Birthday Celebration in “The Wild”

“Who used to live here, before? And where are they now?” The constant questions. Photo: Jenny Holmberg, 2020

Born Again!

✨ Ahh we just got back from a wonderful fantastically magical birthday weekend in ”Joshua Tree National Park” a few days ago. ✨ We had been talking about going camping for a while, but hearing vulnerable communities asking for people to stay away made it tricky to know where to go in order to not put other people in harm’s way.

Joshua Tree feels close enough (as in, not a remote, vulnerable area?)…but it’s just really hard to know what’s right or wrong to do in these corona times (except for the obvious things such as social distancing, wearing a mask etc). I think and hope that this was/is an OK trip to do…it was sooooo good to get outside like that. The silence, the beauty…laying down under a night sky rarely seen nowadays. Aaaaah. A real game changer in how it feels to be here right now. So so good. In all ways.

Thank You Nature. However…

Well, “all ways”, except for one, big thing. Almost wherever we set foot here, we do it on stolen land. And as much as I appreciate the National Parks for their beauty, they have a complicated history, where murky objectives have been disguised behind a surface of “preservation”. Where the idea of “wilderness” and “untouched nature” is essentially stemming from a colonial and exploitative mindset (see links below, these are huge topics and I’ll let the more experienced people talk on that).

Indigenous Peoples’ Past and Present

It still baffles me how, when wanting to learn more about the places I’m visiting, so often the “history” readily presented is one that starts with the first white person arriving on the land. When there have been people living here for thousands and thousands of years before that! Or sometimes, when earlier times are referred to, it’s as a little side note. “This and this people lived here, they stored their food like this. And then they disappeared” could be a summary of many of these “presentations”. It’s just totally nuts. And even in the sources where the Indigenous peoples’ stories are given more space, they’re often talked about as something of the past only (in a romanticized way – lots of “noble savages” around) – meanwhile the stories of how the land was “acquired”, of how treaties (all of them) were dishonored at the time and today and how that affects the people alive now, is skipped over completely.

Knowledge…Is a Start

I of course have no idea “what to do” about this all. But I’m pretty sure that knowledge is important, and creating a habit of reading about the older history of every place I visit (most often starting at www.native-land.ca and continuing from there) and trying to find out more about the people of these Nations alive today is part of that. Learning about #LandBack and #honorthetreaties and making sure that the voices I listen most to in these matters are Indigenous voices, and not “white authors” appropriating “Native knowledge/stories/chants” and whatnot (google for example “plastic shamans” for a little exposé of this) (also, just to be clear – anyone referring to “Native”-anything in these settings should be scrutinised a bit more before being trusted. There is no homogenic “Native (American) Tradition” – there are hundreds of different traditions and cultures around, and anyone practicing anything “Native” (as it’s often referred to) should be able to specify that more in detail, I believe).

I’m still surprised about how little this all seems to be talked about, between people in general. Like, why isn’t everyone here discussing this, all the time, given the history of this country (I mean, I get it…it’s “complex” and difficult to deal with – and we have a similar situation back where I come from too  which is equally not enough talked about so it’s not like it’s an “American” thing only. But still)? It does feel like these topics are being more and more highlighted in the “mainstream feed” though (maybe?) and I really hope that that will continue, and quickly too.

🌵

Further Reading

A few links for anyone who wants to join in on both the unlearning and learning…as always just to point towards some places to start and continue from – not an exhaustive list of anything nor a valuation of any source as more or less important. ✨ And thank you for reading this far if you have – I would love to hear what your experiences are around this, especially if you grew up in the US (unlike me); if you’ve actually found all this to be widely talked about and acted upon in your circles, or if this is something you are just starting to learn more about yourself.

“Wilderness”

www.inquiriesjournal.com/amp/911/humanity-and-its-place-in-nature-rethinking-the-reality-of-wilderness

https://time.com/5562258/indigenous-environmental-justice

(Broken) Treaties

https://aapf.org/broken-treaties

https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/9/23/20872713/native-american-indian-treaties

https://theintercept.com/2020/07/17/mcgirt-v-oklahoma-indian-native-treaties

Land Back

https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/whose-land-is-it-anyways

https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/what-is-land-back-a-settler-faq

www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/05/return-the-national-parks-to-the-tribes (Added April 2021)

Unrelated…But Also Not

And while we’re at it – a few words on white sage and “smudging”. The message is – white sage is not to be sold or purchased. And if we’re non-native, we’d do better by finding other ways to “cleanse our vibes”. Plenty of other plants out there! 💚🌿💚

http://nativeappropriations.com/2018/09/sephoras-starter-witch-kit-and-spiritual-theft.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smudging#Controversy

https://fashionista.com/2019/11/burning-sage-cultural-appropriation

https://native-way.blogspot.com/2004/10/plastic-shamans.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_shaman

People to listen to (amongst many many more)

www.adriennekeene.com/#/all-my-relations-podcast

www.patreon.com/lilnativeboy

www.instagram.com/iiycfamily

www.instagram.com/indigenouswomenhike

www.instagram.com/nativein_la

www.instagram.com/nativeapprops

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