7 Generations

by Meesha Johnson

For the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on the things that have occurred in my life during the summer months. I have had the most extraordinary opportunity to visit Tucson, Arizona for a few days on a scholarship two weeks ago. Upon my return to the East coast, my heart and soul has been enlightened to such a degree that I am in the process of evaluating what is truly important to me and vital as I embark on a brand new chapter of life. What I have come to understand at this point of my journey is that success is a result of our relationship with our environment and that all things that make up our surroundings directly impact our lives.

While in Arizona I met the most amazing people and an even more amazing man who is a professor of law at Arizona state college. The two of us had a chance to sit apart and away from the other students who were afforded the Morris K. Udall scholarship opportunity. As I began to express the fears and concerns that I had with moving forward with my education and career, I felt as though I was speaking with one of my best friends. The insight he was able to impart into my life is worth more to me than the scholarship money for school. I not only learned how to effectively interact in group settings with individuals whose position on specific issues were different than my own, I learned the significance of various projects students are involved with that help in protecting our planet. Many of the students at the scholarship orientation are environmentalists who travel the world working on different initiatives to help with global warming. There were also students studying to be environmental lawyers and students who are studying to be lawyers that specialize in Indian law. There was also a period of time where I was able to learn about how some Native American tribes are working together to provide their Nations with the insight and tools to be self-sufficient sovereign nations. These Native American tribes not only exist in America but thrive despite the injustice experienced as a result of decisions made by the American government.

As a creative writer, when I returned home all I wanted to do is sit down and document everything I learned, my feelings, and I wanted to figure out a way to thank everyone responsible for this opportunity. The way I would do this is to write a poem about my experience. It is taking me a while to finish the three poems that I have begun writing because there is so much that I want to tell but I haven’t found the words to accurately describe this inexpressible feeling that I have. During this creative debate with myself, I learned of news that has both contributed to my experience in Arizona, and has helped me to find the words to explain my feelings and what I’ve learned. The news has also forced me to remember how important our own lives are to our community. The news about the loss within our community has a great impact because in a few days, the Shinnecock Nation will be engaged in our annual Labor Day weekend Pow Wow.

Grand Entry Ceremony- Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014
Grand Entry Ceremony- Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014

This is a time where we as a nation remember the triumphs and the challenges faced through the year. MS Elizabeth Haile; Chi Chi as she is fondly known has always as far as I can remember , performed the Lord’s Prayer in our Algonquin language every day during the four days of our Pow Wow celebration. Now as the Shinnecock Nation remembers the life and legacy of one of our elders, I wanted to write a piece that highlights the legacy of our elders and ancestors, our relationships with one another, our responsibility to the environment, and our reverence for the Creator. As a Native American woman, I take pride in teaching my daughter the importance of all things that contribute to our success throughout life. What I know to be truth is a truth that will stay with me for eternity and is the principle thing that Indian Americans teach our youth. This is what we call respect for the seven generations. Although my concept of the 7 generations differs from what many in the Indian community teach, the revelation I’ve gotten is what helps me be a better teacher for the generations to come.

Just as the human body is off kilter when something goes wrong with its smallest member such as the toe, our lives can be off kilter when we do not acknowledge the vital part all things play in our lives and the importance of the part these things play. It is our responsibility to protect and take care of our 7 generations. The challenge of our readers today is to think consciously about the 7 generations in your life and how you can work to protect all 7 generations. As you reflect on the importance of your 7 generations, think of what happens when one of these generations is forgotten about and how it will affect not just your journey, but the generations to come. My hope is that this time of reflection will empower us all to be catalysts for positive change. As always, I wish all reading and enjoying this piece a joyous and peaceful journey. Love is Love 2015 – Eternity

Grand Entry Ceremony Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014
Gorgeous Sunset- Grand Entry Ceremony – Shinnecock Indian Nation Pow Wow 2014

7 Generations

Indigenous people are people who meditate on the essential things ahead of us.  We have always held culture and history close to our hearts and these jewels rest in our thoughts.  To us the 7 Generations are our legacy and is why we have endured for centuries long.  Honor and reverence for the Creator, the Great Spirit is what keeps our culture alive and strong.  We the indigenous people esteem Mother earth highly, the matriarch and sustainer of life and society.  We are reminded of our ancestors that have gone on before us.  We remember their struggles and strength even as we fight the fight of faith that is tedious.  The elders of our tribe are our tradition bearers. As we protect and provide for our elders, we rely on their knowledge, wisdom and insight to guide us.  As a tribal unit, we are a people who are an extended family.  When I care for my brother, my brother can better care for me.  We as the Nation of indigenous people look forward into the future.  The life lessons that have been learned prepare us to be history teachers.  With joy and excitement in our eyes, we watch our children carry our traditions on with pride.  These beautiful Native traditions have been passed down from generation to generation.   Our aboriginal customs teach our youth the importance and respect for all creation.  There is excellent honor given to our children’s children.  We are always mindful of the honor and respect that must be given.  Our future generations, our children’s children are the product of our culture and history that is cherished.  We refuse to allow reverence for our elders, ancestors, Mother Earth, and the Creator to perish.  The story of the 7 generations is simply a story about the circle of life, which is continuous.  This is a story of love, honor, and respect for all things that contribute to all of our success.  As we live, we learn and grow strong through every struggle.  We learn that all decisions made affect us all as a people.  Our 7 Generations, our circle of life is never ending and as we grab tightly the hands of another, we all have our place in this never ending circle.  The circle of life is not complete without all seven generations.   For the number seven is the number of completion.

 

©Meesha Johnson 2015

Sunsets on the shore

The best and probably the longest journey that one will encounter throughout his/her lifetime is the journey to both find and determine one’s destiny. I for one have come to the realization that we as living, thinking, loving creations of promise possess the power to define our destiny. Although there have been some times throughout my journey where I felt powerless, there was always a knowing that I did possess the power to be and go wherever my imagination would take me. It was all a matter of believing in something much bigger than myself and not allowing my circumstances to dictate my destiny.

One way in which I’ve learned to overcome the challenges that I am confronted with is  what I call, self-reflection. Self-reflection is my way of keeping everything in its proper perspective. There are times that I am discouraged and frustrated by life and by the things that I seem to have no control over. This is when self-reflection plays an essential part of my journey. When I take the focus off of me and off of my situations, I broaden my capacity to receive the understanding needed to continue on with confidence. Reflection is simply taking a moment to think about the times and instances that have bought us to the place of now, the place where we are today. This American culture is so inundated with progress and with winning the “rat race” that we have forgotten to take time to remember how we’ve gotten to where we are. Most importantly, we’ve forgotten to remember and appreciate the obstacles or the opportunities where we are equipped to grow in faith and in courage. Imagine if the challenges of today or tomorrow are our first experiences with confrontation. I have to be brutally honest and say that we don’t exist. Our first ever obstacle that every living, breathing person is confronted with is being born. A new born infant has never had the experience of seeing the light of day or being held by another human being. We have all had to learn fairly quickly to adapt and maneuver in a world, a new environment that is foreign to us. This brand new process is life’s initiation or better yet; our introduction to the journey to our destiny. No one was smart enough to write a handbook or an owner’s manual showing the best route to our destiny because no one has figured it out yet. We are responsible for journaling and remembering the steps we needed to take to get where we want to be. Since our destiny cannot be located on Google maps, it stands to reason why we are responsible for mapping out our journey, reflecting on the places we’ve been, and deciding on purpose to learn from our experiences. We must learn again to appreciate the process involved in life’s journey to our destiny.

The poem that I’ve entitled “Sunsets on the shore” expresses the reality that outside of ourselves, there are lessons in nature that teach us about life. The photo that accompanies my poem is a picture of a parcel of land that belongs to the Shinnecock Nation. To many it is a beautiful sunset on the shores of the beautiful beaches in the Hamptons. To me and to my fellow tribal members, this picture represents the gift of land the creator has blessed us with and that our ancestors died for. On the days that I am overwhelmed by life, I go and sit at the beach and just listen to the sounds of creation. For me, my land and the reality confronted by my ancestors ministers a deeper truth that will forever dominate over my current obstacles. This truth is that just as the sun rises on the shores of our beautiful lands the sun shall set every day. Just as many adverse situations in our lives shall arise, they shall set or be settled. How we respond to our situations will determine our outcome. Sometimes it takes reflection on the order found in nature to give order to our lives. Every obstacle that we are confronted with has a purpose and an order but we have to give it a purpose, otherwise it will produce disorder.

Before I end my note to the readers, I have to be honest and say that even when I get frustrated by life, I find myself wanting to take the easy way out and give up. There is always this small still voice that reminds me what would happen if I gave up every time I wanted to give up. I then start to think and reflect on the good times as well as the bad times. The truth is that I learned more during the dark times in my life because it was the darkest times of my life, the hardest times during my journey that taught me that I am bigger than my circumstances and that all I need is the will to overcome. Lastly, I would like to present all of our readers today with yet another challenge. I would like to challenge everyone that is dealing with a situation that may seem beyond human control to stop and reflect or remember what it took to overcome the last obstacle that you were confronted with. Think about the people who came to encourage you and from the outside looking in, were able to show you something you couldn’t see as you were in that dark place. The last thing I challenge you to think about is the one person who may be confronted with a situation that is darker and harder than your circumstance. Life is a true testimony of what we choose to focus on and how we choose to respond in situations we cannot control…Wishing all of our readers a week, month, year filled with peace and destiny manifest!

©Sunshine K. Gumbs 2015
©Sunshine K. Gumbs 2015

                                                        

By Meesha Johnson

Gazing above the sky’s beautiful abyss is a constant reminder of LOVE’S certain joy and happiness. As brilliant pastel colors blur the heavens above one can only think of what’s gone and what’s to come ,for it is confirmed that another day is done while yesterday’s experience remains. Today’s presence abounds, and tomorrow’s future, while still uncertain, hopes of opportunity. We refrain from fear because the sultry day almost gone is comforted by a gentle breeze that whispers “just hold on.”

Beneath bare feet are remnants of childhood memories of these indigenous lands. The rigid shells of the oyster and smoother rocks once held in innocent hands ,the same ones that uncover crab shells hidden in damp sands. Marvelous sounds of waves crashing to shore while Ospreys and hawks sing in unison as part of a choir, or perhaps they are just in search of one who hears what the future has in store.

Directly across the Indian reserve man made constructs ignorant of the creator’s concepts held in trust evidence of worlds separated by an absolute truth held in our ancestors’ eyes. Yesterday’s reality becomes today’s proof as tomorrow’s destiny is an inheritance slightly obscure when compared to their outside.

Yet from within there is a history of pride never to be denied by those who believe.   For this we know, life is similar to seasons and tides and although darkness of hatred and uncertainty of lies may come, they shall not abide. For just as the sun sets the sun must rise again on our Stony shores…

©Meesha Johnson 2015