Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Voices of Wisdom- a possible Non-Profit~

This is a more academic version of a possible future. All I have at the moment is my vision, which will be informed by experience after my trip to Oz.

VOICES OF WISDOM

For the last six years I have been working on creating a program that could begin to address the travesties surrounding Native/First Americans and Aboriginal Australians. I really began to understand the atrocities endured by the Aboriginal population in Australia, and consequently in my own country, while pursuing my Masters degree at Macquarie University, north of Sydney.

During school breaks, on-campus housing was made available to Aboriginal students through the Warawara program, and as an international student, I also stayed on campus during holidays. As a fellow outsider, I became friends with members of this program and was allowed into their inner circle to begin a video storytelling project, as part of my degree. While listening to their stories I couldn't help but think of the Cherokee community which is close to my home in Western North Carolina. The historical genocide endured by both of these indigenous groups made me realize that the alcoholism, domestic violence and racism of the present day is for the most part symptomatic of the larger problem of historical trauma.

Historical Trauma is "the collective emotional and psychological injury both over the life span and across generations, resulting from a cataclysmic history of genocide "(Yellow Horse Brave Heart). I want to create an organization called "V.O.W.", or "Voices of Wisdom" that will engage community and the arts as a means to heal historical trauma. Employing digital storytelling and cultural exchange between Aboriginal Australians and Native/First Americans, V.O.W. will focus on women, ancient wisdom and current sustainability. Women are the heart of the family, and their empowerment is a means by which to facilitate reconciliation and truly heal the community in which they live. Women in developing countries and indigenous societies are especially at risk for violence, poverty, and have little or no access to health care. Rhonda Copelan, in her essay, “Understanding Domestic Violence as Torture” asserts that, “Violence against women in the home operates as an alternative system of social control unaccountable to the formal legal system.” This is especially insidious for those in indigenous communities who have historical memory of betrayal by the very legal system that professes assistance in the form of public policy. The wisdom of indigenous elders, in terms of oral tradition and environmental sustainability, must also be shared and protected or it will be lost, to the peril of our entire global community.

Bonnie and Eduard Duran, historical trauma scholars, remind us that, "Once a people have been assaulted in a genocidal fashion, there are psychological ramifications. With the victim's complete loss of power comes despair, and the psyche reacts by internalizing what appears to be genuine power--the power of the oppressor. The internalizing process begins when Native American people internalize the oppressor, which is merely a caricature of the power actually taken from Native American people. At this point, the self-worth of the individual and/or group has sunk to a level of despair tantamount to self-hatred. This self-hatred can be either internalized or externalized. . . Research has demonstrated the grim reality of internalized hatred result in suicide. . .Another way in which the internalized self-hatred is manifested symptomatically is through the deaths of massive numbers by alcoholism. When self-hatred is externalized, we encounter a level of violence within the community that is unparalleled in any other group in the country . . ." (Duran and Duran, 29)

I would like to travel to South Africa and Rwanda to study the process of creating reconciliation councils, and to glean tools that will hopefully ignite a movement of reconciliation in the Aboriginal and Native/First American communities. The reconciliation and the empowerment of women and elders in indigenous and Native/First American groups will facilitate a safe space for ancient wisdom to be transformed into present day healing, economic independence, and self-governance, which I hope to translate into a viable non-profit enterprise based in sustainability.


Thursday, July 9, 2009



I was invited to attend the Garma Aboriginal festival:  www.garma.telstra.com

     It's truly amazing, but the challenge is the $2,200 additional funding!

I'm having a documentary film showing on July 22.  Fine Arts Theatre, 7pm -Whaledreamers: www.whaledreamers.com

but if you can't make it, do try to see the film, it is brilliant.  

     I am learning so much. For instance, I had not realized that playing the yidaki (didjeridu) is only for men.  It's men's business and illegal for women.  Cultural understanding then comes in bits in pieces: 


The sound of the yidaki at Gulkula is a call to the Yolngu clans of Northeast Arnhem Land to come together. It is a call to all peoples to come together in unity. Every August it is also a call to men from around the world who are enthusiastic about the "didjeridu" enthusiasts to come visit the home of the instrument and learn from traditional masters at the Garma Festival.


Non-Indigenous use of yidaki

In the Northern Territory, around Australia, and even internationally, yidakis are being sold in their thousands by those who have no connection to Yolngu. The Garma Festival hopes to remind people that these instruments and their music have sacred cultural uses associated with them that are still being practiced.

Mandawuy Yunupingu explains:

Yolngu understand the yidaki has become an Australian icon and accept non-Yolngu people throughout the world now use it for informal purposes and enjoyment. Be aware, however, that its origins are sacred and secret to Yolngu men. Those stories can not be told here, they can only be shared with initiated men. The yidaki is a male-oriented instrument. In Yolngu society women are forbidden to play it as its origins are sacred to men.

Healing power of the yidaki

Mandawuy Yunupingu explains:

Yolngu people have long recognised the healing powers of the yidaki. Through the provision of exercises for breathing, the yidaki holds collective powers in the healing process. The sound transfers peaceful vibrations that penetrate the mind and create inner spiritual oneness in an individual or group. In some cases, the yidaki is used for physical healing with the player concentrating his breath on an afflicted part of the patient's body.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


If I had to speak so that everyone completely understood me, I would have to be silent.  In 25 days I begin a new journey, this time to Australia.  It'll be an intense road ahead, but it's also a chance to start work on a dream I've had for over six years, to facilitate an exchange program between Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans to heal historical trauma through shared experience.  Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart has an excellent website on historical trauma, if you want a better understanding:  http://www.historicaltrauma.com/