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listening to robert john knapp

Examples of inclusion and autonomy with Tony’s tribe are non-stop.

The first event this morning was the spiritual advisor, Robert John Knapp, talking about the power of gentleness and introducing the young people and those in regalia, blessing them, and then having everyone of the children and the people in regalia greet everyone else who is here, because friendship is the base for everything else.” he said.

While that’s happening, more people, friends are showing up. .

“I can make the words but I can’t give the thanks:” that is how Robert begins the opening prayer.

“Some people say this is social, a pow wow, not ceremonially sacred, but it is. Because our creator told us two things: the first is that we must give thanks. There is never enough of giving thanks.

The second instruction is the most sacred, that we must enjoy life. And so in that kind of way, that is why we are here. To enjoy life as well as for healing and many other things.

It doesn’t say, if you get time, no , it says you must enjoy life.”

Everything I do is a prayer. “

I can say the words, but you have to give the thanks.”

Just be thankful, don’t be the judge. “

Robert opens with his resolution to the question I asked earlier. He begins the opening prayer saying we ask you to listen,, I was taught to say this prayer, and then you can carry it forward in your own way. “

So often, all the native people are asking for from settler society is that we listen, we listen and then we go forward not controlled by them, but with their teaching in our thoughts.

so that’s my first listening to Robert.


at Tony Cerda Park for the Big Time Gathering and Pow Wow

I’m at Tony Cerda Park in Pomona, the guest of Tony, the Chair of the Costanona Rumsen Carmel Tribe, who, at 72, is getting more and more support and

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Video- Big Time POW WOW 2010 Promo - Video by costanoanrumsen

acknowledgment: both here in Pomona, where the tribe relocated over a century ago, and is an exciting leader that Mary Jean and I have been profiling as part of the Ohlone Profiles Project and supporting to come to San Francisco.

We have been working on getting him and his tribe up for the last few years.

When I first met Tony, four years ago, I was working at New College and had a center there and some support for Native American programming, including support for recognizing Ohlone as the original people of San Francisco. I tried to get Tony and the dancers to come to New College on Valencia street, but I learned that he was bigger than I could support. He comes with forty dancers and singers, and with so many other supporters, the college didn’t even have parking let alone enough performance space to welcome Tony.

When I learned that is when I thought to began the Ohlone Profiles to get support from the arts commission and to find organizations in the community that would give their resources to welcome Ohlone and receive the original people’s blessing.

I’m usually too involved in organizing the events, such as the Coit Tower Projection, or last weeks opening ceremony for the Eco classroom at Heron’s Head, to do the writing and blogging the way it deserves to be done. This weekend, I’m down at an event Tony has organized, I’m free to write and think and reflect. What a gift that is.

We just heard the Mayor of Pomona, saying the best thing they ever did with this park was to name it after Tony Cerda. “Now is a really big day for the park, he said. A little thing now turned into a huge, multi-ethnic, and Ohlone sponsored and organized, day of tribal events with hundreds of people.

As usual, though there are lots of things happening on the surface, there is also a back story in my head and writing allows me to go into it a bit.

The issue, the conversation, is about how to remain authentic, while still being flexible and relevant. About that I am learning most from Tony and the other Ohlone Mary Jean and I are working to bring forward. It seems to me that there are different traditions or ways of carrying ancient culture forward. Tony and Ann Marie and some of the other Ohlone that we are fortunate to be working with are so flexible and welcoming. The settler religious movement calls this ecumenical. Edward Said points out that culture is actually adaptation, its being smart about learning from others. Yet, there is also a role for remembering and honoring the past and the teachings that elders can share.

We are about to bring everyone into the ceremony. I’ve got to go be part of it.


Come Out Wednesday


Memorial for Al Robles

Sabrina and I went to Glide for the memorial service for my friend, Al Robles.  I remember when Al and Russell were running the Brannon Street Cultural Center and the American Indian Arts workshop had classes and events there. William Snieder taught singing and drumming, his wife Alberta taught beadwork. Those were the days of CETA and CAC artists supported by their government. May those days return soon. I was listening to the JAMs program talk about how hard it is to maintain the programs there and I was thinking, at least they have a program. The Ohlone don’t have a single community  space to call their own. I was thinking of how the Japanese were removed from their homes and businesses during World War II and how similar their experiences must have been to the removal of the Ohlone from their homes during the gold rush times.  What would happen if we shared space for programs to share the costs? Al was always putting people together in new ways and I think he is still doing it.

Friday, July 24th: After the planning meeting and broadcast

Wednesday and Thursday were big days for the Ohlone Profiles project. We held our last broadcast of the Spring season, and held our first in a series of planning meetings for the next several years.

One outcome was agreement on this one sentence vision statement for the Ohlone Profiles project:
“Recognition of rights that understand the connectedness of all life and increase awareness of indigenous presence.”

We also agreed to a project mission statement:
To sustain conversation through cultural work and ceremony

We also listed the types of activities that we are proposing for November and for the next two years:
Broadcasts, public film projections, film screenings, exhibits, public conversations, dance performances and ceremonies.

We also began to discuss a proposed schedule for August and for the fall.
August: interviewing Ohlone leaders that we have not been able to bring to any of the three broadcast programs at ATA.
Tony Cerda, Aug 16th in Pomona.

Others to be arranged

I’m late for my day job so that’s it for now.