ZPI encourages reflections from retreat participants, staff, members & others touched by our work and doing similar work from around the world, as part of the practice of bearing witness. Angell Deer, a participant in this year’s Native American Virtual Retreat, reflects on the bearing witness to the trauma of the stories told by the Lakota Elders and the necessity for taking action. (Feature Image by Angell Deer).
Just out of a 5 days retreat “Native American plunge” organized by Zen Peacemakers with Lakota Elders. Last year we were in the Black Hills in South Dakota with them (where I took this photo).
I am still heartbroken by the stories of stolen land, identity, freedom, language and culture I have heard. I cried. I felt the pain in my heart and body.
The retreat is held in the container of “bearing witness”, a system that allows deep listening, refraining from giving advice, and provide deep healing space for those we listen to and for ourselves.
What breaks my heart even more is that those stories of colonization and horror continues. That there is still discrimination laws in many states that are not abolished. That their land is still being taken away. That their history is still being erased. That their freedom and equality is still not guaranteed as it is for any US citizen. That the level of poverty, addictions to drugs, alcohol, and suicide on reservations are still some of the highest in the country.
Hearing the torture the Lakota grandmother had to endure as a child was beyond painful. And feeling the pain and trauma that still exist today really kept reminding me of the very long way we have to go to heal our communities and our country.
There is no way to heal without educating our-self, which for me comes back to very deep listening. Taking time very regularly to listen to Native eEders. Spending time in circle together. Fighting against bigotry, racism, separation, unfair laws and systems, and supporting in all the ways I can in the recognition of a happy, healthy and dignified way of living for them, and for all minorities.
I see and feel how their pain is connected to the pain of all people of colors. Of immigrants. Of disadvantaged communities. The poor. The unhealthy. The voiceless.
It is our duty I believe as human beings to fight for justice, equal rights, free education and Healthcare, and the recognition of the importance of diversity in culture, languages and traditions. We have to be on the front line as white people. As we are somehow taking less risks when we protest, when we ask for justice, when we voice our concerns.
If we want love to prevail, we have to embody it, not just talk about it as a utopian concept detached from the reality experienced by too many. There won’t be one human race until some humans are not equally treated by others. There won’t be “just love” as long as we absolve ourselves from our individual responsibility of keeping an unfair system serving only the happy few.
I believe not only can we do this but it is the only way we will tackle the great challenges humanity has to face. From climate change to global pollution of our lands, waters and oceans, from wars, hunger and pandemic. We have a choice. Coming together or pointing fingers without taking personal action of self, responsibility and deep accountability. We will either do it together, in relations with all, or we won’t be part of Nature. It’s the law of Nature, since the dawn of time.
We are all related. We are all holy. We are all part of God’s creation.
Prayers for all our Lakota and native brothers and sisters, prayers for our leaders, prayers for our deep healing and coming together.
PS: if you wish to support them, they have a Lakota language school they started to help save their language and tradition. The LOWI School. You can do so by mailing checks to
LOWI School, P.O. Box #43 LOWI School, Eagle Butte, SD 57625. Or You can also donate via Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org