Seed Power, Planting Hope!

The heart of a mighty tree resides in a tiny seed, the mysterious power of seeds pervades every aspect of life. Seeds can be literal, heirloom or GMO. They can be metaphorical seeds of deceit, healing, or justice sewn long ago and ready to sprout anew. Our relationship to planting and reaping is as old as civilization itself. As the adage says, “You will know a tree by the fruit it bears.” and so today we see both the bad and the good seeds flourishing metaphorically AND literally.

The seed has a spirit, but it doesn’t have a voice. We are giving the seeds a voice! — Flordemayo of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

2014-01-03-ScreenShot20140103at2.42.28PM.pngI am Director of Culture Collective, a non-profit that uses creative media and art with a focus on culture, environment & community health. So I spend a whole lot of time integrating the solutions that exist in natural systems, traditional communities, permaculture, and design so that I can think about ways to spread these ideas with media and art. For me ideas are seeds and inspiration can be contagious.

Yet the wave of corruption, destruction, greed, and deception is often so strong that I find myself battling to pierce the heavy veil of ignorance by engaging in contemporary socio-political issues. Though I think this is a very important thing for all of us to do, it sometimes has me more focused on the bad seeds. I use the bad news as compost for my garden-bed to plant solution-oriented seeds, being mindful of the work that is before us now on the planet. Inspiration is contagious, and I make sure to have a balanced diet of art, natural sanctuary places, and culture to make the stench of the compost a little more bearable as I till the soil.

The GMO battle is particularly interesting because it is at the place where privatization and corporate greed intersects with the most ancient and sacred practices of growing food, saving seeds, cross-pollinating. Cross-pollination is as good in nature as it is with creative ideas, yet it often threatens private interests. We see the battle between open transparent systems and closed secretive agendas playing out all around us.

What are the bad seeds, how do we select what is worth growing in the coming seasons? You can read a comprehensive history of GMO by Woodstock Earth here. A tree doesn’t withhold its fruit from the birds and the worms, nor does the sun decide which flowers to feed its light to. What if economic systems embraced this idea?

Though closed systems are sometimes needed, life flourishes in open systems that are in balance. Seeds carry that wisdom inherently, knowing which way to reach through the soil for sunlight as they burst out of their shell. I think humans also have this inherent wisdom, but we are good at forgetting.

One of the greatest technologies within a seed is decay. A seed must be planted or it will decay so the prospect of hoarding seeds is limited. Too bad money doesn’t work the same way. Giant companies like the dreaded Monsanto know that controlling the worlds food supply by patenting seeds is a route to global domination. Thank goodness for the activists who work tirelessly to inform us, to write ballots and initiatives to battle the giant corporations.

Yet there are forms of activism that take their inspiration directly from nature, directly from the ancestral ways, understanding that there is more to life than dominating markets and filling up bank vaults with money. Permaculture, sustainability initiatives, community supported agriculture (C.S.A), naturopathic medicine, and other movements like these model natural systems. Natural systems have sustained life since the beginning of time. Practices that understand and respect life as an interconnected whole are surely the seeds of a healthy future for all of us.

I’m doing my best to resist my traditional jabs at current socio-political and economic structures that have clearly forgotten this inherent wisdom. However, the list of inspired individuals and organizations who ARE doing it right is endless but let’s look deeper into the wisdom of seeds. The Hopi Natwani Coalition was formed in January 2004, and it represents an affiliation of Hopi organizations and individuals dedicated to preserving Hopi farming traditions, strengthening the local Hopi food system and developing innovative sustainable strategies to promote wellness. I call Hopi the Tibet of The West and if we are going to talk about traditions and practices that have stood the test of time then Hopi is core curriculum.

Natwani literally means “produce” or “vegetables,” but more significantly, it refers to the processes and rituals necessary for the rejuvenation of all life. It is the intact web of obligation and activity involved in the planting, harvesting, processing, hunting and gathering of food. It is physical and spiritual sustenance.

Native Seed Search, based in Tucson Arizona knows and understands this wisdom also. As a nonprofit organization, their mission is to conserve, distribute and document the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. They promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. They have wonderful programs coming up this winter and spring called Seed School which you can attend in Los Angeles, or in Hampshire College, MA., or at their home in Tucson.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a nonprofit that honors and preserves the integrity of indigenous wisdom and sacred cultural practices by providing cross-cultural exchanges, education, and community-building opportunities takes this concept across many realms. I had the honor of developing a cultural exchange program with Director, Carla Woody between Hopi of Arizona and Q’ero of Peru a few years back. Kenosis educational outreach includes wisdom keepers from many indigenous traditions who understand the concept of sustainability from psychological/spiritual, cultural, and practical perspectives.

Learn more about Flordemayos Seed Temple Project. Flordemayo, of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (see video below), who is also Director of The Institute of Natural and Traditional Knowledge has been doing some amazing work to preserve heirloom seeds. You might also enjoy learning about Dianna Snow Eagle Henry, author of Whispering Ancestors: The Wisdom of Corn.

So as we set our sites for 2014 we have many practical options for planting seeds in the coming season. On the metaphorical realm we can ask ourselves which seeds are worth planting and which are not. Ideas are seeds, we spread them through our words, through media and art, they sprout in the minds and hearts of our friends and in our community. In 2014 plant seeds of inspiration that enrich your community with ancient wisdom while keeping yourself firmly planted in this modern world of technology and endless possibility!

White Buffalo Day 2012: A Positive Sign

Illustration by R.E. Wall

Every culture and religion has prophecies that concern future catastrophe and/or Earth renewal and rebirth. Maybe these are meant to be fate that is written in the stars, or mere warnings about possible futures. The Mayan date of 2012 has brought the discussion to the forefront of many peoples thoughts. Wether it is nuclear fallout from Fukushima, global warming, solar flares, pole-shifts, economic melt-down or political unrest, the “doom and gloom” predictions seem to take spotlight over the more positive notions of renewal. No matter what you believe, it is clear that we are in a time of uncertainty and unprecedented change. The White Buffalo Prophecy, handed down for 19 generations within the Lakota Tradition, has continued to unfold in magical ways that paint a positive future for humanity.

In 1994 Alison “Tootie” Montana, a prominent Black Indian Chief from New Orleans, had a vision of bringing together many tribes to celebrate their shared history. David Carson, Choctaw author of “Medicine Cards” and Kam Nightchase, a Lakota Pipe-Carrier also shared a similar vision. Reverend David “Goat” Carson of New Orleans led the organizational effort to make this vision a reality at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park. The gathering was called “Sacred Medicine Circle at High Noon” on Aug. 20, 1994.

Black Indians are descendants of slaves who inter-married with local indian tribes, as noted by the scholar William Loren Katz. Indians would raid plantations, free the slaves and escape into the swamps where they shared and mixed their cultures. This union was clearly seen as a threat to the colonists, who did their best to stomp out the resistance and make sure the history of it was also erased.

Congo Square, located in the Treme Neighborhood in New Orleans, was a place where slaves and free people of color gathered to drum, dance and trade on Sundays. The dance, with origins in Africa and throughout the Caribbean, is called the Calinda and is said to invoke the ancestors. Local American Indians had a prophecy that their ancestors would one day return with songs and dances to heal the nations of the world and the slaves were seen as the fulfillment of this prophecy. The coming together of African poly-rhythms with the Native America pow-wow drum birthed the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.

So it was fitting for a sacred medicine circle to be held on Congo Square to bring this history out in the open, bringing people together across tribal lines to celebrate unity and healing. However, the event was considered controversial for bringing up a history that is not much talked about in the deep south. During the ceremony, in acknowledgement of the controversy, Rev. David “Goat” Carson asked for a sign from the Buffalo Nation that this coming together in Unity was good medicine for the people. The event was attended by many tribes, including Lakota, Choctaw, Cherokee and others.

Meanwhile in Arizona, another event had been organized for the same week called The World Unity Festival to honor The Hopi Rainbow Prophecy. This prophecy talks about a time when people will come together from all religions, all cultures and colors, to restore the sacred hoop of life on Earth and bring healing. Neither event organizers were aware of the others event. The World Unity Festival culminated with Drumming Around The World, which included people drumming simultaneously in 38 countries and 42 U.S. States for unity and healing. The drumming was led by the late Baba Olatunji and was attended by members of Hopi, Dineh (Navajo), Havasupai, Apache local tribes and people from all over the world.

During that same week in Janesville, Wis., a White Buffalo was born named “Miracle” thus fulfilling a Lakota prophecy that is 19 generations old. In response to these events the City of New Orleans proclaimed Aug. 27 as White Buffalo Day to be celebrated from this day forward. Eighteen years later, and after many deep and meaningful cultural exchanges between tribes across the country sharing their own stories and prophecies for the future, White Buffalo Day is still being celebrated in New Orleans and all over the world. You can learn more at WhiteBuffaloChildren.org or read the actual city proclamations here.

Please enjoy the video of Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, 19th Generation Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and Bundle, speak about the prophecies. As he states, “We all love our kids, we all have a gift of compassion and a gift of responsibility.” Political institutions and religious organizations that are supposed to bring unity are currently the cause of so much fighting across borders and religious lines, perhaps White Buffalo is a calling to come together regardless of our backgrounds and create a better world for future generations. As Chief Lookinghorse states, “No one person is better than the other.” It is truly a time to find spiritual unity or we may just inherit a doomsday future instead of a positive one.


Get social with the Story on Huffington Post Here

Mural Tells Untold History of Local Tribe

Arizona is a state with a strong and diverse Indian population with a history that goes back over a thousand years. Along the East Coast of The United States, the newcomers from Europe arrived from the east in the early 1600’s. In Arizona, Marcos deNiza  along with Estevanico (an escaped African slave), arrived in the current United States in 1539, a half century before British Colonies started in the northeast. Most of the cultural history of The Southwest comes from the Spanish and Indian influence, yet, the British version of history is still primarily taught in the schools. Book knowledge and oral tradition are 2 different ways to understand history and often they clash, but in Prescott, Arizona public art has bridged the divide.

In 2001, Elizabeth Newman, wanted to give voice to the Indian stories that have been forgotten through a mural. With a group of Mile High Middle School Students, she went door to door asking for old stories, researched at the local Sharlot Hall Museum and asked elders from the local Yavapai Tribe. This created a minor stir as there had been a bit of a divide between the tribe and the local city government, but it was the beginning of a beautiful healing.

Elizabeth enlisted the help of her friend and professional artist, R. E. Wall to help with the project. The students research grew into learning not only the cultural history of the land, but also the natural history. The students were asked to sit by the creek alone each day and make journal entries about the thoughts and feelings that came to them when they silenced their minds under the trees. Eventually, pride and respect for the land grew and the students began picking up the trash along the creek, and noticing subtle things like the birds and animals that inhabited the area. All of these influences were then arranged into a beautiful piece of art by Elizabeth and R. E. Wall for the students to begin painting.

After a greatly successful project and a beautiful new piece of public art in this sleepy town, R.E. Wall took his inspiration for murals and formed The Prescott Downtown Mural Project. You may have heard about it a few years back when it sparked an national controversy and received lots of mainstream press during the SB 1070 battle. If not, you will have to stay tuned to learn more in this ongoing series about the power of public art and the power of educators, youth and a whole community to come together to give voice to history and bring healing.

12 years later, and still with much controversy about education in Arizona, and what history is allowed to be taught in Arizona schools, this mural sits quietly along the creek with a story to tell.

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