More about stories…

I’ve been writing about the Thanksgiving/Truthsgiving holiday as an opportunity to talk about the true history of the relationships among White and Native peoples.

And I’ve been sharing some of my stories because I think storytelling is a way to start conversations about things people tend to have strong feelings about. Instead of a confrontation between opposing sides, focusing on a story helps guide the discussion and hopefully keeps it from getting too confrontational.

I hope there might be occasions at your family gatherings to make a little progress in decolonizing without causing too much hurt and conflict. There are a lot of resources about decolonizing at Decolonizing Quakers. My blog has a lot of stories: You can use the SEARCH box on the right side of the blog. There are a lot of stories about the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, for example.

Many people think what happened in the past doesn’t involve them, they have no responsibility. But I have learned that trauma is handed down from generation to generation. I have seen how my Native friends continue to suffer from past traumas.

While usually not as visible, White people, if they are aware of these traumas, have also suffered. If not aware, education is important. Healing can’t begin until the truth is acknowledged.

Nahko’s video at Standing Rock tells a very graphic, video story. Watching it as a group would probably stimulate some conversation. You should watch it yourself first to get an idea of whether to share it or not.


From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

When the order to move on comes, the Warrior looks at all the friends he has made during the time that he followed the path. He taught some to hear the bells of a drowned temple, he told others stories around the fire. His heart is sad, but he knows that his sword is sacred and that he must obey the orders of the One to whom he offered up his struggle. Then the Warrior thanks his traveling companions, takes a deep breath and continues on, laden with memories of an unforgettable journey.

Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (p. 133). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

In contrast with some of the other media personnel who showed up to capture the stories of the water protectors at Standing Rock, Rivas was intentional about giving before he took. Observing tradition, he would show up with tobacco to offer before asking permission to document a person’s experience. Rivas even incorporates this into his language about the work, straying away from the traditional framework of “taking” photos — “because I don’t take. I create. I’m not taking photographs, I’m creating images.”
Rivas also acknowledges that “it’s an intimate thing, when you have a camera.” A photograph belongs both to the subject and the photographer, but the subject is usually in a more vulnerable position — especially in a place like Standing Rock, where people were making sacrifices, and grappling with all sorts of issues and traumas. These wounds are communicated both with tenderness and frankness in Rivas’s work.

I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother’s back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take. Wiingaashk belongs to herself. So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. This braid is woven from three strands: indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. It is an intertwining of science, spirit, and story—old stories and new ones that can be medicine for our broken relationship with earth, a pharmacopoeia of healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, in which people and land are good medicine for each other.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants . Milkweed Editions. Kindle Edition.

Following is the announcement of the release of the video “Love Letters to God” by Nahko and Medicine for the People, January, 2017. Josué Rivas, mentioned above, worked on the video. The video is hard to watch, as armed law enforcement personnel attack unarmed people. Guns pointed into tipis. People being sprayed with water when temperatures are below freezing. Stories that you probably haven’t seen on the mainstream news media.

Calling on the tribe to share this message and the debut of our Love Letters to God video far and wide today.

Standing Rock is a dream. The epicenter for our morality and dignity. A place where dark and light communicate and they work it out.

Standing Rock is a vision. The wildest manifestation of our ancestors. The heart of humanity and the blood of the Earth. Water.

An elder said a true warrior always guards the heart of the women and for so long now we’ve forgotten about our mother. Earth is us, we are it. The ones that can heal a relationship that is wounded. The ones that pray over and over. Protect.

Our oral history is vital for our survival and when we blend it with visual art it creates a bond, a prayer. This video is a sacred offering to those that are hurting. Because we must remember that love is the root of all good. Because by giving we open up to receiving. Healing.

We offer this timepiece on a day that ushers in a new era for all protectors and people alike. An era that will need music to act as the thread between front lines and front doors.

Stay in the prayer.
We stand with you.
For all our relations.

Our support goes out to the independent media that has been on the ground at Standing Rock. Without them we would have been in a total black out. Their sacrifice allows us to see the truth.

Thank you Unicorn Riot Desiree Kane AdaMedia Med Mera Dr0ne2bwild Photography & Video Indigenous Rising Media Dylan McLaughlin Tomas Karmelo Amaya Josué Rivas Fotographer

Nahko and Medicine for the People
This entry was posted in decolonize, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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