Monday, Indigenous Plenary and spirituality that does not back away at the last day of 2015 Parliament

by Kate Greenough Richardson

Choir of Parliament participants perform

Choir of Parliament participants perform “Songs of the Earth” cantata, Monday at 2015 Parliament (by Kate Richardson)

I actually slept a little later this last morning of the Parliament (10/19), and stayed in to write up my notes over coffee at the big table in the house that became the ‘study hall’ while we were there.

Though there were still more fascinating workshops available all morning and into the afternoon, many of us went to the Indigenous Plenary at 10:30. I am sorry that I did not get the names of the all the speakers. The messages they brought were powerful and moving, and cut straight to the heart of what the Pagans I know are reaching toward in their spiritual awareness and practice.

  • Te’Kaiya Blaney sang beautifully, and later spoke about growing up struggling with her identity as indigenous. At first it seemed painful, but she embraced it, and it has become a source of strength and hope.
  • Chief Arvol Looking Horse called to stop fracking and the KXL pipeline, and spoke of World Peace and Prayer Day.
  • Wande Abimbola, Yoruban Ifa leader, said “it is stupid to divide the world into living and non-living things. All things are living.” He also said it’s time for the world to shed itself of the bigotry of color and faiths.
  • Arnold Thomas, native of the Great Salt Lake basin reminded us that the earth is not in trouble, it is humans that are in trouble. He asked everyone to stand, and ordained the entire audience to go “convert people to love Mother Earth.”
  • Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere, a Maori grandmother sent a call to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership trade alliance. She spoke of how we are universally connected and can not be separated even if think otherwise. She said, surround the people who hurt you with love, only attack the bad energy behind them. And if you cannot do that, move into neutral! She sang a song wishing peace, Love, Joy and Truth to the universe. Then she turned to her grown grandson that she walked onstage with, and said that this work must be done in partnership between genders. He performed a short haka, and she joined in.
  • Our own friend and travel companion Inija Trinkuniene came on with Andras‘s introduction, and told of how the ancient sacred oak groves in Lithuania were cut down in an effort to convert the indigenous people there to Christianity. But oaks have acorns, which sprouted again, and are growing new sacred groves. She offered a blessing by casting grains of wheat.
  • Steve Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute, said that it would be a grave mistake to work on climate change without working on paradigm change. He called for the revocation of the centuries old “Doctrine of Discovery”, which still impacts indigenous Americans when dealing with legal and government issues.
  • Angaangag Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit elder from the far north of Greenland said it is too late to stop climate change. In his 68 year lifespan he has seen the ice go from 5km to 2km thick. Animals, plants, earth – they will be fine. It’s humans who will suffer. Millions will perish and there’s nothing you can do about it. And yet, his message was of hope.

There were more speakers, and I was glad that they each took their time on the stage to say their piece, even though it made the plenary last far beyond its allotted time. I was glad that I had already heard some of these messages in other forums and plenaries; they weren’t quarantined in some special forum but permeated the whole gathering. [Watch the whole video of the Indigenous Plenary and part 2.]

Shortly after the plenary ended, Mary Lou Prince and Patty Willis’s piece finally, Songs of the Earth cantata, was performed, to much appreciation. A choir of 144 voices, 30 or more different faiths, joined with the piano and string quartet to bring the words and music to life. Singing in this really made a lovely capstone for my Parliament experience.

Then it was all over but the Closing plenary. Blessings and appreciations, and the welcome news that the next Parliament will be in 2017! When there is so much going on in the world, and such great need for people of faith to work together, why wait 5 years between gatherings.

During the following evening, there was packing, leave-taking, divvying up of expenses, and such. A carload of us went to watch the sun set over the lake, but I was not among them. I was sorry that I didn’t get to connect directly with the land lying under the city pavement, but at least in each direction between and beyond the walls of buildings I had glimpses of the mountains, I smelled the breeze and the rain, I added a buckeye picked up from the sidewalk to EarthSpirit’s ancestor altar on the booth table. I touched some lovely old sycamores that grow beside some of the city streets. And one morning Isobel and I saw a quail cross the street just as if it were an odd looking pigeon.

I’m writing this post after several days full of catching up with the tasks of the life I left behind when I entered the world of the Parliament. This morning at last I have time to sit and reflect, and try to think consciously and carefully about how to weave some of the threads I grasped there more fully into my regular life. There’s no doubt that this experience has shifted my energy, and given a substantial, pragmatic boost to my native determined optimism. The question now is, how best to put that determination to good use?

For one thing, I’m more than ever convinced that some kind of regular spiritual practice that connects me with the mystery of the whole of existence is a great source of strength and guidance. It was inspiring to be among so many people who have found that connection by so many pathways. There are great problems in the world, and the spirituality I witnessed does not back away, but faces them with courage and love. I wish the same for you and us all as we travel this path between birth and death.

It was inspiring to be among so many people who have found that connection by so many pathways. There are great problems in the world, and the spirituality I witnessed does not back away, but faces them with courage and love.

Grain blessing by Inija Trinkuniene at Indigenous Plenary, Monday at 2015 Parliament by Eric Arthen

Grain blessing by Inija Trinkuniene at the Indigenous Plenary, Monday at 2015 Parliament (by Eric Arthen)

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