Coming Home: A Native View of Mountain Top Removal

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CommonDreams.org

Coming Home: A Native View of Mountain Top Removal

by
Matthew Sherman

The Appalachia Mountains... a living, breathing life force for the indigenous people of Turtle Island or what today is commonly know as North America. History teaches that centuries before the European invasion there were civilized societies throughout these sacred mountains. As a mother nourishes her newborn, so these sacred mountains nourished the Shawnee, the Mingo, the Delaware, the Cherokee and many other nations who live on in our memories.

As a civilized people we knew the necessity for accepting Mother Earth's precious gifts in a manner that brought honour to all, and to never take in excess of what was needed to sustain life. There are ceremonies of gratitude for bountiful harvests in virtually all native nations. Pleasingly, this has transcended to other cultures as well. It was also an important aspect of native mountain culture to give back: to replenish whenever possible and to seek Creator's blessing in all our endeavors, that they might be honourable and pleasing to the Creator and the elders who have crossed into the Spirit World.

In today's "civilized" world it is imperative for those of us who embrace our native heritage and culture to become a voice for the voiceless. Our Sacred Elders could not have envisioned the heinous, hideous monstrosity called Mountain Top Removal. We have no word for total devastation. It was beyond their comprehension that the invaders could one day be capable of an act that would degrade and defile our sacred life giver in the name of manifest destiny. To predict such unbridled greed and avarice was not within their realm of possibility.

We must speak on behalf of our elders, as well as those of other cultures in Appalachia whose blood and sweat permeates these Appalachia Mountains. We must honour the Irish, the German, the Hebrew, the Italian, the African and dozens of other ethnicities that came to these mountains in a good way of honour, courage and respect, searching for a good life for themselves. They sought only to be left in peace and to thrive among and within the lushness of these wonderful mountains.

Speak to the mountain folk of Appalachia today. Virtually all speak in an honourable way about their link to their native heritage. Stories abound about Grandmothers with long braided hair tied in leather and Grandfather's unique teachings of hunting, fishing and gathering. Stories also abound about the devastation of cancer, tumors, lung and throat ailments and mysterious nosebleeds that have came upon Appalachian people. Without question we believe MTR to be nothing less than a continuation of capitalist genocide against the indigenous poor of Appalachia. MTR is a roving juggernaut crashing through Appalachia destroying everything, not only in it's path , but it's deadly tentacles reach around this sacred planet with toxins and debris, while greedy CEO's make in excess of 20 million dollars per year at the cost of Appalachian lives.

It is time for good, decent and courageous folk of all cultures, heritage's and ethnicity's to take a stand against the destruction of Mother Earth. This is not a futuristic prediction. It's happening right here, right now. On September 25th to 27th, Thousands of Appalachians impacted by mountaintop removal and their national allies will converge on DC for Appalachia Rising - a conference and protest calling on the Obama Administration to abolish mountaintop removal There can be no nobler cause than to stand up for our sacred mother. Native or not... walk with us in Appalachia Rising and honour your heritage. 

Matthew Sherman is a Blackfoot Indian of the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia and a certified chemical dependency counselor in Ohio. He serves as a Federal Native American Spiritual Advisor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and is an American Indian Movement organizer. An activist against mountaintop removal mining, his life work has been to organize fellow American Indians to fight for human rights and against social and environmental injustices.

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