Prayer. It may not be what you think it is. In this case, it’s a walk, and a way of honoring life. October 15th, 2022 was the second annual Brooklyn Bridge Prayer Walk to Honor Indigenous Peoples and Land, to Honor the Missing, Murdered and Stolen Indigenous Women, Youth and Children. I arrived late to the ceremony. In spirit time, right on time. I pulled my car up to the park under the bridge and dropped off the puppy, kids and husband before going to park the car. That’s what kind of event this is. It’s for everyone. To honor those who have come before and pass the torch to those who come after we are gone, who will walk in our footsteps, kissing the earth. Kissing the earth. This is what our prayer is about for the future.
My children stood in the ceremonial circle listening, absorbing. Actively at first. By the time I arrive after parking, they are sitting on the earth and leaning against trees at the edge of the circle, drawing, being a passive presence with nature, grounding themselves and the voices and songs of intention and prayer that flow out into the world from within the center of the circle.
In the way of synchronicity, I have forgotten my posters and so my hands are free when my friend asks me to carry a poster of Maria Taant, a Protectress of the Amazon who was killed by a car over a year ago after being recognized for her voice and her work to save indigenous land from corporate interests. Her death has still not been investigated. My eldest daughter drums beside me as we begin our walk across the bridge. We all work together peacefully, symbiotically. My husband minds the puppy, an old friend cares for my younger daughter. Nations carry their flags and banners, drumming while plant spirits bless a clearing way for our walk. Friends unite embracing with joy, sharing a profound mission, all of us together in community.
This polarity of life and death exists in a kind of reverential presence as we pray.
We are so full of grief, it is overwhelming what brought us to this point in time. But we are not powerless. The belief that we are powerless under the oppressive dominating culture would have us continue to believe this and profit from the sweat of our backs as many ancestors before us were enforced to endure. Now we walk to remember we are sovereign. Every one. We walk to listen to indigenous voices who remember and illuminate the way for us to see.
We hear the call to action. To let the indigenous lead. To listen to the wisdom of women to guide us in a loving way in relationship with the earth and all her children.
The grandmothers and grandfathers, and children, the innocence of new life. Plants and their spirits, too, with all the wisdom and medicine they share to mend and heal our broken bones and grieving hearts. Heal. Not just mask the symptom of. This walk is about healing, it is about an evolution – the call to action to evolve and rise from the ashes. It was not the plan, but the outcome has been an instilling of new hope, the medicine of collaboration.
The vision coming together, the fulfillment of prophecy. Indigenous nations uniting and being heard by many from around the world who live here on sacred land as we walk across this bridge and pray with the sacred waters flowing beneath our feet.
All life is sacred.
If you do not believe it. If you roll your eyes and shake your head as if you know better. If you feel embarrassed when someone speaks of all that is sacred and holy. If you don’t feel connected to that spirit that animates your very life. Then you are turning your back against a rising current of truth and remembering. You are turning your eyes away from thousands and thousands of years, across millions of miles, of communities who dwell in spirit, embracing the divine and the undercurrents of subtle energy that flow through the multidimensional universe. You perpetuate the harm that comes from separating yourself from the root of our existence, our nature. And that separation has rent a tear in the fabric of our humanity to such a degree as to inflict genocide of people, animals, plants and the rape of the earth herself, an attempt to annihilate the life of this sublime planet.
The prayers run this deep. But our walk is a simple one. That is the way of prayer and spirit. A meditation, a breath, a word can change the world. One life at a time. This walk changed my life in so many ways, even in just the week that has come before and followed. The connections I’ve made, both in person and in spirit, have had reverberating impacts which shift the trajectory of my life, the focus of my consciousness and the action that follows. The visuals, the visceral energy that permeates my being as a witness and participant. Seeing my children and husband work together to make the day flow with ease for each of us including our sleepy puppy. Being asked to hold up that sign of the indigenous woman whose death was erased. Later seeing a photo of my daughter walking beside me holding the same sign as I drum. The power of that moment, and other daughters in our walk who carry the mantle of purpose and prayer, honoring the ancestors and fighting for the rights of the voiceless, is the butterfly effect of our prayer.
Especially for the indigenous here on Turtle Island and around the world who have been so wronged, violently dismissed because of the culture of turning our heads away from our nature, from spirit. All those who have experienced loss because of those who fear the infinite depth of existence, who in their fear, ignorance and the wounded brutality of generations raised in such disharmony, lash out at the innocent world conquering and attempting to destroy the wild wisdom that lives within. This has been going on so long, history would like us to believe there is no other way.
Now we are listening to the stories that were not broadcast to the public. We walk in honor and remembrance of Nesbah and Hoskie, children of Wayne Bitahnii Wilson and his companion Jo’Ann Whiting who accepts the children as her own, children whose lives were lost as a direct result of the generational traumas that communities like theirs have had little resource and support to overcome. Until now. As prophesied, peoples have been coming together with a dawning awareness and understanding that what has come before is not sustainable. Is wrong. The resources and support that was woven into the fabric of indigenous communities across the globe who lived in symbiotic relationship with the earth, and from which the colonizing cultures as a whole learned little, only taking what they could profit from, giving nothing back. Worse, taking everything away and destroying not only their lives, but the ability of generations that followed to live as sovereign beings on sacred ancestral earth.
In many cases around the world, the dominating culture of capitalism has stepped into these communities with the false promise of improving lives in order for corporations to reap the land of its resources and destroy the ability to sustain the native life. This is old news that has been written about, at first by very courageous risk takers who put their lives at stake to share the truth about the corporate greed of powerful governments, and then by many many others in various cultures and walks of life who make it their purpose to address root causes of the destructive imbalance the world is faced with now. A lot of the information written and much of the news we hear leave us feeling little hope or power to effect change.
Representatives from many Nations of Turtle Island and beyond gathered to acknowledge and pray over the trauma that has occurred over many generations and which still continues to this day. Ni una mas! It’s time to address these truths, to bring them to light, for more people to see what’s been going on. The indigenous were never wiped out. They were erased and abused and brutalized and abandoned. Right here in one of the richest countries in the world, many whose ancestors could thrive living in community with nature and trading with others, have been living in prisons of poverty without even running water. These traumas, of children stolen to beat “the savage out of the human” destroyed the spirit, and that wound carried down through the genetic codes of survival and terror and grief. We as a whole now understand the insidious nature of trauma. Just as we learn from our ancestors in our bones, where to find the sustenance that allows us to thrive, so too do we learn in our bones the trauma of survival. The depth of this hurt of these wrongs of stolen people and land has to be acknowledged. This is the first step in healing from trauma, as a therapist I know this to be true first hand. As a trauma survivor, I can tell you how impactful that first step of acknowledgement is.
As a country, what would it be like to feel the healing impact of acknowledging and making reparations, and giving land back to the indigenous nations we have wronged? It feels good to heal. It feels good to facilitate that acknowledgement and witness the healing. What kind of world might we build together after we all learn to walk and pray together? When faced with “impossible” complex obstacles our first right next step is an intentional walk of prayerful collaborative relationship.
What is new is the rising tide of this feeling I witness when groups come together because action is being taken. For decades it’s been happening (on a macro scale this revolutionary resistance has always been fought against oppressive colonization), and now more and more are coming together in grassroots communities, organizing, visualizing the future that is needed, longed for, and possible when we walk together and pray. Collaborating, listening, thinking outside the box, revisiting laws and understandings of economies and sharing resources. Responsible action and focused intention, working hand-in-hand across a bridge into a world we want to live in together.
Dhyāna Kluth is a staff writer for Antinanco publications and programs. She has a private therapy practice as a psychospiritual counselor and is an international best-selling author. She works and writes to catalyze the sovereign intuitive spirit that is innately able to envision and manifest creation, to facilitate the healing of trauma and to nurture the joy of life on earth. Read more about Dhyāna's work Here.
Photo Credit: Adrian Childress