The Honoring

The gathering of young musicians to play a benefit for four women renowned as environmental protectors appeared to come together serendipitously through some undetermined convergence of harmonious spirit and an elusive but pervasive presence of earth reverence. When I arrived at the hall that served as the venue for the event, I was initially disappointed by the small number in attendance. But as the evening progressed, I came to realize the need of these loving young people to honor their elders who were willing to make personal sacrifices to reinsert sacredness into our way of life.

In fact, the hall spontaneously became an impromptu ceremonial center as sacred music flowed from the violin of a young Lummi Indian man recently returned to his reservation after a generation removed. To me, his fusion of ancestral tones and rhythms with Western melody and technique was a beautiful weaving of grief and gratitude and grace in finding acceptance and forgiveness for the injustice of his dispossession as well as the suffering of his grandparents and parents. The music enveloping us was his way of simultaneously wrapping a blanket around his ancestors, humanity, and all the mothers of planet Earth.

A year later, seated in the Lummi Nation’s Wex Li Em community center, I listened as a tribal elder spoke of the 1930s, when children were kidnapped by religious and government schools, and whole families were evicted from the reservation by an Indian Health Service doctor who illegally obtained title to their properties in exchange for medical treatment guaranteed them by treaty. And I thought of the generosity of the young violinist and his coming home and his debut performance in the land of his ancestors in a small, sparsely-attended hall, playing with all his heart and soul in praise of all the Earth mothers and guardians of life in the world. And I felt blessed by this knowledge that the fires of understanding and wisdom and innocence and trust have been tended in anticipation of our return.

[ Swil Kanim has since gone on to do many good works. ]


~ by Jay Taber on December 19, 2006.

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