I AM THE LAND
When I was 13 I was raped behind the high school on a freshly laid slab of concrete. My therapist has suggested maybe not introducing myself like this. Some Native Americans have been given names that tell of their brave stories and triumphs. I feel I need a new name. Maybe: The Land that was Conquered has been Redeemed. It wasn't long after that fateful day that I had been renamed the "school slut." I was the new girl in a small town to which my military family had recently relocated. I quickly learned the power of stories and rumors to sweep us away from the truth as my peers and I were suddenly caught up in a myth that was much bigger than we were.
I was chosen, as many girls are, to hold the archetype of the "school slut" in the junior high imagination. I was the girl who was elected to usher the community into their deepest sexual fears and darkest wildest fantasies.
My ego identity wasn't well prepared for this new role. I was naive, weird, a mystical school girl who loved spending hours alone in her room reading Nancy Drew, listening to Amy Grant and speaking in tongues when I prayed. In public I was extremely shy. At home I was blissfully wild. I had only kissed a boy once and while it was magical, it was also completely terrifying. Still, I was at the developmental stage where it was time to break away from my family of origin and connect more with my peers--which was difficult because I was... different.
In this quest to connect with my peers, I focused on escaping my Queendom of Nerdom where I had reigned for many years and was addressed by the titles of "Prude" and "Goodie-Two-Shoes" by my constituents probably because my royal clothes included I LOVE JESUS T-shirts and I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. This is the girl who begged her mom for contacts when her family got orders to move between 7th and 8th grade in a bold attempt to ascend the social ladder. She also stopped wearing those t-shirts and another myth came to pass: the ugly duckling became a swan who couldn't see herself very clearly.
I didn't tell my parents what happened that summer until I was 37 years old (just three years ago) in an effort to make amends and make some sense of the chaotic teen years that followed that incident which included an attempted suicide and being sent away to live with extended family in another state until the rumors blew over. In many ways my life has continued to echo this trauma which erupted something like a pipeline expelling barrels of toxins a day. I have grown up with parts of self and soul feeling helplessly dirty like the animals and the rivers and the oceans covered in black oil, as I tried desperately to clean up and hide this big mess which included a lot of self hatred and deep shame. That stuff can take years to heal. Many never recover.
I am revealing to you the trauma I am working to heal, not for anyone to feel sorry for me, that's not the point. I'm not the point. I'm just playing a role, just as you are, in a story that is much bigger than ourselves. I'm sharing my story so that we can remember our mission in the grand scheme of things.
My great grandfather was a circuit rider preacher. He rode his horse around to minister to the early settlers in the plains of the Dakotas. In one visit (sometimes annually) he would marry, bury, baptize, and absolve the whole community. Pastor Froiland also served in Mayville, North Dakota where my grandmother grew up. My ancestors had a homestead near Estoria, South Dakota. Like many around these parts, we inherited Native land in the Homestead Act. We received the land as "a gift from God" thanks to some crafty theological work called: The Doctrine of Discovery which contained the harmful ideas of Manifest Destiny. This doctrine basically declared white Europeans more holy than the earth based indigenous heathens, and gave settlers divine permission to dominate and assimilate the Native Americans, their children, their way of life, stealing their lands like the Hebrew people stole Canaan, doing evil in the name of God. See how these larger traumas echo throughout time.
When I was 13, I quickly learned how in my world the tender feminine body was grounds for seizing and dispensing. I felt used and thrown away like all the other plastic containers that are tossed into landfills. No wonder men retire and get depressed. We are taught that we are valued for what we produce, not for who we are. At a young age I learned that my inner world was not valuable to the dominant culture. I learned my role was to be object, not subject. What my culture did and continues to do to the Natives, it also does to me and you, for assimilation is its own kind of rape. It denies the beautiful diverse expressions of humanity. It denies depth, dimension, and soul for a 3D concrete reality that insists the highest law in all of creation is not love but: might makes right. We each must choose which law to obey, Divine Law or the ruling powers of this world which are presently bent on destroying creation. Things are a lot out of balance. (Trust me I'm a professional yoga teacher who knows balance when I see it.)
The spirituality I inherited from my ancestors was lofty and intellectual and disconnected from the body and from the earth. It had to be, for it bore the karmic consequences of being a part of the dominating and assimilating culture. My spiritual stories tell of being kicked out of the garden. The Natives do not, for they are the original caretakers of the garden.
My ancestors are hardworking, passionate people who fight for justice. My grandmother has made repeated trips to the Holy Land to advocate for Christian Palestinians and fight against human rights violations. (She's visited there over 18 times, and she's hard to keep up with even in her 90s!) My ancestors were upstanding citizens that pitched in to help their local communities as pastors, choir directors, and teachers who valued access to education and supported women's suffrage. As ministers they also forgave the settlers for their sins. But I'm not sure we are totally forgiven yet because the wounds of generational trauma still squirm under our stoic Scandinavian codes of silence. Wishing the problem would just go away does not make it go away. I know that the word repentance means "to turn around" and that true forgiveness restores and reconciles us with God and God's creation. True forgiveness heals. As I behold the stand off between police and Natives in Cannonball, ND, it is clear to me that many of my people are not yet reconciled and that there is healing yet to come.
As I behold the police in all their weaponry, I am reminded of my family's military life growing up on bases. I know so many good men, including my father, who are drawn to the military to serve their country with honor. I want to remind good men that honor is not found in blind obedience, that's why Jesus was always asking: whom do you serve? Because you cannot serve God and money. So use your honor and integrity and strength to truly serve the greater good and not the powers that wish to destroy that which is good. Honor and service to others is found in defending the sacred, so make sure you can truly discern what is sacred and what is not.
A long time ago I was asked to initiate people into the Underworld, at the time I had no idea that this initiation would eventually lead to a ministry as a healer. As a 27 year veteran Queen of the Underworld and newly Dove Oracle Priestess, I now understand that the fires and trials we go through of are not for damnation but transformation. What appears to us as impending destruction is merely the beginnings of birth pangs.
What appears to be a catastrophe, over time, becomes a strong foundation from which to live a good life.
-Dr. Rachael Naomi Remen
Denial will not help us through the birth canal that surrounds us at this time. Facing the pain and using it so that it can be transformed into new life will. I tell you the truth: it is sin and the ruling powers of this world that are out of alignment with Divine Law that will finally be destroyed and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. So keep doing what is right. For the second coming is near.
My hair is the same color as the golden prairie. My eyes reflect the cornflower blue sky which canopies wide over these Dakota plains. When the moon is full, I bleed. When I am excited or sad, I flow like a river. When I am pregnant, I bloom like the crocus in spring. I am intrinsically connected to creation. I am the land. The land is me. You cannot separate us. We were born connected. What is done to the land is done to me. What is done to me is done to my children and and my children's children for many generations to come.
When my children were born I began to worry about the water. What is in it? Is it clean? Is it safe? Mother knows why the waters are sacred, and why they must be protected. We are surrounded by water in the womb. We are surrounded by water in the body. We are surrounded by the watery atmosphere that nourishes our life. In its smallest expression, water is light, water is star stuff, tiny six pointed stars that remind us of who we really are. Mother knows that the health of our bodies and our babies is connected to the water
I am wearing my Grandfather's alb (there are a lot of Lutheran ministers in my family) and my Grandmother's ancestral jewelry. I am here upon this land where my Great Grandfather may have ridden his horse as he made his circuit. This is not my land, but it is my spiritual country. I am here to make amends for myself and all who wish to join me. For many generations we have been able to deny our connection to our bodies and the land. In this generation we cannot. The time has come to turn around.
My rape was but an echo of a much larger rape that is happening to the earth, and maybe this is why we as individuals are supposed to stay silent, lest we wake up and see that the rape of the earth is connected to the rape of the dignity of our humanity. For what we do to the earth and to others, we ultimately do to ourselves and to our children and to our children's children. The sins of the father are passed down to the next generation. But look, the time of rebirth is at hand. The veils are parting. We are beginning to see: we are one human family.
On November 3, 2016 I stood around the sacred fires at Standing Rock with over 524 spiritual leaders from across the country to present to the Native American Elders the Doctrine of Discovery to burn. "We were wrong," we declared. My body quaked with relief and I sobbed. Never before have so many people of different ancestral and religious backgrounds gathered together in peace, in prayer, unified in cause and love for one another and for the land.
Friends, this is not just going to go away: this is going to renew our world.
Young and old Native woman spoke with trembling lips and tears running down their faces, "We have been waiting for you all to come for a very long time. Seeing you all here, this heals us. We are so happy that you are here. We forgive you."
On that day I received absolution for myself and my people from the Native women as I stood in my ancestor's ministerial robes. Their tears washed the black snake of rape from my body, as they affirmed something that has been difficult for me to hold onto: if the land is sacred, then so is my body. So many years the slick toxins of self hate and shame polluted my body and kept me severed from my instincts. I am a conquered land no more. I am redeemed. As I receive their forgiveness I am invited to return to the Garden, to return to my body, and to return to my soul. And so are you.
Dove Oracle Priestess at TARALOMA Earth Temple.
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