Now That the Buffalo’s Gone

I have a couple of books of daily readings I occasionally look at. I like the title “The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day,” which Quakers also seek to do.

I’ve recently been thinking about spirituality in terms of sharing with others. I’ve been asked to speak to a group of people who have a long history of social justice work but also a variety of faith backgrounds, if any. My justice experiences have reinforced my belief that such work needs be based on a spiritual foundation.

Far too often I’ve seen or heard about social justice efforts that have actually done significant harm rather than good. A specific example I have been studying lately was the disaster of the Indian Boarding Schools. Quakers and others in those times believed it would be in the best interest of Native peoples to forcibly assimilate their children into White culture. Instead those children and their families suffered greatly, in many ways. A number of the children died from disease or exposure when they ran away from the schools. Native peoples are to this day experiencing significant multigenerational trauma from that. As the song below says, “Oh it’s all in the past you can say, but it’s still going on here today“. More information can be found here:

Thomas Weber, head of Scattergood Friends School, Introduces Paula Palmer’s presentation at the school.

I don’t believe those good intentions could have come from spiritual guidance. As for speaking to this secular group I guess the best I can do is express my experiences and beliefs about the importance of spiritual guidance for this work.

October 13 A Native to Know

Cree musician Buffy Sainte-Marie was raised by a Micmac couple in Canada. She was world-famous by the 1970s for her singing and songwriting especially protest songs like “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone.”

“We may misunderstand, but we do not misexperience.” Vine Deloria Jr., Lakota, Standing Rock Sioux.

365 Days of Walking the Red Road, The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day, Terri Jean.

October 13

I traveled thousands of miles along our winding trails, the unbroken solitudes of the wild forest, listening to the songs of the woodland birds. –Pokagon, Potawatomi Chief, 1833

A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume Two, Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Can you remember the times
That you have held your head high
and told all your friends of your Indian claim
Proud good lady and proud good man
Some great great grandfather from Indian blood came
and you feel in your heart for these ones

Oh it’s written in books and in song
that we’ve been mistreated and wronged
Well over and over I hear those same words
from you good lady and you good man
Well listen to me if you care where we stand
and you feel you’re a part of these ones

When a war between nations is lost
the loser we know pays the cost
but even when Germany fell to your hands
consider dear lady, consider dear man
you left them their pride and you left them their land
and what have you done to these ones

Has a change come about my dear man
or are you still taking our lands
A treaty forever your senators sign
They do dear lady, they do dear man
and the treaties are broken again and again
and what will you do for these ones

Oh it’s all in the past you can say
but it’s still going on here today
The governments now want the Navaho land
that of the Inuit and the Cheyenne
It’s here and it’s now you can help us dear man
Now that the buffalo’s gone.

Buffy Sainte-Marie – 1964
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