Indigenous Led New Orleans Group Travels to Standing Rock

Press Release, New Orleans, LA, October 4, 2016

Cultural convergence protecting the sacred continues as New Orleans group travels to Standing Rock to oppose pipeline. Indigenous led group joins Shining Light Kitchen to bring food, medicine, tribal support and solidarity to North Dakota protest camp.

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NOLA Supports Standing Rock and Shining Light Kitchen will caravan on October 9-16, 2016 to bring organic New Orleans cuisine, all natural herbal remedies, local tribal support and South Louisiana solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is leading the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Opposition to the controversial pipeline project has garnered international outcry with both President Obama, the United Nations and over 280 Indigenous nations, cities and organizations from around the globe joining the tribe’s call to stop the construction of the prophesied “Black Snake”. This pipeline threatens the tribe’s sole source of drinking water, construction has already destroyed sacred sites and burial grounds, while causing serious violations to peaceful protesters civil rights. Fears that a major spill upriver from New Orleans will potentially affect the water of some 20 million people downstream have spurred the groups intentions to mobilize in support of the protection of the water for future generations.

“New Orleans has many reasons to stand in solidarity with the Lakota and over 280 tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, ND. First, is the watershed above New Orleans that feeds into the Mississippi. Pipelines break all the time, in case you haven’t noticed, and oil companies have a horrible track record of taking responsibility for the destruction of peoples’ water. We are all downstream. Think Gulf Oil Spill. Think Kalamazoo River. Do we need any more of this? Not at all. Now with the recent news of the EPA allowing an unregulated amount of fracking wastewater and chemicals to be dumped in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans and Louisiana are taking a direct hit,” says Heather Coleman, Pottawattamie Tribal Member, and member of NOLA Supports Standing Rock. “So solidarity with the Lakota is a must for the sake of our commonly shared water, and the moral imperative to protect what is sacred to us and all of life, water.”

South Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at the alarming rate of 25-35 square miles per year. This loss represents 80% of the coastal wetlands loss in the entire U.S. By 2050, coastal LA will lose more than 630,000 acres of coastal marshes, swamps and islands.

“As climate change takes a crash landing from the future to the now, the people of Louisiana are getting the brunt of climate change, with the oceans warming and becoming ever increasingly acidic, there will be more rain than we can handle. This year has marked the warmest months, July and August, on record. 31” of rain fell in 2 days in August 2016, resulting in mass flooding in the greater Baton Rouge area, that destroyed thousands of homes, and took lives,” continues Miss Coleman.

The Shining Light Kitchen just wrapped up 6 weeks of disaster relief efforts in Baton Rouge, providing an organic kitchen and meals to those displaced by the recent flooding. The Kitchen will provide a 40-foot tipi that houses the fully equipped kitchen, along with a water purification system.

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Culturally, New Orleans celebrates indigenous culture through the esteemed Mardi Gras Indians (AKA Black Indians). Lakota Chief, Arvol Lookinghorse visited New Orleans in the wake of a vision by Tootie Montana, and David Carson in 1995 which coincided the birth of a White Buffalo in Janesville Wisconsin. The city welcomed him as a keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Prophecy in proclamations (see proclamations at  www.whitebuffaloday.com).

This coming together was significant in light of the long history of African Americans and Native Americans kinship during times of slavery. New Orleans has played a significant role in the preservation and evolution of these cultures mixing which has influenced carnival, our musical heritage and other creative innovations. Our shared values as diverse people implies that we stand together when facing a common threat. A threat to our water is not an existential threat, it is a major concern for the health of our families and children.

New Orleans is revered around the world as a cultural hub for the Arts, from its famous Jazz and Theater, astounding colonial French and Spanish architecture to most importantly its cuisine – born of French, African, Native American and Créole influences – that have graced this city for nearly three centuries. Despite this wonderful identity, what many people don’t know about New Orleans is that it has a very rich Native American history as well that is still prevalent today and is even memorialized in our street names and Mardi Gras krewes.

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Above: school bus, kitchen and tipi being brought to Standing Rock

For example, the N.O. areas known as Tchoupitoulas Street and Chef Menteur Highway is named for the Hạcha-pit-itula people who lived there while the highway is named for the Choctaw chief who was banished with his family and cohorts to that region. Furthermore, the carnival Krewes of Tchefunte and Chahta are named for the Hachofakti (a much older tribe) and Choctaw peoples respectively who inhabited the surrounding areas of New Orleans, thriving through established trade routes along the Tchefuncte River through Lake Pontchartrain with their northern cousins, the Bayou Lacombe Choctaws in St. Tammany Parish to the Houmas in the south among other tribal bands.

Even after European arrival, the tribes co-existed with many of the French and Africans selling goods such as filé, baskets and herbs in the French Market and even intermarrying with them. The Mardi Gras Indians are proof of such unions as they are the descendants of escaped slaves and Native Americans who established Maroon communities on the outskirts of New Orleans (black and red makes maroon hence the name) and today continue to carry on their legacy by annually masking to honor their unique heritage of both black and Native ancestry.

“We say this to clarify that Native history has always been a part of New Orleans history and continues to be today, and that we are here standing with all those not only in this country, but around the globe who stand in solidarity with the brave souls on the front lines in Standing Rock, ND who fight for our “unalienable rights” for Life,” says Sierra Lyn, member of the Bayou Lacombe Band of Choctaw.

“With a record of broken treaties, another broken treaty is something that we cannot ignore. We owe it to our relatives at Standing Rock to stand with them as they protect their land and our shared water. We may not be able to erase the injustices of the past, but together we can say no to injustices today. This is how we build a better world for future generations, this is what our great city committed to when Chief Arvol Lookinghorse visited us. This is our legacy, our responsibility, this is how we create change and birth hope across cultural divides.” Statement from NOLA Supports Standing Rock.

Nola Supports Standing Rock is a group founded to gather local information and resources to Stand in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The caravan will bring food for hundreds of people and supplies to make fresh honey based cough syrup. Winter is setting in and it is going to be a long haul for everyone who is at camp. We are going to be making gumbo,and  Etouffee, to keep them warm while we are there.

If you would like to support this historic offering, please visit here.

*Featured Image of Bigchief Kyoung Chahta by Steve Archbold*

White Buffalo Day Wisdom, A Call to Take Heart

If those making decisions at the upper levels of government have a heart, how can we encourage them to listen to it? With so much distraction happening in the head and constant external pressure, listening to the heart isn’t always so easy to do. It requires taking a moment to stop, breathe, listen within, and the willingness to let go of the demands placed on us by our minds and others. Accessing the wisdom of the heart almost always involves clearing the mind. Elders remind us on White Buffalo Day to step back and consider the larger picture of our roles on this planet, our impact, and our potential to come together and make much needed changes. Clearly this can only happen if our political world leaders are listening as well. What will it take to call them back to the heart?

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Goat Carson at White Buffalo Day 2005.
Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Ehrenreich

White Buffalo is a story passed down for 19 generations in The Lakota Tradition with a beautiful vision of harmony between nations and healing for the land. Sounds like something we could really use right about now doesn’t it? The story speaks of a White Buffalo being born to send a warning to the people, but to also symbolize a great potential for change. If the people choose to wake up and return to living in a harmonious way with Mother Earth, miracles can happen. In 1994 a White Buffalo was born in Janesville, Wisconsin the same week of a historic a pipe ceremony in Congo Square in New Orleans. Regardless of coincidence or divine intervention, this was the beginning of White Buffalo Day.

On August 27th every year around the world and in Congo Square, New Orleans people gather to consider the implications of this powerful idea. Congo Square is one of the birth-places of jazz and blues though it’s history to local natives predates the colonial era. It is a place where Native Americans and African Slaves traded, danced, and drummed freely thanks to progressive French Plantation Owners in the area. Nestled in the heart of The Treme Neighborhood made famous by the HBO series of the same name, Congo Square is also known as Louis Armstrong Park.

New Orleans has a rich history of cultural cross-pollination in art, food, and its music has brought people together joyously for decades so it is a perfect place for the vision of The White Buffalo to be honored and celebrated each year. Perhaps, The City of Dreams, as New Orleans is commonly called is also a place of prophecy…

Central to this story is a man named David “Goat” Carson. He is Cherokee elder, reverend, poet, musician, oral-historian, and community organizer in New Orleans. He has hosted The White Buffalo Day Celebration for 20 years. Carson is most known for his Grammy-Awarded songs performed by Dr. John and his thought-provoking social commentary masked in works of fiction like Shallow Graves.

Respected Black Indian Chief, Allison “Tootie” Montana, is also central to the birth of White Buffalo Day in New Orleans. Black Indians have a hidden past and their blood lines stretch across continents. During times of slavery, Indians raided plantations and freed slaves. These varied African and Indian cultures mixed and inter-married, keeping aspects of their ancient indigenous heritage alive through their cultural ceremonies. Some of the bands of Indians that fled during the fall of Montezuma had migrated north and east around the gulf, others had migrated north and to the west. As these histories become known, the term “All My Relations” begins to make sense in a whole new way. The American Melting Pot pre-dates America as we know it today.

David “Goat” Carson and Tootie Montana felt that it was time that some of these untold histories be celebrated in public with a pipe ceremony in Congo Square in late August of 1994. During that same week, thousands were gathered in the pine forests of Northern Arizona with Hopi, Havasupai, Apache, and many other traditional elders for council of Rainbow Nations. Drumming around The World had also been organized for that week with people in 38 countries and 42 US states all drumming simultaneously for Unity. None of the elders or organizers were aware of the others gatherings, this was before the days of cell phones and Facebook. The White Buffalo was born that same week in Wisconsin.

Musicians like Cyril Neville, known for his soulful musical expressions of social justice, along with his wife Gaynielle have also participated in making White Buffalo Day special over the years. With a growing list of New Orleans cultural dignitaries and artists, the event has continued to be at the spiritual heart of the city, attracting people from all ethnic backgrounds to share a worthy vision. Always a small and spirited gathering of those who know and remember the old stories.

In South Dakota, The 19th Generation Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and Bundle today is Chief Arvol Lookinghorse. Lookinghorse, author of White Buffalo Teachings, is an advocate of maintaining traditional spiritual practices, founder of The Bigfoot Riders which memorializes the massacre of Big Foot’s band at Wounded Knee. Lookinghorse is also the founder of World Peace and Prayer Day.

Each year, The City of New Orleans releases a proclamation for White Buffalo Day, often authored by David “Goat” Carson and Arvol Lookinghorse with a specific focus of intention for the years event. Appropriately, 2013 was dedicated to “A prayer for the healing of the hearts and minds of our leaders”, and the full proclamation states:

PROCLAMATION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS

WHEREAS Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Nakota, Dakota & Lakota Peoples of the Great Souix Nations and Honorary Citizen of his beloved… New Orleans has these words for the people of New Orleans & the world.

“Today I witness a lot of sickness on the face of the earth” and

WHEREAS
“We have come to a time when we the people are the ones bringing
all the prophecies of all the peoples closer & closer” and

WHEREAS
The humans are so disconnected from the Spirit Mother Earth now
to succeed we must use the power of prayer. The signs of the white
animals are all over the world. We must be the voices of these white
animals, and

WHEREAS
The Tar Sands is the biggest cancer on Mother Earth now they say the
Keystone Pipeline will not leak yet we witness pipe line leaks in Yellowstone
Arkansas and other places which they cannot clean up, and

WHEREAS
Even now the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico are poisoning the waters
which are the blood of Mother Earth, and

WHEREAS
We must realize that Grandmother Earth is the Source of Life not a resource.
We must pray that our leaders stop thinking only of their personal profit
and open their hearts for healing and their minds to understand they are
risking the future of their own children and grandchildren and

WHEREAS
On August 27th we gather on the Sacred Ground of Congo Square to pray for
the healing of the hearts and minds of our leaders. We shall be as fearless in
our prayers as the Spirit is fearless in our protection.
and now therefore

BE IT PROCLAIMED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
THAT THIS COUNCIL RECOGNIZES AUGUST 27th 2013 AS
THE 19th ANNUAL WHITE BUFFALO DAY

A PRAYER FOR THE HEALING OF THE HEARTS AND MINDS
OF OUR LEADERS

in the name of and by the authority vested in the Council of the City of New Orleans

If you have followed Idle No More, Forward on Climate, and One Billion Rising through the past few months you have noticed that many different movements are gaining momentum to end the abuses of indigenous communities, women, and the environment through acts of love, beauty and non-violence.

Leaders throughout the world still appear to be sleeping in regards to our sacred obligation as human beings to the planet and each other. This is not a time for hollow words and rhetoric from our political leaders. Wars, corruption, colonialism, imperialism, greed, short-term personal gain, and ignorance are cluttering the minds of leaders everywhere. Perhaps together we can psychically nudge them to slow down and listen to their heart for just a moment.

White Buffalo Day is August 27th but we invite you to hold this vision of healing, and unity alive every single day of the year. To learn more about and download PDF’s of previous proclamations, visit here. To listen to an NPR radio interview with Cyril Neville you can click here. In case you missed this story in last years Huffington Post piece about White Buffalo Day (which also has some more in-depth history), please take a moment and listen to the words of Chief Arvol Lookinghorse here.

***This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post but has been updated with added details for Culture Collective***

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.


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