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Bonus Episode: Sacred is Sacred!

ADRIENNE KEENE: Everyone, welcome to this bonus episode of all my relations Matika and I felt like with some of the stuff that was going on in the world this week around Notre Dame and all of the indigenous response to the burning of the cathedral, that we will take the opportunity to kind of jump in and have a quick conversation on what was going on. If you like these short formats we might be doing some more of it. But until then, we'll have a new episode next week. Wado.

MATIKA WILBUR: Hello friends and relatives. Today we begin an episode sacred is sacred with love and condolences to our relatives in Paris. In fact that is why we are here today.

ADRIENNE: We wanted to discuss Notre Dame and the outcry of public support, and then also the response from our indigenous community and other POC allies in the aftermath of the fire.

MATIKA: Yeah, I mean I've been shocked by some of the things that I've been reading on social media and also shocked that that that fire happened and it brought up a whirlwind of of thoughts and images really I think of like the images of Standing Rock burning or the images of Old Man House burning and and sacred things in general burning in it and it kind of has been a triggering moment for me. How about you, Adrienne?

ADRIENNE: Well, I think that you and I have had slightly different responses to things like I've been, I was sad I guess it, the burning of Notre Dame I think that there's a lot of important artwork and there's something to be said for the cultural space that the cathedral holds, but I was not I didn't find a lot of the responses um super problematic I mean I think I saw, I understood where they were coming from, and I understood why there was so much anger and outcry from indigenous communities and other communities of color around this particular moment.

MATIKA: So maybe we can just take a moment to discuss some of those opinions. And I pulled up some different social media posts from some friends, and some different opinions from different media outlets. Would you like to begin Adrienne by sort of reading or echoing what some of those things, say,

ADRIENNE: Sure. So, Doug Parker who is someone that we both know and respect very deeply said on Facebook, and it looks like it may be a quote from someone else said, quote, if two men in a world of more than 7 billion people can provide 300 million pounds to restore Notre Dame within six hours. Then there is enough money in the world to feed every mouth, shelter every family, and educate every child. The Failure to do so is a matter of will and a matter of system.

MATIKA: Hmm. What do you think about that?

ADRIENNE: I mean, I think it's true. I also think that the Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest organizations on the planet, and the Vatican holds vast, vast amounts of wealth, and so the fact that folks are pledging money to them, feels uncomfortable to me. I also think about how much atrocity has been inflicted on our communities by Christianity and by the Catholic Church in particular, but I also do know that there are a lot of folks in our communities who are deeply Catholic or are deeply Christian and that those systems of faith really provide comfort and support and foundation in their lives and I recognize that as well.

MATIKA: Yeah, I saw this post from Dallas but it's from [name], and says yes, it is tragic that a church that took 200 years to build on the backs of poor folk burnt down today in Paris. But eurocentrism is when you scroll past an Ancient Mosque in Palestine being demolished, but cry tears when something happens in Europe. Just last week, Israel converted a historic mosque, older than Notre Dame into a bar. The past few weeks we have witnessed the burning of historic Black churches and we have seen sacred Indigenous lands destroyed for pipelines. Not to mention the history of the Catholic Church and the atrocities that has been behind in Latin America, Middle East, Asia, and Africa have sympathy when it comes to European tragedies, but sometimes struggle with empathy. Out of my decolonization process is removing the Eurocentric lenses in which I once viewed the world. Okay. I saw a lot of people repost this on social media. And I think that's where I first like had this moment where I was like wait hold on, hold on. Okay, first of all, like I've been to this cathedral in Paris and I remember the experience I remember walking in and being overwhelmed by its beauty, and by the these massive arches that I thought of being built in 16th century and wondering how they like man had the ability to do such majestic things at the time and I remember feeling a little bit of like, ooh, you know, it was, it was stolen resources that created created this and and knowing that that was a real thing. But at the same time, I think of my relatives and the way that we behave on the rez, you know, when families that may be our arch nemesis or politically we have very different opinions when they suffer loss of tragedy, how we will, in that moment, let that lie and go to the funeral and help start the fire and make fish and cook and be supportive and loving and I think that we have this traditional knowledge structure that tells us we hold space for one another, especially for prayerful people. And I think that this moment right now like you know 24 hours after the flames have been been put out is not really the right moment to begin politicizing and pointing fingers. I mean, can we just give them a moment to mourn, perhaps, before we make it into something that fits within our agenda.

ADRIENNE: I'm crinkling my face, Matika. I don't totally agree. I think, so for me I can totally understand, because what we talk about on this podcast are relationships and relationality and to me, there's a difference between. I can support my friends and loved ones who, like I have a lot of Pueblo friends and relatives who are are Catholic and that this will be a major loss for them and I can support them as individuals, as human beings who are are experiencing a loss, while also being heavily critical of the system that Notre Dame represents. And so to me it's kind of like when we talk about after a mass shooting and people are like, oh don't politicize it. We need to mourn the victims but like when do we talk about gun control if not immediately after a tragedy? So, to me it feels like now is the time because a lot of non Native folks, like, and this is what a lot of the memes are saying to me is that folks are like this happens to us every week. This happens to us all the time like our indigenous sites are just as sacred as Notre Dame, and you bulldoze them, and you burn them down and you don't think about the implications of that for us and so notice this feeling that you are feeling when you're seeing this thing burn in front of your eyes and there's nothing you can do that hopeless, that helpless feeling. That's what we feel. And so, to me it feels like this is a moment to capitalize on that, to try and get some folks to understand what it feels like to be us when we see our sacred sites destroyed, for whatever construction project or pipeline, or shopping mall or whatever it is. So, I can have, I can empathize with the folks who are feeling loss, but the Catholic Church is so powerful, it's one of the most powerful institutions in the world. So, us criticizing the Catholic Church in this moment is not hurting anyone in my mind.

MATIKA: Hmm. Indigenous goddess gang put up a post, saying the concern and dismay is being felt by many around the world. Now imagine that the damage to this historic and religious site was caused by a pipeline running through it. By fracking, or due to development. The shock and dismay is the type of feeling Indigenous people feel when our lands and sacred sites are damaged and threatened. And that was a quote from Casey Duma. And, you know, I can relate you know I've seen. I think about Old Man House burning and our longhouses burning in the northwest and I think about those burial sites like the canoe boneyards in the places where we fought really hard to protect to try to protect the grave sites and the sacred sites and many of our traditional spaces. And I realize like the importance of those traditional sacred spaces. And that's partly why I have empathy for these people that are mourning, because I know how the ways it hurts. And I think that if, if we politicize the moment, I'm not saying that there isn't room for that conversation and there should be, but I do believe that that we have this human responsibility to to hold one another when when when suffering. And in the same way that we want the same colonizers and oppressors to, to be mindful of our sacred sites, we them. I just don't think that there's any difference. I mean I know that I know that there's power structures at play, but I just can't imagine somebody you know suffering right in front of me. Some their house burning or, or them being shot by a gun. You know, some sort of crazy tragedy and, and not just taking a moment to, to care for them. It's just, it seems basic to me.

ADRIENNE: And I think, again, I'm not in disagreement that the humans that are suffering should be acknowledged, but I think to me to say that Indigenous meme accounts or Indigenous accounts should not be posting these sort of gleeful things in this moment feels in some ways, kind of like tone policing, which like we're in such positions of marginalization as Indigenous people that like, no matter what our response to things there's always going to be someone who says that it's not the right response that we should be going about it in like a nicer way or a calmer way or a less aggressive way, and we've seen that from the beginning in terms of our resistance to settler colonialism as a whole is it's always like, well, we might listen to you if you were just nicer about it is something that people tell me on the Internet all the time. And I donʻt think thatʻs the case. I think that uh people just arenʻt gonna listen regardless and so if we police the way that folks are going about their response to things, I think that doesnʻt help the situation either. Like people should be allowed to voice their anger and people should be allowed to voice their anger and people should be allowed to voice their feelings of upset that our sacred sites arenʻt taken in the same way, that we donʻt get pledges of 300 million dollars within hours, that we donʻt get the same level of recognition or that when the Black churches burned in St. Louis that um people didnʻt see that as a similar level of tragedy or something worthy of notice and so I think that this is a symbol. Itʻs not necessarily about the actual act. For some people, it may be. But itʻs a symbol thatʻs representatives of the power systems at play and whose sites are considered sacred and whose loss is considered real loss. And that's the feeling that is coming out in all of these posts, is, it's been a long time coming, and this is now a symbol that lets us talk about these feelings that we've had for a very long time.

MATIKA: Mm, yeah, you're talking about the seventh district that Baptist Church fires in St Landry. Yes. Yeah. The New York Times wrote about it the headline is Black churches destroyed by arson, sees spike in donations after Notre Dame fire, and their first paragraph says the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday prompted immediate pledges of millions of years to help rebuild it. On Tuesday, it spurred for donations to do the same for much smaller places of worship 1000s of miles away that were recently destroyed by arson a crowdfunding campaign for three fire ravaged Black churches in Louisiana received more than 1.2 million. After it was widely shared on social media on Tuesday. Many users noted that while hundreds of millions of euros had already been pledged to rebuild the famous Cathedral. The small churches in Louisiana was still struggling. I, I find it really the crowdfunding campaign is now up to 1.5 million. And it's amazing how this is like so quickly spiked. I think what is it like maybe Standing Rock raised like $2 million total right for the whole for the whole situation. And part of the reason why the oil is flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline is because there wasn't enough resources upfront in the beginning to really truly fight this big enormous oil company with in, you know, in the channels that we have to which is in court systems, you know.

ADRIENNE: Yeah. And even like I just keep thinking and I think a lot of people are thinking the same thing in terms of Standing Rock where in September of the movement one of the former tribal Historic Preservation officers was granted access to private land which is adjacent to Standing Rock, and was able to do an informal survey of that land that he had previously not had access to and that was in the path of the pipeline and identified something over 20 burial sites and potential burial sites and a lot more of these archaeological features that he said were some of the most important archaeological findings in the state of North Dakota in hundreds of years and he presented that information in court on as a plea to get a temporary stoppage of the pipeline and after he presented that information, 24 hours later, the Dakota Access Pipeline construction workers went out to that exact area that he had identified on a Saturday of a holiday weekend and bulldozed it. And that was barely a blip in the media coverage of what was going on. And like the loss involved in that like it makes me choked up to even think about it but like, then you skipped 15 miles of their construction, they like were not even close to the site. They brought the bulldozers on the Saturday of a holiday weekend and just bulldozed that spot, so they wouldn't have to face the consequences in court, have there been burial and sacred sites there and like the loss involved in that. And that-

MATIKA: Yeah I was there that day that was, that was September 3 Labor Day weekend when they also brought, they brought dogs and many were bit by by the Dakota Access pipelines private militia, who I think their dogs bit like over 15 different victims I myself brought three boys to the hospital that day who all had broken ribs from getting beat up that day. And I, I remember Yeah, I was there.

ADRIENNE: Yeah. And I think that that's what folks are thinking about when they're seeing this public mourning for a sacred institution that when we were mourning for the sacred space we were met with dogs that were attacking people, we were met with bulldozers like. I think it's stirring up a lot of those feelings that folks have.

MATIKA: I think the conversation is also about invisibility right like within what you're talking about not just that we were a matter of dogs and bulldozers and water cannons and massive arrests and felonies but also that we were met with invisibility right like that I think that we can Amy Goodman was there and that aired on Democracy Now and that going on Democracy Now actually really like made the, the movement much larger it was it was major leading up because of that experience it did it, it did it completely. I think the next week you know it was like there was 1000 people there and then there was 10,000 people there so the media attention really helped and all the media outlets came after that, but there wasn't much runtime right like I remember watching the, the live feeds and and watching people being sprayed with water cannons and freezing temperatures. And people getting hypothermia. And looking up at national television hoping that I would see some sort of coverage I was looking for solidarity among strangers and there was none of that I mean it just wasn't happening on national on national news, and it's still not happening right because what's happening with the caribou in the Arctic or with Keystone or with Line three or what's happening on the bayou or with oak flats, or with

ADRIENNE: Or Bears Ears or Mauna Kea or hickory ground or any it goes on and on. Um, we have, we have Notre Dames happening all over the place all the time. And so I do think that that's just, that's the frustration that's the voice that is coming out. And I think we both are on the same page in that we both think that there should be sympathy and empathy extended to folks who, this is their place of worship, this is representative of their, their space of prayer, their sacred space, and that we should be extending the hand of understanding and healing to them. I'm in agreement with that. I don't know, I think it's an important time for us to also voice, these other stories too, because those are the feelings that are being raised for folks and I think they should be able to have an outlet to voice them.

MATIKA: Mm hmm. Yeah, I mean we can't preach decolonization and say that the revolution will be Indigenous. And then, the very, very next day you know laugh at somebody suffering. It just doesn't work that way. Not in my opinion. I do believe that sacred is sacred and where people are playing they deserve respect and tolerance is the key. And, you know, I understand people's response. But I also think of my grandma, you know, and I think of many of our grandmas who became Catholics willingly or unwillingly. And I think of people like for my rezzers. There's a small Catholic church on our rez, and there's this man Father Pat.

ADRIENNE: Oh you told me story with Father Pat.

MATIKA: And how father Pat has, you know will hold space for people, like when we have funerals, we have the shaker church sing and the [name] people will sing, and sometimes Buddhists will get up and pray and then like the fourth Adventists will also get up and pray and and there's space made for everybody to pray. When, when people would like to and however and whomever. And it's a really beautiful practice that I've never seen outside of my traditional territories and, and I'm grateful that I was raised with that sort of tolerance and and so Iʻd just like to extend my love and respect to the prayerful people that are suffering, and also tell you know like the stronghold of the Indigenous scholars and thinkers that I understand what you're saying, but I also. I also hope that that we can also sort of lead the revolution in and showing our traditional teachings and and in our traditional teachings, I do believe that tolerance is amongst them. So, that's my two cents.

ADRIENNE: I think that's fair. I got I got plenty of other thoughts but I also think that we have kind of. We just wanted to create this space to sort of think through some of the things and when we realized that we both had slightly different opinions on what was going on, but I do extend my sympathies to folks in Paris and our Catholic relatives in our communities who this is a major loss. But I hope that we can also keep pushing forward, the conversations around our own sacred sites as well.

MATIKA: Wouldn't it be amazing though if this became a pivotal moment where we suddenly raised $200 million for Keystone or line three or the Arctic. Yeah, I mean in that sense like it this is when you kind of want to, I understand you want to stand from the mountaintop and say like, Look, protect Bears Ears and oak flats and Mauna Kea and all of our other sacred sites that that have value and meaning to our people, and, and one isn't more sacred than the other.

ADRIENNE: Word. Well thank you all for tuning in and listening to Matika and I have a conversation from across the country.

MATIKA: We're grateful to have you listening and tuning in and please share with your friends, like us on iTunes, rate it. It really helps us out.

ADRIENNE: We love you, and we'll see you next time.

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