat for war against Iraq are basically buying into the necessity of challenging Iran aggressively.
We need a whole new approach, and I'm prepared to take it, with your help. So go to the website right now. Please contribute if you haven't already done so. And if you have, thank you, and help us more. Do everything you can to contact your friends. America doesn't have to be in the position it's in. We're going to lose our nation unless we stand up and assert that war is not inevitable, that peace is inevitable if we stay with the truth and if we insist that our public officials stand up for the American people.
We have so many things that we need in our country today. Our children need better education. American people need health care. We need to create jobs. We need to work on focusing on cleaning up our environment. But our entire domestic agenda is being shoved aside in favor of war mongering. This has to stop. And you can help stop it.
Go to the website right now. Make your contribution. I'll stand in there for you; I need you to stand there with me.
Dennis J Kucinich
Sunday, April 30, 2006
RED NATION WEB TELEVISION CHANNEL THE FIRST AMERICAN INDIAN CHANNEL FEATURING ALL AMERICAN INDIAN PROGRAMMING SET TO MAKE ITS NATIONWIDE DEBUT ON MAY 1, 2006
Los Angeles, April 17, 2006-Red Nation Web Television Channel, is slated to make its nationwide debut on May 1, 2006, says Joanelle Romero, founder and creative director of the new web channel. "Our aim is to make this year, 2006, the year the American Indian emerges on national web television. Our continuing efforts should make the industry and the public aware that it's time to further broaden knowledge and cultural diversity on TV...time to THINK INDIAN." This is the first American Indian web television channel promoting America Indian films, music videos, documentaries (long and short forms) pilots, drama series, music specials and commercials. Romero declares. "I simply got ti red of being told NO when I proposed this idea to the industry and I, and others, got together and decided that it was time for us, RED NATION as individuals and as an organization, to do something about it."
Joanelle Romero, humanitarian, actress, producer/director and activist, is spearheading this ground-breaking project. Apache, Cheyenne and Jewish descent, Romero starred in the first American Indian woman's story ever produced for TV. Made for CBS in 1977, A GIRL CALLED HATTER FOX brought a lot of attention to contemporary Indian problems. Later in her career, Romero directed the first American Indian Award Winning Holocaust film, AMERICAN HOLOCAUST: WHEN ITS ALL OVER I'LL STILL BE INDIAN.
The new American Indian Red Nation Web Channel is all about airing quality American Indian entertainment. It will draw from the vast pool of American Indian filmmakers, actors, producers and other entertainment entities to bring best of the work created by these members of the industry to the forefront and to audiences who can appreciate and enjoy their projects. In building its place in show business, Red Nation Web Television intends to compete with all other networks in creating a bankable market in support of American Indian talents, and instill an image of a heritage that was and is still so important to the development of our country's heritage and growth.
The initial offering on the Red Nation Web Channel will be the first produced in the U.S. American Indian drama series HOME, HOME ON THE REZ, starring Larry Sellers, Joanelle Romero, Elaine Miles, Elizabeth Sage and Conroy Chino. It will air on May 1, 2006 on www.rednation.com. Produced in association with Spirit World Productions., it will be followed by an ever-growing agenda of top quality entertainment using all native casting and production as did the popular BILL COSBY television series.
The Red Nation Web Television Channel hopes to reach millions of viewers and to develop future productions through the organization's family company the Red Nation Media Entertainment Company. "In this day and age, to have the American Indian's contemporary image on web/tv is more important than any other time in history, not only for economic status, but to make a giant step forward for our generation and for generations to come. We are aiming for a slow but steady growth in this unique endeavor but we believe in our ventures limitless possibilities," says Romero.
MEDIA ALERT: On MAY 1, 2006, watch for the debut of RED NATION WEB
JOANELLE ROMERO is also founder of Award-winning Spirit World Productions, the Annual Red Nation Celebration Concert Series, the Annual Native Women In Music, Red Nation Records, the Annual Warriors Against AIDS Awareness Concert and the Annual Red Nation Film Festival (the first and only American Film Festival held during Indigenous Nations Heritage Month in Los Angeles).
Monday, April 24, 2006