Two years ago, Minnesota declared the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day. Other states and cities have as well, and I assumed Warroad would have some official designation. Yet, last year’s school calendar read “Columbus Day”, and this year there is nary a mention of Indigenous Peoples Day. (In the district’s defense, no other holidays but Labor Day and Memorial Day are listed either.)
This should change. Mayor Marvin and Superintendent Haapala, please make it so (and add a ceremony in the coming years). It would be one small way to honor the indigenous roots of our town and school.
Most everyone understands that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America; Indigenous People had been here for “time immemorial”, to use Governor Dayton’s words in his 2016 Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation. Columbus also wasn’t even the first European here; the Vikings beat him by five centuries – another group we celebrate in Minnesota.
Columbus did bring old-world disease to an entire continent, however, killing untold numbers. And while his journey marked the start of the great age of cross-Atlantic exploration, it was also the beginning of systematic enslavement, starting with the indigenous slaves he took home with him for display and to work on other lands that he “conquered.”
Minorities in this country have been struggling ever since. Yay, white people.
Bleak and terrible segue, I know.
I’m just so exhausted by the course our country is charting, and the last few weeks have been particularly trying. I go from reading everything I can to try to stay balanced between both the Left and the Right (still failing to understand the latter), and then, for sanity’s sake, I force myself to disconnect completely. Deleting social media, unplugging, and escaping into the wilderness – figuratively speaking.
This past weekend, after the especially ugly division over Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, it was a literal escape. My live-in fishing guide, home from the seasonal beet harvest because of rain, took me fishing two days in a row – an extremely rare occurrence. He caught most of the crappies (tricky fish!), and I caught most of the walleye. I also pulled up the biggest pike I’ve ever wrestled. Oh, what a fight!
It felt decadent and incredibly peaceful to escape to the water, a healing luxury I know not many have. I don’t take it for granted. I relaxed and did my best to release the despair of our country’s backwards slide. Trust, I told myself. Breath, my body answered. Be, the water sighed.
The glorious fall colors are hanging on even in the shallow soil of the rocky Canadian islands. We don’t have a lot of red-leafed tall-standing trees here, but much of the underbrush ages in various shades of brick and umber. That, mixed with the rich golds of the birch and popple, plus the deep greens of the balsam and white pine, created a painter’s backdrop my camera couldn’t do justice.
I let my thoughts dart where they would with the gulls and left my soul open to soar with the eagles. It wasn’t long until I felt tangible strength regathering just as the cormorants were in massive flocks to prepare for their pre-winter’s journey.
The water temperature has plummeted into the 40’s and I could feel it hardening, the molecules tightening their patterns, beneath the ride of the boat.
I thought of the people who came before us. I thought of those born to these waterways. I thought of we interlopers who think we own it all, who have not yet earned our keep on this precious land.
This political trouble will pass, just like the golden leaves of the birch. The old rule of the patriarchy will crumble, just as the sodden, slippery carpet of decaying leaves will dry and nourish the next growth. It is written on the face of the planet and nothing, not even a screaming white male Senator or Supreme Court nominee, can change that.
But, people no longer have the grace of the trees. We killed that possibility when we decimated the Indigenous population. Everything, all social progress in our ridiculously archaic man-made systems of being, has been a fight by the few on behalf of the many. We march, we riot, we fall, we die. We fight on in endless cycles for generations.
Still, we cannot help but keep moving forward. I trust in the cycles of the earth and our connection to her. I abide in her feminine wisdom. I fight for her right (and the Peoples on her) to exist in peace.
I believe her.
The Indigenous will rise again. The strength of the feminine will come back into power. It may not be in my lifetime, but at least I can see the purpose of my life now. It is to pave the way for those who come after. It is to take in the colors of the fall with peace in my heart. It is to catch dinner from the lake and eat with gratitude that same night. For now, I will keep the stories alive that connect us. I will grieve and weep beside those who have lost their will to fight, and I will warrior onward for every cause that deserves my energy.
Social change cannot happen without going to battle on behalf of love. And I love this land and these people. The course is set. The migration begins. Winter is coming.
Bring it on, the trees say.