Monday, September 29, 2008

More about a renewal of culture

The mountain attracts many travelers throughout the summer season which begins when the last of the snow drifts melt above Bunny flats sometime in June and goes until the snow flies in October. Those of us who live nearby don't entirely understand what it is that brings people here from around the world. Even though Mt. Shasta is the tallest peak in North America, it is out of the way from the larger west coast cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland where we might imagine the tourists will go. Some are glossy in fine automobiles and some are dred-locked skinny young people wearing colorful costumes and unusual names.

Meet J. Galaxy, she is Kansian. We had quite a lot in common as she is a sewer and jewelry maker. She told me that she is a teacher who takes the whole summer off to travel. And travel she has, many countries and many different cultures and ethnic traditions. She explained:

"I took a course in college on ethnic studies. The teacher asked each of us about our ethnic heritage. I am Kansian, was her answer, I was born in Kansas."

"That's not an ethnicity," the teacher replied.

Galaxy explained that having been born on the edge of the American plains where many formerly European people came by covered wagon through frontier hardships when very bad weather and devastated crops left everybody starving so much that their older people, mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers died leaving no information concerning their origins. No one who was left could remember their original homes lands, so, Kansian became their adopted heritage. I think of myself as frontier stock, a survivor among very tough people who made it in a very difficult land. After the class, my grandmother and I did some work on genealogy tracing our family back several generations to Scotland and France. But all that disappeared when we first came to the raw, flat, new land of Kansas and managed somehow to survive."

She also suggested that this lack of identifiable background has made her open and curious of people's heritage wherever she has traveled. For her, renewal has come to mean rich experiences of food and fun from many different places where she took her Kansian survival mentality to share across Europe and south to Mexico and Central America.

There is a fellow on the mountain who hosts the campground at Panther Meadows. Elders of the Indian nations, who have lived near the mountain for generations, persuaded the Forest Service to create a job for him. Johnny get paid to watch over the whole camp ground, to guide visitors seeking to hike the mountain and to clean out the outhouse making sure there is paper and a swept floor for all campers. He spends the entire summer on the mountain.

He visited our camp and shared the reasons for his being the camp host. He had spent many summers since his teen years hiking and camping on the mountain. As a friend to the Indians in this region, he attended many ceremonies and sweat lodges. He shared the story of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, part of which forms the basis of the United States Constitution, a story of peacemaking among strong nations that became a renewed code of honor among them and which placed the elder women (the grandmothers who watched over all the children) in a wisdom place: any one chosen as chief or any law which was not true for all the people could be vetoed by the grandmother council.

While I have been searching and listening, myself an elder grandmother, I have been gathering a greater understanding that the ideas of renewal that I am investigating are actually not a new phenomenon even in my quite small circle of influence. There is a great deal going on in our first world that is not reacting to the downturn of real estate values and the growing takeover of the central banks which squeezes the low income formerly middle class workers and their families. There is a turning inward instead to the small circles of the families and the close neighbors.

I remind people not to be defeated by their powerlessness in the workplace, in the face of the police and war mentality, or before the economic power of the central banks. I remind them that when we look at each other and recognize the heart within and the heart before us, we may experience being power-full, i.e. full of the power of our own spirit. In the circles of our peaceful confederacies, in our families and in our neighborhood circles, there we are power-full, there we are the decision makers guiding our lives in wisdom and peace. No insitution outside of these places can compromise our individual spirit, indeed, it is one and eternal in all people and all nations.

People may lose everything, may starve from lack of food, waring may maim or kill, spirit forever remains.

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