There were difficult times too for this oak tree, when she witnessed wild fires raging, drought years with dust rising against the clear sky. The times when her branches sheltered human arguments and angry outbursts, but mostly she is surrounded by love and caring.
I stand high upon a flat rock, my eyes roaming, taking in the day, the years. Filling my lungs with sweet fragrances of the damp Mother Earth. Feeling my body grow light, like the feathers of the red tail hawk touching the soft clouds.
For the record I am not California Indian. I am an Indian born in California, mixedblood Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, and for forty-three years I lived in an area that makes up the traditional Chumash homeland. I spent those years walking gently, a guest on this good land and I hold the culture, traditions and history of the Chumash people in my heart. For my Chumash friends this is their landscape of time.
I remember the words of my aunties and my grandmothers, about how each person is a connection to history and when we gather around the area and form a circle around the drums, singers and dancers we are all connected, and it's our way of saying that American Indian people are still here. This is our celebration of life past, present and future.
First published in the Spring 2019 issue of News From Native California a quarterly magazine devoted to California's Indian peoples. This essay also appears in Terra Trevor's upcoming memoir, We Who Walk The Seven Ways. © Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.
A Raven Chronicles Anthology
“The poems and stories in this anthology offer necessary anecdotes against hate. They are inscription, instruction, witness, warning, remedy, solution, even solace. This anthology is relief.”
“We can regard Take a Stand: Art Against Hate as a print-form peace march, an ongoing campaign for justice for all of the struggles embodied in these writings and depicted in the artwork included here.”
There was water for pie baking, and when the sun seared overhead water to mix with Kool-Aid to freeze into popsicles. Home canned goods must be put up in hot, sterilized jars and we had water for boiling before we used them. We had water to wash our hands before pressing a tortilla on a hot skillet, and it was clean and safe to drink.
When no one else believed in them, they believed in each other.
Set in the early 1980s, the story of The Cherokee Word for Water begins in a small town in rural Oklahoma where many houses lack running water. The film tells the story of a tribal community joining together to build a waterline by using traditional Native values of reciprocity and interdependence and is told from the perspective of Wilma Mankiller and Charlie Soap, who join forces to battle opposition and build a 16-mile waterline system using a community of volunteers. In the process, they inspire the townspeople to trust each other, to trust their way of thinking, and to spark a reawakening of the universal indigenous values of reciprocity and interconnectedness. This project also inspired a self-help movement in Indian Country that continues to this day.
“The Cherokee Word for Water” is dedicated to Wilma Mankiller’s vision, compassion and incredible grace, and tells the story of the work that led her to become the Chief of the Cherokee Nation. The film was funded through the Wilma Mankiller Foundation to continue her legacy of social justice and community development in Indian Country.
You will notice that the title of the original article says culture. It ought to read cultures, reflecting the fact that Native American people are of many tribes, Nations, cultures, languages and histories.
I greatly enjoyed researching and writing the article and I’m thankful for the invitation to take my readers into Native America to visit the thriving lifeways of a continuing land and people.