As we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, we have to come to terms with reality of history and what happen to the indigenous peoples who occupied these lands. For many the holiday does not represent a day of thankfulness but a reminder of the first wave of real state gab and gentrification in what we now call American. Too often do we remember the history of this county, through the lens that the country was “founded by people looking for freedom from religious oppression”, and turn a blind eye to the real fact that the colonizers was in fact seeking economic benefits from a land with untapped natural resources for personal profit.
Most Americans have no idea what tribe lived on the lands we now occupy or what conflicts occurred to take over those lands. According to City of Jersey City dot org, J. Owen Grundy, Historian and Louis P. Caroselli, Corporation Counsel write:
“The territory comprising what is now known as Jersey City was a wilderness, occupied by the Lenni Lenape or Delawares, and governed by their tribal laws, until Henry Hudson, an English navigator, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, seeking another route that would not require the passing of the Spanish coast to the East Indies, and failing in his mission, found these shores. His little vessel about sixty tons, with a crew of twenty men, anchored inside Sandy Hook on September 3, 1609. He remained there nine days and made the acquaintance of the Indians, whom he found "civil and kind", made a survey of the area, including Newark Bay. On September 12th he sailed up to Communipaw, where Robert Juet, his mate, wrote in the log that was "...a very good land to fall in with, and a pleasant land to see".” Little did the “civil and kind” natives population know that their homes were being under speculation for its financial value.
The founders of this country from the start of the 1500’s were never looking to live in harmony with the natural world in this landscape that was new to them, but were looking to exploit the land for all it was worth. The capitalization of the virgin land, quickly lead to conflicts with the indigenous tribes.
The desire to make the land more profitable quickly created colonizes that used African bodies as human chattel, to work the land. Greed and capitalism has a way of making humans cruel and sadistic, both to the land and other sentient beings.
When putting together the Urban Sadhu Yoga Chant Book I realized the importance to including “The Great Spirit Prayer” from Native American / First Nations peoples. No one knows why composed the prayer, I would assume from its construction that it has been added onto many times and does not come from one single author. The prayer express a desire to union or yoga with the earth and seek to live in harmony with the natural surroundings.
Great Spirit, give us hearts to understand. Never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give. Never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed. Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth’s beauty. Never to take from here what we cannot use.
Give us hearts to understand. That to destroy earth’s music is to create confusion. That to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty. That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench. That as we care for her she will care for us.
Give us hearts to understand. We have forgotten who we are. We have sought only our own security. We have exploited simply for our own ends. We have distorted our knowledge. We have abused our power.
Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst, help us to find the way to refresh your lands.
Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution, help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.
Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse, help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.
Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed, help us to find a way to replenish them.
Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption, help us to find the way to restore our humanity.
By understanding or past and present trespasses we have the ability to move forward with more awareness of our action. Without awareness one cannot be truly thankful. Being aware of both the people and the animals that once occupied this landscape and honoring the land and its history though our own mindful awareness.
~ Austin Sanderson Urban Sadhu Yoga