From the Elders on the Equinox

“To my sister and brother swimmers:

There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
We must let go of the shore, push off into the river, keep our heads above water.
At this time in our history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves. Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Message from the Hopi Elders

“These three rivers — anguish for our world, scientific breakthroughs, and ancestral teachings — flow together. From their confluence, we drink and we awaken.”
Joanna Macy
She is alive (GAIA)

Doctrine of Discovery

Mary Lefthand, Kootnai Elder, Glacier National Park Visitor CenterCamping at seven national parks this summer, I began to perceive, alongside the beauty and grander, a shadow side of the national park concept. My unease crystallized in Glacier National Park when I heard the park introduced in a Visitor Center film as “an intact eco-system”. Were not the peoples who had originally occupied the land part of the eco-system? I began to understand that the national park purpose of ‘preserving the wilderness’ actually creates a false sense of what wilderness is. Those who occupied Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet and Salish and Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples, were forcibly removed in order to establish that ‘intact eco-system.’

(If this post sounds like one you already read because I based it on a previous one, skip to the end for the brand new information.)

The narrator of the National Park Service film at Glacier states brightly that Its history is our history!  In a Visitor Center exhibit, however, one can hear a contrasting view when watching a documentary inside the Teepee exhibit. A native man in the documentary states, This is not your back room, It is our front room…a living creation, not a playground. The landscape we tourists call pristine is what the Blackfeet call the Backbone of the World , where the spirits of their ancestors occupy their homeland, where ancestors’ bodies have become the earth, so that wherever we visitors walk in the park, we tread on the dust and soil made up of their ancestors’ bodies.

At Triple Divide Peak in Glacier, waters flow in three different directions: to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Pacific, and to the Hudson Bay. Here the Blackfeet honor all the waters as sacred waters, and honor the heads of the waters at Triple Divide as a living being, and honor the landscape as the origin of their oldest ceremony, the Beaver Bundle. The Blackfeet say there is a Presence here, that all the spirits that occupy the world are bound together in this very place. Yet the national park concept of wilderness preservation excludes the land-based cultural and spiritual practices of the original Blackfeet inhabitants.indian_boarding_school

The Blackfeet still today contest the Agreement of 1895, arguing it was not a sale but a ninety-nine year lease. They say, also, that the scope of the lease was mineral rights only. In the Visitor Center documentary, one Blackfeet woman states the following about the Agreement of 1895: “Another chunk was taken out of our full existence as a people.” The Blackfeet believe they retain their ancestral rights to hunt their food and gather their medicine plants in Glacier National Park. The only concession the government has made, however, is to now allow tribal members the right to enter the park without paying admission.

On one of my evenings in Glacier National Park, a ranger spoke on the History of Park Rangers. He mentioned that an early part of the job was to locate and remove squatters. I’m sure he didn’t realize it, but he was insulting, and at the same time making disappear, those peoples he did not respect with their names: the Blackfeet, the Kootenai, the Salish and the Pend d’Oreille.

The NPS made a positive gesture in featuring the documentary testimonies in Glacier National Park St Mary Visitor Center, but it isn’t enough. Each national park needs to tell the truth about the peoples who were put out of their lands so that the park could be created. Each national park needs exhibits that respect the histories of those peoples, and each national park needs to credit them as the original preservers of the wilderness.

Big Chief Mountain Glacier National ParkThe peaks in Glacier National Park were shrouded in clouds the day I left. A deep state of meditation settled upon me, awe in the presence of Divinity. The beauty of Glacier marked my soul. The bittersweet story of the original peoples deepened my appreciation of this beauty, and led me to explore further.Big Chief Mountain Morning Glacier National Park

Below is a link to an article on the Doctrine of Discovery, by which the Pope granted European explorers the right to the bodies and lands of native peoples worldwide. I hope you will be shocked to learn how US Chief Justice Marshall in 1823 affirmed that US property rights are based on the Doctrine of Discovery.

Five Hundred Years of Injustice.Glacier National Park Dawn

Another link will give you insight into the movement to get the US Government to make a formal apology for the Boarding School Era and other atrocities (as Australia and Canada have already done for indigenous people in their countries). “The boarding school wounds have been passed down the generations and are still responsible for the disparities between Native communities and the rest of Turtle Island,” according to a recent article by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker in Western North Carolina Woman. Quoted in the article is Patty Grant, local Cherokee/Lakota: “Pain and atrocities linger,” Patty reminds us. You can help the healing by signing a petition at the following link, asking President Obama to publicly make this much needed apology.



When the Road Opens

The recent new moon Solar Eclipse alignment on May 20, I’m told, positioned the Earth/Moon/Sun directly with our Milky Way galactic core and the central star (Alcyone) in the Pleiadian Star System. Next up is the partial Lunar Eclipse before dawn on June 4th, and the twice-in-a-lifetime chance to see Venus’s dark disk cross the Sun. I’m no expert in astronomy or astrology but I’m sensitive to energy shifts, and I’m definitely experiencing my own participation in the planet’s new alignment.


My participating in the greater whole feels like a brand new road opening up. Fitting, since I’m getting ready for a two month road trip west, finally inaugurating my lifetime Senior Pass to the National Parks. Stay tuned!

At a $10.00 price tag, it might be a better benefit than Social Security! You have to be 60 years old and you have to buy it in person at a National Park. Then you and your passengers can get in free. I got mine at Acadia National Park in 2010. Lifetime Senior Pass to the National Parks

Being Susa

In her Sounds True audio, The Second Half of Life, Arrien Angeles tells this tale: A wise man named Zusa went to the mountain to ask how he could serve. He came down fearful. When asked why, he answered: I now know what the angels will ask when I die. Not ‘Did you lead the people? Did you free the slaves?’ Instead they will ask, ‘Zusa, why weren’t you Zusa? Why weren’t you Zusa?’

Though I don’t choose to act out of fear or wait until death, this story prompts me to ask myself, What does being Susa, right now on my 65th birthday, mean?

Being Susa feels like having perspective, a view of my past that is grateful and gentle, and a view of the unknown path ahead that is patient and accepting, a view filled once again with the anticipation of a child. Being Susa feels as if, after jettisoning unnecessary baggage, I’m embarked on a new journey. In my toolbox is an ultra light collection including Buddhist meditation practices, Alanon wisdom and resources, and an array of other rituals and routines, both physical and spiritual. In this time I call my Third Trimester of life, Being Susa feels like forgiving myself and others for old shortcomings and resentments, feels like a clean slate, a baptism back to original joy. ( gesturing to the French Broad River behind her

In a week or so, I go on the road for two months. Being Susa means I bring all my Gone Befores with me on the road trip, especially Jeannie David and Ceilie Sartori, two women who showed me how to live joyfully. Being Susa at age 65 feels like a rest-of-my-life road trip that is heading their way. And when I get to that commencement, and I am asked,” But were you Susa?” I will be able to grin and yell indecorously, YES!