In the past month I’ve experience three powerful moments of healing in my own community.
“Flash mob, on the Plaza,” a friend told me on Valentine’s day.
So I ran over to have a look. There must have been upwards to a hundred young teen girls gathered on the Plaza in the center of our small town. Minutes after I got there, they broke into a singing, dancing rendition of “Break the Chain.”
Their flash mob was part of the V-day 1 Billion Rising, an international movement to protest violence against women. The people around them, parents, older women, bystanders like myself sang and danced along to Tena Clark’s vibrant song of empowerment. Rain drizzled down on us but the music, the lyrics, the happy, laughing girls lifted us all.
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures.
An event like this doesn’t end abuse, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking how different it is now, thank you Eve Ensler and Tena Clarke, that these young people and their friends are so open about the resistance to abuse and so openly drawing that line together. My body’s holy…
life is, too
Two weeks ago I stood at the Eureka marina in a circle with perhaps sixty others, holding candles as day turned to night and skeins of Aleutian geese muttered overhead. We’d come for the annual Indian Island Massacre vigil.
In 1860, a group of white men from the nearby town of Eureka had rowed out to nearby Tuluwat, spiritual center for the native Wiyot people. Under cover of dark, and while their victims slept, the men killed 200 women, children and men in a ghastly rampage. The Indians had gathered on the Island to perform their World Renewal ceremony, intended to set the world back into balance from humans’ inappropriate actions. Instead, they were slaughtered.
During my time here, three very wise women of the Wiyot tribe began holding these vigils, reminding the community of our shared past and the devastating effect on local native people. The vigils are done with an open heart, in the spirit of world renewal, all are welcome. This was the very last one.
Last because–finally and with the help of neighboring tribes–the Wiyot World Renewal is coming back. Next week the ceremony will begin to live again in three places in our community. This time outsiders are being asked to stay away. This repair work is incredibly moving to me, the need for privacy totally understandable. As a CSA survivor I get it, the Wiyot community within my own is claiming their cultural integrity, their innate beauty, and celebrating their wholeness.
Those of us who have been subjected to interpersonal violence and abuse know that–once it is out–there is no forgetting the fact. But there is also the possibility of healing and reparation.
Under the leadership of then Tribal Chairwoman Cheryl Seidner, the tribe bought back a small parcel of land on Indian Island, the site of the massacre. Then, in 2006, the city of Eureka gave the tribe 60 acres of the Island. A lot of industrial waste clean up had to happen, but now the land is ready to be used for its ancient sacred purpose.
No one is alive today who witnessed or perpetrated the massacre. But next week, the Eureka city council will vote on whether to send a letter of formal apology to the tribe for the atrocity of the past. It could be one more healing step forward in this dance we are all engaged in. May they have the courage to vote yes!
Coming up is the launch party for the second edition of Strong at the Heart. That will be on April 4th, at 7:00 pm at Northtown Books. I am so happy that this book is now in paperback and readily available!