When tragic events provoke community members to express their anger on Facebook or other forms of social media towards fellow community members, they empower the same negative spirit that has hurt or taken away their loved ones. These online cyber-feuds, all too often rooted in unresolved family-to-family drama, are powerful enough to carry over into the actual physical lives of the people and affect them in a harmful way. Young people watching the online drama unfold may come to believe this is the way to resolve disputes.
Our original indigenous cultural and spiritual systems of ethics teach us that very old, external spiritual forces take advantage of unwell and vulnerable people and cause these unfortunate atrocities. They make people weak and addicted to booze, drugs, violence, unhealthy sexual habits, gambling, lateral oppression and tribalism. These same negative forces are also responsible for the roots of historical trauma and its destructive impacts.
One of my mentors says, “Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people”. Another one of my mentors says, “Our indigenous cultures are strength and solution based.” In the old days, during times of tragedy, our people would come together to support a family that was grieving, reminding the family that there is a traditional process designed for them to heal. They would cook, clean, show emotional support through ceremony, and sing beautiful songs with dances to help raise the spirits of the family and friends.
Our traditional music, creation stories, and ethics teach the people how to be in harmony with other people and to live in a good way with the animals, plants, rocks, ponds, mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, and other people that exist on our Mother Earth. This is a proactive way to maintain wellness. Modern science is only just now proving these practices to be true.
Many of our people still follow these ancient ways. Personally, I know they work because my family and I have experienced the positive results. All of these good things are expressed in their most simple form, making it easy for any human being to understand. All of these things can teach the people how to be happy, no matter what time period we live in.
Maybe now it is time for the people to come together on a grassroots level to critically assess whether the political structures that our ancestors were forced to adopt work for us. Have they caused socioeconomic division among us? Are we really just continuing the work of the external oppressive political force that has violently and covertly tried to marginalize our people to gain control of the land and its resources? Do they prioritize the wellness and empowerment of our people? Do they enforce the traditional cultural and spiritual system of ethics to teach the people how to have a healthy relationship with one another and our ecosystem?
I can envision a time in the near future when people will have forgiveness for one another and reunite to re-empower our people, creating a beautiful, safe and harmonized world for our future generations! Like the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee says: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”
Anthony "Thosh" Collins (Onk-Akemiel-Authum/Wazazi/Haudenosaunee) is a photographer, wellness trainer, and board member of the Native Wellness Institute. He is from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona. Thosh works extensively as a freelance photographer in Native communities throughout the United States and Canada, using his photography to document contemporary Native life. In addition, he embodies a healthy lifestyle by staying fit and eating the traditional foods of our ancestors.
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