Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings 6

This is the final part about conflict resolution outlined in Joy Harjo’s book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems

6. AND, USE WHAT YOU LEARN TO RESOLVE YOUR OWN CONFLICTS AND TO MEDIATE OTHERS’ CONFLICTS:

When we made it back home, back over those curved roads that wind through the city of peace, we stopped at the doorway of dusk as it opened to our homelands.

We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness.

We laid down our burdens next to each other.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition

As with the other parts of this series, I relate these writings to my experiences on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. That is probably in part because Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and often draws on Native American stories, languages and myths. The friends I made and what we did together, the hardships we went through and the joy we shared, had profound effects on me. My spiritual life has broadened and deepened. I love the sign below, “Earth is my Church”, that Alton and Foxy Onefeather carried during the March.

Alton and Foxy Onefeather

When we made it back home, back over those curved roads that wind through the city of peace” might not be meant to be taken literally, but I think of this as coming home at the end of the March, although they were very straight roads we traveled upon.

we stopped at the doorway of dusk as it opened to our homelands.” It was great to experience dusk in natural surroundings as we ate together and prepared our tents for the night.

We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness.” Whenever I think, or talk about the March, it is always about stories. The stories of our experiences during the March are fundamental to what the March was intended to, and did, accomplish. To help us get to know and trust each other. Following is one of my favorite quotations that beautifully expresses this.

ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY.

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

We asked for forgiveness.” I don’t know whether Joy Harjo was prescient, i.e. knowing things or events before they exist or happen, or whether part of “we knew ourselves” always reveals things we need to ask forgiveness for. But one of the most consequential events of the March for me was asking a friend for forgiveness for my ancestors’ involvement with the Indian boarding schools. Even though I’m sure most of them had the best of intentions. This is especially problematic for me because of what I have learned from my experiences with my friends, people of color, at the Kheprw Institute in Indianapolis. That it is fundamental to learn from oppressed communities, what they know their needs are. Not to try to come up with what I think are solutions.

We laid down our burdens next to each other.” After I sought forgiveness about the Indian boarding schools from my friend, he later told his family’s story related to forced assimilation. Months later there was another opportunity to thank him for sharing his story, and he said “thank you for listening.” I like to think of this as laying down our burdens next to each other.

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