Grandmother Mona Polacca
“I’d like to greet each and every one of you, I’m happy to be here. This is a good day. This time that we are taking to acknowledge the blessing of our nourishment that is given to us by Mother Earth, as part of the, Sacred Food ~ Blessed Earth, I’m grateful I could join you. And I’m grateful also to the good creator for the day that we’ve been blessed with thankful for the water, the air, the fire, the earth, all these things that give us our life.
Here today throughout the world, you can still find human beings who have not separated themselves from the land, from their culture, from their sacred sites and all of nature. Indigenous cultures have an unbroken chain of this connection that extends back to the time when our ancestors first came into this world. And for thousands of years, we’ve lived in this way. We have maintained our original instructions and have utilized our knowledge that’s been passed down from our ancestors, from our ancestors from time immemorial and our knowledge and our instructions that have been given to us have been, in a way, our code of ethics… about how to care for Mother Earth and how in caring for her, she’s caring for us. It’s this reciprocity that is in motion here. And it’s part of our heritage. It’s our cultural heritage that is very important because food is our nourishment, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. And it holds us, it holds us we say, in a sacred way.
But then there are also many constraints that hinder the proper functioning of this heritage, of our relationship with our food and where it comes from and that challenges us, how do we transmit [this knowledge] to others? Like the world of Western thought, Western practices of growing food? How do we transmit this knowledge? And in this Forum here today, that is the effort that is being presented, a means to transmit the knowledge and the practices and beliefs that are connected to our food. That food isn’t just a substance that we consume. Food – we believe is part of this whole cycle of life and our sacred relationship with Mother Earth. It’s like we are eating or sucking of her breast. That it’s the people who have that connection and continue to carry on this cycle of life through the food that is from Mother Earth that we continue to live.
So here today, there are still these people who live this way, and it’s important to think about how one size doesn’t fit all. Among our Indigenous People, the plant life that feeds us or feeds the animals that we eat is this chain, is this food chain. That plant that has its roots in Mother Earth – it has a relationship with her, it’s the plants mother too. And this plant comes from a seed. In the Hopi way, the Hopi people were given the corn seed, the squash, the bean, and they were also given the tobacco. They were given these seeds and not only the Hopi, but at the time of the emergence, what I’m told, is that there were four brothers, the red, the yellow, the black, and the white and each one of them, they were given a corn and they went in the four directions.
The Hopi People, Indigenous people, have continuously practiced that teaching about how this relationship with the Mother Earth and in the planting of their seeds, that they will understand and uphold the importance. It’s like a baby, like a child. So like planting the seed and then the seed grows and develops like a child. And that’s how many of the Indigenous People that I know of and what I’ve learned from Hopi, is that they have been continuously doing that. And the other part of it is that you know, these seeds and our earth based medicines are – they don’t grow, you know, they didn’t grow all over the world, just like us and the different people have come from different parts of the world. And as I was told, the red people are here in North and South America. And the white people are from Europe. The black people are in Africa, the yellow people are in Asia.
And so the plants and the various kinds of foods that we eat are indigenous to those specific areas and the geographical diversity, as well as the diversity of the soil and, and the kind of plant life that have made their home in these different places. You won’t find them anywhere else, unless now, like today, you know, people will take plants and take them to another part of the world and grow them. And then in some cases they may have made some of our Indigenous foods and earth based medicines and have turned them into commodity items, items that have become part of the world economy. And I think it’s important to understand that our Indigenous food has a relationship with the soil, where it grows, where it originates. It’s like us as Indigenous People, we have that connection with Mother Earth and that soil, everything, the environment, the water, the air, everything there, that’s the way the plant is. That’s the way those animals are that we eat from, the land that gives us our food source. And when we’re planting, there’s a prayer thats made, an offering thats made. The water is given. There’s song, there’s even dance and daily as the plant develops in its stages, there’s another prayer, another song, another dance. There’s constant attention and constant spiritual practices, we are related to that source of food that we are growing, we’re taking care of because it’s going to take care of us. And so when we talk about food sovereignty for our people, where we’re talking about those kinds of things, where we understand, how to take care of things, and through that, you know, there is a balance. And we talked about how it’s important for us to live in balance, to live in harmony with Mother Earth. And from time immemorial, this traditional ecological knowledge has been maintained and has been our survival.
We, the Indigenous People who continue to live on their lands and live off the land, they really are going to be strong, strong advocates, for more maintaining the land as sacred, the water there as sacred, all of the life that comes from that land there, it’s sacred, it’s our life. And so it’s important for us to be able to have a voice and be included in any kinds of decisions that are being made about our bio-diversity in relation to our food sovereignty. Our food has been what has helped us to survive through many forms of atrocity and it gives us strength physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally.
In ceremony, there is always a food offering, especially prepared for the purpose of that ceremony. And the prayers are put into it. A little bit of that food is taken and it’s offered, it’s put on Mother Earth. A little bit of water is put on Mother Earth as an offering of gratitude, but it also is an offering to our ancestors, the ones that were here before us, and also an offering for our future generations, our children, our children’s children, our future generations that are yet to come. The ones we will not see. And so we offer that little bit of food back and in that way, then as we partake of it, we receive that good blessing and it becomes, again, it’s part of that cycle, that cycle of life that we continuously maintain. And it’s important that these perspectives are included in any kinds of plans that are being made. And again, you know, being all geographically diverse, we would need to have voice from the various regions of the Indigenous People to speak on their own behalf. I believe that is something that’s in motion and through efforts like this, that there are people who have created this dialogue, the Temple of Understanding has put together this dialogue, of the many people who are going to be joining to speak, to be spokespersons, to create understanding, and bring a message, a message that needs to be heard from another world view that isn’t being considered now and where these small, our Indigenous communities, whatever, the way we do things. And we say, take only what you need. Leave some for others. There’s somebody else that needs to have something to eat. The same thing with the plant, the animal life we leave, put out, leave out some pieces or some parts of the animal or parts of the plants, the food, the vegetables, things like that, leave them out so that the animal life could have their share. And so this is our practice in reciprocity and our practice of being in gratitude. Being in gratitude and practicing these principles of caring and sharing, of being compassionate towards others. Others that have an influence on our lives that help us to exist, and we must give back to them. And so that too is also part of what’s important to understand and learn. And even in world religions that I’ve been exposed to, there is a practice. There’s a practice that I’ve seen of blessing of the food. This is a practice that I always enjoying being part of, to see that, and our children and grandchildren are watching.
They’re watching how we do things. They’re watching how we practice these principles of proper caring and sharing, of having that compassion. And maintaining this balance and harmony with Mother Earth, they’re watching us and they’re going to do as we do. And so we must maintain that way of being so that our children and grandchildren will understand and be part of it and will practice it. And then they will pass it on just like we’re passing it on. Our elders, our ancestors, they prayed for us, for us to be here and to be able to have what we need, to have water, air, have fire, have this home on Mother Earth, have food to eat that’s going to strengthen and nourish us. That’s what they prayed for us. And here we are, their prayers have been fulfilled. We are here today.
Part of that bloodline, of that ancestry, we come from. And so now it’s incumbent upon us to uphold that and continue to carry it forward and continue to exercise that right. And to show that to our children so they can embrace it and hold it near and dear to them, their connection through the food to Mother Earth and all the other divine creations of life. So it’s been a wonderful time to speak with you, and I wish each and every one of you Good blessings. And thank you so much to the Temple of Understanding for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today.”
Transcript of Grandmother Mona Polacca’s keynote address at FORUM2021
Grandmother Mona Polacca is a Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa elder. She is the Chair of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Mona is representative of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, a coalition of Indigenous leaders and organizations and others who wish to protect water for future generations. This is a vision from the elders and has the support of 60 organizations globally at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She is the President/CEO of the Turtle Island Project, a non-profit program founded in 1986 by Western practitioners and Native American healers to blend the science of psychoneuroimmunology with indigenous wisdom and practices. Mona also serves as a member of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders due to her international justice work.