While sitting with two sweet friends at Occupy Boston this past week, we talked about the necessity of grounding, of being in connection to our Earth Mother, to acknowledge and live the spiritual legacy of the indigenous soul, the spiritual imperative of oneness, the resonance of what and who we are as energetic humans with the energetics of the Earth and the universe - a very powerful and loving connection. 

While we sat there on the earth, what earth we could still find there in Dewey Square, the Occupiers guiding the General Assembly began to speak of indigeny, of statements of solidarity with indigenous peoples and with the original (and current) inhabitants of the place we now call Boston and Massachusetts.  They were speaking truth and acknowledging the need for reconciliation at a time when many misguided organizations and people in the world were busy engrandizing a criminal named Columbus who would usher in two of the world’s most tragic holocausts, one which included the enslavement of Africans and the dismemberment of their cultures.

This discourse on indigeny and the issues of colonization and settler-colonization are key to joining and creating change in, on and beyond Turtle Island.  One cannot suggest that they are searching for economic, political, social or environmental justice without engaging the dynamics of colonization, capitalist European exploitation and the systems and structures that have grown out of such dynamics.  To do any less would be to subvert the stated messages of “freedom from tyranny” and to reentrench the locus of liberation back to the privileged “49%”, the benefactors of white privilege (which includes that cursed 1% that everyone is talking about with such vehement and correct disdain) and the world of liberal/conservative politics (ultimately not so different since both have for so long actually been moderate and regressive protections of the dominant system of exploitation in the interest of the now-decreasing European settler majority).

John Bird, in his Indian Country Today Media Network article, sees light and possibilities in the deepening political root that is the Occupy movement.

“I feel like i have been waiting for this moment an entire lifetime.  More like a hundred lifetimes when I count the 500 years and lifetimes of all our indigenous ancestors who went to their graves wondering if justice would ever again prevail on Turtle Island.” (http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/why-i-am-occupying-wall-street/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=why-i-am-occupying-wall-street&utm_campaign=fb-posts)

Bird puts into perspective a socio-political and historical reality that many not directly involved in the Occupy movement are ignorant of or unwilling to engage due to capitalist/colonialist collusion and/or confusion.  Even many who are doing this neo-occupation are not aware of and/or willing to engage this larger, deeper conception of justice and liberation, one that illuminates the very underpinnings of the creation of the United States of America as a stable, though vicious settler-colony, sharing many similarities to the Republic of South Africa and it’s own creation.  Voortrekkers are not so different from the Laura Ingalls Wilders and Ben Cartwrights of the festering anti-spirit of manifest destiny that swept across Turtle Island like a disease of viral homo sapienity.  But there is and was always hope that that virus could be identified and healed like every other.  Bird goes on to say the following:

“”For me the OCcupy Wall Street movement is that new hope.  What I see in the Occupy Wall Street movement with its focus on economic justice which is entwined with social justice, growing and strengthening and merging with the environmental movement is the beginning of new hope.  not just for Native Americans, but for all Americans and all citizens of the world.  Our indigenous philosophies have always told us we are all related, we are all connected, we are all in this together.”

John Bird calls us to look at the ultimate unity of humanity through the clear lens of critique of the larger system of exploitation which has sent so many young and old, red and blue, union and non to the streets and parks across Turtle Island and beyond dissatisfied with the promises of a shallow and blind freedom that so many have accepted as truth for so, so long, in the face of all of our Ancestors who knew and know better and calls us to see and act upon the same.  Bird sees possibilities that resonate with the words of those General Assembly members who presented the resolution on solidarity with indigenous people here and outside of Turtle Island.

Recently, as posted on the Occupy Boston website, the United American Indians of New England put their support behind the Occupy Boston movements saying the following (in part):

“We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to re-imagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.

We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city, without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.“ (http://occupyboston.com/2011/10/14/united-american-indians-of-new-england-uaine-supports-occupy-boston/)

The UAINE, that regularly organizes the National Day of Mourning at Plymouth, MA each November, adds to the growing, but often tenuous support coming from Indian country and indigeny in general.  In Minneapolis, the Anishinabe, American Indian Movement and Meshikas of Mexico and central and south America came together to “reoccupy our sacred Mother Earth”, as voiced by Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of AIM and Anishnabe chief. He went on to say the following:
“We will join together as one on this day of national mourning of the genocide of 120 million indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, as American and the world celebrates the pirate Columbus.” (http://www.theuptake.org/2011/10/11/drums-dance-and-rain-occupy-peoples-plaza-in-minneapolis/)

Bellecourt’s words again give resonance to that larger challenge to the new Occupy movement, but call it into clarity about upon which and whose land they now Occupy and physically occupy in the name of democracy and freedom from economical, social and environmental injustice and exploitation.  Indigenous peoples here on Turtle Island and the Africans viciously transplanted here know all too well the largeness and nature of the challenge ahead.  It is particularly this awareness that gives many people of color and indigeny pause even as many see those rays of hope emanating from the current movement.  Vine Deloria, Jr., in his classic “Custer Died For Your Sins” laid out some of the differences in outlook and action on issues of civil and human rights, land and freedom as he explained what conditions existed that separated many Native Americans from the civil rights movement and European-dominated anti-war and burgeoning environmental movements.  His critique is important in facing some of the persistent barriers that exist between the multiplicitous cultural and political, let alone spiritual, interests that have come to coexist here on Turtle Island, however exploitatively and uncomfortably.  The Europeans that are dominating the discourse and presence in these Occupations must come to clarity and set a tone for inclusion that allows them to see that they are, in fact, joining a much older process, not simply creating something new that has no historical precedent.  But that is beginning to happen as workshops on race and white privilege are being organized and planned with multi-cultural groupings  forging ahead into the known/unknown of historical and future reconstruction and reconciliation.

In a Lenape response to the Occupy Wall Street effort, the call for deeper perspective and acknowledgement of indigeny comes through:
“As you ‘occupy Wall Street,’ I ask you to reflect: You are on the island upon which our Indigenous ancestors lived and thrived for thousands and thousands of years. Please take a moment to recognize that we, the Original Nations, still exist here on Turtle Island. We have the right to exist as free and distinct nations with full self-determination.” (http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/)

As I sat on the sacred earth with those two wonderful, conscious people, a reactionary, though lone, voice of white privilege rang out through the crowd giving voice to some very widely held fears and confusions around even the idea of indigenous peoples’ rights being acknowledged and manifested where so many offspring of the original colonizers have stakes in seeing the status quo maintained.  The Occupy movement in Boston and beyond, on Turtle Island and beyond will have to come to serious grips with the issues being raised and heard in their General Assemblies and from the villages, cities, reservations, bantustans and ghettoes of the world.  The success of the Occupation is dependent upon how deeply the neo-Occupiers engage and reconcile the stories and realities of the original Columbian era occupation and holocaust/enslavement/colonization/settler-colonization.  To fall short in this area would be tragic to those who still see, like this writer, that there is hope in the possibilities of what the Occupy movement represents for not only this settler-colonist country, but the world as a whole - current global capitalism would clearly have been a recurrent wet dream of Criminal Columbus, if you get the multi-suggestive drift.

In addition, the engagement of Columbia as a goddess of this settler-colonial reality can not be just another reactionary spiritual dynamic relegating it to the coming dustbin of predatory christian missiological and spiritual exploitation.  The Occupy movement and the responses to the DC40 initiative must be principled and ideologically clear.  The DC40 initiative is a spiritual and political blight on the populace, particularly those of us who support religious and spiritual pluralism and a logical return to the indigenous basis of human relationship to the physical and energetic world in solidarity and unity with the indigenous peoples who are still here, still strong and getting stronger.

John Bird ended his article as such:
“The window of opportunity to bend the course of history back towards justice is once again opening.  It will not stay open long.  Let us, Native Americans and all others who have not given up hope for a world based on real economic, social and environmental justice, not squander this opportunity.  IT MAY VERY WELL...BE OUR LAST.” [emphasis mine, US]
Much is at stake with regard to the DC40 and TI42 Initiatives and the promise of what they and Occupy movement and decolonization movement(s) mean and represent for all of humanity at this important juncture in human and earth history.
May we hear and heed the voices of our indigenous Ancestors loudly and clearly...and may they hear and heed our clearest voices of true freedom, justice and liberation for ALL.

Additional INTMN article in review for Part 2:
We're still catching up from a server outage on Monday. I realize that Criminal Columbus day has passed, but I didn't want to omit this particular article. It was sent to me by an interfaith minister with the hopes that it would raise awareness. There are some good suggestions there, even if it's not Columbus day. thank you, C. Anderson, for this submission.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to fully understand the legacy of Christopher Columbus, just as it calls us to respect and learn from indigenous peoples and support their struggles for social justice and religious freedom. Join Unitarian Universalists across the United States in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.

History of the Holiday

"Indigenous Peoples Day" reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance.

The idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was born in 1977, at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas.

Fourteen years later, activists in Berkeley, CA, convinced the Berkeley City Council to declare October 12 a "Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People." Henceforth, there has been a growing movement to appropriate "Columbus Day" as "Indigenous People's Day"; states such as South Dakota, Hawai’i, and Alabama have changed the holiday’s name and many more cities have taken similar action. Read more about the history of Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples Day.

Ten Ways to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

1. Craft a Sunday service around Indigenous Peoples Day. As you plan your service, invite those within your congregation who are Native people to participate in the planning and the service itself.

You might also want to check out worship planning tools from Multicultural Growth & Witness.

2. Find out whose land your congregation’s building was built on.

We are worshipping on stolen land. Who was yours stolen from? How has it changed hands since the colonization of North America? Local reference librarians, the staff at state historical societies, and professors of state history at local institutions of higher learning can quickly point to the best sources in your state or area.

3. Build and strengthen connections to nearby Native communities.

Make plans to attend an event hosted by a Native group or organization. Find out how your congregation can be of assistance regarding the issues nearby groups are working on or struggling with.

4. Take action to rename Columbus Day "Indigenous Peoples Day."

South Dakota, Alabama, and Hawaii have renamed Columbus Day. Other states (New Mexico, for one) have come close. Use the web to discover if anyone has tried to change the holiday in your city or state, and form a congregational task force to start or join the movement. Check out Denver’s Transform Columbus Day Alliance for more info and resources.

5. Provide age-appropriate education on Native lives and cultures as part of your congregation’s religious education programming. Take active steps to counter the dominant message that Native peoples are history by offering examples of present-day American Indian life, art, etc. Check out the books Through Indian Eyes and A Broken Flute. Go further by creating a task force to find out what your children learn about Columbus in school. You can use Lies My Teacher Told Me and Rethinking Columbus to evaluate textbooks and offer suggestions.

6. Hold a movie screening with a discussion afterward. There are a plethora of films that can generate rich discussion. Check out VisionMaker Video, a video catalog by Native American Public Telecommunications of films by and about Native folks (see, for example, the film Columbus Day Legacy). You can also make use of the video loan library from Multicultural Growth & Witness (look under "American Indian Issues").

7. Host a congregation-wide common read and book discussion. Just a few possible titles include A Little Matter of Genocide by Ward Churchill, Off the Reservation by Paula Gunn Allen, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Reinventing the Enemy's Language edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird, The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Linda Hogan, and Soul Work edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones. Check out (and support!) Native booksellers such as the North American Native Authors Catalog. You can also find books on the particular tribes in your area—check out this listing of books by tribe from Native Languages of the Americas.

8. Engage with "Immigration as a Moral Issue," the 2010-2014 Congregational Study/Action Issue. Indigenous peoples of Central America are a big part of today’s desperate wave of migration to the United States. Find out how the United States has continued Columbus’s violent legacy of colonialism against Central American peoples. Check out the study guide from Multicultural Growth & Witness.

9. Begin Building the World We Dream About, a transformational Tapestry of Faith curriculum on race and ethnicity. This program allows participants to take concrete steps to heal, individually and as a congregation, the ways in which racism separates us from one another and spiritually stifles each of us.

10. Take action for the rights and needs of Native peoples! Visit the Take Action web page in the Justice for Native Peoples section of our website for ways to take your celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day outside the congregational walls.

This article was actually something we were going to post yesterday, but weebly was updating their servers so toward the end of the day, we couldn't post. So, here you go now:

Some Thoughts on Columbus Day
By Laura Patsouris

"In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue"...

  There is so much history we are not taught. We are not taught about the rich cultures that were destroyed in the Conquest, we are led to believe that Columbus "discovered" the Americas when it already had a population of 100 million inhabitants. We are not shown the lithographs and artwork done *by Spaniards* documenting how they tortured and murdered Arawak, Caribe and Taino people and hacked up the limbs of the women and children to sell as *meat* to feed their hunting dogs. Instead we get a whitewashed version of history that glorifies Conquest and "Manifest Destiny" and gloss over inconvenient facts about genocide and slavery.

  The truth of the story is ugly. The truth is painful. But the only way to heal the pain and wounds of the past is to look it square in the eye. Because whether you are descended from the Conquerors or the Natives or the enslaved Africans on whose backs the Americas were built,(or if you're descended from all those groups combined like me) this is your History. You live in a land steeped in blood, whose soil holds the bones and the stories of all these people. Looking away and trying to think pretty thoughts will not undo reality or lance wounds that have festered. If we are all truly the walking incarnations of our ancestral lines (as I believe we are) then we are obligated to look at the past honestly and mourn it, lest we repeat those terrible errors.

  Atrocities happened. And we have inherited a world built on its foundations. The question now is, what are we going to do with it?

From Galina: Here is an excellent article (hosted by MIT) on Columbus’ Legacy of Genocide: http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v9/9.11/1columbus.html

And from Ukumbwa, another good suggestion for this particular day: we should boycott companies that hold Columbus day sales.

Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day

Here is part of the letter, please see the link for the rest at Indian Country Today Media Network. 

"Urban Outfitters Inc. has taken Indigenous life ways and artistic expressions and trivialized and sexualized them for the sake of corporate profit. Your company also perpetuates the worst stereotype of Indians. This is theft of our very cultural identity, no less so than the theft of our traditional homelands that began with Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas. On this day that America still celebrates as Columbus Day, I ask that do what is morally right and apologize to Indigenous peoples of North America and withdraw this offensive line from retail stores."

Right on!
We’re going to have another ‘did you know’ moment with your indigenous hosts, because apparently a few truths bear repeating:

  1. Columbus did not discover America. The Americas were already here populated by hundreds of indigenous First Nations. You heard me right: nations, as in independent cultures, economies, and governments. Columbus didn’t discover shit.
  2. What Columbus did do was usher in over 500 years of greed, colonialism, enslavement, degradation, and cultural genocide all of which continued into our modern day, and continues to impact this country and its indigenous peoples in negative ways.
  3. The indigenous cultures that populated the Americas prior to the arrival of Columbus and his crew were highly developed, rich, complex, and intelligent. They were men and women, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers living in sophisticated societies practicing their ancestral religions that were in no way “primitive” or in need of forced Christianization, colonization, and destruction.
  4. Historically, the Norse, Polynesians, possibly the Celts all arrived in America hundreds of years before Columbus. They did not feel the need to destroy and enslave what they found.
  5. Columbus was a bad navigator. He was looking for India. Seriously, people.
  6. If Columbus were alive today, he very likely would find himself on trial for crimes against humanity.
  7. Among his less than stellar crimes, was the wholesale selling of girls as young as ten into sexual slavery. Apparently, raping children was a popular hobby amongst the conquistadors. (Columbus, by the way, records this trade in his diary so we have it from his own hand).
  8. Columbus was actually arrested during his lifetime, specifically because of his wanton cruelty toward natives. The king and queen of Spain, however, pardoned him. He was bringing in too much cash to the crown.
  9. When Columbus arrived in Hispaniola, the population numbered about 3 Million people. Within fifty years, it numbered less than sixty thousand. That’s 3,000,000.00 to less than 60,000.00. Do the math.
  10. By honoring Columbus, we as a nation are giving our tacit seal of approval on the horrors perpetrated as a result of his arrival.
Happy Columbus Day? Um…no.

A very thoughful video: http://www.examiner.com/progressive-in-washington-dc/reconsider-columbus-day

because really, given the consequences of his arrival in the Americas,  celebrating columbus day is like celebrating Adolf Hitler day. Seriously.
I (Galina) recently learned from one of my students that there is a push in some circles to rename Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This apparently (and unbeknownst to me) began in Geneva, Switzerland  in 1977 at a UN conference on exploitation and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americans. I’m very grateful to my student for alerting me to this. A name change is a start. Granted, it’s nowhere near enough. It’s not enough to pay lip service to the idea of indigenous rights. There must, in some way, be apology and reparation. Moreover, the continued oppression of indigeny must be stopped.

The story of the ‘discovery’ of America is a story of greed, religious fanaticism, and conquest. This type of conquest began with the destruction of European indigenous traditions. First, monotheism in the form of Christianity spread from the Mediterranean into Europe. It fostered the forced eradication of indigenous religions and spiritual traditions. It brutally changed the cultural paradigm and destroyed and then replaced the dominant operating “filter.” Then, having succumbed and in some cases learned to collaborate in the destruction of their own ways, Europeans, in some weird cultural Stockholm syndrome, came across the ocean and did exactly the same thing to the Native nations here. Like any cycle of abuse, it just kept on going.

It’s about time we as a people and a nation take a good long look at where that cycle has brought us, because we can change it and it begins with little steps, sometimes seemingly insignificant ones. It begins with examining our own filters and being willing to admit our privilege. That’s no small thing but it is an essential starting point.

This is one of the reasons that ancestor work, honoring our dead, is such a vital step right now. They can help. We all have ancestors who lived through these times of conquest. We all have ancestors who lived organically those traditions that were destroyed. Even those ancestors who knew only monotheism can help us, for often with death and contact with elder kin, greater understanding and awareness is gained. They can help us all remove the destructive filter that has become our baseline operating system. We need only honor them and ask. There is a Lithuanian proverb: “the souls of the dead are the guardians of the living” and that is so very, very true. Especially here. Especially now. We cannot afford to forget that. The tremendous lack of balance in our world is going to take both sides living and dead working in tandem to correct. The souls of the dead truly are the guardians of the living. Honor them.

In the meantime, think about what you can do to honor your own indigenous roots, to honor the Native cultures of this land, and to begin to enter into this fight, which is, as a colleague of mine recently called it, a fight for the soul of this nation. It doesn’t matter how small the action. Something is always better than nothing and we all have to start somewhere. Here are a few simple ideas:

Nine things that you can do instead of celebrating Criminal Columbus Day:

1.       Hold a ritual honoring the land, Turtle Island, her spirit, and the ancestors of this place. Pour or lay out offerings.

2.       This one is just for the DC40 folks, who are horrified by the idea of Goddesses who hold the title “The Queen of Heaven.” Hold a ritual honoring one of those Goddesses. Set up a small shrine and maintain a regular devotional practice. (More on the current attack on the “Queen of Heaven” in a day or so. It is going hand in hand with these predators’ attack on religious freedom, human intelligence, and Turtle Island) and it’s a part of many ancient traditions, a part that was early, often, and vociferously attacked. Let’s take it back.

3.       This was another suggestion that I got from my student: several states (New Mexico, South Dakota, Alabama and Hawaii) have renamed Columbus Day. Do some research and find out if there has been any movement to do so in your state. If not, start one.

4.       Go visit a local Native American museum (like the Museum of the American Indian in NYC). Educate yourself about First Nations’ peoples and cultures. If you have children, take them along.

5.       Push for and/or organize a presentation in your local school touching on indigenous cultures and the real story of Columbus. Bring in Native presenters (because their story is not anyone else’s narrative to tell).

6.       Take this a step further and (again a suggestion from my student) push to find out what children are learning about in school about Columbus and the Conquest of the Americas. This book can provide useful resources: http://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Columbus-Next-500-Years/dp/094296120X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318217963&sr=8-1

7.       Have a movie night and discussion with friends and acquaintances. Choose something like “Rabbit Proof Fence,” (not American, but a story of horrors perpetrated against Australian aborigine tribes. They got the idea from the Americas).  “Incident at Oglala,” “Columbus Day Legacy,” or, if you want to talk about the destruction of European traditions, ‘Agora.” There are many good and pointed films on the market, these were just a few that came immediately to mind that might prove somewhat salient on the topic of destruction of indigeny.

8.       If you haven’t begun honoring your ancestors regularly, now is a good time and excuse to begin. There are several good articles here: Http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog/html under the tag ‘ancestors’ that can get you started.

9.       Donate to Cultural Survival at http://www.culturalsurvival.org. This organization’s specific goal is the protection, preservation, and growth of indigenous cultures as well as fighting for their rights.

  A big thank you to C.A. for some of the above suggestions and many blessings to you all.

...and then it is not the beginning, but a sacred, intensely political and powerfully Ancestral continuation of something that has been here since time immemorial - the sacred relationship of humans to the earth, to nature, to each other and to Spirit.  This is the validation of the indigenous soul as spoken of by authors and spiritual workers Nancy Jane, Martin Prechtel and Malidoma Some'.  It is the primary, most fundamental and harmonious state of humanity throughout all of human history.  It is the acknowledgement that we live in a polytheistic world, a world alive with energetic intelligence and human divinity.  This is not a world of fantastic perfection, but one of integral harmonious functional empowerment, a world of the consciousness of the oneness of all things, true unity consciousness and behavior.

And even though what we consider christianity is a dominant phenomenon in the world, it does not mean that it is not inherently aberrant and transgressive.  In the coming days, we will take continued opportunity to consider the power and grounded genius of the indigenous human imperative, particularly with relationship to the negative effects and nature of predatory christianity, the Doctrine of Discovery, manifest destiny and the fear-based threads of neo-manifest destiny missiology that the DC40 process represents.

I greet my Ancestors here and at my altar and in the sacred crucible of nature in which they developed our traditions.  Asante sana to my Ancestralized, empowererd Dead, to the wakale (Ancestors) of the Middle Passage and of Turtle Island and those that died on the Trail of Tears, on the battlefield of Wounded Knee and on the shores and hills of Guanahani, of Bohio at the hands and orders of Criminal Columbus.  I call upon these Ancestors to guide us in our work, in this continuing process of defining and refining our sacred and grounded relationship with All That Is.  May we continue the struggle, the intelligence, the love  and compassion and bravery of our Ancestors as we step forward into history.