Where do I come from? Where do my ancestors come from? How about my oldest ancestors? Who were the first people of America?
Who among us hasn’t asked these questions?
I’ve spent countless hours on the Google machine looking at articles about Cahokia and the great mound cultures along the Mississippian waterways, looking at the lush, green curves of the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, trying to find archaeological discoveries about the Southeast, the area described sometimes as the “Southern Woodland Indian” region. And not finding much…and wondering what had been plowed under for the sake of more farmland or more housing.
One night I even dreamed of a massive wall holding a myriad of images, all my ancestors looking at me with a story to tell, vociferously saying that “no, we were not just a bunch of farmers”, countering a personal thought that had surfaced (regrettably) after many hours on Ancestry building my family tree.
Our beginnings – when we can find them – are breathtaking, not just visually but emotionally. People weep when they visit these ancestral sites. And they see great value in honoring and connecting with their ancestors through ceremony. While artifacts such as potshards and arrowheads are important, it is the land itself that carries the spirit of the ancestors. We are always seeking this connection. Why else would we trek out to Nanih Waiya in Mississippi?
That is why the Bears Ears National Monument – its full size – is so important. Five recognized tribes – the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Ute Indian Tribe – have joined in support of the Bears Ears NM and have formed the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition. They call it the most significant unprotected cultural landscape in American today.
Their cause – and really this cause belongs to all of us – now rests, at least legally, with the prestigious Native American Right Fund. The NARF have just filed suit against Donald Trump and the Department of the Interior.
And I have to say – seeing pictures can never replace physically standing at the actual site of the ancestors, so vibrantly captured in the Great Southwest of the U.S. I feel called to stand in person before the Great Kachina Panel at Bears Ears NM and sense that connection.
We recently journeyed out to a magical place called Hovenweep (a National Monument in southwest Colorado), as arid and harsh as only the Southwest desert can be. We witnessed towers of all shapes built centuries ago with a grace and skill beyond our ken.
I can show you one of the stunning structures we saw, but I can’t call in the wind whistling past us, or the huge expanse of sky, or the solitude around us. And most importantly, the feeling that is there.
The presence of the ancestors was still powerful and absolutely enchanting. You can feel just below the surface the energies of a great and magnificent universe.
I hope to return as often as I can. And I hope all of you will find the connection to the ancestors wherever that might be.
***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***
The Tribes vs. Donald Trump, from OutsideOnline, May 1, 2018
Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition website, with great photos