A blog about meditation, activism, dharma, buddhism, and… song!
I’m a meditation teacher trained in the Burmese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. I came into meditation practice via activism inspired by the Quaker and Catholic organizers in the peace movement, particularly those involved in the Alliance for NonViolent Action (ANVA), and the civil disobedience and industrial conversion efforts at Litton’s Cruise missile plant near Toronto. I’ve also been involved in East Timor solidarity work, and, more recently, in Indigenous solidarity work, particularly in Nunavut. I’m inspired by the social and ecological justice spirituality of Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Rosalie Bertell, Phil Berrigan, Gary Snyder, Alice Walker and Elisapee Oootoova, as well as the teachings of Nagarjuna, Ajahn Chah, Buddhadassa Bhikkhu, Clare Culhane, Ivan Illich and Noam Chomsky.
Because it is an orientation all of us newcomers* could benefit from, here is Elisapee Ootoova’s Inuktitut poem-speech given to assembled dignitaries in Iqaluit during founding ceremonies for establishment of the Nunavut Territory April 1, 1999. These (translated) remarks were a marked contrast to anything else said that day; her words show a completely different mindset/philosophy than government bureaucrat-control, corporate-resource extraction, or Euro-American utilitarianism…
“Nunavut, from this moment: sea mammals, we state to you: the water, the sea do not pollute our sea–it is our home; do not make it a concern, do not contaminate it; so that we may continue to be a food resource. Our Creator has created us to provide food for you.
As fish we state to you: the lakes, look after the lakes. manage your fresh water so that we will not be contaminated and we can continue to be a food source, because our Creator has created us to be a food source for Inuit.
The mammals of the land, we state to you: please take care of the land and the vegetation; please do not contaminate us for they are our only food and our only habitat; so that we may not be a concern, and continue to be a food source, and a source of clothing. Our Creator created us, so that we could be utilized, by you.
The air of Nunavut–those of us who are birds say to you: because we fly through the air over vast distances to migrate to the Arctic–please watch over the land and the air, so that we will not be contaminated, and remain a food source for you.
Our Creator has created us so that we could be here with you,
for as long as the sun shall set,
for as long as the sun shall rise.”
(*’Newcomers’ being all of us who have been accepted here in the last 400 years by Host peoples who trace their histories back 5000-15,000 years.)