Notable Blogs: 1/28/2011

Welcome to this edition of Notable Blogs. Today the sun shone strongly, melting snow, even though the temperatures were well below freezing. In the shadows, the liquid water froze into black ice. In a few months, the snow will be gone, and the world will once again turn green. At our latitude, season follows season. For our ecosystem to continue to function smoothly, we need all the seasons. Just so, the lives of people and cultures go through seasons. There will inevitably be struggle and hardship, yet there will also be joy and healing.

Worshiping Demons wrote thoughtfully about Hmong shamanism, and about the misconceptions many people have of it.

Like many cultures around the world, religion plays a major part in the Hmong culture. It’s a blurred area as to what is culture and what is religion because they are tightly intertwined. When a baby is born, a shaman is called upon to announce to the ancestors that there is a new addition to the family. When someone is sick, and doctors and medication cannot cure the ailment, a shaman searches for the lost soul of the person who is sick. When someone dies, rituals are performed to send the spirit of the deceased on its way to the final resting place.

Those who don’t know the premise of these rituals may come to think of it as savage, heathen, or pagan. Those who are Hmong and are ignorant to the ways of their forefathers will go as far as calling their fellow Hmong people who still practice Shamanism as devil or demon worshipers.

Hwaa Irfan addressed the challenges facing the Sami, and new hope for preserving Sami language and culture.

When one thinks of indigenous peoples, one does not necessarily think of Europe. In an attempt to recognize one of the last indigenous peoples of Europe, the Sámi, the UN has called for Europe to support the fading language and culture of the Sámi people of Sápmi… Sápmi? Sápmi is the Sámi name for Lapland: Norway (Sámi population 40,000 – 45,000 approximately), Sweden (Sámi population 17,000 approximately), Finland (Sámi population 5,700 approximately), and Russia (Kola peninsula ((Sámi population 2,000 approximately)). Referring to the Nordic countries, the UN seeks to boost, not only the language and the culture, but the much neglected (by exclusion of existence) education of Sámi children and youth.

Censored News discussed the air pollution problems faced by those living in the Four Corners. Those of us in New England understand this issue,  having worked for decades to reduce the effects of air pollution generated in the Midwest, and carried to us, where it causes many forms of respiratory illness, particularly among our children and elders. The destruction of sacred lands to mine coal to feed the offending power plants is an insult particular to the Four Corners.

“It is the Navajo people living near [the Four Corners coal-fired power plant] who suffer the effects of this pollution,” said Elouise Brown, president of Dooda (No) Desert Rock- an organization of indigenous people working to protect people from the harm done by coal’s pollution. “This air pollution causes respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, it aggravates heart disease and it damages lung tissue. The air we breathe has been polluted by coal-fired power plants for far too long.”…. The Federal government must swiftly act to enforce this program.””

Vincent’s Victoria drew our attention to a lecture about the use of ritual and ceremony to promote personal and community healing from the effects of colonialism among the Coast Salish. Like the Navajo, the Coast Salish bear witness.

…. Stó:lō witnesses emerge from a different conception of self and community to remember and create their law; this conception of the witness lies at the heart of their spirituality, which is interconnected with all parts of their lives.

The lecture centred around how annual winter dances among the Stó:lō are being used to create personal and community healing from colonialism, by harnessing the power of witnessing. She made a very personal connection between this practise and something that happened in her own life, and argued that it is important to “bear witness to [personal] agency in all its complexity.” Her research, she said, is an attempt to “connect two ethonographies of healing,” that can lead to a better understanding of settler and First Nation cultures. However, her research is continuing: after her talk, she was asked whether there was “a resonance or point of communication” between Canadian common law and Coast Salish law. Boisselle said that she isn’t done research on that yet, but knows that there are resonances to be found.

Finally, Make No Bones About It pays tribute to the work of Chief Phil Lane, Jr.

Chief Phil Lane Jr. is an enrolled member of the Yankton Dakota and Chickasaw First Nations and is an internationally recognized leader in human and community development. He was born at the Haskell Indian Residential School in Lawrence, Kansas in 1944, where his mother and father met and attended school. He is a citizen of both Canada and the USA.

Phil has now stepped into global leadership as Chairman of the Four Worlds International Institute (FWII) and Four Directions International. The Institute’s central program initiative is the promotion of The Fourth Way. The primary focus of The Fourth Way is to unify the human family by taking a culturally based, principal-centered path that transcends assimilation, resignation, and conflict. FWII has been working to develop a comprehensive, community-based development strategy that offers educational opportunity, IC3 Global Digital Literacy Certification, Digital Social Networking Capacity, and Participatory Media Training through a global networking initiative called “Indig.e.Net.” This digitally-based, globally unifying Indigenous communications and educational initiative, to be established at the Ciudad del Saber in Panama City, Panama in 2010, will serve as one of the key components for implementing The Fourth Way.

May his path be clear.

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