A Ritual for Nathan Phillips

When those young men mocked Omaha elder Nathan Phillips, they meant to hurt him and all Native Peoples. They do not understand yet that an act of hatred is a tear in the fabric of the Beloved Community, and as such, the wound belongs to us all. This ritual is a personal act, something I need for my own healing and to strengthen my commitment to decolonization. I offer it here in hopes it will be useful to others, and to our shared healing.

This is a sketch of the ritual of healing I’ll be conducting tonight after my child is asleep. Thanks to everyone whose work is represented here.

First, breath.

“Interrupt the words and the intellectual process for a moment and remember that you have a body. It is connected to the land beneath your feet, the air inside your lungs, the lifegiving water in each of your cells. Take a moment to consider the way the earth pulls you (us all) toward her…”
-from Annalisa Dias, In Equal Measure

Land acknowledgment.

I acknowledge that I hold this ritual on the ancestral lands of the Canarsie. During the genocide of Native peoples, the lands of the Canarsie were taken by force and their people murdered. As an uninvited settler on these lands, I commit myself to supporting the sovereignty of all Indigenous peoples and the decolonization of Turtle Island.

Listen to the elder.

I’ll listen to a video of Nathan Phillips speaking.

Honor the elder.

I’ll read Jacqueline E. Lawton’s poem about Nathan Phillips.

Hold the community.

I’ll hold the Native people I know in my heart

I’ll hold those I don’t know.

I’ll strengthen my compassion for the young men who committed this terrible act by holding them, too. This will be the hardest part.

Restorative justice.

I’ll send emails to the diocese and school with restorative justice resources.

Support Native artists and activists.

I’ll make a financial gift to a Native organization. Thank you, Ann Marie Lonsdale. Thank you, American Theatre team.

Reflect on Native art.

I’ll listen to Still Here by JB the First Lady and read She Had Some horses by Joy Harjo.

Last, breath.


Published by CorinnaSchulenburg

Artist and Activist

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