Last night I attended the vigil for Selena Not Afraid, led by Tara Walker Lyons, an abuse survivor, community leader, and TED speaker.
As one who has served as a pharmacist, EMT, and assistant coroner for the Navajo, Makah, Nakoda & A'aninin over a 12 year span through the U.S. Public Health Service, the plight of our First Peoples is close to my heart.
Sixteen year-old Selena was found dead after she apparently succumbed to exposure in Billings, Montana. Tara's leadership of the vigil was truly moving. She made it a point to individually smudge every attendee with sweetgrass, and for at least a moment, we were all one tribe.
Just last Friday, Tara wrote this on her Facebook page:
Trauma has been scientifically proven to travel through our genes. I just want to state that fact, right off the bat.
Today marks 150 years since the U.S. Government brutally massacred a sleeping encampment of innocent Blackfeet women, children, and elderly who were largely suffering from smallpox. The men of the band were away hunting, unaware of what was about to happen to their loved ones. The innocent Blackfeet camp was asleep in the early morning along the Bear River near Shelby, Montana. Their leader, HeavyRunner, realizing that soldiers were surrounding his sleepy encampment, started running towards the soldiers waving papers he had been given from from the Tribal Agent stating that they were an innocent, compliant group and they weren’t to be harmed. As he waved his arms above his head, pleading for their attention, the first shots rang out. He was the first innocent Indigenous life of OVER 200 to be stolen that morning. The soldiers, many of them hungover and drunk, began shooting into the camp as the sun rose.
Over 50 of their victims were Blackfeet children under the age of 12.
Many of them were suffering severe smallpox infections, dying. The soldiers set flame to the occupied teepees as the innocent elderly and sick suffocated and burned alive inside. Women ran away with children in their arms only to be shot in the snow and killed. The attack continued as the soldiers started to burn what meager supplies the encampment had to survive the rest of the winter. When the attack was finished, the soldiers took a large group of survivors as captives until they realized that many of them were sick with contagious smallpox. They were then left to die in the frigid cold with no supplies.
The band’s men, who were away hunting, would return to a scene of absolute horror as their loved ones: parents, wives, children, lie dead. Murdered by the UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
Lieutenant Gus Doane, commander of F Company, described the massacre as “the greatest slaughter of Indians ever made by U.S. troops.”
Right here in Montana.
Trauma travels in our genes. It’s a fact. If you know a Blackfeet, be patient with them today. Today is a day of severe hurt and pain for an entire nation of indigenous people. Historical trauma.
If you want to be an ally to indigenous causes, like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Movement, please take some time to learn about the Baker Massacre, aka the Bear River Massacre. In order to understand the crisis, we need to understand historical trauma.
Unlike our current president, Tara made this event all about others - the Missing Indigenous. But even though she kept the focus on others, her courage and poise was clear for all to see. She didn't mention it, but on Friday she spoke to 11 inmates convicted of sexual assault. Makes me think 1) we have a lot of catching up to the example Tara sets, and 2) we're awfully fortunate to have Tara in the Valley.
Bitterroot Climate Action Group formed this past summer and we have been working hard on public education about the impacts of climate change and what we, as a small Montana community can do to mitigate and/or adapt to its effects. We decided that our actions should be twofold- to be beneficial both for climate change and for our community. These are all member-driven, with the members choosing what actions to take and how to implement them.So far, the biggest “actions” have been to present knowledgeable speakers, such as one of the authors of the Montana Climate Assessment and the director/ head professor of the U of M Climate Studies Program.
The group that I am most involved in is food waste. Food waste is responsible for at least 2.6% of all US greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the most critical actions we can do regarding land use, diet and the food system. It is also one of the most do-able actions. The BCAG food salvaging, redistributing and composting action group is working to salvage food which might otherwise be wasted (40% of the average American family's food is thrown away) and getting it to hungry people. If it is not successfully fed to people, then it could fed to animals or composted. Because solving the problem at the source is always the best choice, we also plan an educational program for in-the-home food waste which totals 43% of all of that wasted food.
Since I was in Chicago on biz the week of December 2, thought I would stay over for the Climate Protest rally hosted by Protest Chicago at Millenium Park. The youth that organized this rally were amazing. And when I say "youth", I'm not kidding. One of the most composed and articulate speakers was an eighth grader (!)
Everything about this protest was spot-on. It was inclusive (time out was taken to honor and hear the indigenous peoples who lands have been stolen and desecrated), well-organized, and effective. Bystanders who couldn't join because of work obligations applauded and cheered. A candidate spoke who swore to take not a dime from fossil fuel companies, and did what I thought was a great job explaining why every vote was needed - she spoke to what 15, 16, and 17 year olds could do right now to effect change. It was a privilege to take part in this.
Greta Thunberg truly deserves the Time Magazine Person of the Year for her contagious, get-involved influence.