Sunday, December 30, 2007

in with the new... out with the old... years... (some old stuff is worth hanging onto!)


"I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation."

~ Chief Oren Lyons, Oneida in an address to the Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 1977

In starting with this quote from Chief Oren Lyons I offer up my thanks for those first people of this land, for all that they have shared with me over the years, for opening my eyes to this land and providing another view of its history. Chief Lyons came to my house today. Not literally but, as is the way with these things, from a glimpsing out of the corner of my eye.

I am part of a group of folks, pretty much all volunteers, who scan the various print media around the globe for news items related to drug policy. My friend Beth, the gal in my previous post with pancreatic cancer, is one of this organization's many dedicated volunteers. I've been a volunteer with this group for almost a decade. We have, collectively, amassed an online archive of drug policy related newspaper and magazine articles that now approaches almost 200,000 articles. (the group is the Media Awareness Project and our archive is here. Part of my pride in involvement with this project is that the government tried to do something similar and in 2 years managed to compile only about 800 articles... says a whole lot about what great work folks motivated by something other than money can accomplish, especially when compared to folks whose only motivation comes from their job. If that sounds a bit like I'm thumbing my nose at the government... well... maybe I am... maybe I'm not...)

I haven't mentioned this bit of my activist life here before because I know how people can get when discussing politics and I don't want to bog down my efforts here in the blog on a topic I spend so much energy on elsewwweb.

But it was in checking out an article I had seen my friend Mike Jones had posted from the Taos News that I noticed this little blurb about a YouTube video w/ Chief Lyons. The video is a short interview about the September, 2007 passage by the United Nations of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights. Not having heard about this Declaration showed me a couple of things. First, the news media doesn't give a whole lot of coverage to indigenous issues (which I knew)... and second, that I haven't been paying enough attention to an issue I hold with high regard. I mean my encounter with North American tribal folks literally changed my life, a change I view as one very much for the better.

This Declaration passed by a vote of 143 nations for and 4 against (with 11 abstentions). The four nations voting against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Those 4 nations have very tenuous relations with their indigenous populations. Australia with the aborigines, Canada and the U.S. with a host of tribes and New Zealand with the Maori. (update: Colombia was one of the abstentions, Colombian Government Declares Indigenous Reservations Targets for Fumigations) It was in learning about US history from the native perspective that I learned the word abrogate. A word, by the way, that I think should be better known, especially among those who have or are working towards reaching agreements with the US government... abrogate, as in "we abrogate our treaties":

Main Entry: ab·ro·gate
Pronunciation: \ˈa-brə-ˌgāt\
Function: transitive verb
Latin abrogatus, past participle of abrogare, from ab- + rogare to ask, propose a law
Date: 1526
1 : to abolish by authoritative action : annul
2 : to treat as nonexistent [emphasis mine]
synonyms see nullify

Whether this Declaration will have much effect on the problems native people are having around the globe or not I don't know, but I do know that Chief Lyons and others have been petitioning the UN for decades. Indigenous issues are many, their tribulations not insignificant and often a matter of life and death. Whether in South and Central America where logging, mining and cocaine production threatens their remote homelands or on any other continent on the planet, indigenous people and their plight remains hidden behind curtains of invisibility... out of sight, out of mind...

And because the year 2007 is just about gone I'd like to honor a couple of native elders who passed away this year.

Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman passed over this December:

Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman passes... many of you probably would recognize Floyd Westerman from his role as Ten Bears, the elder medicine man in the the Kevin Costner classic film Dances With Wolves (a role that Grampa Semu also auditioned for). His acting bio is an amazing list, I know you'll find something here that you remember him from.

Also this year we lost a wonderful elder and activist in Corbin Harney. Corbin died of cancer on July 10, 2007. He was a tireless teacher and very involved in Nevada with both land and tribal issues and with the anti-nuclear weapons movement. I met him once when I first moved to Eugene at a pot-luck at the U of O Longhouse.

"We are one people. We cannot separate ourselves now. There are many good things to be done for our people and for the world. It is important to let things be good. And it is important to teach the younger generation so that things are not lost."

~ Corbin Harney


kwel mehk, ih'luktay, kay sh'nuk sh'mah... ("thank you, my teachers, until we meet again...")


There is so much more I have to say about indigenous folks, about my relations with them, their value to this modern and highly mad world, but I will save that for another post. Here, in honor of all those whose work and humble dedication to the land and the people has affected me, is a piece of art by Jack Malotte, a Western Shoshone artist whose work I first saw back in the day when I "discovered" the Western Shoshone Defense Project from reading the publication Native Self-Sufficiency, published by the late Daniel Bomberry. NSS and the fine Akwesasne Notes were important sources for expanding my native consciousness. I believe we all are native people (how could it be otherwise unless you are from another planet or dimension?), just that some of us are farther removed from our place on the land...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas and the Big C...


“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”

~ Dalai Lama

Christmas is such a funny season... a holiday dedicated to good spirit and giving... has become for too many, a time of loneliness and despondency, a season that sees a sharp rise in suicide as expectations (whether self-created or pressured from perceptions of demands from the outside world) are not met. I know for me and my kids this will be one of our poorest Christmases. But they are ok with that. Better than I am with it. I feel that pressure of being able to provide, to give more, and failing.

But as with most things it is after all mostly a matter of perspective. I know who I am, what I've done with and in my life and I know that giving is an act that is possible each and every day. So, I go on, knowing that life will go on, that this low will again become a high, a rise in both economic and emotional terms. And I also know that the sense of failure is not a right thing. I have 2 beautiful kids and am gifted with a creativity that amazes me. I have my health and in spite of the negatives I remain a happy person. My friend Greg Burke once told me (many years ago) to know the difference between perception and projection.

Perception is the seeing of what is, of recognizing the subjective nature. Projection on the other hand is seeing but with our own biases coloring that viewing. And for me that very much is what Christmas has become, a matter of perception versus projection.

A dear friend of mine, whom I have never met (such as arises from this wired, wwworldwideweb) has been dignosed with pancreatic cancer. Beth is a very strong woman, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a sister... I know Beth from the political side of my life. She is one of those activists who goes out and does. She engages and teaches by way of example while she provides a service valuable beyond measure to those she aids. And I know that right now, for her, her family and friends, this is a time where emotions are a roller coaster ride that can leave everyone involved exhausted and exhilarated, all at the same time. (I've edited the post, changing the photo of Beth to one from her gallery on CarePages. At the upper right corner of the webpage is a link to a page on which to register, which you must do. Once registered you may use the link in the same location to visit her board page section. You must enter her name, one word, case sensitive, as follows: BethWehrman. If we volunteers are truly george Bush's 1000 points of light), Beth is at least 200 of those!)

So it is this Christmas, that even though my bank account sits empty, my cupboards hardly overflowing, the billcollecters howling like wolves at my door, I am thankful, so very thankful for what I have in abundance and that for me to complain would be so silly, in light of what Beth, her family and so, so many others around the world face these days.

And so, dear friends, I ask you all, whatever your beliefs, to offer up a prayer or a good thought, a wish for healing, for comfort and rest and a return to ease from this dis-ease for my friend and fellow MAPster Beth Wehrman, for strength for her family, that this cancer may be vanquished and eliminated.

Merry Christmas.

Here's one for Beth and her family:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter whatever...

“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”

~ Woodrow T. Wilson

Less than a week away winter is blowing in again... and, strange as it seems, it happens every year about the same time. Weird how that works...

This week is proving (weather wise) to be a wet start to another new winter. The rain is falling steady outside my window and the prognosticators say it will be with us all week with snow levels coming down to the 2,000' level or so. I'm hoping to get up to the snow line (maybe Opal Creek) to do some snow shooting. I've had the pleasure of being in some mighty fine locations with my camera in the snow. Opal Creek obviously, but when I was living in California my first attempt at winter shooting was in Yosemite one year when I was home on leave from the Air Force. I went with my old High School buddy Glenn. Many, many winter trips to Death Valley after the military with Al B, Marty and/or Jeff and his brothers Dan, Brad and Rick (and many combinations of those fellers). If you've never been to Death Valley... wow. What a unique landscape, and not just in the Valley proper but in the surrounding higher areas where the views are long and clear. One particularly outstanding trip several of us took with my good friend Greg Burke up into the Sierras in the winter of '83 - '84. We skiied and snowshoed in and camped on a snowpack that was about 25'... wow. Skiing like I've never experienced before or since. One of these months I'll have some of those images scanned and posted here.

I think those early Death Valley trips prepared me for my year in Adel.

Of course Adel was the best of worlds... I lived with my family in a magnificent landscape surrounded by the volcanic uplifts in a place so quiet I could hear my nearest neighbor's (the Lane's) cows mooing even though they were 5 miles away. Robin was a one year old and had a safe play space with two dogs (Lance and Bear) who were her outside buddies. The high desert is just such a special environment... the stars at night so bright in that clear desert air that the Milky Way was actually 3 dimensional. Our own private hot spring only 1/2 mile away... and a fair amount of snow (I actually twice ended up driving to Adel and on to Lakeview through blizzard conditions).

Here in Eugene, living on the outskirts of town here on "the farm" is kind of similar yet different... not as quiet obviously with the road only 1/4 mile away and Hwy 99 1/2 mile away... but still...

I've not done as well as I'd hoped with the photography and at best it is a supplemental income. Projects I'd hoped to be able to devote more time and energy to have taken a back seat to surviving. I'm actually waiting for word on a full-time job that I had hoped would have started a month or so ago but looks like won't start until the new year. But when it does start I will still have the photography work as a filler and will work towards that future day when it can be my main source of income. I still work in spurts on my proposed book about Pablo and Opal Creek. I have had to worry too much about paying my bills and keeping us fed to have that worry-free clarity of mind I need to access my creative side. I'm lonely at times, missing that companionship that a female love provides... but at this stage of my life I know I'm a bit cantankerous and not willing to settle for gratification over love, I enjoy my bachelorhood, knowing that somewhere, some day I'll find another companion. I also have other issues probaby a bit more pressing to me personally.

I haven't talked much politics here and will continue to shy away as this isn't my venue of choice for that portion of my life. The wwweb allows me plenty of other outlets for that... but I do worry about the country I'm handing to my children. I'm a lover of the Constitution, a document I believe was written and given to the people of this nation as our document. A tool with which we keep government in check, not for them to keep us in check.

I'm coming closer to fearing our government, fearing that we are slipping into becoming an entity more akin to those countries and sysems I remember being warned against as a kid. I worry because every advocate for peace that has risen to prominence ends up being offed. I worry becuase I believe that this country's power is derived from we the people and it seems that we the people are being led rather than being the leaders. Certainly very few of those we elect to national offices qualify as leaders (and not all of them need to be leaders, but they sure need to be good administrators.

So, as we go into the holiday season I tend to think about peace and how lacking in it so many humans on the planet are...

But I always have hope. And that hope comes to me from many sources. One of those sources for me recently is the movie Bobby... written and directed by Emilio Estevez. I was surprised how well done this film was. Highly recommended. Anyway... at the end of the film there is an eloquent speech that was incredibly moving. I researched the source for it and found that it was the speech Robert Kennedy delivered in Cleveland on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin luther King was shot and killed. It is a beautiful and passionate speech that is an outstanding plea to that which is truly the best of human nature. So here, as my Christmas present to y'all, is that speech from Bobby Kennedy:

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

And another series of images from this past year: