Getting Our Land Back 2: The Local and the Universal

It’s time to begin the work of creating a country to house our ancestors as yet unborn. It is going to take centuries, but if we don’t start now, we never will. I’m not suggesting we get rid of Canada or the United States, for example (they will do that themselves over time), but that they change profoundly to match the energy fields of the Earth, which they claim. When they are, at last, mature countries, we will have achieved our goal and these countries will endure, as protectors of these values. As I said, this will take centuries. On Friday, I opened this discussion with the old ones, here.

My Oldest Brother, Gardom Lake (Shuswap)

I observed that the first step is to speak of our lives as part of a flow, not part of any nation state, however useful those social conventions might be. I also argued that to live in the flow means to see the rainforest and the grassland shrub steppes as the same environment. Here’s an older post illustrating that correspondence. That brings us to my second point…

Let us speak as people bound to local manifestations of the flow, and who have integrated those manifestations into our cultures, on their own terms.

There is a principle in the Pacific Northwest (and elsewhere) that the universal is local. At its extreme, it looks like this:

On the Shores of the Pik’dunin (Nimiipu’u)

(Chief Timothy and his old Nimiipu’u village site, and his “friendliness” to the “White” cause around the time of the attempt to exterminate the Southern Nimiipu’u in what is called “The Nez Perce War”, is remembered by an old highway bridge dedicated as a monument to Timothy. The new bridge passes through his horse pasture still. If this were actually our country, the village, not the technology that violently replaced it, would be honoured, and would remain.)

Note the wagon wheel arches.

It is not the same as to say that the local is universal. This is local:

Moss, Rattlesnake Knoll, Head of the Lake Ridge, Priest Valley (Syilx)

Local it may be, but this early May image shows the end-of-the-season life that flourishes in these tiny mountain systems in the cool, wet season (called “winter” in colonial language), when most minerals are released from rock for the coming spring. If you want to understand the Cascade Mountains …

Peshastin Pinnacles (Wenatchi)

… you need to know this moss, as you scramble up a deer trail after prickly pears or up the pinnacles on a marmot trail. Understanding the mountains in some other way is not to understand them as the flow of energy of this place. At best, it is to bring an understanding to this place and to ask the moss to show you how to integrate it. Otherwise, you might find you are talking about, say, orchards, as an expression of the fruitfulness of the mountains, or some such thing. That is true, in a way …

Washaptum River Valley from Peshastin Pinnacles (Wenatchi)

… but only with huge inputs of labour and technology, and in a way that risks isolation from the deep human history and individuality of the linked localities of this energy field. Transforming such portraits of the local as universal into a local image of a universal culture is certainly a way of encountering a land and remaining in the moment of encounter. It is not, however, a way of living in the land or being owned by it. It is universal activity done on it and within its abstract weather systems.  As is the case in the land outside Clarkston, Washington, for example…

Basketball Hoop on Timothy’s Horse Range

… “farm” houses are expressions not of the land that was taken to renew faith and bring the Glory of God on Earth but of distant urban ideals. This is part of the complex media-driven culture of the United States and an expression of demographic power within populist electoral systems, sure, but that hill was level to build the house, a road was cut across the land to access it, and its yard was planted with alien trees, all to give images of social belonging to counter the emptiness of living in a place far from the centre of a culture. What is sad is that it is at the centre of a culture, as are all places in the grasslands. The grasslands themselves, for example:

Timothy’s grass, again. (Remember, this is a rainforest.)

A settler camp in the grasslands.

Note the claw-mark on the hill on the edge of shadow to the left. (Clearwater River, Nimiipu’u)

And an unmappable place that is itself a map.

Itseyeyeh’s Fishnet above the Kooskooskie (Nimiipu’u)

Maps make things possible. For example, the fishnet above has led to the road below:

This is the road to the Kooskooskie (Clearwater) River, in Nimiipu’u Territory, where work is being undertaken to bring back the salmon, inspired by the old stories in the rock. That other foundational principle, the farm I showed you above, is not capable of this kind of renewal. Renewal for it is the house with basketball hoop I showed you outside of Clarkston. Beyond that, it cannot go, but beyond that is where we need to go, if our ancestors yet unborn are to flourish here. After all, at the moment the Clearwater is not exactly clear.

And yes, that’s the fool’s gold that brought fools here in the first place to rebuild the American South, which led to this territory being carved off of the rainforests of Washington to protect the unionist democracy there. The land is not a slate on which men write history. It is the history.


Next in this series: Rivers of Place and What to Do With Disenfranchised Land

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