More Grief for Tribal People In India

Banyan ForestOne of the most disturbing trends I have noticed while in India this trip is the rise of violence against woman and Indigenous people. Here is an example of institutionalized violence against Native people. Conditions for Native people in India were difficult and deteriorating two years ago. They appear much worse now. Of course, this is in line with events over much of the world. Please voice your concerns to the Indian government.

From Intercontinental Cry:

India opens the floodgates for extinguishment of Indigenous Rights

By • Feb 22, 2013

India’s central government has walked away from its position on the need to obtain consent from Indigenous peoples and forest dwellers before handing their lands over to industry.

On February 15, the central government announced that major “linear projects” such as roads, railways, transmission lines, canal systems and pipelines do not need to obtain consent from affected forest populations before clearing their lands. The announcement, which stands in sharp contrast to provisions in the Forest Rights Act, could now make way for hundreds of new industrial projects that would have never otherwise seen the light of day.

“This is serious breach of trust and a huge step back in ensuring the dignity and survival of traditional forest-dwelling people across the country”, said Dr. Swati Shresth, from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment. “Forests are going to be cleared to make way for a particular kind of economic development; it will adversely impact communities and the environment.”

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Ancestor Ceremony

This past Sunday we held our annual Ancestor’s ceremony. We usually perform this ceremony during the Days of the Dead, but this year we delayed it due to our India trip.

The ceremony remembers those who have gone before us, those who have created the conditions for our lives. We honor all beings who have passed from our lives, as well as those who are yet to be born. In the great Circle of Life those yet to come are are also our Ancestors, just as we are theirs. During the ceremony we request healing for all beings who wish or need it.

This year, we dedicated the ceremony to the victims of the Sri Lankan genocide, both the living and the dead. We placed South Asian foods and fruit on the altar, alongside the various food offerings brought by those who attended the ceremony, and lit a central candle in remembrance of the victims. Continue reading

NGO’s and the Fate of India’s Tribal Peoples

In this video, Magdalene Jeyarathnam, one of South India’s most accomplished, and socially engaged, psychotherapists, and Jennie Kristel,  discuss the displacement, and other social ills, faced by India’s tribal peoples. Here, Magdalene expresses concerns about the effects of World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs’, policies on Indigenous people in India.

Interview:Dr. Eric Miller, Part One

This is the first part of an extended interview with Dr. Eric Miller, the Director of the World Storytelling Institute in Chennai. In this segment, Dr. Miller speaks about the creation and work of the Institute, and the Institute’s commitment to helping tribal people in India maintain their cultures and languages.

Interview with Yours Truly Theatre Company, Bangalore, India

The first full weekend I was in India we traveled to Bangalore to work with the Yours Truly Theatre Company. The company invited us to come and aid them to hone their Playback Theatre and Psychodrama skills. When we began to work with them, we were simply awed by their creativity and artistry. Indeed, by the end of the weekend we weren’t certain who had been teaching whom.

Yours Truly is a deeply socially engaged theater company. Most of the troupe works during the week, and performs almost every weekend. They also teach theater classes on the weekend, and Jennie and I had the great good fortune to join in at the end of a kids’ class. As you will hear, the company is engaged in a wide range of social issues: from domestic abuse, to AIDS, to youth suicide. Here is a two part interview with the core members of the company.

Shamans, Priests, and Crows

Courtesy of Jennie Kristel

Today is All Souls Day. Throughout the Americas families and individuals will gather tonight, or tomorrow night, to welcome the returning Dead. Those who gather by family alters, or in churches or cemeteries, will bring with them wonderful food and beautiful flowers. Some will burn incense or tobacco; others will display transient handmade crafts. Many will remain awake throughout the night, or sleep where they maintain their vigil. Continue reading

India Dreaming

India is awakening from a long dream filled sleep. There are fears and concerns, yet there is also new optimism.  People are on the move, geographically, economically, and socially. This cuts many ways. The rigidity of caste are undermined, yet so are the extended family structures that have supported the young and old for centuries. Class now, say many, is more important than caste, and class, in India,  is flexible. Continue reading

Shamans, Genocide, and Hope

We’re home. The trip back from Chennai was demanding, taking about 29 hours. Today is a wet, chilly, day. I’m feeling jet lagged. I’m also thoughtful, having had so many conversations with individuals and groups. The conversations continued on the flights home, including with a woman (a dancer, theater artist, and choreographer) from East Timor . She was on her way to the UN to speak about the gains made by women in her country since independence. She spoke about her many friends who were killed during the pre-independence democracy protests, and about the recent growth of human rights, and economic and artistic opportunities in her country. Continue reading

Last Day in India

Today is our last day in India. This evening we take the first leg of our trip home. The last few days have been filled with work, and blessings. There are many stories and photos to share, and there is video to edit. There are people, without whom this trip would not have been possible, to thank.

I have grown and learned much, and look forward to sharing more with you in the days to come. First, today,  there is work to be done, new food to try, and goodbyes to be said.