Every time I fly South I return with another piece of our collective Mvskoke story, another memory. In Peru a few years ago I was in the fekce of the western hemisphere, the place of many indigenous roots. Last week, after Green Corn, I flew from Tulsa to Medellin, Columbia in South America. Must of us here know of Columbia because of coffee, and Medellin because it was the battleground of the cocaine drug trafficking cartels. I have learned a different Medellin. I saw immense crowds of people come out to hear poetry. They love poetry as much as sports. They appreciated the whole spectrum of poetry as it was presented by the over 70 poets from all over the world. The poetry didn’t have to be hip-hop or over the top to catch attention. There were oral poets, classical poets, eyes-on-the-page poets, poets in Spanish, English and many other languages, including at least 8 indigenous languages. (They got to hear a little Mvskoke). The audience was the same audience you would have found at the Creek Nation Festival. Even the children sat in rapt attention and listened. The last night’s performance was in an amphitheater that held several thousand people. The seats overflowed and people sat out on the hills, for poetry. The performance went almost five hours. The highlight for me was the reading of the indigenous poets. We performed together: Hugo Jamijoy of the Putamayo Nation; Fredy Chicangara of the Yanacona Nation, Lindantonella Solano of the Wyuu, Jessie Kleeman, Greenlander Kalaait Inuit, Natalia Toledo, Zapoteca, Gregorio Gomez, Guarani Nation from Paraguay, Allison Hedge Coke, Cherokee, Sherwin Bitsui, Dineh, and me.
What I value most was the small moments of time we had together. It’s these small memories that make up the bulk of the content of all poetry, of our lives. We ate three meals a day together in the Gran Hotel and performed in various combinations with the other poets all over the city. We talked about family, about friends in common, joked, shared histories, talked about the extermination policies of governments, about world-wide earth changes and about what is always, and remains eternal. We compared stories.
Lindantonella’s people have been targeted for extinction by the paramilitaries. Right now in the northern part of her homelands the people are being massacred. The multinational corporations have discovered riches beneath the earth and are laying claim to oil, gas and other minerals. And this is going on in nearly all the tribal nations in the South. Sounds horribly familiar, doesn’t it?
Allison reported that she, Sherwin and Fredy saw a very poor native woman sitting on the sidewalk with an infant, not far from the hotel. The mother was feeding her baby orange soda in a bottle. It was all she had. Allison went to buy food and milk. When she approached the woman to give her the bag of groceries, the mother panicked. She grabbed her baby and ran. Fredy interceded and told her that Allison just wanted to give her food. She took the bag, said “bueno, ciao”, then disappeared in the street. Fredy said that there is a market for stolen children, especially for people in the north. She thought Allison had come to steal her baby.
For Fredy’s people coca is a beloved plant. It is good for circulation, for the blood. His people’s relationship with coca is similar to our relationship with ginseng or heles hvtke. Coca leaves carry the prime ingredient in the manufacture of cocaine. And cocaine in its refined state is highly addicting and surrounds itself with guns, greed and violence. The manufacturing process dehumanizes coca.
The beloved corn, of our people (and the people of the South) has also suffered dehumanization and is now, in its refined state, contributing to the diabetes epidemic. Corn processed as corn syrup appears in a very high percentage of refined foods. We become addicted to it. The essence and the meaning of corn, and our relationship to it gets lost and perverted in the process. Consider tobacco and how it has served us traditionally. It too has been dehumanized by process, by lack of respect in its use.
How much have we been dehumanized by the manufacturing process of a consumer culture that does not value our essence as a people? And what happens to any of us in a dehumanized state? Massacres, bureaucracies, racism, cultural-ism are all outcomes of dehumanization. We learn to do it to ourselves and learn to dehumanize each other. In the process we lose respect for ourselves, and for those plants and elements that have accompanied us since the beginning. We also lose poetry.
My understanding is that we have three minds, yet they make one continuum. One takes care of everyday details, is linear; it’s the organizer. It takes information directly from the five senses. The second is the gut-heart mind, or fekce. It’s the mind of memory, the carrier of the ancestral knowledge. It is the knowing mind. The third is the intuitive, the beyond-human-knowing mind. It doesn’t know time and space. It is beyond time and space. It is the compassionate mind. All things make sense here.
Dehumanization flat lines us to think and be in one dimension, or one mind. Think about it: most of our education in these times, and most of our presence is in the linear “buy-now” mind. Even language. Metaphor cannot happen in the linear. I’ve heard the Muscogee and Hawaiian language people speak about how we’re losing metaphor, the ability to address several levels of meaning at once in our expressions. Our old language is full of potent sayings. Language ripples with meaning.
Always something to consider….and I appreciate those who have carried forth the poetry of our ways. There we were in the middle of the sky of that summer night, dancing with the fire. Or as Natalia Toledo says in her poem “Origin”:
“We were a flake of God,/flower, deer and monkey./We were the torch that split the flash of lightning/and the dream told by our ancestors…”
(“Origin”by Natalia Toledo from revista de poesia Prometeo,numeros 77-78, 2007 XVII Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin)