Sunday, July 20, 2003

One little, Two little, Three little Native Americans

Another scorching day in Los Angeles. The perfect time to lounge around in the sun, catch up on the latest summer movies, or make offerings to the Spirit Guardians of the Four Directions who watch over the sacred lands of our ancestors. What, like you've never done that.

Long story short, I'm involved with an environmental group that trying to stop a development project in the Los Angeles wetlands. This area was also once the home of a local indian tribe, so their people are also trying to stop the project. They held a vigil Sunday afternoon, and invited the community to join them

There were about 50 of us standing in a circle just outside one of the gates of the already-plowed-over work area. The elders led the group in traditional songs, prayers, and offerings to the Spirit Protectors. Although technically it's a sacred ceremony, it wa svery casual and open. Some sort of smoking ember was passed around for each of us to smell and cleanse our spirits with. The ember was placed in a seashell in the center of the circle, and we were all given a handful of tobacco to offer to the makeshift shrine. It is their way of calling upon their ancestors who are buried in the land the developers want to build upon. It sounds a little hokey, but it was kind of cool to experience the tradition of another culture.

I enjoyed seeing the Indians give tribute, but I wasn't too thrilled about some of the white environmentalists who all of a sudden seemed to get spiritual and do little dances in the smoke. I was thinking "hey, YOUR ancestors are buried in Laguna. You wanna be cleansed? Drive down the coast and suck on the tailpipe of your SUV."

Following the vigil (which lasted probably 90 minutes) there was an open discussion regarding what was having with the development. The Indians seem to have a pretty good grasp on the reality of the situation and how they needed to work within the system to make changes (Spirit Ancestors not withstanding.) But every now and then one of the environmentalists would go off on a little rant about how it's all the government's fault and we have a leader who wasn't elected Blah Blah Blah. White Man first takes land from the Indians, then White Man takes discussions from the Indians.

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