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Encouraging Indigenous Land and Spiritual Acknowledgements

Christopher Buck , Kevin Locke | May 19, 2022

PART 99 IN SERIES Indigenous Messengers of God

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Christopher Buck , Kevin Locke | May 19, 2022

PART 99 IN SERIES Indigenous Messengers of God

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Video and film – the spoken and visual “word” – can often work more effectively than the written word. Video has a certain immediacy and virtual presence that the printed page rarely rivals. 

Visual rhetoric renders the medium itself as part and parcel of its message, as Marshall McLuhan might say. Video can demystify the otherwise elusive author’s intent, and make it more clear by the visual expressions clearly seen on the faces of presenters. You can look into their eyes — the windows of their souls – and engage in a dynamic exchange more active than still photographs and even more effective than the most illustrious illustrations. 

That said, we would like to share a fascinating video about the spiritual traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and their relationship to the Baha’i Faith.

RELATED: Patricia Locke on Native American Manifestations of God

On Sunday, October 17, 2021, as part of the online program of the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Patricia Locke Foundation presented a virtual session on “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Centered on Spiritual Reality,” with a video entitled “Encouraging Grassroots Indigenous Land & Spiritual Acknowledgements.” 

The video features six Indigenous Baha’is and two non-Indigenous “allies,” in order of their appearances: (1) Ceylan İşgör, Ph.D. (Turkish/Türkiye, non-Indigenous “ally”); (2) Nanabah Khan Foguth (Diné Tribe, Navajo Nation, Northern Arizona, now serving as one of the nine elected members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States); (3) Marylou Miller (Tlingit, of the lineage of Chief George Kyan of Ketchikan, Alaska, Eagle Moiety, Brown Bear clan from Tongass Village); (4) Kevin Locke (Tȟokéya Inážiŋ – “The First to Arise” – Lakota (Hunkpapa band) and Anishinaabe, former member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States); (5) Christopher Buck, Ph.D. (non-Indigenous “ally”); (6) Yuxgitsiy (“Raven”) George Holly, Jr. (Deg Xit’an, now serving as one of the nine elected members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Alaska); (7) Lee Brown, Ph.D. (Cherokee, Wolf Clan); and (8) Jordan Bighorn (Lakota, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux).

The Patricia Locke Foundation, a Baha’i-inspired non-profit organization, made this 45-minute video. It includes a special “Indigenous Land and Spiritual Acknowledgment” in the form of a prayer by Patricia’s son Kevin Locke: 

Grandfather above, we acknowledge the holy ones you have sent upon this land to kindle the sacred fire in the hearts of us — your grandchildren. We are eternally grateful that, in ancient times, you have sent Deganawida, the Peacemaker, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Breath Maker, Sweet Medicine and a myriad others to breathe holiness and beauty upon this Turtle Island and your grandchildren here, and to teach us Your laws and to enable us to draw close to You and especially to love and cherish our relative, Grandmother Earth, and all that dwell upon her. In particular we acknowledge the holy ones You have sent to the spot upon which we stand and the nations and kindreds who have been the custodians of that sacred trust. We ask that You breathe upon and fan the embers of the fire of love and faith in our hearts and minds, that our footsteps may tread Your path and we may restore peace and order upon this blessed land.

Q: Kevin, how and when were you inspired to write this beautiful prayer?: 

A: I wrote it just below my late mother’s residence. On a flat overlooking the confluence of Mni Šóše (Missouri River) and the Pȟaláni Wakpá (Grand River) is an Arikara village site with a mile-long track around its periphery. There I do my devotional runs in the early mornings. 

There, the spiritual legacies and footprints of both Mother Corn of the Arikara and White Buffalo Calf Woman of the Lakota conflate and merge into one powerful current of inspiration. Eagles soar over the sacred sites of both nations, visible as one gazes upstream to the Grand River and downstream towards the Missouri River. The remains of this ancient village seem to fill the air with hustle and bustle, with the sounds of laughing children, humming with the transactional dealings of industrious people, brought even more alive by the aroma of camp fires and delicious meals — all propelled by visions inspired by these great female revelators of the word and the will of the Great Spirit. 

It is there that I take my issues and concerns and place them in the footprints of these Great Ones as I do my prayer-laps around the village site. The direct question I posed while doing this run was how to transcend the potential divisiveness of a “land acknowledgement” – and then it became abundantly clear the sacredness of the land is directly related to the Holy Ones who walked upon it and, through their words and teachings, made this land the mirror of heavenly attributes, through the people entrusted with their sacred Covenants. 

This prayer is not mine — and I shudder to see my name associated with it. It is in no way final, just an idea upon which others can build their own acknowledgements and meditations.

Q: Thank you, Kevin. I think that your discovery, or spiritual realization, that “the sacredness of the land is directly related to the Holy Ones who walked upon it and through their words and teachings made it the mirror of heavenly attributes through the people entrusted with heir Covenants” is truly profound!

Years ago, I was given a similar spiritual insight by a Baha’i friend of mine who, in 1974 in Eugene, Oregon, had the following conversation with my father, when my parents were visiting me from San Jose, California. My father, George Hugh Buck, owned a real estate company called “Worldwide Buck Realty.” My Baha’i friend began this conversation by saying: “Mr. Buck, you’re a real estate broker. So I have a real estate question for you. In Exodus in the Bible, God says: “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” So my question to you is this: How much of the ground that Moses was standing on was holy — and why?”

My father was quite surprised to be asked such an unusual and challenging question, and was completely caught off guard by it. “I don’t know,” Dad replied. “What’s the answer?” 

My Baha’i friend then said: “Here’s the answer: The ground directly beneath Moses’ feet, because Moses himself made the ground holy, when God made him a prophet of God.”

My father was stunned, dumbfounded — but I doubt that Dad understood the spiritual significance of the answer to this profound question! 

Here is a passage from Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, contained in a letter to a Baha’i named Sally Sanor, regarding the question of the spiritual significance of the physical remains of the prophets of God:

There is no special physical significance in the remains of the Prophets or relics of Their Persons. But there is a profound spiritual significance in the sense that Their dust was the physical mirror of the greatness of God. In other words we know God through His Prophets, Who have bodies; these bodies — Their very dust — are precious through association. It is natural for people to be touched by a lock of hair or some token of one they loved; how much more should we treasure and feel moved by a relic of the Beloved of God?

The Bab has told us to bury the dead in silk (if possible) in coffins of crystal. Why? Because the body, though now dust, was once exalted by the immortal soul of man! 

A: Thank you, Chris, for sharing these interesting family anecdotes. Here’s one for you: Many years ago, on a connecting flight from Amsterdam back to Turtle Island (North America), I sat next to a friendly and talkative Christian Arab. I inquired about his travels and he answered that he was returning from his home town of Bethlehem — the Holy Land, as he said — back to his current home in the US. I told him that as a Baha’i, I, too, had visited the land made holy by the footsteps of the prophets of God, including the Founder of my faith, Baha’u’llah

RELATED: Does Progressive Revelation Include Indigenous Messengers of God?

After explaining a bit about the Faith, I had to tell him that he was traveling from one Holy Land to another. He was puzzled, so I had to inform him that, since the dawn of time, Turtle Island has been the footstool of a myriad “Wise Ones” (the “Divine Messengers” referred to in Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968–1973, p. 96) who have brought universal laws, guidance and prophecies – and that this land is hallowed by their traces. Every part of this land is imbued with narratives of their greatness, and if one peels back the thin layer of the urban landscape, one can still hear tales of these great Wise Ones being told around the hearth and can feel the power of their divine message in every bird song and blossoming flower. 

He was truly fascinated by this and interrogated me on this topic until our arrival in the bosom of this holy land. He said that this information totally flipped his perspective because he had only ever seen the United States as a lifeless, sterile environment — fit only for exploitation — and that his previous reference points had been the coordinates of urban sprawl. I told him that we are truly brothers because all of the ancient Wise Ones direct us to the same Holy Land in the center of creation, to the same one God.

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