Quietly Sacred: Culture, Belonging, and the Longest Day of the Year

DSC00770It’s Wednesday, and rain has rolled in to greet the morning. The Solstice is passed, although not without acknowledgement. Saturday we were invited to bless and dedicate a new home and farm, and had a truly lovely few hours with the owners. Sunday evening we gathered with friends to mark the turning year, then on Monday Dee Brightstar, an Abenaki elder and healer, and I were invited to participate in an interfaith, labyrinth centered ceremony at the Unitarian Church. Jennie is on the Labyrinth Committee, and Dee seems like kin, so it was a family event.

All this reminded me that my life is, in many ways, blessed. It also offered an opportunity to notice how much my life has been, and continues to be, lived between cultures. As I was not raised with a tribal identity, my understanding of the world is based in large part on my family’s beliefs and teachings, and on those of my teachers. As a result my sense of self is rooted in relationship to Nature. While I am often reminded that I am embedded in the Great Mystery, my daily life is decidedly routine and focused on the tasks of living and being of aid to others. I think this is quite frequently a disappointment to those who view the world through the lens of the New Age, and simply confusing to those engaged in materialist culture. It can also cause consternation in people who have ideas about who and what is Indigenous.

Yesterday was my last day on the City’s Accessibility Committee, as after many years I have stepped down. Watching the dynamics of the committee yesterday, I was struck by the breadth of the divide between those who have had lifelong, or nearly so, disabilities, and those who were disabled as adults. (On this committee the latter tend to be younger as well, and have a remarkably different worldview than those of us who grew up without the ADA.) Anyway, there is a sense of shared experience and culture within each group, but less so between them. This is a great example of the different cultures within the gloss of “disability culture.”

I suspect most of us live in a variety of cultures. I understand myself to live in at least four: European-American; blended Native Americans without tribal affiliation; those with advanced degrees; and disability culture. I grew up with more contact with my father’s family than my mom’s, and was definitely more bonded to dad’s kin. They identified as Native, passed for generations as European, and steadfastly refused to tell us our tribal identities. (We were told we were blended tribally.) My mother’s family identified as European, distancing themselves from any tribal heritage they may have secretly held, and, being distinctly southern of a certain generation, had strong views on race. The two families, and their worlds, were mostly kept far apart.

I became a part of disability culture at age 7, when I had Polio. I was encouraged by doctors and family to shun others with disabilities, and, to the degree possible, pass as normal. This was a central tenet in Polio culture. It would only be when, as an adult, I began to experience the late effects of the virus, that I would become active within the disability community, and disability culture.

I was set to thinking about all this while reading a blog post by Vera Waabegeeshig, on her blog, Wild Rice Dreams. Vera is a marvelous Anishnaabeg writer, who thinks and writes about living deeply rooted in her culture, and the importance of tradition and family in living well. I am often moved and inspired by her writing and photography. I hope you will take time and read it as it is food for the heart, mind, and soul.

mino bemaadziyaang – Living Well

It’s the longest day of the year, summer solstice kina wiya! AKA National Aboriginal Day. How would you say that in anishnaabemowin? Kina Anishnaabe Giizhgad? All Good Peoples Day? LOL (Chi baapi) I’m not sure.

Noongom, now let’s put our minds together to figure out how we can attend to goals of mino bemaadziyaang, living well. There’s lots to do and everyday is a new day to start over. Maybe not from the beginning but, perhaps it’s a do-over, a clean-slate.

Anishnaabeg pane mkwenmaad megwaaj goozod. The good people always think about balance. Or how to achieve it. Anishnaabeg also know no one is perfect and we, humans, make many mistakes. It’s what we do with these mistakes that makes an impact on our lives.

Read more….

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