Bezahn, friends! I invite you to listen to music during your stay here. As I wrote this, these tracks are two of what I listened to, when I wasn’t sitting in silence.
When I stop thinking about my story, I feel even more like a character in it. My strange and illimitable will and desire for the Good dictated that I write myself into the story of the Shawnee United Remnant Band three years ago. The experience of this quickly evolved past the visible, original tobacco-seed extraction parameters into learning about a different culture, and the development of a cluster of friendships. This is an account of my third encounter with my Shawnee friends, whose company I enjoyed for the third time over this past weekend.
One thing you need to know about the Shawnee is that they love alligators. They have an alligator on their flag. This is because of the crucial role those crocodilians played in their nation’s history. We have to go back to the beginning of their oral history for this; I have yet to receive the full story, but here’s the start: about one thousand years ago, the Shawnee were part of the warrior/worker class of the Mayan Empire. The Aztecs invaded the Yucatan, and the Shawnee decided they’d rather not fight that battle so they dipped out. Half of them skirted Northeast along the Gulf Coast, and the other half paddled straight across to Southern Florida. Two years later, the groups reunited. Having been foraging and fishing in unfamiliar ecosystems during that time, they were very hungry by that point. So they devoured all the alligators they could find; caymans had been a delicacy back in the rainforest, and they were easy big scaly meat lockers. The gift of the alligator was reverently appreciated for renewing their energy level and putting a little meat back on their ravished frames, so they carried the eggs farther North into Okeefenokee Swamp and beyond, extending the alligators’ range beyond what it had been previously as a show of thanks.
The alligator shows up again in a cave underneath their parcel in rural Ohio. The cave is how I found these “Indians”, via the internet, back when I wrote this post. The cave tours are fun, all the people tell slightly different stories as they move through them. The cave itself would tell this story: a million years ago, a meteor hit the Earth nearby to this place, fracturing the bedrock in jagging rays. The water circulating through as it does, did gush through these cracks and carve out grottos that no human has ever fully fathomed, for the danger of it. The inaccessibility of breathable oxygen to this immense aquifer would not be a problem for underwater panthers. Going down 200+ feet and hitting water, and then another 100 feet to the bottom did sweep away the only diver who ever attempted descending into what “the bottomless pit”. Supposedly he washed up 6 miles away out of a seep hole in the side of a ditch. Anyway, when the Shawnee made it up to the Eastern Woodlands, they embellished a feature in the cave to accentuate its alligator shape in honor of their beloved sustainer. The alligator is not the same as the underwater panther, however, which I think is probably still living down there in the buried ocean.
They have a campground, and they give cave tours, on the summit of the Bellefountaine “Outlier”. The rock here juts up so hard (dolemitic limestone) and so high (peak of Ohio at 1550 feet), that the last glacier broke itself over the place and jutted up a mile high into the sky. When the climate warmed up, the glacier fell and smacked the top of the mountain and broke two of the cave systems. Hence the deep drainages on the top of the mountain, complete with rocks from the tops of their former roofs.
The Indians are paying off their land, which they bought back from the dominant culture’s inheritors. Who’s ancestors stole it from them. FUCK. They aren’t bitter towards me, though. Only those who trash the land and hold people and planet as profane can raise their bile to froth. They host hippy jam band festivals during the summer to pay off the bank. Soon they’ll have washed their hands of this, and then more attention will be turned towards the regeneration of their culture. In the meantime they have been starting that task. They experiment with gardening, preserving their pristine woodlands, hosting pow wows, getting their tribe recognized by the State and telling their stories. They like the 3 sisters idea, but from what I saw there is a missing link they need before the system will work. Perhaps I can connect them with the successful permaculturalist Susana Lein, who has mastered co-creating the corn beans and squash as a flourishingly productive, no-til polycult.
I have yet to attend a pow wow, but as I gain in appreciation for what the elaborate costumes signify and what the people are dancing for, I’m staring to wonder why I haven’t! Hahaha. I found blue cohosh and spikenard on their property, in the middle of this sea of corn and soybeans, like wo-OH! There is something special about this land. There is a family of wild badgers living here, and an extinct species of raccoon, and a light bulb that is not connected to electricity that illuminates the community center all night every night. Perhaps related to the fact that the cave underneath the community center drains your cell phone battery if you leave it on during the tour?
Some details from a plant walk with the clan mother Melassa: they use the root of spicebush to make a tea. They eat the whole violet, saying it’s loaded with vitamin C. They suggest eating the roots of waterleaf in the autumn as a potato. They call plants “green people”, or ahnzahnzaki nawbe in their Algonquin language.
For efficacy of understanding, I hit the zen/pause button on my internal narrator frequently while I was there. Letting my heart receive every gift and scrap, soaking it up and enjoying the ride as it hit me. I engaged my agency to let the Band people know of my appreciation for their hospitality, and to link my story and those of the other college students with theirs. That kind of active listening builds bridges of affection and understanding, and it is also very tiring. I guess I was unconsciously feeding on the vibe of extreme receptivity, though I had to push myself to remain more of a vessel than a torch. It takes both yin and yang, but in anticipation of the upcoming autumn of self-directed research, classes and crusading for Gaia it was more yin than those activities. Learning to moderate my Mars aspect, active-ism will become a greater portion of my balanced modus operandi than it has been this summer. Now, after visiting these Indians who have been keepin comin on for so long, I feel ready to stay strong and steady.