Healing the Land is Healing My Body.
For the past few years I have traveled across Turtle Island, to different resistance camps. I read a lot about these places in books and zines, or heard about them from different comrades. Prior to traveling to these places I was planted in my homeland defending the land and water with grassroots organizers and elders.
My work on the land drew me to these places. Communities resisting and reclaiming just like we were back home. Throughout my work, I have always dealt with my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Autoimmune diseases like mine are becoming more and more common. The more I learn about the fracturing of the land the more I see the intersectionality of my body and the land. Looking at the alteration of our genes, seeds, food, water, air, and liberties. The path that this extraction has left for Diné people is contamination from Monsanto, Rhethoen, oil, gas, coal, uranium, a damn goldmine! These poisons are altering our genes. The poisoning of our water, the fracturing of our clans, our genetics, our cell memory. The very connection to our ancestors. This is how I see my disease anyway.
It's a trip when you think about it that way. Looking at the pictures of my ancestors, I see how strong their spirits are and how healthy they look. Caring for the earth was their healthcare system. Our ancestors could care less about Indian Health services pharmaceuticals. With the rise of disease so does rises the dependency of pharmaceuticals. IHS hands them out like candy. These industries also effect our reproductive systems. There is a rise in Birth defects, cancers and infertility. This is a direct hit to our future generations.
In 2015 I was part of of 1400 mile walk called, "Nihigaal Bee Iina (Journey for Existence-NGBI)". An amazing fellowship of young Diné. We took on the challenge of walking to 4 of our sacred mountains. 8 months of being nomads in our homeland. In that Journey we realized that we were scouting the land. Seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, experiencing the extraction in our backyard.
It was hard to see the what was literally happening in our huge Diné homeland. The more I saw and felt the harder it became for my immune system to shake off the toxins from the land. My body soaked up all the trauma. The way my body felt in heavily extracted communities the more my pain flared up. A crazy awakening of spirit and body. I realized that as long as I kept walking, what waited for me on that mountain top, was medicine. The presence of the ancestors was always felt on our journey. Taking theses stories of what we saw and giving them to the mountain beings, telling our holy people in prayer what we saw walking. NGBI's direct action of walking made me realize that what our homeland was lacking was defense. As fierce as NGBI was that didn't seem to be enough. As with other land defenders we are and have always been seen as "radicals". The fact remains that we still live as a resource colony. Our tribe is so dependent on these resources and our tribal government was created by colonial invaders to assert their capitalism.
After NGBI, I traveled to any and every resistance camp that I heard of. Hauled food and building supplies up the mountains to the Unistoten-Kinder Morgan Resistance Camp in British Columbia. Then onward to Lelu Island, to a defense camp on an island that was threatened by a Sea Oil terminal. This island also sat on the delta of the Skeena River, where the salmon transition from fresh water to salt water fish. The defense of these territories was admirable. Building homes, ceremonial homes, farms and smoke houses on the coordinates of proposed pipeline routes. Day in and day out resisting and chasing off invaders with the elders, in prayer. The driving force of this resistance was like the one I felt during NGBI. My spirit connecting to intertribal ancestors and earth mom as a relative from the south.
Through NGBI and in my travels I also saw what solidarity truly looks like. It takes a lot of collective work to run a camp. There is always something to do, people to feed, wood to chop. Community drives the wellbeing of the camp as a whole. Alot of the time in these resistance camps we were the only Native comrades/accomplices. Elders and community members gravitated to us as we shared stories of resistance, seeds, medicines, food and strategy. In my healthcare journey it was amazing to learn about the different forms of medicine. To see the how Indigenous communities are treating these diseases that resource extraction brings.
Nettle and Salmon medicine from the Northwest. Or the Bee Sting acupuncture that Zapatista Bee keepers taught me. These practices also reconnected me to my roots. The roots my grandparents watered and taught me. It connected me to the medicine of my ancestors and the ancestors of the lands I was visiting. Even down to the food. Most of the food serviced in these amazing places were hunted, planted, grown and harvested in defense of mother earth and mother water.
After I left these spaces I felt Healthy AF for one, and encouraged!
The next steps in my journey to healing the land and my body includes carrying the medicine from these journeys and bringing it home. Cleaning my backyard! Really walking my talk. For the next month I quest to change my diet to an ancestral diet that has no night shades, sugar, caffeine, gluten or processed inflammatory foods. At the same time as I change my diet I will begin to clean up illegal trash dumps, literally in my back yard.
Capitalism stems consumption, and like most poor communities, capitalism has left a destructive path of waste in my homeland. I have seen it with my own eyes!! In my community these dumps are decades old. The contamination that these dumps leave directly impact our health and water. The next month in my heath journey is cleaning these trash dumps and detoxing my body. First steps to really healing the land and my body! In this moment I realize what I have to do to heal the land around me and in return, the land will heal me. This healing is for the generation before me, the intergenerational trauma. It is for the liberation of my spirit.