Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change
By Sherri Mitchell
Quote: “As Indigenous people, we have been guided to carry the sacred teachings that allowed us to maintain our connected way of life, so that when this time came, we would be able to help guide humanity back to a more balanced way of being.”
I’ve been waiting to read this book for months. I didn’t know why I couldn’t take it off the shelf. Then, I read the section of the book about teachers where Mitchell says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This struck me to the core. I had inner work to do before approaching Sacred Instructions. I’ve been grappling with my own cosmology, and it wasn’t until now that I could authentically witness a traditional, Indigenous cosmology.
For any readers who are White or unfamiliar with an Indigenous worldview, I invite you especially to read this book. Rather than a superficial practice of “New Year’s Resolutions” (this is an overgeneralization, and if you find it helpful to calibrate yourself in that way, don’t me stop you), consider this as an opportunity to approach wisdom that’s been passed down for centuries and delivered so powerfully by Sherri Mitchell.
In response to the provocative question, “Will we as a species finally find a way to create a reality of peaceful coexistence, now that we know that failing to do so would be a complete destruction of ourselves?” she tells us, “A wound cannot be healed by pretending that it doesn’t exist. It must be examined, cleansed, and tended.” Mitchell writes with clear-eyed poignance about a holistic path forward for humanity, which remains largely asleep. She also says, “Decolonization is the beginning. It is not the end point. We don’t know what lies on the other side of decolonization, because we haven’t had the opportunity to create it. What we do know is that decolonization allows us to reconnect with the people and places we come from; it allows us to define our own identity, on our terms, in ways that are reflective of our own understanding of ourselves; and it allows us to speak the truth about our shared history of violence, heal our traumatic wounds, and redefine a sacred way with one another as human being and between human beings and the rest of creation.”
I cannot wait to read her next book, Sacred Laws: Foundational Laws of the Universe through an Indigenous lens, which will be released soon. Learn more about her work at https://sacredinstructions.life/. For The Kaleidoscapes, this book has many key takeaways, including the reminder that artists working at the intersection of climate and imagination must always collaborate rather than compete. If you are already doing brilliant work, we’d love to connect, support, and partner with you.
This is truly a sacred text, and I recommend it as such. Read when you are ready.
Mitchell is one of the authors featured in All We Can Save— an anthology collection that we’ve been incrementally reading in community through a zoom Circle. The next Circle meeting will be held on January 2nd at 1pm EST, and you’re welcome to join!
If you read one of these recommended texts and want to engage in dialogue with our Artistic Director, Gail, send an email! No question or thought is too big or small. I’m processing these texts, and I’d love to be a conversation partner to you.
The Kaleidoscapes are proud to share a story of slow, steady growth this year. Unlike many theatre companies with physical space to maintain, who rely on ticket sales for live, indoor performances, we are uniquely positioned to weather this pandemic. Since our conception, our performances have been designed to take place outdoors, and our administrative operations have always taken place remotely from multiple time zones. Learn more about what we accomplished with this short year-in-review!
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Kaleidoscapes took all of our programming digital, starting with our company’s official, virtual launch party over Zoom.
Our next initiative was the distribution of a COVID-19 Artist Relief Stipend. We received 55 applications from eco-theatre artists across the country and provided one $400 stipend and one $200 stipend to extraordinary artists who align with our mission and values. Learn more here.
This summer, we launched Story Guides — an entirely virtual youth mentorship program. This pilot program paired 13 STEAM-lovers (science, tech, engineering, arts, and math), ages 7-13, with adult artist-activists over the course of one month to develop online learning and storytelling skills. The engaging, interactive curriculum was highly adaptable to match each mentee’s interests while exploring their local ecology. Parents or guardians were also supplied with resources in English and Spanish to engage mentees through discussions and activities. The virtual circumstances of the pandemic allowed us to have an international reach with pairings taking place between participants in diverse local landscapes. Story Guides is being developed for future partnerships with specific communities as well as for the classroom.
Here are some testimonials from Story Guides parents and participants who recommend this program.
The Kaleidoscapes have held online workshops & creative spaces, including our participation in an election night vigil and a partnership with Evergreen Theatre Collective for a workshop in November.
Over the summer, we also produced TRACE, a 9-minute piece of recorded eco-theatre, which was filmed safely by 9 artists adhering to social distancing guidelines. We’ve shared TRACE with an online Premiere, pay-what-you-can screenings throughout October, and it was also screened in Same Boat Theater Collective’s Earthquake Festival on October 25th, where it was live streamed in San Francisco, London, and New Delhi.
You can get a look backstage here.
This year, we’ve deepened our community — whether through book club climate discussions with people on both coasts and across the ocean or our Artistic Staff’s weekly Monday Meeting on Google Meet, this has been a rich season of laying groundwork. Individual donations to date have covered all of our operating expenses, so all of our fundraising efforts can go directly towards upcoming programming.
Coming soon: The Kaleidoscapes will hold a panel discussion with fellow eco-theatres! We’ll consider the question— What does the world need right now that only eco-theatre can give? We have also begun the planning stages for our next production.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your interest in and support for The Kaleidoscapes! We’ve stretched and grown this year. Gail learned how to use QuickBooks and run payroll, Claire fought and won the battle against MailChimp, Emilie organized responses from countless surveys and interviews, and Paola thrived in one of her very favorite activities—email correspondence.
What’s missed the mark for you? We care to hear your critical feedback, and you can send that either with this google form or by sending a personal email to any member of our staff.
No small business could have anticipated the landscape we’d be navigating this year. The pandemic has laid bare many of our world’s inequalities and rifts. It has also shown us how necessary the work of The Kaleidoscapes really is--stories about our planet’s resilience, told by artists who are vital to implement creative climate solutions.
Graphic Design by Cody Gindy
We hope you will keep us in mind this fundraising season. With Giving Tuesday, as well as end-of-year fundraising, your contributions will help us continue accessible programing in the New Year. We would also love to discuss partnerships with you!
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Building on our recommended reading from the summer of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, this is an important, foundational book to understand the complexities of the ongoing fight for Indigenous sovereignty.
Gilio-Whitaker argues that “for environmental justice to be responsive to the needs of Native peoples it must be indigenized--tailored to account for their very different histories, relationships to the land, and political relationships to the State.”
It’s a very readable text with stories throughout. As usual with our book club selections, I was stretched and also incited by the wisdom contained in these pages. If you are reading along, you might also be struck by the ways erasure and violence, steeped in white supremacy, have maintained the social and legal structure of the United States. We have the option to confront that paradigm of domination. As Gilio-Whitaker encourages, “more than any ‘granting’ of rights by the United States, it is their bold assertions of self-determinism, aided at times by powerful allies, that accounts for progress Native people have made in their relationships with the US over the last century. Indigenous peoples have learned that no one is coming to save them, just as environmentalists have learned that their American legal system is a rigged game against the environment and their own communities...In the long run, environmental justice for American Indians is environmental justice for everyone...and for the Earth herself.”
“...in the chief’s words is not only the anguish of forced removal... [but] also... a Native worldview that makes no distinction between people and land. The Chickasaw may have survived removal and adapted to their new environment... but in reality, there is no way to measure what is lost in the process of being deracinated from their homelands.”
Would you like to engage further in our Book Club? Join the All We Can Save reading circle by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, if your experience was similar to ours, it may have felt like we were in boiling water. The bubbles were boiling over in anxiety, in disrupted sleep patterns, and in exploding inboxes. We also acknowledge that we did not all experience the events of this election cycle the same. Those with most at stake in the election, namely Black people, Indigenous people, and other People of Color, as well as the queer community, are the very people who secured the inevitable outcome with grassroots organizing and unprecedented voter turnout in the face of violent efforts to suppress BIPOC voices.
In the past week, we elected a record-breaking 6 Native American and Native Hawaiians to Congress. We also elected a Black, Indian American woman as our Vice President. There were even more records set by LGBTQ candidates who ran, and won, for their local offices.
However you are feeling today is your right. You might feel relief, determination, and for the first time in a long time, hope. You might feel tired and disempowered. The Kaleidoscapes want to meet you where you are today, right now, to say we’re glad you’re in our community. We are proud that our organization’s network is filled with people like you – people that believe in a world of climate resilience, in racial justice, and in regeneration.
Tomorrow, or when you are able, we hope you will join us as we re-ignite the energy with which we approached this election. We will continue to fight for federal-level climate policies, holding our lawmakers accountable to prioritizing frontline communities. Our country and our world are in hot water—literally. But examining history shows us that public opinion and collective imaginations can fuel movements.
Thank you for your commitment to storytelling and climate solutions. The Kaleidoscapes know that this is a time to act—to produce, create and dialogue with collaborators. We’re grateful for your support and your interest in the stories we will continue to dramatize.
All of the inequality, the pandemic, police brutality and pain will not disappear overnight. But neither will we. And for an arts organization in 2020, we think that’s a story worth sharing.
Gail Tierney, Artistic Director & Claire Allegra Taylor, Managing Director
Food from the Radical Center: Healing our Land and Communities
By Gary Paul Nabhan
Quote: To capsulize a complex story in very few words, America is not divided about whether the environment deserves restoration. They are not divided about whether our communities require social healing. What divides us is who gets to decide how this work is done, who does it, and how much it should cost (17).
It’s election week. We might all be looking for some comfort food. So I thought I’d pick a book recommendation that could relate.
Released in 2018, Nabhan shares stories of cooperation across a divided political spectrum. He has fifty years of work with community-based projects around the nation, from the desert Southwest to the low country of the Southeast.
Chapter by chapter, you will be introduced to new layers of resilience. The author says himself, “The restoration of land and rare species has provided—dollar for dollar—one of the best returns on investment of any conservation initiative.” Food is one of the more complex pieces of a sustainability puzzle, and this book honors the diversity of experience and methodology at hand.
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
By Adrienne Maree Brown
Our author this week, Adrienne Maree Brown, says that “the world is full of beauty, magic, miracles, and patterns that induce wonder.” Well, so is this book. She writes with the flare of a lightning bug, illuminating one thought before taking an artful swoop to the next idea. The reader is invited to engage nonlinearly--to find their way through these pages however makes most sense to them. I was struck by the amount of pleasure I experienced, reading at my own pace with my own curiosities, and the amount of artistry it takes for an author to facilitate an embodied experience through written words. If you are looking for facilitation tools for workshops about climate. If you are seeking solace before the election. This is a book for you. “This is...a book about the preciousness of time. It’s limited and it’s so sacred, friends. And everything we do, every single thought and action and relationship and institution, everything is practice ground.”
"Emergence is our inheritance as a part of this universe; it is how we change. Emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.”
Would you like to engage with our book club further? Leave a comment here or email email@example.com.
Our next Book Club Recommendation comes with a special way to get involved over the next 10 weeks. See below for a chance to join our Circle with Artistic Director, Gail Tierney. Our All We Can Save Circle begins Saturday Oct 17, at 11am Eastern.
This is a book that will stay with me for life. Because it has changed me. Because it matters. Because it loved and saw my friend in a way I cannot.
I come back to these poems over and over. I read them aloud. I pour over the pages, knowing that it’s an honor to hold the carefully chosen words as a witness.
The anthology contains ten cycles, which are thematically arranged. The poems can be read in dialogue with one another--almost as though you, the reader, are sitting in a chair by a fireplace while the conversation extends deep into the night, grappling with the full complexity of history, politics, protests, and joy.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for a friend. Take it in at your own pace, and know that it will stir you.
If you have read any of the books in our collection, and would like to start a conversation, please email Artistic Director, Gail Tierney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey
By Derick Lugo
This summer, our Artistic Staff has been especially curious about the concept of trails. We observed many people turning to nature, as they’re able, to get through quarantine. Through time, there have been a multiplicity of reasons that humans have journeyed outdoors, and not all of them are enlightening or by choice. I’m so excited to share the art that emerged from our creative process with you soon!
In the meantime, Derick Lugo’s trail story is so worth a read. I laughed HARD and felt a desire to use a flashlight when reading these pages before bed. He gifted readers a glimpse into the transformation that happened for him along the Appalachian Trail. As a lifelong city-dweller, Lugo describes his evolving relationship with the thousands of miles of ground he covered during a “thru-hike” or multi-month walk from Georgia to Maine. Give this a read if you’re looking for a rewarding and lighthearted tale.
Enjoy this interview with the author, and learn more here.
When the Climate Crisis Gets Personal
Plenty of natural disasters (perhaps we should start calling them unnatural disasters) have already hit during 2020, including the Australian Bushfire, Coronavirus, Locust Swarms in East Africa and South Asia, mass flooding, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. Most recently, the United States saw Tropical Storm Laura on the East Coast, the Midwest Derecho, and the ongoing California Wildfire season.
My childhood home, and parents’ residence, sits 25 miles away from the current outer perimeter of the CZU Lightning Complex Fires devastating Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. The fire began August 17th, and has burned 78,000 acres, with only 19% contained. This is just one of the 560 fires currently burning across the state.
Many Californians, local and ex-pat, are experiencing heartbreak. As the media shines the spotlight on these fires (that happen every year), we throw up our hands and cry, “How could this happen? Oh it’s so sad.” And yes it is. It is devastating beyond belief. But what I find more devastating is that the public continually fails to draw a link to climate change and colonization of the West. Some resources in this newsletter will help explain why separation of indigenous people from their land and land customs aids in the devastation.
If you look at Google Maps, my town sits right at the border between “white” and “green,” the green color demarcating hundreds of thousands of acres of State Parks, Open Space Preserves, conservation areas, and wildlife reserves that now sit on Ohlone, Awaswas, and Ramaytush land. From there, the map remains different shades of green until the coast. This ecological area is home to some of the oldest and most majestic trees in the world: the Giant Redwood Trees. It is hard to describe the beauty, majesty, and sacredness of these trees without taking you on a hike.
I am privileged to have spent weekends and summers exploring this area right in my backyard. I would take trips to the beach in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero, which is now ravaged by flames. I spent camping trips in the Portola Redwoods State Park and Big Basin State Park, which has been decimated, perhaps irrevocably. My parents met in Santa Cruz, and have lived overshadowed by the presence of these mountains for over forty-five years – and now our home is in danger of being destroyed too. And even saying that is hard, knowing that there are far more who have been required to evacuate all across the state, and even lost their homes or businesses due to the fire’s path. It’s also important to note that the loss of the natural landscape I know and love cannot compare to the forced removal of Indigenous peoples from their land, and the legal discrimination against the right to care for their homelands today.
Instead of thoughtful mourning, or direct response, or even unfiltered outrage, the most common response I encounter to these disasters is apathy. The amount of articles that get shared with the captions like, “2020 strikes again” or “another one for apocalypse bingo.” As if this is all just happening to us. That we are not culpable. That we are poor pawns in a cosmic chess game. That we’re just living in some apocalyptic year in a cursed decade, instead of active participants in our own downfall.
Fires like this happen every year. Even as a self-proclaimed eco-nerd, I recognize that in years prior, I succumbed to the habitual response to scan facebook, call my family members to make sure they’re out of the zone, maybe donate what I can, and watch some news footage. I feel sad for a few days, I remember the smell of wildfire smoke in the air, and I go on because it’s not actively happening… to me.
But now, it’s personal. I no longer have the luxury of pretending it’s happening to someone else, and that is sobering. How many people must lose their homes? How many people in frontline communities, especially those in communities of color, must live with diseases made more prevalent by climate change? How many people will suffer health problems due to unclean water? At what point will a symptom of the ecological crisis personally affect everyone on this planet in a drastic and deeply personal way? And, at what point will we learn to be preemptively un-apathetic? The truth is, time is running out and we need to turn up the caring dial – right now – because we still have a chance to aid the Earth’s healing.
- Claire Allegra Taylor, Managing Director
Dive into our journal pages to expand your knowledge and follow our journey into the backcountry.