On Friday I joined Abenaki elder and Medicine woman, Dee Brightstar, for an hour interview on the local college radio station. The interview was part of Moccasin Tracks, a weekly program, hosted by Deb Reger, devoted to Native music, culture, and issues. Dee had been on a few weeks ago, speaking about her work reburying her ancestors who had been kept by as archaeological specimens at the university. Dee had been invited back on Friday to read some of her poems about the experience. Dee and Deb graciously invited me to join the conversation. (Here is a link to the program’s podcast.)
Dee is a long time Native and animal welfare activist whose poetry often touches on the plight of the Earth’s non-human peoples. She is articulate and wise, speaking in an assured manner that communicates her loving heart even on the radio. Inevitably, our interview turned to a discussion of the state of the world; we spoke about prophesy and the difficult path ahead. We acknowledged that sometimes it is just plain hard to find reason for optimism. Still, if one is to be effective, one must find a vision that calls forth real change.
We are in difficult times now. I believe our epoch is particularly challenging for young people. More and more frequently I am approached by young adults who say, “Spirit has touched me and I know I am called to be a healer, but the job seems impossible. What am I to do?” The answer I give is simply, “Do what you can. The Creator does not expect anyone to carry the burden of the world. If we are to continue as a species we need the vast majority of folks to take on the task of changing the way we treat one another and the Earth. It will take everyone working together to create meaningful change; a village is no longer enough.”
I like to take comfort in the knowledge that even if we pass from this place, Mother Earth will continue. Still, I imagine letting go of the responsibility to change the world is an enormous challenge for young people. When one puts down the burden one risks finding oneself in the dark, on the edge of a unfathomably deep precipice. Fortunately, as one’s eyes become accustomed to the dark, one may realize there are others present, working together to weave a strong bridge across the void. Will this be enough? We do not know. Our task is simply to work together as best we are able. Perhaps it has always been thus in dark times.