We celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day (fka, ie., formerly known as, Columbus Day) on the second Monday of October, that’s tomorrow, October 13, 2014. As we move into this sacred moment, let us deepen our understanding of what we must first do in order to truly celebrate.
My old friend Bill Chisholm is a lifelong social, environmental, and peace activist who lives in southern Idaho.
Atonement, Attune-ment, At-One-Ment
Healing the Foundational Wound of the Americas
October 12, 2014
by Bill Chisholm, Guest Writer
It is said that you can’t turn back the clock or re-write or re-right history, but it is possible to at least acknowledge a wrong or misdeed and start the healing process between people and the planet.
What I am going to say may make people wince. It makes me wince a bit to have to say it, but I think wincing is an important part of the healing process.. it indicates that there is something that needs attention.
This is being written as my response to the notion of a holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, who I don’t believe to be worthy of such an honor. It is one of those wrongs that need some righting, some history that needs re-writing.
The wrongs committed by the European colonizers of the Americas has never been publicly acknowledged, no apology has been forthcoming. One of the first steps in atonement is acknowledging the wrong the misdeed. One can not look at the genocide of 25 million indigenous people in the Americas and not acknowledge that a serious wrong was committed and in many cases aspects of those wrongs are ongoing. So this essay is both an acknowledgement and an apology. It is also a commitment to set the record straight and to move towards atonement.
Anyone that is not of indigenous blood is living on land that was taken, stolen, confiscated from those who were here first. It is true for myself as well as others; and I am not saying this to make anyone feel guilty, but to put in perspective what happened and is still happening in the Americas, North and South, to indigenous people. This juxtaposed against the hard core “private property rights” espoused by many in the United States. To comprehend the cruelty of this one must go much deeper.
The indigenous cultures don’t have a concept of “owning the land,” they are in a relationship with the Earth and the other creatures that inhabit place. It is truly a matter of them belonging to the land, not the land belonging to them. Many know the pain of foreclosure, for not being able to met one’s obligation, thus losing one’s home. So being driven from the lands they had long occupied, is more akin to how the government took their children from their homes and sent them to boarding schools. Such an act tears at the fabric of civilized being.
The theft and the genocide came about from a people who claimed to be Christian and to believe in the Ten Commandments, two of the biggies of which are “Thou Shall Not Kill” and “Thou Shall Not Steal.” So how did they get around it? They declared the indigenous population of the Americas to be less than human, savages, and they felt some how morally OK with killing and stealing. Pretty straight forward!
We can’t turn back the clock, but we can go forward by acknowledging and apologizing for what went on and what is going on and to embrace our indigenous brothers and sisters and really as they would say “all of our relations” as partners in the great work that needs to be done in healing both the cultural wounds and the planetary wounds.
As an activist I have worked with and heard many indigenous leaders talk about how to make things right. They are not asking that non-indigenous cede their lands to the indigenous, what they are asking is that those treaties that were made between their ancestors and ours be honored, that their people and the planet quit being abused.
If we can get through the atonement stage and I’m certainly not saying it will be easy. It will be incredibly hard for some of non-indigenous descent to even acknowledge that a wrong was done or an apology needed. It will be equally hard for some indigenous folks to accept an apology after what has been done and is still being done throughout the Americas and throughout the world by colonial powers, still killing and stealing. If the planet is going to survive as a livable habitat for humans and other species, we have to get through the atonement phase and move into attunement.
It is in the attunement phase that we really need our indigenous brothers and sisters; for it is they in many instances who have kept their beliefs more in sync with the Natural World, a world sorely out of balance because of the greed and arrogance of those who believe themselves superior to other people, other species and to Nature. As an activist I once sat outside a federal courtroom in Nevada with Corbin Harney, an elder, a spiritual leader of the Western Shoshoni. He said to me “I heard the water speak. Anyone can hear the water speak if they will only listen.” Nature in all its forms has much to say to us. We best learn to listen to attune ourselves to what it is saying.
At-One-Ment is I reckon a bit like Heaven, or Nirvani, the Great Hunting Ground, that place where one becomes fully aware, fully conscious of one’s connection to the Whole. Some folks believe that it is only in death that we, humans, can get there, others believe that “enlightenment” is possible in this lifetime. Whatever one’s beliefs it is a worthy process, a worthy effort. Many of those structures and institutions that keep us from even acknowledging are oneness with the rest of Creation are creations of humans seeking power over others, over Nature. If we abandon those impediments we can start to see the reality that we are all in this together… not only present generations but both past and future.
None of these aspects is stagnant in nature… Atonement requires acknowledgement, apology and action to rectify the situation. Attune-ment is constantly being aware of the changing world around and responding with respect, relevancy and reciprocity. At-One-Ment is the ultimate challenge of being Conscious of one’s connection to all things and all beings and acting accordingly.