Sacred Sites Tour: Critical MN History

On April 21st, 2018, I participated in a sacred sites tour led by Jim Bear Jacobs and Sanctuary Covenant Church. What follows is my summary of the day, but I must say upfront that there’s no substitute for living the experience, the stories, the space, the place, of the tour itself. Gleaning some parts of it and plugging it into the web is important though, because this is real life Minnesota history, and has a real life impact on us today.

On a personal level, I see  that it’s my history, too. Literally. Thanks to my Grandmother’s genealogy skills, I know that I’m descended from German/ Russian-German steamboat captains that piloted along the Mississippi into what was then known as St. Paul’s Landing. I can drive and walk to an exact tombstone of my ancestor overlooking the River in South Saint Paul. Saint Paul’s Landing by way of steam boat was the main entrance for white settlers. Many of which of German heritage, their pioneering was the Western frontier in the 1850’s. This is me, my ancestors, my literal genetic unfolding. It’s our responsibility as Minnesotans to know and grapple with.

Where do we start? At the Dakota place of Genesis. If you’d rather skim the written version, there’s a great website from the MN History Center with resources, photos, and videos.

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Planets, Critical Thinking, and Peace Making

Mission to Saturn - Get facts about this planet

In planetary astrology, each planet is ascribed attributes, or energy patterns, that together make up the templates of our day to day experience. Woa, what? While this may turn many off, bear with  me. The key here is template… the probabilities, the behind the scenes forces that pull at our subconscious.

In fact, I don’t care if you’re into astrology or not. I’m not waving a metaphysical banner or striving for woo-woo recruits. What’s more important, and what I’d like to illustrate, is how some ideas from this study can apply universally to our politically vexed and stretched discourse.

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Capoeira: Social, Environmental & Global

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SALVADOR, BA– I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to the state of Bahia, Brazil. To the pulsing, lively, vibrant city of Salvador. My goals were to take a course in Portuguese, stay with a host family, and learn more about the art of Capoeira right from the source. While these goals were certainly a lifetime opportunity, the deeper realizations from them offer other life changing opportunities not yet manifested.

As I mentioned, Salvador is the birthplace of the art of Capoeira. The Portuguese colonists took with them a tragic slave trade, which lasted longer than any other slave industry in the world. Almost 4 million displaced Africans took with them similar fight dances to Capoeira, which laid the art’s foundation to what it is today. In Brazil, interactions with diverse people groups, the social and political structures, as well as the local sense of place and environment, shaped the art. During the time of Slavery, it was a way to train, stay empowered, maintain a cultural identity, and more. Today, it is an active and growing symbol of freedom, birthed from a resistance to oppression and domination. For a more detailed history of the art itself, click here.

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Ecology and Culture: 2014 WAEE Presentation

WAEE

STEVENS POINT– This week I’m excited to be a part this year’s annual Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education conference. The conference spans from August 13-15th, and I’ll be presenting on Wednesday at 10 am!

The title of the presentation is “Continuing the Conversation of Cross-cultural EE”. I’ll be speaking about experiences working at Minneapolis Public Schools, covering some thoughts from my past blog entry on Malcom X, and highlighting a video entitled “Ecology and Culture”, posted below. The video is an EE experiment, mixing break dancing and ecological learning. It was a great learning opportunity, and a lot of fun to facilitate.

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Wading in Water History: San Francisco, Drought, and Hetch Hetchy

 

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SAN FRANCISCO– The reality of the California drought is a stark contrast from the lush upper Midwest. While one chooses between ground or surface sources for municipal water and need not stop to think about lush green grass underfoot, the other dons signs along the road reading “pray for rain”. While Minnesota and Wisconsin thrive in a culture of river and lake recreation, California has a website for the drought, featuring Lady Gaga chiming in to get the attention of the masses. Not only are the communities of the Bay area strained by the drought, but a key fertile agricultural land in our national economy is strained, too. Wine, fruit, and especially almonds from Northern California make their way around the country and the world. While the region had built an infrastructure to cope with such water scarcities, the current drought has the reservoirs at record lows. The drought reaches beyond the capabilities infrastructure and now calls on personal water use. Reflecting on our history in water resources, are we really ready for such a responsibility?

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Finding a Sense of Place with Malcom X

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Malcom X at the nature center. Malcom X at a National Park. These don’t seem to go together, do they? Well, why not? There isn’t a way to answer without including some aspect of racism. The cultural forces of the past 50, 100, even 200 years have shaped “nature” in the US to be catered to a culturally white space. Where there is land ownership, decision making, and wealth, there is power. In the US today, that power rests predominately in the networks of white folks. To understand how this power works, let’s look to Malcom X’s autobiography. Although Malcom X is a common historical figure to look to in the topic of race, let’s look a little deeper for an insight to the land. After all, he did say that “to understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient” (p.153).

There are four situations, or “ingredients” in Malcom X’s autobiography that I’ll highlight which pertain to the natural world and his relationship with it. After that though, we’ll be better able to re-frame our sense of place -both in the US and beyond- towards a reflection of a diverse, democratic humanity.

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The Natural and Not-So-Natural History of House Plants

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When learning about plant ecology and plant natural history we often focus our attention outdoors. Well, that’s obvious! But how about our indoor habitats and the plants that help compose them? The lobby, coffee shop, and library plants we stroll past daily all have their own natural histories. These plants bring life to our indoor spaces, and get us through long wretched winters. But what’s more, lets take a look at how the stories behind these plants can inform and enhance our indoor living spaces.They are our living history.

Here’s three common house plants you may see around town this Winter:

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