Red Eagle Soaring: Mitakuye Oyasin

RedEagleSoaringOur city’s namesake, Chief Seattle, is quoted as saying “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

The Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre took to the stage of the Paramount Theatre on January 31 to welcome President Carter.  (Footage is available here.) As part of the opening remarks, the appropriately named Areal GoodVoice linked Chief Seattle’s words to WAC’s mission:

The World Affairs Council links Greater Seattle to the world and emphasizes global interconnectedness. This global interconnectedness, known to my Lakota people as “Mitakuye Oyasin” (“We are all related”), is an indigenous concept that was once the foundation of our societies, and we have an obligation to share and promote this Native vision of global unity in a shared higher purpose.

Fern Renville, Managing Director of Red Eagle Soaring, says that “Wherever you go in Indian country you will find this concept of kinship and inter-relatedness informing Native relationships, families, and communities, emphasizing the importance of social capital and connection to Mother Earth.”  Red Eagle Soaring often refers to the concept of the “seventh generation” which emphasizes the need to keep a long-term view and to work for the benefit of people living seven generations into the future.  This concept, originating with the Iroquois Nations, has become a mainstay of ecological sustainability and is an example of Indigenous thought informing contemporary American thinking.

Traditionally, native cultures place a high emphasis on hospitality and many tribes have a unique traditional welcome song.  These songs are often accompanied by hand drums, representing the voice of the ancestors. Red Eagle Soaring performed a Klamath song called Howina, repeating the lyrics which mean “welcome to my home.”  The performers represented many Native tribal groups, including Aleut, Colville, Grande Ronde, Inupiaq, Jicarilla Apache, Klamath, Lakota, Leech Lake Ojibwe, Nez Perce, Paiute, Potowanamee, Sinixt, Southern Cheyenne, Tlingit, Warm Springs, Yakama, and Zuni. This tribally diverse group reflects not only the wide range of Native cultures but also the ways in which they are interconnected with one another.

The idea of global interconnectedness, the mitakuye oyasin mentioned by Ms. GoodVoice, is a central tenet of the World Affairs Council.  Understanding how local events impact those beyond our borders, as well as how events happening far away drive changes in the greater Seattle community, is a primary objective of the World Affairs Council.