Standing Together: On the Brink of History

Standing Together: On the Brink of History

This is a REPOST and MUST READ of an outstanding blog by Paul McKenzie-Jones

Source: Standing Together: On the Brink of History


We are currently witnessing the largest collaboration of North American Indigenous nations in a generation, coming together to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux to protect water and land resources against yet more oil pipeline expansions in North Dakota. However, when I say we are witnessing, I mean those of us who follow the relevant social media accounts, Facebook pages, or have friends and family who are there, at the blockade. What is happening in North Dakota is a movement of historic proportions, a display of Indigenous unity not seen since the Red Power era of the 1960’s and 70’s, and yet to the larger public, this event is invisible, unreported, and unnoticed, much like Indigenous people themselves for the past century or so.

I was originally planning to write a blog about national monuments and the erasure of American Indians through commemoration, and I may still do so, but current events have taken over my personal news feed to such an extent that I felt compelled to write about this. In 1964, Herb Blatchford described the fish-in protests of the Pacific Northwest as the “largest intertribal gathering since the Little Big Horn.” Clyde Warrior described it as a “the beginning of a new era in American Indian history” when “American Indians would no longer sit on the sidelines.” That event kick-started a movement that led to Alcatraz in 1969, Wounded Knee in 1973, and the passing of the Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in 1975. Self-determination was a massive shift in federal Indian policy away from termination and assimilation that is still (mostly, when the Supreme Court is not busy undermining it) in effect today. A new era indeed.

Current events feel that significant, as if a major point in history is happening again, right now. Back then the issue at stake was the right to expect treaty promises to be upheld. Now it is the right to expect access to pure, uncontaminated, and water. It is inspiring to watch video links of tribal coaches bringing people into the campground, to see photographs of people filling up their cars with supplies before travelling to the campground. To read statement after statement from Indigenous nations offering support to the Standing Rock Sioux. To see video of horses in full regalia being ridden at the front-line of the blockade. And so much more. In 1964, Blatchford, Warrior, and other Red Power leaders such as Mel Thom, Hank Adams, Billy Frank Jr. made local news, international news, and even an appearance on the Today Show for a few of them, bolstered as their fight was by public support from Marlon Brando, one of the most famous actors in the world at that time. Even then though, there was no major national news coverage, and even now, that support has been historically erased and replaced by his public support for the American Indian Movement at the Oscars in 1973. Moving back to the present however, and rather ironically, another Little Big Horn reference has been made. I apologize in advance that I cannot remember exactly who said it, or whether I saw it on Facebook or Twitter, but in reaction to the alliance of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho at this time, in this era, it was noted – to paraphrase – that the last time these three nations came together, they kicked Custer’s ass. Such is the sense that history is being made. Again.

Pipelines leak. A lot. And this has motivated this current collaboration of indigenous peoples. The sheer scale of collaborations between citizens of so many nations, many traditionally enemies, and formal letters of support from tribal governments, is unprecedented in the modern era. On a numbers scale, there are probably as many people – it has been noted that many are not warriors, activists, protestors (protectors is much more apt) but just people. Concerned Indigenous people standing up for clean, unpolluted water – gathered at the pipeline as there were at the 1964 fish-ins.

So, we currently have over 1000 American Indians blockading a pipeline construction site in North Dakota, and almost no major media coverage. Despite the country’s obsession with oil. So far, I have seen only a story on NBC news’ website, but no television coverage beyond Democracy Now. Likewise, no major newspaper coverage beyond Indian Country Today and The Guardian. In a ‘news’ cycle perpetually looping on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Donald Trump’s latest faux par, and Ryan Lochte’s bathroom shenanigans, it seems there is no space to cover an Indigenous movement to protect the land, the water, and the planet. Not that this is especially surprising. In January, when global leaders gathered in Paris to discuss climate change, they, and the media, ignored the thousands of Indigenous people, from all over the planet who were demanding access to the talks and the ability to share their knowledge, and thousands of years’ worth of experience in sustainability. Despite the fact that 80% of world’s biodiversity is found on Indigenous lands, which accounts for 10% (legally recognized) of the global landmass, Indigenous voices and concerns are too often ignored when it comes to solving current climate issue, or trying to prevent future problems such as pipeline leaks. The media were quick enough to congratulate themselves for covering the Flint water crisis after thousands of homes were supplied with contaminated water, but are slow to cover this attempt to stop such future contamination taking place. Maybe human misery makes better headlines, and so the media would rather wait until after the water has been contaminated, which will eventually happen.

Pipelines leak.  A lot. And river cleanups are a lengthy and expensive process. According to reports, the pipeline under discussion was deliberately moved south away from urban areas to avoid potential leakage issues. It was this decision that has brought the pipeline route so close to the Standing Rock Sioux and their reservation. Which to some observers, makes this simply an “Indian issue” which is something that can be conveniently ignored. As it was when the Navajo had their rivers poisoned by the EPA, of all organizations. And that speaks again to erasure, which I will cover more in the other blog.

But this is also the crux of ignoring the current clarion call of America’s Indigenous nations, who are also beginning to receive support from Indigenous peoples from other continents. This water that they are trying to protect, is not just theirs. This water is for all of us. As a popular saying goes, and again I’m paraphrasing, “everybody loves the Indian who talks about the land and the water, but they hate the Indian who talks about the genocide and removal.” It’s about time we started listening to those who do both.  Instead of romanticizing and eulogizing about the indigenous relationship to the land, we should recognize that this romanticized relationship was science then and is science now. Indigenous people are our global conscience. They didn’t ask to be, our incessant desire for land, expansion, subjugation and plunder has created this role for them. And I’m sure they would much prefer it if we were capable of nurturing the world without them having to remind us all the time. But, now that they are, we need to listen.

Pipelines leak. A lot. And the leaked oil gets into our land, and our water. Without land, we cannot grow, or graze, food. Without water we cannot grow, or graze, food. Or plants, for oxygen. And without land, or water, or food, or oxygen, we die. Or become ever more dependent on those who do have land, and water, and food, and oxygen. So we need to take notice, and bear witness to what is hopefully the beginning of a new cycle. Of Indigenous voices being heard. Of Indigenous people being recognized, as people, as experts, as equals.  We need to stand together with the Indigenous peoples of the world. We need to bear witness to history being made, as the black snake of Lakota prophecy is beaten back, and the 7th Generation speaks up for us all.  We need to start listening, before water is like oil – inaccessible for everyday people at the sources, and only accessible from a few corporate monoliths who have complete power over supply, demand, and (inexorably ever-rising) cost.


A Beautiful Medicine Wheel Teaching

Shared from: Balanced Lifestyles, Teachings for Knowledge Seekers with Delbert Joseph Sampson Created by: Indigenous traditional cultural stories by Emily Jane Henry. For more see:

October 5, 2015 at 8:09pm ·

DelbertJosephSamsonThe Elder was invited to present at lecture on respecting diversity. After smudging and praying, he walked up to a flipchart stand and stood beside it. He began his teaching, ‘The Medicine Wheel represents our people’s way of life; it represents our beliefs and traditional teachings that have existed since the beginning of time. Different Indigenous nations and Elders have their own teachings and interpretation on the Medicine Wheel, and the teaching I will share with you is one that I have been taught.’ The Elder drew a Medicine Wheel on a flipchart and as he drew, wrote and spoke, he described the elements, four directions, life cycles, seasons and animal totems of the wheel. Next, he described the different quadrants representative of emotions, thoughts, physical, and metal aspects of the wheel experienced by people as they journey through their life. He also described the sacred medicines associated with the Medicine Wheel. He said, ‘what I shared with you is just a little bit about the sacred wheel. The wheel has so many teachings it would take days to share all of them and we would still not be finished learning everything there is to know; however, I wanted to tell you just a little bit about what I learned.’

The Elder gently removed the sheet containing his words and pictures and taped it close by him so that the participants in the circle could easily see it. He drew another Medicine Wheel; only on this drawing the lines of the connecting the different quadrants of the wheel had wide gaps between the lines making them quite distinct, leaving only a small space to write a few words within the quadrant. Within the small spaces he wrote the names of white, yellow, red and black nations. He spoke at length about the different gifts each of the nations brings to the world.

As he continued with the teaching, he continually referred to both of his flipcharts to enhance his teaching. The Elder paused until he felt he had every person attention and then he said, ‘I want to tell you something extremely important and I needed your full attention. I am going to share with you one of the most important teachings of the Medicine Wheel; everything and everybody on this wheel is equally worthy. This means that we, the two-legged, are equal to the mouse and the Eagle; and this follows with the rest of creation, in nutshell; we are simply considered equal. Think about that for a minute, we are no higher or no lower than any other part of creation. Now what I want to share is extremely important to our wellbeing and growth as a spiritual being; and so it is important that you get this; every nation on this wheel is equal, whether they are from the white, red, black or yellow nation. This means that if you follow the way of the Medicine Wheel teaching that there is no place for racism or discrimination.’ The Elder then spoke about the love of Creator of all the nations and that our prayer of ‘All my Relations’ includes every nation on Mother Earth, as well as all of Creation. The Elder continued, ‘the teaching of the Medicine Wheel is beautiful because it represents balance and a holistic view of life. It represents respect for self and creation; it means we honour both equally. Did you hear that? I just said that the teaching of the wheel means we are meant to love ourselves equally as we would others or creation. Isn’t beautiful? But, how many of us do that?’

The Elder returned to the large gaps of the different quadrants and said, ‘I guess you noticed that I left a great big space between the lines connecting the wheel. I did this because there are people that sit in these lines as well. Without these people, our world would be lost. We would be poorer as a human race. These lines represent the people who have different nations living within their body; for example, they may represent the white and red nation, the yellow and white nation, the black and white nation, the red nation and black nation, and so on. Sometimes, these spiritual beings may have many nations of the wheel blended to make them uniquely who they were meant to be. Oh, my relatives how blessed we are that we have brother and sisters who are of a blended race. The people from the blended nation possess the unique gifts from their nations, which live in balance in one person. How can we do anything else but celebrate the people of the blended nations. What joy it is that many of us have the gift of having the blended nations in our families, communities or that we ourselves come from the blended nation.

My relatives, I also ask you to consider that when you learn about the Medicine Wheel don’t forget those who come all nations and live with a disability. Also, the two-spirited peoples of the world bring beautiful gifts to the Medicine Wheel. Two spirited people, the people who self identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Although they may live in one quadrant or are from the blended nation, they too have a unique place on the Medicine Wheel for they bring gifts into the world that we would be lost and poorer should we not have the honour of having these beautiful spirits in our lives. My relatives, what joy it is that many of us have the gift of having people with disabilities or who are two-spirited in our families, communities or that we, ourselves possess these beautiful gifts ourselves. How can we do anything else but celebrate the kind of diversity found in the teachings of the Medicine Wheel, we are indeed blessed’.

The Elder was about to make a further point when suddenly a hand shot up high in the air. The Elder asked, ‘do you have a question?’ A woman stood and said, ‘Elder I do not mean offence; I just have to ask a question that I have been struggling with. Lately, we have heard of people who have self-declared as having Indigenous ancestry and we learn about researchers that prove these people made false declarations. Personally I have encountered people who claim Indigenous ancestry and those who also say they were adopted into native families and then take jobs or student seats meant for Indigenous peoples. The exact same people who claim ancestry never once said anything until a job was opened or a promotion was on the line or until special program funding became open for Indigenous students; all of sudden they are claiming ancestry. Please Elder help me make sense of this? What is going on with these people?’

The Elder replied, ‘yes, this subject has been raised more and more these days. In my own family I have my relatives marrying non-native people and they have had children. One of my own sons married a non-native woman and they gave 3 beautiful grandbabies. Many of the children take after my side, while some take after their non-native side. One of my grandbabies was born with light blond hair and grey eyes. He is 8 now and his hair is darker but has flecks of blonde highlights and he is fair-skinned. His brother and sister also have fair skin but they have hazel eyes. My auntie met a man and fell deeply in love, he was from England; he is a super nice guy, he was one of my favourite uncles. We are treaty and my auntie lost her status because the law said so. Men who didn’t think much of women put the laws in place. They didn’t know or perhaps care about our view of women or Lifegivers and how much esteem we held them in. As a result, my auntie lost her rights and only later when strong lifegivers fought for their rights, did she regained hers as well. She had children and I have cousins who are fair-skinned. I have witnessed people picking on my relatives and my grandchildren, specifically disputing if they were really native or not. One of my relatives turned his back on his people altogether because he was so harassed about his declaration of native ancestry. Today he claims his father’s heritage rather than fighting to be believed he is Indigenous.

Personally, I will not judge a person’s ancestry by skin colour. Having said that, I too have heard of people making claims of being Indigenous. I do not know why that a person might do this. I can only guess at the reason. I think for some they did not have a sense of belonging to their people and found a connection with ours. Sadly, some people take advantage of peoples kindness. I feel sad for them. Just like my relative who now claims to be European because his own people shunned him. Our Medicine Wheel Teachings help us to learn that there are gifts from every nation in each of the four quadrants. We learn that individual from each quadrant should cherish the gifts of their nation; however, some can’t see the gifts and are disconnected from their nations and ancestry for various reasons. For a time they visit other nations quadrants and some get so comfortable they stay in another nations quadrant; until they convince themselves they belong. Native people belief system is built on relationships and some will adopt other nations, in a traditional sense; meaning there is no legal documentation just an understanding that they accept the person as extended family. It is up to the ‘adopted’ person to decide whether they should promote themselves as native. When people search for belonging sometimes it is at a cost. They disrupt the balance they might achieve in the quadrant they actually belong to. Having said that, no matter the skin colour; we are all related. What I wish is that my relatives, from different quadrants find peace within themselves and honour their Ancestors and beautiful heritage. Still it is their walk and not mine. What I do my best to do is to look for the similarities in people I meant and honour the differences – no matter what quadrant they are from.

Basically, what I am sharing my relatives is that we all belong on the circle of life. We are all spiritual beings regardless of our ability, orientation or nation; we are truly equals; equally loved by Creator. When we turn our backs, ignore, disregard, or feel superior to anyone else, we cannot claim to walk on the Red Road or to live by the traditional teachings, because our sacred teachings and our Creator simply do not discriminate. Should there be any such destructive thoughts and feelings, they come solely from those who harbour this kind of negativity; and with all that I am, I pray for them. I pray that they find their place on the sacred Medicine Wheel.

My relatives, I offer you this teaching with the pure intention of love. I offer this teaching with my love for creation and for my fellow spiritual beings experiencing a physical journey called life. Thank you my relatives, you have honoured me with your kind attention. May Creator bless you; for you are all my relations and my wish for you is that you honour the gift of your life by loving and honouring yourself and others.

Kākithaw niwākomākanak (All my Relations),
Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw
Emily Jane Henry (Home Territory: Ochapowace First Nation)

Picture used with permission: Elder Delbert Sampson

Condors, Hula, and Redefining Holidays

California Condor in Zion NP_2


Today, instead of recognizing Christopher Columbus, I honor the indigenous displaced and the hope for a future that can and will integrate peoples without taking and harming.

Yesterday while I was driving home from Big Sur and sitting in almost stopped traffic on 101 somewhere around the vicinity of San Jose, the recorded (rather than live) version of this beautiful song came onto my iPod. It is a mele that I haven’t danced a Hawaiian hula to in a very long time but is one of my very favorites. I prefer this Keola Beamer song with Carlos Nakai rather than just Beamer. It always puts me in a deep state of reverence and thoughtfulness, which is a much better way of being in traffic than feeling frustration and impatience. 

Anyhow, about half-way through the song, one large, magnificent bird came out of nowhere, swooped down in front of my windshield and then circled above me for the duration of the song. I looked at the other cars around me but no one seemed to be looking up at it.

I’m pretty sure it was a condor. White-ish head and large black and white wingspan.

Whatever it was, felt like a blessing.

It left me stunned, and honored of course. So much that I didn’t even realize that I had missed my turnoff to 680 until I ended up in SF and Berkeley. No matter.

A condor has different medicines depending on the tribal culture and interpretation, but generally has the energy of unity and peaceful sharing. It carries with it a powerful prophesy with the eagle. There are many writings on this, but here’s a quick and easy one:…/

Today I honor the hopeful reality of loving unity, between cultures and classes, that all may thrive and feel safe to practice their own lineages, visions, inner-knowings and personal teachings.

~To sacred ground and sacred space for each his or her own and generations to come. ~ Suz

Women’s Annual Breitenbush Retreat 2015

So far I’ve held two retreats at Breitenbush Hot Springs and Retreat Center, 2014 and 2015. Each time, the bowl has been a major tool that we’ve used to find center and balance.

Like many ceremonies, I don’t take a lot of pictures. Here’s the beautiful JayaEagleHeart praying at the bowl.

Jaya at Breitenbush 2014

Agnes Pilgrim Advocates for Clean Water | OPB

 Here’s a great, short video of Grandma Agnes Baker Pilgrim and one of the International Council of 13 Grandmothers.
A must watch and it’s only 1 minute, 35 seconds.  Inspirational!

Original post: 2.7.13 by Pat Kruis


Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim

“We grandmothers have come from far and wide to speak the knowledge we hold inside. In many languages we have been told it is time to make the right changes for our families, for the lands we love. We can be the voice for the voiceless. We are at the threshold. We are going to see change. If we can create the vision in our heart, it will spread. As bringers of light, we have no choice but to join together. As women of wisdom we cannot be divided. When the condor meets the eagle—thunderbirds come home.” – Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim

Agnes Baker Pilgrim (Federated Tribes of Siletz) is the oldest living member of her tribe. Grandmother Agnes has been honored as a treasure of her people. She brought back the traditional Salmon Ceremony along with other traditions that were soon to be forgotten. She is the oldest on the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers at age 90 and the spokesperson for them. She has been an outspoken “voice for the voiceless”, speaking out for animals, trees, the water and all beings. In 2008, a mountain peak was named after her in Oregon to honor her work in the world.

Prayer as an Act of Consciously Connecting

Naomi at the bowl

I show pictures of the bowl but I don’t talk about it that much.  People have been asking, so the time has come:

The medicine bowl represents earth energy and the sacred womb of creation. Water represents flow in our lives, transformation, and wellbeing. Going to the bowl is an act of surrendering what no longer serves, offering a blessing for flow in the world, appreciating gifts already given, and receiving a blessing for greater flow in all areas of one’s life. Things grow, transform, or die within a womb or womb space.

The word “pray” “praying” or “prayer” gets thrown around a lot, yet has its own meaning to each of us.

“Praying” for me is an uncomfortable term because it is steeped in religious beliefs that I grew up with but do not believe in. However, I DO use the term anyway as an easy reference for “consciously connecting” with the living earth around me, as well as the natural rhythms of the universe, all those who came before me who live within my blood (and who I carry on for), our future generations, my inner compass, and the vaster, higher guidance and intelligence that I detect—and feel would be stupid to ignore.

Prayer is the act of making a connection. When we use items such as an ancient medicine bowl as a still point, or perhaps take a hike in the woods, we connect to the channels of other people, plants, animals, and rhythms. Touching the stone bowl or surrounding ourselves with nature reminds us of the timeless values that must not be forgotten for our survival. We must understand the environment we live in and we must learn how to be connected to others in order to survive. Finding gratitude and love for both creates a rich, non-manmade spiritual life.

Consciously connecting gives us the opportunity to create our own earth/spirit alignment, the place from which all light and love flows effortlessly. The more we can align consciously, the more we’ll begin to operate from that place unconsciously.

JeanStarWolfI was gifted this bowl by Lakota elder/sister, Morning “Star” Wolf, who continues to tell me stories and share her visions as they come to her. “Rock” to her people are called Inyan…the Stone People. “They are the record keepers, the first beings on this planet. They have sat silently watching the millennia pass and are very wise.” They hold all of the laughter and the tears. They nurture. They are solid, yet can transform into dust and can be hold the static of lightening. They hold male and female energy.

That’s a powerful thought when you consider what is around you and supporting you here on Earth.

So how did a white girl end up with this bowl? When we go back far enough, the bowl belonged to no people—but only to Gaia, or Mother Earth. When we reach back far enough into our own DNA, we all hold the indigenous; we have all walked with the sacred geometry of the rhythms. We have all held the tools of survival in harsh conditions. We all know these ways if only we’d allow ourselves to remember.

I bring forward and bridge with my mainstream upbringing the teachings of Celtic, African, Native American, Hawaiian, and Pacific Coast beach girl, along with a particularly strong affinity for a respected Feminine lineage, all characteristics that serve a medicine carrier well in order to serve the medicine piece that is meant to help balance the planet. Star Wolf had a vision about me. She saw it as the perfect companion for my work with the lunar rhythm of women. She feltTeya Jacobi that the bowl had been waiting for me for “a very long time”. She put me through a simple and beautiful ceremony. She calls it, “Unci Inyan”, Grandmother Stone Bowl. The name that came to me was Aluna, and a friend of mine calls it Red Bowl of the Ancients.

It is a great honor to be a medicine carrier of an stone medicine bowl and a responsibility I do not take lightly. I feel very reverent about it. I’m loud about other things but I’m not loud about this. I simply show up to gatherings with it or share it with those in need of something rich and grounded for healing. I create an alter of flowers, and attendees add alter pictures and items.

Grandma Aggie of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers loves this bowl. I have had the honor of assisting her in ceremony with it three times.

Thank you for listening as I speak,

Suz xoxox

Blessing Mt. Ashland 2014 and 2015

Me holding space 11164604_10204315023575979_1738194937504253192_n Mother and Child

I failed to post 2014 pics, so I am combining the ceremonial photos.

Because we needed snow so much, there were two ceremonies in 2014! One in the spring and another in November, I think.

Then, in April of 2015, we held the usual annual.

Each year and each ceremony is very different and each is incredibly special.

We gather to bless our snowpack, that it may be abundant, so that all may thrive. Unci Inyan, Grandmother Stone Bowl has been present since I received her in 2013 for all to give thanks for healthy flow in their lives and to receive blessings from.

My first Mt Ashland Blessing was in 2011. At that time, I used a crystal singing bowl for the water blessing ceremony. It was incredibly beautiful in the snow.

Snow was sparse this year again, but the love was not. Here are pictures that were sent to me. Teya Jacobi always takes phenomenal pics. I’m sorry to say I don’t know who took some others, but I am grateful that they fell into my hands. nancy-bloom1-Devon-closeup-flipped-Tidings-JD-Anderson-207x270BobcatMtA_4.14PremaMayiNaomiKerongo

The River Called My Name

The river called my name so I packed my medicine bundle and followed the path of my heart. As I walked the Tree People reflected the faces of the Elders who walked this path before me. I walked with purpose to serve the intention of helping others feel power in who they are.  ~Susan Menanno

And So It Is that January Begins Another Growing Cycle

I live in right in the middle of many acres of vineyards. The action began slowly about 3 weeks ago, with a truck or two driving up, quiet conversations going on out in the barren grapevine rows. With every passing day the energy geared up until a small crew of women and men started making their daily appearances, trimming off dead wood and doing general cleanup. Happy conversations have been going on out there, which I can’t make out but enjoy the vibe of. A lot of laughing. I love that. They’re doing beautiful work. Everything is looking so tidy.

Tractors and trucks have made their debut as well. Today I hear a tractor that I think is gathering up and chipping the leftovers to be used in landscaping projects I imagine. Exciting.

Clearly, Todd the Loverboy Cat is not as impressed. Since he has taken possession of the vineyards, scaring the farm dog and keeping the other cat from the lookout tower, his job has become serious business. Laying on the window sill soaking up the sun, he’s focused on two guys a few rows out. He’s looking concerned, annoyed, and protective, but resigning to the action that is obviously not going away and that I seem to not be worried about.

And so it is that January begins another cycle of grape growing and everyone figuring out and settling into their jobs. Even the cat.

Peace Village 2014 Opening Ceremony

Peace Village 2014

Peace Village 2014

Hawaiian Ceremonialist, shaman, & musician, Lyn Unihipili Moreno, aka, Pili provided the phenomenal opening and closing ceremony for Peace Village Festival in Ashland, Oregon at Jackson Wellsprings. During the ceremony, he played, “Mele Ohana” and Kathy Balint and I danced a beautiful hula choreographed by the beautiful Kumu Hula Raylene Ha’alelea Kawaiae’a.

Following the ceremony, Pili held a Hawaiian water ceremony with Unci Inyan, the stone medicine bowl.


The bowl was then set up on a table, under a tree for people to attend throughout the festival weekend.