This Land is Our Land?

I enjoy hiking. It’s one of the most peaceful yet rigorous activities that I enjoy doing, breaking a sweat as I reach the top of a rock and snap that breathtaking picture of the mountainside.

One of my more favorite hiking spots is in Santa Barbara, up at the Santa Ynez mountains. Other than the small cluster of houses that are interspersed along the road, a majority of the area is untouched and pretty immersed in nature. I took pictures with a friend of mine a couple months earlier this year and as we headed back to my car, he and I were overwhelmed with the realization of how complex the Native American society was!

Fun fact: we happened to stumble upon Native American cave art (look up the Chumash Painted Caves).

It’s definitely ineffable to believe how a society like that, who were the first people of this land, can be so exploited and subjugated to where they are today.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of Native American genocide (but if you do, I read part of People’s History of America and Kill the Indian, Save the Man and they serve some truth serum), but I wanted to delve into the idea of how much we’ve restricted their culture into a small parcel of land, capitalizing land that doesn’t really belong to us.

Mt. Shasta (source: legendsofamerica.com)

The Wintu of Northern California, the Hopi of Northern Arizona, and the Lakota of Wyoming are the three main focuses in Light of Reverence. In the documentary, the three tribes address their plight that they face in modern times. They specifically address their spiritual relationship with the land and how they are being deprived of the right to practice their religion there.

It was tough watching the whole film as modern-day colonizers (in the form of men in bulldozers, tractors, etc.) demolished their praying grounds, desecrating thousands of years of history. Additionally, the sheer amount of ignorance of people justifying the destruction of native land made me start dry-heaving.

“My family lineage extends 7 generations in this area, this land belongs to me”
“I don’t see anything sacred about this land, all I see is a big bunch of ugly rocks”
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming (source: goista.com)

For many Native American cultures, the natural landscape is embedded into their faith. From the plains of the Midwest, to the mountains that create the Pacific Crest, the natural formations are the religious establishments for these tribes. They pray there, they perform ceremonies there, it is all a way of their devout life.

But with the exploitation of natural resources, many rivers are drying up, many aquifers are disappearing, and land rich in history is being blown up left and right.

Hopi Butte, top removed due to Pumice production (source: hopi.org)

With the recent burning down of 10 pre-dominantly black churches in America, it’s hard not to draw parallels of this to the destruction of Native American “churches” because both are fueled by truly greedy motives (BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT WHITE-SUPREMACIST AMERICA IN PERSON, ACTUALLY). Ok I don’t even have anything conclusionary to say, but seriously, I feel hella sad at how much I love hiking through nature while I’m ignorantly walking on some Native American’s ritual site :/

Here’s a fun song that’s pretty relevant to this topic. Enjoy!

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!” (America the Beautiful) :-)