Artful Land Care

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Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 17, 2018 at 11:37 am

A twenty-hour drive and I am back home on a sunny and clear Sunday morning.  Such a drive allows much time for reflection.  The last few weeks of visiting reservations of this ancient land, having many conversations, and living with young adults on the Standing Rock reservation gives one much to ponder.  Just the same, I spent as much of that driving time listening to TED Talk’s and music than I did pondering the past.  So, on this sunny Sunday morning, as I write this last piece on the Standing Rock trip, I settle upon one image of these last weeks.

Four mares stand in a temporary corral. They each descend from a particular time in the life of the Hunkpapa Lakota people.  Specifically under the leadership of Sitting Bull.  The story told is about Sitting Bull and a number of folk going to Canada after the Battle of Little Bighorn for safety.  They live there for a number of years.  During that time US representatives visited five times to negotiate their return to the US.  After the fifth time Sitting Bull and the people agree to return—under specific conditions and agreements.  When they returned their horses were taken from them and they confined to place—not the conditions and place agreed to.  The four mares standing in the corral before me are decedents of the Sitting Bull horses taken on that day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I’ve known about the Mandan people for more time than most westerners west of the Rockies.  Mostly because I married into a North Dakota family.  As one might suspect my knowledge was rather lacking as a white non-Native marrying into a white non-Native family. Of course my schooling was lacking in the Nativeness of the landscape as well.  My education was better than many, I figure, because my junior and high school years were the years of the Red Power movement.  Not only did I have access to nightly news events: Occupation of Alcatraz Island 1969-71, Wounded Knee incident 1973, but I went to a fairly progressive High school for the era that allowed for an edgy curriculum that include Native American studies.  Once I get to the bottom of it though, I knew nothing of indigenous history by the time I graduated High School.

Since last Saturday I have been hanging with a number of High School students in North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation where Dakota and Lakota (mostly) people live.  The reservation itself is a small piece of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which went through a great reduction after gold was found in the Black Hills in the early 1870’s—enough of that though, typical history can be looked up.  I find myself on the reservation because of two people, Laurie Pound-Feille and Bill Spangler-Dunning.  Read the rest of this entry »

Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 12, 2018 at 5:53 am

The eagle staff entered the powwow pavilion from the east.  From the river side.  Next comes flags and then dancers.  They processed clockwise around the pavilion with the staff and colors circling toward the pavilions center as dancers continued to enter. A shade structure frames the perimeter of the pavilion.  Twelve feet in width.  Circling the pavilion every ten feet are support posts holding the structure above the ground. Three rising seat benches make up the boundary of the pavilion. The last and highest bench backrest is five feet off the ground.

Standing outside the pavilion I used the top rail of the backrest to support a sketch pad as I sketch the pavilion’s doings.  Powwow’s have their own life.  Something or another is going on all the time, but there is an ebb and flow—dancing, conversations, drumming, eating.  Sketching has a way of filling out a powwow day.

I’m finishing a sketch when a young girl of eight or nine bounces down the bench, sits down, and asks what I am doing. I tell her.  I tell her how I try to show the support posts and the pavilion roof to give perspective to the dancers in the sketch.  She listens as I talk—but I know that little talk on perspective went nowhere and I need to get a grip on whom I am talking with.  Read the rest of this entry »

Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 10, 2018 at 5:52 am

Morning.  Stars filled the night sky when I last looked.  Then a good wind blew.  Moving clouds in.  Then out. Leaving just enough to catch and mix the morning sun rays into a painting a photo could never justify.

Morning and I find myself on 40 acres of the local Episcopal Diocese.  Acres who lie within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Nation. Not all that far from where protesting and water protection occurred just a few years ago.  Like so much, those days of protesting of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been lost in the continual data and news stream filling our phones, computers, and televisions.

Morning comes after yesterday evenings powwow.  The first for the young adults who’ve come to this place.  The evening was a moment of beginnings.  Sights.  Sounds. Dust. Conversation.  A group of non-Natives wondering what and whom and how this landscape is different than their home place.  Dancers, speakers, children.  A different story to learn.  Not new. But new to them.

Morning and the sun breaks over the horizon.

Coffee & Microwave 1

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections, YCM on May 8, 2016 at 8:00 am

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May 8, 2016  

Morning coffee has me thinking about giving up the microwave.  Our maker of electromagnetic radiation gave up the ghost about six months ago.  However, having returned from Ireland to a grant-based job—meaning the job could go away as the grant wrapped up—our daughter, Katherine, stayed with us until she obtained a non-grant job.  Which meant, we used her microwave.  It was bound to happen and sure enough, Katherine moved out with a non-grant job in tow.  As the Volkswagen bug headed down the driveway with an outstretched arm waving out the driver’s window, I saw the last of the microwave through the bug’s back window.

I figured I knew how often we used the microwave.  However, I never thought about how the microwave effected contemplative life.

When I finish chores in the morning I make a pot of coffee.  Then sit and read or write.  Inevitably, I forget my cup sitting beside me and the coffee turns cold.  Not a big deal, I put the cup in the microwave, set it for 20 seconds.  Hot coffee!  One does not need to pay much attention with a microwave on the counter.

No microwave and my like for hot coffee have led me toward drinking coffee thoughtfully.  Spring mornings allows for sitting at the outside table and listening to early birds sing as the eastern sky brightens.  A transitional time arrives each morning when rabbits leave the pasture and head back to the safety of the wild landscape.  Some mornings the owl arrives late to the roost and her swooping image is more than a silhouette.  Sipping coffee, watching, and thinking and may not be the way of the traditional contemplative, but it does lend to a quietness. Read the rest of this entry »

Family—99 %’s & Malheur

In Peace & Justice, YCM on January 10, 2016 at 9:24 am

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January 10, 2016

Never gave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge much thought before? Neither had I. I traveled nearby, once, a few years ago. Heading south to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, I skirted by to the west on the two-lane highway. I probably passed a sign telling me to turn east to the Refuge, but I missed it the high desert of sky and sage. Though traveling at 55 mph doesn’t allow for much, you can still catch your breath in this beautifully rural and open landscape

I find it sad that the first time most US folk become aware of this landscape it is not for its beauty.

Enough has been said about the gun toting, cowboy hat wearing folk who are living at the Refuge these days. However, as one who wears a cowboy hat, hunts, and whom neighbors think of as the local liberal, here are two more cents.

It figure it was about the time I first heard about #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS tweeting and folk wondering about calling this occupy movement domestic terrorism, that I began thinking about the Refugee occupiers and the now, mostly, defunct Occupy Movement/99 percent movement in the same light. Sure there is a difference between those who carry guns and those who don’t, but then again, who is feeling their lives are threatened by the few folk in the 10-30 degree weather of the east Oregon high desert, locals notwithstanding.

I find I agree about as much with the Refugee occupiers as I did with the Occupy Movement. In both cases, it seems most folk are/were about maintaining a middle (or higher) class existence for themselves. I want more land (the Refugee folk). I want a better job (the Occupy Movement). My friends who support one group or the other would say that is simplistic and it is more complicated than that. I’ll give you that. My question though, then as now, is when this is all over will you give of your time and resources to better the lives of those who have less? Read the rest of this entry »

Time To End The Holy Day of US Thanksgiving

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on November 22, 2015 at 9:02 am

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November 22, 2015

Indigenous peoples were thus credited with corn, beans, buckskin, log cabins, parkas, maple syrup, canoes, hundreds of lace names, Thanksgiving, and even the concepts of democracy and federalism. But this idea of the gift-giving Indian helping to establish and enrich the development of the United States is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources. (pg 5)

And so begins Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s storytelling in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Ortiz asks folk to consider an US history different from that which is traditionally taught in US schools, universities, and seminaries. Ortiz’s considers an US history told through the lenses of an oppressed people(s), helping US people understand how the Doctrine of Discovery, 1845 Manifest Destiny, and 2015 American Exceptionalism, has and continues to, damage and destroy American Indians.

Folk might do well to consider conversation they may have this week of Thanksgiving. Christians in particular should give thought to their conversation around the Thanksgiving supper table as light talk ends. An important conversation, because Thanksgiving Day in the US is a holy day developed by Christians for Christians. (Interesting, is it not, how Christians will complain that stores promote phrases like “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” and not grasp those stores are promoting the observance of a Christian religion holy day.)

The turkey is in pieces, the sweet potatoes half gone, chairs pushed back, folk have said their piece about what they are thankful for, and now is time to get a little edgy. Maybe a little political talk, perhaps risk a religious idea, or maybe it is time to talk on why it is time to end the US celebration of Thanksgiving.

Ask folk where the US Thanksgiving Day comes from in the first place and the answer is, often, either the elementary Plymouth Colony of Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a meal, or the reasoned 1863 Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. However, in 2015, neither is satisfactory as colonist-settler history loses its credibility in light of histories told from indigenous and people of color perspectives.

In 1637, Puritans found a White man dead in a boat. Read the rest of this entry »

Committing To End Racism and A Button Best Suited for the Back Drawer

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on September 6, 2015 at 8:16 am

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August 06, 2015

A few days ago I mentioned today is dedicated as “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism” by the African American Methodist (AME) community. I figure confession and repentance does not amount to a hill of beans if commitment does not equate to action.

To end racism folk must gather a diverse community together and think action through clearly. Done well, misses still occur. One reason is while the people who live and work within racist institutions (think all US institutions) may want to end racism, the institution does not. Instead, institutions prefer diversity work to anti-racism work. For no matter how diverse, an institution becomes, as long as the people hold the historical mindset of the institution, structural change does not occur and the institution remains as it is. Therefore, while many US institutions have become diverse their engagement in anti-racist work is at a minimum.

This is why “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism” is too likely to be a moment in time, at worst, and a day of supporting diversity at best. A hard pill to swallow, but playing diversity off as anti-racism is what the institutional church does well. A “for instance” of how anti-racist work gets the institutional backseat might be helpful at this juncture.

My attention has been drawn to the “Ask Me Why You Matter to Me” campaign of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As I looked over their website I found aspects of this movement I believe helpful. What gets in the way of taking it seriously though is the slogan chosen for the campaign reeks of institutional diversity rather than anti-racism.

Ask Me Why You Matter to Me sounds like an institutional “All Lives Matter” response to “#BlackLivesMatter.” One problem is the slogan does not give due to the harshness of the lives lived in a systemically racist society—For the mass number of racialized incarcerated people, Why You Matter to Me does not mean freedom. Another is the work and action is not mine but yours. You, people of color, American Indians, and indigenous people are to ask me why you matter. In the meantime, I can join my people (who very well may be diverse) for a book study or to watch a film.

What I can’t get over with this slogan is the idea of me wearing a Ask Me Why You Matter to Me button. Imagine me, white, straight, and male walking up to most any non-white male person with this button on my lapel. And let’s make this easy. Read the rest of this entry »

Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism?

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on September 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

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August 04, 2015

The folk of the African American Methodist (AME) community are dedicating this Sunday “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism.” Others (congregations, pastors, and Sunday morning preachers/speakers), are being asked to speak up, write up, and liturgy up alongside.

If 1960’s civil rights and power movements prove anything it is a country cannot legislate racism away. While housing, schools, health, and jobs are better for some, much is not and for many there is little discernable change. Though legislation can put a dent in systemic racism, real change comes about by putting an end to traits racism has embedded in the way people think, live, and act. The end of racism comes with the embodying of anti-oppression values—values which are yet to become normal in US schools, churches, businesses, and politics. This systemic reality is what makes the AME call so hard. Being raised in the US means all US people embody the roots of racism: white, black, brown, young, middle-aged, old. Moving toward an identity of anti-oppression and working to end racism is to know I am the hurt, I am the problem, and I am the solution.

This Sunday’s call is Wisdom shouting at the gates of the city; it is a call to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, heritage, or sexual orientation. It is a call to know I, you, we, the people, have one aspect or another of racism embedded in our being and it is tearing at our health, our wellbeing, and our relationship. For the hope of a day when our children’s children will know health, wellbeing, and good relationship we are called to confess racism.

There has been a fair amount of talking on the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) in this space. If the DoD speaks anything, it speaks to the subjugation of landscapes. The base of this subjugation is the extraction of landscapes resources. These resources are the landscapes soul, water, minerals, timber, wind, soil, and people. US Chattel slavery of 1830, farmworker slavery of 2015, Oak Flat copper, Ferguson, Canadian Tar Sands, coal removal, and Surinam mining are historical and current instances of US people, all US people, benefiting from one aspect or another of racism. The people are called to know the benefits they accrue from racist copper, natural gas, coal, gold, and food, and to repent.

Sunday is more than a call to recognize the racist reality folk live and benefit from, it is more than a time of regret and sorrowfulness, it is a call to change. Moving beyond confession and repentance is about engaging, acting where we can, and supporting the actions of our neighbor. Read the rest of this entry »

Ending Racial Disparity Calls for Non-Traditional Congregations

In Peace & Justice, YCM on August 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm

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August 12, 2015

This last week Sojourners magazine gave us Jenna Barnett’s interview—A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Faith in Ferguson—with Leah Gunning Francis, a professor at Eden Theological Seminary professor. The article centered on professor Francis’ thoughts on racial disparities and the real “Ferguson Effect.”

When asked, What role should the church play in current racial justice movements?, Professor Francis said,

In my observation there are congregations that are taking seriously their roles in seeking to be agents of change in the movements for racial justice, but the church writ-large, is not. At some point we need to move beyond statements and posture to actually engaging in these matters in life-transforming ways. One good first step toward this is to open the constructive conversation about race in congregations.

Important in this statement is recognizing some congregations are serious about systemic change in favor of racial justice. However, this desire to engage and to act for racial justice is absent for most Christian congregations (“church writ-large”).

Barnett goes on to ask, What church did racial justice well this year? Professor Frances responded saying,

Compton Heights Christian Church is a modest size Disciples of Christ church in St. Louis. Maybe 25 percent of the church are people of color… They reimagined what it means to be a safe sanctuary…[by opening] their sanctuary doors as places of training, gathering, cooking—and equally important—as places of prayer.

The article gives gristle for a number of conversations. Two come to mind. First is the consideration of how inadequate the church is in conversing the issue of racial justice. One example of this struggle is the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who in 1998 approved an Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation initiative. This initiative called the church to practice faithfulness with regard to the elimination of racism, which exists in all manifestations of the church, to discern the presence and nature of racism as sin, to develop strategies to eradicate it, and to work toward racial reconciliation. Good stuff, but as a whole not the stuff Disciple congregations want to jump in the middle of. As a result, the office of Reconciliation Ministry (whose ministry is to implement a conversation on racial justice) has struggled since it conception due to a lack of financial resources. Read the rest of this entry »