Posts Tagged ‘Chinook Nation’

The Circles of Cultures and of Water

November 7, 2016

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By Alison Jones, Executive Director of No Water No Life

In the 1970’s my mother gave me Touch the Earth: A Self-Portrait of Indian Existence by T. C. McLuhan (1971). I was intrigued by the sepia photographs of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis.

After reading Timothy Egan’s book on Curtis (The Short Nights of a Shadow Catcher, 2012), I pulled my mother’s book off the shelf. While its paper cover is somewhat raggedy, the photos and text inside again mesmerized me. These two books, when taken together, underline the significance of perpetual circles within Native American cultures, before and after their forced reservation existence.

Why write about this for No Water No Life?  I want to share the correlation of cyclical sustainability between water and indigenous cultures.  Many of thoughts in Touch the Earth I’ve heard in NWNL interviews with indigenous cultures in African and North American river basins.  Mandala-like spherical designs abound in the decor and life of the Chinook, Nez Perce, Colville, Choctaw, Okanagan, K’tunuxa and Californian tribes.

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Both the Hydrologic Cycle and Indian circular designs represent more than a graphic pattern and reflect NWNL’s search for clean fresh water for all, forever.  The Hydrologic Cycle illustrates replenishment.  Native Americans consider how impacts will roll outward from their circle – for at least for 7 generations –  before making decisions. Many of today’s water problems, induced by pollution, infrastructure and climate change, might not exist if “new” Americans were better at weighing eventual risks to our life cycles.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce:  “We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them. [The white men who moved the Nez Perce to Lapwai] were not.  They would change the rivers if they did not suit them.”

Going deeper, what grounded the Native American focus on circles?  While reading Native American commentaries in Touch the Earth, I noted many mentions of circular rhythms and constructions. Cycles are found in their prayers where the four seasons and four cardinal points on a compass are centered by their Great Spirit.

Black Elk, prayed at Harney Peak in The Black Hills in 1931 to the Great Spirit:  “From the west, you have given me the cup of living water… You have given me a sacred wind… of the cleansing power and the healing…. At the center of this sacred hoop you have said that I should make the tree to bloom and be filled with singing birds.”

For ten years No Water No Life has focused on the health of water’s hydrologic cycle as it passes from clouds, mountains and rivers, down to the sea and back up into clouds again. It seems Native Americans focus on that too as they design their circular tipis, drums, beaded jewelry and dances?

Chief Luther Standing Bear said, “The man — who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things — was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.”

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Here are some more passages from Touch the Earth that I have enjoyed:

Chief Flying Hawk, Ogalala Sioux, born about full moon of March 1852: “The tipi is much better to live in: always clean, warm in winter, cool in summer; easy to move….  Nobody can be in good health if he does not have fresh air, sunshine and good water all the time.”

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Hehaka Sapa, the holy man of the Sioux:  “They have put us in these square boxes. Our power is gone and we are dying for the power is not in us any more. When we were living by the power of the circle, in the way we should, boys were men at 12 or 13. But now it takes them very much longer to mature.”

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Tatanga Mani, a Stoney Indian:  “I turn to the Great Spirit’s book, which is the whole of his creation. You can read a big part of that book if you study nature. …The Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature’s university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains and the animals, which include us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NWNL Interview with Ray Gardner featured in Terralingua Langscape

February 12, 2014

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NWNL’s Alison M. Jones interviewed Ray Gardner, Chairman of the five tribes of the Chinook Nation, in June 2007. The interview describes the historic ties the Chinook people have had with the Columbia River, their practices to keep the river healthy, and effects of dams and other infrastructure placed along our rivers. You can read the interview here.

Terralingua featured the interview in their Winter 2013 issue of Langscape, pages 54–57.

June – National Rivers Month

June 21, 2013
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Chinook Cove of the Columbia River | Ray Gardner.
Photos ©Alison M. Jones for NWNL.

In the spirit of Summer Solstice, NWNL offers below its interview with Ray Gardner, Chief of the Chinook Nation, honoring the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River and Mother Earth. We met Ray on the 2007 NWNL Columbia River Expedition in a Chinook cove off this salmon-filled river’s estuary.

Three weeks ago NWNL completed its Upper and Middle Mississippi River Basin Expedition from Lake Itasca MN to its St Louis confluence with the Missouri River. In 1993 I documented the highest floodwaters on the Mississippi – and now, 20 years later, I’ve witnessed its 5th highest floodwaters. For eons, floods have come and gone in nature’s plan: part of a healthy pulse that flushes riverbeds and nourishes the plains. But today we see floods as a threat to cities and crops.

In our June 2013 interview with Patrick McGinnis (former US Army Corps of Engineers, now Senior Advisor on Water Resources for The Horinko Group), we discussed the problems that stem from federalized flood control and federalized flood insurance, without which farmers and other folks would abandon the floodplains. Many agencies and organizations are working together now to address these complex issues, given the absence of a national water policy.

But while waiting for solutions to evolve, let’s each of us – and our children – follow Ray Gardener’s suggestion to protect our rivers by removing our trash. Join in American Rivers 2013 National Rivers Cleanup – wherever you live.

We all live in a watershed – what’s yours?

Alison Jones, NWNL Director and Photographer

These beer cases, cigar wrappings and snack-food bags seen in last month’s Missouri River floodwaters should NOT be there. We may all be prone to unhealthy habits now and then, but let’s not allow them to create unhealthy rivers!

These beer cases, cigar wrappings and snack-food bags seen in last month’s Missouri River floodwaters should NOT be there. We may all be prone to unhealthy habits now and then, but let’s not allow them to create unhealthy rivers!

SELECTIONS: NWNL Interview with Ray Gardner, Chair of the Chinook Nation

June 2007

NWNL: Thank you, Ray, for bringing us to this protected Columbia River cove, so imbued with the spirit of the Chinook Nation. Could you describe the historic ties Chinook Nation has had with the Columbia River.

RAY GARDNER: The best way to start with that is from our story of creation. We were created on the Columbia River. The Creator and Mother Earth gave us the honor to be a people that lived on this river. This river was a means of transportation. It was a means of communicating with other tribes up and down the river in our canoes. It provided us with the salmon that Coyote taught us how to fish.

. . . .

NWNL: What practices have Native Americans traditionally followed to keep our rivers healthy?

RAY GARDNER: It’s really hard to put into words not only how important this river system was, but still is. We have always known that if the people here do not protect Mother Earth, she can’t exist. So, it’s very important to keep all elements of Mother Nature pure and safe. It’s very important to the Chinook people to preserve this river, as we were only allowed to be here by the Creator. With that came the honor of being the people to protect this part of the river. And to protect that, we had to be careful to not pollute the river. The cleanliness of the river and the purity of the river are very important because, obviously, for salmon to survive, they have to have a good water system. Even when our canoes are taken in and out of the water, they are cleansed.

. . . .

NWNL: How do Native Americans honor healthy rivers and salmon populations today?

RAY GARDNER: It’s very deeply ingrained all of the native people. Our concerns are with educating the public and with getting better practices out there. That we can help with. One of the things our people plan is river-area cleanups. Many of our people will come down to this cove, to this beach, to pick up whatever debris has been left behind. When you take that and magnify it by the length of the Columbia River, you start to get a grasp on the problem. For the tribal people, it warms our hearts to know that there are also other people out there trying to help us do what we know needs to be done.

. . . .

NWNL: How do you think we build a healthy and sustainable relationship between Mother Earth, people, industry and government?

RAY GARDNER: Change will never happen because people sit back and say nothing. People have to be willing to stand up and say this isn’t right; this is why it’s not right; and you need to change it…. In a democracy, if enough of the people want something done, it’s the government’s job to make that change. But government will not make a change unless people tell them it needs to be made.

Read the full interview.

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