Monday, January 5, 2009

WW/ On Leaders

I read the headline for Raw Story -- from Cheney: "Bush Actions Legal if Not Impreached." Such a slimey, sleazy way to look at legality. What kind of people has this country been stuck with for eight years. What does this say about America.

Deep breath.

My leader is Caleen Sisk Franco. Today, she is juggling her responsibilities as Chief, and each responsibility has nothing to do with walking a fine line of legality, slipping and sliding along trying to get away with bad decisions that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and put his country into harms way economically, especially the elders and the children. She is taking care of the sacred lands, praying for her people, assisted by her husband, Mark, Head Man, making statements and decisions in the political arena (advocating for her people and the land in front of the kind of people who share Cheney's world view), and setting the tone and organization for burying a precious warrior who died January 2, early in the morning. Her people are extremely busy today. And Will and I will miss being there. It's too soon to ask my sister back to take care of mom to go to participate in the wake and funeral right now. Her people are busy. Some are making the nourishing feast to take care of the guests and travelers. One has made the casket to take care of our loved one. The young warriors are digging into the hard clay at the cemetery. There is so much to be done to take care of Life.

Our Winnemem elder, Emerson Miles, told me decades ago when asked what was the Human Being's job in this life: "The Human Being is supposed to take care of Life." As simple as that, to Take Care of Life.

My heart has been heavy. Will built the Sacred Fire January 1, very soon after we were called that our Brother was in ICU, life support. We had been Back East and learned very late. We heard about his passing later the next day. And on the fourth day, before 5 in the morning, I was awakened and compelled to check on the Fire. Much to my surprise its flames were dancing ready for prayer. It should have been asleep. So I did go out and prayed for my Brother, for his safe trip Home, for his wife, children, family and tribe. And there at the Fire, I felt answered, that he will always be there at Ceremony, at the Big Fire at the ranch, anytime our ancestor spirit came to be with us, he would be there with her. He was so excited he couldn't wait to fulfill that responsibility. That helps me today to settle my heart.

The Winnemem are a very tenacious tribe. They've got their priorities in order. Our leaders measure wealth quite differently than acquisition, influence and the amount of destructive power. They measure it by the load of responsibility they carry for the Earth, for the beautiful Sacred Places for whom they are still responsible to keep from destruction or dormancy, for the many ceremonies. To advocate, to stand beside, to TAKE CARE OF. That is what leadership is about. Our Chief will take care of the sick, the homeless, the troubled even if her plate is full, even if her back hurts, even if she is worn out. Even if she is busy, she will take time to mentor the next generation of leaders. Our Chief will take care of the people's grief even if she is grieving herself.

Acquiring, influencing, threatening, warring, playing politics, all of that anyone can do. Anyone can horde. Anyone can lie, and cover up deception. Anyone can blame others for one's mistakes. Anyone can make excuses. Anyone can bend the truth to slip and slide and get away from temporary consequences. Any naughty, immature bully can do that. Would you give fire power to a bully? (What's happening in Gaza, for example. Who is being pushed into the sea?) But only leaders born and trained and accepting the burden to lead will TAKE CARE OF LIFE.

When I share with people that the Winnemem leadership is not "a democracy" of popular vote and terms, but one of lineage, there is a pause. Is it a "free state?" Only when leaders personally profit from the status of leadership, I suppose, voting and term limitations are important. But for nations where the leaders must carry the heavy burden of taking care of their people and their lands and responsibility to the lands, and must also advocate in the arena of "weird politics," where leaders must sacrifice personal enjoyment and rest to heal the sick and take care of the weary, raise all the children, in such a case, the only one who will step up is the one designated by Spirit to lead, and they must carry that burden for their Life until the next one is ready. While I think about this, I also think of the Native man who married into this responsibility and took on the full load as Mark Franco does when he married Caleen knowing that she would be Chief one day. Tribal leadership is about sacrifice, deep commitment, more courage than one knows is possible, and the faith to step off the edge that one's path of life will still be right under one's feet. Did this young man know when he married what he was about to take on? Despite the answer, it is clear that Mark Franco took it on willingly and at great sacrifice.

I was close to Granny, who was leader before Caleen. She was in her 90's when she was sharing with me she wanted to live the rest of her life for herself. From the age of 8, she had to be there for her people and for the lands. But she was not able to let go of the burden, despite Caleen's willingness to lead until her body simply would not let her get up and stay up to do the work. I am blessed to have seen such leadership. And today, Cheney's pathetic, disgusting view of legality as Vice President of the land is so distant from my reality, I can just push it away and focus on Caleen -- how from this distance can I help my Chief and her husband, Head Man, to send this good Warrior onto the flowery path, and begin to get things together for Will and me to go down there in a couple of weekends to be with my people and Leaders.

To our Good Winnemem Warrior and Brother, thank you for standing with your people for your whole life at Kerekmet Village and for standing now along the Ancestor Spirits. Taking Care of Life does not end with the body's death if Leaders and Warriors choose.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.