Sunday, December 30, 2012

This is About Mother Earth (and Indigenous Sovereignty)

Today Chief Arvol Looking Horse issued a statement in support of Chief Theresa Spence:
This is About Mother Earth!

As Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, I would like to send out support for the efforts of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, for giving of herself through fasting with prayers for the protection of Mother Earth.

Throughout history, there have been many Voices from different Nations trying to alert us of the prophecies that are now upon us. We are in a time of Great Urgency, especially since the animals have been showing their sacred color white to tell us we need to change the Path we are on.

The war in the Middle East over money, oil and power, in the name of Spirituality, has been affecting us for far too long. A Healing now needs to happen from that lesson. Those lessons now exist in those territories in the lack of animal and plant life, as well as the many orphans and childless parents.

Political decision makers throughout history have made decisions that have affected many People, lands and animal/plant life;  the recent decision made to subject Mother Earth and take away any protection she had left, is a decision that affects all humanity.

This effort has to be understood the same light of our Peace work, which is “All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer”. This effort to protect Mother Earth is all Humanity’s responsibility, not just Aboriginal People. Every human being has had Ancestors in their lineage that understood their umbilical cord to the Earth, understanding the need to always protect and thank her. Therefore, all Humanity has to re-connect to their own Indigenous Roots of their lineage - to heal their connection and responsibility with Mother Earth and become a united voice.

In a Sacred Hoop Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

Chief Arvol Looking Horse

A heads-up for folks in areas that want to support Idle No More, but that may not have large NDN populations. We have seen some non-Natives, including some pretendians and shameons, trying to colonize Idle No More.

Please forgive my redundancy if you've seen me post this stuff elsewhere, but...

I want to make sure that the non-Natives who have been misinterpreting and misrepresenting the concept of "Indigenous" and "Indigeneity" don't use Arvol's words to try to justify appropriation or identity theft.  Arvol wrote:
"Every human being has had Ancestors in their lineage that understood their umbilical cord to the Earth, understanding the need to always protect and thank her. Therefore, all Humanity has to re-connect to their own Indigenous Roots of their lineage - to heal their connection and responsibility with Mother Earth and become a united voice."
I have always found this to be a beautiful and inspiring statement, ever since Paula first spoke it to me. But lately we have come across some appropriators and exploiters misinterpreting the idea of Indigenous roots, thinking that "Indigenous Roots of their lineage" means that they are also Indigenous People (NDNs), or that they can choose to become Indigenous (through stealing ceremonies, terminology, and identities from NDNs, or through buying a fake title from pay-to-pray, outcast exploiters). Some of these appropriators and ceremony-sellers have come in through the "Occupy"/"Decolonize" movement. So, just making a note here for anyone else who gets odd reactions from non-Natives when they share this, or if they see shameons posting it in places and misrepresenting what Arvol is saying.

The concept, as I understand it, is beautiful. But due to the white privilege and white supremacy of some who are latching onto it, the "Indigenous Roots" meme itself is becoming toxic. This is tragic and horrible, but we need to look it square in the face and call out the people who are attempting to poison the well.

Reconnecting to our ancestors' Indigenous roots means taking the challenge of learning the languages, ways and ceremonies of our own ancestors, not stealing ceremonies or identities or terminology from Native people, and not making stuff up and pretending it's "Indigenous European" (a term largely used by Neo-Nazis). Or "Celtic" (which some nuagers, in total ignorance that we have living Celtic cultures and lifeways, are attempting to pervert into a shorthand for "white appropropriator," thinking no one will notice they are simply doubling down on the misappropriation and misrepresentation). Doing this work of preserving and reviving the ways of our own ancestors does not make us Indigenous; it simply puts us in touch with our ancestral roots. Hopefully, it also makes us stronger and more whole, and leads to a spiritual fulfillment that erases the desire to steal from other cultures.

Here's a post from the Idle No More founders on advice for non-Native allies: Idle No More: The Indigenous Peoples' Movement - I’m Non-Indigenous, How Can I Participate in Idle No More?

If you want to do a local action, or join a local group, find out what Native people in the area are doing - in most cases they have already organized groups. For the most part, so far things are overwhelmingly Indigenous at the demos. If you live in an area where this is the case, be very grateful. Because in other areas we are also seeing a bit of a problem with non-Natives wanting to form and lead Idle No More groups, and some of these people have questionable agendas. In some cases, there are non-Natives and known pretendians who are misrepresenting themselves as Native (or as "Indigenous" to a non-Native culture) and forming a group where there is already a Native one, or attempting to colonize rounddances with their own agendas, or scheduling thoroughly non-Native events that conflict with NDN ones (and misrepresenting their non-Native event as the Native event).  NDNs in my area have already had to do some creative re-scheduling, and making networking for events private, in order to avoid being colonized or "occupied".

While I'm seeing that respectful support is very appreciated, we need to make sure this is truly solidarity and not appropriation. For instance, if people are doing a solidarity action that does not involve Native spiritual leaders, and they want to sing and pray and purify, they should do these things in the ways of  their own ancestors, their own living cultures, and not imitate the ways of NDN people. It is not solidarity for non-Natives to  try to use NDN sacred songs or ceremonies (including smudging);  it is misappropriation. If you don't know the ways of your own ancestors, please, just leave attempts at anything sacred out of this and simply be there in solidarity and fellowship.

And if you know who your ancestors are, but only know a tiny bit about their ways, show some respect to the tradition-bearers and ask them to represent, instead of stepping into the spotlight yourself to present misinformation.

Non-natives, if you go to an action and find that pretendians are misappropriating, stand up to them and say something. Part of being a real ally is stopping the appropriators. As non-Natives, we know all too well what appropriators and exploiters get up to when they think no NDNs are watching, how much worse they behave when they think everyone there is on their team. Have the courage to step up and do the right thing or you're no ally at all.

crossposted. apologies for any redundancies.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

From the Frozen North to the Sweltering South, This is NDN Land


"Neither of us will make compulsory laws or interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other's vessel." ~ Two Row Wampum Treaty 

Peace, Friendship, Mutual Respect 

Honour the Treaties

Non-Native in Solidarity with #IdleNoMore

As in, the original treaty was for the colonists to deal with the First Nations as one sovereign nation to another. The First Nations have not broken this treaty.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sith co nemh, bid sír nae. Sith.

Winter Solstice sunrise at Brú na Bóinne

Sith co nem.
Nem co doman.
Doman fo ním,

Nert hi cach, án forlann,
lan do mil, mid co saith.
Sam hi ngam, gai for sciath,
sciath for durnd.

Dunad lonngarg; longait-tromfoíd
fod di uí, ross forbiur
benna abu, airbe imetha.

Mess for crannaib, craob do scis
scis do áss, saith do mac
mac for muin, muinel tairb
tarb di arccoin, odhb do crann,
crann do ten.

Tene a nn-ail. Ail a n-uír
uích a mbuaib, boinn a mbru.
Brú lafefaid
ossglas iaer errach,
foghamar forasit etha.

Iall do tir,
tir co trachd lafeabrae.
Bidruad rossaib, síraib rithmár,
'Nach scel laut?'

Sith co nemh,

Peace to the sky.
Sky to the earth.
Earth under sky,

Strength in us all, a cup so full,
full of honey, mead in plenty.
Summer in winter, spear over shield,
shield strong in hand.

Fort of fierce spears; a battle-cry
land for sheep, bountiful forests
mountains forever, magic enclosure.

Nuts on branches, branches heavy
heavy with fruit, wealth for a son
a gifted son, strong back of bull
a bull for a poem, a knot on a tree,
wood for the fire.

Fire from the stone. Stone from the Earth
wealth from cows, from the womb of Boann.
From the mist comes the cry of the doe,
a stream of deer after springtime,
corn in autumn, upheld by peace.

A warrior band for the land,
prosperous land, reaching to the shore.
From wooded headlands, waters rushing,
"What news have you?"

Peace to the sky,
life and land everlasting.

From the Prophecy of An Morrígan, in "Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism". The original Old Irish, as a solid block of text with few line breaks, is in the public domain; this arrangement and translation copyright ©2012 Kathryn Price NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa. See the article for extensive footnotes delineating how I arrived at this translation. Any errors in translation are my own.

And Check out Treasa's excellent writeup on some of the Gaelic sacred sites and spirits associated with this time of year: Celebrating Grianstad an Gheimhridh (The Winter Solstice)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gaol Naofa Site Relaunch: New FAQ and Articles

Gaol Naofa - Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway
Over the past few years I have been increasingly collaborating with my dear friends and colleagues in Gaol Naofa, our Gaelic Polytheist organisation.  While it may seem we've been quiet for a while, we have actually been very busy over the past few years, and are now ready to release some of the work we've been doing.  The material now uploaded to the site is well over a book's-worth of new material. Even just combining the new FAQ with the associated articles, it's the largest amount of GP or CR text I've been involved in publishing since the release of the CR FAQ. All told, it's also more substantial than that earlier work and, since this is a statement from one organisation, more unified and better footnoted.

The Gaol Naofa FAQ
The link above will take you to the intro page; click on the link for the pdf file (we had to put it in a pdf because it clocks in at a good 90 pages long, and it's really the only way to make the index workable without breaking up every section the way we did with the CR FAQ website). The GN FAQ has been substantially expanded from the earlier version and outlines the nitty gritty of our organisation and our vision for it. It also goes into some of our beliefs and outlooks on certain areas. In that sense it might be of interest to Gaelic Polytheists in general, but we hope it's clear that the contents of the GN FAQ (as with everything else we've done) speaks to our own points of view as an organisation and no one else's. Even though some other groups might overlap with us in places, that doesn't mean one size fits all.

Then there's:

Rowan and Red Thread: Magic and Witchcraft in Gaelic Cultures
Again a pdf, weighing in at a more modest, but still substantial, 57 pages. We cover the general gist of the article in some of the questions in the FAQ, so this offers a bit more of our thoughts on this, with plenty of references and historical goodness. It's a huge area, though, and this is really only scratching the surface. One of the things we tackle in this is the use of terminology in both historical and contemporary communities, and why we in Gaol Naofa do not call ourselves "witches." Anyone interested in joining our discussion groups should at least look over the FAQ and (if they want lots of supporting data) this article, so as to understand what we mean by all of these terms, how these terms are and aren't used in our organisation, and what we will think you mean if you use them.

And then we have:

Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism
Another pdf but a bit shorter than the two above. The title is fairly self-explanatory; we go into how we approach prayer and how we make our prayers, the kinds of sources we look to and how we deal with both the gifts and the problems those sources can present. Some examples of prayer are given, along with new translations of part of The Prophecy of the Morrígan and some prayers from the Carmina Gadelica. A suggested reading list is included as well.

As you'll see on the articles page, we have slightly updated and added to the Offerings article, and Treasa and I have another substantial article ready to go once we stare at it for a bit longer with our Editor's Hats on. Elsewhere on the site you'll find that the reading list has been expanded, and the "About" pages have been overhauled too.  To celebrate five years of the organisation, Treasa has given the website a bit of a makeover with new headers and icon thingies.

A big thanks, once again, to everyone who helped us out and supported us during the first, second and however many final drafts we went through on these pieces, as well as for your support and feedback in general.

On a personal note, I would like to particularly thank the members of the council, the advisory network, and all the members and allies who have been so supportive and collaborative in the past five years. In particular, Tomás for founding Gaol Naofa, and for not giving up when I kept being vague and noncommittal about joining. And of course Treasa and Annie for making these writing projects a joy instead of a struggle. You guys came along at a time in my life when I was at a crossroads and not sure where I was going. Thank you for your determination, dedication and perseverance. Slàinte Mhath!

P.S. Members will note that there is a new, members-only, Gealach Ur Rite, which has been completely rewritten to include traditional liturgy, ritual, and an accompanying article on the moon in Gaelic cultures. This will be available to renewing members in the new year.  We plan on opening up our membership process for new members after the activity of the Winter Holidays subsides a bit. In the meantime, you can get to know members of our community on our public discussion group, where all who are interested in Gaelic Polytheism are welcome to come and chat with us, whether or not they are members of Gaol Naofa. You can also stay abreast of updates and links via our new Facebook Page.

Read the full announcement here: Gaol Naofa Relaunches and Celebrates Five Years
I also cribbed some of the text for this from Annie's post: New Stuff

Thursday, November 08, 2012

An Cailleach Bheara

From the Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann comes a fabulous short film (8:01 min.), An Cailleach Bheara. Go raibh maith agat to our beloved Annie for sharing this one. (Annie and I have a lot of overlap in our subscribers, but if you don't yet follow her blog, I highly recommend it!)

The film references a few traditional stories about An Cailleach Bheara, our ancient foremother - ancestor, creatrix, and spirit woman (maybe a Goddess, but who knows, really). The juxtaposition of ancient and modern is brilliant and moving. At first I wasn't too keen on the costume they used, but thanks to the actors I came to love it.

Still from An Cailleach Bheara - Irish Film Board

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Thank you for your compassionate leadership, and to all who sacrificed themselves in the storm

From someone who braved the storm, and has friends and relatives in some of the worst-hit areas: Thank you to those who gave their lives to save others during this disaster. Thank you to those who took personal risk to help your families, friends and neighbours get through this. Thank you to President Obama who worked with Governors Christie and Cuomo to eliminate red tape and get help to the people.

My political work is usually more grassroots than mainstream, and I don't fit easily onto the American Left/Right, Dem/Repub spectrum. I'm registered as an Independent. But if it wasn't clear enough before the storm: One party wants to rebuild our infrastructure and support our police, fire and rescue workers, including their right to have unions so they can get paid even a fraction of what they are worth. The other wants to eliminate FEMA and cut the number of law enforcement and rescue workers, and further reduce the pay of these heroes and heroines. Our country is already struggling with poor infrastructure, and we can't afford to have it destroyed yet more. Hurricane Sandy, like Katrina, is not a freak storm. It's going to keep happening. And we need people at the helm who are smart enough and moral enough to work together to do what needs to be done. I ask everyone in the US to please bear this in mind on Tuesday.


Friend of a dear friend, who made the ultimate sacrifice:

Artie Kasprzak, 28, who drowned rescuing seven family members, including his 15-month-old son, from the raging flood waters on Staten Island.

Lakota Youth from Pine Ridge help NYC recover:

"They could have stayed dry and clean in one of the distribution areas handing out supplies but these Natives come from a place where helping your community is a daily duty. “We come from a hard place to live” says Coach Pine. “Many of our elders go without heat, electricity and hot water every day, we know what is needed in situations like this.”  And so they did, clearing a complete basement of moldy sheet rock and rugs in 30 minutes.  As they helped a Chinese husband and wife who barely spoke English the man turned and asked “Who are these people?”   A Road Runner staff member replied, “They are American Indians, they come from a community which is the poorest place in America.” The man replied  “I am honored they would come to help me.” Jeff Turning Heart said, “At first I was sad the race was cancelled but coming here and seeing all these people working  together made me feel proud to be part of it. We know how to survive in desperate situations and have the skills to assist these people in need. I know I am stronger from this experience.”

Nupa White Plume, helping Hurricane Sandy relief efforts
photo by Cliff Matias, ICT

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Western Isles

Here is a fabulous little film, a true treasure from the archives.

Set in the Hebrides during WWII, it features Gàidhlig speakers, some lovely waulking songs (Òran Luaidh), and sumptuous footage of the sea and islands. With the focus on a household who make Harris tweed, those in our communities who carry on the spinning and weaving traditions should enjoy this as well.

Read more about the film here.

Moran Taing to Tobar an Dualchais for sharing this!

The òran luaidh are a great source of inspiration to those of us with women's circles. Their call and response style, with a woman leading with improvised verses, and a group of women repeating the chorus, were historically used to share gossip, community lore, and personal stories. Traditionally, they were for women only, though some modern language preservation groups have everyone sing the songs now. Such as in this version of an òran luadh, adapted for instrumentation and a mixed group:

Karen Matheson: "Chuir m'Athair Mise Dha'n Taigh Charraideach" (còmhla ri "Seudan a'Chuain")

For both Gaelic Polytheists and Gaelic Christians, this kind of structure is also used for some types of prayer and ceremony. It's a specifically Gaelic women's approach, yet the form is also found in the song-prayers of a number of different animistic cultures. For more on prayers that take this form, check out the latter volumes in particular of the Carmina Gadelica (Gàidhlig: Ortha nan Gàidheal). The full set of the Carmina is expensive, but there is also interlibrary loan. Most good University libraries have a copy, and it's essential to any Gaelic studies program. The first volumes are available online at a few sites, as well.

The article above mentions the film, I Know Where I’m Going!, also shot in the Hebrides (but in black and white), and featuring our beloved Coire Bhreacain, Cauldron of the Hag. (English: the Corryvreckan Whirlpool.) I Know Where I’m Going! is also interesting for its footage of the isles and sea, but focuses more on the protagonist and her romantic life than Gaelic culture. Still, worth checking out if you like quirky old movies.

photo by russ baum

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Óró 'Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile

In a recent discussion about trad songs for summertime, I was surprised to see I hadn't posted anything here about Óró 'Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile. This is one of my favorites, not only for its history as a Rebel song (in a series of Rebellions), but also as it's about Sovereignty. Which Warrior Queen is being called to? What does it mean to welcome her home?

As the refrain ends, "Now that summer is coming," seasonally this is more appropriate for Spring. But I find that it often crops up in the river of song when a welcome is called for. Sláinte Mhaith!

The Wikipedia article on the song is pretty good, and has some of the alternate versions. This is my preferred variation, adapted by Pádraig Pearse:


'Sé do bheatha, a bhean ba léanmhar,
Do b' é ár gcreach tú bheith i ngéibheann,
Do dhúiche bhreá i seilbh méirleach,
Is tú díolta leis na Gallaibh.

Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.
Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile,
Óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda,
Gaeil iad féin is ní Frainc ná Spáinnigh,
Is cuirfidh siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh.
A bhuí le Rígan na bhFeart go bhfeiceam,1
Mura mbeam beo ina dhiaidh ach seachtain,
Gráinne Mhaol agus míle gaiscíoch,
Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh.


Welcome oh woman who was so afflicted,
It was our ruin that you were in bondage,
Our fine land in the possession of thieves
And you sold to the foreigners!

Oh-ro You're welcome home,
Oh-ro You're welcome home,
Oh-ro You're welcome home
Now that summer's coming!
Gráinne O'Malley is coming over the sea,
Armed warriors along with her as her guard,
They are Gaels, not French nor Spanish
And they will rout the foreigners!
May it please the Queen of Miracles that we might see,
Although we may live for a week once after,
Gráinne Mhaol and a thousand warriors
Dispersing the foreigners!

1Original: "Rí na bhFeart - King of Miracles," usually interpreted as the Christian God, altered here to "Rígan na bhFeart - Queen of Miracles," in honor of Sovereignty, who in Irish lore is always personified as a woman. There is a great tradition of poets, lorekeepers and ceremonial people singing of the Sovereignty of Ireland but, during times of severe oppression, thinly disguising these tales, songs and prayers as "simply" a story of longing for a woman.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Northern Cheyenne Fire Relief

Relief efforts for the Northern Cheyenne families displaced by the Montana wildfires are getting more organized. So far eighteen families have lost everything, about 32 houses have been destroyed, and the fire is still spreading. There is now a Facebook page for coordinating the relief effort. Please follow them for the most up to date information:

Northern Cheyenne Fire Relief - Lame Deer Boys & Girls Club
Update: Friday, June 29, 2012. 12:07am
The Boys & Girls Club disaster relief shelter in Lame Deer is doing well. The salvation army arrived this evening with kitchen staff to help serve our meals to the displaced victims of the Ash Creek fires. The donation area is now at the Catholic Church in Lame Deer. Allen Fisher is the main point of contact for the donations, please send him a facebook message, or post on this page regarding donations, and Allen will get back to you. You can also call the B&G Club to speak with him at 406-477-6654. Please keep us in your prayers during this trying time. Thank you.

We're currently compiling the needs for our community members who are displaced and have lost everything due to the fires. We're doing inventory of what we already have in donations and then we will have a more finalized list for people to pass on to their networks. ETA: Updated List Here and In Comments.
Donations can be dropped off at [or mailed to] the Boys and Girls Club:
Northern Cheyenne Boys and Girls Club
101 Cheyenne Ave
Lame Deer MT, 59043

and Allen Fisher will coordinate the storage and transport of items to Ashland and Birney. Cash donations are always helpful, please use the link below.

[You can send cash directly via PayPal.] Our donation account is The email is linked to the Boys and Girls Club's Account. Thank you everyone. Send it far and wide. 18 families so far that have nothing left.

The fire is continuing to spread. Details on the wildfire itself, projected movements and map of the area affected are being posted here:

Ash Creek Fire: Incident Overview

Video of Fire

All photos courtesy Northern Cheyenne Tribal Health
and Northern Cheyenne Fire Relief - Lame Deer Boys & Girls Club

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Emergency: Wildfires Hit Northern Cheyenne Nation

The Ash Creek Fire is estimated to be approximately 110,000 acres, on the eastern side of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana
Photo by  John Youngbear, Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The wildfires ravaging the country have now hit the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana. A number of families have lost their homes and all their possessions. Things are still very dangerous there, and the community is fighting to get the wildfires under control.

Photo by Elton Harris via Billings Gazette

An emergency shelter has been set up at the Boys and Girls Club in Lame Deer.

Please consider helping out the people who have been hit hard by this disaster.

Current needs: Children's clothing, diapers, adult clothing and shoes, toiletries, eventually household goods will be needed. ETA: Updated, More Extensive List Here and Here.
There are currently emergency shelters and the Red Cross is providing food and water.

All donations of items can be sent to:

Northern Cheyenne Boys and Girls Club
101 Cheyenne Ave
Lame Deer MT, 59043

Monetary donations can be sent to:

The American Red Cross of Montana 
**Important: You must state that the funds are for the Northern Cheyenne Reservation**

Our prayers are with our friends and their community in this difficult time.
Photo by  John Youngbear, Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Photos courtesy Northern Cheyenne Tribal Health.

ETA 7:12pm ET: The Fire is uncontained and headed for Lame Deer.

Our prayers with our friends fighting the fire and taking care of survivors.

With the power outages and maxed-out phones, updates from friends are spotty. Regular updates are being posted on Facebook by Northern Cheyenne Tribal Health, and the KURL-8 Fire Watch.

Update, 6pm ET from Northern Cheyenne Tribal Health


Basic information
Date of origin: Sunday, June 25, 2012 approx. 04:22
Location: 10 miles NE of Lame Deer, Mont., in Ash Creek
Incident Commander: Tom Heintz

Current Situation
Total Personnel: 118
Size: 110,000 acres
Percent Contained: 5-percent
Fire Behavior: Surface fire with occasional torching and long range spotting.

Significant Events: Ash Creek Fire was transferred to IMT 2 Heintz at 06:00; HWY 212 is closed from Lame Deer to Broadus, Mont.

Planned Actions: Anchor and Flank; Hold flanks of the fire where feasible and identify and provide protection to values at risk.
Growth Potential: HIGH

Photo by Elton Harris via Billings Gazette

ETA: More photos at ICTMN: Northern Cheyenne Reservation Burning, in Photos

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quick Note on Copyright

Please do not copy and paste entire blog posts on to your blog or other media without the express, written permission of the author. Linking to my posts and including brief quotes with links is always fine, but please respect copyright and the rights of those of us who generate content. Thanks.

This notice is at the bottom of every page on my blog. I am usually totally cool with friends and colleagues quoting at length, or even reposting whole entries as long as they ask. However, not everyone has had the common courtesy to simply ask.

This being the Internet, I know it's hard to enforce this without a dedicated team of lawyers. I'm not interested in shutting down the free flow of information between friends and colleagues. But I'm just reminding folks to practice common courtesy here. I sometimes go back and add updates and additional content to my posts. And even though this is not a for-pay medium, I would like to have at least some control over where my content appears. Again, quoting with credit and linkage is fine, just don't swipe whole posts or personal images (such as the picture of my grandmother or other relatives, or me for that matter) without dropping me a line and getting my OK. OK?

Moran Taing.
image adapted from the carmina gadelica
this version copyright ©2012 kpn

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I stand in solidarity with my Cherokee friends and relatives

This is my Grandmother. Like most people from the Ross family, she has predominantly Scottish heritage. She may also have a bit of Cherokee or Choctaw heritage, but I do not know for sure. We have family names on the Rolls, and I have relatives by both blood and adoption who are Indian, but I haven't taken the time to find out for certain if any of those in my direct bloodline were also Native American. I was raised Irish/Scottish-American. That is who I am; that is my culture. I know that even if I do turn out to have some minimal Cherokee or Choctaw blood, this does not make me Indian.

Like Elizabeth Warren, I grew up assuming some of my distant ancestors were Native American. In addition to all the Ross relatives among the Cherokee and Choctaw, I have Scottish and Irish ancestors who lived in community with Native people in Indiana and Montana, and in more distant generations among the tribes in the Carolinas. As far as we can tell, some of their descendants still live among those tribes now. As a child I occasionally attended cultural events that were open to non-Natives; I ate pumpkin fry bread with Seminoles in Florida, and attended a salmon bake and dance on an island in the Puget Sound. But because I knew real Native Americans, I knew I was not one. Unlike Elizabeth Warren, my belief about my ancestors led me to work in solidarity with Native people, to support their struggles for tribal sovereignty and protection of sacred sites. Unlike Elizabeth Warren, I did not "check the box" on college or job applications; I did not choose to exploit vague family stories in order to gain unfair advantages in addition to the white privilege from which she and I already benefit.

I stand in solidarity with my Cherokee relatives. I was initially planning on voting for Elizabeth Warren. I am one of the people who signed the petition to get her on the ballot. But given what we now know about her lies about her heritage and, even worse, her treatment of the Cherokee people who have tried to talk to her about this, along with her dismissal of issues of Native American Sovereignty as "unimportant", I cannot vote for her. If she meets with the authorized Cherokee representatives who are protesting her, sincerely asks how she can make amends, and then makes amends to the satisfaction of the Cherokees she has insulted and exploited, I will reconsider. But not unless and until she does these things.

I stand in solidarity with my Cherokee friends and relatives.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Colonists, Descendants of Colonists, and "Indigenous" Identity

Over the years I have heard a number of spiritual leaders and cultural workers say, "Everyone has Indigenous roots, everyone's ancestors are Indigenous to some place."

But it seems people are interpreting this concept in radically different ways from one another, and due to the white privilege and white supremacy of some who are latching onto it, the concept itself is in many cases becoming toxic.

When I first heard this concept, from an elder Indigenous relative, it resonated with me very strongly. Because of course we want to be rooted in the earth and connected to our ancestors. Of course we want to be ethical, whole, spiritual beings. And because to me it meant, "Your ancestors were rooted in the Earth from which they arose, they had their own ways of communicating with the spirits and respecting the natural world. They were an inseparable part of the landscape around them, and of the spirits and stories that animated and explained that landscape. As a 'white' American, Canadian or Australian, you don't have to be envious of Indigenous cultures, you don't have to imitate or appropriate the ways of other cultures, because if you just look back far enough, you can reclaim the ways of your own ancestors." This idea of becoming rooted in the ways of one's own ancestors is one of the primary reasons I began and then deepened my work in Gaelic Polytheism - the strong message I was receiving, politically, socially and spiritually, that I needed to do my part to revive the earth-based ways of my Irish and Scottish ancestors, and that I had to make sure we had spiritual traditions that are our own - anything less would be a disservice to my ancestors as well as to the people of this land.

But more recently, I have seen other white people in the "Celtic" diaspora decide that, based on a very different interpretation of this meme, they can also claim to be "Indigenous".... that they can speak to "Indigenous" issues here in the Americas and take point on Indigenous actions - despite their white skin privilege - and that they can claim to be "Indigenous" in the same way the Native American and First Nations peoples of this land are Indigenous. This is very problematic. Indeed, it is manifesting in ways that are truly alarming.

White Americans and Canadian, and other hyphenated-Americans and Canadians, are not Indigenous to Turtle Island. Nor are we fully rooted - from birth or in daily life - in the Celtic or European lands our ancestors left. As children of the diaspora, we have some very different challenges from those whose ancestors arose from this land, and from our relatives still in the lands from which our DNA hails.

As I see it, these are three of those challenges:

1. Learning Humility

I often see white people in liberal and progressive groups talking about "empowerment." As in, empowering themselves. This grates on me. As white people, we don't need to learn how to have more power. We are given an unequal amount of power from birth; we didn't earn it. What we need to learn to do is share power, in a way that honors and respects and even at times privileges those who were born without this unearned advantage. What do I mean by privileging others? Well, in areas where they are the experts. Such as addressing questions of what it is like to live without white privilege in America, or what it is like to be Indigenous to the Americas, and any actions that need leadership based on solid life experiences that non-POC simply do not have. Solidarity does not mean showing up and dominating the discussion; it means listening. Then listening some more. Then knowing that even after lots of listening, you are still not the expert. Solidarity does not mean telling Indigenous people how to run their meeting or protest; it means asking what you can do to support them.

2. Connecting With Our Own Ancestors

This doesn't mean ripping off a ritual structure and beliefs from outsider fantasies of Native American, First Nations, or African tribal ceremonies. This means taking the hard challenge of learning the language our ancestors spoke, that our relatives still speak, and studying the real lore, as it has been maintained by the surviving tradition-bearers, and as it was recorded in interviews during the time when these practices were still an active, integrated part of our ancestors' lives.

Most white people are just as ignorant about the earth-based traditions practiced by their ancestors as they are about Indigenous communities here in the Americas. And just like the offensive misrepresentations that happen to the traditions of Native people, the true ways of our ancestors are also threatened by commercialization, pay to pray, and fantasies sold to the gullible by those looking to make a buck off people who are feeling spiritually empty. Finding the real traditions is not as easy as finding the fakes. There is a market in newage or pretendian swill decorated with knotwork and sold as "Celtic". Like with Native communities, it takes time and trust-building to find knowledgeable people willing to take newcomers in. And becoming part of real Celtic communities that know their stuff also takes years of listening, learning, trustbuilding and practice. But there are plenty of us who are involved in this work now, and who have been for most of our lives. There is no need to settle for Newage misinformation, warmed-over Wicca, or for people who are still stuck thirty years in the past, who think we are still in the early days of 101 "reconstruction." They may be at the 101 level, but if so, they shouldn't be presuming to teach others.

3. Don't Colonize Indigenous Identities

Appropriation is not Solidarity. Native activists have encountered a very bizarre phenomenon over the years. It peaked in the seventies, and has again gotten really bad since Occupy. There are non-Natives who are claiming to be anti-racist activists, and who are claiming they want to be allies of Native people, but they are also promoting the idea that they can choose to become "indigenous" themselves. Dealing with these people has been absolutely surreal. They really believe that imitating NDNs (or, their outsider fantasies of how they think NDNs live, speak, and do ceremony) is something that will build solidarity with Indigenous people. Most of these people have never even met real NDNs and, needless to say, they are not members of any Indigenous community. Rather, these newagers, environmentalists, neopagans and ungrounded academics think they can "(re)discover their own indigeneity" through mimicking NDNs, or through claiming to be Indigenous to countries where they have never lived (and that their ancestors left many, many generations ago). They are attempting to create new, fake tribes or "villages," made up of non-Indigenous, mostly white, workshop culture newagers or activists, people who have only occasional contact with one another and whose only exposure to ceremony has been the fake ones sold by the pay-to-pray Plastic Shamans. Even worse, they don't seem capable of understanding how this grotesque misappropriation of Indigenous terminology and identity is offensive to real Indigenous people, real tribes, and real Indigenous villages.

These people are seen as skinstealers. They have been blocked on social media by the Indigenous people and allies they have harmed. Yet still these Celtique pretendians are trying to join legitimate groups and data mine, or starting their own using offensive terminology, forced-teaming and identity theft.

Right now there are intense arguments going on between some of these non-Natives who claim they want to be allies (or worse, they proclaim that they are allies), and the Native people who are rightfully and deeply offended by their actions. If you've been following the #NDNZ, #Decolonize, #AppropriationIsNotSolidarity and #DecolonizeIsColonized tags on Twitter, you've seen some of it, as well as some excellent blog posts on the topic. I will collect some of these posts and add them here, as others have already said it eloquently, humorously, militantly, and every other way they can think of, in an attempt to get the message across. I hope one of these days the pretendians will understand.

Or if they refuse to understand, that they'll move on to a new fad. Because, quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing that any of the pretendians "have good intentions." They don't. Those who are colonizing Indigenous identities, attempting to replace Native voices with non-Native ones, are committing cultural genocide and cultural extermination. It's not an honor. It's not solidarity. It is shameful and harmful and people aren't going to put up with it. 


To all the wannabes
It is not colonialism, or racism, or lateral violence to ask what recognized Native American community you come from, or who your family is, or whether you are connected to any community at all. It should not be taboo to talk about blood quantum, because BQ does have something to do with where you actually belong and come from. 31/32 non-native? Ignoring all your other heritages to focus on some small sliver of native identity is dishonest. BQ is not the be-all, end-all, but neither is that feeling you have that you really are native. Are you accepted as a member of a Native American community? If not, you have no right to say you are one of them. Don’t say you are Mohawk if no Mohawk community would ever acknowledge you. Don’t say you are Ojibwe if no Ojibwe community would ever acknowledge you. You have no right to take away the power of actual native people to determine membership, just because you want in.

Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i let non-indians speak for them anyways)
Since the beginning of Native/non-Native interactions, non-Natives have had a racist, dehumanizing and insulting pattern of propping up—irrespective of Native people’s wishes—completely inadequate, improper and many times, illegal leadership to speak on Native people’s behalf. ... Native leadership is a small circle, and when very few (or none) of those leaders know about a purported fellow leader, one might be inclined to be suspicious about letting that person speak for Native people assuming they value an honest Native discourse, as they value other honesty in other ethnic discussions.

Helpful hints for would-be anti-racist, Indigenous Solidarity activists
If the members of your all-white group think they are showing "solidarity" by speaking in a subcultural patois of Newage Bafflegab crossed with TontoSpeak... you have a problem.

Redemption of the White Liberal
Appalling numbers of white liberals are in deep denial of the unfathomable pain, suffering, and death that the pursuit of white supremacy has wrought. Yes, their denial is appalling but completely understandable. They labor under a grand form of “cognitive dissonance” which exquisitely defines the term. I have wondered often that had I been born “white”, how utterly impossible it would be, must be, to simply look into a mirror knowing how much innocent blood lay behind my reflection, my history. Absolute denial and rejection of that blood, of that reflection and history would be the only means of maintaining even a semblance of sanity.
On another level, though, many, perhaps a majority, of white liberals appreciate quite clearly what they have done. Indeed, they celebrate and gleefully swim in that bloody sea of denial, ever thankful for their whiteness and their conscientious and well-meaning liberalism. This set of white liberals eagerly embraces their unearned privileges and power and protect themselves and their whiteness behind world-destroying weapons, multi-million-man armies – or “gated” enclaves. Their fear is understandable as well for they have much to fear, going all the way back to, and starting with, Indian attack and slave revolt.

Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is harmful because it is an extension of centuries of racism, genocide, and oppression. Cultural appropriation treats all aspects of marginalized cultures (also known as targets of oppression) as free for the taking. This is the same rationale that has been (and still is) used to steal land and resources from People of Color, particularly Native people. Put together, the theft of the lands, resources, and culture of a marginalized group amount to genocide. The defense of cultural appropriation is based upon the misconception that race relations exist on a level-playing field, as though racism no longer exists. Systematic racism does still exist – white people have power and privilege in this society, while People of Color are systematically denied power and privilege in this society. There cannot be a truly equal and free flow of ideas, practices, and cultural markers as long as one group (white people) have power and privilege over another group (People of Color).

What White People Fear
I have a choice: I can rest comfortably in the privileges that come with being white, or I can struggle to be fully human. ... This analysis of the dynamics of mixed-race settings is hardly original. Non-white people have long recognized that white liberals are happy to engage with folks who aren’t white as long as their white-centric worldview isn’t threatened, and that white groups are happy to have non-white members as long as the power dynamics don’t change. ... A first step for me has been to question the value of the seemingly endless “race dialogues” that are popular in white liberal groups. In the pseudo-­therapeutic setting of such dialogues, with more talk about personal healing than about political change, white people are guaranteed that we won’t be forced out of a white-defined world. White-dominated institutions—corporations, nonprofits, universities, government agencies—are happy to sponsor such dialogues, diversity trainings, and multicultural events, precisely because they don’t threaten the fundamental distribution of wealth and power.

Race Matters: Liberal Racism and the Occupy Wall Street Movement
White liberals and white conservatives are both infected by white supremacy and white privilege. In addition, both are invested in the white racial frame and a type of racial heliocentrism where “whiteness” equals normality: in this aspect, I have long suggested that white liberals and white conservatives differ only in how the disease that is white racism manifests itself.

Systemic Racism and the Occupy Movement
You cannot help a community if you do not take time to understand the problems and will of the community. I cannot speak for you if you are not forthright and direct in your beliefs. And the movement cannot have any spokesperson if there is not consensus among us about where we are heading.

Cherokee Nation: What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe? (Video)

The #NDNZ Daily

The #Indigenous #Decolonize Daily

P.S. - One of the tactics I have seen in non-Native peoples' attempts to colonize and appropriate Indigenous identities is homogenization. I recently found a video where a white minster of a liberal American church confidently lectured a "Decolonize" group about how all indigenous cultures had (not have; he spoke in the past tense, rendering contemporary Indigenous people and their surviving cultures invisible) certain, core elements and beliefs and practices in common. He then made gross generalizations about all "Indigenous" cultures, presenting misinformation about their spiritual beliefs, ceremonies and social structures. By ignoring the diversity and uniqueness of these ancient and contemporary cultures, he in effect advanced the dangerous lie that, since all our ancestors followed the same ways and believed the same things, everyone is of the same culture, therefore no one owns cultural property and there is no such thing as misappropriation. This is a blatant lie and an act of cultural extermination.

Indigenous peoples own their cultures, their stories, their traditions. Only an outsider who is grossly ignorant of the actual cultures, or promoting an appropriative, colonial agenda, would present such misinformation. Even worse, this white minister has fooled other non-Indigenous people into thinking he is Indigenous (fake Cherokee, of course), and can represent Indigenous people in groups that are supposed to be for People of Color (POC). We need to stand up to these acts of colonialism when they infiltrate our groups and meetings. If someone is claiming to speak for Indigenous people, ask them what community empowered them to speak, and then do some research and find out if it's a real tribe. If it's not, they are a fraud. If they claim to speak for a real tribe/Nation, go to the traditional people - the real Elders - from the tribe they claim, and see if that tribe claims them. Usually, as in the above case, you will find the tribes have never heard of these imposters. In the rare cases where the person may actually be from that community, find out if they were ever granted the authority to speak on the issues they claim to be authorities on.  Find out who the imposters really are, and then tell your friends and the groups where they are seeking followers.

P.P.S. Many of these recent discussions have taken place in the context of the Decolonize/Occupy movements, with non-Natives making horrific statements like, "Let's Occupy (name of Native territory or Native event)!"  and then proceeding to colonize and attempt to take over events that used to be run by NDNs. White people have "occupied" areas that used to be POC spaces and, except for a couple tokens with class privilege, driven the POC out. Some groups heard the feedback about the problems with the name "Occupy" and changed their names to "Decolonize," but what we have seen in most cases is that the change was only cosmetic. Instead of improving their behaviour, their behaviour has gotten worse;  they've tried to learn how to pass as allies while in actuality looking for ways to misappropriate. Some of the worst frauds and appropriators have now taken shelter in the "Decolonize" groups themselves, bringing in pretendians to present fake NDN "teachings," lead pretendian/newage prayers, and even organize to keep real NDNs from coming to events. Some of the "Decolonize" groups have spawned new frauds who are trying to pass as Indigenous. It is an absolutely hideous situation. I personally witnessed NDNs trying to help some of these offensive non-Natives. They took the Occupy/Decolonize people at their word that they wanted to be real allies instead of offensive burdens. But once again, the NDNs wound up betrayed, because these non-Natives have not changed their core values of individualism, greed and selfishness, and are apparently incapable of seeing things from any point of view but that of privileged, colonial settlers who think everything - even peoples' very identities - is theirs for the taking.

I strongly urge people to read the following statement, a critique and commentary on Decolonize/Occupy by a coalition of People of Color (POC). If you belong to a group that allegedly signed off on this document, but now find your group is being dominated by white voices, pretendians and shadow leadership, I urge you to do something about it. It is tragic and hypocritical that some who have in name supported this statement have all of these exact problems currently dragging their groups down:

For People Who Have Considered Occupation But Found It Is Not Enuf
Decolonization calls for organizing a movement that is led by individuals and communities whose voices are least likely to be heard.
... In fact, many of the same characters that have attempted to dominate movements in our communities in the past are the same people who lead OWS from the light and shadows.
... Movements led by those without the lived experience of day-to-day violence and generational poverty cannot produce justice, transformation, and dignity for those of us who live on the margins and on the streets.
... We demand that our white allies speak with their comrades about the racial privilege that enables their actions. We do not want white people to “protect” us, but we do want to coordinate strategically before events, during events, and after events.
... We demand the acknowledgement and abolition of Rape Culture, which has gone uncontested by the majority of Occupiers. Slavery and genocide were perpetrated through mass sexual assault of women of color. Colonial logic still questions the humanity of women of color to this day, as evidenced by the sexual assault and the sexual exploitation of women of color before, during and after Occupy encampments.
... Above all, we demand that the work that began before OWS be recognized, honored and supported. Years of anti-police brutality work, indigenous land movement organizing, and fighting for transgender peoples’ lives are but examples of movements that must not be abandoned in favor of focusing our collective energy on anticapitalism.
... To our white brothers and sisters: ... We want you to strive to find your way. We want you to recognize that the ways that you seek liberation often comes at the expense of ours. We expect you to act from that knowledge with integrity.
... We hope that we can emerge, renewed and strong, and continue to walk together.

ETA: 6.12.2012 - Hey "Well-Intentioned" non-Natives attempting to colonize Indigenous identities, here's a mirror for you. Check out how NDNs see you:
WannaB Sightings

A witness at the Stomp dance relayed this account to Dana Doubtful:

"I was sitting in the bleachers with the spectators and I felt like I was being watched!"

"After listening to him talk about his vegan diet and his close personal relationship with the face on Mars, I lost all sense of time! I must have passed out from boredom. There's at least 20 minutes I just can't account for!

"After a while, I managed to get up and go back to my family. They also reported a sense of losing time when they had listened to this wannaBs message.

"He was wearing a purple t-shirt with a wolf on it and a woman's wedding necklace. He had white doeskin fringed leather boots on and a pigeon feather tied to his blond hair. He started talking about earth vibrations and all the Peyote ceremonies he attended. I felt like hours had past, but when I looked at my watch hardly any time had passed! Then he started talking about his high holy leader, Carlos Casteneda. I think I might have lost consciousness for a while. The next thing I remember he was talking about Billy Jack, Chief Dan George, reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 100 times and Iron Eyes Cody. I can barely think about this! I lost almost 2 hours of my life! I don't want to say anymore. The experience was just too horrible!"

ETA: 4.5.2015 - Looking back on Occupy some more today, since Yahwaach Kelsmaht / Ian Ki'laas Caplette's I am the "un-%" photo is making the rounds.

'My lands are being occupied by a public which largely remains ignorant or silent about the injustice I live with every moment of every day. I am silenced or minimized in the "occupy" movement frequently as my issues of injustice transcend mere financial concerns.'

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cultural Cringe 2012

It's that time of the year again.

Before you wish us "Happy" "Saint" "Patrick"'s day (or even better, "St.Patty's") you might want to check out this year's roundup of links:

Gorm sums it up well with, Leprechaun Vomit... or why I hate St. Patty's:
So when a day is supposed to be about celebrating a culture, about celebrating an identity, and that identity is then popularly portrayed as being the worst stereotype of that culture, the meaning and significance is completely lost in a sea of four leaved shamrocks, leprechauns and an alcoholic haze. It isn't an appropriation of Irish culture, because you would need some actual Irish culture to be appropriating. No, its bizzarely just a sophmoric misrepresentation, which is then celebrated as being authentically Irish; cultural misappropriation, perhaps?

The harm, of course, is completely lost on such folks because their closest contact with actual Irish culture or tradition is the bowl of Lucky Charms they had for breakfast. It is an argument from ignorance because they do not understand the significance, and so are indifferent to the point of arguing that people who do get upset or irritated by such portryals, "just need to lighten up."


Seren weighs in with, The inevitable Paddy post:
Then again, one could argue that faulty interpretations of history (and culture) are what St Patrick's Day is all about now. Some years ago, Ben and Jerry's ice cream released a special edition flavour to "celebrate Irish culture." They had the brilliant idea of calling it "Black and Tan," which oh no, couldn't possibly be offensive at all - it's a drink, right?

Umm. No. Not just a drink, anyway.

After the outcry, they pulled the ice cream and apologised profusely. So it's quite perplexing that Nike have now decided to "celebrate" in a similar way with their Guinness and Black and Tan trainers. Awww. Bless 'em. I like how "celebrating" is unashamedly synonymous with "cashing in on" and "being totally unaware of history."


And one from the vaults: Five years ago I weighed in on the the Irish-American dilemmas of this blessed day, and don't have more to add that the others haven't already covered: Anciente Oirish Family Wisdomme:
So, my Anciente Family tradition I'd like to share on this day? Stay home.

Or, if you're lucky to live somewhere (as I do now) where people only use the holiday as an excuse to schedule Gaelic music and arts performances, and there's no more drinking than usual, and no one dyes anything green (except maybe their hair), go out and support real Irish culture. Go to a language class or seisiún, support an Irish-language (Gaeilge) musician or arts group. Make offerings to the deities, spirits and ancestors who roamed the land before anyone ever heard of St. Patrick. Remember what lives below the surface, what sustained us long before anyone commercialized and exploited a few, distorted elements of the culture. These things can, and do, sustain us still. So, if you want to be "Irish for a day," find out what Irish really is, because, for the most part, it's not what you'll see in the streets this weekend.


And... Sing it loud, sing it proud...

ETA: And Treasa weighs in with: "The Luck of the Irish" and a Link Round-Up

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Minister Deenihan Announces Conservation Plan for Tara

Press release from The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (An Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta)

24/01/2012 Minister Deenihan Announces Conservation Plan for Tara

 Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, TD. has announced today (Tuesday 24th January, 2012) that, in collaboration with the Office of Public Works and the Heritage Council, he has commissioned the Discovery Programme to undertake a Conservation Plan for the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath.

The Conservation Plan will illustrate the unique cultural and historical significance of Tara and identify appropriate policies to ensure its preservation and presentation. Minister Deenihan said that the Conservation Plan would “focus on the State-owned lands”.

The Minister said “the plan will catalogue the character and importance of the Hill of Tara and the issues impacting on it; it will also contain recommendations for policies that will help preserve its status as one of Ireland’s most outstanding national monuments”. The area to be examined includes the immediate environs of the Hill which contribute to the experience and enjoyment of the Hill.

Whilst the Conservation Plan will also consider access and visitor amenity issues, Minister Deenihan stressed that Tara was “essentially an outdoor experience and that should not change”.

The Minister emphasised that the emerging Conservation Plan would “place a key emphasis on consultation with stakeholders, and the local community in particular”. Ultimately, it is intended that the Conservation Plan for the Tara complex will act as an overarching framework for management and interpretation.

Archaeological works to investigate the significant degradation of the covering of the Mound of the Hostages have recently been completed. These excavations have resulted in the removal of a portion of the earthen mound over the passage tomb. Design options for conservation works to the passage tomb and the restoration of the mound are now being considered and will begin as soon as possible.