place and truth

June 9, 2014

Aboriginality

190414-10

It has been an interesting week.

I went to a meeting at my children’s primary school during the week.

This year, a new programme was introduced into the school, funded by the Federal government. The programme employs Aboriginal  Elders to come into the school every week to teach Aboriginal culture to the students during class time. However, only one class in the school receives the benefit  of this programme. The parent who organises the programme has a son in that class. The school is talking up how successful the programme is.

My youngest son is one of four Aboriginal children in his class, but they have received no benefit from the programme. My middle son is one of three Aboriginal children in his class, but nothing for them either.

This programme in the primary school was a year in the planning, and all of that time I had no idea that I could have had input into how the programme was delivered.  It was only when the programme was introduced into my oldest son’s high school a few months ago that I came to the understanding that parents are required to be involved. The parent organising the programme in the primary school had not invited the other parents to be involved. The Elders employed by the programme are all related to this parent.

So I attended a meeting at the primary school this week. I asked for the programme to be of benefit to the other Aboriginal children in the school. From the next school term (starting in July), the other Aboriginal children in the school will be able to meet with the Elders during the children’s lunch break.

I was quite outspoken at the meeting about the programmes and activities I thought the Federally funded money should be directed to. I felt very uncomfortable about being so outspoken, but underneath this speaking out was a deep sense of inequity and quiet rage. As my Aboriginal clans did not come from this area, I am not regarded as a local. I have lived here for 25 years, more than half my life. The family that I mention also did not come from this area, but they have somehow accumulated all of the power and all of the say. It bothers me that the programme is supposed to be inclusive but I feel as much an outsider as I ever have.

Now that changes are going to be made to the programme for the benefit of all of the Aboriginal children in the school, I find myself crawling into my shell. My thoughts have been on my kids, who were born and raised in these mountains. And they are mountains boys who wear bare feet and no jumpers on the coldest days. They have made strong and true friendships, and interestingly their closest friends have Aboriginal heritage also. Whenever my husband and I talk about living elsewhere they tell us that this is their home and they don’t want to leave. We walk in the local bush, and I teach them about the plants, landscapes, and animals. When will they be considered native to this area?

Then I  read Joanna Powell Colbert’s Becoming native to your place. Such a beautifully reflective piece on what ‘being native’ means to her…

“As I fell more and more in love with the land where I lived, I learned the stories and myths of the first peoples who lived here. At the same time I began my naturalist studies. It became very meaningful to me to compare the myths of my Celtic heritage with the myths of the Northwest, especially the stories of the plants and animals who live in both places (like the magical hawthorn tree and the salmon of wisdom).

So what was happening for me was a marriage of ancestry and place.  I studied my Celtic heritage, but also learned as much as I could about the land, and the ways that the original peoples first interacted with the land and the waters.

But there is another, more important reason for becoming native to your place: the earth needs it.  European-Americans have been incredibly destructive to the land in large part because we don’t believe we are native to the earth.  We’ve been taught to believe we transcend it.

If we each fell so deeply in love with the land where we live, we would defend it with our lives, and the whole world would be covered.”

.

After the meeting this week, I was sad and confused, but I didn’t really know why. I couldn’t put words to my feelings and I didn’t understand the context for them. Then I read an email from Jane Cunningham of  Numinous Jane and her words put everything in place for me. The email read…

 
I recently took a big leap right into my truth
 
and I am here to tell you it wasn’t easy.
 
I had always hoped the leap into my deeper truth would be accompanied by well groomed tresses and small birds fluttering around my head with garlands of flowers.
 
It was actually accompanied by sweaty armpits and a great deal of self doubt.
 
But standing up in the world and claiming the truth as you see it, taking a stand for something that may not be pleasing to everyone, can be messy and confusing it seems.
 
I have learned that the more I stand up for what is true for me the more I magnetise people who are likely to get it too… people find it en-couraging to see that happening (“if she can do it why can’t I?”) it shakes people up a little, makes them think about what they would like to achieve, it gives permission to the people who notice that maybe they can try something a little out there.
 
It has shown me how even when I don’t please everyone (I did get the “it is a little demonic” comment about a work that I find very tender and loving and strengthening) I am able to clearly see it is about the receiver of that image. It is about how it touches them and doesn’t necessarily mean that I should scurry home and hide on my sofa unfit for human consumption. We are just different. It just isn’t for them.
And the brighter I can shine my light on my truth the more that those ready for it, hungry for it can be nourished by it.
 
The Divine sifting process.
 
Standing by your truth is the only way the Divine sifting process happens…To use a gold panning analogy, the only way the gold nuggets are retrieved is by taking sifting through all the grit. Taking a stand for your truth is that sifting process.
 
I don’t think I could have done this a year ago… It has been a long winding walk, this business of making friends with my shadow and now I find myself in this place of self compassion and compassion for other.

.

I found the writing by Joanna and Jane very encouraging.

I spoke the truth  as I knew it at the meeting. I stood up for what I thought was right and I didn’t win any friends but I did what I needed to do. It highlighted for me the difference between the community that I work in and the community where I live. The community I work in is far more inclusive and honest. We are a melting pot of different Aboriginal cultures and it doesn’t matter.  People are encouraged to contribute in whichever way they can. And that is who I am – inclusive, encouraging, and honest, regardless of who I am with. I guess it upsets me when others have hidden agendas.

A big part of culture is the sharing of knowledge. I had hoped that I would be able to contribute to my local community because I do so love to be useful, and I have considerable knowledge of the local plants and their uses. But it is not the time or place. Intrinsic to Aboriginal culture is waiting. I put myself out there to make things better for the children who were not being considered, and it is right for me to step back now and wait and see. That is my part in it.

    

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8 Comments on “place and truth”

  1. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    Tree Girl, I,too, as you read I think, spoke out this past week. To my surprise I felt very vulnerable and began shaking! Last night we received a lovely message on voice-mail, thanking me for speaking up. Someone else asked me to be more active in program planning for the organization. In spite of this, I can feel myself pulling back. Being visible is something I can choose now, yet those old lessons about being quiet and invisible come to the fore more often than I might like. Thank you for your ongoing sharing and wisdom.

    Reply

    • tree girl Says:

      Thank you Michael for your comment and for sharing your feelings.

      People were magnetised to you for speaking your truth, as Jane Cunningham suggests.

      I understand the pulling back, retreating, and withdrawing. It feels like going away to lick one’s wounds. These wounds feel particularly deep to me right now.

      Reply

  2. greenmackenzie Says:

    Well done for speaking out, and it’s funny because I’ve had a sense of you feeling restrained from being your full wonderful self in the past. I think I commented on a previous post …..asking why you couldn’t talk about your plant lore.
    When something is very close to our core, to our hearts, we can feel very vulnerable letting others see it…..after all of it’s then misheard or ignored its as though that very precious part of us is ignored or called worthless…..however the benefits are so great despite the fear…..living a more authentic life, true to our core is the path to great happiness in the world 🙂

    Reply

    • tree girl Says:

      Many thanks greenmackenzie

      Your considered and encouraging comments are much appreciated.

      I am happy that I spoke up as changes are going to be made. I am betwixt and between worlds at the moment and very much treading where my heart tells me to go.

      Thank you

      Reply

      • greenmackenzie Says:

        Betwixt and between is always a tricky if exciting place to be….the breaking edge of change 🙂
        Wishing you well in the midst of the changes 🙂

      • tree girl Says:

        Thank you greenmackenzie

        You are absolutely right – a mixture of anxiety and excitement. There is such a want to push things along, but a need to let things unfold as they should.

  3. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    I am so pleased this morning to read the chaplaincy program was found to be unconstitutional. I hope this helps with your work life. I also find myself hoping your expanding community of friendship and support will remain intact, and grow even more.

    Reply

    • tree girl Says:

      Hi Michael

      I am always amazed at how you can keep track of what is going on in other parts of the world. I have trouble keeping up with what is going on in my own household.

      I think the High Court decision may make things more difficult for me. The government may decide to cancel the programme all together and I think that would be a great shame for the children who are benefitting from it. Just in the past few weeks I have identified an 8 year old and 10 year old who are showing signs of depression. The teachers thought the children were being lazy, and the parents are being harsh to try and get the children motivated.

      This programme is being besieged from many different fronts, and it will be interesting to see what is left when the smoke settles.

      Reply

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