Grandmother Speaks: We are Voices for the Voiceless, and for the Land, the Water, the Air, the Plants and Animals . . .

I didn”t really know either Emma or Johanna, my two grandmothers, though I know a number of women my age, products of abusive homes, whose lives were literally saved by the protection and succor of their grandmothers. I used to envy them. Their grandmothers were wise counselors with capacious bosoms; nestled in their arms, my friends could listen to their soothing tones and feel utterly safe and secure.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I honor our grandmothers, knowing that even those who were voiceless, as mine were, watched over us in some other dimension of which we were not aware.

The Iriquois Confederacy, a brilliant and visionary union of six Native American tribes in the American northeast, and “the oldest living participatory democracy,” also served as the unheralded template for our own government, by distributing power among three different branches.

Unfortunately, and indeed, at this point we can say tragically, the fledgling U.S. government ignored one crucial element of the Iroquois Confederacy: the Council of Grandmothers. These were the clan mothers who had final say in all tribal decisions. Furthermore, if any clan chief abused his role as represenative and protector of his clan nation, the clan mothers had the power to kick him out and the chief’s sister appoint a successor.

In 2004, a new Council of Grandmothers was formed, this one for the entire world, with indigenous Grandmothers from across the globe. Ever since then, this new indigenous council has gathered every six months in each others’ homes.

I don’t know about you, but this latest video from one of the Grandmothers, Aggie Pilgrim, warmed my heart. I felt as if I was sitting before her on a footstool in rapt attention, soothed by her words while rubbing her feet as she counseled me about what is really important and what we must do now to save our world. I was struck by the tone of her words as much as the content. She’s admonishes us — clean up your room! use your common sense! remember your children’s children need to live here too! — and though clearly exasperated with us, she has not given up.

I am filled with gratitude.

Thanks to

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