Saturday, April 27, 2013

Please Write to Fight Genocide in America

My dear Readers,
A long-time friend of mine, the Rev'd Margaret Watson, has left a wealthy urban parish in Virginia to serve the poorest of the poor on the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota. She writes the blog I mentioned earlier, which can be found at—surely one of the most powerful and compassionate ongoing accounts of the slow, agonizing genocide being visited on the Lakota that has ever been written. Yet it is also luminous with grace. Read it and be blessed.
The Lakota have been particularly hard hit by the Sequestration cuts. Whoever you are, wherever you are, please write to a senator or two or, best of all, to all of them, as I will, and forward Margaret's letter, which I will post below. The list of senators can be found at That such conditions exist in a supposedly civilised country is a nightmare beyond belief—and they are conditions of the government's own making and perpetuation, which have visited death on The People for more than a hundred and fifty years.
Forget what you read about wealthy Indian casinos: this is the reality.
May you be richly blessed, as I have been blessed, by you, this blogging community, and by the blessings, enrichment and wisdom our culture has been given by indigenous peoples everywhere.


My name is Margaret. I am the Episcopal priest serving the Cheyenne River Reservation. It is a difficult job, at best, but I have never felt more fully alive than when serving the good people of South Dakota.
Here is my concern: The "Sequester" cuts have cut to the bone here on the Reservation. Our Social Services workers will be working without a direct office supervisor, and will be expected to absorb the work load of their supervisor when she is laid off beginning May 1. They already each have over 150 clients. I have heard one serves more than 260 clients --adding more is going to make a difficult job impossible.
But more importantly, the clients themselves have been cut off --they have received no monies since the beginning of March. They are coming to my door asking for heating fuel, food, clothes, diapers. Children are at risk. There are no Tribal programs that can assist these folks, they are mostly disabled, elderly with grandchildren in the home, or are desperate for work. Last night, after a funeral, I delivered left over food to people's homes. Funeral food to a family of six of baloney sandwiches, biscuits, two apples, two oranges and some chocolate cake.
I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.
I would like to invite you and any one else who is interested to come and stay here for ten days. Just ten days. I would like you to open my door and hear the stories, see the faces, see the desperation and despair. I would like you to feed the people from my freezer --and when it is empty explain to them why it is they have to go hungry and cold.
I would like you to attend the funeral I would probably do sometime in that 10 days and see the faithfulness, the generosity, the generational grief. I would like you to come with me on home visits and see the extreme poverty out of which that faithfulness and generosity and grief springs.
In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals --six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.
And food, shelter and heat are not the only problems here --the Indian Health Services were also part of the Sequester cuts. And the cuts are affecting the Head Start programs.
Have you all become so twisted up in your political lives that you have forgotten the people you have been called to serve?
I think so.
Look, it's really easy --have no cap on Social Security payments --everyone pays, all the way up. Including you. Don't make me pay 25% and more on taxes while the ultra-rich pay 15%. Don't give yourself healthcare benefits and raises and then deny them to others.
Don't punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels. 
Oh, and by the way, don't sacrifice the environment for monetary gain --that will kill us all.
I'll say it again: Don't exempt yourselves from the burden the poor must bear every day.
I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.
Shocked and depressed,
The Rev. Margaret Watson


Blogger Kathy Johnson said...

Another really easy thing we could do to save money would be to halt this big fat monstrosity of a brand new uranium processing plant to build more nuclear bombs!

Peace from East Tennessee,


1:14 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

My heart goes out to this indigenous people of South Dakota, their broken lives on the margins and to Margaret and the many brave workers in solidarity with them. The same thing is happening here on indigenous peoples with mining companies that operate on greed. Environment activists are being killed.

1:38 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back to the diagram we've been discussing, I've been working on the mathematical expression.

Question: Does C represent the wellspring?

5:25 pm, April 27, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

It isn't an exact analogy. The fractal equation reminded me more of the process: the spiralling refinement/expansion of information as both hemispheres work on it in optimal conditions. So that while there is repetition there is also development. I am not a mathematician so this may be a crazy idea.

What are your thoughts?

6:24 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is how I viewed the process as well. But I've been trying to break down the variables in terms of human divinity - where does God stop and us start.

First it seems that Z is L. brain, the process is silence/beholding, and z² + c is R. brain. (back and forth)

But we've learned from the previous post that this isn't a ball bouncing back and forth from side to side - humans experience z and z² + c simultaneously through habitual silence/beholding.

So what is Z and what is C?

Z seems to peculiar to each individual while C represents God's grace as a constant.

Also, the re-centering process would suggest that C grows in relative value.

7:18 pm, April 27, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Cool, very cool; I shall have to think about that.

How grateful I am for this community!

7:22 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

I have an off-topic question for you:

Do you know if modern oblates follow the same inclusionary pattern as Catholic priests did when this book I'm reading was published? ("The Making of a Priest" by Albert J. Nevins 1957) It talks about:

Novitiate (Lasts a year, 'Being Tested')
Seminary (Learning to be more like Christ, 'Making the Grade')



8:32 pm, April 27, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Nick, I absolutely haven't the faintest clue.

Can anyone out there answer Nick's question?

8:46 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

This is very interesting look of the diagram from a mathematical perspective.

I like to agree that Z is the left hemisphere. However, in the diagram, there seems to be a conflation of the two possibilities of the content of the left hemisphere and i think it's good to be aware of it: first, the left hemisphere as self-destructive self-consciousness, and the other, the left hemisphere as capacity to behold/intention to behold or "objects" that help someone behold. z² is the possibility of exponential growth of z, which means the growth of those contents of the left hemisphere namely, self-destructive self-consciousness and "objects" in-aid of beholding like icons or the word "Logos". And yes, i like to agree with anonymous that c could be equated with God. But c may have other names including core silence or abyss of unknowing. The equation z² + c seems to mean that the exponential growth (which includes pain depending on the "strength" of self-consciousness) of z is co-terminus with c. But the problem with the equation z² + c is that it doesn't show us that c is already in z. Instead, it shows us that c is but an addend. But i like to agree that c is both constant and has a relative value: c is simply paradoxical and normally, the human brain has a hard time comprehending this: C as constant yet subject to the contingencies of z, pliant for example to the intention to behold. Its constancy invites for repetition or habit. C is there available for everyone. Its pliancy is its self-outpouring capacity.
<–> signifies the spiral process.

11:59 pm, April 27, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

"c is simply paradoxical and normally, the human brain has a hard time comprehending this: C as constant yet subject to the contingencies of z, pliant for example to the intention to behold" - i mean specifically the linear brain which is the dominance of the left hemisphere...

12:07 am, April 28, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I've looked Al Mozol's Diagram and I can't seem to shake the headache that I now have. I do feel like I've sacrificed my last few remaining brain cells to the task of making sense of that dialectic. Hegel would been proud of Al's undertaking but I'm left with a feeling of puzzlement. And I'm feeling hurt that AM didn't call Al out for talking about the verbosity of the human logos!
It is becoming readily apparent to me that I'm one of the duller knifes in the drawer and I suspect that reading this Blog does me more harm than good. I am feeling tempted to make like Brother Lawrence and take refuge in the kitchen to play with the pots and pans. On the drive to work the other day I was thinking about some of this stuff and the thought came to me that sometimes the gift gets lost in the wrapping.
Thank you Maggie for sharing Margaret's letter. I looked at her Blog which you referred to a few weeks ago and I was moved by her openness and huge spirit. She walks it like she talks it. Unfortunately, First Nations people in Canada,where I live, have had their own share of struggles which continue to this day.
As I reflect now on these injustices I am remember something that a professor use to tell our class. He, Father B. A. Mac Donald, would would encourage us to consider that there were two ways of living this world, you were either living the taking form of existence or the giving form of existence. That instruction continues to play itself in my head over the years. I suspect that I will continue to mine it for my remaining days here.

1:48 pm, April 28, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

I feel dreadful that you feel that reading the blog is harming you. It's not always as abstruse as it has been in the last few days—I confess that I don't understand much of what's been going on, either; but to me it's a form of play and in an area where I have no expertise. So if the blog provides the playground I'm happy for that.

It seems to provide a playground for a lot of different games, and from my point of view, the more the merrier.

But you are correct in thinking that in the end, Brother Lawrence is right: the process is utter simplicity. Unfortunately, some of us have to deal with academics as well . . .

I hope you can take what is useful and simply let the rest go... peace be with you, Kevin

2:14 pm, April 28, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Just another note: play is a very important part of the spiritual life in every tradition. The Cloud-author, for example, speaks of 'gamesumli pley' of the soul with God. The process is in part learning not to take ourselves and our perceptions—or lack of them—too seriously!

2:56 pm, April 28, 2013  
Anonymous Al Mozol said...

Coming up with such dense outline of ideas/diagram was already an experience of vulnerability. Times when ideas have their own way of dictating the rhythm in a seemingly irresistible way. At times, they cause one sleepless nights, or socialization foregone because something is more worth pursuing. With Kevin's comment, it makes me more vulnerable to attacks with comments such as "verbosity" or "the gift gets lost in the wrapping". While we don't really know each other's background, and some would rather remain anonymous for fear of becoming virtually vulnerable, what may sometimes be headcracking need not necesarily be entirely futile. Taming Gibran: "our pain may be the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding." And after we have loved Him with all our minds on some painful moments, giving us an enlightened glance of what's possible in Him, may we remind ourselves with this story:

Disciple: Master, what do you before Enlightenment?

Master: Chop wood.

Disciple: And after Enlightenment?

Master: Chop wood.

3:00 pm, April 28, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

There is something needs mention regards the suffering of the Lakota.

The human need present on every South Dakota reservations is very grievious and it is a disgrace as well

The Lakota specifically however, are destitute because they will not accept a truth.

They claim ownership of the Black Hills. They took the area from native tribes who were occupying the ground when the Lakota emerged onto the plains from the area now called Minnesota. This process began in the late 1780s and was completed by the 1820s.

The Lakota took the Black Hills by force of numbers and superior arms, held the place as theirs for two generations, then lost control to other interlopers, far more numerous and better armed, coming from the east.

The new "owners" were white men.

I mention this bit of history because the Lakota today are not destitute. They have an enormous amount of money in the bank. They refuse to use it because doing so would relinquish "their" title to the Black Hills.

This issue is very complicated. By treaty requirements and rights. By moral considerations, by cultural considerations, by subsequent brutal history after the plains cultures were vanquished and suffered total collapse. By winner/loser mentalities on both sides. By lack of grace.

The money offered/given by the government of the United States to the Lakota was in some part as recompense for suffering they endured but mostly to settle the land claim to the Black Hills in perpetuity.

The money sits in a bank collecting interest, for several decades now.

The Lakota nation is in a financial position to relieve suffering, destitution, hopeless ness.

They choose not to do it.

11:21 pm, April 28, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

They choose, perhaps, integrity.

Thank you for this aspect of the story, but the situation is considerably more complicated than than what you describe. Do, please, read Margaret's blog

5:39 am, April 29, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Here is the letter I wrote to each member of the Senate in support of Margaret's plea for help.


Dear Senator,

I am forwarding this letter from The Rev'd Margaret Watson who serves as an Episcopal Priest on the Cheyenne River reservation. The day-to-day suffering and joy of the Lakota people can be followed on her blog

Margaret has been a friend of mine for forty years, and I can vouch for her integrity. I live as an ex-pat in Oxford, England, where I am engaged in ongoing research and occasional teaching in the University.

But the plight of Indigenous peoples in the United States makes being an American abroad very difficult. You and your fellow senators and congressmen and women appear to have little idea of how the slow genocide of these people blots the reputation of the United States abroad. It continually degrades our credibility and our ability to negotiate with other nations, whether allies or combatants.

Before he became a Congressman , my father was an attorney for the Navajo Nation. In seventy years, little, if anything, has changed. Broken treaties have never been rectified. Corruption in the BIA is the stuff of legends. You may hear only of wealthy Indian casinos but for the majority of Native peoples, the story has continued to be one of disease, starvation, and despair, driving many to suicide and other alcohol related deaths.

The United States can hardly advertise itself as offering 'freedom and justice for all' when it treats indigenous peoples the way it does. Native American issues do not even figure on the list of topics in many congressional contact forms. The topic seems to be below everyone's horizon.

I beg you and your colleagues to address the issues that Margaret Watson brings to your attention with the utmost urgency.

With every good wish,

(Sister) Martha Reeves/Maggie Ross

5:44 am, April 29, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

Have read it Maggie. Know all this stuff by heart. Margaret is correct in all of her assessments, in her dark statistics. Nothing really changes much in this over time.

This people's government of the United States is a disgrace by its indifference alone. However, ...

You can see, by the reaction of the bloggers here (to your appeal) where the working truth lies.

"Meanwhile ... back to the diagram .. the "problem" of interest" Such indifference to any suffering or interests not their own.

A glass bead game of sorts.

I appaulad your friend's choice in this. You also know she is just the latest of a very long and tattered line of compassionate individuals who have chosen to try to do something to help.

The ocean of suffering which encompasses reservations absorbs, swallows all efforts in time.

Not enough, not nearly so.

I don't have a solution. I simply point to an alternative available to this nation. Using the money would be a bitter, bitter choice but, the Lakota will solve this, must be solve this, themselves.

So I now believe anyway.

I will write letters to Senators Cantwell and Murray. And forward this material to contacts I maintain in South Dakota as well.


5:48 pm, April 29, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thank you, bless you!

7:04 pm, April 29, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I like how you framed the Blog as a "playground". It gives me a different perspective to work from as it suggests a sense of lightness and spontaneity. Appreciate your feedback.
Al,I really found your response to my comments helpful. Your statement that "ideas have their own way of dictating the rhythm in a seemingly irresistible way" helped me appreciate where you were coming from. I think that perhaps my own insecurities can get in the way sometimes and I miss the whole point. Thank you both.

12:57 am, April 30, 2013  
Anonymous P. S. Hobson said...

Back to Nick's question... Is Nick referring to a specific oblate program? Albert Nevins was a Maryknoll priest, and then therenarenthe Oblatesnof Mary Immaculate, and the Oblates of the Virgin Mary that I know of, in addition to the more genral oblates of many religious orders. My suspicion would be that the academic and time requirements might be similar to those of 1957, but the experience would be less regimented than the 50's!

4:13 am, April 30, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Word whose breath is the world-circling atmosphere,
Word that utters the world that turns the wind,
Word that articulates the bird that speeds upon the air,
Word that blazes out the trumpet of the sun,
Whose silence is the violin-music of the stars,
Whose melody is the dawn,and harmony the night,
Word traced in water of lakes,and light on water,
Light on still water,moving water,waterfall
And water colours of cloud, of dew, of spectral rain,
Word inscribed on stone,mountain range upon range of stone,
Word that is fire of the sun and fire within
Order of atoms,crystalline symmetry,
Grammar of five-fold rose and six-fold lily,
Spiral of leaves on a bough, helix of shells,
Rotation of twining plants on axes of darkness and light...

Kathleen Raine: Word Made Flesh

4:55 am, May 01, 2013  

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