The next day, Diane Longboat started us off with: “Our ceremonies here have united us, in ways not known in the outer world. In ceremony, we fell in love with each other. What can I learn from each of the traditions who were there, are here? I am a richer person for sitting with each of us, each of us bearing the wisdom of a living tradition based on ancient cultures and civilizations. We are one, a community with its roots in the Earth. We each walked through fire to be here. A world led without a spiritual foundation has failed. Everything we need to know, Mother Earth is showing us: a paradigm for a new world. There will be challenges, but we have been trained to overcome them.”
* Who are we?
* What do we want to do?
* What will it look like when we have it?
* What do we need to do to get there?
* What does prophecy say?
* How is the environment – the place where we are meeting now – speaking to us and informing our discussion?
Ta'Kaiya Blaney – who speaks with profound wisdom well beyond her 13 years – said that “What we do reflects through the generations to come. Crimes against Mother Earth are crimes against our children! We need a breath of fresh air, but the air is not fresh.”
After lunch, we talked about “next steps” and decided to focus on certain “action areas”:
1) Protecting Sacred Arts – There was a lot of concern about the outright theft of traditional sacred materials, ranging from sacred land to sacred objects, but also appropriation. I was surprised at how many people seriously objected to traditional arts and music being used by others in the creation of their own arts and music. This is a process that has gone on all over the world and throughout time and there really isn’t anything one can do to stop it. Even so, there might be some legal way to designate whether or not something is the product of indigenous people. (Although I think this would be a legal nightmare.)
2) Developing Alliances – There are a lot of groups out there who could be of great help on issues of common concern: interfaith groups, religious groups, and environmental groups.
3) Denouncing the Doctrine of Discovery – There were some folks present who were VERY angry / enthused about this and wanted to work on getting the Pope to repudiate the Doctrine and apologize for it in 2015. While I understand the emotional reasons for outrage about the Doctrine, in my opinion action towards getting it repealed can easily become a huge waste of precious resources. I think that: a) Getting the Vatican to do anything takes years of behind the scenes work. Remember the last-minute attempts to get an apology to the Pagans piggy-backed onto an apology to Jews and Muslims that was the result of 30 years of dialogue. b) Many people are confusing the role of the Doctrine of Discovery – i.e. the Papal decrees – with the general legal precedent of “you conquered it, you keep it”. c) Even if the Pope does reverse this decree, it won’t automatically cause the sudden reversal of all legal decisions that invoked it as precedent (especially in Protestant countries). It just means that any such legal decision could be appealed with the appeal having a greater likelihood of success. Even so, there were many folks in the room who enthusiastically supported pursuing repudiation and an apology. As long as this is a committee of the GII and not the focus of the whole, I won’t object.
4) Preserving Sacred Gardens – This included working with governmental and environmental agencies to protect stands of forest and also working with botanical and educational agencies on preserving traditional wisdom about plants and their use.
5) Protecting Sacred Sites – This was similar to #4, but included sites that were built by people and sites without noticeable vegetation.
6) Protecting Sacred Ways – This was similar to #1, but included preserving traditional festivals and ceremonies.
We were originally going to be discussing all of these together and in breakout groups – but with so little time, Audri arranged us into tables, each of which would discuss just one of the topics. I was in the group on Preserving Sacred Arts, since Audri wanted me to talk about the Lost & Endangered Religions Project. Everyone had a chance to talk. I was the last person around the circle and we barely had time for me to say something about LERP before our meeting time was up. This is an indication of how pressed for time we were. My group included:
* Ta’Kaiya Blaney – Sliammon / Canada. She talked about creating sacred arts festivals to keep our young people interested in traditional ways.
* Cheryl Grogan – Djabugay / North Australia. She talked about the need to protect traditional arts that aren’t necessarily sacred, such as cave paintings on her tribal lands. The government provides some protection for sacred sites, but non-sacred art sites are regularly pillaged.
* Sofia Painiqueo – Mapuche / Chile. She expressed concern about preserving traditional arts and music in the face of the syncretic arts that result when non-traditional artists use traditional arts. The young people get confused about what is and isn’t traditional and “crap” gets passed on as traditional arts.
* Alessandra Belloni – South Italy. She said that the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City would probably be interested in a festival of truly indigenous arts and culture. She also railed against “charlatans presenting fake indigenous culture.”
* Fany Avila – Kuna / Panama. She echoed Sofia’s concerns about truly sacred symbols and rhythms being used by non-indigenous people in inappropriate and profane art.
* Glenis Grogan (Wanegan) – Djabugay / North Australia. She proposed the idea of GII-sponsored “living cultural centers” that could travel around the world, exposing people to and educating them about, truly indigenous arts and culture.
* Coralie Wason (Bununda) – Djabugay / North Australia. She echoed Cheryl’s concerns and wondered if the GII could muster support for petitioning governments for greater protection of traditional arts.
* Philip “Tiger” Lane (Brown Bear) – Yankton Dakota & Chicasaw / USA. He reminded us that the Internet is still a powerful tool for educating youth about indigenous arts & culture. Ta’Kaiya suggested that we propose an indigenous reality TV show, like the recent programming about the Amish. I suggested that we start smaller, with indigenous radio programming, which would reach more people globally. Someone suggested that we try to interest “Hollywood” in more accurate representations of indigenous cultures in the movies.
* I explained the Lost & Endangered Religions Project (www.religionsproject.org) to the group and pledged its support for any appropriate projects that the GII undertook. Ta’Kaiya wondered if the Rosetta Stone language software could be adapted into a tool for preserving endangered languages. I think this is worth exploring.
* Liam Chinn – (URI Global Support Staff). Liam was also with us, but primarily as an observer.
When we gathered back together, it turned out that a lot of our conversations had overlapped. A lot of what I wrote about above was repeated and emphasized. I think that a LOT of time was taken up with addressing the Doctrine of Discovery and making sure that some sort of statement demanding an official repudiation of the Doctrine came out of THIS meeting.
Next: the Closing Ceremony.
Thanks & Blessed Be,
CoG National Interfaith Representative
Thanks & Blessed Be,
CoG National Interfaith Representative