Sunday, December 6, 2015

Parliament Report - Rachael Watcher

Dear All:
(Note: This is being posted about a month and a half late because for a while our Interfaith Reps could not access this blog to make their reports.  So here is what I tried to post in October and just made it on the Blog now.)

Whew! What an October eh? I think I broke something trying to keep up. On October 10th I got to the LA airport only to discover that Raul had been held up by the Mexican equivalent of the TSA, missed his flight and had to sleep on the airport floor awaiting the next flight out. He got here around 11AM on the 11th and the next two days were spent on planning and talking business. My Spanish was a bit rusty and had to keep looking up words on the phone. Thank the Gods for smart phone technology.

On the 13th, we left for the Parliament driving a mere 5 hours to arrive in Los Vegas for the night. Price line gave us a great hotel at $59 a night. It was full of cowboys, as the national rodeo was in town. Raul was so excited to see real cowboys, identifiable by their very bowed legs, worn levis and real hats on square. He kept wanting me to take pictures of him with everyone he saw. You should have seen me trying to explain that an indigenous person (translate that as indian) wanted to have his picture taken with a ‘real cowboy’. He kept asking if they really were cowboys and what did cowboys do these days; they were slow talking in typical cowboy style, kind and getting a chuckle out of the irony, reminding me of my own grandad. This close to Samhain I’m sure that he was with us and smiling.

Greg took him to the strip after dark to see all of the lights and got a pic of him with two models, dressed (I use the term advisedly) as bikini clad cops. I told him not to worry, that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…for a moderate price of course. We teased him unmercifully for the rest of the trip, but he was a good sport about it.

He was amazed at the ease with which he found people who spoke Spanish during the trip. He was always able to find someone who could translate the menu for him or give him directions or explain something.

We got to Salt Lake the next day around three and I immediately tried to contact the person who had the arrival information and meal cash for Arvol Looking Horse and his wife so that I could pick them up at the airport. I failed that in every respect. Anna meantime had come over to see how we were settling in and I texted Paula, Arvol’s wife to notify me when they arrived in a final desperate attempt to catch them before they had to wait at the airport for an indefinite period. Thank heavens she had the foresight to check her phone right off of the flight and responded not more than 15 minutes later telling me that the plane had just landed. I asked Anna to come with me as I had no idea what the Looking Horses looked like and could not leave the car unattended. Of course she didn’t either but with typical Anna organization immediately wrote a sign with “Looking Horse” on it and set out to find them while I drove the car to a type of parking I had never seen before. There is a holding lot at Salt Lake airport that has huge LED signs giving the status of each flight so that you can see when your flight has landed while sitting in your car. Very Cool! After some searching and bag claim issues Anna called and said that they were ready for pick up so I drove over and picked them up and back we went to their hotel.

Not half an hour later Paula called and said that they were walking over to my place so that we could all go to dinner. Every restaurant in or near downtown was full and we ended up driving out of town to a Golden Corel, which is a cross between a Home Town Buffet and a steak house. The food however was pretty good, the steaks cooked to order if that was what you fancied, and of course it was all you could eat. Anna, and Raul were with us along with Greg and Arvol’s daughter, Makasha, a lovely 18 year old who only came in order to spend time with her father so there were seven in a van really made to seat five. I had to cram Anna in the back on a cooler while Greg sat cross legged facing her; a feat he reminded me later that he’s getting a bit old for. Further, as this is a working and not a passenger van, there are no windows past the front seat. None the less Paula did a masterful job of backseat driving. I got a kick out of it.
The next morning I picked them up again and we headed over to the opening of the Parliament with the lighting of the sacred fire at dawn (which was, in typical pagan fashion, two hours late). Arvol remarked that dawn fires were usually lit at dawn, with a wry smile, and I returned that it seemed perfectly in keeping with most pagan events. He just laughed.

The rest of the parliament was really a juggling act, trying to translate for Raul and Alejandrino, and trying to meet all of my obligations while also trying to get to the indigenous tracts. Raul and Alejandrino, found someone to translate for them part time, and Katia, a member of Don’s coven helped out a couple of days, so that they got to feel a bit more independent. I’ve no idea why, with the university there, they did not have volunteers offering to serve as translators but that didn’t happen.
 Alejandrino and Raul
Another puzzle was trying to track the indigenous events. Lewis Cardinal, the head of the indigenous program gave the indigenous people a room in which to handle their own programing, and in typical style they would decide to change something and post a sign with about half of the necessary information. I kept running into an Ojibwa gentleman who introduced himself as White Dove, who was pushing his friend in a wheelchair, and who was also trying to decipher all of the handwritten signs. It was a fun time in general.
Lewis and Arvil
Early on, I ran into Lewis again and introduced him to Raul and Alejandrino. He was pleased to meet them and told me that they should march in the First Nations parade and the opening plenary. When we got there I found that I knew several folks and we passed the time visiting. You may remember my mention of Tokyia Blaney, the young woman who attended our indigenous gathering for the URI. She and her father were there, and Fran├žoise Paulette, a Dene from above the Arctic Circle in Canada also. You may remember that Elder Paulette was the one who needed a circle formed for morning rites at the Parliament in Melburne but was unsure how to proceed, and whom I was able to help in that respect. We chatted, I introduced them to Raul and Alejandrino and we spoke of the importance of holding the energy strong and not letting it dissipate, as we thought we were at the end of the que. As it turns out, a situation that I was not aware of at the time, many indigenous traditions from all over the world were behind us and only the Americas were represented before us.

I should say at this point that I kept trying to put Raul and Alejandrino in line and then step out to sit down but Lewis kept putting me back in line and saying to stay there. I still have no idea why he was so insistent unless he just felt that Raul and Alejandrino would need a translator. I felt a bit strange marching but the people marching with me seemed to think that I was ok there so I gave up and marched along.

Much of my time was spent in reestablishing networks and bonds. I could not go down the hall without being stopped several times, often by people whom I could not remember for the life of me. Going to the bathroom was always a challenge, hoping to make it in time. At one point though going to the bathroom proved a serendipitous moment. I met a woman with whom I had been trying to connect since she has spoken at an indigenous talk on prophesy. She is carrying the waters of the world for an elder doing international work. As it turns out she lives about half an hour from me and is very excited to exchange waters with Don and our Waters of the World project.

I was actually surprised at the number of folks that I knew who made it to the Parliament and much of our time was taken up with lunches and dinners in order to have a bit of time to meet outside of the noise and chaos of the Parliament. Even Imam Mallek, head of the Parliament, stopped to chat and meet Raul and Alejandrino. He and I know each other through NAIN and Carpe Diem, and I thought it kind of him to take the time to say hi.

The last two days Alejandrino insisted that we get up at 5AM to do a live radio interview back in Ayacucho Peru which took all of about 5 minutes and of course there was no going back to bed so the day was up and running. I would hardly see Greg all day, and then we would be meeting with someone for dinner. By the time I fell into bed as soon as I could get there I was exhausted.

We left early on the day after the Parliament heading out to Bryce Canyon after dropping Alejandrino at the airport. We wanted to show Raul what we worshiped on this sweet Mother Earth. He scarred the Hel out of me. He would stand right on the edge of a three hundred foot drop to take a picture then turn around with his back to it for someone to get a picture of him. I asked him if he were mad, and he just laughed and reminded me that he is from the Andes.

That evening we stayed outside of Zion and hit it the next morning then on to the Rez and the Grand Canyon. He was really excited to see real Navajo people and talk with them about experiences shared among the two groups. A young girl recounted that though things weren’t like that anymore her mother had told her how it used to be. It was clear that she couldn’t quite relate, but she is learning Navajo to honor her grandmother. He bought something for his wife and daughters there and took a picture of himself holding the ornament along with the person who made it.

When we got to the Grand Canyon we were so fogged in that you practically couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. A crow came out of the fog and begged me for food so I fed him a French fry and Raul was delighted. The crow chittered at me for a bit, I answered back, fed him another piece of fry for the conversation and we drove on. Further down the road we were able to get under the cloud cover and Raul got a good look at the canyon for the first time. Once again he had to stand right at the edge of a drop right to the bottom in order to take a picture. I am now almost entirely grey!

We got home at noon the next day and all of us spent the rest of that day resorting luggage, washing and catching up on email. I copied all of his pictures to disk and cleaned his chip as well as buying another for him. That should keep him for a while.

As we chatted about plans in general I discovered that he is very involved in a national indigenous organization working to improve indigenous rights and reserve territories, customs, and language.
He swore that he would write a report on that. I have his pictures.

The last day of his stay an indigenous friend of ours took us to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Raul wanted to see her again as they had served on the first URI Global Council together, and he had also wanted to see where the Swallows came when they left Argentina. The mission has been preserved in a state of arrested decay with beautiful gardens and fountains. It’s a major tourist attraction and there are translation machines in a dozen languages including Spanish so Raul could get a comprehensive explanation of much of the mission.

Adaelia pointed out to us where the natives had implanted crystals and shells into the mud of the walls putting their own magic into the building and making it theirs despite the teachings of the Franciscan Priests. We both cried at the thought of a people taking back in the land in such a magical, spiritual way, and the only way they had.

Raul was appalled at what he perceived as a waste of food. A long grape arbor filled with grapes now drying and useless, cactus plants loaded with Tunas going unharvested, and a Guava tree dropping ripened fruit by the bushel. Those we ate, and then ate some more. They were the small green oblong variety of Guava, not at all like the ones you see in the stores, with white meat much like fig inside; very sweet.

We afterward went to lunch and Raul asked many questions about the “Sweet Pea” people. Adelia explained that they still had 80% of their language and one fluent speaker of a close relative in that language group so people were learning to speak it again. She showed us her peoples baskets and the plants who’s fibers were used to make them. We talked about the imprisonment of the women by the mission and forced marriage to Mexican men from Mexico. We also talked about the fact that the Mission curators were making changes and trying to be more honest in their portrayal of the Mission’s treatment of the first people. Of course all of the people with indigenous blood who live in the area are allowed to enter the mission for free and bring guests so our visit was free.

After a lingering meal, we finally headed back to the LA airport and dropped Raul off. He was headed to a two day meeting in Buenos Aires with the indigenous rights organization that I spoke of earlier before finally returning to JuJui and his family. I just heard yesterday that he had returned safely and would write us a report soon.

Raul has also written a report which I am currently translating and it should be here soon in English and Spanish. Without the generous contributions of the Covenant Raul would not have been able to attend this event. 
Hugs to All 

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