Remembering Francis Day 2017

Though it is approaching two months since October 7th, we still find ourselves immersed in the significance of Francis Day 2017. Read on for a re-cap of the day.  The Agape Community’s Francis Day celebration this year saw more than 350 water protectors (more attendees than any other year) gather to honor America’s indigenous people. The theme was “Listening to Native Voices: Standing Rock is Everywhere,” and it was clear in the long line of cars parked on Agape’s wooded street and the hustle and bustle on the homestead of new faces as well as long-time Agape supporters, that clearly people wanted to listen. Sparked by Agape co-founder Brayton Shanley’s trek to Standing Rock last winter to deliver straw bales, native people from all corners of the country came to Agape to share their wisdom for the celebration on Oct. 7.

In store for the day was a speech by keynote speaker Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Brayton introduced him as “one of the great elders of our time.” Chief Arvol was “honored to speak” to the Francis Day crowd, and told them, “Today, I am traveling all over the world talking about who we are as First Nations. That Mother Earth is the source of life, not a resource.” You can view the keynote here:

We would also like to offer the full transcript of Chief Arvol’s speech. Please scroll to the end of the blog post to view it. Thank you to David Detmold for transcribing.

A panel discussion among Chief Dwaine Perry (Iron Bear), Two Clouds and Roland Jerome was also scheduled for the event. The three explained their tribal backgrounds and shared the legal troubles they are going through, concerning a pipeline that is proposed to run from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ. Watch the panel discussion here: A sacred water ceremony was led by Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson, who led the ceremonies at Standing Rock. Before the ceremony, Beatrice offered a prayer. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity of time, of spirit and respect.” You can watch the prayer here: The National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCCC), representing all the major faith groups in America, including Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims, presented Chief Arvol with The Steward of God’s Creation Award. Each year the award is given to “individuals who exhibit courage and commitment in the caring and keeping of the earth in a heroic, distinguished and effective manner.” Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullit-Jonas (Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Western Mass. and Mass. Conference, United Church of Christ), Dr. Robert  A. Jonas (Board Chair Emeritus, Kestrel Land Trust), and Bishop Doug Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts presented the award. Margaret wrote of her experience on her blog post (which you can read here:     She writes that, after the “crowd erupted in applause when my husband announced, “This year, for the first time, NRCCC wishes to give its award not to a single person but to an entire people,” she and Bishop Fisher had to decide, on the spot, whether they should sustain the “joyful” mood, or “say the hard stuff.” They decided to press on with what they needed to say.   Bishop Fisher explained that “We are painfully aware of the history of Christian participation in the oppression, marginalization, and murder of First Nations peoples.” This led to the Burning the Doctrine of Discovery Ceremony. This doctrine, according to Francis Day co-sponsor Pax Christi Massachusetts, “is a religious document that was created by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 that promoted the racist policy of discovering and conquering ‘new lands,’ that were in fact already occupied.” Watch the award ceremony here: A “Peace Tree” was planted over the ashes of the Doctrine of Discovery and people placed sacred tobacco at its base as they prayed for peace. The ceremony was based on an Iroquois Peace Tree ceremony. View the moving ceremony here: In usual Agape style, Francis Day was shared by those of all ages and faiths.   Thank you to Skip Schiel for the wonderful photos. You can see more of his amazing work here: We urge you to view more photos and videos of Francis Day on the Agape website: We leave you with Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s speech, and hope you will keep the spirit of Francis Day alive. Standing Rock is Everywhere Chief Arvol Looking Horse Speaks at Agape Community, Hardwick, MA – October 7th  Blessings and Greetings to each and every one of you. It’s a great honor to be able to speak to you today. I live on the Rez – the Rez in South Dakota. I come from there to here. Over a year ago, in August, I was invited to Standing Rock by Dave Archambault, the (tribal) chairman of Standing Rock. Today, Standing Rock is Everywhere. I never thought that over a year ago our travels to Standing Rock, in my whole life, this would be a life changing experience for me, in that leadership role. Today, I am traveling all over the world talking about who we are as First Nations. That Mother Earth is the source of life, not a resource. On September 21st, we went back to Standing Rock. I was one of the speakers there, for the reunion meeting, with a lot of people who had been there, talking about what happened at Standing Rock. The sadness. But at the same time, we felt that Standing Rock is living everywhere in the whole world. Over the last 100 years, a lot of people didn’t know the (Native) People existed, on the reservations and everywhere. The Old A.I.M. Leaders talked about it during the early 70s, when that movement was going on: Red Power, Black Power, the Women trying to find their voice. In our tradition there is a balance between men and women. I’ve been to a lot of events in Washington and Canada where (Native) women are (turning up) missing or abused. The White Buffalo Calf Woman brought this medicine. We have a lot of respect for women. We stand shoulder to shoulder to respect that sacred fire. Mni Wiconi. Water is Life. Over a year ago, we went to Standing Rock. We set up what we call an Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) – a spiritual camp – tipis in the center where the pipekeeper sits. And that’s my position. I never thought in my life I would take that position. The elders said it is over 100 years since the 7 Council Fires (of the Lakota met together in this way). What got us together was Mni Wiconi. It was the youth who came to Dave Archimbault (and said): “We want to protect the water. We heard about the Black Snake is coming, which is the (Dakota Access) pipeline. To build it is going to disturb our land and our burial grounds where we set up Oceti Sakowin. We listened to our chiefs, and followed their leadership with how we do our ceremonies and we shared our feelings about what’s about to happen at Standing Rock. And we know in our hearts that this is a beginning. We signed a peace treaty with the US Government. I know as a spiritual person, we want… (indecipherable).  We don’t want to talk about the president. We see many signs: Stand with Standing Rock. Songs come into my mind. About going to Boston. (laughter in the crowd). All the people who came there (to Standing Rock); I’d like to say “Thank you.” All the people who donated the straw bales that were donated, I never knew they came from here. Every day in Council, our job is to maintain peace. Every day something was happening. That’s a job: to maintain peace. (He references the song recorded for charitable relief in Africa) “We Are the World.” A beautiful piece. We want to keep that spirit going from Standing Rock. It’s kind of hard. What has happened (with the completion of the pipeline) really affected us spiritually, physically and mentally. Addressing in council what is happening to Mni Wiconi – Water is Life – and what will be our place in the world today. I felt like in one year what we were trying to do in the last 20 years going back to our sacred sites, talking about what is happening to our land and water: Standing Rock really put us into the spotlight. There were 300 flags of Nations (flying) at Standing Rock. People from all over the world came to Standing Rock, bringing a lot of prayers. At one point, I remember the women, when they were plowing through our gravesites, it was the women who ran ahead to stop the plows. They (security forces) brought dogs. They were riding (horses). I remember some of the elders talking about what a warrior is. We invite all people to stand with us. But if you can’t be a warrior – a warrior is when we ask you to stand up, you stand up through good times through hard times, and we call upon our people to stand up and we say if you can’t handle it you should take your family and go home and pray for us, for what we are going to face. It’s going to be hard. We can’t really say what will happen to you. Over the last 100 years, we’ve been through a lot of massacres. In the 80s, Virgil Kills Deer had a dream, and so in 1986 I joined the ride, I became the spiritual leader of the Big Foot Riders (retracing the path of Chief Big Foot to from Standing Rock to Wounded Knee in the winter of 1890). On the reservation we don’t have many horses left… the spirit of this ride was meant to heal. We slept out in the open, in the cold winter, enduring subzero temperatures. And we talked about the journey that they made in the 1890s, chased by the cavalry. I never knew I was related to Chief Big Foot until then. In our lives, all of us, we tried to hide all the pain and the suffering. We are not the only ones. Many nations of the world have endured massacres. For years they’ve talked about that journey. I learned so much in my life about world history. In that day, in 1990, I prayed that there would be no more Wounded Knees in the world. I never talked to a lot of people until that ride. In four years time I was speaking at the United Nations, and in the peace mission to Baghdad. We talked about going into this time. The elders talked about it. They didn’t know what day, what time. The elders talked about the Spirit of the Buffalo. They always move forward. The natural food. The natural medicine. From the age of 12 years old, I have always talked about our medicine. The water of life. And the food. Honor Sacred Spaces Day, June 21st : International Holiday, at the United Nations and all over the world. (Applause.) There was a time when I was very young, after I became the sacred bundle keeper (Arvol is the 19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Medicine Pipe Bundle.) at the age of 12. We lived with no running water, no electricity. My first language was Lakota. (He speaks.) I remember my language, my culture and my people. As I speak the only language that I know is Lakota. Time moves so fast. As I speak to you today, that’s what I say. The old ones talk about the (indecipherable) They have many medicines. All this creation. They have spiritual names. As times go by, they have new names. Maybe someday soon we can change them back to their spiritual names. So that’s the way my life has gone. That water is sacred. Land is sacred. Sacred fire. Now, now is the time to carry that message. Here is a story I want to share. Our ways were outlawed. You wouldn’t really talk about our ceremonies. Dark times. When I was very young, we had electricity. My father bought a black and white TV. He showed us. It was the early 70s. My mother encouraged us to watch the cartoons. But we were not really into that. We were into riding horseback. She was into “As the World Turns.” I remember one night I went to sleep half awake. I was watching TV. Someone touched the screen (and the screen cracked open). All of  a sudden people were standing side by side and the Earth was turning. It opened up and all these people were standing there, holding hands. It happened maybe six times. That’s the way that dream went. I told my father about that dream. I saw a fire in the center (of the Earth) When you ask something, in our tradition it takes a few days or months, maybe a few years. In our way, you don’t try to make things happen. You pray about it. In 1994, in Janesville, Wisconsin, the first white buffalo calf was born. We went there and did our ceremonies. A lot of mysterious (?) were there. In our prophecies, it is said a lot of white animals will be born. Now, almost every year white buffalo calves are born. From here on you are going to see Earth changes. The winds changing, earthquakes happen where they never happened before. What we are faced with in this world is that man has gone too far. We are going to see these things much sooner than further on down the road. We are going to see these things. Wild fires on the West Coast. We witness Mni Wiconi at Standing Rock. We witness the volcanoes. These are warnings. Because we warned that someday you would create that which you can’t control. And that day is here. So we, as spiritual people, we go back to ceremony. We often know what’s going to happen in the future if we don’t straighten up. When I was 12 years old my grandmother  passed on the sacred bundle. It is not something that is passed on by vote. Spirit elders tell us. And the spirit elders said, “If the people don’t straighten up then he shall be the last sacred bundle keeper.” I never joined the military. I never used foul language. I go to sacred sites. 1st Creation (sacred fire?) 2nd Creation – Mni Wiconi. When these two came together, they brought the sacred energy of creation. Since then the sacred sites have existed like a church, a school. The pictograms, that’s where people go to spirit quest. But in our dreams, our visions, we always know the spirit. But we also know the 7th generation. As we come back to Sitting Bull’s land – Standing Rock – let’s put our minds together and see what we can make for our children. These are some of the words we heard at Standing Rock. As we stand together at Standing Rock, no one person is leader in the circle. That circle is bigger now – the hoop of the world. We’re all one: the winged ones, the things that fly and crawl and swim. The old ones say only the rocks and trees – the Earth can talk. The Great Spirit gave us the sacred land not to own but to take care of. Take care of our medicine plants, and the animals. When we came here, we came with nothing, and we leave with nothing. We have to take care of that – the spiritual. We have to do good. It makes a circle. If you do wrong it comes back to you twice. It’s a circle. If you do good it comes back to you twice. I know about the ceremony. We have to honor the spirit. When the child is born, the old ones talk about the tipi is a vortex to sun and moon and stars – the star knowledge. There was a book written in the 70s in Rosebud – when I was very young. I hope someday we can teach our language in that school, and in community colleges. Sitting Bull did say, “Take the Good and Leave the Bad.” Some try to use the education system today. But we still maintain our culture and language: that’s who we are. We use our tobacco to talk to the trees, the sacred fire, and water of life. Like you have today. That’s really beautiful to know that each and every one of you have helped us by standing together with Standing Rock. And now Standing Rock is everywhere. I know that the women up here have worked very hard and laid the groundwork for us to speak here, so I’d like to say, “Thank You for doing that.” I’d like to share with you, at Standing Rock, when we were talking about Mni Wiconi, and the elders talked about the Tree of Life and we talked about here on Turtle Island, our sacred ways, we take care of the heart of Mother Earth, with neighboring tribes, the Arapaho and Cheyenne. We do ceremonies at the Black Hills. Those of you who never went there should go to South Dakota. It’s a beautiful place. It’s shaped like a heart – the Black Hills. Later on they took a picture (a satellite photo) – this heart – all the rivers and the sacred mountains look like an open heart when you fast forward it. We do ceremonies there. It looks like the heart is pumping. Maho Paha – call it that from now on. I grew up with songs, with traditions, with ceremonies. Many white animals and their boundaries. Share that when our people come to the Black Hills. In Standing Rock we talked about the Tree of Life,  our ceremonies. Mother Earth has the same amount of water as the Sundance Tree and our bodies. It’s the sacred heart – the Black Hills. It looks like a tree from satellite views. We have that tree in our heart. When a child is born we ask the medicine man to pray with us over the afterbirth. Open it and it’s a tree. At Standing Rock we said this river will affect all people that drink from Mni Wiconi. From satellite view, on Turtle Island all the rivers are connected. It’s a big tree. We’re going to make this Turtle Island Great Again! By respecting ourselves and our water and Mother Earth. It is a very beautiful time – the changing of the four seasons. People died and went to the spirit world. Some came back to tell us. A lot of our people are not going to the spirit world; their spirits are still stuck here. They died in some tragedy, or from drugs or alcohol. Be spiritual. Complete the circle. By honoring the water of life, the tree of life. We are all part of it. The Great Spirit. We follow the Great Spirit. So – no fracking. No GMO food. We need to live in peace. War is not good. We must stay in peace. The old ones always remind us that peace starts in your heart. Every day, get up in a good mind. You have to take care of yourself. If something is bothering you, take care of it. It’s not healthy. Take care of it. Pray about it. Give it to the creator. Like the spirit of the buffalo. We always have to go forward, all through time. As spiritual people, we are all part of the great circle of life. The Great Spirit would never give you something you can’t handle. As we gather together here together to talk about Standing Rock. It’s a whole way of life we are going back to. A way of prayer. Thank you very much. Aho.