Gathering of the Eagles

May 30, 2023 | Beacon, Justice, News, Racial

This past March during the visit of Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers to East Shore, Freddie Lane invited our church members to come to the 3rd annual Gathering of the Eagles (GOTE), May 21 – 29. In response, five ESUC members volunteered to help out at this special gathering.

In addition to East Shore members, the UU community was well represented including attendees from Bellingham, Woodinville, Spokane, Port Townsend, Whidbey Island and Olympia congregations.  Tribal representatives came from Washington state, British Columbia, Hawaii, Guam, New Mexico, North Carolina and Arizona.

This year’s GOTE included a mini-canoe journey to the San Juan islands, culminating in a day-long sacred ceremony honoring three native women at the Lummi Nation Wexliem Community Building. The women were Amy George, a matriarch from the Tsleil-Waututh in British Columbia, who launched the movement to protect the Salish Sea from oil pipeline construction by Kinder Morgan;  Fawn Sharp, an attorney and former President of the Quinault Indian Nation, who is current President of the National Congress of American Indians; and, Deborah Parker, former Vice Chair of the Tulalip tribe, who is a long-time activist fighting violence against women and currently documenting the impact of boarding schools on native families as well as speaking to Congress on their behalf.

As East Shore members who attended GOTE, we want to convey our profound thanks to Freddie Lane for his key role in organizing and then for inviting us to this gathering.  We were deeply honored to be at this ceremony and to bear witness to these women warriors.  And to East Shore members, we want to convey something we each individually took away from the experience.  We hope that you will consider joining us this summer to attend or volunteer at other events organized by our indigenous neighbors.

Carrie Bowman: I was struck by calls for leadership led by questions from Esther Lewis (Dine):  “who is following you?  Who are you leading?”  We heard many personal stories that invoked both ancestors we may not have known and future relatives we do not know yet—and our responsibilities as fellow paddlers in a canoe with all of these unknown people.  I am inspired by the challenge from all of the whomen to stand up (“Warrior up!”) rather than and watch our earth, sky, water and ourselves become degraded and disappear.

Arthur Knapp: Jewell James, the lead Lummi totem pole carver and Kimokeo Kapahulehua of Hawaii were inspiring in showing their commitment to protect the air, land and waters.  Their delivery honoring the three women was powerful.  Most of the time we energetically assisted Lummi tribal chefs preparing and distributing food along with other UU volunteers.

Marilyn Mayers:  I found the hours-long honoring ceremony simply riveting.   The testimonials, prayers, stories and songs voiced by a whole succession of indigenous leaders expressed acute pain, compassion and great beauty.  I am so grateful to have been present, to witness and to listen to such powerful words from the likes of Jewell James, Rueben George, Jim Thomas, Amy George, Fawn Sharp, Deborah Parker, Esther Lewis and others.  I came away deeply moved, encouraged and renewed.

Mike Radow:  One honoree,  Amy George,  recounted her experience of being removed from family and placed in a residential school. “Culturecide” it was called.  Siam’elwit  proclaimed a day of victory in surviving such horrors. Rueben George, of Tsleil Waututh and son of Amy George, uplifted the day of  “healing, hope, honor, happiness, hospitality.”  A day of humility, for me, as well.

Lynn Roesch: At Saturday’s Gathering, I was privileged to witness a day of ceremony and celebration, listening to speakers share their respect and gratitude honoring the three women warriors. How powerful. Being with people who freely call on their ancestors and share their wisdom. How inspiring. Sharing hours of conversation and laughter with people from many different tribes. How joyful.