When I learned that CREA's 2020 conference theme is "Interrogating cultural responsiveness against the backdrop of racism and colonialism," I thought at once of how much I might enjoy interrogating a racist or colonialist of my acquaintance with the intensity of a film noir detective. Pinning an insouciant wrong-doer to their chair with a spotlight and rapid-fire questions until their arrogance broke and they sobbed out an admission of their guilt sounded pretty darned satisfying!
Then I felt a cold cataract of dismay. For most of my adult life I've used these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a guide: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Yet I had forgotten his words when I'd read the CREA meeting theme. And I know why.
I've been processing a recent event of colonialism and racism in my own life that was so traumatic I've been thumbing over the memory for months. And while I was doing that, sequential eruptions of first a pandemic and then racially-based violence exploded with nearly surrealist impact. I began to feel like the man who was so sure he was going to die in the Mount St. Helens eruption that he made a video recording for whoever might find his body.
Dave Crockett was a 28-year-old news reporter who was at Mt. Saint Helens when it erupted on the morning of Sunday, May 18, 1980. He recorded his attempt to escape on foot, and the story is worth remembering right now. Here it is, in a 4-1/2 minute video Please watch it, all the way to the end, to honor the Experiential Learning and Knowing available in this remarkable event.
https://youtu.be/njV9ski1gB4 (embedding code)
What came to my mind, hearing the astonishing transformation Crockett undergoes, was Nazi concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl's words, that "The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance." Those words are important in our current context because Hitler engineered the concentration camp system Frankl survived by studying and applying the practices of genocide that the American government had used on Indians, my own family included. The darkness on our horizon and the despair that's sometimes overwhelming are not unique to us, or to our times.
But there's another important thing here. Go to about 3:30 on that video and hit play again. At about 3:40, an inexplicable change simply ripples through Crockett as he's walking, panting, lungs and eyes burning. Out of the blue, when he just suddenly says he's "got the wrong attitude here," he is still in total darkness. Look at the video and you will see this. I remembered it from 1980 when this clip was first shown on the news. Now keep watching and see when the camera shows the lightening to gray that happened next -- the timing of the moment the wind shifted. The order of events matters.
We know Crockett felt the Land in some way because he went to the mountain that day in response to a strong sense that something was going to happen. Had his discernment been trained, he might have realized he actually needed not to go to the mountain that day, and even needed to warn others away. But people in Western culture are not taught to use information from this type of Knowledge, so he just did the best he could. But his connection to the Land likely saved his life, for connection to the Land runs both ways. Please sit with that little piece of Indigenous worldview for a moment, cryptic as it may be (because sacred things should not be hammered out flat).
Because some people of the dominant culture have misunderstood Indigenous view of relationship, let me point out, though, that Crockett's experience did not alter the larger event. Mt. St. Helens still blew up. It collapsed and then exploded with a force more than 500 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The symmetrical "Mount Fuji of North America" was turned into a horseshoe-shaped bomb crater that had lost 3.4 billion cubic yards of material blasted onto the surrounding countryside, and whose highest remaining point was over a quarter of a mile lower in elevation than it had been before the eruption. Although geologists had successfully gotten the state to evacuate local residents and logging company workers because monitors showed an eruption was brewing, 57 people still died. I am not saying it's impossible for a group of people with appropriate Knowledge  and experience to at least temporarily influence a natural event, but I am saying that option wasn't on the table in this particular situation.
Stories have power. They are sacred, which is why all our religious traditions record them for us who come along later. The people who wrote them down were thinking about the future generations: us. We must never lose sight of those yet to be born. They are counting on us.
When Mr. Crockett remembered future generations, it literally changed the way the wind blew.
Blog By: Dawn Hill Adams, Ph.D. (Choctaw)
Co-President and Founder, Tapestry Institute
 Photo credit: "Eruption column from May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption." Photograph by Austin Post, Public Domain, USGS (United States Geological Survey). Available at https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/eruption-column-may-18-1980-mount-st-helens-eruption.
 Dave Crockett's Narrow Escape. Dana Hunter. 2012. Rosetta Stones, the blog of Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/rosetta-stones/dave-crocketts-narrow-escape . Accessed May 30, 2020.
 Experiential Ways of Knowing. Tapestry Institute. https://tapestryinstitute.org/resources/ways-of-knowing/experiential.
 Viktor E. Frankl. Man's Search for Meaning. First published in German in 1946 by Verlag für Jugend und Volk. English translation published by Beacon Press in 1959.
 Hitler Studied U.S. Treatment of Indians. Elicia Goodsolder (Navajo/Dakota). Indian Country Today, August 28, 2016. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/hitler-studied-u-s-treatment-of-indians-pYDkk-692Ei3XkztuwKVhg . Accessed May 30, 2020. The article cites major scholarly books that document the summary provided here for easy access.
 IndigenousKnowledge. Tapestry Institute. https://tapestryinstitute.org/resources/indigenous-knowledge