WHIRLWIND STAFF Founder Lamont B. Steptoe Editor Sean Lynch Art Director Melissa Rothman Outreach Coordinator Courtney Gambrell Lead Designer Erin Kelly ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special thanks to Larry Robin and Brandon Blake of Moonstone Arts Center for printing this publication. Thanks also to Bob Zell and The Pen and Pencil for hosting our launch parties. Cover art by G. Scott. Ana Castillo’s “Ixtacihuatl Died in Vain” and “Our Tongue was Nahuatl” were originally published in her book My Father was a Toltec (Knopf Doubleday, 2004). Castillo’s poem “Strategy” was first published in her book Women are not Roses (Arte Publico Press, 1984). Lamont B. Steptoe’s “Red Removal” and “Blue Villages” appeared in his book Oracular Rumblings and Stiltwalking (Whirlwind Press, 2007). Steptoe’s “The Language I Know” is from Crowns and Halos. Copyright © Whirlwind Magazine 2016 All rights reserved to artists and authors. No work may be reproduced in any form without permission from the creator. All inquiries should be addressed to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org Printed in Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A
Coyote Scatters The Stars G Scott
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Hello and thank you for reading our seventh issue, which focuses on indigenous peoples of the Americas. We have the honor of presenting to you many poems and pieces of art about Native Americans. This issue begins with Ana Castillo, a famous and astounding poet who delivers powerful imagery in compact form. Castillo is of Mestizo descent, and the themes of her poetry, of the attempted erasure of indigenous cultures, are the epitome of what it means to bear witness. Some Americans can claim Native ancestry and be culturally influenced from it growing up. However, there is also a real problem with people (of either European or African descent) claiming Native American Heritage without sufficient proof or even fraudulently. This is why the sovereignty of Native American tribes are so important. And too often legitimate groups of Native Americans do not have the recognition from the Federal government that is necessary for securing their rights. And yet there has also been scrutiny of tribes, most recently Cherokee Nation, for allegedly expelling black members. Identity Politics has become the status quo in contemporary American literature, which has done good as a movement to get minorities and the oppressed published and paid in ways that were closed off to them in the past. But progressive infighting can result in a fraught and repressive atmosphere where the result is self-segregation that stymies justice and equality. At Whirlwind we aim to be inclusive. We’re not in this business to make money, nor are we here to exploit any group for political gain. We believe in justice and equality for everyone, and that’s that. This is why we decided to do an issue on indigenous peoples, focusing specifically on Native Americans and First Nations peoples. It’s important to uplift these voices in particular because doing so will allow any human being to search inward for ancestral wisdom to learn how to coexist with both the earth and one another. It is truly an honor to share this special issue with you. Most of the contributors here are of Native American descent in some form, whether it’s from a U.S. federally recognized tribe (although they may not be tribe members themselves), First Nation peoples north of the border, or of Mestizo lineage. We also have an essay by Pegi Eyers about what it means to be indigenous and what we can learn from it. Thanks to all who have worked with us in solidarity to help make this world a better place. Sean Lynch
TABLE OF CONTENTS Ixtacihuatl Died in Vain *: 1 Our Tongue was Nahuatl: 3 Strategy: 6 When the Wild Birds Sing: 7 Birthday: 9 THE HISTORY OF GROWING COTTON LIKE THE MODERN SLAVE FROM THE SKIN UNDER MY WOOL: 12 BLACK.EARTH.LING.: 13 GROUND: 15 Ramapough Triptych: 17 Beavers at Bay: 19 A Native Journey: 22 The News From up Here: 23 First Step: 26 Simultaneous: 27 Red Removal: 29 The Language I Know: 30 Blue Villages: 31 Re-centering the Indigenous Wisdom of Ethnocultural Recovery: 33 Biographies: 39
Ixtacihuatl Died in Vain *
by Ana Castillo
I. Hard are the women of my family, hard on the mothers whoâ€™ve died on us and the daughters born to us, hard on all except sacred husbands and the blessings of sons. We are Ixtacihuatls, sleeping, snowcapped volcanoes buried alive in myths princesses with the name of a warrior on our lips. II. You, my impossible bride, at the wedding where our mothers were not invited, our fathers, the fourteen stations of the crossYou, who are not my bride, have loved too vast, too wide. Yet I dare to steal you from your motherâ€™s house. It is you I share my son with to whom I offer up his palpitating heart so that you may breathe, and replenish yourself, you alone, whom I forgive.
III. Life is long enough to carry all things to their necessary end. So if i am with you only this while, or until our hair goes white, our mothers have died, children grown, their children been born, or when you spy someone who is me but with fresh eyes that see you as Coatlicue once didand my heart shrivels with vanity; or a man takes me out to dance and i leave you at the table ice melting in your glass; or all the jasmine in the world has lost its scent, let us place this born of us at Ixtacihuatl’s grave: a footnote in the book of myths sum of our existence“Even the greatest truths contain the tremor of a lie.”
*The legend of the twin volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtacihuatl in Puebla, Mexico, has it that these were once a warrior and a princess of rivaling tribes who came to an end similar to that of the two lovers of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Our Tongue was Nahuatl
by Ana Castillo
You. We have never met yet we know each other well. i recognized your high set cheekbones, slightly rounded nose, the deep brown of your hardened face, soft full lips Your near-slanted eyes follow mesending flashback memories to your so-called primitive mind. And i know you rememberâ€Ś It was a time of turquoise blue green, sky topped mountains, god-suns, wind-swept rains; oceanic deities naked children running in the humid air. i ground corn upon a slab of stone while you bargained at the market dried skins and other things that were our own. I watched our small sons chase behind your bare legs when you came home those days. We ate, ate, gave thanks to our golden Earth. Our tongue was Nahuatl. 3
We were contentwith the generosity of our gods and our kings. knowing nothing of the world across the bitter watersUntil they came… White foreign strangers riding high on four-legged creatures; that made us bow to them. In our ignorance of the unknown they made us bow. They made us bowuntil our skin became the color of caramel and nothing anymore was our own. Raped of ourselves, our civilization, even our gods turned away from us in shame… Yet we bowed, as we do nowOn buses going to factories where “No Help Wanted signs laugh at our faces, stare at our hungry eyes. Yet we bow… WE BOW! It was a time much different than now.
Tellings Gordon Miller
by Ana Castillo
you are there waiting in a field of chaos blood and steel building walls between us i am here waiting like the sun patiently allowing the night and its threats of mysterious infinity to pass but you and i are destined to join a soldier of light a soldier of strength do not fear this timeless phase for the rays of this sun will melt the steel and dry the blood upon the land that will once again be ours.
When the Wild Birds Sing 1.0 Fly over the broken peace wave your bloody wings call the seditious the intifada serve our portion of Azrael’s sickle. 1.1 The monster’s skin a pall of shit It’s bloating corpse choking on Apician graces 1.2 I was Majdal now I am Askhelon the ground cursed by God is settled becomes unsettled.
by David Groulx
1.3 The earth becomes twisted beneath the wheel the wheel scars the earth. What was Red River crumbles beneath. 1.4 The snow has fallen and fallen over mount Tabor over Ansar thee now we are off the land and held in acres of misery
by Jim Cantú
Itzcuintli, guide for the dead, Day of the dog, day of my birth. Celebrate Festival Izcalli Honor our gods Ziuhtecuhtli (Fire God), Tlaloc (Rain God), Chalchiuhtlicue (Water Goddess) Travel to holy places Tlatelolco, Chapultepec, Coyoacan. Sounds hard to make, with western twisted tongue. Sounds should flow, como miel, These sweet honeyed words of my forefathers. Ancestral rapes only the beginning, We, our children, mind-manipulated by western language, Western values. Western invader’s lies sold as history, Pretty packaged falsehoods force fed to our young. The invaders were searching for another land, Arrived on our shores and thought they were elsewhere, Called us by the name of another people half a world away. But to the invaders, we were different, had different values. They see us as something less than human, Beasts to toil in the fields to plant and harvest their crops. After all these generations, have we become the ‘ass’ in assimilate, Obedient brown burros bred to bear burdens, Silent in our suffering? Hermana, hermano, ¿Por qué estamos llorando? ¡Cuando nosotros deberíamos estar gritando! Ending our lamenting. Circumventing our circumstances. Joining in a journey From blasé to blaze, From anguish to anger, From apathy to action. 9
Untitled Daniel de Culla
Colors of a Female G Scott 11
THE HISTORY OF GROWING COTTON LIKE THE MODERN SLAVE FROM THE SKIN UNDER MY WOOL
by Sea Sharp
and i bet you’ve never seen Blacks skinned alive i want to say when i’m feeling mocked by mr bones and the dead ark beasts and i have had dreams and i imagine i will tell them my visions of limbs bound for the hoisting and hanging upside down like wildflowers spinning groggy and foggy and fuzzy and muzzy i’ll say but this is no nursery rhyme you know they leave our shoes on for the dancing it helps them to pull our sweaters off cop their feels smack our rumps strip us down to nothing but fresh meat they lick their teeth like wolves i’ll say and they tell us this is all natural they breed and shave us bald and call this natural and everything grown on our Black backs is naturally theirs and it is worse than being lynched i think the full body scalping of woolly tops with skin peeling off like a tight wet jumper a ripened grapefruit rind and flapping throats will stifle the screaming so we are the destined head danglers and gurgle gaspers in confusion tension tension confusion / tail ends up / we can watch our own blood pouring out / see how we drown in reverse / thinking of all the time spent feeling / so damn different because we are so damn Black / but we all have got the blues inside / caked with flies and pride/ you know /
and the lucky keep their eyelids on / keep blinking for as long / as ten minutes or until their organs / are torn out and fed to the dogs / but the ones who can’t blink must stare / at the crimson mud / eyes bulging from their skulls / horribly shocked at the gravity of nature / and from a distance their convulsions / look like twitching / like subtle shivers / as the lambs watch it all / from the other side of the fence i’ll say 12
by Sea Sharp
Found poetry from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894) I. he was trying to purchase the full grown gave a scolding and said worthless he did not know much but was THE GREATEST WHITEMAN IN THE WORLD a madman hunting wild
II. and WE WILL MARCH ON SMOOTH ROADS but son i am angry in the business that will rope a mere man his family to be trodden in the dirt of a bad one wicked one worthless son bah shame go they have said and perhaps and perhaps and perhaps who knows as each man joined the line stood ready the catchers and hunters and beaters the men who stayed in the back with their guns across their arms and laughed to a friend of his and broke into a roar of laughter boys hanging eight feet up in the air
III. remember though that there are great flat places hidden away that are called ELEPHANT BALLROOMS but even these are found only by accident
and no man has ever seen the silver four piece mother nursing baby
they were rolled down the plains too happy to speak of such moonshine about dances and elephants
Forrest Blues Folks 5 Allen Forrest 14
by Sea Sharp
n., adj., v. /graûnd/ 1. The ending. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, etc. 2. Where the hungry spread their cardboard before wrapping their bones each night. 3. Earth’s smile, her eye wrinkles, her warts and scars. Skin. 4. An excuse for wars, a place for wars. What people kill to cover. 5. Where pieces of today go to die. Where their survivors go to remember. See “Ground Zero,” tombs, and memorial halls. 6. The result of grinding. Pulverising. The results of pillaging. 7. The beginning of all things. The evolution of mankind. Poetry. God. From the ground up. See also, moon rocks, dirt and sacrifice.
The Colors Of Male Rainâ€™ G Scott
by Joseph Rathgeber
1. Jackson Whites They say we’re mongrels, incestuous kissing cousins— squirrel-eaters, scavengers living in harem-like settlements. Jackson Whites, they call us. They say we shoot strangers on sight, that we’re The Hills Have Eyes, hobgoblins, the lot of us. But they’re the ghosts: teenage spirits haunting our homes: they are the deracinated dead, drunk on Friday nights after a high school football game. They throw rocks, shout slurs, empty egg cartons, and aerosol spray our aluminum siding. Their headlights are will-o’-the-wisps, halogen indigenous. We hide our children from the fear they’re being hated. We tell them they’re DeGroats, DeFreeses, and Van Dunks, and to be proud of their ancestors, Afro-Dutch or otherwise. You are the Ramapough Lenape Nation, we say. It’s the stonethrowers who are the ghouls, the imps, the Jackson Whites. 2. Stag Hill The kids ride their ATVs on circuitous forest paths. We have no old folks anymore. We have no elders. The babies play in the front yard, but there’s always
the danger of the grass giving in, the earth slipping
into an abandoned mine shaft. Our old men excavated
those mines, but they’ve vanished now. We have no
old folks anymore. We have no elders. Boys and girls 17
as young as nine and ten are bulging with tumors,
tons of toxic rocks from the Ford plant give them arsenic
nosebleeds. The swimming hole is a cesspool now,
not like when our ancestors would skinny dip and be
baptized.We have no old folks to tell of it.We have
no elders. Cancers have made us catacombs, and the
heavy metals flowing through our veins are contagious.
3. Peters Mine Fire They said you could see the colors of the chemical blaze from Manhattan. Poison ash fell from the sky like flecks of hellfire. Ford Motor Company sprayed the Mustangs candy-apple red, the runoff dripped into barrels: Oâ€™Connor Disposal was hired to dump gallons of paint sludge into the mineshafts. Trucks rumbled the roads at night, hauling loads from Mahwah to Ringwood. Bulldozers pushed barrels of Freon, brass radiators, and copper wire that we would salvage. We were only mountain folk, they said. Let the fire fall on them. The yards were turned into hazardous waste piles, landfills full of dioxins. We began to lose teeth: there were skin diseases: my street is a cemetery. This is a people burning. This is how fire feels
Beavers at Bay
by J.C. Elkin
Micmac Village lay unchanged
in her mind for two generations until she returned, little girls in hand,
“Well, so does he.
giddy with forest dreams.
We’re baiting his sweet tooth.”
A loop trail wends through the woods,
“But the woods are full of trees.
needle-strewn and moccasin-slick.
Why not eat them instead?”
Pines sway, birches quake, old deerskins line teepees,
“Because he’s lazy. That’s why.
jays screech from beached canoes.
He’s eaten what’s close-by.
This is easier and he can’t wait.”
Brave Bear still whittles by the pond – bifocals, plaid shirt, Brylcreem,
“Does it hurt?
cherry wood face etched with wear,
Is he scared?
waiting in quiet wisdom.
What does he do?”
A cage of sticks at water’s edge
“He gets angry and barks,
bars the beavers’ path,
but he’s smart.
nestled in grass lined with leaves,
He won’t let the quills hurt him.”
baited with tender twigs. Back in the shop, they eye maple candy Brave Bear sits, waiting and whittling,
In shapes of leaves, Pilgrims, and moose.
whittling and waiting for questions “Want a taste?” the cashier asks. “What’s that thing, Mister?” Twiggy arms point.
Blueberry eyes swap wary glances. “It might be a trap,” they decide,
“A beaver trap. He goes in here. See?
The porcupine quills keep him in.”
“baiting our sweet tooth. We’ll wait.” They race to the car hand in hand,
“Then why does he go?” they ask.
“Because he wants the treat.
Willow twigs, birch, or maple.
You like maple syrup?”
barking like beavers at bay.
Forrest Blues Folks Chicago String Band Allen Forrest
Taino Young Woman P Bell
A Native Journey
by Gordon Miller
We left our home And traveled far Searching For something We do not know Was it a part of our heart That we are trying to fix Lost many years ago Before our time When the world was ours And we lived free The air was clear The water was clean The earth was rich And we were strong Was it a dream Or an elderâ€™s vision Of a great people Living under the guidance Of the Manitou In harmony and respect The old days are long gone And will we find them again In our mind and soul
The News From up Here
by Ruben Rodriguez
Three young tulips stood by a watering hole dipping their roots.
“Don’t dip your stem, Sicko.”
The smallest, a pink tulip blushed and yanked her roots from the communal station.
A towering chrysanthemum galloped down the road, “They’re back and headed this way!” The three tulips hiked up their leaves and tried to keep up with the chrysanthemum. At the tip of a 42nd level branch a pinecone hung. He’d been waiting for a story all week, and his column in the hamlet’s most popular magazine was due in three hours. The day had been quiet and all he could think about was his early morning tryst with a blue jay. He could still feel the beak sliding between his scales to peck away at his soul. He considered love, but was interrupted by a herd of screaming flora. “They’re coming!” The pine cone spun on his stem to face the direction the flowers were fleeing. Over the crest of a hill, he saw them. The people. Invading again. They stumbled in his direction and the pinecone began to take notes. He considered the length of their stems and leaves, the soft nature of their bark. Their pedals were ugly, he thought—stringy, limp, and dull. When they were but feet away he heard the tallest, widest one ask, “Where are we going?” The others stopped and looked at one another. No one spoke, until the smallest looked up and said, “How about here?” The pinecone swore that the little one was looking directly at him. Half of him shivered in fear, while the other quaked in delight, imagining the story he would have for the magazine. And in this frenzied vibration, stem broke free of branch and the pinecone plummeted to the earth, striking the small one on the nose before hitting the ground. A wail like a coyote’s ensued and the pinecone tried to roll behind the tree trunk. The larger humans attended to the small one, and when the cries subsided, the largest bent down and picked up the pinecone to hand to the small one who tossed it to the ground and proceeded to stomp. The pinecone cracked and chipped, silent until the humans walked away.
Our Mother G Scott
Woven Nights G Scott
by Gabor Gyukics
you might go to the end your name disappears beyond the trees drums playing youâ€™re singing for rain that hides in the shade of the lines of your palm as it begins to rain singing the song of burning sweat in the vessels of the leaves you turn translucent the way a trickster imitates manitou
simultaneous the medicine woman arrives together with the moon she heats up the sweatlodge with her light the herbs thrown in the fire will cure every malady
by Gabor Gyukics
The Nights Beauty G Scott
by Lamont B. Steptoe
The lack of Red in the American landscape is an awesome absence Who are these white folks in boots and hats belts and spurs tottering on the earth? Where are: The Snake people The Owl people The Crow people The Coyote people The Bear people The Buffalo people The Rain People The Fire people The Tree people? Behind what door? Enclosed by what desert? Shut up by wire vanished by distance The lack of red is a loud noise A scream A dying animal cry An auto crash of sky The lack of Red so many dead! All over the Americas a people aborted/removed cut back like weeds To make way for machines ranches farms skyscrapers Super super highways/pathways to oblivion 29
The Language I Know
by Lamont B. Steptoe
I belong to the teepeeâ€™d nomadic Red Nations roaming the prairie of history I belong to the makers of arrowheads the chewers of buffalo hides I belong to moccasins war paint eagle feathers and stomp dancers I belong to nations of dreamers medicine men and shamans I belong to warriors and high cheek boned maidens I belong to smoke signals tomahawks sweat lodges and vision quest I belong to Mother Earth Father Sky the rolling thunders of yesterdays I walk a landscape of rainbows in loincloth and dreaming thunder and lightning the language I know
Forrest Blues Folks Son House Allen Forrest 30
by Lamont B. Steptoe
Spectral buffalo Ruby eyes Hoof beats silent as lightning before thunder Vanished Warriors in blue villages Permanent as Wind
Colombus was a sex cannibal Daniel de Culla
Re-centering the Indigenous Wisdom of Ethnocultural Recovery by Pegi Eyers Historically speaking and well into contemporary times, here on Turtle Island white people have related to indigenous people in fairly predictable ways. Starting with the research methods of anthropology and ethnography, followed by the racist stereotypes and romanticization that develop from a love/hate dynamic, to questionable trends in our spiritual life that actually appropriate while professing to admire, to assuming that a First Nations acquaintance or wisdom keeper represents the opinions of all First Nations people (tokenizing), we finally arrive at our most ethical and best engagement, which are relationships grounded in Allyship Theory and social justice solidarity. Also on the positive side is another leading-edge response to indigenous reality, a “future-primitive” way to view indigeneity as intrinsic to the entire spectrum of human experience. Living in the modern society we have built in the Americas, those of us of European descent have forgotten that we, too, have indigenous roots and ancestral traditions. And in this post-colonial era of massive change (“the great turning” or “paradigm shift”) we can be indebted to the many First Nations activists, leaders, academics and freedom fighters who are reminding us of this essential return. To actually listen to First Nations people, to follow their lead and relinquish our privilege and dominance in political, social and cultural life, may be the most revolutionary approach of all. When we hear Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe (Lakota) proclaim that “every human being has Ancestors in their lineage that understood their umbilical cord to the Earth - to always protect and thank Her – and therefore all humanity has to re-connect to the Indigenous Roots of their own lineage, to heal their connection and responsibility to Mother Earth”1 can we rise above the obvious metaphor to the hard work of cultural resurgence, in the same way that indigenous people have had to recover their own erased traditions? Or when highly-esteemed Anishnaabe Elder and traditional teacher James Dumont offers us his epic anti-appropriation statement, that “everyone needs to get back to their own indigenous knowledge,”2 is he giving us a great blessing by implying that IK3 is the collective birthright of all humanity, and that we all have original indigenous knowledge? As we continue to take our cultural/spiritual explorations of personal and collective identity for granted in the modern world, another good question to ask is how did being of European descent become synonymous with being non-indigenous? For more guidance and direction from the First Nations of Turtle Island, we can listen to the wisdom of beloved artist-activist John Trudell (Santee Dakota), who recently passed into the spirit world. “Because we are made up of the earth - our common ground, so to speak - we are all the descendants of tribes. We have genetic memories. Inside of our genetic memories, the power connection exists to our ancestral past. Each and every one of us is a descendant of a tribe.”4 The truth of our European heritage is that before the rise of patriarchal warlords and the hegemony of organized religion, science and economic power, all cultural groups (including the Gaelic, Baltic or Nordic, for example) were indigenous, often matriarchal, and came from societies deeply connected to the land and the cycles 33
of all life. At one time we all thrived in tribal groups that honoured the sacred in every activity and emphasized the bonds of the community over the cult of the individual. Our place-based indigenous world was perceived and maintained through our dynamic oral traditions, origin stories, bardic cycles, spiritual ecology and kinship groups, and experienced through our relationships with the animals and the wild. We were comfortable in the natural world, and were in unity with the spirits, elementals, Ancestors and spiritual forces with whom we shared our lives. Yet at some point in everyoneâ€™s history, the technological warlords took hold and decimated our traditional, earth-connected, pagan way of life. Beginning in Europe, the colonization of white folk through religious and economic dominance went on for centuries before the creation of homogenous Empire in the â€œnew world.â€? Yet, as stripped of our ancestral myths and knowledge as we seem to be, we defy the position of patriarchal hierarchy and undermine the notion of cultural superiority when we reclaim the roots of an authentic indigeneity. It is our birthright as human beings to declare our true status as People of the Earth (as it is for every cultural group), and if we collectively reject the delusional separation from nature that Empire has forced upon us, the potential is there to move back into right relationship with Earth Community. Seemingly lost to time and beyond our resources or capabilities, anchoring ourselves into an earth-honoring culture and reclaiming our own ancestral wisdom would actually be a powerful blow against the monolith of cultural imperialism. The entire era of the patriarchal rise and maintenance of Christianity as a dominant ruling force (from the first century to the present) marks the constant wearing away and fragmenting of IK all over the planet. And as we come to understand colonization over millennia and the historical impact it has had on all people (including us as Europeans) we become aware of how and when our eco-values were stolen from us, and how many of our own people lost their lives as a result of the structural violence endemic to establishing Empire. As we were forced to assimilate into the monocultural white mainstream in the Americas we had to leave behind our own European IK - our traditional languages, foods, music, games, rituals and spiritual expressions. Military invasion, war, the socio-economic class system, food shortages and poverty (as a result of hegemonic policies and patriarchal greed) drove us to abandon our deep-rooted ancestral traditions in the frenzy of expulsion and relocation. During the collective dementia of economic, religious and forced immigration, we sacrificed our European histories and spirituality, our love of place, our deep connections to our Ancestors, and our most important cultural keystones. In exile, our survival mechanism kicked in, and our IK was traded away and our cultural loss forgotten for the promise of a new land and a new life. Today, as the descendants of the Settler Society, we need to examine how this immense cultural soul loss has led to our collective and personal dysfunction, and how the stories of our disconnect must be at the root of our ongoing spiritual hunger and our yearning for holistic earth-connected community. Clearly the exile from our own ancestral roots is the contributing factor to our romanticization and toxic appropriation from the vibrancy of other cultures. Important elements of our own ethnocultural expressions such as song, dance and games have been insidiously replaced with expressions of manifest destiny, progress, patriotism and nationalism that only reinforce the hege34
monic dominance of religion, the military complex and the capitalist economy. Today, no one questions that the emotional responses we naturally feel and express for these homogenous state-sanctioned IK substitutions could be better directed to celebrations of earth-connected culture, sustainability and a reverence for all life. Empire is the great leveler of all cultural diversity, and as Margaret Mead once pointed out, one day “we might wake up and not even remember what has been lost.”5 In the grand scheme of things, the Euro-invasion of the so-called “new world” and the building of the North American civilization is relatively new. Here on Turtle Island, we have internalized the oppression of the dominating stratum and white hegemony, and our hearts and minds have been colonized. Yet, whatever we call it, most activists, social critics, eco-feminists, neopagans, rewilders, transitioners, cultural visionaries, peace workers and spiritually-awake people are engaged in decolonization, and the work of deconstructing the colonialism in themselves and others. Decolonization remembers and rebuilds ancestral knowledge(s), and good work is going on today within the many political and/or social justice movements and components of culture such as governance, slow democracy, alternative economies, anti-racism work, environmental sustainability, localization, earth-justice, nutrition, medicine and spirituality. For all of our alliances and relationships, decolonization insists that we understand ourselves as pre-colonial people, and that by implementing ancient themes and ideals we can adopt holistic solutions and build resilient earth-connected community once again. IK systems found all over the world are irreplaceable parts of the global ethnosphere, and need to be rejuvenated and protected. IK embodies the wisdom and understanding that is accumulated over thousands of years, and provides alternative models to Empire and domination. There are no universal laws governing the diverse forms of IK found worldwide, but earth-honoring cultures do share common tenets and lifeways. Alternative definitions of IK may include “indigenous roots,” “traditional knowledge (TK),” “traditional ecological knowledge (TEK),” “indigenous ways of living in nature (IWLN),” “traditional cultural expressions (TCEs),” “animist folk traditions,” “indigenous spiritual ways,” “Original Instructions,” “indigenous science,” “ecological science,” “ancestral wisdom,” “ancestral wisdom teachings,” “ancestral knowledge,” “ancestral thinking,” “ancestral pathways,” “folk knowledge” or “local wisdom.” In our own re-indigenization and cultural recovery process, aligning with our pre-colonial ethnicity and kinship group(s) may seem like a daunting task, and that many barriers stand in the way. Yet for the first time in human history via travel, the internet and other resources, we have full access to the indigenous knowledge of any culture, including our own. And in both theory and practice, the way has already been paved for us with the dazzling new renaissance of reconstruction movements and contemporary scholarship. Rooted in elements of our original European indigenous identities that were transplanted to the Americas, the pagan traditions from Old Europe and the reconfigurations of Old Ways have been rejuvenated by the descendants of the original Settler Society as Celtic Reconstructionism, Celtic Polytheism, Gaelic Traditionalism, Sinnsreachd, Scottish Paganism, Druidry, the Avalon Tradition, Norse Heathenism, Trolldom (Norse Folk Magic) Germanic Neo-Paganism, Slavic Reconstructionalism, Baltic Polytheism, Religio Romana, Hellenismos and Matriarchal Studies (among others). 35
Considering the eroded condition of the environment today and our restricted access to wild nature, it may be impossible to fully recreate the vibrancy and inclusivity of an earth-wise culture. Yet with the localization movement, bioregionalism and our reinhabitation of place, the challenge must be to reclaim or enhance for ourselves the aspects of a foundational bond to the land that gives rise to our own IK, and to find our kindred spirits and community links. As we continue to center the values of Turtle Island First Nations, the important fusion of our ethnoautobiography with the natural places we call home to define our nativization is addressed by Melissa K. Nelson (Anishinaabe/ Métis/Norwegian). “We come from our DNA, our ancestors and our descendants – the strands of spiralling heritage that give us our roots and the threads to the future. Revitalizing indigenity means reclaiming the personal and ecological watersheds we come from, as part of our eco-cultural identity.”6 By interacting with the Earth our hearts naturally open to a space of unconditional love full of gratitude for nature’s abundance, and the gift of life itself. To embrace the Great Heart in nature means to cherish the wild above all, and to honour the sacred elements of earth, water, air and fire. And with our love for the Earth as our common ground anything is possible! For those living in urban areas either by choice or necessity, there are many ways to practice our ancestral wisdom, reclaim “indigenous mind” and bring the wonder of nature back to the city streets. In our exploration of the green commons, public parks, planted spaces, borders, cemeteries, quiet corners, abandoned lands and so-called “wastelands,” we can revere urban space just as much as wild or semi-wild ecosystems. And as we get to know the landforms and ancient cultures that were there before urbanization, we will find that the magic of the earth is ever-present in the older landscape beneath the surface of the city. As they always have, the ancestral spirits and “genius loci” (spirits of place) are willing to communicate with us, and we need only to be open to their messages. Taking strength from earth energy, practicing “earthing,” paying attention to the tree people, stones or birds, and bringing elements and natural objects from the wild into our urban interiors, are all ways to stay connected to the land. Rites of passage, marking the seasons and cycles of the moon, celebrating the quarters and solstices, and coming together with like-minded community in ceremony and ritual are ancient practices that express our earth-rooted beliefs in urban spaces. Rewilding, re-greening the commons, urban herbcraft, natural medicine and community farming are all ways to create deep connections to the actual and spiritual gifts of the soil. As we travel along our revitalized path and reconnect deeply with our eco-selves and the land, doesn’t it make more sense to reawaken our own specific ancestral wisdom? Surely this will please both our Ancestors and the Divine, not to mention the worldwide network of wise indigenous Elders, activists, scholars and visionaries who against all odds, continue to guide us. If we desire to anchor into our own ancestral roots, to alternate between the heart and mind of authentic theory and practice, each of us will find our place in the indigenous circle, and receive renewed respect from other indigenous nations. As we participate in the shift to ecological civilization that is underway in western society by expressing the ancient ways of our people and the land, we can protect and sustain the sacred ground of our collective being for the Seven Generations yet to come.
Spirits Gordon Miller
NOTES 1. Statement in solidarity with the Idle No More movement by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, NDN News - Daily Headlines in Indian Country, December 31, 2012 (http://ndnnews.com) 2. James Dumont, “Introductory Remarks,” Elders and Traditional Peoples Gathering, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, February 12-14, 2010 3. The term “indigenous” coupled with “knowledge” and used as the acronym “IK” is in widespread and popular use among Turtle Island First Nation leaders, academics, authors, cultural creatives, activists, wisdom keepers and community people. “IK” has been found to be the perfect descriptor for a specific Turtle Island First Nations’ cosmology, worldview, spiritual traditions and lifeways, as in Anishnaabe IK, Haudenosaunee IK or Hopi IK. 4. John Trudell, John Trudell Speaks at Judi Bari Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. School, Berkeley CA, April 26, 1997 5. Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures, Douglas & McIntyre, 2007 6. Melissa K. Nelson, “Revitalizing Indigeneity,” Bioneers Conference 2011, January 26, 2015 (www.bioneers.org)
Biographies Ana Castillo is a famous poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright who has been instrumental in the development of the Chicana Feminism movement since the 1970’s. Her most notable books include The Guardians (Random House, 2007) and So Far From God (W.W. Norton, 1993). David Groulx was raised in Elliot Lake Ontario. He is proud of his aboriginal roots, Anishnabe and French Canadian. His poetry has appeared in over a 170 magazines in 15 countries. Jim Cantú has noted that he is the survivor of over 50 years of anglo-fication and western education. He does his best to pass as a member of the currently dominant Northern American racial group. He wears acceptable clothes. Speaks English without an accent and knows the vast majority of standard expected social behaviors. He has been fully indoctrinated and acculturated. He barely knows the language of his father or his mother for that matter. He brings the perspective of an accepted alien to his work. Sea Sharp is a Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Prairie Seed Poetry Prize 2015/16, and also a Kansas State University graduate with qualifications in Creative Writing, Literature, Theatre, and Women’s Studies. Born in Oklahoma and having a great-grandmother of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes, Sharp is an American poet of color who immigrated to England in 2012. Sharp also practices Intersectional Veganism and Feminism, The Hip Hop Declaration of Peace, and other movements that aim to eliminate oppression. Joseph Rathgeber was a contributor to Whirlwind Issue #3. His poem’s subject is the Ramapough Lenape Indians of North Jersey. They are a marginalized, multi-ethnic people with a storied history of abuses--exploitation as iron mine workers, victims of ecological racism from the local Ford Motor Plant, and alienation from their larger communities. They have repeatedly been denied federal recognition as a native tribe (though the NJ gov't granted them the recognition on a state level in the 90s), and they have repeatedly been the subject of harassment from locals and tourists due to unkind and unsavory "legends." An optimist, linguist, and singer, J.C. Elkin is the founder of the Broadneck Writers’ Workshop in Annapolis, Maryland. Her poetry and prose appear domestically and abroad in such journals as Kansas City Voices, Kestrel, Delmarva Review, and Angle. Her chapbook World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom (Apprentice House, 2014) is based on her experiences teaching English to Adults from around the world. Gordon Miller is a visual artist and writer of white and native descent, living and working in Oakville, Ontario. While he has been aware of native ancestry since childhood, the richness of native culture and art did not play a significant role in his life until much later. Gordon is a member of the Mattagami First Nation. His paternal Grandmother, from Mattagami Post was Ojibway and his maternal Grandmother, from York Factory was Cree. His native grandmothers both married Hudson Bay fur traders from Orkney and England in the nineteenth century and through hard work and determination helped build Canada during the days of the fur trade. 39
Gabor G Gyukics is a Hungarian-American poet, literary translator, and author of 7 books of original poetry, 4 in Hungarian, 2 in English, 1 in Bulgarian, and 11 books of translations including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József and an anthology of North American Indigenous poets in Hungarian. He writes his poems in English (which is his second language) and Hungarian. He had lived in Holland for two years before moving to the United States where he lived between 1988-2002. At present he resides in the isle of Csepel in Budapest, Hungary. Ruben Rodriguez writes, paints, and wastes his time at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. He is the fiction editor of The Great American Lit Mag and author of the chapbook We Do What We Want (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2015). His poems have been deemed fit for consumption by the likes of Driftwood Press, Hawai’i Review, Oxford Magazine,Welter, Perception, and others. You can find him at www.rubenstuff.com. Lamont b. Steptoe is a Vietnam veteran born and raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Steptoe has published 12 poetry books and founded Whirlwind Press. His work has won the American Book Award, a Pew Fellowship, and has appeared in many publications, including the Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry. He is the descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Native Americans from his mother’s side. Author of the new release Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community Pegi Eyers writes about sacred land, indigenous mind and the holistic principles of sustainable living. She is a member of the Celtic mtDNA-based Helena Clan (world clans descended from “Mitochondrial Eve” as traced in The Seven Daughters of Eve), with more recent roots connecting her to the mythic arts and pagan traditions of both England and Scotland. She lives in the countryside on the outskirts of Nogojiwanong in Mississauga Anishnaabe territory (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada) on a hilltop with views reaching for miles in all directions. www.stonecirclepress.com
Our Winter of 2016 issue featuring indigenous voices of the Americas via poetry and artwork.