Sunday, October 16, 2022

Roots Ritual: Connecting with Our Ancestors

I want to do some connecting with my Ancestors. I got inspiration from a local Indigenous group who has asked us white people to do this (more). (I'm doing a three-part event (6 hours) with Western Mass SURJ (* see below about Reparations) about this and my homework for this week is feel in my body the loss of not being connected to my ancestors, and to notice how I might be/am connected already. Recommended reading from WMSURJ about this: Roots Deeper than Whiteness: Remembering who we are for the well-being of all)

I did a little research last week about fall harvest festivals in the Netherlands and England (some of the areas my Ancestors came from)... and noticed a connection to potatoes. That spoke to me for some reason. So at my local farmers market yesterday, I cradled a purple potato in my hands and tapped into emotion right away; I cried! But just a little since it was not the time and place for more, but found that intriguing anyway. I bought multiple potatoes to take home and use to connect with my Ancestors. 

I decided to start with this ritual today, in my compost pile. The compost represents the cycle of life and nourishment. This is what I planned:
- stir it
- put bare feet and hands in it
- connect to worms who process the waste from our kitchen into rich, nutrient soil for use back in the garden
- thank the worms for doing what they do so well
- thank my Ancestors who grew food and flowers too and taught me to care about the land and what grows from her
- give offering of water

My feet are still tingling from this experience. I feel cleansed by the soil.

This was the plan for my personal connecting to my Ancestors with potatoes:

- they come from the earth, sustain me as food
- represent for me my Ancestors who ate, (maybe) grew, and (maybe) celebrated them
- encircle me with 6 of them on the grass (on top of heart shaped leaves)
- each one represents a generation (the last one represents all other generations)
- bare feet and hands
- hold each, one at a time
- listen to what my Ancestors want to share with me at this time
- thank them
- apologize for being disconnected
- show my openness to being connected more

- continued to listen with family gathering later
    (got the new message from my Ancestors that they are always with me, I am not alone)

I connected on my own after my partner took these pictures to share with you. I don't want to be performative, just motivational...if any of this speaks to you to practice for yourself, I invite you to connect with your Ancestors in your own way.

I am wondering if you would want to be a part of this exploration with me as my birthday celebration this year? If so, let me know. I will invite you to bring a potato (or another root vegetable, or a potted plant that's in soil) to a Zoom gathering. Bring something that once was/is very deeply connected to the earth. One thing we could do with the potatoes (or other root) is hold them and think how they connect us to our Ancestors. We could imagine and feel out what our Ancestors are telling us, how they are supporting us, and what they have passed on to us...what gifts we received from our Ancestors? Then we can share the messages we heard with each other.

I want to start this and some other new traditions that work for me as I don't connect with most holidays of the year. I have an idea for the spring too...connecting with the hope our Ancestors had. 

Tulip bulbs 
- represent hope
- give one each to family members to plant in their own ritual of appreciation and thoughtfulness
- about potential for them to be flowers after a season of rest, then root growth
- mindful of the earth and water that is given to them to sustain them

Hope Ritual: Connecting with Our Ancestors 
- in April (or when tulips open)
- share appreciation... 
    for the miracle of flowers coming from seeds and roots
    for bees who spread pollen
    for the earth and water that sustains them 
- more on this event later.

Western Mass SURJ has a reparations program that we are a part of too.

- they, them/per, pers

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Indigenous Solidarity

I am in SURJ Boston, part of the Indigenous Solidarity group and have been for years.

We are learning that our role as descendants of settlers is to listen, learn, and share what we learn from our Indigenous hosts (we are guests on this land of theirs) to support unerasure of their culture and contributions (the opposite of the erasure perpetuated by society's teachings and history lessons). For example, about the genocide of Indigenous people, and what survivors are doing to continue their culture and advocate for their rights. We (including you, dear reader) can help with this unerasure by signing petitions, going to rallies, and sharing what we learn in our personal communities. Below are examples of things we have been doing to support unerasure of Indigenous history, culture, and contributions:

We attended and volunteered at a Pow Wow hosted by NAICOB at Prowse Farm in Canton recently.

This week we attended an Orange Shirt Day rally outside Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, for those who survived Indian residential/boarding schools and those who never came home. Here is a 2 minute YouTube video presentation on Orange Shirt Day by Phyllis Webstad, an Indigenous woman and the creator of Orange Shirt Day. < Please share this widely.

In the Indigenous-Palestinian Solidarity Webinar, From Turtle Island to Palestine: Indigenous Solidarity with Palestinian Resistance, presented by UAINE and NAICOB, we heard about Nakbas happening every day in Palestine with Indigenous people and children there. Everyday Nakba documentary

Call to Remove Racist Stereotyping Native and Himalayan Views
From UAINE: ‘Please sign the petition to get rid of this stereotyped statue of a Plains Native man outside this store in Charlemont, MA. (Don't give any money to the petition site, though.) The tipis need to come down as well since they fit into the stereotype that "All Indians live in tipis," even though Indigenous peoples from this region of course did not do so.’

I am being personally affected by what we learn from our prospective partners. For example, because Mahtowin from UAINE posted on their FB page: “If you are not an Indigenous person and sage is not part of your cultural practices, stop buying it or using it!”, I canceled plans for an upcoming job involving sage and planted some seeds by sharing my experience in this blog and during a recent Action Hour (join me, Wednesdays 6:30-7:30 pm ET), and communicating with a non-Indigenous store owner who sells sage and smudge sticks.

Join us at Indigenous People’s Day Celebration in Newton, Monday, October 10 at Albemarle Park, 11am-6pm. Click here to volunteer!

Please sign the petition above, and watch and share the Orange Shirt Day short video, and take other actions above (and beyond this post). Thank you for joining us to support unerasure of Indigenous history, culture, and contributions. 

Monday, September 5, 2022

We should not burn sage and smudge sticks

  • I am part of an Indigenous solidarity group with SURJ Boston. This last week, a member in our group shared this from Mahtowin of UAINE
If you are not an Indigenous person and sage is not part of your cultural practices, stop buying it or using it!” 

  • This was something I appreciated learning about as I had been asked to teach a pottery class at a local store, with the theme of bowls that hold smudge sticks. It was coming up in the next 2 weeks. 
  • At the time that the store owner and I discussed the possibility for the class, I shared my concern that we could be culturally appropriating by using smudge sticks. I told the store owner at that time, that she'd need to include in the description that the history of smudging was from Indigenous practices, for me to agree to the topic. 
So she wrote this: 

"Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples have burned sage for centuries as part of a spiritual ritual to cleanse a person or space, and to promote healing and wisdom. It's been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians and Romans to treat digestive issues, memory problems, and sore throats. White Sage, sometimes called Sacred Sage, is well-known for its usage for these purposes. Other common plants to smudge with include lavender, mugwort, tobacco, cedar, sweet grass, juniper, and copal. Today, we use Sage most often in a Clearing Ceremony or to Cleanse a space, such as when a new home is purchased or when you want to refresh the energy in your home or office."

  • This is the picture I had taken to promote the class (my sample bowls holding smudge sticks from her store):

  • Immediately after I saw the post: “If you are not an Indigenous person and sage is not part of your cultural practices, stop buying it or using it!,” I wrote to the store owner:
Have you advertised for the class yet? I don't see anything about it on your website. 

I am connected to an Indigenous group in the area ( and below is what they posted this week. I'm concerned about doing the class (with a focus on sage smudge sticks) and being part of something harmful to Indigenous folks. Do you know the source of the sage in your smudge sticks?  

I shared the link and “If you are not an Indigenous person and sage is not part of your cultural practices, stop buying it or using it!

  • The store owner wrote this back to me: 
The class is on Facebook. Let me look into sourcing. I will get back to you.

  • She had told me 2 weeks before that she'd be posting then about the class. Instead, she posted only an hour before I found it on Facebook, 9 hours after I wrote to her about my concern. I replied:
I see you didn't post until today, when I expressed my concern with the content. Since you don't have folks signed up yet, could we put a pause on this smudge-bowl-centric class, please? I want to discuss this with the Indigenous folks I know and see what they think. I can't decide for you what you will do in your store, but I don't want to be personally complicit since my community is asking for us to stop doing this practice.

  • The store owner wrote this back to me: 
It was on Facebook before I saw your concern. I always post 2-3 weeks ahead. Anyway, I will take it down. Let me know what you decide.

  • I replied: 
Would you be interested in doing a bowl class to hold stones and crystals? I could take a new picture without smudge sticks in them and we could use the same date and time. If you don't, I understand.

I won't be able to get back to you quickly about smudge sticks. I imagine and guess I wouldn't feel comfortable with doing that anyway. I should have gone with my instinct from the beginning. Someone in my Indigenous solidarity group wrote this:

"my understanding is smudging is an Indigenous practice that's been very widely appropriated by white ppl especially "New Age" types... certainly might be an incomplete understanding of smudging but my sense was it's something we shouldn't be doing period, regardless of the source of the sage/other bundle"

  • The store owner wrote this back to me: 
Sure, we can do one for crystals. Send the photo when you have it and I will write up a new description.

  • After thinking about it overnight, I realized I can't work with her if she is still going to sell smudge sticks in her store, and promote the use of them. I feel I would still be complicit by doing a class there...something she would profit off of. So I wrote back to her: 
I need to think about if I still want to do a class there after all. I'll get back to you when I know more.

  • How do I make a more lasting difference than just stepping away myself? 
  • I considered buying all of her smudge sticks and donating them to Indigenous groups in my area (if they wanted them) with the agreement that she not sell them anymore. 
  • At least, I hope my communication with her will have her consider not using smudge sticks anymore and not selling them in her store. 
  • I am sharing this here, in this detail, to share the message from UAINE, show how we as white folks can listen to Indigenous voices, learn, and change our behaviors. 
  • And we can stop using sage and smudge sticks if we are not an Indigenous person and sage is not part of our cultural practices.