Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mitakuye Oyasin, "We are all related."

     A box was delivered to my back porch not too long ago which- upon opening- was found to be full of books. I discovered that my mom had passed on to me her library of Native American history and literature that she has accumulated over the years. One book in particular drew my attention, Mitakuye Oyasin by Ehanamani (Dr. A.C. Ross). Ehanamani has compiled an in depth survey of Native American Oral history citing more than 30 tribal sources and their teachings and philosophy. The common thread which unites these tribal sources is characterized in the phrase, mitakuye oyasin - "We are all related".
     As I read Ehanamani's work I am drawn to reflect on the implications of a life lived with mitakuye oyasin  as a guiding principle. What would be different in my life as I encountered, my neighbors, my enemies, the stranger, my co-workers and supervisors? Holding relational ties  with my neighbor would I continue to have an insulating and distant exchange, waving absent minded, as I hop in my car or retreat into my house? Or upon seeing my neighbor would I engage them briefly demonstrating my interest and concern for their well-being? Communicating the value I celebrate in my neighbor with love, giving thanks for them as a child of the Beloved and member of my family. Holding relational ties with my enemies would I continue to cultivate and nurse resentments and retaliation for perceived or "real" wrongs? Or would I respond with compassion and forgiveness recognizing that each and everyone of us have from time to time said or done hurtful things to another. Would I be able to respond with the depth of clear vision seeing in my enemy- my sister and brother- choosing the bond of kinship over the schism of hatred and suspicion? Holding up relational ties to the strangers I encounter would I casually look away or refuse to hear or refuse to act because they are not like me? Or might I offer to them all that I am able to without expectation or condition- inviting them to my table to be refreshed and renewed? Would I be courageous enough to come to aid the stranger who is also my mother, father, and child? Holding relational ties with my co-workers and supervisors would I give them  of my talent and experience only the bare minimum, holding at bay those gifts which may strengthen and enrich teamwork? Or would I be thankful that I am a part of a larger family with shared goals and common hopes for the work we carry?
     Mitakuye Oyasin claims we are related- no exceptions. As a guiding principle I choose, mitakuye oyasin- May this truth find root in my life and in the lives of all my Family- You are all Loved!

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