Inconvenient Audience

My wife Elizabeth and I went to watch Inconvenient Sequel the other night in a sparsely populated movie theater. It’s a stunning film. We walked out of the theater feeling exceedingly sober, and with renewed determination to support clean, non-polluting technologies which are elements of an imperative, intelligent response.

Arid soils in Mauritania leading to a food crisis impacting over 700,000 people.

The new film is a sequel to Inconvenient Truths, both films produced by Al Gore, and both reporting the hard reality of what climate change is actually doing to our planetary support systems. The acceleration in the number of and frequency of documented, climate-related, ultra-extreme weather events is dramatic. The charts showing the rate of temperature change in polar regions and the world’s primary farming areas is stunning.

With all that’s going on in the world through the summer of 2017, I suppose climate change can seem like mere background noise. But of course it’s not. It’s real, it’s here, it’s intensifying, and we and our children and grandchildren will contend with the impact for decades to come. Climate chaos right now is a driving force behind the breakup of the North and South Poles, sea-level shifts, massive flooding events, droughts, resource wars, widespread migration of insect pests and diseases, massive waves of human refugees, and more.

After the first film came out in 2006 cadres of corporate-backed climate change deniers accused Mr. Gore of being “hysterical.” But now 10 years later everything that he, and more than 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists projected would happen has in fact already happened. More climate chaos is on the close horizon.

The consequences of ignoring the changes are obvious to all excepting the willfully ignorant. The Sanskrit word vidya means wisdom or knowledge. The prefix “a” signifies a lack or an absence. Adding the prefix to vidya establishes the word avidya, which denotes a fundamental blindness about reality, a refusal to acknowledge and deal with what is happening. Obviously there is a group of determined avidyans among us. Motivated by self-serving contrarian interests, they have poisoned our politics and thereby crippled our ability to respond to this crisis. But as the new film asserts, no lie can live forever.

Around the world most nations have been forced to face the harsh realities that are impacting them. It’s inspiring to see how are responding vigorously by shifting to solar and wind power, and aggressively taking natural and technological steps to mitigate the situation, and to reduce human activities which make extreme climate-change related events increasingly common. Here in the US, however, our politics have been hacked, and we remain crippled in our collective response. For now, individuals and associations must respond on their own, while the government attempts to bury everyone’s brains deep in the muck of illusion.

Knowing that industrial agricultural systems are among the leading causes of pollution and the greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate chaos, I am renewed in my determination to advocate for and to support organic, biodynamic and other agroecological food-production systems that heal the land and that can help mitigate the dangerously intensifying changes. It’s common sense. It’s essential common sense.

The choice is between right and wrong, Mr. Gore asserts toward the end of Inconvenient Sequel. It’s right to protect and defend the natural systems of the earth that make our lives possible. It’s wrong to ignore reality, or to pollute and poison the natural systems and to make the problems worse. It’s wrong to destroy the very things that make our lives possible.

“Fight like your world depends upon it,” Mr. Gore concludes, “because it does.”

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Upholding the Pillars of Food Sovereignty

Don Bustos of Santa Cruz Farm (author photo)

It was a blessed relief to hear the quietly passionate oration of organic farmer Don Bustos as he stood upon the land for 20 minutes to speak amid shifting rays of softening sunlight on an early August evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With dignity, he stood for clean food, for community food, and for food sovereignty.

Earlier on this crossquarter day the outpouring of farm news had been grim. We learned that the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer and chemical runoff from industrial farming has swollen to an area larger than the state of New Jersey. We learned that despite scientific warnings the EPA declined to ban chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic farm pesticide known to interfere with human hormones, and to diminish IQ in children. We learned of serious labor shortages in the farm fields as immigration officials drive farm workers away from US lands. We learned that dramatic changes for industrial agriculture are essential now to reckon with the intensifying impact of climate change. We learned also that the suicide rate among US farmers is higher than that of the overall US workforce.

Without referencing any of these specific news items, Bustos acknowledged the larger system of which these developments are part. He mentioned the corporate industrial “militarization” of agriculture. Then with clarity and conviction he said that’s not the way to go. “We must grow food with respect. We must grow it in a way that acknowledges Creator and the spirit in the land.”

Bustos talk was part of the Farms Films Food program hosted by the Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts and the Street Food Institute.

The acequia-watered Santa Cruz Farm in Española, New Mexico that Bustos now tends has been in his family since the 1600s. Speaking broadly to encompass all of agriculture, he said that his big goal is “to make it possible that our children can farm on the land for the next 400 years.”

Nowadays Bustos cultivates about 70 crops on 3 ½ acres. At that scale, he’s developed an economic approach that enables him to give attention to the wider world. He trains young people to work the land, and to keep alive the centuries-old traditions of family farming in New Mexico. He’s a champion for community food sovereignty and for food justice at local, state and national levels. In 2015 he received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, specifically honored for his work “in support of farmers’ rights and education, and his efforts to include farmers of color in the national food movement.”

When he spoke in Santa Fe this week Bustos said that in his farming he’s guided by three keys: the traditional rituals and practices of northern New Mexico farmers, modern organic cultivation practices, and the Biodynamic Calendar.

“The strongest connection with Creator comes,” he said, “when you have your hands, feet and knees on the soil, and you are working with plants.” “Nature will tell you. You will understand signs so that you know you are on the right path.”

“I still grow and save seeds from our crops to plant the next year,” he said. “Saving open-pollinated, heirloom seeds is really important, but it’s not a silver bullet to solve the problems of agriculture.”

“Food should be grown in healthy soil with healthy water by people who are healthy. Then you have right relationship to the earth. The silver bullet is for everyone to take responsibility for their food by growing it, or supporting the people in their community who grow it for them. That connection to the Earth,” Bustos emphasized, “is important for everyone. It’s one of the Pillars of Food Sovereignty.”

EVERYTHING AT HAND – Massive, impressive cast-iron sculptures by Tom Joyce are on display until Dec. 31 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, site of the Farms Films Food program. (author photo)

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Beauty Way Portal: Our Great American Eclipse

I created the meme displayed below to acknowledge our collective Summer 2017 Great American Eclipse Experience. The meme makes direct, grounding reference to the enduring, strengthening traditions which are an available heritage for every person who walks our North American continent (Turtle Island) with respect and in honor. In this manner it’s possible to walk through portals of time, archetype, and insight toward healthy states of understanding, and thereby to acquire wisdoms both practical and ethereal.

Considered in the light of the beauty way, the blessing way, Odyssey of the 8th Fire, the epic online saga I had the opportunity to author earlier this century, is a true, sincere, and respectful exploration of the grounding traditions of the Americas. Those traditions have roots many thousands of years deep, and they endure to an provide an essential foundation for all in our era and for generations of our children to come.  – SM 

A Fresh Breath of Storytelling Wind: Reviving the Legend of the Rainbow Warriors

Once oft’ told, the story that I came to know as the legend of the rainbow warriors has in recent years been drowned in the ceaseless tsunami of online information. The tale has slipped beneath the digital flood at a time when its vision is sorely needed.

It’s time to invoke a great whirling surge of Nilch’i Diyin (Holy Wind) into the story, and thereby help it rise back to the surface

The rainbow legend has been glimpsed in vision and then articulated in myriad ways for hundreds of years in various parts of the world, often as well on Turtle Island (North America). The story is told from a spectrum of perspectives, given life by storytellers using music, words, art and dance to animate the tale in their own creative way.

In brief, the legend relates that when the world becomes desperately dirty, sick and chaotic with divisive hate agents at work in realms of race and religion, many people will recognize that they are destroying themselves and the earth they depend upon for survival. With spiritual insight and support, the rainbow warriors — people of all colors, cultures and spiritual outlooks — will respond creatively with insight, intelligence, honesty, caring, sharing and respect. Through personal example and positive, peaceful means, this rainbow network of awakened souls will establish a golden era of peace.

Often mocked as pixie-dust fantasy or outright condemned as fakelore rather than folklore, the rainbow legend persists because it has deep roots, and because it echoes a venerable theme in storytelling: paradise lost, paradise regained. We are squandering paradise in our modern world. Is it therefore surprising that there should arise hopeful tales of a time when a better world may be attained?

Whirling Rainbow (author’s collection)

Mythologist Joseph Campbell noted that a society that does not have a myth to support it and give it coherence goes into dissolution. “That is what’s happening to us.” Campbell wrote in Transformations of Myth Through Time. And that, I feel, is why it is worthwhile to tell the rainbow tales again in yet another way, to contribute a picture of what I regard as a coherent and positive mythic dimension of understanding for our times.

For 200 years or more a dominant myth in the developing world has been an interpretation of the American Dream suggesting that most people can attain wealth by taking from the land and sea at an industrial scale with a mechanical consciousness, and that happiness will follow from profit. This myth is relentlessly reinforced by advertising images. Yet the unbridled pursuit of these versions of the myth, often by people deep in sleep, has plunged us into a nightmare of environmental devastation, economic upheaval, ethical bankruptcy, and cultural confusion.

As I write more than 40 wars are raging around our world, and another 200 or more armed conflicts are underway. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that “the weather is noticeably more chaotic.” Our world is home to more than 7.5 billion human beings. Well over one billion of those human beings are hungry or starving.

In the midst of these stark realities, various myths or frames are conjured via the broadcast voices of demagogues, and the bloody, fear-provoking images so common in movies, music and computer games — the fear-driven myth that the world is hate-filled and chaotic beyond redemption. For many people, in the absence of something more wholesome, such barren and toxic visions become embedded in the psyche as working myths, albeit often unconsciously. Yet the rainbow tales are as possible as the visions of a global death spiral. The enactment of our future is up to us.

The Environment of the Soul
I’ve encountered a spectrum of rainbow myths, beginning in the 1970s when I read the book Warriors of the Rainbow, by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, and then in dozens of other readings and listenings. As is the custom among storytellers and as a lifelong journalist, I passed on the tales I heard later in my own words at gatherings, and in my writing.

My 1992 book Legend of the Rainbow Warriors was an exercise in creative nonfiction. The book relates many of the ancient versions of the rainbow warriors legend, uniting a chorus of voices. It cites seers such as Black Elk and Crazy Horse of the Lakota, Quetzalcoatl of the Toltec, Weetucks of the Wampanoag, Plenty Coups of the Crow, White Buffalo Calf Woman of the Plains, Eyes of Fire of the Cree, Ku’Kulkan, Quetzalcoatl and Montezuma of the of the south direction, the Peacemaker of the Haudenosaunee, Padmasambhava of Tibet, and Alinta of Australia. I included in my book some of the teachings that I’d absorbed over the years from Grandfather William Commanda, Don Estevan Tamayo, Arvol Looking Horse, Martin Gashweseoma and Thomas Banyacya, Oh Shinnah Fastwolf, Slow Turtle, Sun Bear, Reuben Snake, Cachora, Grandmother Doris Minkler, Manitonquat, Don Jose Matsuwa, Dona Josepha Medrano, and others. Though they lived at different times and in different places, they shared a sense of what would unfold.

Legend of the Rainbow Warriors was my effort as a journalist to create an account of one of the core myths of the Americas, and to also explore of how that myth might be playing out in real time.

Do the voices and the rainbow tales add up to something that is ultimately, absolutely verifiably true? That is for you, the reader, to consider and to create. Mythologist Joseph Campbell looked at it this way: “A myth is something that has never happened, but that is happening all the time.”

Greenpeace’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior. (Wiki photo, Creative Commons).

Those devoted solely to measurable evidence run the risk of missing the point altogether. The rainbow tales are both myth and mystery. Myth creates the opportunity of inspiration, a chance to become aware of something the intellect has not the scope to grasp: access to “the supersensensible environment of the soul” as poet William Butler Yeats expressed it. To this the myth adds a note of mystery: spiritual truths knowable not through reason alone, rather but through contemplation or revelation.

My friend the late Leon Secatero, To’hajiilee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, explained to me that he appreciated these teachings not as prophecies, but rather as knowings.

Leon’s friend and colleague, Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez of Guatemala, elaborated on that insight. Longtime President of the Maya Elders Council and a initiated Daykeeper, Don Alejandro told me: “There is truth in the teachings about the rainbow and the rainbow people. People from all of the Americas will unite with people from all the other nations, and they will realize that we are all family, brothers and sisters. This is not my personal vision, but a cosmic vision presented by all the elders – a vision that we all share.”

A Kitchen Table Telling
I’ve heard 40 or more tellings of rainbow mythology over the decades. On the afternoon of May 13, 2006, I heard another convincing rendition while traveling with my friends Stephen Clarke, and Carlos White Eagle. We were seated at the kitchen table in a rustic ranch house in Haystack, New Mexico, visiting with Navajo Grandfather Martin Martinez, his wife Janice, and their daughter, Kay.

Grandfather Martinez at the 2004 Sodizin Ceremony on Tzoodzil (Mt. Taylor, NM).

Grandfather, in his 90’s and nearing his transition on the Beauty Way, had life experience as a rancher, a rodeo rider, a Code Talker in World War II, and for many long, honorable years as a community leader, a traditional Singer, and the ceremonial keeper of Tzoodzil — the Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain, now called Mount Taylor. Rising majestically under the blue skies of New Mexico, Tzoodzil is the South Mountain among the Four Holy Mountains that mark the Four Corners of Turtle Island (North America)

As we sat around the kitchen table in the family ranch house, Grandfather told us a story. He spoke in Navajo, and his daughter Kay translated. We smoked a pipe in a sacred manner, and Grandfather said he could remember long ago when he was a boy hearing some of the Medicine elders talk. The Medicine elders told him that during his lifetime there would come a dark era when many problems would arise on Earth. For many people it would seem as though there was no hope.

At that time, the elders told him, the rainbow people would arrive. These rainbow people would find a way to bring healing. The elders told him that it would be a good and important — and that he would see it come true. Grandfather told us that he had never experienced that teaching in fullness until our moments at the kitchen table, and that he was happy to be in ceremony with us, some of the rainbow people. He offered us his warm smile, and three totems. Then he settled in contentment.

Basic Wisdom
An underlying premise of the rainbow legends is that there is a basic wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one race, religion or culture, but is a tradition of caring, sharing, and sacred light and sound that has existed throughout human experience and that has been expressed by many human beings, certainly including the saints spoken of in the world’s formal spiritual institutions, as well as thousands of other human beings of less formal renown.

We are in a time when many millions – actually billions – of people can and are by circumstances called to give the archetype expression in their lives. Thus the challenge is laid down before us all: live up to the promise.

In light of the legend, my understanding is that rainbow people choose themselves and then strive to live with exalted physical, moral and ethical courage, appreciating that the problems and weapons of the world have been made by the human mind, thus they can be unmade. Rainbow warriors and rainbow walkers need to cultivate compassion, a fundamental attribute of human beings, which will gift them with energy and the power to take action. They will also have to develop insight and intelligence, which will guide them to apply the power of compassion via skillful means.

Rainbow warriors and walkers do no harm, inflict no pain, and cause no suffering. They work to set things right by good example. Their lives are about having integrity, being brave, and standing forthrightly but peacefully for all that supports life. Their quest is for safety, sanity, and respect. According to the legend, ultimately they are triumphant. So the story has been told to me. So in my  way I tell it to you.

Dedicated to the Unconsoled

Dedicated to the Unconsoled – These were among the final words of novelist Arundhati Roy last night when she spoke at the #Lensic Theater in Santa Fe. She was telling us about the 20 years of personal and planetary life that have unfolded into creating her new book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (June, 2017).

Arundhati Roy 2013 photo courtesy of Wiki Creative Commons.

Offering an eye-and-spirit opening array of perspectives on India and the world at large, Roy quoted her friend and colleague John Berger (Ways of Seeing): “This is for those who have learned to divorce hope from reason.”

Roy spoke and conversed eloquently for almost two hours before a packed house, courtesy of her radiant, penetrating intelligence, her talent in fiction and nonfiction, and her charismatic warmth. The good work of the #Lannan Foundation made it all happen

The author shared in particular her ways of seeing developments in India where Hindu fundamentalism has taken a strong corporate-backed, yang militaristic grip on the institutions of power. I could not help but recognize in this a parallel with developments in the USA and Russia, as well as in some Muslim nations. All of this fear-based culture choking unfolds swiftly now in the context of poisonous misogynistic attitudes lacking in all honor or worthiness, in extreme need of redemption.

Roy read passages from several of her books, including her acclaimed novel, The God of Small Things (1997). And she commented both obliquely and directly on the broad picture of global affairs, offering fresh, penetrating and soul-filled ways of seeing.

“We are in a very disturbing place,” she said. “We are pressed up against the wall. There is a different kind of power at work. We need to win the battle of the spirit, the battle of the heart. What we need today for survival is long-term vision…

…and we need a feral howl.”

CSA farms far transcend the concept of marketing strategy

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has this month published a report titled Community Supported Agriculture: New Models for Changing Markets. The report highlights changes – from the 1980s to the present – in what the USDA refers to as the “business model” of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

For anyone interested in local food or food security, the report is worthwhile reading: well researched and written, instructive, and enriched with informative case histories.

But the report moves me to articulate once again what I consider to be an essential point: CSA was not developed as a marketing strategy. Obviously, some companies and farms choose to approach CSA that way, as is their right. Equally obvious, there is of necessity somewhat of a marketing element involved in most CSAs.

But to assert the idea that CSA is a marketing strategy – as the USDA and many land grant institutions routinely do – is to alter the core ideas of CSA. Even though “business model” and “marketing strategy” have become widespread approaches to CSA, in my view emphasizing those concepts shifts the focus from where it needs to be.

CSA farms will likely always be at a disadvantage in the “market” in the realms of price, consumer choice, and convenience. But that’s not what the CSA model was developed to address. CSA was developed by a wide community of people as a way to renew our relationship with the land, with the people who grow our food, and with each other.

Asserting this view now, in light of the trend to define or frame CSA as a business model, will likely be regarded by some people as either anachronistic, or as dewy-eyed idealism. I’m among those who think otherwise. I think it’s essential to keep the focus and the framing of CSA on the core ideas. CSA is not structured to be part of a competitive commercial marketplace, where market forces will always be the determining factor, rather than farm needs, farmer needs, and community needs. It is, after all, not just community supported agriculture, but also agriculture supported communities.

The steady morphing of CSA from a farm-and-community collaboration to a marketing strategy is, in my view and the view of others, off the mark and ultimately inadequate to the challenges of intensifying political and climate turbulence. Something different is required, and that difference has been the ideal and overlighting spirit of CSA: communities and farmers working together on the land to create new ways of living in relation with each other and the natural world which we all depend upon for survival. Ideals, of course, exist in the realm of the mind, and in practice the best we can do is strive toward them.

To survive and perhaps prosper in an era of climate and political turbulence, CSA needs to remain the realm of mutually beneficial community association. That’s a fundamental CSA concept that gets sidelined or obscured when CSA is treated as a marketing strategy.

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Some of this understanding has found expression in the Community CSA Charter that was developed earlier this year by an ad hoc community initiated by CSA author Elizabeth Henderson.

In a community e-mail discussion of various charter drafts, Anthony Graham (a CSA farmer for 30 years at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in NH) made this point eloquently: “Our farm members are just that – members who support the farm. We make it clear to them from the start that they are supporting a farm and receiving the produce as a consequence of that support. They are never seen as or referred to as customers and especially not as consumers. Instead the community aspect of our farm lives here very strongly – almost everyone feels some ownership and willingness to share the risk of crop failures as well as the bounty that can allow them to process extra food for the winter.”

He concluded, “Our farmers have always felt that it is important that we have regarded our farm as a community and not as a business – we always try to aim at agriCULTURE rather than agriBUSINESS.”

To endure and perhaps thrive in our extreme era, CSA cannot be redefined to a competitive selling system dependent on “customers.” CSA was never intended for that purpose.

In a CSA working toward the principles embodied in the CSA Charter (as opposed to a customer-food subscription business) people are not “buying boxes of food.” The people who comprise the community (whether a city neighborhood, a town, a workplace or place of worship) are providing direct support to a whole farm or network of farms, and then partaking in a share of the harvest. This is a key distinction.

CSA embodies the potential for a new way of life upon the land for farm, farmers and supporting community. The economic impulses are associative, rather than competitive or exploitive, the impulses that have impelled industrial agriculture to become such a destructive force nationally and globally.

Some progress has been made in the direction of CSA as a new form of economics and relationship with the land, the farmers, and the people who as a community become part of a farm. Much more is possible. And I think much more is necessary.

Our Long Walk as Human Beings

To read Odyssey of the 8th Fire, click here.

To read Odyssey of the 8th Fire, click here.

Return to Creation ~ Teachings of Weetucks

With the permission and the encouragement of my friend Manitonquat. I wish to share one of his stories. From his book Return to Creation, it’s the story of a Wampanoag Indian teacher who lived many years ago in the region we now call southeastern Massachusetts, and the relevance of his story to our present time. I’ve been fortunate to have Manitonquat (now a venerable 87 years along the life path) as a friend for nearly 40 years. Among the things I know for sure about him: he always tells a good story. By investing the time to read this tale through to the end, you will come to know that as well.  With respect, Steven M.

Return to Creation
by Manitonquat

I lie with my back upon the earth. I rest deeply, supported securely on the bosom of the Mother as she turns me toward the Father. The blue depth of my Sky Father’s mind absorbs my own mind.

Manitonquat

A few frail puffs of cloud fleet across his face like quizzical expressions. The salt wind from the low tide flats sighs through the marsh grass and rustles the silver poplars in a glimmering dance.

It is good to lie flat on the ground and feel the strength of Mettanokit, our sacred Mother, the earth, radiating her healing energy through our cleansed bodies, filling our thoughts and feelings with her beauty.

The earth seems totally good. The grass, the trees, the rocks, the sand, the river, the ocean, the clouds, the winds, the seagulls, terns, and cormorants sailing and dipping though them – all these seem connected, and I am connected to them all. My body dries warmly with the caressing rays of Nepaushet, glowing golden beyond the sky. What a marvel that it is there, close enough to keep me from freezing, not so close as to burn me up! What a marvel that it exists at all! What a marvel that the earth exists, and that life exists upon it!

What a marvel that I exist and think these thoughts! What a marvel that anything exists, that there is a universe of billions of galaxies with billions of stars and billions of planets in each, and no doubt billions of life forms all struggling to survive and become more conscious. It is very mysterious.

There it is. A vast universe, space, energy, matter, all connected and all following the same natural law. Everything has found a place in it.

And here we are, tiny humankind, one of millions of species of living creatures on one little speck of dust, wondering what our place is and doing some strange things with the brief time of our individual lives: creating death, creating violence, creating famine, creating hatred, loneliness, fear and sickness. How strange!

Pondering the stars, the sun, the earth, the winds and waters and all the other living creatures, I note that everything is working together in a wonderful way. A feeling of perfect trust in Creation pervades my whole being. I have no trouble finding my own path in all this.

But then I look at the human beings, beings capable of love, of beauty and joy. I see humans wrapped in fear, mistrust, and hopelessness. They are angry and frustrated, pursuing self-destruction and destroying the earth along with them.

What an irony that a creature of such intelligence and creativity can appear so stupid and destructive! I recall that the stupid, destructive history of this species is still very recent.

For most of the million or more years that human beings have existed, they have lived in harmony with the natural laws. For most of that time they lived in small circles we call tribes and took care of each other and their environment. They sang and danced and told stories.

Even today in those few areas where civilization has not brought its attendant oppressions upon the natural tribal peoples, they still live that way, close to each other and the natural earth cycles.

In order to consider the complicated causes of the destruction we see today, we need to get in touch with the basic reliability of the universe. We need to experience that simple feeling of rightness that attends our contemplation of existence apart from the confusions of human activity. When We do so, the understanding that pervades our perception of Creation is one of trust. Trust.

It is a lack of trust that lies behind all the destructive behavior of human beings: the wars, the crime, the greed, the suspicion, the barriers, the isolation, the hurt, the inability to love. All of these begin in fear: the fear of not surviving or of not getting enough, the fear of dangerous and malevolent forces one perceives at work in the universe, the fear that beneath the sweetness lurks the truth of poison and evil.

From a human perspective what we need to know is if the Creation is benign or malignant. Is there safety in it? Take a little journey With me now. Take the magic feather, and we will rise together and soar above the forests here of pine and oak. There below us are the lands of the Pokonoket Wampanoag, the woods, the beaches, the bays, the rivers and lakes where once were the villages of the Acushnet, the Sakonnet, the Pocassett, the Mattapoisett, the Assawompset, the Nemasket, and the Assonet.

There is Lake Watuppa where some of my forebears lived, and just above it our Watuppa Wampanoag Reservation where we have many ceremonies during the year. Beyond is the wide reach of the Taunton River, which our people knew as the Titticut, a major waterway for us, proceeding north from Fall River.

We will come down on Assonet Neck that narrows the river a little beyond Assonet Bay. There is a state park with a little building that houses and protects a large rock. This is known as Dighton Rock. There are marks carved over all of one side – the side that faces the river.

There are many theories about these petroglyphs saying that they were made by Vikings, Portuguese explorers, even Egyptians. There are dozens of theories.

Of course, our people know they were made by our ancestors, but theories seem to keep the scholars and hobbyists happy, so we let them alone. They never ask us anyway.

There have been additions over the years, but the basic message was set into the rock a long time ago by a prophet of our people. His name was Weetucks.

At that time, it is said, our people had begun to fall away from the Original Instructions explained to them by Maushop who had departed, many millennia before. He had come to feel that the people depended on him too much and that he was impeding their growth. So he called them together and told them they must assume responsibility for each other, for the Earth Mother and all their relatives, the children of the earth. Then he went away towards the rising sun, there to remain until the world’s end.

After many thousands of years the people had become confused because they had neglected the ceremonies and forgotten the stories and the knowledge that Maushop had taught them. The people were quarreling again, and seeking magic because they were afraid. They forgot to care for each other and began to gossip and to quarrel.

There was a young widow who became pregnant and would not say who the father was. People were superstitious. They thought the father might be a magician or a demon, and they shunned her. She lived in the forest, some distance from the village. and kept to herself. When the baby was born it was a boy, and she called him Weetucks. The boy grew very quickly and soon was helping his mother, hunting and fishing and repairing the lodge.

Wampum

When Weetucks was about twelve years old and coming of age, he told his mother that it was time for him to seclude himself alone for a time, in the traditional way. She did not know how he knew this, for he never went into the village or talked to anyone, and anyway the people had all forgotten about such ways.

He was gone for the turning of a moon. People thought he was lost or hurt and searched for him. When he returned he went straight into the village and collapsed on the water path. He was covered with dirt. for he had buried himself in the earth to receive knowledge from the Mother. And he had been on a mountain top to receive knowledge from Father Sky. from Grandfather Sun, from the winds and the distant stars. When the village people saw Weetucks covered with dirt they knew that he had been given his direction on the medicine path. For they remembered that to go back that way into the heart of the Mother and receive her teachings was the traditional beginning of such a journey.

When this occurred with no instruction from an elder it meant that the knowledge came directly from Kiehtan, from the Creation itself. So they knew this boy must have a special knowledge, and when he spoke they came and listened. He spoke of the old ways, though he had been taught them by no man or woman. He taught them about the Original Instructions of the Creator. He spoke of Maushop’s teachings. of the ceremonies that had been forgotten and how they should be done. He showed them again how to heal themselves in the sweat lodge and mud bath ceremonies. He spoke of healing herbs and other knowledge. Some of these things are well-known now, and others are closely guarded secrets to be known and used in a sacred manner only by our medicine people.

Weetucks was visited one night by two spirit guides from the place of the departed ones, who came to take his mother back on the Star Path to the Land of Souls. At that time they spoke to him of the things that would happen to the land and her people in times that would come.

When the ceremonies for his mother had been completed, Weetucks gathered all the people to tell them of the prophecies he had been given. He said that Hobomocko’s whisper of fear would one day spread across the world, and it would bring disease, violence, and starvation over all the earth. Many would die in confusion and ignorance, but those who remembered the sacred teachings, the Original Instructions, would be able to save their children and heal the earth. Many would lose their way, take a wrong turning, leave the sacred path, yet they would still be able, if they understood in time, to retrace their steps and return to the way of Creation.

Those who returned to Creation would raise theIr children in the right way. These children would begin a whole new world, a world in harmony with all Creation, a world of people guided only by their heart’s joy in love and beauty. He showed the people the rock on which he had carved the story of the Great Spirit creating and giving instructions to all beings.

Dighton Rock

On the right side are two human beings~ at the culmination of Creation, one listening and returning upon the sacred path. and the other preparing to continue on a path that leads to his own destruction. shown by a bolt of lightning ready to strike.

This was the last message of Weetucks. There was a great feast. Many people had come to hear the prophecies, including the Turkey People from across the bay, who had sometimes been enemies, but now made a new peace with our people. The celebration lasted all through the night with much rejoicing and merriment.

Before dawn the people followed Weetucks to the shores of the Turkey Bay where he bade them farewell. As the sun rose behind them. Weetucks walked across the waves towards the western heavens and was never seen again.

It’s a curious fact that the Hopi people of the southwest also have an ancient carving of prophecy on a rock and its message is much the same. That is what the carvings on Dighton Rock are really about, unknown to all the scholars and archaeologists.

That is not all of the message of the Dighton Rock. but it is not time now to reveal more. I am instructed to tell this part of the prophecy now, as it is in keeping with other prophecies of the peoples of Turtle Island, such as the Hopi message of the Great Purification, the Lakota story of the White Buffalo, and the Anishnabe prophecies of the Seven Fires.

These prophecies are being told now because it is believed that some will hear and heed. Some from every race and nation will begin to retrace their footsteps and find the sacred path again.

For any of you who may find it hard to believe such old tales from a people who are strange to you, let me speak briefly about the 1968 report of the Club of Rome. This club is comprised of scores of the foremost scientists of the world, from every area of learning, who studied the trends of the first six decades of the twentieth century and projected them into the future. This scientific prophecy reads just like our own. Famine, disease, violence, all increasing in our lifetime into the greatest destruction humanity has yet experienced, more devastating to more people than the fire, the ice, or the floods of past eras.

Scientist Isaac Asimov wrote in an editorial in his magazine a few years ago, that he thought we had a less than fifty percent chance of surviving the next thirty years.

But you can be your own prophet. Look at what is happening today in the world all around us. Topsoil is washing away, water tables are receding under the earth. Water and air are becoming more polluted. There is acid rain and a hole in the ozone layer. This is the first time since this world was formed that the relationship between the Earth and the sun has been changed, and it changes more each day. Population is increasing. Famine and starvation grow as more and more of the earth is owned by fewer and fewer people. Fear and mistrust are rising on every hand. Families are breaking up, isolation increases, generation gaps widen, children are abandoned, abused, neglected.

People try to escape through drugs or actual suicide. The courts and prisons cannot keep up with the rising rate of crime, which is itself becoming more and more violent. Terrorism is the political mode of the times, between nations, races, religions. Terror stalks the streets of the major citIes of the civilized world. Governmental intelligence agencies plot assassinations and the overthrow of governments. Multinational industrial cartels squeeze the last life’s blood out of the earth and her tribal and peasant peoples, while the military complex fingers its triggers and demands more sophisticated weapons of destruction.

You don’t have to be a scientist or a visionary to see where all of this must inevitably lead. And no one who has the public’s attention, no political leader, no voice of authority and respect, has put forward any workable solution to all this.

Manitonquat (Medicine Story)

Under these conditions I do not find it strange that there is such apathy and frustration, such hopelessness and barely suppressed anger among people today. I do not find it surprising that young people turn to drugs or cults or the immediate thrills of sensual pleasures or to amassing wealth and courting fame.

And yet when I speak to you here and now, whenever and wherever I speak, at ceremonies, gatherings, on radio and television, the message I bring is one of hope.

The message I bear, from prophecy, vision, and instruction by the traditions of my elders, is that it is not too late for those who listen and heed. Humankind has created all of the problems which it now faces, and humankind can solve them, if we but will.

The same genius that has created weapons of incredible destruction and has probed beyond the earth to the very stars could certainly find a way to bring the peoples of earth together for their own survival.

But it is as though we were in a burning house and all the people in it, instead of trying to put out the fire, were just redecorating their rooms and even robbing each other to do it.

There is no doubt in my mind that millions of people will not be able to survive the holocaust that we are even now preparing for ourselves. There is also no doubt in my mind that anyone can still find the Sacred Path of the Creator, and that each of us who does has the power to create with others a society of harmony and joy, wiser and stronger for the lessons of this age of terror and confusion.

It is hard, in a world that already has so much suffering in it, to think that it will soon be worse beyond our imagining. But because it is hard, we should not refuse to see it, to look at it, think about it, and to take action in our lives. People speak of political problems, economic problems, sociological problems, psychological problems, and everyone has a pet theory of how to solve his or her own pet problems. Those are just bandages on the sores of a diseased body.

A deeper remedy must be found for the inner cause of the disease. The disease is caused by oppressive and hurtful social systems. We do not see the fundamentally oppressive nature of these systems because all of society teaches and fosters basic philosophical and spiritual errors. At the deepest level the disease is spiritual.

Spirituality as I conceive it is simply the relationship of all things in the universe. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we must consider our families, our children, our unborn generations, our planet and all the beings who share it with us, as well as the star-beings throughout the cosmos, and the connections among all of these. Where it must all begin is with trust.

Unless we trust that the Creation is good, that it works, that we are good, and that we can learn to live in a good way in this Creation, we give ourselves over to force or to despair. When we do not trust, we resort to force for protection, to police and armies, and we set up a counterforce.

But once we have this trust, we need only to discover the way that Creation works, find the path and follow it. It is the way of harmony, the way of cooperation with natural law.

Fortunately, we have many guides who have followed that path before us and many who are following it now. And we have the guide of the heart within us. There is an old native saying that every step we take upon the Earth Mother should be as a prayer. Now, a prayer is just a way of becoming really conscious, really tuning in to all the relationships of everything in existence.

Wampum carving

To make every step a prayer is simply to be totally conscious in every act we do. Most of us spend most of our waking hours half asleep, only dimly aware of our feelings, to say nothing of what is going on in the world and of the connections between things. Whatever we do has a meaning and an effect. We can ask ourselves, if I am really conscious, what effect will this action have upon Creation? How will it affect me, affect my family and my community? How will it affect the planet? How will it affect the future and the generations to come?

Our elders have passed down to us a guide for doing this. Our people call this the Original Instructions. Let us consider those instructions next. Let us begin to retrace our steps and find the Sacred Path again.

As we go, let us walk in a sacred manner by letting each step be as a prayer. In this way we will find the Path of Beauty, the Path of the Heart, and return to Creation once more.

(Excerpt from Chapter 3, Return to Creation – Copyright 1991 by Manitonquat). Manitonquat’s teaching schedule is available at The Circle Way.

Notes on the Mountain West Seed Summit

“Whoever controls the seeds in a culture is going to control life.”
                                                  ~ Emigdio Ballón, Tesuque Pueblo Farm

My notes from the impressive Mountain West Seed Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico over March 3-4, 2017 – a gathering  of seed savers, and people representing seed hubs and seed companies:

Belle Starr, co-founder of the hosting organization, the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, an organization started just three years ago: “We are working to build strong food hubs around the country. The local food movement is huge and growing. But how many are saving seeds? That part is missing.

“What is our duty? Diversity. I hope the thing we carry out of this summit is passion to empower and inspire. That’s how we are going to get diversity. This has to be a grassroots movement. The more people who save seeds, the more resilient the system we create…We hope this will go on for generations.”

Emigdio Ballón, a Quechua native from Bolivia, Agricultural Director for the Pueblo of Tesuque, NM: “The seeds are calling us. They are asking us to help them continue their evolution as they help ours.

Emigdio Ballon (R) speaks with his fellow farmers outside the seed bank at Tesuque Pueblo Farm.

“It’s very difficult for the seeds now. In 2011 we talked about seed security and its relation to food security. That’s when we started our seed bank to protect the seeds handed down to us from time immemorial. Now we are talking also about climate change, and how that is impacting us. How can the seeds sustain us, and our unborn? They need to be protected because of the corporations polluting the earth, and claiming patents over nature. Indigenous people care. Indigenous peoples are protectors.”

Clayton Brascoupe, a Mohawk/Anishnabeg farmer, founder of the Traditional Native America Farmers Association: “What is a seed? Seed is life, mother, embryo, treasure, potential, possibility, relative, our child. All of those things. There is a fundamental, essential relationship that we have.

“We’ve been going along side by side with each other for thousands of years, and now we are in this present generation. We have a treaty, a covenant with the seeds. The seeds are a part of who we are. We have to take care of our relatives, the seeds, and they in turn will take care of us.

“Seeds are the first link in the food chain, and this link is now under threat. Our responsibility is to preserve them for forthcoming generations.”

In remarks to initiate day 2 of the Seed Summit, Bill McDorman, director of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance spoke about the importance of developing Seed Hubs in parallel with Food Hubs and other local farm and food initiatives. “There’s a real need globally for many more regional operations. Seeds are the foundation not just of our food system, but of civilization itself…This can save us. Regional organizations are the key.”

Andrew Kimbrell, founder and director of the Center for Food Safety, gave a riveting keynote presentation. He began by mentioning that with the financial backing and technical expertise of entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, the Center is about to launch an international online network for seed savers.

He placed this forthcoming network, and the importance of seed saving, in the context of three pending corporate mergers: Bayer-Monsanto, Dupont-Dow, and ChemChina-Syngenta. These mergers, likely to get green-lighted by the Trump-Republican Administration, will place over 60% of the world’s remaining seeds in the corporate control of just three companies. They dominate.

All these multinational corporations are intent on continuing to patent life forms, and to sell allied chemicals as essential, expensive, and polluting inputs to the industrial agriculture system.

The accelerating pace of global climate change and corporate seed and chemical control underscore the imperative need to establish non-corporate seed-saving networks, he said. “We don’t know what seeds we are going to need. But the network will be a key. These are dark times.”

Drawing from some of the material in the well-known book he edited (Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture) he outlined a history of seeds and agriculture in the USA. “Remember the robber barons of the gilded age?” he asked. “We are in the second phase of that.” A century ago the robber barons made their fortunes in railroads, coal, steel, and oil. As succeeding generations of billionaire barons sought further pots of gold, their gaze fixed upon agriculture.

With hybrid plants, poison chemicals (biocides) and patents, robber barons and their corporations over time mutated the meaning and the reality of seeds. Instead of being a commons that united people in ancient and sacred community traditions of caring for a foundational source of life, seeds became a commercial commodity.

Farmers became trapped on technology treadmills: functionaries basically serving as corporate pass-through operations for commercial seeds, chemicals, machinery, oil and gas. Corporations took culture out of agriculture, and substituted industry. For farmers, indebtedness ruled. Whereas just over a century ago as many as 40% of the population was involved in caring for the land and the seed that everything depends upon, only about 1% of the population now has this connection.

Consider where we are now, he said. Via monoculture and intensive chemical use, we continue to deaden and to lose soil. The nitrogen fertilizer of industrial ag leaches out to waterways, creating massive dead zones in our oceans. We’ve lost 90% of our seed diversity. The Center for Food Safety estimates that 35 to 45 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from industrial ag. Thus, the essential elements of farms and food (soil, water, seeds, industrial livestock, etc.) have become zombies.

This system is already dead, Kimbrell said. “It’s a zombie walking. But it’s still unbelievably dangerous. It’s steadily destroying the planet.”

“We are the future. Sometimes we look at these dominant forces, and wonder how can we possibly overcome? But the zombie system is already dead.”

Corporations used to wallow in hubris, believing that nature was no match for biotechnology. But it turns out that biotech is no match for nature. The idea that you are going to control the traits of living things is false.

The answer Kimbrell argued, is for our economy to transform into a wholly owned subsidiary of ecology. “We can only use things to the extent that they regenerate themselves.” We have to go local, biodiverse, humane, and socially just, he said.

Fundamental to all of this transformation is seed. None of it makes sense without seed. Seed is the center that we need.

While stating that he sees organics as a floor for the future of agriculture, he reminded the audience that it’s under attack. The Freedom Caucus (about 30 hard-right Republican members of Congress) has targeted the National Organic Program for destruction.

In response to a question from the audience, Kimbrell commented on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. “If Dante were alive today,” he said, “The Inferno would be about the farm bill.” He said we need to get environmental groups together with farm groups right now, in 2017. “Unless we get ahead of the game,” he commented, “we are lost.”

Three times during his talk Kimbrell quoted the late Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. One example: “I believe natural beauty has a necessary place in the spiritual development of any individual or any society. I believe that whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man’s spiritual growth.”

Echoing this insight toward the end of his talk as an encouragement to seed savers and to others working to build a just, healthy and equitable farm and food system, Kimbrell said: “We face the spiritual challenge of moving from a culture of death to a culture of life.”

~ END ~

Historic CSA Farm Charter set for USA & Canada

I’m pleased to share this press release, just developed by a community of people who recognize the importance of community farms (CSAs), and who see the potential for enhancing our environment, improving our diets, supporting our local farmers, and cooperating for mutual benefit with our neighbors. ~ SM

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms across the United States and Canada are setting roots more deeply in the land as they unite this year under a community-developed Charter for CSAs that provides a clear definition of what CSA farms are all about.

Logo for the CSA Charter by Ruth Blackwell

With 30 years of history and development, over 7,500 healthy, sustainable community farms have been established in the US, and many thousands more in Canada. These sustainable farms are directly networked with hundreds of thousands of households in the towns and cities where they are based and provide weekly shares of fresh, healthy, locally-grown food.

Together, regional networks and independent CSAs in the USA and Canada are banding together to launch an innovative and strengthening Charter for CSAs. The Charter will be inaugurated on CSA Sign-up Day, February 24, 2017.

CSAs that endorse the Charter are making a public commitment to uphold the principles and practices delineated in the Charter. It will provide a window of transparency for member households and for farmers, helping define and clarify what CSA farms are all about.

In the words of Elizabeth Henderson, CSA farmer and author of Sharing the Harvest, “CSA is a tremendously flexible concept for consumer-farmer connections. It’s an alternative system of distribution based on community values. The economics of direct sales make this a win-win solution for farmers and farm members. The farmer gets a decent price and the member pays less, since there is no middleman.”

“For the farmer,” she added, “CSA offers the possibility of a broad support group. Those groups are composed of local people who know about the farm, who genuinely care about it’s survival, and who are willing to share the farmer’s risks and rewards.

“In reciprocity, CSA farm members have the opportunity to eat fresh, healthy food, to connect with the earth, to know and trust in the people who grow their food, to deepen their understanding of seasonal eating, to support the local economy, and to take an empowered stance of accepting responsibility for one of our most basic needs.”

Anthony Graham, a farmer for 30 years at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, said, “When we started the Temple Wilton Community Farm, we were interested in community and in the ‘culture’ of agriculture. What we were attempting to set up was a way for a community of people to support the existence of a farm through good times and bad by making pledges of financial support over the course of one year. By agreeing to support the existence of the farm our members became co-farmers.”

You can find the full Charter for CSAs in the USA and Canada here, along with background information and a list of the CSAs that endorse it.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Henderson, elizabethhenderson13@gmail.com.