Tuesday, 16 of September of 2014

Left-Handed Hunter Kachina – The Growing People

To my teacher, the plants are growing people.
He tells us this as we sit in a dimly lit auditorium
in the forestry building built to look like a ski lodge.
He is alive as he speaks of the yucca root for soap making
and pinyon sap for coughing
and juniper smoke for healing spirit wounds.
I know that the artificial room doesn’t diminish his power,
but that he is not at home here,
uncomfortable.

I pretend we are out on his ranch,
kneeling over little onions and mint
just popping out of the springtime soil.
In the distance, I envision his sheep and cows and horses,
silently chewing their cud, watching us.
They are the four leggeds,
no different from us, the two leggeds,
or the plants they eat, the growing people.
He tells us to talk to the plants, sing to the plants,
honor the plants, give prayers to the plants.

He says, three times:
We don’t just take, always give back
We don’t just take, always give back
We don’t just take, always give back.

He says, three times:
They are not just plants, but people
They are not just plants, but people
They are not just plants, but people

I walk out of the classroom into the forestry building atrium
decorated with stiff polyester factory made couches and
plaques on the wall commemorating
institutional and academic achievements.
There is a celebration underway,
which we must walk through to leave the building.
The partygoers are white women in flowered dresses
and makeup applied to hide their age,
standing submissively next to their partners,
old white men in suits and ties.
One of them has a knife in hand, its blade inches away
from a fat white sheet cake with white sugary frosting
and words in green gel celebrating the centennial.

A hundred years. A hundred years of what?
Fire suppression, clear cutting, separation from the land, dominance, power.
To the ones in control, the plants are an easy means to an end.
To my teacher, the plants are the growing people.

Left-Handed Hunter Kachina
March-April 2006 Earth First!


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