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« “Seasoned Travelers” on the Heroic Journey »

Vine Deloria, Jr./photo credit: WikipediaThe Native American resistance to the Dakota Pipeline Access has received attention nationally and internationally in recent days. The bulldozing of burial sites and sacred sites stirred immediate and immense opposition among peoples of all skin colors. As reported in Indian Country Today Media Network, three agencies of the Obama administration (Dept. of Interior, Dept. of Justice, and Army Corp of Engineers) have stepped in to temporarily halt all construction of the pipeline 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. As I write this, Congressman Raul Grijalva, AZ, a ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee in Congress, is heading for the Reservation to review the complex processes involved.

In light of these events, I include next an excerpt from my upcoming book, From Egos to Eden (available 2/6/17), that includes reference to Vine Deloria, Jr.(1933-2005), a Standing Rock Sioux, lawyer and professor, who so helpfully interpreted Indian activism in the last part of the 20th century. This excerpt is from a segment in which I refer to First Peoples as “seasoned travelers” on the heroic journey to keep Earth livable. In this case, “seasoned travelers” comes from a reference to screenwriting consultant Christopher Vogler who counsels writers of scripts to deepen their stories by referring to the heroic journey as discerned by mythologist Joseph Campbell. Vogler says, there comes a point in a heroic journey when “the hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.”

With that lead-in, here’s the excerpt from my book that relates to the resistance to oil corporations and imperial domination that the Standing Rock Sioux, joined by thousands of others, have undertaken. In the book, immediately preceding the excerpt below, I’ve just described similar corporate and imperial oppression happening to Mayan Peoples in Mexico. In North Dakota, the First Peoples standing tall against oppression show how they are “seasoned travelers” in the work of shifting to OneEarth living.


The experiences of oppression, domination, and injustice described above make First Peoples primary among the “seasoned travelers” especially able to help on the heroic journey today. As already said above with reference to the Mayan Peoples of Chiapas, the emphasis is on today. MultiEarth thinking puts First Peoples in yesterday. But many First Peoples today have extraordinary wisdom in how to scale types of technology to fit with Earth’s natural systems, plus the spirituality, to be co-creators of Earth-size living. I emphasize co-creators. The MultiEarth paradigm, if it shows interest in First Peoples, does so not as co-creators, but as sources from which to “borrow,” appropriate, take, and steal whatever First Peoples’ wisdom and practices can advance profits or other benefits in MultiEarth living. Thinking of First Peoples as equals in an interdependent community with all of Creation is not part of the MultiEarth Civilization Project. However, travelers on the heroic way get to where the MultiEarth’s paradigm perforates; then non-Indigenous peoples are able to see and hear First Peoples as colleagues and, in many ways, guides on humanity’s journey. Whenever the shift happens, a coup of consciousness overthrows MultiEarth dominance in the consciousness of the traveler. The coup makes it possible for non-Indigenous peoples to see and hear First Peoples as peers and guides on the heroic journey—quite an inversion after being schooled and “civilized” in a MultiEarth consciousness marked by explicit and implicit racism regarding them. The coup is one of the jaw-dropping surprises that happens on the heroic journey. But it cannot happen in the consciousness of MultiEarth civilization. This necessary coup of consciousness happens only as we move into liminality and the larger topographies of consciousness.

Without the coup, MultiEarth civilization continues as always, blind and deaf to First Peoples. Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), 1933-2005, a professor, lawyer, theologian, and activist, did much to change how non-Indigenous people in the U.S. think about American Indians. His book, Custer Died for Our Sins (1969), was one of the books that explained the rise in the 1960s and 1970s of what he called Red Power. American Indians discovered that they were taken more seriously by the U.S. public when they enacted their messages and worldview. Consequently, they thought out strategic public actions, such as occupying the island of Alcatraz (1969-1971), a former U.S. penitentiary, in the San Francisco Bay. They were acting on a treaty which said that federal lands no longer being used could be claimed by Indians. A year later, some Indian groups organized a cross-country caravan they called the “Trail of Broken Treaties,” which concluded in Washington, D.C., where they tried to give a 20-point position paper to the government. When President Nixon refused to meet with them, they occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. (1972). Many non-Indians were taken aback by such actions, a reaction that revealed the lack of consciousness among most U.S. non-Indigenous people regarding the continuing impact of oppression in the experiences of American Indians. Deloria, of course, understood the oppression and saw the activism as one way for Indians to escape the stereotype non-Indigenous people held of Indians. By these actions, Indians insisted on being engaged in the here and now as living, contemporary humans.

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