The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us….Every part of the earth is sacred to our people… If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred.
Will you teach your children what we have taught our children?… What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed?… Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it…So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it.
– Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, 1854
There I was, crying like a baby, in complete silence. I sat quiet, tears streaming down my face, and cried hard and deep. I was crying for all the ways humanity has fucked up over the years; but mostly, I was crying for breaking the trust of people that truly believed there was no way we could ruin the land they considered their blood.
I had just finished listening to the above passage read aloud, while sitting cross-legged in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. I was there for ten days to meditate in complete silence, otherwise known as a Vipassana retreat.
It wasn’t my first history lesson; but for some reason this speech struck a chord in me. Sitting there crying to myself, I had a moment of pure clarity and direction. I knew at that point that I would join the movement of people dedicated to making up for all the fucked up things we have done as a society over the centuries; particularly to give back to the land that we have betrayed.
I know, I know. Now, cue the sucking of the teeth and the mumbling of “tree-hugging hippie” under your breath. But, I don’t mind. I just hope everyone has found something that moves them as much as this message moves me. And I hope you have something that you can feel as deeply about; no matter what it is.
Today, I was reminded of that experience I had almost three years ago. (Not that I haven’t thought about it a dozen times since). I was out working in the new plot I cleared this week, digging out old corn roots to make way for new fall crops and flowers. It was raining and I was enjoying my bare feet soaking into the mud with all the worms (yes, hippies love the mud…and worms). Then I heard the drumming and chanting from the Lakota people that are using part of the farm’s land to conduct their 8-day Sundance ceremony here in West Virginia.
It was a really cool feeling to hear this distant drumming and chanting while standing there so connected to the mud under my feet, doing the work of giving back to the land. It made me think of the people that used to take care of this land, having similar ceremonies so many years ago to pay tribute to the environment they survived on.
I thought of sitting there in that monastery, crying in silence; and I know it is what has guided me to this point. So I smiled, and kept on digging, in the rain.
The Claymont Community opens up their land to several groups of people throughout the year that need space to practice or teach their spiritual, sustainable living or nutrition and health practices.
The Lakota people are from the Dakotas and still practice their ceremonies throughout the country to this day.