August 03, 2008

No terrorists, just sheep

Navajo youth peacemaker to Iran"I went to Iran, because people have the right to hear both sides. Furthermore, the American people and Navajo people are entitled to know what we are being led into and deserve nothing less than full transparency when situations such as these arise. I went with a peacemaking tradition armed with Navajo prayer and the wisdom of the ancestors," Cook said.

Cook found the Indigenous Peoples of Iran linked to Navajos with the common bond of herding sheep and weaving. "It is the tribal peoples of Iran who are the renowned weavers of the many of the Persian Rugs. These tribes face some of the same challenges indigenous peoples in the Americas face, poverty, lack of health services, traditional mobility, and language revitalization to name but a few. In the United States rarely do we hear about these tribes or the beauty and diversity of Iranian peoples and cultures.
And:"As I walked through those ancient sacred lands, I didn’t see terrorists. I saw the faces of real people; I saw families, mothers, fathers, and children, not racist stereotypes found in the media. Iran is home to many kinds of cultures and faiths. I found some of the most kind and hospitable people I have ever encountered. I found the people who practiced Islam to be a kind and prayerful people, much like Navajo people. In Islam guests and strangers are treated as messengers of God and are given great respect, I was this given this degree of respect and was invited into their homes, where we ate and prayed for peace together.

"Saying both Navajo and Islamic prayers.I wanted Iranian people to understand the diversity of America, the idea of sovereign Native Nations, of distinct peoples, as nations within a nation. I wanted them to understand some of the realities, strengths, and challenges of indigenous peoples in the United States, most importantly not to see Navajo as a vanishing people, but as active protagonists in a long and epic battle for complete harmony and self-determination. I wanted them to know the Navajo people not only as the people who walk in beauty but also as a fierce warrior people who have fought and are still fighting for the liberation, restoration, and healing of our peoples, the earth, her resources, our culture, and our language."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Terrorism:  "Good" vs. "Evil."

Below:  Michelle Cook and an Iranian friend. Photo courtesy Michelle Cook via Brenda Norrell's Censored News.


dmarks said...

"Cook found the Indigenous Peoples of Iran .....Saying both Navajo and Islamic prayers"

But no mention of the prayers of people who practice the indiginous religion of Iran... people who are routinely harassed and persecuted by the Muslims who say the Islamic prayers.

Rob said...

Islam may not be indigenous to Iran, but the people who practice it are. If an indigenous people practice a non-indigenous religion (e.g., Islam or Christianity), aren't they still indigenous?

But this raises a legitimate question: Who exactly are the indigenous people in any particular country? Is it literally the people who were there "first"? Before the advent of civilization, with its wars and invasions? Or does "indigenous" mean something else?

Cook's version of "indigenous" seems to mean the people outside the government and the cities. I.e., people living traditional lives. But what makes Iran's outsiders more indigenous than its "insiders," who wear designer clothes and watch satellite TV? I don't know.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Michelle Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Cook said...

There are "tribal and mobile peoples" in Iran. These nomadic peoples and tribes share common cultural traits with Navajo such as weaving. In terms of the word "indigenous" there is much debate as to what it means and it gets more complex in Iran since it is such an ancient civilization to begin with. I don't want to get caught up in the labels. The purpose of the piece is peace and it attempts to find what is positive in Iran; and from there work to find common ground, humanity, and understanding. Only through this common ground can we stop dehumanizing each other, which leads to war. Both the U.S and Iran are not free from human rights violations this is true. However, this is not the focus of the article. The purpose of the article is to show Iran's humanity and diversity, an alternative to the story Americans are all familiar with, usually one that paints Iran as nothing more than violent.