Enrique Salmón remembered the victims of the terrorist attacks in a poem he called “Prayer for Those Lost.” The final line of the poem, written from his Rarámuri cosmology, brings a strange comfort.
“The heavens have many new stars.” His people believe, he said, that when a person dies, their soul becomes a butterfly, which rises up into the sky into the Milky Way, which in turn becomes a star.
Salmón’s presentation explained how a person’s language and culture forms the context of understanding of events for each individual within that culture. “We are all creatures of our culture. How we react to our reality. Every individual in this world has his own reality, as do all cultures.” A man, who identified himself simply as Tom, wondered aloud what reality a human being must come from to have the conviction it would take to steer a jumbo jet into a massive skyscraper. Indeed.
The Rarámuri, Havasupi, Navajo, Yoeme (Yaqui), and other indigenous people might be considered impoverished on Wall Street, but for what they lack in money, they make up in spirituality and joy of living.
Janneli Miller and Barney Burns both described a rich culture ordered by the environment in which people lived and interacted with. Felipe Molina and Lucille Watahomigie described life in their own indigenous cultures, and spoke of the respect one gives not only to each other, but to all living creatures. Without that respect, we cannot survive.
Many valuable lessons were shared, basic rules for good behavior and a happy life. Navajo voices told listeners not to take from other’s gardens, don’t pick a plant without first making an offering and a prayer first, never take more than a third of what is growing, and finally, don’t take anything at all if the survival of that species is threatened. Voices carrying the accents of the Havasupai and the Yoeme spoke of a life where a person harms no other thing without purpose—whether that be human, plant, animal or insect.
Listeners were reminded that the tribal way of life on this continent did not damage the environment, because everyone understood that they would have to live in the mess they created.
On the day that the Trade Towers fell, Hogan, like many of the people who work up and down San Francisco Street, was dazed by the events. She seriously considered canceling the symposium, but friends and colleagues urged her to go on with the event.
As a result of the disaster, people are desperately looking for reasons to come together in a good way, to seeking human contact and support, as well as a hope for the future. Many who had committed to attending the symposium expressed their belief that it was one such opportunity.
Editor’s Note: The Rarámuri lives in the southwest corner of Chihuahua, Mexico, among the higher elevations of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
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