February 26th, 2018
“It’s about the land. It’s always been about the land.” – Wounded Knee
It’s weird. When the Native Americans talk about their ancestral lands, it reminds me of how my Jewish friends at thru synagogue speak about Eretz Israel. Both peoples describe their land in an emotional, almost visceral way. Both peoples see the land as being theirs for uncounted generations. Both groups believe that they have an inalienable right to the land of their ancestors, a right that transcends any modern laws or conditions.
I am not saying that this attitude is right or wrong. It just is. Because this deeply ingrained belief exists, it affects many of the thoughts, words, and actions of the Native Americans. This profound connection to the land is an essential part of who they are.
The Native Americans struggle constantly to protect their land and to preserve their rights to it. They do not see the encroachment of outsiders as being just words in a history book. They experience threats to their heritage as things that are happening now.
“Water is life. Water is sacred. Water is medicine.” – Wounded Knee
Along with the devotion to the land, there is an intense concern with water. The Native Americans rightly regard water as being essential to all life. The pollution of water, any water, is a serious moral issue. This helps to explain the massive protests by the indigenous people at Standing Rock. It was a fight to protect the water.
Concern for the water includes concern for the creatures that live in the water. In this part of the world that means being concerned about the salmon. The Indians care about the spawning grounds and how the salmon will get to those places. The water quality is necessarily important to the salmon, and to the Indians who catch them. There is often talk about the damaged, and leaking, nuclear reactor in Yukushima, Japan. People on the reservations are worried about the effects of the radiation on the salmon that migrate from the seas near Japan back to the Pacific Northwest.
All the people I have met are earth-centered. They care about the land and the water.