ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat


PREFACE:The following invitation is to a ZPO members-led retreat organized in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers.

This event is another expression of the building momentum between the Native American of Turtle Island and the Zen Peacemakers, following the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills and 2016 ZPO Members-led plunge in Cheyenne River reservation in July 2016.

Update: read the report from this retreat

Article by ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota


This Bearing Witness retreat began over 15 years ago. As many processes in life what I thought would take place and what is actually unfolding are different. About 15 years ago I read Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book “Bearing Witness.” There was an immediate resonance with Roshi’s teachings. Practicing meditation for years and working with people who appeared on the edges of life, Bernie Roshi expressed engaged Buddhism for me. I have always felt a deep connection to Beings who intersect with suffering and resilience. Direct experience combined with training in spiritual practices and formal education supports having a chance to help. I understood genocide and resilience was everywhere. After reading, “Bearing Witness”, I decided to meet Fleet Maull, Bernie Roshi and coordinate a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee.

This was not to happen until many years later. In 2012, I participated in a workshop with Fleet Maull at Upaya and asked him if he would come to Clouds in Water Zen Center and share his teachings with us. This was a direct bloom of my bodhisattva vow. In 2014, I went to Upaya again, this time to see Bernie Roshi. I explained my dream of a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. Bernie Roshi said, Zen Peacemakers Inc. was already coordinating this retreat in August of 2015 and I could come at that time.

I went to the Black Hills and it was clear — the retreat was to be where I lived. In Minnesota there was was a concentration camp for 1700 Grandmothers, mothers, children and elders in the winter of 1862 and 1863 at Fort Snelling. Minnesota’s legacy of genocide is embodied at Fort Snelling. As a non-native person, I am a guest on the Land of the Dakota. As a guest, I have a responsibility to this host, to honor and remember those who died at that concentration camp with dignity. The process of visioning a Bearing Witness retreat, that began 15 years ago has come to fruition. The spirits of Wounded Knee, Auschwitz/Birkenau and the streets live within me. I have directly experienced the expression of love and compassion from Zen Peacemakers participants and these places. I was sustained by the sacred fire and beings in the Black Hills while listening to stories of genocide and resilience. At Auschwitz/Birkenau, which I attend with the Zen Peacemakers in 2015, I was sobbing with agony, overwhelmed with grief in the children’s barrack at Birkenau, and an angel held me in the form of a human. On the street retreat in SF, a noble one would stand guard, so I could take care of my bio needs at 5 am. My heart has been blown wide open for all beings through these loving actions arising from the boundless ocean of compassion. How could I not share this deep love offered to me freely? We are one in this liberation.

Clouds in Water Zen Center has collaborated with many faiths and organizations to sponsor this The Bearing Witness to Native Peoples in Minnesota retreat. There have been many people who have put tremendous energy and life force into this process to bring this offering forward, and its my expression of Bernie Roshi’s teachings. I am honored to be a member of ZPO and a priest at Clouds in Water Zen Center. I invite you to join this Bearing Witness retreat at Fort Snelling, Pilot Knob and Cold Water Springs. These places will be our teachers from November 17-19, 2016. Native Peoples will lead us in Ceremony at each place. We will bear witness to the genocide and resilience of Dakota people. We appreciate and are grateful for the support from the Zen Peacemaker Order.

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ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

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