All my relations

Mar 29, 2020 | 1 comment

Native Americans in the U.S. Northwest prepare for a sundance ceremony in 1893.

Hello. It’s Markku Sario again, sitting in for Robert Bradley, who is thankfully out of the hospital but is still very much in recovery from his painful knee surgery.

The Covid-19 news has been dominating all the media outlets with gloom and doom for a depressingly long time. Believe it or not, I think there might be a bright side to all the draconian restrictions. The “stay-at-home” policy is intended to protect humans from a catastrophic spread of this fatal disease. It also has the added benefit of allowing the planet to somewhat begin recovering from the environmental insults we humans have inflicted on her.

I’m sure many of you have read of the dolphins beginning to cavort in the canals in Venice, the lack of smog in Los Angeles, the lessening of heavy industrial pollution in Beijing, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. People can now see blue skies instead of a vomit-colored haze.

We can think of this as a practice run to mitigate not only Covid-19 but also the long-term weather changes we are experiencing all over the world.

At the sundance in 2012.

For many years, I participated in various Native American ceremonies. No, I’m not Native American, having been born in Finland.  But, for twelve years, I was privileged to be an Elder Fire Tender at the Four Nations Sundance near Roseburg, Oregon.

The sundance is the most sacred ceremony of the plains Indians, and Four Nations Sundance is conducted in the Lakota Sioux tradition.

The Lakota have a phrase that acts as a sort of an “Amen” at the end of prayers or songs or speeches, “A’ho mitakuye oyasin.”

Bless all my relations.

There is so much meaning in that phrase, centered around the word “relations.” To Native Americans, this refers not only to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children, but also includes the neighbor, the neighbor’s dog, the tree in your front yard, deer, buffalo, “all the two-legged and four-legged and many-legged creatures. The beings who fly or swim in the lakes or burrow underground. Members of the plant kingdom. Even the stone people, with their slow contemplative lives. Mother earth.  Father sky.” These are all, all my relations.

Some Native Americans say that all responsible decisions made by people need to take into consideration the effect of those decisions on the next seven generations. It is past time to adopt that policy. Currently, we are understandably focused on the present, wondering about the health of our families, the health of our economy up north, the health of our new homeland: Ecuador. Still, what are we doing today that will affect all our relations for the next seven generations? Maybe this current situation is a glimpse into how we can make lasting positive changes for all our future ancestors, paying seven generations forward.

What a lovely concept.

A’ho mitakuye oyasin.


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