Shigé Nyi thugra; (‘water returning again’)

posted Oct 31, 2012, 7:34 PM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Dec 6, 2012, 7:47 PM ]

The melons ripened just in time for our annual powwow on the Ioway Reservation near White Cloud, Kansas.  The summer’s near-record heat and drought  that engulfed much of the region was slightly less intense on our lands near the Missouri River, which allowed us to get a relatively good crop of blue hubbard squash, white corn, red amaranth, and yellow watermelon without a drop of irrigation. 

It was only the second season for our "community garden", which sits below one of our newly installed wind turbines that will provide electricity to our IHS clinic, Senior Mealsite, and Police Station, and grows less than a quarter mile east of the homesite where my mom lived when she was first born.  As far as I know, this is the first ever community garden on our reservation.—not because we never planted and harvested food together, but because there was never a need to call it a “community garden” when we did.  That’s just how things were.

Some people still plant home gardens around here, but most of what is planted these days is field corn and soybeans.   Despite much of the land being cleared to accommodate an industrial agriculture-based economy there are still some wild food gardens nestled along the riparian areas and densely wooded bluffs above the Missouri River. One morning last spring an elder and I came across elderberries, wild cherries, blackberries, hickory nuts, black walnuts, pawpaws, mulberries, wild plums, grapes, nettles, milkweed, and raspberries along No-Heart creek, named for former Ioway Chief Notchininga, or No Heart of Fear. We got there just as the blackberries ripened and just before the soybean field that surrounded them was impassable, due to both the size of the plants and the herbicide that could be sprayed at any time, if it hadn’t been already. 

We haven’t always lived along the Missouri River, at least not on the west side of it where our reservation sits today. Before the Platte Purchase in 1836, when we were relocated to our small reservation near the confluence of the Nemaha and Missouri rivers, our territories spanned throughout what is now northern Missouri, east to the Mississippi river (encompassing the majority of Iowa, the state that bares our name), and as far north as what is now Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I didn’t know we lived around the Minneapolis area until I went there in late September for the Food + Justice =Democracy meeting, hosted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). A few hundred leaders of the Food Movement, both long-standing and newly emerging, gathered there to “elevate the food stories of communities of color and tribal nations” and to continue conversations that aim to “co-create a national food justice platform to push our governments and our political leaders to prioritize a fair, just and healthy food system.”

The final morning of the conference I received an email with a timeline of treaties that led to our relocation to our reservation, straddling what are now the borders of Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska.  Knowing we had a connection to the Mississippi river and parts of what is now southern Minnesota, I asked the man who had emailed me what immediate ties we had to Minnesota. He responded  “Actually the Ioway held lands around Lake Pepin, up to Red Wing, and in Downtown Minneapolis at St. Anthony Falls (a sacred site) from Oneota times in ‘prehistory’ (about AD 1000-1700), until about 1700.”  I had been to the Falls the day before and had already planned to go there again to prepare for my contribution to the meeting’s closing panel discussion, “The Future of the Food Movement.” 

I started my walk towards the river down Nicollet Mall, named for Jean Nicolet, a French explorer sometimes credited with first “encountering” the Ho-Chunk near Green Bay, Wisconsin at Red Banks. (a site on Lake Michigan where the Ioway, Otoe, Missouria, and Ho-Chunk share a common emergence story)  Along the way I passed several recessed “rain gardens” with Native plants as well as a Cancer Survivors Park, a reminder of my own experience using both conventional cancer treatments and traditional foods as complementary healing strategies for a brain tumor.  Finally, I made it to the steps that led down to the Mississippi river, a short distance upstream from a waterfall held sacred by my tribe when we lived there just a few hundred years before.  I understand the Falls are also sacred to the Mdewakanton Dakota (and likely other Nations) whose homelands encompass what is now Minneapolis.

Every community and place have their own unique food traditions. They also have distinct events that disrupted, altered, or sometimes reinforced them.  That’s why any time I’m a visitor somewhere, even if it’s just for a couple of days at a conference, I make time to get outside and learn as much as I can about the place I’m in. I’m not interested in museums, monuments, or tourist attractions that show up on postcards and ‘must see’ lists.  Instead, I want to hear about the land—past, present, and future—from the perspective of the Native people who live there. I want to hear about what is underneath the pavement I’m walking on, in terms of the land itself as well as the untold stories of everyone and everything who came before.  I want to hear about the traditional foods of the area, how accessible they are today to the local Native communities, and who might be down to trade me some for the big-ass squash in my bag.  Knowing how things used to be, what forces led them to change, and applying lessons learned from both provides a foundation for creating (or reinstating) solutions. 


The powwow came to a close on Sunday afternoon.  We had one small truckload of yellow watermelons to hand out to elders, dancers, and whoever else happened to be close to the truck when the emcee made the “FREE watermelon” announcement.  My cousin and I had already made a round with blue hubbard squash earlier that morning, offering some to the Southern Ioway who came up from Oklahoma, and one each to the Head Lady and Head Man dancer.  Both of them are in their early 20’s, and have helped in the garden before.

I then headed home, all bummed that the weekend had come to an end.  But when I pulled up to my house I saw the Southern Ioway’s charter bus in a parking area next to the Missouri River just across the road.  Next thing I knew I had a truck full of Ioways heading up to the “Four State Lookout” on a bluff above White Cloud.  More interesting to me than seeing “four states” was looking across the Missouri valley to the bluffs in the east where the river flowed before it was channelized in the 1950’s to accommodate barge traffic.

As we stood there, the elder we had given a squash to offered some words and a prayer in acknowledgment and appreciation of our old people and the many stories we share of this place.  It felt good to stand with my relatives in the same place and in the same way that many of those before us had likely done.  Being up there with them reminded me of a quote from Toni Morrison I came across a few days earlier,

“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for house and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be.  All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”  

We came down the hill so they could begin their drive back to Oklahoma, just barely outrunning the neighborhood dogs as they nipped at any arm or leg they saw dangling from the truck.  I imagine our southern relatives will make their way up here again next fall as they have done each of the last several years.  Maybe they’ll bring some squash grown from the seed we agreed to plant together next spring on Southern Ioway lands.




whitecloudgarden

posted Sep 9, 2012, 7:56 PM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Oct 31, 2012, 3:35 PM ]

Summer 2012; White Cloud Garden; White Cloud, Kansas, Ioway Reservation

The melons ripened just in time for our annual powwow on the Ioway Reservation near White Cloud, Kansas.   The record heat and drought that engulfed much of the region this summer was slightly less intense on our lands near the Missouri River, which allowed us to get a relatively good crop of blue hubbard squash, white corn, red amaranth, and yellow watermelon without depending on a drop of irrigation.  Maybe it was the drought resilient seeds or the good thoughts we put out while we planted them?  Maybe the plants fed off the memory of last summer’s near-record floods embedded in the soil?  Or maybe they just liked getting rocked to sleep by the smooth sounds of the annual White Cloud Demolition Derby coming from the nearby rodeo grounds? 

It was only the second season for our new “community garden”- located just north of a row of pine trees where families have hosted feasts for several generations, just below one of our newly installed wind turbines, and less than a quarter mile east of the homesite where my mom lived when she was first born.  To my knowledge this is the first ever community garden on our reservation.  Not because we never planted food together, but because there was never a need to call it a “community garden” when we did- it was just how things were... 


posted Jun 5, 2012, 10:57 AM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Jun 6, 2012, 2:32 PM ]

Wókikigisge


Wókikigisge; n. 'things that are connected to each other'

Community Mercantile Co-op; Lawrence, KS; June 1st- June 30, 2012

Artist Statement:

When a seed is planted it is concealed, deliberately buried beneath the soil with the hope that it will germinate, grow, and eventually bear fruit.  The seed’s survival depends on how it relates to the world - to weather, predators, caretakers, and the soil it was planted in.   It has to figure out how to weave together the elements that enable it to thrive and navigate around those that don’t.

Similarly, the growth and vibrancy of the Food Movement depends on our ability to weave together the numerous social, environmental, and economic priorities in our communities, the ‘silos’ that together form the whole.  Which priorities are most present on the surface?  Which have been concealed- either deliberately or unintentionally?  And which one’s are just beneath the surface, dynamically weaving together the best elements of each so they can emerge as strong as possible?  That is the question many of us are working to figure out…

A starting place for me is looking at the recurring themes in my own life and work-revitalization of traditional foods and knowledge, protection of sacred sites, youth empowerment, and community-based artistic expression.  Weaving these things together happens naturally and it would be hard for me to create a “model” to illustrate how.  Just as the survival of each seed depends on the unique interplay of the seed and its conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to weaving together the pieces of a healthy food system.


The pieces in this show come from several different people and places- both geographically and culturally.  The common theme is that everyone and everything has helped shape my role(s) in the world.  They are also all connected to the two places that have been my primary communities for the past decade- Flagstaff, AZ and Lawrence, KS.

 The panels were painted by the Black Sheep Art Collective at the Percolator in downtown Lawrence. The dandelions on the window were painted by Lawrence-based artist Dave Loewenstein, who was instrumental in bringing the Black Sheep to the Percolator following our collaboration on a Community Mural Training in Flagstaff the previous summer.  The cattails were harvested from the Haskell-Baker Wetlands and arranged by good friends at Bittersweet Floral and Design, whose mentorship in garden design and plant knowledge was largely responsible for me landing the job that put me in Flagstaff in the first place.  Interspersed throughout the space are photos of corn, ‘sustainability’-themed youth mural projects, wool/weaving, and reflections of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff and the Haskell-Baker Wetlands here in Lawrence- both of which hold great cultural significance to the Indigenous people of both areas and are currently facing similar threats to their health and longevity.

- Brett Ramey; June 2012                                                    

posted Feb 29, 2012, 5:53 PM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Jun 5, 2012, 11:43 AM ]

FOODCORPS RECRUITMENT BEGINSFoodCorps Opens Applications for its Next Class of School Food Changemakers- Native Community Members Encouraged to Apply

White Cloud, KS- February 29, 2012 FoodCorps, a national organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, is accepting applications for its second annual class of service members. The selected emerging leaders will dedicate one year of full-time public service in school food systems – expanding hands-on nutrition education programs, building and tending school gardens, and sourcing fresh, healthy, local food for school cafeterias.

Since August 15, 2011 FoodCorps has reached over 30,000 youth at 41 sites across 10 states- including Native communities in Arizona and New Mexico.  Their Arizona sites work with Native youth and reservation-based schools in Tuba City (Navajo), Cibecue (White Mountain Apache), and Sells (Tohono O'odham).  David Pecusa, currently working through FoodCorps at the Eagles Nest Intermediate School in Tuba City, had this to say, "After coming back to the reservation and wanting to continue and propagate my interest in horticulture and "good" food, FoodCorps has helped me do that.  FoodCorps has also given me the opportunity to build skills that will help me in my future career goals.  I am thankful that FoodCorps is working with our Native communites to give other Native folks an opportunity to serve our people.”

FoodCorps seeks up to 100 men and women with a passion for serving their country as AmeriCorps service members by building healthy communities in 12 states and 4 Tribal Nations around the country.  More information can be found here on the FoodCorps website.  Applications are due March 25th.


FoodCorps is a national service organization that seeks to address childhood obesity by increasing vulnerable children’s knowledge of, engagement with, and access to healthy food. Service members build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education, and facilitate Farm to School programming that brings healthy, affordable local food into public schools. The program also trains a cadre of leaders for careers in food and agriculture.

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CONTACT: Jerusha Klemperer, Communications Director Jerusha@foodcorps.org 212-596-7045 x105

 

What Flows Beneath our Feet

posted Mar 28, 2011, 9:57 AM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Oct 31, 2012, 3:33 PM ]



Flagstaff, Arizona and the bordering Indigenous Nations are home to many communities, each with distinct stories and visions.  Living in this high desert region guarantees that water will always play a part in these stories, regardless of who you are.  And still, there are ongoing political and environmental threats to the health of the water supply, and in turn, the health of the human, plant, and animal communities who live there.

From water mining for coal extraction on the Navajo and Hopi Nations to a proposed ski area expansion using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks, water is at the center of the efforts of several grassroots organizations working for the health of their land and Nations.  In Flagstaff itself there is one primary seasonal stream, the Rio de Flag, that runs through downtown.  One of the main tributaries of the Rio has been paved over, and currently runs directly beneath the historical route of Route 66 in the Southside Neighborhood.  

What Flows Beneath Our Feet” is a collaborative mural that was designed and painted during a week-long Community Mural Training.  The training was facilitated by Lawrence, Kansas muralist Dave Loewenstein with support from the Black Sheep Art Collective and the Urban Lifeways Project.  Additional partners included the Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities and Program in Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University.

The mural depicts the Rio de Flag literally going underground, but also speaks to the histories of the Southside neighborhood that have also gone underground, been forgotten, or suppressed.  The design process and resulting mural speaks to the importance of finding the intersection between water, urban agriculture, public art, shared history, emerging visions and collaborative efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members- all of which are essential as we work to renew the health of our communities.

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First Thunders (Return to Balance)

posted Mar 15, 2011, 10:19 AM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Sep 21, 2011, 8:42 AM ]

The First Thunders arrived at the Wakarusa Wetlands last week.  The rain that followed sent thousands of red-winged blackbirds diving into the cattails to join the frogs and their proud springtime songs. Our elders say,
the Thunders signal the advent of the Native New Year.  In traditional times, the Sacred Bundle Creation Ceremonials were initiated to recall and renew our relationship to the whole of earth, nature and the heavens.

For some Ioways the arrival of the First Thunders mean it’s time to be on the lookout for willows to renew our lodge.  For me personally it’s also a time to recall the blessings and teachings of the previous year and renew a commitment to continue relearning how to carry out balanced interactions with all my relations- a traditional value and necessity for land-based people that is often easier said than done. It is also almost time to harvest nettles, morels, and await the arrival of the monarch butterflies on their seasonal migration through the wetlands. 

The Wakarusa Wetlands (or Haskell-Baker Wetlands) in Lawrence, Kansas have long been a place of prayer, refuge, and resistance.  At a recent event in Lawrence, Haskell professor Dr. Dan Wildcat told a story of how the Kaw people (pre-contact) would stand in the wetlands and shout gratitude every morning, mid-day and evening.  In the late 1800’s through the mid-1900’s the wetlands served as a place of prayer and refuge for children attending Haskell during it’s heyday as one of the primary Federal assimilation boarding schools.  Today the wetlands still serve as an outdoor “classroom” where Haskell (now a 4-year university) students and community members learn traditional uses of plants as food and medicine. The Wetlands are also the Lawrence, Kansas version of an ongoing battle to protect sacred sites around the world.

For the past 25 years the wetlands have been in the path of a proposed South Lawrence Trafficway, a six to eight lane highway that would skirt the south end of Lawrence.  On the surface it is the same age-old debate between "progress” and "stagnation".  But beneath the surface the wetlands case, like many other sacred site conflicts, is not just about opposing views of how a particular piece of land should be developed (or not), it is about differing ideas of how people relate to the land itself.  Which is arguably a reflection of how we relate to all beings- plant, animal, and human alike.


In June of 2004 I was on an annual trip with the Indigenous Youth Experience Council (IYEC) , a group of youth and elders from
several tribes throughout the US and Greenland.  The trips were organized to connect young men with spiritual leaders and traditional teachings through week-long outings on different tribal nations and traditional territories.   This particular trip took us to the Navajo Nation and the nearby border town of Flagstaff, Arizona. 
After spending a few days in Pinon (Navajo Nation) we went to Flagstaff to meet with the US Forest Service about a proposed ski-area expansion on the San Francisco

Peaks- the 12,500 ft. mountain that lives just a few miles north of Flagstaff and creates the western-most boundary of traditional Navajo territory.  In addition to being traditional hunting and foraging grounds for tribes in the region it sits at the top of the watershed and has, like the Wakarusa Wetlands, been a place of prayer, refuge, and resistance for generations.  The proposed expansion would clear cut an additional 76 acres of rare alpine forest and would use 100% reclaimed wastewater (sold to the resort by the City of Flagstaff) to make fake “snow”. (see Slideshow)

We met with the Forest Service with the mutual understanding that the elder’s messages would not be constrained by walls,   podiums, or time limits.  Instead we would meet outside within view of the mountain and each of the elders would speak for as long as they needed to share their message.  They were there to share that although many of us were not from the 13 tribes listed on their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as inhabitants of this planet we will all be effected by the proposed resort expansion.  The impacts of imbalanced relationships don’t acknowledge watershed maps or political boundaries. 

This meeting was part of a larger dialogue aimed at reshaping how the US Forest Service conducts consultations on Native American Sacred Sites within National Forest Service (NFS) lands.  Through the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), the current procedure requires only government-to-government consultation (ie; Tribal government to US government)   The aim of this meeting was to continue pushing for a policy that would require the OTR to consult with spiritual leaders and traditional practitioners as well.  This is based in part on the understanding that no government entity, Tribal or otherwise, should be expected (or entitled) to bare the full burden of speaking on behalf of all people, plants, and animals that live in their community. (see OTR Sacred Site Policy Review Update)

We sat and listened to the elders in a drought-enabled pine-bark beetle infested forest for nearly three hours.  Meanwhile, about 100 miles to the southeast smoke billowed into the sky from one of the region's largest forest fires in recent memory- another result of decades of attempts to control and suppress the natural tendencies of the desert landscape.  As a visible metaphor of the message the elders were sharing, the smoke from the fires drifted downwind to the communities who had no choice but to deal with the impacts of decisions they didn’t make.

The elders say that when our relationships are out of balance the earth gives us a nudge- often in the form of earthquakes, droughts, floods, and other "natural disasters".  If we don't listen the earth speaks louder and louder until we pay attention.  These reminders aren’t acts of “punishment” us as some suggest, but are instead opportunities to re-evaluate, regain, then maintain balance in our relationships to each other and the earth itself.

Today, communities across the Pacific are reeling from the impacts of the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history.  Massive fish kills in Chesapeake Bay, thousands of red-winged blackbirds falling from the sky in Arkansas and over 5,000 earthquakes in Aotearoa since last September are all symptoms of an ecologically and socially imbalanced world. Whether you see these events as tangible impacts of climate change, natural cycles of the earth, fulfillment of prophecy, or a combination of these things the messages from our elders gain more credibility every day. 


The way a society
chooses to interact with the landscape is reflected in their other relationships.  Some cultures seek control over nature, while others consider the earth to be their mother.  The latter acknowledges that we would not be here without the earth to nurture us, just like we would not be here without our own mothers.  With that in mind, consider a paradigm shift where all societies treat the earth and all her relations the same way we want our mothers to be treated.  As proposed by Dr. Wildcat, “Imagine what would happen if all of humanity stopped thinking of the earth’s water, forests, minerals, plants, and animals as resources, and instead began treating them as relatives.”

The concept of living in balance is central to the worldviews of most Indigenous and land-based peoples.  It is a fundamental concept that enabled humans to live sustainably on this planet for thousands of years.  Within that is the understanding that truly living in balance includes ALL relations, not just those of your own species, race, or economic class.  From urban farms in West Philly and Rio de Janeiro to the streets of Libya and Wisconsin people are taking steps to regain this balance within their communities.  These responses not only treat the symptoms of imbalance, but also seek to simultaneously address the underlying causes of environmental and social injustice as well.  

No matter where you live there are local examples of balanced relationships that existed in the past, still persist in the present, or both.  Finding those examples and applying them to our day-to-day relationships is what we need most right now.  For the health of our communities now and into the future we must again practice the time-tested teachings of the elders by seeking balance in all our relationships with “the whole of the earth”.  As the new year approaches, take time to find your own local version of the Wakarusa Wetlands or the San Francisco Peaks and recall and renew how you relate to ALL your relations in balance- including the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the people you love.

2/2/11: Faces of Invisible Labor; Jawaharlal Nehru University: Delhi, India

posted Feb 3, 2011, 11:22 AM by Brett Ramey   [ updated Sep 5, 2011, 7:34 AM by Horagewi .com ]

I wasn't in the US for the 2008 presidential election.  Instead, for the week prior I was in Italy as part of the North American Indigenous Delegation to Terra Madre, an international gathering of farmers, seed savers, food policy shifters, artisans, chefs, and others interested in working for the health of their local food systems.  The day of the election itself I was on a flight from Rome to Delhi- leaving the fallen empire of Rome for an aspiring empire of India to hear election results of the current empire of the United States.

I arrived in Delhi at sunrise then immediately took an auto to Jawarhalal Nehru University (JNU) in South West Delhi where some friends live, study, and work tirelessly for the rights of workers on their campus.  While I was (obviously) anticipating the results of the election back home, I was equally excited to spend some weeks with friends walking around the cavernous streets of Munirka, hitting up pani puri and paan wallahs, and hearing updates on the numerous social movements they are connected to in India.  It was fascinating to watch the response of "our" election from so far away.  If for no other reason than because it reiterated that what happens in the US, or anywhere for that matter, reverberates over mountains, across oceans, and beyond political boundaries.  It's all part of the same web.

Like many nations (and unlike a web) a highly stratified class system is alive and well in India.  The primary difference, from what I could observe with my limited understanding,  is that it does not attempt to appear otherwise.  I didn't see any carrots dangling from strings at the top of every hill and around every corner.  People knew exactly where they stood today and where they would stand tomorrow, because their families had been standing there for countless generations.  Despite standing in the same spot for centuries, many of the workers at JNU remained invisible to the students they held on their shoulders on a daily basis.

My friends had been organizing with workers on their campus to help secure wages, gloves for the sanitation workers, and other basic necessities that they had not already been granted due in part to their position in the class (caste) system.  Their relative privilege and student status gave them access to policy makers within the JNU administration who the workers could not reach on their own.  Although they were having some success with the administration they recognized a need to get more popular support from students, many of which had not been reached by the previous tactics of marches and sit-ins at University offices.  They wanted to do some creative actions that would not only get the attention of the other students, but also begin the process of regaining respect and dignity for the worker's trades.

Within a few days of my arrival my friends, the workers union they support, and I decided to do an installation on a dhaba (cafe) in a highly visible spot on campus.  The installation would address the ongoing invisibility of the skilled workers that keep the university functioning and would be conceptualized and installed by the workers themselves- with the support of a few additional artists and facilitators.  We knew that the images should be easily replicated across campus through stencils, literature, or future installations.  Most importantly, we wanted to help create a platform for the workers themselves to share their stories and skills with young people who, like in many places, are rapidly trading in their local land-based knowledge for promises of prosperity in the global economy.


We decided to do the project the same day as a weekly cricket match organized by some of the workers.  While some played cricket, others began conceptualizing the specific themes and design for the installation on three walls of the dhaba.  Within a couple hours the first wall was ready for th
e first round of the installation.  It depicted workers squatting below the main counter of the dhaba, bearing the full weight of the exchanges of food and money that takes place across the counter with their backs and hands.  Around the corner the second wall had over 100 photocopied images of the workers themselves with faces painted black, revealing only their eyes.  The phrase "The Many Faces of Invisible Labour" was scrawled over the top to further illustrate the point.  Another section of that wall had the phrase "Do not remove until worker's rights are enforced on campus".  The third wall (pictured right) had outlines of workers holding yellow stencils of the tools of their various trades.  These tools would become symbols that could be replicated around campus to keep visibility of the worker's contributions strong.  The words above the outlines said "Life", "Work", "Knowledge", in Devanagari (Hindi) script.  (see photo essay of the installation here)

Many of the campus workers are Adivasi (Indigenous) from rural villages and bring vast amounts of land-based knowledge related to farming
, building construction, traditional food and medicine preparation, textile production, etc. (ie; all of the things we need to survive, but that few of us know how to do).  Many of them tend the gardens on campus, often in the shadows of the buildings containing classrooms their caste will never permit them to enter as students, much less teachers.  Similarly, many of the students and teachers inside the classrooms will never, within the current system, develop the knowledge or skill base that comes from tending to the land. 

As a way to begin blurring the line between teacher, student, and laborer, we set up a short tour of the campus with some of the gardeners.  The hope was that they could eventually lead larger groups of students and share their knowledge in an informal, outdoor, credit-free setting.  We spent a couple of hours walking around learning countless uses for what seemed like every plant we saw.  Did you know that aloe vera can not only help heal burns, but can prevent them from happening in the first place?  I had read that somewhere before, but only truly learned it after the gardeners showed me how to do it for real.

The ongoing struggle for respect and dignity that "unskilled" workers face in India is similar throughout the world.  In the US, there is an increasing abundance of highly skilled farmers, artists, computer programmers, doctors, writers, healers, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, etc. whose knowledge is not widely shared either because of their immigration status or because they are not immigrants at all, but are the Native people of this land.  Their trades and experience, developed over many generations in diverse geographic and social contexts, would add a much needed boost to the resiliency and skill-base of the National and global society as a whole.  But instead, legalized discrimination and assimilation often pushes this knowledge underground, sometimes even placing it out of reach of the families and communities where it originated in the first place.

The loss of land-based knowledge is a global epidemic.  As many of our Native communities in the US know, it takes only a couple generations of assimilation policies, formal or informal, to disconnect from land-based knowledge that took centuries to develop.  Fortunately many of the skills related to working with the land and each other that went underground over the past couple of generations are reemerging.  Through collaborative efforts between grassroots organizations, Tribal governments, families, and even academic institutions land-based knowledge is reclaiming a voice in circles previously dominated by western education systems and institutions alone.  One reason for this is that traditional knowledge systems are resilient, observant, and do not inherently reject "new" innovations, partnerships, or current social realities.  They acknowledge the wisdom in adapting to current realities, without completely abandoning their own foundation.

Finding the intersections between these "different" types of knowledge systems, elevating the positive elements of each, and above all honoring the people who posses that knowledge can begin reweaving the web between the numerous and equally important ways of knowing that exist in the world, regardless of what stage of urbanization, assimilation, or empire a community is at.


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