A New Vision

By Dan Smoke – Asayenes (NNNC)

Two Native American films were shown in Toronto on May 27th.

They feature Respected Native Elders sharing their wisdom on respecting and protecting Mother Earth for our future generations. Mohawk director/producer and environmental activist, Danny Beaton was present for the screening.

Both films, “Mohawk Wisdom Keepers” and “Iroquois Speak Out For Mother Earth,” feature Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Elders, including Oren Lyons, Tom Porter, John Mohawk, and Audrey Shenandoah, sharing their knowledge and wisdom about man’s relationship with the Natural World.

Welcoming over two hundred guests to the film screening, Beaton introduced his teacher/advisor, Robertjohn Knapp, Seneca elder and the subject of his next film project, “The Second Thanksgiving.” This film, which is currently in post-production, was filmed on the Six Nations reserve.

Both Danny and Robertjohn shared their vision of a future world requiring a supreme transformation in our relationship with Mother Earth.

Robertjohn is a spiritual leader from California who has been a Sundancer for 30 years.

He has brought spiritual teachings into the federal prisons and has been a leader in the struggle for unity amongst all Native Americans. He says, “I believe love is very simple, it’s a decision to care or not.”

He explains, “My effort here is to share with you some things…and bring us together with one mind to create a spiritual force To change the attitudes so we quit hurting each other… quit hurting the earth.”

He asserts that life is about healing or hurting and our choice between the two.

“Water, air, fire, earth…each has two elements…because they can heal or hurt. We are the water, the air, the fire and the earth. We are made up of those four things. So in that way, we can decide – are we about the healing or the hurting.”

He suggested that is the decision humankind has to make for the future.

The sundance taught Robertjohn how to offer himself in a good way to humanity. “It is his prayer which also has two elements – one to ask and the second to give thanks. So, we are praying all the time whenever we do this ceremony,” he said.

He has learned from the elders and the ceremonies that “you only have one decision in life. You have free will, with only one decision to make – stay awake, or go to sleep. If you’re awake, then you cannot deny the truth, so there is no decision. But, if you’re asleep, anger, jealousy, drugs, alcohol prevail and your decision was to blindfold yourself to deny the truth. So when you see the truth, you can’t deny it, it is what it is!”

Beaton has had four films shown on national television beginning with “Indigenous Restoration,” 1991, and “Indigenous Restoration.”

“I’ve been working with these elders who are in the films for 12 years. The reason for these films is because our elders are speaking out for the sacredness of Mother Earth.”

Beaton believes in the way of life of our ancestors and that’s why he films Elders. He says the Elders maintain, and are the protectors of, our culture. He has been attending the Youth/Elders Gatherings for the past twelve years and is their official photographer.

This year’s ceremonies will be taking place on Ted Turner’s ranch in Montana in August.

“Robertjohn’s father is from Six Nations but he was raised in California and has worked with Leon Shenandoah, Thomas Banyaca and works with Corbin Harney, Joe Chasing Horse and others today,” said Beaton about why he was working with Knapp.

The working title, “The Second Thanksgiving,” refers to the spiritual nourishment given by First Nations people to non-Native people “in the same way we provided physical nourishment to the people on the Mayflower and Columbus’s voyages.”

“We’re feeding the non-Native people our spiritual way of life,” explained Beaton.