Saturday, April 09, 2005


The Honoring

The gathering of young musicians to play a benefit for the work of my former associate was not arranged in the fashion employed by the more conventional corporations of the environmental advocacy industry. Rather, it appeared to converge serendipitously through some undetermined convergence of harmonious spirit, nurtured by a loose combination of inspired and exemplary conduct, a fledgling alternative press, and an elusive but pervasive presence of earth reverence in the generation modeling after us.

When I arrived at the hall that served as the venue for the event, I was initially disappointed by the small number in attendance, noting the handful of elders and paucity of middle-aged folks like us for what had been intended as a means of raising funds. But as the evening progressed, I came to realize the need of these loving young people to honor their non-traditional elders who—unlike most—openly rejected a culture of materialism and were willing to make personal sacrifices to reinsert sacredness into ourway of life.

In fact, the hall spontaneously became an impromptu ceremonial center as sacred music flowed from the violin of a Lummi Indian youth recently returned to his reservation after a generation removed. To me, his fusion of ancestral tones and rhythms with Western melody and technique was a beautiful weaving of grief and gratitude and grace in finding acceptance and forgiveness for the injustice of his dispossession as well as the suffering of his grandparents who’d traded their land to feed his parents. The music enveloping us was his way of simultaneously wrapping a blanket around his ancestors, humanity, and all the mothers of the Earth.

A year later, seated in the Lummi Nation’s Wex Li Em community center, I listened as a tribal elder spoke of the 1930s, when children were kidnapped by religious and government schools, and whole families were evicted from the reservation by an Indian Health Service doctor who illegally obtained title to their properties in exchange for medical treatment guaranteed them by treaty. And I thought of the generosity of the young violinist and his coming home and his debut performance in the land of his ancestors in a small, sparsely-attended hall, playing with all his heart and soul in praise of all the Earth mothers and guardians of life in the world. And I felt blessed by this knowledge that the fires of understanding and wisdom and innocence and trust have been tended in anticipation of our return.


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