Friday, July 20, 2012

First Stewards #2: Sunrise Ceremonies

Each morning of the First Stewards symposium, members of the delegations from across the Pacific and the Western United States would gather at the main entrance to the Museum of the Native American Indian. As the sun was rising different delegations would take on the task of welcoming the day, welcoming each other, and forming spiritual and cultural bonds. These gatherings would take place before 6 am, and so it was sometimes difficult for everyone to make it. But for those of us who did, we were fortunate enough to participate in some of the most quiet, solemn and beautiful moments. The symposium had a lot of discussions, alot of exchanges of information, a lot connections based on explicit comprehension. English is the means of common communication and so we can all speak to each other and try to get each other to learn and understand.

But these sunrise ceremonies were something different. At the ceremonies nothing was in English. Very little was explained in English. Each group contributed to the moment. What was so inspirational was how the lack of explanation, the lack of discussion didn't really detract from the moment. During the symposium, we would gather around and talk about how similar we are. At the ceremony we would feel so similar. It wouldn't be based on anything that was clearly communicated for those who couldn't understand, but perhaps for that reason it would feel as if it were more real than regular talking.

A member of the Yupiit tribe from Alaska performed a purification ceremony, lighting some sage and walking around letting the smoke flow over each of us. A member of the Hoh Tribe of Washington chanted, shaking a rattle as he sang. One morning, the Makah people, also of Washington state were supposed to conduct a ceremony, but their delegation was incomplete and they weren't prepared. As a result the other delegations each contributed to fill the gap. The Native Hawaiians performed a chant and told the story of how the rainy and dry seasons in Hawai'i were created, after a great warrior fought the sun thus giving people a rest during half the year from its heat. The Samoan and Refalauwasch delegations each said prayers of their own. Us from Guam contributed by singing part of the I Fanlalai'an chant "Tumotoghe i Lahi." The part that we sung went as follows:

Ginnen lagu na manmatto
Hugiyai nga'fulu na la'yak
Manmamakno' i tammong gi tasi
Fannangga gi sagua' haga'na
Fannangga i maga'haga'
Fannangga yan fanekungok
Fanekungok i katen kulo'
Sa' mane'etnon i manaina

At the end of the ceremony a leader from the Makah thanked everyone who had performed something to fill the space left by his tribe. As he spoke you could tell he was very emotional and he admitted to being touched by the morning's ceremony. It was not necessarily the chants and songs themselves as he couldn't understand them literally. What touched him was the fact that we had all shown the importance of indigenous people and of what we offer the world. Indigenous people support each other, take care of each other, and give so freely and willingly to those who are in need. This is true in history, true today and in that moment, the leader argued, he had felt it, and for that he was grateful. It was beautiful to see something that he felt, and that we all felt, illustrated in such a solemn and gracious way.

1 comment:

miami lakes kia said...

you are giving good welcoming the day and welcoming each other in the sunrise ceremonies!
Kia Sunrise


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