Land and Culture

Treman State Park, December 2020
Treman State Park, May 2020

This is a bit of a different post on cultural equity on MLK Day today, but here’s my latest “trip.”

Our Body, the earth, is a sacred land.  The biggest lesson that dawned on me in 2020 is the importance of connecting intimately with the land and culture of where one’s “from” (one’s “roots”), as well as connecting intimately with the land and culture of where one “is” (one’s inhabitance).

My time in Spain then the Philippines last year right as covid hit really gave me much more perspective on the root culture of half my ancestry, and in some ways being on the very lands of those countries was unintentionally quite medicinal in those regards, as I’ve not always had the opportunity to access or embrace this “side” of my heritage.

I do believe that land is of Spirit or spirit(s), and there’s much to say about the relationship between biological/ecological diversity and cultural diversity (and the forces that threaten the two, as with the loss of species and the loss of languages).  I further believe that to be a transplant anywhere, we can ask for safe passage and protection from ill health by actually looking to the land itself and making a connection—which includes connecting with the cultural histories of the land as well.

My latest “trip” has involved how we can, in the United States, improve upon a mass culture of what I will call disrespect in certain ways.  My Thanksgiving 2020 travels to Arizona instilled in me a much more clear sense of the country’s unprocessed racial trauma with not only slavery, but with the genocide of the Native peoples.

My latest “trip” has involved how we can, in the United States, improve upon a mass culture of what I will call disrespect in certain ways.

Our general disrespect in perpetuating erasure includes the celebration of Thanksgiving without the acknowledgement of Native Americans.  It includes the annual American football game “tradition” of the Dallas Cowboys playing the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins.  Holding this match every year is a slap in the face, I think, to the still living descendants of First Nations peoples.

So… One of my goals for 2021 in Land + Culture, to help me  establish a deeper relationship with Ithaca and a connection to the land, is to get to know more of the Native history of this land.   To the people who say, “America is such a young country,” I think that sentiment undermines a very rich and very ancient history of hundreds if not thousands of languages that flourished in these lands.  (According to Google today, “in spite of everything,” 150 Native American languages are still spoken in the United States.)  The truth of course is that there were thousands of years of culture and history on the lands pre-Christopher Columbus.  I feel we as a country identity or as inhabitants of this land suffer to not think of that richness, to not offer something “spiritual” back to those stewards, ancestors, keepers of the land.

I do hope it dawns that the state of Delaware was named after the Delaware tribe, and that our ignorance of (if not parading of) genocide—without acknowledgement—is only hurting us and only hurting our real chances of equitable and loving survival on the land.

Shayna Grajo