Connecting to the Suffering of Others

The aim of spirituality is to connect.  To connect to the moment.  To connect to our deepest truths.  To connect to the Earth.  To connect to one another.  In the US most of us are living out of disconnection—which is why many of do work we hate, eat food we don’t know the origin of, and feel so damn lonely.  To me, spirituality is all about waking up to connection.

I went to Winyan Awanyankapi: Protecting Lifegivers Conference this past weekend.  It’s all I can think about, so that’s what I’m going to write about today.  It is conference  created by indigenous people mostly from Minnesota to bring indigenous and non-indigenous folks together to shed light on critical issues indigenous peoples are facing (often directly caused by historical genocide and contemporary forms of oppression by non-indigenous people) to cultivate inspiration, connection, and action for a new way of living.

There’s is so much I want to say about this conference.  Indigenous people in the US are struggling more than any other racial group in terms of high school drop out rates, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.  As a white person of European decent, I understand that theft of land, forced migrations in bitter cold temperatures, broken treaties, demeaning Indian mascots, and forced boarding schools run by whites under abusive conditions are a direct cause for the hardship indigenous peoples in the US are facing today. 

And this breaks my heart…and even as I write this tears fall from my eyes.

When I was interacting with indigenous people at the conference, I noticed their way of viewing the world and connecting was really beautiful.  I felt there was a general sense of care, community, and connection through the whole experience….something I don’t always feel when I’m interacting with non-indigenous folks.  

Speakers at the conference shared stories of suffering—the reality of the challenges of being an indigenous person in the US today.  Many personally know multiple women who have been murdered.  One speaker shared how she has been molested by 14 different people.

It is difficult to throw someone or something out of your heart when you feel their suffering.

So what now?
Here’s a start: Indigenous peoples make up 2% of the US population and they need support from non-indigenous folks to help get their voices heard.  We can start by connecting, researching, and educating ourselves.  

-The Indigenous Peoples Task Force is an amazing center that provides support for natives, you can donate money or ask how you can help.  

-There are also Nibi Water Walks, which I will do this summer. All are welcome to walk the river together…a whole ceremony experience.  It takes days usually and participants camp at night.  This is to send prayers for the water and for all life.  

-Healing MN Stories teaches the untold history of Minnesota as it relates to the Dakota people. Often these stories are never taught in schools. Through visiting sacred sites history, myths, and stories are shared and felt. I met Jim Bear (one of the guides) at the conference and he was amazing!

There is much I want to do to support the growth of healthy indigenous communities and repair harm that has been done and continues on today.  I don’t know what particular shape it will take right now, but I want my work to include bringing healing and empowerment to indigenous communities.  Let me know if  you have any resources, connections, and/or ideas.

with Love,

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