Monday, June 10, 2013
As an intern for Eloheh Farm, I’ve been organic farming (go figure) 25 hours a week, and studying Native American Culture and Theology for 15 hours under the guidance of Randy Woodley, a Native professor at George Fox University. There’s been a lot going through my head during this first month fo farming and reading, so here I am summarizing three ideas I that are impacting me most. 1. Listen to the Land. For most of my life, I’ve been pretty disconnected with the land, and have only begun to intentionally return to Mother Earth in recent years. Quakers believe the light of Christ resides in all things, and I have been challenged to listen to the work of Christ in the land. In my research, I have also been struck by how much Natives watch, observe, and listen to nature, believing that plants and animals speak to us, if only we will listen. As I have been working, I’ve been enjoying hearing the songs of birds, the words of trees, and the joyful sprouting of new plants. I am amazed at the simple life the goats and chickens live, and their beauty despite what to me would be a very boring life. When I start to get bored as I pull weeds or get anxious to be doing something with more stimulation, I reminding myself to be more like the animals and plants, beautiful without need of anything. 2. It’s not a competition. In reading Randy Woodley’s Shalom and The Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, I learned about how much Western culture and its idea of success is built off competition. In sports, education, and our economy, we are often striving to be the best, and that can often suck us into trying to be better than other people. American masculinity also seems to be built off of capitalistic ideas that endorse “survival of the fittest,” so Western male culture has encouraged me to compete. I am learning how much I value myself in comparison with other people, and am recognizing the unhealthiness of such thinking. Instead of seeing everything as a competition that will determine my value, I am striving celebrate the accomplishments of everyone as I celebrate my own, knowing that my joy is found in the strength and beauty of my community, not in my own accomplishments. Rather than obsessing over how my current life could affect my future, and make it less interesting than my peers, I am relishing the relationships I have now instead of always trying to get ahead of “the competition. 3. Native Americans have a different story. Lest we all bunch people of color into one homogenous experience, it’s important we learn to see how racism has affected different groups in different ways. I am currently reading God is Red by Vine Deloria, which explains differences in the black civil rights movement and the Native Civil Rights movement, known as the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM did not emerge until the 70’s, and gained less rights for Natives that the Civil Rights movement had for blacks. Deloria notes that whites may have looked at the parts of Native culture during colonialism, like speeches from famous chiefs, but failed to recognize the contemporary voices of the 70’s. He writes that Natives felt what blacks would have felt if whites during the black Civil Rights movement were sympathetic about slavery and read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but refused to listen to MLK and would not deal with issues of segregation. This is just one example of the ways in which the Native story of American history is ignored and downplayed. As a citizen of a colony, I am responsible to learn about our history, especially the ugly parts that oppress Natives. I want to be a part of making America better for the next seven generations, as Natives would say. These are just a few of the many things I am pondering, and many of these ponderings have deep, sometimes disturbing challenges for my community and me. But, as Randy often reminds me, we’re just human beings, we don’t need to be anything more, and being a human being is a good thing.