When I stood in the little room in the village in Austria where my father was held when the B-17 that he piloted was shot down during WWII, I felt I knew this place. I could feel the fear my father must have felt, and yet, his ancestry was half-German. These people looked like him, and people who’d seen him parachute down looked like him.
Those who turned him over to the SS ran to meet me when they learned I was there. They felt they’d sentenced him to death but they had no choice. They were a village of women and girls, old men and young boys. The village was too small for a jail.
Seeing me, touching me, meant he survived.
Tears come because we are all so connected; we are connected.
In reading My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, I’m struck by these statistics. I knew them but these days as we are reaching to listen and understand, they flow right into and through my blood and bones.
An estimated eighteen million Native people were custodians of the North American continent when European colonists arrived. They and their ancestors had lived here for an estimated 14,000 years.
Today this same land contains over 204 million white Americans, over forty-six million Black Americans, and just over five million Native Americans. The story of the unique arc of trauma in the Native American body is only now beginning to be told.
I live on Coast Miwok land. The land is abundant, and the people lived lightly on the land. They built boats from tule to cross the bay.
Then, the Spanish and the missionaries arrived. I feel my own land as peaceful and harmonious, but when I go to San Rafael where the mission is, I feel dis-ease, diseased.
It was founded in 1817 as a medical hospital to treat sick Native Americans, making it Alta California’s first sanitarium. Of course, we now know who made them sick.
The point is we can look at history, the wounds of every group of people, and come together, bodily come together, even as we socially isolate, and heal.
We heal the planet when we heal ourselves.
This time of year the sun shines into my bedroom through the trees. I feel the touch of its light and rise knowing peace begins with me.