Red Earth Descendants hosts eco symposium at Briscoe School

In an effort to bring the community together to discuss constructive ways to better the environment, Red Earth Descendants is presenting the First Nations Day Eco-Symposium in the Briscoe Art Wing this weekend.

The founder of the organization, Dan Wahpepah, says that it is important for the many visionaries who are concerned about the planet to "put aside ego and old ways of thinking so that we can focus on working for the people."

Speakers representing environmental groups such as Julie Norman of the Siskiyou Project and Stan Petrowski of Coho Salmon Restoration are being featured, as well as representatives of various indigenous peoples like Lois and Leonard Houston (Takelma/Blackfoot) and Dennis Martinez (O'odham/Chicano).

Common ground in the indigenous and environmental movements will be discussed; though, according to Wahpepah, there is no real distinction when it comes to their deepest goals and values.

First Nations Day was created as a memorial to spiritual leader Corbin Harney of the Western Shoshone tribe who, among many things, campaigned against contamination of all kinds- specifically contamination created from nuclear weapons and waste- and created the Shundahai Network, a group dedicated to nuclear disarmament. Harney died in July of this year.

In addition to honoring the memory of Harney, R.E.D. hopes that the event will serve as an invitation and a gift to the many local tribes that were removed from the valley over the years.

Another major topic of the weekend is discovering ways for old traditions to inform new technologies and their implementation. Booths sponsored by both for-profit and non-profit organizations are on display featuring alternative energy sources and demonstrations of their uses. Each participating group was asked to bring an "avenue for action" so that people attending the symposium can go home with tangible ways to effect change in their environment rather than just leaving with a good feeling.

While most of the activities are at the Briscoe Art Wing, the "We Are Here" statue at 96 North Main Street is also being incorporated as a "Living Prayer Center." Visitors will be able to place sacred tobacco in a cloth and tie it with a prayer to hang around the statue. The ties will be ritually burned at the change of seasons.

"The Living Prayer represented by the tobacco ties is an active way of joining our prayers, our intention as a community, as cultures, recognizing our common-unity as humans," says Michael Vasquez, a member of Red Earth Descendants. Vasquez says that this is an old teaching and is at the heart of community living as is making sure that all in the community are taken care of and are able to share in the generosity of this world.

Wahpepah and Vasquez are also members of the Whistling Elk drum group, which is performing throughout the weekend.

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