Making Peace With the Earth

 Vandana Shiva during her opening keynote address. 

Vandana Shiva during her opening keynote address. 

Over the weekend, I was overjoyed to finally connect in person with members of the Seeding Sovereignty team that I scarcely see. We had been invited as water protectors to take the stage with renowned scientist, activist, and self-professed seed saver Vandana Shiva, as well as Michael Yellow Bird, and food justice activists whose works aim to explore ways in which we can transition to Earth-centered politics.

Vandana opened the evening session and led two other plenary sessions during the weekend speaking about the actions she took against multinational corporations in defense of seeds and the rights of indigenous peoples in her homeland.

We were honored when Michael Yellow Bird, PhD, professor and director of the Tribal Indigenous Studies program at North Dakota State University, stood to speak about his work in decolonizing social work. His work, he said, was in decolonization as a response to the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples. Centering his work on what he called “neurodecolonization,” professor Yellow Bird brought to light the ways in which culture, and traumatic colonization experiences and perceptions shape our brain’s plasticity; affecting our DNA, changing in our brain waves, and more.

 Michael Yellow Bird during his presentation, "Inner and Outer Decolonization." 

Michael Yellow Bird during his presentation, "Inner and Outer Decolonization." 

The only person to address the current immigration issue, professor Yellow Bird drew parallels between current child immigrant detention centers and the extraction of indigenous youth from their parents, resulting in boarding school placements as part of a colonization and assimilation tactic used by the United States government. A surge in self-harm within indigenous communities such as suicide, was what he called “21st century inner colonialism.”

Before closing, he lectured on food sovereignty, the wild foods that grew before agriculture decimated our natural landscapes, and what he called, “Colonial Brain Disorder.”

Several sessions were held where themes of inner and outer decolonization were discussed, as well as how to achieve sustainable agriculture, the necessity of seed saving, and a continued intentional, and mindful approach to social change.

In “Building Resilience in Traumatized Communities,” the Holistic Life Foundation shared their best practices to help remedy trauma with awareness and basic breathing techniques. Afterward, myself and Rising to Resist program director Lauren Howland settled onstage to discuss youth organizing, necessary civil disobedience, non-violent direct action, and erasure of indigeneity in America. A call to action was made repeatedly by Lauren for folks to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. “It’s easy you guys,” she said. “If I’m a young person out here doing this in today’s society, you guys should be doing it with me.”

 Eryn Wise and Lauren Howland sharing stories of youth leadership from the frontlines of change.

Eryn Wise and Lauren Howland sharing stories of youth leadership from the frontlines of change.

Our time with the Omega community was short, but valuable and Vandana and Michael’s words rang through our ears as we made our way out of the forest. I’ll leave you with this, one final excerpt from professor Yellow Bird’s presentation:

“For if our minds are contaminated with self-hatred and the belief that we are inferior to our colonizers, we will believe in both the necessity and virtue of our own colonization. We will begin to diminish the wisdom and beauty of indigenous ways of being and embrace the ways of the colonizers...When we regain a belief in the wisdom and beauty of our traditional ways of being and reject the colonial lies that have inundated us, we will release the pent-up dreams of liberation.” - Waziyatawin and Yellow Bird.

 Omega Sustainable Living Center's edible garden. 

Omega Sustainable Living Center's edible garden. 

 

 

Eryn Wise