Title: ďSeven directions„: finding a place to standĒ
Earthtime, 103 Leupp Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86004, U.S.A
Kaylynn TwoTrees (Iyeska) is Founding Director of Earthtime, center for Seven Directions, a relational practice based on indigenous knowledge that utilizes the tension of difference as a resource for creative living.
In Lakota culture Hau Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all related) is an essential belief† that sustains the people (the two leggeds).† It reminds us that we are part of all living things and that we exist in relationship with all other life.† Rather than being the central figure in this Earthwalk we are part of a tapestry that is woven from many strands of life.† We consider the winged people, the swimming people, the stone people, the creeping people and the green people all as relatives and it is in the constant remembering of this living, dynamic set of relationships that we achieve balance in ourselves and our landscape.
This is essentially in contrast with some current notions of sustainability which centre the needs of humans as primary to the work of environmental consciousness.†
Much of scientific† knowledge and language comes out of a monocultural view of the universe in which this earth exists.† This view is constructed out of human centred worldview in which stewardship and dominion over nature are in dialogue but remain essentially the axis of all thinking.
For Lakota people the four winds, Father Sky, Mother Earth and The Great Mystery from which all things come (the Seven Directions) locate them in the physical world.† The Four Winds give meaning to their presence and shape their actions; they reveal consciousness and relationship with all living things.† Father Sky, Mother Earth and Great Mystery (Up, Down and In) position people of place as thinking, feeling beings in the world which they inhabit.† In this storied, oral world the impulse for recalling identity and cultural context comes from the land and animals which share place with the people and shapes life.† Each person calls upon the place in which they stand as a reference for self, past, present and future.
In the Western literate culture of scientific method where writing allows words to be removed from time and place, it becomes difficult for individuals to find and articulate their reference points. I would like to speak about these Seven Directions© and how they help create space for communication between human centred and relation centred worldviews.† This practice explores a thinking and being born out of a worldview of humans in relationship to place.† This place is built on thinking and living beyond the human centred realm.† It is both conceptual and literal.† The conceptual landscape in which a person stands reveals history, culture, identity and other essential ingredients of perception.† The literal standing place reveals the environment that continues to shape perception economically, socially (including all life) and politically.† This understanding and articulation of place is the basis of Seven Directions© practice and is for many indigenous cultures a primary rather than alternative way of knowing.
Direct experience in relationship to the natural world is an integral part of indigenous knowledge.† In order to create ways of sharing this experience, communication which acknowledges the contrast between this direct, relational experience and the objectification of experience as knowledge, is essential.
If someone asks me in Lakota ďAre you an American?Ē†† my answer would definitely be no.
The phrase that we said when we finished singing today, Hau mitakuye Oyasin is a greeting to all my relations.†† Iím singing in our ancestors so that they could have a conversation with the ancestors of this place.† I am singing them in on the winds and father sky and mother earth and the great mystery from which all things are born.† I am singing our ancestors here on that road of that song and Hau mitakuye oyasin.† That phrase for me is in direct contrast with western, literate, binary, objectified knowledge.† I have been thinking about that one all day today. Itís in contrast in ways that are essential when I think about a conversation between people of a land and a place and a conversation about knowledge gained objectively, in an objectified way.†
When we say Hau Mitakuye Oyasin we mean all living things in this earth walk.† The winged things, the water, the swimming people, the standing people, the trees, the creepy crawlers and the two leggeds, all of those are relatives. They had a time when they spoke the same language and inhabited a moment in the creation when they were all totally conscious of their relationship.† So the speaking of that word allows me to reach back to that moment so that I can try to remember.†
When I was in the North with Saana Murray, I had that experience walking with her on the ground, reaching back to the moment when all things shared themselves.† The same working with Del Wihongi, being places with her, reaching back to remember the time when we all spoke the same language.† Thatís not a metaphor.† Thatís not symbolic.† Thatís not a representation.† Lakota language is not a symbolic language.† It is an active language and that language speaks back to a constant participation in the creation.
I read a book on Quantum Physics - it really intrigued me because it said that thereís a part of physics that works with the idea that the past, the present and the future are happening concurrently.† My grandfather knew that before there was quantum physics, that we are experiencing the past, the present and future in this moment.† And so experiencing the relationship between us and all other living things as if we were at the moment of creation, for me is an environmental consciousness.† I remember when I was first trying to describe that moment when we all shared language and we all shared breath and we all shared our kind of exodus from the great mystery and I heard people talk about it today.† English is a hard one for finding the word that expressed that.† The first word I came up with was that we were all equal in that moment.† But actually in that consciousness equality is irrelevant.† Itís not even a relevant phrase.† Itís not a relevant word because itís an act of being conscious, of being part of one another.† If Iím conscious of that, I do not need equality.† I do not need to legislate how Iím going to behave with you and how I am going to behave with the grasses underneath my feet and with the air or the waters.
I have spent a lot of years trying to translate or interpret those teachings into the language I am speaking now and part of that interpretation has been to create a kind of ethical measurements, I think I would call them now.† About this remembering and the directions which are my relatives which we sang into this room, they help me remember those measurements.† So if I looked up to father sky and I look up to the places where we have relatives, then I am also thinking about what is my up.† To what is it that I aspire?† To what is it that I cling?† For me and many Lakota people itís original instructions.† We have two.† Those original instructions tell us that everything is sacred and we are all related.†
I heard someone earlier today say no more talk, lets walk.† Well, down in the seven directions that I come from, that is picking those feet up and putting them down on the ground.† That means that in my action right now, in this moment, that aspiration of connecting back to creation when we were all one is present in the way that I behave and talk to you this minute.† That my walking the talk, my picking my feet up and putting them down are an absolute reflection of any rhetoric that comes out of my mouth.† That my rhetoric is fully embodied by my actions.†
If I say I want to live in a balanced and holistic and relational environment.† What does that look like when I am having morning coffee?† What does that look like when I try to convince someone who comes from an absolutely different worldview that mine is right?† What does that balanced relational environment look like?† How does that happen in the moment of listening to someone who sounds different?† How does it then allow me to listen in a way that is not theft?† Some years ago when I was teaching at University, I came across a student who asked a lot of questions.† A lot of questions!!† What about this or what do Lakota people think about this or what does hinhan mean?† In his mind that was curiosity and it was important to learning to have that kind of curiosity.† That kind of curiosity had been rewarded in his education.† In my world those questions are theft.† They are actually asking me to pass on my experience without the benefit of the person trying to experience it.† And so this idea of a balanced and whole and relational equality and partnerships and real communications across bridges that are this wide really remind me that perhaps thereís a lot of moments of silence and remembering to try to reach back to that time when we shared something of the creation.† Then we might come to our interaction across these boundaries in ways that are respectful and that allow for the gap of difference to be revealed, navigated and not necessarily changed.† Perhaps changing and creating understanding isnít the goal.† Perhaps it is allowing them to remain just as they are, and acknowledged, so that in the space between them, something new can be revealed.†
My clock is running, and I havenít even gotten to the second paragraph but if that was all I could bring back, thatís really important because in the world of objectified learning and certain kinds of questioning, it has been really important for me to try to hold on to what it is that canít be shared, what it is that shouldnít be spoken about without the other person having an experience of it.
Question/Comment (Eveline Cook)
He mihi aroha ki a koe mo to kawea mai a koutou tupuna ki te tutaki ki a matou tupuna.† Kei te tika tŽnš.† Itís good that you brought your ancestors with you to meet and greet ours because that is absolutely so appropriate.† I just wished that more people could hear what you said about the theft of knowledge.† My sadness is that for a lot of people its going to be a lot more acceptable coming from you than it would be coming from us.† When we say we do not want to tell where our urupa is or our where wai ahakahaere tupapaku are, where we have buried our people in the water, then our Local Authorities and our Councils say ďBut how can we stop people doing terrible things to them if they donít know where they are?Ē† And the answer of my hoa rangatira is ďBut I know where it is and that is my knowledge to have and your obligation is to come and ask me.† All I have to do is to tell you before you do something.† Come and see me.Ē† That is the right time.† We have so many people coming and asking and the reason that they are asking does not yet exist.† But they want to know just in case.† And they write it in a book or they put it on the world wide web. But it doesnít belong to them.† It belongs to us.† I wish all those Councils and those politicians and those people were here today because, as I say, sadly they probably would take more notice of what you say because you are imported from overseas than what we say because we have lived here forever.†† But he mihi aroha he mihi pouri pea ki a koe.† I am so glad that you came and I send you my love, but I am sad that it has taken you to come for some people to listen.† Kia ora.
Question/Comment (Joe Haraweira, Kaupapa Atawhai Manager, Te Rohe o Tainui)
Kai ora tatou. Mihi ki a koe e te whaea e haere tawhiti mai ki te kŲrero ki enei kua huihui mai nei i tenei ra.† Iíd just like to say it seems a bit of a pity that you have flown all of this way for us to have to ask you questions.† I would prefer you to just carry on talking.
Kaiwhakahaere - I certainly tautoko all that kŲrero.† Tino pai rawa atu tou kŲrero, e hoa.† I wish you were staying for another couple of days so we could sit and listen.† Unfortunately these are the rules that I am supposed to follow.† I hate to follow rules.
[Several calls from the audience to have Kaylynn TwoTrees continue followed].
Kaiwhakahaere - Kia ora.† We are the boss.† We will go on until such time as we are stopped.
One of the things about objectified knowledge and asking the question at the wrong time is context.† English is essentially a very low context language.† I believe Mšori and I know that Lakota are high context languages.† So itís like shrinking down something to fit into something much smaller.† When someone comes to me and asks me a question, itís sometimes the hundredth question.† Itís not the first question.† There are a hundred questions before that would bring their footsteps to understanding what the right moment was to ask the last question.† So what happens is that Iím meant to tell the narrative of my people anytime the question is asked.† It does not require you to stand in Paha Sapa, in the Black Hills, or to visit the home and the lands of my ancestors.† If you did all of that you would ask a different question and so its really about standing on my side of the bridge to explore what it feels like to me standing on my side of the bridge.† It is not saying I want to know all about your side of the bridge but Iím not willing either to get wet by wading through the river or to participate at all in the materials it took to build that bridge.
So to have a conversation from both sides of the bridge really requires me to know what materials did you bring to build this bridge.† What materials, what pieces and remembrances and relationships from your ancestors did you bring, when I bring my ancestors walking behind me to this place?
So the responsibility of ďthe otherĒ to continually describe itself is part of my experience of the way that Western literate practices work.† If I go back to those four winds and seven directions and up and down there are two things that happen for me standing on my side of the bridge.† I look up to ďeverything is sacred and we are all relatedĒ.† Iím looking at it, Iím watching it.† Iím trying to keep track of it in my footsteps and I am watching my footsteps and I know when I trip because I am not thinking, Hau Mitakue Oyasin, we are all related.† Iím thinking what you, them, they should do.† The way that I can bring myself back to remembering is to say what is my obstacle, my own personal obstacle to seeing you as part of that moment in creation when we all shared language.
Now we were educated differently.† We share different ground and I have experienced all kinds of things at the hands of and the feet of and the rooms of, in the chairs of Western literate culture.† But sometime, a long time ago, all people sat on the ground and got teaching from the ground and knew it.† Reach back to that, not through the rape of my culture, but through your own memories and bring that to the conversation from your side of the bridge so that I can bring all my ancestors and that memory to my side of the bridge.† So we are building together, weíre building a conversation and the conversation may look very, very, very different.† And it may reveal itself in ways that donít even seem like they could come into common conversation.† But whatís true is that they are both fed by that original moment of the creation when we all shared the same language.† They are all linked to the moment when we all sat on the ground.† So I think that the clarity and measurement for my own actions is to speak the truth that Iím perceiving at the moment and to have it responded to by a truth thatís spoken from a connection to the ground.† That is really what Iím seeking as a native person in a cross cultural or cross ideological conversation.† Iím looking for that thread being reached for and pulled from every person in the conversation and when that thread is pulled, then we are all nature.† Itís not separate from us.† Our sharing with the sky and the wind and the sun thatís shining on those cars right now which looks really good today after this morning and the birds, and the fishes and the relationship of that to the food that we ate and how it came to be here and whose hands touched it, either gathering it or preparing it; that is really a part of that conversation for me.
So thereís the four winds that allow me to be able to know where I am in that conversation.† I can visit those relatives.† I can visit the four winds as my relatives and call them in and say, ďWhere am I standing now?Ē† Am I standing in a place of the first sunlight and how does that inform the moment where I am standing?† Or am I standing in the South in a place where I can get really close to the ground?† There are specific animals that come from the South and they allow me to know where I am.† Am I informed by the West where the bear people live and they digest the foods that they eat for long months, so what does that tell me about this moment? †Or am I in the North with the buffalo which provides everything for us?
When I speak about those animals and those places and those winds lots of time, people think that Iím talking about a representational relationship with those animals but really what those animals and those directions provide is a way to continually refer back to the teachers.† The teachers are in the land.† The teachings came out of the land and they are fed back to the land to re-enliven those relationships.
So thatís the Readers Digest condensed version.† But I hope that that you hear the sound of the voices of all of the grandmothers behind me because they were very happy to be here and to share with you.