I’m constantly trying to make sense of this beautiful, turbulent world and my place within it. I enjoy reading insights from progressive thinkers, both past and present, and weave their ideas with my personal experiences and observances to find meaning. I think what I’m really aiming for is to make sure that my life is well lived and know that I’m making some sort of positive contribution to this planet and humanity while I’m here.
One way I’ve tried to gain a better understanding of myself and where I fit into it all is by researching where I came from. Anyone who has done genealogy research will tell you that it can be a life changing experience. It brings history to life like no textbook can and makes you rethink whatever narrative you’ve come to believe about yourself. Without going into all the details, I discovered that my roots are deeply entrenched in New England and can be traced all the way back to the founding of the country.
On one hand, there is a sense of pride knowing my ancestors were among the earlier settlers. Perhaps that is where I get my strong belief in freedom and traits of hardiness, resilience and independence. It could also explain why I have such a fierce love and connection to the land and sea spanning from Massachusetts through Maine towards Canada. But it’s easy to romanticize these things. I’m sure there were unbearable struggles, sordid stories and less admirable traits amongst my ancestry.
After thinking about where I came from for a while, I came to realize that we are ALL immigrants. We know that the longstanding inhabitants of this land prior to the European colonists were the Native American people. After a brief period of peaceful relations between the natives and colonists, boundaries were overstepped and agreements broken. The native people tried valiantly to maintain their land and culture but they were ultimately outnumbered. Many perished by disease or battle and those that remained were forced to conform to the newcomer’s ways. There were some who went into hiding or found it possible to continue their beliefs and practices and pass down their sacred knowledge to those they trusted.
I’ve been studying Native American culture for the past few years now. The people lived in harmony with the land and took only what was needed. They believed the land and all animals were imbued with spirit and treated it with respect. They believed and followed the concept of “Seventh Generation” where every action and decision made ensured the welfare and well being of the seventh generation to come. There was a clear understanding that every action has consequences and that ultimately we are all connected to creation.
I recently took a trip to Washington, DC and visited the amazing National Museum of the American Indian. As I walked through the extensive exhibits showcasing native customs, ceremonies, tools, craftwork and their simpler ways of life, I trailed a dad and his young son. The young boy was enthralled and asked lots of questions which his dad deftly answered. At one point the boy looked up at his dad and said “Boy, they were so lucky!” I was thankful that the museum existed to tell their story so well and to represent a way of life very different from our current chaotic, technological and stress driven existence.
I can’t help to think how things might be different today if the early settlers had better assimilated with the native people and their culture. There is so much damage that has been done with the prevailing worldview that we are separate from nature and from each other. I hope it is not too late for us to make the appropriate retributions, resurrect some of the native ways and correct our course for the generations to come.
I surely don’t have things figured out and know it's futile to think I ever will, but I’ll continue to search for truth and meaning to help understand myself and how I can best be in this world.