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EXCERPT | Of Living Stone Edited by David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins



Introduction


In the summer of 2020, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited a great movement for justice and change. People across the country fought to reclaim their communities and their rights through direct action. They protested, marched and toppled statues honoring heroes of white supremacy, refusing to tolerate the hate and violence these monuments symbolized and encouraged. Many so-called “great men”— traitors and murderers like Robert E. Lee, Juan de Oñate, Christopher Columbus, and Junipero Serra—were unceremoniously dethroned to be melted down, warehoused, or sent to museums where their misdeeds could be studied up close. It was a very good day here in Richmond, Virginia when Columbus’ statue discovered the bottom of Fountain Lake.


In the midst of these events, Indian Country Today asked their readership which Native they believed deserving of a monument to be placed upon those newly unoccupied plinths and pedestals. Standing Rock author, activist and scholar, Vine Deloria, Jr., was at the top of the list of ten they chose for this honor. While we are sure Vine would have been both flattered and amused by the notion of a Vine Shrine, he would have been most taken with the irony of replacing one set of lifeless icons with another.


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Vine’s ideas did not die when he walked on. His knowledge, energy and ambition were always part of our collective story, and they will remain with us as long as we work together for our common good.


The ensuing collection of thoughtful and creative perspectives from an eclectic mix of folks not only gives deeper meaning to Vine’s writings, but, perhaps, more importantly, provides an example of ever-living transfers and transformations of traditional knowledge—the continuous flow of knowledge that is an antidote to the broader cultural worship of death and endings. This legacy should be accessible and relevant, especially to young activists. And, although Vine’s context and focus may sometimes appear narrow, or in some cases outdated, when compared to contemporary thinking, his ideas can be recalibrated and applied to bolster current movements, both within what is now the US and internationally, such as those related to environmental racism, violence against women, LGBTQ2S rights, law enforcement reform, the land-back movement, belonging, and the ongoing battle against the foundational white supremacy of the United States.


The contributors have provided examples of powerful thoughts and actions based upon or inspired by his work using plain, direct language he would have appreciated. It is a challenge to categorize such a broad range of perspectives. Vine is the common thread in this mix of artists, activists, and academics. Past, present and future are intertwined and imagined—what might have been and hope for what we could yet become. The voices are diverse, their perspectives and talents wide ranging–a reflection of Vine’s own panoramic interests and concerns. Whether the authors affirm, criticize, or retool his work, each starts from a place of deep respect and commitment. We are honored to help them share their knowledge, recollections, and calls for change.


The four sections are an attempt to categorize the far-reaching viewpoints and memories of this collective. Section 1—Oak, centers on current approaches to critical issues rooted in traditional knowledge, including Vine’s legacy, identifying what has been useful and what is lacking. In Section 2—Water, are found perspectives on mending, reclaiming, and creating what is needed, driven by ceremony and tending relations. Pieces in Section 3—Sky, explore possibilities through the transformative powers of humor, imagination, activism and education. Finally, Section 4- Stone, connects to the past—both what was and what continues—including reconstruction of pathways to kinship and traditions. This is critical to survival, as for more than five centuries, these defining and sustaining principles have been under continuous attack, not only from outsiders but, increasingly, from within our own communities where, fueled by greed, racism, jealousy, and pursuit of fame, relative renounces relative, betraying ideals that have held Native peoples together since time immemorial.


The legacy of visions, knowledge, and strategies that moved through Vine’s prodigious body of works, both collective and unique, are embers kept ready to build the next fire. It is our hope that the insights contained in this book will provide the strong breath needed to keep them burning hot and bright. The ideas inherited through Vine and his contemporaries are testaments to the loyalty, laughter, wisdom, determination, and longevity of Indigenous peoples. Each of us can take up this work. Each of us must take up this work. Together we seek balance as a living monument—close as a forest of oaks, relentless as water, broad as the sky, strong as living stone.




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