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Indigenous Peoples – Keepers of the Library of How to Be Here on This Mother Earth

A very powerful account of the significance of what has already happened in this Indigenous peoples led movement, history that has been made. So much has been accomplished. So much to learn from this moment… and to apply to the other areas where resistance and courage in the name of peace and Life is needed. How prayer and nonviolent direct action and profound stepping in to support and stand up for one another and for the life of Mother Earth, how together we can create change and impact. And how the struggle is no where near over… we are just beginning in this long process of waking up from the deep slumber we as a collective peoples have been in… and we are so fortunate that there are Indigenous leaders showing us ways forward. Keep your eyes open… the leaders are alive now and showing the way. They are living amongst the people.

From Pat McCabe on Facebook:

I can’t help but notice… For the first time in the history of the planet that I am aware of, there was an international outcry, first, on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples, who are the keepers of the library of how to be here on this Mother Earth, and who need their place on earth with its accompanying water, food, mountains, animals, etc., in order to keep being who they are, and to keep making their relationship, with this critical knowledge. Second, the international outcry rose to meet the tactics of the extraction industry with truth, outrage, grief, protest, donations and finally, with prayer. For the first time in ?the history of the United States, a.k.a. Turtle Island, all of the indigenous peoples banded together bringing their deepest ceremonies, on behalf of their neighbors, and on behalf of Water, and on behalf of Life for ALL. Then, indigenous communities from around the world, also came to support this prayer. Then, peoples from all nations worldwide came to join this prayer. Then, as if that? weren’t enough, ?entities such as the entire city of Los Angeles, as an official entity, sent their official seal of support, not only on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, but in support of all of the activities that were opposing the petroleum pipeline, and for the protection of water, far outside of their immediate concern. Then, 500+ multi-faith clergy showed up, for the first time ever, at the request of an Indigenous, spiritual, and government leader, Chairman Archembault, to put themselves on the line, their physical being endangered on behalf of Indigenous Peoples rights, yes, but also on behalf of Water and Life, and yes, against the extraction industry, and corporate and government interests. AND, as if that were not history making enough, these clergy from all different faiths, were trained in non-violence action, made ready for other actions, conceivably. AND, THEN, they participated in a ceremony in which they BURNED THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY, renouncing it, as sacred law, renouncing it as “God’s will” and saying outright it was WRONG. (For those of you unclear on what this doctrine is, in a nutshell, it came from the Vatican, the Pope, in which it was decreed as a kind of divine law that any peoples on any part of the Earth that were “discovered” and who were not “of the one true faith” were humanus animalus I think was the term, meaning they were a form of animal, and therefore had no soul, and therefore could not possess, own, land and who could rightly, with divine blessing, be taken into perpetual servitude, aka, slavery. The Pope has been approached probably every year for the last 50 years by indigenous peoples worldwide, asking for the Vatican to rescind this doctrine, and acknowledge its error and falsehood. So, far, has not happened, although the current Pope did meet with Indigenous peoples this spring, and promised to continue the conversation. What may not be known, is that many governments worldwide, including the US government have based their relationships with indigenous peoples and their rights on this doctrine. But I digress…) After the 500+ clergy from the full-spectrum of faiths, turned their back on their institutional rhetoric on behalf of Indigenous peoples’ rights, Water, and Life, U.S. VETERANS showed up! They showed up, saying that they were sworn to protect and uphold the safety, the Constitution, and U.S. citizens, against enemies foreign and domestic. This means they were calling the petroleum Corporations as well as North Dakota law-enforcement, as well as a sleeping U.S. Government, “domestic enemies” that needed to be stopped. How freaking huge is that?!?! Under death threats, and deep scrutiny by their peers, in an unprecedented, shall I say again, historic act, they came to protect Indigenous peoples- what?!?!- as well as the thousands of “non-indigenous” peoples fighting this petroleum corporation that is all but government sanctioned. They could have stopped there and still they would have stunned the world, but no, they took it a HUGE step further, they surprised the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Sioux nations by getting down on one knee, and attempted to name all the harms committed by U.S. Armed forces on the original peoples of this part of the Earth, even including the destruction of their languages, the stealing of their children, and more. And… they asked for forgiveness… I don’t think there is another place on the Earth where this has happened. EVER. They also called upon the treaties to be acknowledged and upheld by the U.S. Military- as well as the U.S. Government. AND THEN… when law enforcement from eight states would not allow the Dakota people to attend to their ancestors’ disturbed burial sites, repelling the people in full-riot gear, with gallon-canisters of pepper spray and rubber bullets, one morning, hundreds of women made their way to the frontline, and this militia, parted, allowing the Women’s Nation to approach the water to pray. The sheriffs, police, military, national guard, hired guns, etc., FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED THE AUTHORITY OF THE LIFE-BRINGER LIFE-BEARER. And all of this doesn’t even address the fact that native youth in South Dakota and North Dakota had devastating suicide rates, the reasons systemic, and now they can know that their people and their ways were instrumental in showing the entire world that there is no such thing as “inevitable.” It was their people that woke a sleeping giant. No one will ever forget who the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota nations are ever again. This changes everything, for not only other Indigenous peoples, worldwide, but for humanity at large. For humanity at large because, what has taken place could not have been possible without all races stepping out of their comfort zone, creating an unprecedented interracial collaboration, and human solidarity that withstood gale force storms of every nature.
Once again it has been proven, and in our time, at this critical moment, that nonviolence is the way that creates, deep, lasting, widespread, inclusive, change on this Holy Mother Earth. In the lineage of Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., these events will also be noted. These events are the proof, and guidance, that we needed in order to understand how to move forward in the face of overwhelming odds of brute force and economic and political power. Oh, and it is definitely worthy of mention, that after the brutal attacks that took place on the front lines, 700 people, native and non-native (it is hard to explain how huge even this interracial unifying is in the part of the world known as North Dakota) walked from Mandan to the municipal legal complex, encircled it by joining hands, and let law enforcement know that they forgave them. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I witness very often.

So have a little patience friends, we’re moving as fast as we can… And quite honestly, from where I sit, it looks to be downright miraculously fast??

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The Power of a Single Prayer & People Banded Together

I cannot express how much gratitude I have for the indigenous leadership of this movement… at this moment in time. I am learning so much. I am humbled. Please listen to Lyla June Johnston. I pulled out some of her words from the video, but you should listen to the story directly from her. It’s theatrical and she’s speaking serious truth. <3

“The people banded together to create a historic wonderful model to the rest of the world about how a single prayer can change everything. The people decided together that they would choose to use their prayers as a way to heal their own waters, their own people, and the waters of even those who chose to oppress and beat them.

These leaders, indigenous peoples, have created a blueprint which the world can follow which says that we do not need to lift a weapon or arm to change the world. Further more, our deepest strength comes from praying for all our relations. We can actually create a massive change when we adhere to the principles of non-violence, forgiveness, and prayer.

This is a model to the rest of us. Our strength comes from stepping out into the darkness against all odds and saying, you know what, I’m gonna try anyways. No matter where we are, if we are motivated by prayer, kindness, and the audacity to try against all odds, that we might just create a world wide movement.
We must take a moment to celebrate.

We must take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have united things that have never been united. We have united the Federal government with indigenous peoples. We have united Christians with indigenous peoples. We have united war veterans with non-violent peacenics. We have united Muslims with Christians.

The world has come together to put their stake in the ground and say, “Yes. We love our planet. We love the water. And we believe in creating some sort of solution to the century’s long issue of the oppression of indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.” This my friends is a victory, the first step to many more victories that we will have in the coming years and decades.

We have made history today by creating a critical mass where even the most Right-winged news sources cannot ignore the power and the beauty of this movement.
We have proven the efficacy of:

  • the strategy of nonviolence
  • the strategy of compassion and unconditional love for our enemies
  • having hope in the middle of the dark night when nothing seems possible, and stepping out and giving it a shot anyway.

Please, let’s all give a prayer of gratitude.
Together we have created a beautiful demonstration of human unity.

Lyla June Johnston

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Veterans and Indigenous People: Healing & Forgiveness

Deep gratitude to all those involved in this. Please may we create many more opportunities for healing and forgiveness from the horrors of our past. Confession. Healing. Forgiveness. May we learn from our mistakes and never repeat them. May the power of our prayers and ceremonies continue to weave a new world.

“BEAUTIFUL MEDICINE AT STANDING ROCK! Where else in the world do you see this level of healing? DAPL doesn’t understand what they are trying to crush, which in a sense means they don’t understand themselves. This movement is trying to set past mistakes right to create spaces of healing. Healing historical trauma, restoring sustainability to Mother Earth, clergy denouncing the doctrine of discovery, THE PEOPLE TRYING TO forgive, heal, move forward together instead of being in denial. This movement is needed but DAPL only sees $. #NoDAPL” ~Prolific the Rapper

Beautiful photos.

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Prayer for This Moment

My heart and body is shaky. This familiar place of tension. Work needs to get done. And yet the bigger questions call to be stronger. My heart is fluttering. Curiosity pounding my brain to “want to figure it out.” What seems clear to me is that there are many White people in this country who do not have any (??) close friends or family who they have meaningful conversations with about what it feels like to be a person of color in this country right now. That folks are not hearing the personal stories of how Muslim, Lantinx, Black, LGBTQ children are being effected right now… the fear they are feeling. The stress of the children because they feel they have a president that hates them and their people and now their classmates feel empowered to hate and discriminate against them as well. Fear that their families aren’t safe. The stress of parents trying to hide their own emotions as they assure their children that they will be safe.

I imagine that folks who think this time is just about politics don’t have relationships where they hear first hand stories about being victims of hate speech or hate violence. I believe in the good of human nature and I believe that if folks genuinely understood how real the threat that many Americans are feeling right now was… if people really got that, then they would be willing to stand up against the rhetoric that is promoting this hate.

I believe in the goodness of people and my body aches for us as a collective to transform like I used to watch the Incredible Hulk as a child… may the pressure of injustice, hate and violence be so strong that our actual cells and chemistry transform. May we be emboldened with such courage and bravery that the fierceness of our love and devotion to that which is sacred and life-giving has a collective power like we have never seen before. May we have access to the fullness of our spiritual powers, our emotional strength, our physical strength, our intellectual wisdom, and the power of our connected relationships. May we be as graceful as possible amongst the chaos and complexity. May the suffering, trauma and pain that we feel find moments of respite in our breath so that it does not interfere with our actions, so that we may act in ways that are driven by love and dedication to freedom, justice and the sacredness of life. May we experience healing and forgiveness. May we be clear about the journey we are on, even with the path is uncertain. May we be humble to the fact that clarity does not equal knowing… that it is not through our knowing that we will find the way, but through our reverent listening, centeredness and attunement to the moment and what is calling for our attention. May we have the humility to recognize when to step back, when to follow the leadership of others, when to act differently than we have in the past. May we be awake to when we are being called to step forward and to do so with humble grace and fierce courage. May we be committed in our relationships, using the power of our connections to walk with others, support one another, and grant us all access to the collective wisdom that is so much grater than our individual thinking and doing. May our hearts be filled with love, love, love. May we remember to smile and laugh… often. Inviting each other into moments of joy… even as we stay close to the real suffering that is present. May we be spiritual warriors, learning from indigenous relatives about what this actually looks like, how we move with the sacred, being humble as we step in ways that we’ve never stepped before, re-membering the wisdom that we all have access to.

May it be so… Ashe.

Thank you for reading, listening, praying with me. 

Excerpt: “At a time when specific groups of students are being targeted, we must ensure that those students specifically know that their schools welcome them and that they will be safe. We urge all education stakeholders, including district leaders, heads of schools, principals, teachers, parents and guardians, and other educators to take action immediately within their school communities to support all students, especially those who face bias incidents in their schools. These actions should specifically affirm the right of all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion to be educated in an environment free from fear, violence, and intimidation.”
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Standing Rock Update

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 6.29.56 PMA good overview of this historical moment, the situation at Standing Rock, getting into the specifics about the use of the pipeline itself, finances behind it, and other details about the Army Corps of Engineers and timelines. I hadn’t heard the phrase “deep north” yet… to parallel the “deep south” and the racism that is congruent in both places.

Article: The Beginning is Near: The Deep North, Evictions & Pipeline Deadlines

Pretty good reporting from CNN.

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Writing What’s On My Heart… & Why

write

I am feeling called to write more. I don’t yet know the path and pattern that will help me carry though with this… but I have faith I will find a way that feels in alignment with all else calling to me. Your encouragement, suggestions of things you’d like to read from me, and gentle witnessing are welcomed. Accountability is probably a good thing too!! Below are some recent facebook posts that share core expressions of what’s up for me.

June 24, 2016

My desire~

  1. To bring down these harmful and oppressive systems and institutions that are violent, unjust, and destroying lives and cultures.
  2. To cultivate a world rooted in love, vibrating with healthy connections of care, respect, and shared responsibility for nourishing life, all life.
  3. To do the above in community, with family. Working, organizing, acting, praying, grieving, celebrating with people I love… being creative, witty, and wise as we find ways to do the above without using the master’s tools… to be spiritually guided by forces bigger than ourselves, helping each other to stay grounded and healthy, to stay joyful and loving, to take care of ourselves as we take care of each other, as we stay committed to change and freedom.

I believe we must be able to be with both— the intensity of the facts of what is happening on our globe right now and the ability to embody the world we want to live in. To the extent that we are able, we must sit with the discomfort and the angst, the rage and grief, of the news, verdicts, and faces of state-sanctioned and hate-fueled violence and the impacts of systems built upon an order of superiority, oppression, discrimination, and abuse of power. And we must experience and celebrate love, joy, connection and well-being. We must bathe in nature and loving relationships and the pleasures of beauty, art, touch, dance, laughter and celebration. This is all a learning curve for me… I am speaking to myself just as much as I am sharing with anyone who is still reading. I want to join in this challenge with all of you. I believe in your good hearts and I believe that as a collective we could actually make a difference.

From Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Let’s be about this work today. What will you do to get us closer to freedom, good people? ?#?letsdothis?
If you aren’t aware, a lot has happened this week.

July 4, 2016

Such a mixture of realities in my heart today… and lately. I haven’t had the words to shape into posts in response to all that is happening, all that I am feeling and experiencing. My relationship with social media causes me to feel a sense of responsibility to write when I am feeling intense feelings or am aware of significant events happening. As a big ‘feeler’ in the world, I am often called to share my experience… perhaps it will be an invitation for others to see a different perspective or tune into current events. Perhaps if I share how I am coping or not, strategies I am using or needing, it will be valuable for others who experience so much intensity in life. Sharing is also healing for me as it helps me not feel isolated in the intensity I experience. Lately, however, the feeling side has over-powered the public writing side as I sit with one mass tragedy or trauma or circumstance that baffles or invokes tremendous grief in me, one after another, while also attempting to live balance in my life and with those I love.

So without much commentary, here is what I am seeing on my facebook stream and in the news right now that impacts me. First hand accounts about what this holiday, the 4th of July, feels like for a slave, some Black people, some Native Americans. Warnings about how the fireworks impact people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, those who have lived amongst gun fire and explosions and are triggered by the sounds. Pictures of fireworks, family picnics, fun times on the water. Insight about today’s new moon. Continued grieving for these mass killings happening every other day it feels like… in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Syria. Hundreds of innocent people dying. Teachers protesting and being targeted for their protests in Mexico. Indigenous peoples of the global South organizing for the protection of the Earth, their people, and their cultures. Queer, LGBTQ+ People of Color making their voices heard about the inequities they face from all directions, the violence and lack of protection and security. Black folks standing up for their people, their right to live the promoted values of this country. And here locally, the grieving, anger and organizing for the young man killed by a police officer in Asheville 2 days ago and another young man killed on Sunday.

{…. taking a deep breath….}

May as many of us as possible truly ACT in ways that bring about Freedom and Liberation for all.

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The Old Trans-forming into the New

I write this post as a prayer… an invocation… one deep breath after another… allowing the prayer to fill my cells, creating spaciousness and love within me.

I stand at the edge of my own personal universe.

The rhythms and contours of being a human – the unique constellation of being me, Ashley Cooper, coursing through my cells.

Solid… I feel my feet on the ground -
my commitment to be here and be my path.

Shaky… I feel eruptions of unknown, doubt and fear - a chained fence guising as my companion, a crutch I lean upon.

Vulnerable… I feel raw and revealed -
standing at the edge of faith and uncertainty.

Inspired… I feel called by a mission that brings me to tears and fills my soul with inspiration and motivation

It’s time to JUMP


This is the dance of transformation. I am not yet this new version that I feel emerging through me and I am no longer the old conditioned puppet of habits and historical contortions. I am both of these still.

Glimpses of bold action guided by empowered thoughts and reverent listening. Feeling a centered, radiant soul: breathing the fire of her battle cry, powered by divine life force, vital energy of love, friendship, joy and togetherness. Breathing deep in sacred unity and feeling moved by our collective wisdom. Out of the way. In service. Listening. Guided. Surrendering. Trusting, trusting, trusting.

And the little voice says: “I’m there. I did it. Hard work pays off. I’m here. I’m home.”

Just as quickly as she speaks, the earth shakes, territory unknown. Looking around, I find my butt thumped on the ground, bruised from the fall and feeling afraid, doubting. Trust slid out beneath me. Old thoughts of not good enough, confusion, fear, loneliness take over. I’m here. Again. I’m familiar with this place.

This is the dance of TRANSFORMATION

Being conscious of this process, I don’t experience it as a magical step into a new world. I’m not suddenly taking flight as a new butterfly. It’s a gradual growth. Feeling new life emerge as me while old habits weaken. Awakening to new ways of being.

52482Tomasz Alen Kopera tearsTears pouring forth as I grieve and mourn. There is sadness in my body. There is wounding that needs to heal. There is a little girl who wants to be seen, heard and loved. There is love that has been trapped. Healing is necessary and essential. Facing these realities are scary, humiliating, illuminating and ultimately freeing.

AC b&w

And… I’m opening, returning to the beauty of myself, embracing the light and the shadows, loving my own face, owning the radiance of love that I am. 

I am walking the edge between these worlds, feeling my cells reconfigure as new form sprouts within me, around me and as me. I am stepping beyond the walls of me and growing as the Soul I’m here to be.

 

Thank you for witnessing me on this journey. With love and gratitude…

Photo credits – Click on the images to go to their original source. Transformation and tears art is by Tomasz Alen Kopera photo of me is by Erica Mueller

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