Weekly reflection


1. Culture. Gwayakwaadiziwin means to live in a way that is true to your being. It is one of the seven great teachings of the Anishinaabe that is used to guide us in being our best selves through living without internal or external conflict. Gwayakwaadiziwin is modeled for us by Gichi Sabe, Big Foot. If you think of Gichi Sabe, she is not the prettiest, or the fastest, or the one with the most friends, or the richest with material things. However, Gichi Sabe is always confident in being Gichi Sabe and knows her people are always looking for her even when she seems like she’s avoiding them. I want you to listen to a talk by Anishinaabe Elder, Obizaan and his apprentice, Chato: https://www.kumd.org/post/ojibwe-stories-gaganoonididaa-healing-honoring-traditions#stream/0 It is in Anishinaabemowin (the Native language I speak with you often) and English, so you can listen to the whole thing if you want, but the time stamps I need you to listen to are: minutes 11:45-16:30 and 23:10-28:23. [language note: because the speakers, are bilingual, they use a few words in their English talking that are Anishinaabemowin. Two that repeat in these segments are ‘manidoo’, spirit, and ‘Chimookmaan’, American).

A. What are your thoughts on this? How do the squirrels feel? Can squirrels really become weasels? How would this impact the forest if all the beings became weasels?

B. How does this relate to what you have learned so far in this class?

C. Last week in your reflections, many of you stated that you appreciated how I teach this class in a way to support your unique development and ability to be critical thinkers who construct their knowledge and calibrate their worldview. Many of you also stated that this was unique in your education. How does this story of squirrels and weasels relate to how you have experienced the world through your education or in other ways?

2. Worldview. People are similar in many ways because we have the same basic needs and are equipped in many of the same ways to meet those needs. However, things like culture and environment can create slight shifts in how we see the world and approach problem-solving in it. This nuance has been significant in our ability survive as a collective species and will continue to be; that is why diversity, not all becoming ‘weasels,’ is imperative. Read AIT: Chapter 6 (p. 58-71).

A. What are your thoughts on this chapter (provide specific examples from the text to support your ideas)?

3. Non-binary and non-discrete thinking. If we were to have a car accident, we would quickly react to that as being ‘bad.’ We would soon realize that it is ‘good’ that we have insurance for those situations. But, eventually, we have to get past the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to figure out the situation in its entirety as it actually exist, regardless of how we feel about it, so we can get our car fixed and move forward. Hearing statements and judging seems easy for us as humans. However, as you find out more about the complexity of situations, you see how things are always a mix of good and bad, right and wrong, black and white, so they actually exist together in reality. As I stated in question 2, due to biology, Native and non-Native peoples have much in common, but our wiring is a little different inside and that causes us to see opportunities and solve problems differently. Historically, this has been a challenge because things were approached in binary and discrete ways, creating factions and separating us. Thinking of things as ‘this-OR’ options has pulled us apart, but honoring the world as it truly exists, as this-AND situations, will help us heal. Read AIT: Chapter 9 (p. 97-115).

A. What are your thoughts on this chapter (provide specific examples from the text to support your ideas)?

B. From what you have learned so far in this class, how might seeing the nature of things as unique parts of a whole existing together, rather than opposing parts separate and conflicting, be useful to healing relationship challenges and promoting peace? How might the history of relations between Native and non-Native people have been different?

4. Co-existence. We have already learned a little about treaties in this class. They are international laws between nations to create peace. Because people conceptualize the power of words and the best way to convey them (written or oral) differently, imagine opportunities dissimilarly, and translate words unevenly between languages, treaties between Native people and colonial powers have been contentious. Treaties are also all unique. I want you to listen to Anishinaabe Elder, Amik, as he talks about his idea on how the Mille Lacs Band (Ojibwe, one of the 3 types of Anishinaabe peoples) treaties were formed. (Again, remember that all treaties are different, but I believe this might help you understand how the treaty might have been formed in the film you are about to watch in question 5). Listen to https://www.kumd.org/post/1118-ojibwe-stories-gaganoonididaa-history-mille-lacs-band#stream/0 , minutes 6:45-10:00.

A. What are your thoughts on this?

5. Voice. You are going to watch a film called, ‘American Outrage.’ In the film, Carrie and Mary Dann are two feisty Western Shoshone sisters who have endured five livestock roundups by armed federal marshals in which more than a thousand of their horses and cattle were confiscated for grazing their livestock on the open range outside their private ranch. That range is part of 60 million acres recognized as Western Shoshone land by the United States in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, a treaty not in which land was taking from the Shoshone, but the Shoshone simply gave the US permission to pass through from the east to California for gold to fund the American Civil War. However, in 1974 the U.S. sued the Dann sisters for trespassing on that land, without a permit. That set off a dispute between the Dann sisters and the U. S. government that swept to the United States Supreme Court and eventually to the Organization of American States and the United Nations. The film explores why the United States government has spent millions of dollars persecuting and prosecuting two elderly women grazing a few hundred horses and cows in the desert under the unfounded claim that the sisters are ‘degrading’ the land. The Dann sisters shed light on this by sharing that the real reason they are being harassed is the gold hidden below this seemingly barren land; the Western Shoshone land is now known to be the second largest gold producing area in the world. Watch: https://docuseek2-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/cart/product/76 (56 minutes in length). Again, you are accessing this through the VT library system; I think you will automatically be logged into your VT account through logging onto Canvas to view this assignment, but just in case the full video doesn’t pop up for you, you may need to log into the VT library system to access the whole film.

A. A treaty is an international law between two sovereign (self-governing and autonomous) nations. The treaty of Ruby Valley was just an agreement of allowing U.S. citizens to pass through Shoshone territory safely. How did the government abuse this friendly agreement (provide specific examples from the film to support your ideas) ?

B. The Dann sisters are elderly. If the government wants the land and the resources, why is it in the government’s interest to proceed slowly? That is, in this class you have already seen examples of how the government orchestrated the biological and cultural genocide of Native peoples, why do you think the government responds so slowly to Native requests to honor treaties, international between Native nations and the US government?

C. With education, can come credentials that give you privilege and voice. That is, in many cases, your education can provide you with credentials that act as ‘keys’ to opening ‘doors’ that not everyone has access. I have often heard people with the privilege of education say that they want to use that power togiveothers voice. However you can NEVER give voice to anyone. What you can do with those ‘keys’ of education is open and hold them for people who wish to be heard but cannot open them themselves. There is a lawyer in the film with this kind of privilege. When she has opportunity to speak, she invites the Dann sisters, who do not have that privilege of voice, to do so instead. When the Dann sisters have the opportunity to speak, they speak for those with less voice: the mountains, the animals, the ancestors, and the children. What does this make you think about your voice, the privilege of the education you are acquiring, and how your voice should be used?

D. In your readings, you read,

      • “Imposing a closed binary ontology onto Indigenous ideas obstructs communication/ meaning systems, to such an extent that, for good reason, Indigenous ideas and vision have largely remained closed to outsiders” (p. 98).
      • “America’s Indigenous people had a history of creating harmony among diverse communities through political relations” (p. 100).
      • “Everything in European thought was filtered through a value sieve, and Indigenous people, because different, were not within the realm of positive value for the new-comers” (p. 101).
      • “The unspoken assumption—and recurring theme in Western tradition [that of the dominant culture]—is that the natural world is a mere inert resource distinct from human societies, something which human beings are morally free to utilize as a means to their own ends” (p. 60).
      • “…[Native communities see] the breath of life (air) is constantly being exchanged in the universe…The exchange of breath is important because all things in the universe are related through air, and all are made of the same basic elements. Just to take in air to breath, so also we let out breath, giving it back to that from which we take” (p. 103).

What may these quotes (or others you choose) have to do with the treaty made between the Western Shoshone and the Americans, how each imagined the agreement differently, how conflict has resulted, and how healing may come about?

E. What are your final thoughts on all that you have looked at in this lesson related to culture, worldview, non-binary and non-discrete thinking, co-existence, and voice?

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