Last night we made it to Fairhaven, Massachusetts where we slept on the floor at a Unitarian Church. We had quite a wonderful potluck supper and one of the better sharing discussions afterwards. Much to my delight there were several key organizers at this event who are working locally to connect spending on our current wars to the economic problems here at home. One local postal worker, and a leader in his union, spoke with great passion about the need to increasingly make these connections.We began yesterday in Warren, Rhode Island (we have been criss-crossing back and forth between these two states in recent days). We held at short vigil at the National Guard Armory in Warren (these guardsmen are trained to be military police and have been sent to work at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo). Then we walked to a local park by the river, which we learned had been the summer camp for the Wampanoag tribe for thousands of years. Amongst the baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts are several mounds that were burial grounds for the Native Americans who once flourished throughout this region. There the Buddhists, who are leading the peace walk, drummed and chanted and I watched as geese flew over our heads. I thought about the deep roots of the old trees on top of the mounds being nourished by the mostly forgotten bones of the native people.Two days ago we had lunch at a home overlooking the Cole River in Swansea, Rhode Island which was the first house burned down by Indians when King Phillip’s War (King Phillip was the name the British gave to the native leader called Metacomet) began in 1675. The original chimney still remains in the restored house and I spent much time while walking during the last few days thinking about this thing we call “progress” that the white man brought to North America. Two cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant stick out like a sore thumb just on the other side of the river from this ancient house where we ate lunch. All around us as we walked we saw auto junk yards, neon signs, fast food restaurants, polluted water, highways with cars spewing exhaust fumes, and miles of asphalt highways. None of this enhanced the land nor did it offer the wildlife or the people a real chance for survival.
The woman who now lives in the house that was burned at the start of the war against the Indians talked about the inevitability of war between the white pilgrims and the Indians because each had fundamentally differing philosophies about the land. The pilgrims believed land could be possessed and sold for profit. The Indians couldn’t comprehend the concept of ownership of land – their way to life was made possible by a reverence for the land and a belief that the people had to live in harmony with nature. Much like in today’s world the victor was not necessarily the one that was most righteous but the one that had “superior firepower”.
But there is no peace in the land today. The Mother Earth is having convulsions as her body has become toxified and heated up by this out-of-control way of life the descendants of the pilgrims, and subsequent generations of immigrants, have brought to this continent.
I feel a deep sadness about all this, which gets magnified when we walk past huge graveyards where the white people are ornately buried. The Indian burial mounds now have junkyards and ball fields planted on top of them as the victors have even determined that these sacred sites must be desecrated and forgotten. But they are not forgotten – at least during this walk we are talking about the Native people and their culture and holding their memory up in our simple prayers.