Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Message from "Elder Brother"

My time spent in the Tayrona territory was to fulfill the request of the Wiwa leader, Ramon Gil to record the Wiwa language and culture that he fears to be in danger of extinction. Wiwa is one of 60,000 Indigenous languages and cultures in grave danger of extinction worldwide.  

He has a message for "younger brother" (as they refer to Westerners). Western culture has caused the Indigenous world great loss, suffering—extinction.  This message addresses one of the most crucial issues of our time—the War on Drugs. 

A strong political will is finally being created by a broad spectrum of organizations who are defending the rights of our citizens and law enforcement—who are standing for an end to the ruthless drug cartels responsible for untold suffering worldwide—who are defending the incarcerated—our personal freedoms—Mother Earth.

Your support and alignment with the organizations listed at the end of this video may create the tipping point for this important policy change to end this very costly, and seemingly endless war that serves only to spread the disease of violence and subsidize the US prison and military industrial contractors.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Liberated Western Female Meets Primitive Traditional Culture...

As my higher mind sifts through the jagged stones of the experience of life in the territory of Tayrona cultures, the memories of the realities are dissolving into an appreciation of the value in the lessons learned—the ripening of my spirit and a greater ability and courage to meet the unknown.  A recurring thought was, “It could be worse. I could be sitting at home watching television.” If it hadn’t been for the insects and invisible microorganisms that were thriving opportunistically on my body that lacked the appropriate anti-bodies—conversely that my microorganisms posed a similar threat to the people, especially children, I might have stayed there with them longer to learn more about their art of living harmoniously in very tight community. 

They culturally hold a deep, abiding hatred and enmity against Westerners.  The children liked me, and so did the women who came to know me, but it was difficult for me to digest the odious looks I received from so many who had never met me, especially the young women and children.  My brain was freezing on overload trying to communicate, remember everyone’s name, understand their Spanish and learn their language—and figure out how I would survive amongst peoples who harbored a palatable mistrust of those from the culture that for 500 years has been a threat to their very existence.  It was not easy to gain their acceptance.

Western culture is only barely beginning to recognize why humans are now flailing for survival.  It is due to our intoxication with consumerism, our sense of entitlement—our right of conquest over everything. This failure of conscience has left in its wake a poisoned world.  The Tayrona high priests, called Mamas, are really angry because even though they have told us about this, we still haven’t changed or even modified our ways.  Their territory is still being colonized driving them to near extinction, and even worse in the minds of the Mamas, their people are adapting the bad practices of the enemy, thus not holding to their promise to live in perfect harmony with nature, however ascetic and abstinent that way of life must be.

My story there began a few years ago.  Ramon Gil, the leader of one of the surviving Tayrona cultures, invited me there to help preserve the Wiwa language and culture through photography and video recordings of his stories. For good reason he feared the Wiwa were going the way of another Tayrona culture whose language and culture is now extinct.  Desiring to honor this invitation, I embarked on a 3-year journey—learning about the crisis of language and cultural extinction worldwide, and naively taking my best shot at believing that if I studied hard, my old brain could learn Spanish in three months.  I gave up my house and the majority of my worldly goods, acquired the necessary media tools to sally forth to meet this task, bought a ticket to Colombia, and made a blind leap into the abyss.

The men of Tayrona cultures call themselves the “elder brother,” and we of Western culture are not so endearingly referred to as the “younger brother.” They believe their homeland, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the first isolated mountain of the Andes, to be the Heart of the World, and they live according to their sacred duty to maintain equilibrium there. The “Mamas” the high priests of this culture have been warning us to listen to “elder brother’s” admonitions for decades now.

The salient characteristic of the three surviving Tayrona cultures is “elder brother’s” mastication of the coca leaf quickened by calcium derived from roasted ground up seashells that they carry inside a phallic looking gourd known as a “poporro”. The men suck on a long stick moistening it with the juice of masticated coca and then insert it into a small hole at the top of the gourd.  The stick represents the male. The gourd represents the female.  They really enjoyed pointing this out this simile to me—over and over.  They draw out the powdered calcium from the gourd and suck the stick.  It catalyzes the coca juice in some way.  With the greenish saliva on the stick, they paint around the neck of the gourd and calcium slowly builds up around the neck.  A symbol of status and wisdom is to have a poporo with a huge heavy calcium build up on it.  This activity keeps the men’s hands occupied and constantly moving.  The women keep their hands occupied with making “mochillas”, bags of wool or plant fiber, and of course, harvesting and making food, washing clothes, caring for children, etc.

Eva Morales, the current president of Bolivia, who previously was a coca farmer, claims that the coca plant holds the highest known vitamin content of the entire plant kingdom.  This wonder food is commonly used in Indigenous culture throughout South America.  In Tayrona cultures, only the men are allowed this benefit of the coca plant—not the women.  In the Wiwa culture, when the boy reaches puberty at thirteen years old, they receive the poporo and at that time they must take a wife.  So the Wiwa women have to marry at this young age and begin producing children.  In their lifetimes they have between 5 and 13 children fulfilling their responsibility to growing the Wiwa population that in the 80’s had shrunken to 1600 and now is over 6,000.  (Ramon Gil has fathered 25 children from two different wives.)

From my Western woman’s perspective, the use of the poporro and this unique way of consuming coca is a practice that separates the consciousness of the genders.  But to its credit, the men are very peaceable with each other. It also seems that it is very young for the woman to start giving birth.  The women are very tiny people, around 4 feet tall.  At 5’6’’, I towered over them.  On their diet of roots and plantain varieties, fruits in season, occasional chicken or pig, some goat or cow meat, it didn’t seem right that the men got to have the highest vitamin content plant, and the women who needed it most for making babies, did not. 

Coca leaves make an invigorating tea that is consumed freely in many South American cultures. After chewing a big wad of the leaves, I didn’t really feel much.  (I never chewed leaves in Tayrona territory.)  It seemed slightly invigorating—a kind of a mild heart opening experience. As a young woman I experimented briefly with cocaine.  I thought we had discovered the key to sublime intelligence, only to realize very quickly that it was a poison.  When I refrained from using it, the conversation of those using it in my presence sounded amazingly stupid. I concluded that this noxious powdered substance was an ego food.  I couldn’t help wondering whether the effect on consciousness of coca used with the poporro had a similar effect as cocaine, something surely I will never know.  The insidious transformation of this sacred plant into cocaine is the root of unfathomable suffering not only in Colombia, but the whole of the Americas.  Simple legalization of this leaf would solve untold problems of war, violence, drug addiction and poverty.  It was heartbreaking to witness the effects of crack/cocaine on the filthy homeless street children on the streets of Santa Marta.

After my experience with the Arhuacos, who in my estimation are male chauvinists (the previous blog entry), I was glad to arrive in the Wiwa culture where the men do honor their wives.  Almost every woman I spoke with was happy with her husband and what he provided for her.  Their relationships seem to last.  It was wonderful to witness the families together.  They live in a very tight community, sometimes with three families living in one tiny mud hut.  Never did I hear a harsh word.  And the children over the age of two never cried or complained.  I adore those precious children.  They called me abuela, (grandmother) or abuela amiga (grandmother friend).  Oddly, I saw no other white haired people, although I was told that there are those who live that long.

The most fun was after dark when the women and children would dance together with a drummer who had learned a curious hand drum technique and the songs from her mother. The songs and dances, passed on from the beginning of their culture, were said to represent life emerging from the sea through all the plant and animal forms until the human arrived.  The dance step was simple and repetitive with occasional variations.  We danced in a circle for hours.  They expected that I would be unable to keep up with them and were surprised when I easily had the energy to continue.  I followed very closely the leaders hoping that the dance was the women’s way of achieving some kind of visionary experience.  The light from flashlights and candles created an eerie shadowy light that made us appear like floating ghosts, me the ghostly giant. 

Occasionally men showed up to play a flute.  The children would form another dancing circle while the woman with her drum did her thing creating a weird cacophonous mix of sounds.  Another dance music (that they had only on a tape cassette) was a kind of boingy sounding mouth instrument.  All those boingy songs sounded the same to me, but to them the songs were very distinct. At the end of each session, I thanked the women and kissed them all on the cheek.  They liked that I wore only white like them, and seemed to like my kisses too.

I failed to accomplish my mission in any way that I had imagined ostensibly because all Ramon’s time was consumed in an ongoing disagreement with the Kogi and the Arhuaco leaders.  Meetings were held all over, many in the city of Santa Marta at the Casa Indigena—at a center that had been built through the funding of an organization that Ramon had founded. Several structures had been built—offices, and sleeping places for the people when they came to the city.  A Kogi named Santos had overtaken the leadership of this organization.  He and Ramon were at complete odds.  It was an amazing sight to see the men from the three cultures, all working their poporos, gathered there to bicker about where all the aid money had gone, the problem of tourism, and other points of contention. I didn’t understand what was going on, but it meant that Ramon had no time to devote to the project he had invited me to do. 

It turned into a waiting game.  Many who work with these Indigenous communities in Colombia told me that every thing takes a really long time to accomplish.  At the end of six months, after much effort to obtain a visa to stay in Colombia, (for which I had to leave the country to acquire), I decided my time was more precious than the patience I would need acquire to complete the work.  I had come at their request to bring them a gift, but the gift wasn’t being received.  I refrained from shooting video in the village without the presence, sanction and approval of Ramon, as people were not open to being filmed. So I bided my time, often asking for a meeting with Ramon to determine whether I should stay or go.  Once during some night dances I was invited to take out the camera.  It was during the rainy season, and my camera didn’t function due to the humidity.  So I left and waited for the rains to stop, during which time I left the country to go to Costa Rica where I obtained the longer Colombian visa.  I travelled to Nicaragua, where I encountered a culture much more in tune with my idea of a Heart of the World—beautiful, warm, open hearted people, who in the places I visited, were really living a culture of peace.  It was difficult for me to return to Colombia after that.

 When I returned and had been staying in the village for several weeks, Ramon finally arrived. His compound is much closer to the road.  He explained that he was so occupied with internal problems that he didn’t have time to even spend with his wife and own family, much less this project.  He invited me to come to a big gathering at another village, a six-hour hike above the main Wiwa village.  So I went.  By that time, I had been so bitten with ticks, so wary of becoming ill again bathing in the bacteria infested river, so tired of the creepy huge spiders and other insects around my bed, so annoyed with the thievery of the people, so bored with the odious looks from strangers, so hungry for other forms of food, and was obsessed with the desire to immerse my itching body in the healing salt of the sea.  The experience of living in the really traditional village, a 10-hour hike from the closest highway, may have only just begun, but I was no longer in the mood to meet it. 

I stayed up in that remote village longer than I wanted, and felt welcome and accepted by the new women I met. Because Ramon had sanctioned the use of my camera, I was able to shoot some wonderful footage of the people and way of life. The village life embraced by and in harmony with the natural world is beautiful.  I danced all night with the women and children.  Their way of life, the simplicity, how they live in peace and in balance with nature, the way they create community and care for the children, the skill of the mothers and sweetness of the children, all won my heart.  I felt a genuine regret from them when I said goodbye—the people asking when I would come back.  Interestingly, while he was there Ramon never gave me another audience or protection ceremony.  I asked him if he had message for “younger brother” for me to record on video, and he asked people to come talk with them.  I guess he was only speaking to men??? 

I flew out of there on the wings of desire to immerse myself in the Caribbean Sea, practicing my Tibetan Buddhist mantra the whole hike, (as I always do when I hike). The men were amazed at how fast I covered territory with no fatigue.  I chuckled to myself that my mantra gave me more energy than their coca.  These two legs that propel us are a simple gift of nature for strength, vitality and health.  So many of the sicknesses we are seeing in vegetative Western culture could be cured by the simple act of walking.

Living in those mountains was like being on a meditation retreat.  Each year I strive to gift myself time away from everyday life in solitude to practice some form of meditation, to purify mind, body and spirit.  (One retreat I learned the long Tibetan mantra that I always practice when I walk.) Each morning the first crow of the cock would awaken me and I climbed up a white sandy path in the darkness to a high point above the village to practice Tai Chi. From this vantage point I blissfully greeted the exquisite beauty of the new day—the spectrum of colors in the sky—the first rays of the sun first illuminating the distant snowy peaks, the graceful liberation of the verdant green valley below me from darkness, the calls of the birds and monkeys greeting the light.  On the morning when the rising sun met the setting full moon, my ecstasy was rapturous, the connection with and confirmation of my spiritual path profound.  This mystical, numinous experience alone gave validation to my whole journey and will remain indelible in my memory as a peak spiritual experience.

Three and a half days a week, the teachers at the village school came up from Santa Marta.  It is an hour-long bus ride from Santa Marta and another 3-hour hike uphill to the village.  These dedicated teachers were making a sacrifice to be away from their own families for so much time each week.  I loved witnessing their teaching styles.  Their presence was uplifting to my spirit.  I had offered to teach English, but my offer wasn’t really taken seriously, so instead I sat in on their tiny classes, improving my Spanish, learning about both cultures.  They had built a new teaching facility, and made the environment beautiful and welcoming. 

A neighbor across the river with milking cows would sell me a pint of milk direct from the udder that I mixed with cacao and honey from the Arhuaco territory.  His wife made cheese.  This was my primary sustenance.  When I gave this salty cheese to the Wiwa women in the village, they consumed huge chunks in one giant gulp, confirming to me how hungry they must be for calcium.  They had goats.  I spoke with some about the value of goat’s milk.  I often reflected on the 6000 year old Sumarian myth of Innana, the most ancient myth known to humankind.  Innana, Queen of Heaven and Earth, visited her older sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld, who was living on dirt in the bowels of the underworld and whose duty it was to churn death into life.  My entry into their world and Innana’s journey to the underworld had its parallels.

The Mamas—the spiritual leaders were not fond of my presence there.  My sense was that they didn’t like a childless, husbandless white haired women in their midst who did not fit in with their protocol of how women should operate in the world.  They might have thought I was a witch.  I was constantly explaining my childlessness to the people—that at a young age, I had become acutely aware of nuclear bombs and determined at that time that I could not bring a child into such a cruel world—that overpopulation of the planet was of great concern to me and by not bearing children, I was not contributing to this global problem—that I related to all the children of the world as my children.  I was making my best effort to do what to help create a livable world for future generations.  I also made it clear that I believe that freedom is a precious gift and it is a human right to determine one’s own path.

One Mama, Ramon’s eldest son, upon feeling the density of the bones in my arm was amazed at how much bone mass I had at my age. None of the Mamas offered the traditional protection, a ceremony they normally do to pay in the aluna (the world behind the world that they can alone access) for protection.  This saddened me, because I thought I needed some traditional healing for infection and bites.  I slept on the floor of the health house, (a cement house built with US AID funds), where many forms of antibiotics were housed and used frequently for illnesses like colds.  Grippe often killed children.  This raised questions...

My final journey into Tayrona territory was to a place called the Cuidad Perdida, the Lost City, in Kogi territory.  The journey began from the village where I had lived, with a Wiwa guide, Chema, a leading figure of the village.  This was a long uphill hike!  We stopped at a campesino’s house to purchase some cheese and were given a giant spoon of sugarcane “honey” to eat right there.  We forded rivers, and climbed endless steep hills.  From what I read in the guidebooks, the round trip hike was easily 60-kilometers, from the village where we started. 

The Wiwa have a tour company that has created much contention between Wiwa and Kogi leaders.  But I felt privileged to have a Wiwa private guide with a mule to carry my camera.  Chema had agreed to make a statement on video up at the Cuidad Perdida in the Wiwa language for the children who had never been, and probably never would go there.  They can view video on the computers at the school.  At least I could make this gift.

When archeologists had discovered this Cuidad Perdida in 1972, they believed it to be a lost city. Clearly to me, this is not a lost city, but a sacred ceremonial ground—way too sacred to be treated so profanely by the tour companies that conduct tours there.  European backpackers in their 20’s are swarming through Central and South America on whirlwind tours, following some treasure hunt adventure in their guidebooks.  For these tourists to the Cuidad Perdida, it was just another macho challenge, like bungee jumping.  They had no interest or awareness of the history or the cultures of the region.  So it is no wonder that I received odious looks that froze my heart from the natives—even travelling with Chema who was fluent in the Kogi language and seemed to know the people we encountered on the trail. As they cleared the paths with their machetes, they looked at me with growling eyes and curling lips betraying centuries of bitterness and scorn.  White people were infesting their sacred sites like cockroaches, looking only for amusement.  As their Mamas have repeatedly told us, hermano menor, younger brother, is not only destroying their world, but destroying the balance of nature for the whole world—and it is not their fault.

The first and the third night we stayed in the Kogi village of Chema’s second wife (he called her his companion), a village that was the closest to this site.  Polygamy is practiced when there are not enough men to marry the women who reach the age of 16 and are childless.  We had been hiking through many miles of mucky, yucky mud, I in sneakers.  It began raining when we arrived at dusk after a 10-hour hike.  They put me in a hut alone with a candle. The reception from the villagers in both instances, coming in and out, was icy.  I had brought some food that Chema gave to his wife, along with the cheese.  Clearly they needed it more than me.  Way after dark, a boy frigidly delivered to me a cold plate of boiled green banana (yuck) and rice and left immediately.  I was glad that I had brought along bee honey, as this sustained me for the journey.

On the second day we passed a Mama’s house, and Chema asked him for an audience with me.  He refused.  I really wanted to meet a Kogi Mama.  When we arrived at the Cuidad Perdida, it was late afternoon.  The final approach is a river crossing, followed by 1,200 very vertical steps.  Chema told me that the steps were created in this way because each day, the priests had to descend to bathe and ascend again as part of their ascetic training.  The army was there at the top when we arrived, but no tourists.  I found an appropriate altar spot to make a tobacco offering to the directions, expressing gratitude, honoring the ancestors who had manifested this sacred ground from the land of Eagle and laying down yet one more prayer for unification of the hemisphere of the Americas in peace, and for world peace. (You may read about my connection to Eagle on other entries on this blog.) 

We only had a small window of time to do the shooting before heavy mist descended and dense clouds threatened rain.  I was feeling very disappointed that I had not been allowed to consort with the ancestors there more deeply, and that Chema was rushing me back to the camp that was about an hour hike down the steps and downstream.  I later discovered that people who come with video equipment are supposed to get clearance through the bureaucracy that now controls the site, so I guess I should feel lucky for the short time I had to shoot there.  At the time it felt like a huge effort for very little return. Early on, Chema had changed the plan from what I had thought would be a 5-day tour into a 4-day tour.

At the camp, a tour guide for a group of Europeans had a big pot of hot soup.  He was Colombian who had lived in the US for many years and was overjoyed to encounter a North American.  I was equally happy to encounter his soup and to rave on in English about a whole range of topics.  There were bunks with thick wooly blankets.  With the exquisite sound of the rushing river and waterfall, I found happiness for the night and awoke with prayers that the rains would not come for the long return hike. 

Again, on the way out, we stopped at the house of the Mama.  Chema came out from his compound with a strange sort of smirk on his face saying the Mama didn’t have time to meet me.  This time it felt like an intentional insult.  I wondered what he had seen in me.  The Mamas are revered for their special powers to see behind the world and to magically know things that we who live in ordinary reality are not privy to.  I felt I had come to Tayrona with pure intention, had made a big sacrifice in my life to do it, had offered my heart with kindness to the people, brought many offerings, spent my time there in prayer and meditation, practiced mantra for healing and protection with every step, had made adulation at their sacred site, and yet, I was not fit for an audience with this Mama—or really any of the Mamas. 

And so I carried sadness down the trail walking with head lowered when encountering any natives so as not to take on any more hateful looks, into the village where, again, I was treated with contempt, even by the children.  I lit a fire in the fireplace in the center of the hut where gladly there was dry wood, watching the rain dribble off the roof thatch as night fell, feeling alone, gloomy and hungry.  My sorrow was for the people who hold so much bitterness and scorn and teach it to the children. 

In the morning, the Kogi man in whose house I was staying paid a visit.  He seemed impressed that I was capable of lighting a fire.  We had a good conversation.  I shared with him my feelings that this unkind, cold and unfriendly way of being was bad for the people, especially for the children—not good for the health or the heart.  I apologized for the way Western culture has destroyed the planet.  I told him about my non-profit organization that teaches people how to build with mud and many other ways of caring for the Earth—that among us Westerners are those who are striving to live in harmony with the natural world, not many, not enough, but some.  I was grateful for just that little opening to express to the Kogi man who had given me shelter that he might discover that not every white person is evil incarnate.  I left behind things that he could use.  He said that he was glad to have something to remember me by. 

Of course there is much more to tell.  But from my brief and limited experience there, I would find it hard to characterize the Mamas, as they showed themselves (or didn’t show themselves) to me, as the enlightened beings that many {men} believe them to be.  Perhaps they are, and I simply don’t carry a sufficiently high vibration or intelligence to meet their standards for respect or concern.  Or maybe it was my gender and really, they only want to talk to men. Human consciousness has been in a constant state of evolution during the time they have lived in isolation.  The center of balance has shifted.  Independent women are making forays in the world and they really don’t know what to make of that.

If these mountains are, as the Mamas believe, the Heart of the World, this heart is suffering, as closed hearts do. The Mamas believe they hold the key to the survival of the planet—if only “younger brother” would listen to them and put back the precious items they have taken away from certain places.  I have placed a golden treasure in the aluna for the Mamas to discover—a thought, “Loving kindness and compassion for all beings.”  I can only hope that they can find it there and that I have left behind me a large enough opening through which you too can pour loving kindness and compassion into the vessel.  An apology may help, as well as a decision to make a change in your life that might help the planet become survivable for the children of the future.  Small is beautiful—Less is more.  Live simply so others may simply live. Whether or not I was accepted by their high priests does not diminish my respect for these people's tenacious maintenance of their sacred duty to hold the center of the world.

My sojourn in Colombia does have a happy ending.  My return flight took me through Bogotá to spend time at a friend’s house who put me in contact with a beautiful Taita (Shaman) named Universario from the Amazonian Cofán culture. Cofán communities are in the south of Colombia and extend over the border into Ecuador.  He and his beautiful wife and family were conducting an Ayahuasca ceremony just outside Bogota that I was fortunate to be invited to attend.  His healing powers, together with his curendera wife, Miriam, and his magical brew of the most powerful and wise plant medicine teacher I have encountered (numerous other times in my in my life), provided the cleansing and healing that my body, heart and soul were yearning for. It came through the channels of love and joy that Taita Universario had opened.  At dawn, I had a fantastic vision of Jesus holding a baby in his right hand with an Eagle of Peace standing on his left elbow.  An Eagle of Peace, what a revolutionary concept!

The Cofán culture and language is on the brink of absolute total extinction, their territory completely destroyed by Western culture.  These people would benefit greatly from help at this time.  I left some money behind for a botanical garden that was being created by and for the grandmothers in an effort to preserve the ancient wisdom and plant lore of their culture.  It is a catastrophe that the ancient wisdom of plant medicines is being lost with the death of every medicine person who carries that wealth of knowledge. In the back of my crazy wisdom mind, I have been hearing their call for help.  I still have my hard earned yearlong visa to Colombia that ends in January...

To view more on the Cofán culture, TED has hosted a speaker.

I mailed the first package for the Wiwa sisters containing infant clothing from Goodwill that the women requested, and little beach balls with the map of the world that the children really got a kick out of.  I sent the package through the post office to a friend in Santa Marta who said she will hand deliver the package.  But the mail delivery in Colombia is subject to theft. If I had sent the package DHL, it would have cost much more than the contents, but DHL offers delivery confirmation.  So I took a risk with the postal service.  So far, no news of the delivery.  But if it doesn’t arrive, I would like to try again with a new package using DHL.  The Wiwa women loved the LED headlamps, and solar charged path lights with one tiny LED light bulb that holds back total darkness in the mud huts with no windows.  Flashlights have been used by the culture for many generations.

If readers would like to help me cover the costs of these goods for the Wiwa women, and also mailing the books of photos of their families and the edited video DVDs I shot for the people—or if you would like to send a donation to the Cofán botanical garden project, I have a direct connection with the daughter of Univerario and Miriam who is attending university in Bogotá and who is spearheading this project.  If I have a strong show of support, I will return to help.  A tax-deductable donation to NetWorks Productions, or me directly, is greatly appreciated.  I will use all you send to help our beautiful Indigenous sisters and their children, or the grandmother's garden of the Cofán. You can e-mail me at

Monday, November 8, 2010

Colombia 2010 Tayrona Culture

My romanticized notions of The “Heart of the World” have been modified. Here in a hotel in Santa Marta, and after two months of a three-month tourist visa in Colombia, I have not any assurance whether all my efforts will bear any fruit.  I have learned a lot in these two months, mostly not to trust in expectations. I continue to cultivate patience in the face of a deadline and roadblocks.

My arrival in Colombia was auspicious.  My artist friend, Paola Rincon, had created an installation at the Museum de Antioquia, the most prestigious museum in Medellin, honoring the 200th year of the liberation of Colombia by Simon Bolivar.  She had invited three members of different Indigenous communities to create ceremony around a pre-existing “Chacana”, a symbol of the cosmo-vision of Native peoples in the center courtyard of the museum.  A small fire was built in the center on top of some rocks surrounded by water. Four large rivers of Colombia were represented emanating from the Chakana. Sadly all the rivers are polluted. Wayra Chasky a rainbow man from Nacion Indigena Quechua Yanakuna led the ceremonies for the opening of the whole event.

Chacana ceremony

Chacana Night Ceremony

The opportunity was open to the public for the weekend to learn about the cosmo-vision of the Chacana, but since precious few people came partake, it was a private opportunity to make strong prayers in ceremony for the work I had come here to undertake a form of blessing for my arrival to work with the Indigenous world.  This installation, and another Chacana she created inside, were the only works in the show that recognized the Native population in the history of Colombia – and interestingly, these were the only positive pieces in the entire show. The other artists reflected the endless senseless war, the drugs, the environmental degradation and the extreme poverty that laces their country, some very poignant pieces.

Chacana with the Southern Cross

Asdrubal, my Arhuaco friend, invited me to his community afterward to work on a documentary we had started last year on his community cooperative project to empower Arhuaco economic growth.  Arhuacos are one of three remaining Tayrona cultures. This was my third visit to the territory of the Arhuaco. The city of Valledupar, is an industrial town at the base of the Arhuaco side mountain that thrives on the coffee and other mountain grown products. The night I arrived on the bus, a torrential rainstorm turned the streets into rivers of floating trash. I had been horrified by the trash I had encountered in the forest on my first two visits in the mountains and made it a goal to start a trash pick up and recycling program there.

I ended up having to wait for Asdrubal at his apartment in Valledupar for a week. Asdrubal’s father has been the governor of the Arhuaco for 20 years. They have adjoining apartments connected by a tiny courtyard. His brother had come to town to pick up one can of a powdered milk nutrition drink for his wife and new baby.  He made uncomfortable advances for days in the face of my clear annoyance with his antics.  I ended up wandering around the town just to avoid being in his presence. Finally he left.

Asdrubal finally arrived with wife Ester and their two toddlers.  The last time I had seen her, Christmas 2009, she was about ready to give birth to a very big baby boy.  She told me that Asdrubal had left her at their farm when she was huge and overdue and didn’t show up for three days after she had given birth, because he was too busy.  She was clearly very hurt, but said it was not her way to complain.  I learned from many other disgruntled Arhuaco women that this type of behavior was typical for Arhuaco men.  The women are left alone most of the time to raise the family, make beautiful mochillas (hand spun woolen woven bags) for the men to carry their belongings.  Their job is to make sure that there is always food and clean robes for the men, on demand, whenever they happen to show up, and demand they do. 

Arhuaca Woman

The men cluster together in their coca social club, always sharing their coca leaves with each other in a ritual of greeting. They hang around together, for hours and days on end, chewing and spitting on the stick and laying down a thick wheel of calcium deposit at the top of the poporo, always keeping their hands active to accomplish this activity with the focus of an artist creating a work of art. They say, repeatedly, that the gourd is the female, and the stick is the male entering the female.  Apparently, this use of calcium and coca quickens the art of conversation. It must be very addictive.  I wonder if it isn’t some kind of ego food. I have often chewed the coca plant, without the calcium aggregate of shells that they put inside the poporo, and have felt a slight numbness in my mouth, a mild sense of wellbeing, but no real elevation or shift of consciousness that was perceivable to me.

According to Eva Morales, the Indigenous president of Bolivia, the coca leaf is the highest vitamin content of any plant. I also understand that the leaves are already extremely high in calcium.  When offered to me, I am grateful.  But the women of the Tayrona cultures are prohibited from eating it.  As far as I know, this is the only Andean culture that uses the calcium seashells to open doors of perception that will no doubt remain for me a complete unknown.  This is the only Andean culture that prohibits women from chewing the leaf.

As a woman from a diametrically opposite culture, it is difficult to witness these inequalities. Our struggle continues, theirs has yet to begin. It is doubtful if it ever will.  Their spiritual leaders, the Mamas, decreed that they should not use the coca, and so it has been for millennia. Women bathe fully clothed.  Men have no compunction about sneaking to look if they are in the vicinity—none. Monogamy is expected from the women, but the men are free to pursue whatever exploits they choose. It was interesting for me to note that the Arhuaco creation story does not contain a female player. I have to keep telling myself that I did not come to judge, but to help.  This isolated ancient culture has been stuck in time.  Occasionally when I speak the truth of my life as a childless mother, I feel a sigh of yearning in women. There are no childless women. This concept is beyond anything in their experience.

I brought as many LED headlamps as I could carry for the women who have been holding a flashlight in the crook of their necks for generations while they complete the tasks they need both hands to accomplish—ergonomically very bad.  I also brought the solar charged outdoor lamps to bring a little light into windowless houses during the long nights.  My regret is that I couldn’t fill an entire suitcase with these items as they were such a hit. Not having enough has served to engender a lot of jealousy when I ran out.

Asdrubal has become kind of the Minister of Finance in his community. He has taken on a big task.  He has the divination of the "Mamas" to help him.  The Arhuaco community there has developed a cooperative to sell their organic coffee and other crops and gain some economic power so they can afford to buy their own land like the colonizers have been doing. They have a store there that both the Arhuaco and colonizers come to buy stuff they need, but the store could never get enough money to buy enough stuff to sell. The people would go to Valledupar in an unbelievably funky truck or van that goes occasionally like a bus and takes a couple hours.  He asked to borrow money so he could develop an account and purchase enough goods to get the store going.  I loaned him $600, and we went up there with a truckload of stuff.  I realized that a trash factory had opened up. Basura is the Spanish word for trash.  Basura is a huge problem throughout the populated area of the Sierra already - even without the basura factory store.  

On the truck to the community

I was first invited to stay at the home, and the health house of the curandera, Gladis, and her husband, the professor, Leonardo.  They live in a house across from the store, bought from a colonizer with a new metal roof.  It is the rainy season (which they say is becoming a year-long event) and they were catching rainwater from the new metal roof in a small bucket.  This was the first order of conversation, the purity of the water and the importance of rainwater catchment. If it isn’t caught from the roof, it needs to be boiled. Our second conversation was about the contamination of the Earth from the basura.. We became fast friends. The next day I took the hour hike up to Asdrubal’s farm.

Asdrubal had asked me to make a video about the cooperative, but had no interest in seeing any of the footage from the last year.  He had me bring the camera to obtain more footage, for a video that he envisioned he could carry abroad to raise money for his project, and told me he would that take me to shoot some important aspects of the culture, but the weeks that I spent at his farm with his family, I rarely saw him. The workers this year at his farm were not Arhuaco and did not dress traditionally. I picked up only a small amount of footage on any new idea and soon I was feeling like moving on to the intended work on the other side of the mountains. 

I read a beautifully written book written in 1990 by a Swiss priest about the history of the culture, its traditions, mythologies and practices, poignantly describing the terrible suffering these peoples had to endure from the occupation of the Spanish, and the centuries of disrespect by the Colombian government and further colonization of their territory.  Only now are they beginning to come out from under the heavy yoke of their unfortunate history.  The more prosperous Arhuacos are buying jeeps, building houses with materials that are bought in town. The traditional lifestyle is faltering under the call from western culture.  I was surprised to see Arhuaco women in Santa Marta sporting high-heeled sandals and using fingernail polish.

The Arhuaco art of planting a diversified food forest is the key to what is becoming their financial success. They grow organic coffee, cacao, plantains etc, without external inputs by simply intermixing the trees—as in nature. They do not exploit the land in the way the colonizers do, by cutting the trees and over-planting mono-crops or raising cattle.  Ideas like this cooperative will serve to help those Arhuacos who have long been being exploited by the middlemen.  The Arhuacos are the greatest in number of the Tayrona cultures, around 18,000, and are finding their way to live in both worlds.


Food forest - Coffee - Cacao - Plantain - Malanga

Cacao fruit

It became apparent that my valuable time in Colombia was being sucked up by Asdrubal’s desire that I stay with the Arhuaco instead of going to serve the Wiwa. I was helping with the coffee and cacao harvest, helping to look after the kids.  I learned how much I didn’t like living in the same house with pigs and chickens, how to cook on their kitchen fire.  I took beautiful afternoon hikes to even higher elevations on well-worn paths that lead to the houses of colonizers and Arhuaco families who live deeper in the mountains, many hours from others.  And I was feeling trapped with my camera and suitcase, an hour hike from the community, and valuable time was passing on my three month visa when my real mission in coming to Tayrona was to help the Wiwa, another ancient Tayrona culture who in danger of loosing their language and culture. 

When I first arrived I pulled out had some new metal roofing for an intended new house at the farm, and arranged it so I could collect rainwater in a bucket.  Ester considered this an insult, maintaining their water that came from the reservoir and was held in a holding tank was clean.  I could clearly see it wasn’t.  She and the kids had weird rashes and the kids had diarrhea. She kept throwing out my rain catchment water and when I started boiling water to drink, they all rudely chided me.  The past year I had purified the water in a plastic bottle in the sun, UV purification, but during the rainy season, the daylong sun element was missing.  Eventually, on a hike at the top of the mountain, I stupidly took a chance on a hose with water from a reservoir tank and realized immediately that I had consumed contaminated water. I sought out the tank and realized that the water came rushing down the well-worn trail, with burro and mule poo and flowed into the open reservoir tank.  I took a strong purification mineral, sodium chlorite that has the side effect of creating a purge from both ends, and took this as my exit from the house.  I walked to the curendera’s house in the community, my belongings soon followed. 

They, and their kids, were overjoyed to see me again.  I was able to accomplish really good things in a couple days. The professor, Leoardo, and I collaborated to teach the kids about trash.  It was so precious to see them in their white traditional clothes picking up the trash in the immediate area of the school and cooperative, and then we sorted it into recyclable, burnable, and basura.  It was a huge pile.  The Earth began to breathe where they had cleared it, and the feeling was absolutely tactile.  The kids could feel it too.  On October 13, 2010, we began the environmental reclamation of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.  Hopefully the idea will spread. Many people come through the community, many trails split there. They hold their festivals there.  In Valledupar I found a recycling center that pays for recycled goods and this will provide some funds for the school kids to buy notebooks and pens - a win - win.

Trash collection

Trash Poster


Gladdis, the curendera, is also trained in Western Medicine.  She uses it when a condition has gone beyond the reach of herbs and the healing of spiritual malaise. She has seen the water in a microscope. #1 cause of infant mortality is diarrhea from contaminated water. I heard her say to the all people who came to the clinic, "You have to boil your water".  So I told Asdrubal, that I would leave $300 for two water collection tanks from the new metal roofs on the school and the clinic.  She was so beyond jazzed! She kept exclaiming, "Agua es vida!"   People could use the recycled plastic bottles that hold the soda they buy in the store to carry the water home.  The kids will have clean drinking water at the school. Once the people taste the difference, they might not even want to buy the soda.  It tastes fabulous.  This could really transform the health problems of a huge number of people.  And a lot of water comes out of those heavens.  I found a place in Valledupar that sells water catchment tanks.  $300 is enough money to buy two 1000 liter tanks, three trash recycling bins, with enough left for a small donation to the school.

On the bus to Santa Marta, I caught the first glimpse of myself in weeks in the fuzzy metal mirror in the bathroom, and realized that the experience had really taken its toll.  I was really looking forward to a hotel and zone of comfort to recuperate, but the few days became almost 10 days as I began the process of understanding the difficulties of obtaining a volunteer visa in this crazy country and dealing with this new community of Wiwa.  I have one friend in Santa Marta who is fluent in English, is familiar with immigration issues, and has been faithfully helping me over the many legal hurtles.  Alvaro is my angel of Santa Marta, who like many people here, has had to face some hard life challenges and is going through difficult times.  He is a kind and intelligent gentleman who lived in the US for many years. This is my major blessing at this time in Colombia.  With Alvaro's help, I still may be able to find my way.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Statue of Freedom - America Freedom Triumphant

The Statue of Freedom
America Freedom Triumphant

Gazing up at the tholos, the lighthouse atop the Capitol Dome of the United States of America, it is virtually impossible to discern the figurehead who serves as an enduring reminder of the symbol of our national identity. On his deathbed in 1857, Thomas Crawford, the sculptor of this magnificent bronze statue, named her America. When she was mounted atop the Capitol, she was known as Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace. She is now commonly known as the Statue of Freedom. Her name appears to evolve with the spirit of the Nation. She was placed there at the time when this newly formed Nation was meeting its greatest trial to stand for freedom; the highest value our country purported to uphold. Ironically, Philip Reid, a master craftsman was a slave when he cast her. He was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation the same year she was mounted on the Dome in 1863.

We owe a debt of gratitude to, a Native Hawaiian Kahuna, Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, a healer and seer who brought this distant figure on the Capitol Dome to public attention. Mornnah had initially assumed that the statue represented Pocahontas, but gazing up at her from the Capitol lawn, Mornnah learned from her that she wanted to be known as “Our Lady of Freedom”. She saw her as the “Conscience of the Nation” and recognized her as the embodiment of freedom not only for the land that is now called the United States of America, but also for the whole Cosmos and all creation. So she decided to dedicate her life to bringing the Statue into public awareness. She appealed to her State Senator, Daniel Kahikina Akaka Daniel Kahikina Akaka for support. With funding largely from the Foundation of I, founded by Mornnah, the original plaster model of America was taken out of storage and installed at ground level in the Russell Senate Office Building in 1993. That same year the bronze Statue was brought down from the dome to be refurbished. In 2008 the plaster model was moved to the new Capitol Visitors Center and now presides over Emancipation Hall.

Thomas Crawford had received many important commissions to embody the nature of the Republic at the time of the building of the Capitol complex and was intimate with the different ideas being requested of him to portray of the ideal of America. The continents have feminine names, for example Asia, Africa, Europa, Antarctica, Australia, so naturally America needed to be represented as feminine. Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War who would become the President of the Confederate States of America, and Montgomery Meigs, the Capitol Engineer who would become a general of the Union Army, were in charge of choosing the Capital art. Both were graduates of West Point. Thomas Crawford, born in New York, worked from his studio in Rome, Italy.

Crawford developed three models of the Statue at their bidding. Crawford had previously carved a woman representing America in the Progress of Civilization on the Senate Pediment. Jefferson Davis’ first idea was for the statue to resemble the Goddess of War, Minerva—her original Greek name is Athena. He himself had made a drawing of Minerva while at West Point.

Crawford’s first response was a drawing of a coy and placid Athenian type goddess with a headdress of wheat and laurel, holding a sword, shield and an olive branch to represent war and peace. He called her Freedom Triumphant in Peace and War—peace and war in that order.

In the second design, Armed Liberty, the olive branch symbol of Athens and of peace had been discarded. She stood erect on top of a sphere circled with the Nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. She wore a Phrygian cap encircled in stars. Phrygian caps were a symbol of a freed slave, and since the citizens (white men) of the United States were born free, this was rejected as inappropriate.

The third and final model was sent on March 19, 1856. In this model Freedom had emerged as a Euro-American Goddess. The Athenian toga-like dress is now covered with a Native American cloak with fir fringe. A Peace Medallion, like those gifted to Native Chiefs by US Presidents, ornaments her dress. The Phrygian cap was transformed into the head of an eagle replete with talons to suggest the complete bird. The sword, shield and laurel wreath are what remain from the original European allegorical symbols of the first model. The letters between Crawford and his employers are really not detailed and nothing has been found that Crawford wrote about his inner process. However, in a letter to Jefferson Davis dated March 19, 1856, he wrote, “I read with much pleasure the letter of Honorable Secretary and his remarks have induced me to dispense with the cap and put in its place a helmet, the crest which is composed of an eagle’s head and a bold arrangement of feathers suggested by the costume of our Indian tribes”.

Now that she can be seen at eye level, she calls upon us to reflect upon where she came from, how she manifests, and what her significance is. My personal experience with her invokes a clear and undeniable union with the original Americans. The Statue embodies for me the Iroquois creation story, their values and symbols that emerged from the bedrock of the experience of millennia of life in unity with this land and their struggles for freedom and peace. She embodies Euro/American experience as a whole with important interrelationships between the myth of Athena and the creation story and the history of the Iroquois intertwined.

Mythology and allegory lift the veil that history imposes upon the deeper truths. Myths, creation stories, are repositories of the mysteries of the divine. Mythmakers, in touch with the world behind the world, who create myths, seek to engage arcane wisdom to speak to limited understanding. They call us to reflect upon essential truths that contain moral significance. Myths gather meaning through the eons as they inherit human experience thus making myth eternally true. They foretell the development of the cultural soul. The two Goddesses from the mythic realm weave an important allegory to inform these times.

The ideal of majestic architectural beauty for the Capital was meant to rival classical European models derived from the Greeks and Romans. Jupiter’s temple in Rome was built on Capitoline Hill. The word capitol is derived from the Latin word caput, meaning head. Since Roman classical mythology appropriated the Greek myths, to avoid confusion I will use the names from the original Greek myths.

Metis, Zeus’ wife, the Goddess of Wisdom, had saved Zeus from being eaten by his father Cronus, the supreme ruler of the universe. When Metis became pregnant, Zeus feared the prophecy that she would give birth to a son who would supplant him as King of the Gods. In his father’s style, he swallowed pregnant Metis consuming and repressing her wisdom. Athena was born of Metis inside her father. Plagued by a terrible headache Zeus called upon Hephaestus, to crack open his head with an axe and Athena emerged in full golden battle regalia with her sword drawn, perhaps in anticipation that she would have to defend herself. But this beautiful female was not perceived as a threat to his power. Disarmed by his bright-eyed Athena, she became an object of his adoration, his closest confidant, strategist and advisor. She was most famous for her arts of diplomacy and became known as the Goddess of Wisdom. Because she remained a virgin, she devoted her independence, wisdom and creativity to creating many boons to civilization, and so, like career women of today, took a seat of honor in the patriarchal world. Woman with Athenian qualities have paved the way to an acceptance of the wisdom of the feminine in societies where women have had to fight for equality and respect. This is the role the Athenian goddess played to assist Freedom’s ascent to the dome.

Artists in union with mythic realms aspire to portray the essence of the archetype that comes through to them. The Athenian goddess that first came through to Crawford seems to represent Athena’s wisdom body. In Crawford’s drawing, she stands with a downcast look as if to say that the Dome of the US Capitol is really not her place. But she paved the way for an ideal feminine deity from this hemisphere who would ultimately take the name of Freedom who is the Peace Queen of the Iroquois Nation, the Mother of Nations. She stepped out of the mythic realm into Iroquois history and co-created the Great Law of Peace with the Great Peacemaker.

This Great Law of Peace would play a key role in the development of our democratic government. The evidence is very strong that the Founding Fathers studied the workings of the Iroquois League of Nations and relied heavily upon this Great Law of Peace, the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy. This is a participatory democracy joining five Nations that existed on this land for centuries before European contact. The Founding Fathers could never admit the influence of the Iroquois League of Nations on the Constitution primarily because the Iroquois gave great attention to balancing the genders in governance.

The following research is taken from The White Roots of Peace, by Paul Wallace and was inspired by Iroquois scholar and writer Barbara Alice Mann who has compiled the many versions of the Iroquois stories, Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League) - Johansen and Mann. I am recounting a very abridged version of the stories for the purpose of bringing light to the various symbols represented on the Statue of Freedom.

Crawford’s second and final version of the Statue has her standing erectly on a globe with the Latin motto, E Pluribus Unum, Out Of Many One. Paul Wallace writes,“ To the outside world the spirit of the League might seem to be expressed in the Latin motto E Pluribus Unum. But to the nations within the League its spirit might have seemed better expressed in the words Ex Uno Plura. The strength of the whole made safe the individual differences of the members.”

The stars on the cap of this second and on the final version of the statue represent the Iroquois legend of the creation of the continent. Ataensic, Sky Woman fell from Karionake, the Sky World, a world that traveled among the stars whose inhabitants read the dreams and assisted the planets that called to them. Ataensic’s husband, the Ancient One, who was jealous of her superior dream reading powers, pushed his pregnant wife through a hole that was made in Sky World by the Tree of Life that had been uprooted. As she fell, she managed to grab hold of the seeds of corn, bean, squash and tobacco that were clinging to the uprooted roots. These seeds were the gifts of Sky World to what would become the human population below.

Eagle, flying at a great height, caught sight of Ataensic plummeting towards the watery world and called out to Heron and Loon who were flying below. The two flew together, linked their wings and caught her. Eagle called to Great-grandmother Turtle, alerting her to the birds struggling to carry the woman. Turtle called a council of the animals of the waters to bring up some sand from the bottom of the waters to make land on Turtle’s back for Ataensic who could neither swim nor fly. After many failed and tragic attempts, finally Beaver managed to bring up some sand on his tail, flip it on to Turtle’s back, and she was set down. By walking east toward the sun, Ataensic then created the continent known by Native peoples as Turtle Island. With every step the land grew in front of her. She planted her seeds, and gave birth to her daughter who she named Lynx, the first human born in this hemisphere.

When Ataensic’s daughter, Lynx, grew up she mated with North Wind. She gave birth to four children, two boys and two girls, yet she died during childbirth. She reincarnates into history as Jigonsaseh, the Peace Queen, and meets one of her sons named Sapling who has reincarnated as the Great Peace Maker. He traveled across what is now Lake Ontario in a stone canoe with a mission to bring peace to the warring nations of the south. These wars had been created by the policies of the Mound Builders who allowed people to grow corn only for their ceremonial purposes. As corn was the primary staple food in balance with the bean and squash, the people were starving. They had turned to cannibalism and were constantly at war with one another.

The Great Peacemaker’s first primary ally was Jigonsaseh who was peacefully confronting the ruling patriarchy of the Mound Builders. A Clan Mother, she stood for the “corn way” growing corn for food. She modeled the highest ethical standards under the existing rules of the time for the role of women. When the Great Peacemaker encountered her, he immediately recognized her as his own Ancient Mother. The two sat to craft the Great Law of Peace. Because peacemakers of both genders created this Law, they created gender balance in governance that gave women key roles—a participatory democracy.
When the Great Law of Peace was finally enacted, five warring nations were brought under the Tree of Peace, later to be joined by a sixth. The weapons of war were buried under the Tree whose white roots extended in the Four Directions. Atop the Tree, Eagle perched to guard and warn of impending danger. Eagle now stands on the head of Freedom, and as we know, symbolizes the Nation as a whole.

When Crawford submitted the final model, he added more symbols from the Indigenous world. He gave her a fir-fringed cloak. The Iroquois understand freedom afforded by government to afford protection of citizens so they will be free from fear and from want. Freedom’s cloak represents those kinds of protections. President Obama iterated exactly these same freedoms in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. “… a just peace includes not only civil and political rights -- it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want”.
Medallions like the broach that holds her dress with the letters US, were given by US Presidents to Native American Chiefs to seal friendship and trust. They were greatly prized by their recipients. Although we can never undo the destruction to our Nation’s first peoples, this Medallion calls us to live up to their intent and move forward.

Freedom’s shield represents the Constitution. The shield was first used on the Great Seal before the Constitution was finalized, but not before the Great Law of Peace was created. Protection against tyranny was the intent of the Great Law of Peace. It is the founding principle and cornerstone of our democratic system.

On the inside the Rotunda of the Dome, Constantine Brumidi's fresco depicts Freedom wielding her sword and shield, assisted by Eagle with the bundled arrows that are the symbol of the Iroquois Confederacy. They are beating down tyranny and kingly power, the enemy of freedom. Ironically, the Founders of this Nation did not see the “Right of Conquest” as the worst imaginable form of despotism. This was the first “Right of Kings”, established by William the Conqueror in 1066. It remains the most egregious offender to the ideals of freedom that the Founding Fathers aspired to achieve. This “Right” allowed them to obliterate the Indigenous peoples with impunity. The Iroquois in Ohio, whose land had been promised to the soldiers who fought the Revolutionary War, gave Washington the name of “town burner”. Like many who followed him, he used horrifying tactics to eradicate them like vermin. Our history is fraught with struggles against these types of blinders to the pre-existing European tyrannical forms, but the call to freedom is unstoppable.

Freedom’s sword under her poised hand is sheathed and wrapped in its belt serving as a constant reminder of our Nation’s unenlightened story. Yet, she holds the laurel wreath of triumphant victory over the shield. False greatness resulting from violent conquest cannot hold a candle to the grandeur of world peace.

The ideals depicted by the Statue of Freedom are the vehicle for the Apotheosis of Washington, the envisioned rising of this Nation to divinity that is depicted in the same fresco beneath her feet on the inside of the Rotunda of our Temple of Democracy.

Whether Thomas Crawford intended these interpretations or even understood the scope of these allegorical symbols is irrelevant. The artist in connection with mythic realms is a diviner whose work cooperates with posterity and exceeds the expectations or the experience of the artist. As a natural born citizen of the United States of America with both Indigenous and European roots, I see it as my birthright to cast a fresh light upon Freedom’s meaning by introducing a cosmology that more closely parallels the long history of this hemisphere with the intent upon aligning our Nation on the path of freedom, our Nation’s highest ideal—and to help to heal the rift between Indigenous culture and the Western world at a time when our Nation is ripe to reinvent our national identity to meet an emergent phase of human consciousness in the 21st century.

Because I believe it is within our Nation’s potential to possess true greatness, my name for the figurehead who presides over our Nation’s Capitol, the Temple of Democracy, is America Freedom Triumphant forecasting the day when we as a Nation have reached that point of glory.

In closing a short prayer from the Native Hawaiian practice Ho'oponopono in honor of Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.
I love you.

May peace be with you,
Shannyn Sollitt

I would like to express gratitude to Katya Miller for sharing with me her years of research, her inspiration and intention to bring the Statue of Freedom to the people.