So many thoughts for one day

Bird Droppings November 13, 2011
So many thoughts for one day

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Americans. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American had not officially become politically correct and we were raised with Indians. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days.
From a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and meaning.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and my father was the chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a corpsman in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific.
Through all of those years he would say he was part Native American but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Native Americans were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with the Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in Native American philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Native American paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native American culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, to Native Americans.
The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in grad school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.
As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Americans and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Native Americans. My own journeys very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Native Americans were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Native Americans in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native American Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 29, 2011
Religion is what you make of it

“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid 1800’s. He had a belief in the unity of God, an oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things and a harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning and this quote from a Hindu email I receive struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?

“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator

“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies and I have seen many similarities between the Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise but a good inspirational book “The Wisdom of the Native Americans” which is an edited volume of Native thought is edited by Kent Nerburn and is a collection of thoughts and ideas that can give a wonderful insight into a new day.
I walked out and watched the sunrise this morning sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake I am still recovering from the five dog night of two nights ago where every hour during the storm our dog wanted out only to run back in as soon as the thunder rolled. It was around three this morning a loud bird was singing off in the distance and still a few doves cooing and calling. At four this morning owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. At five this morning as I pulled into the school there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. Always interesting as I pull into school with no one here it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of students and teachers arrive.
I came into school today to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing for several years my own collection of writings and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are a good time for me to think and write as my thought processes seem more keen and sharp. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as by afternoon I tend to forget names.
It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, nearly thirty five years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift, as I look back how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and under lined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally I will open this old bible and spill out the tidbits and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty years ago. Back then Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur of the moment thought. I found she was in Europe at that time doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later I read through and sorted deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.

“I am in Dili, East Timor now still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 30 years. However, as it happens, in this life we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list-serve. I can only get to email about once a week and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo

We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I speak often of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece each little intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the pieces over the years all the lives intertwined I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often they are on the front lines of humanity trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today this is a small world and we so often try and segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna as he thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today please as always keep those in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A beginning from an end

Bird Droppings March 28, 2011
A beginning from an end

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

Over the past two days it seems nightly storms have come through and amazingly our grand daughter has slept through them. Our dog is another story waking up at the first crack of thunder. It was about four years back a good friend dropped by for a couple days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for nearly three years. In our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about views on life and how so often I have on occasions seen things others have not. Wandering around as I do looking for pictures to take often images others would pass up. One of our discussions over breakfast we talked about intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher.
Another topic was how so often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane and yet in that moment of the mundane miracles are happening. In our backyard we have since we have moved here put in numerous flower beds in one bed we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias last year around the edge and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was being dive bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep feeders filled come summer time. It will not be too long till they are back from Mexico and as I look up hearing the buzzing I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me and who knows maybe this year I will get a good picture.
When I sit each morning and write about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard or whippoorwills echoing through the dawn and dusk it is recognizing the mundane in life. Should I not be hearing they will still be calling and should I not be watching the fireflies will still light the night? My own view is still limited by darkness and my own vision and my own perception. I try and instill in my students to look past images everyone else sees and try and find that which is yours. I am saddened when a great idea and creative mind is silenced by peer pressure.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche

For someone a thousand miles away it is only words that I write yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here near by unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience another world to those willing to read. I offered as my friend and I talked it is about renewing our perception sharpening our senses to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion, yet if you read very many of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Today is a day unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking many old thoughts and memories that we discussed years ago. Sitting and reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and a beginning of every journey and at one point I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be now in his life journey as I know I am where I am too be for now.

“We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lightening flash and the swelling deep.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux

Perhaps one day I can sit idle as I started thinking a few moments ago and rock on my front porch, but not today. For now I crave that thought process and questioning and curiosity of learning and teaching. Whenever I drive through Kentucky I can not help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in for him a wilderness and yet for Native Americans of that place it was home not a wilderness. Even in that day trails and pathways were worn from the passage of moccasin feet.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

In a paper for graduate school a year or so ago I referenced my recent experience, as some what of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day for I choose to see more than the day before. For me it is wilderness opening new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.
It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crosses the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky. I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heart beat.
I ran into a former student yesterday. She moved and happened by chance to be in our town as I was my favorite store Quick Trip. Seems she now lives in another county and will not be attending our school next year. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do you teach everyone wants to know, it seems I have many students who just come by my room and officially are not in my classes. I told her on my door it states; Period One – The philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do, Period two – the same, Period three planning, and Period four again the same. She said that sounds interesting.
For nearly three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your regular classes except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost?

By chance I was reading as I do and emailing my friend pointing out several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention as I end my writings today.

“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart

“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn

Nerburn was addressing a friend’s comment about Viet Nam and those of us old enough to have been drafted and or serve in that time of war. Looking at the news and comments from politicians the past few days this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. One of the things my friend and I did while he was hear was see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course that included riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and spending numerous hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of storms is another week ahead so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird