Anyone who has followed me in my writings knows I am a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). For the record, I am also half Navajo. I like for my writings to reflect my culture, and I love to share with readers, the things I still remember from the times the ancestors. For this article, I want to focus on the upcoming tribal elections. But first, allow me to reflect on times long ago, when my ancestors understood how connected they were to nature.
For most of us, spring is one of four seasons. These all bring with them, changes. My ancestors used the seasons as times to plant and harvest, but also as a time to forgive. The well-being of the communities was top priority. Individualistic needs were second. Our women were sacred. Their wisdom was held in high regard in politics, in battle, and as keepers of the social systems dictated by the seven clans. Leaders made critical decisions that impacted their people on the basis of sustainability and conservation. “We all live downhill and downwind of someone,” is a quote from one of our elders that stays with me.
I reflect on all this as I watch how hectic life has become throughout our communities. How did the pace accelerate so quickly? I took a quick poll of my Cherokee sisters on what issues they are most worried about. Among them are: substance abuse, violence, public pollution, abandonment & the neglect of animals and children. Probably, we are all worried about the same things. I ask myself, “if we Cherokees were so balanced in nature before, why do we have these things?
Press, “reverse,” to the 19th and 20th centuries. Our ancestors endured many things. Most devastating (in my opinion) were the Boarding Schools, and a forced re-formation of gender roles. As a result, we have been re-conditioned to self-protect and self-medicate outside of nature and each other’s love. We have become mostly deaf to the call of the seasons, and blinded to our role in the sustainability of life.
By September, 2019, we will have elected, or re-elect our major leaders, which are, Principal Chief, Vice Chief, and 12 Tribal Council members. This is when the harms from our past often come out in powerful ways. Spring’s voice will have given way to the heat of summer.
My prayer is that, as we learn what we’ve lost as a people, that we will re-embrace the promises of spring, and our responsibilities to the other seasons. We will move into this election season with kindness and respect. The sun will still rise and set if you are not elected or re-elected.
I’m pretty confident about that.
By Juanita Wilson, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI)