Gathering in Gunnison with Headwater Elders, Students and Visiting Presenters
by Art Goodtimes
Nov 18, 2010 | 722 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UP BEAR CREEK NUMBER 21 … Western State College played a great host to this year’s Headwaters Conference, thanks to the generous support of President Jay Helman and the able direction of Dr. John Hausdoerfer. In the Passing of the Gourd ritual on Sunday morning (an adaptation of a pathway advocated by the late eco-guru Dolores LaChapelle), many heartfelt comments were made by students and whitehairs alike about the opportunity to learn and develop new skills to make communities resilient – the theme of the event ... Rarámuri anthropologist Dr. Enrique Salmón emphasized the importance of stories in maintaining sustainable indigenous foodways and biocultural diversity. He asked a very provocative question – “What if Martin Luther King had told the assembled crowd before the Lincoln Memorial back in 1963, ‘I have a strategy’ instead of ‘I have a dream’” – to demonstrate the power of story over more traditional Western methodologies such as analysis and planning … The brilliant Hispanic environmental anthropologist Devon Peña of the University of Washington drew the distinction between indigenous complex societies and our own complicated but simplistic social structures, railing against the aggressive and predatory nature of capitalism. He called himself a Commons-ist, based on the long lot lines and acequia traditions of the San Luis Valley, where Peña has a home. He also criticized American society’s structural violence, as in cutting the land into grids of mathematic squares regardless of topography or our initial social tolerance of slavery and racism/sexism/ageism, and suggested that structural violence is what leads to physical violence like hate crimes, rape and smallpox blankets. Finally, Peña suggested that cultural continuity from indigenous (and in Colorado Hispanic) communities built up a huge toolbox of resilience in what he called a solidarity economy – “myriad, place-based forms of human cooperation and co-habitation with other living organisms” … Headwaters Bard Aaron Abeyta read a sad and yet hauntingly beautiful letter/poem about nuclear contamination of his Antonito homeland by outside corporate interests with his trademark moments of lyric beauty amid the profound disconnection of the prevailing culture from his rooted, place-based traditions … Jerome Osentowski, founder and director of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, as well as Broomfield’s New Leaf Gardens founder and Headwaters Anthem songster Alan Wartes showed what could be done to re-learn the skills of growing one’s own food, or at least a good portion of it, in rural or urban settings. And Western State’s student Food Ninjas walked that talk by feeding conference attendees locally grown and processed food from local providers … Citizenship, naturalized exotics, immigration policy, Rose Tooke’s wonderful and simple explication of panarchy’s adaptive change cycle and biomimickry, climate chaos, cash-free bartering and exchange, the derivatives depression, Michael Taylor’s Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, externalities, time-banking, the Siberian pea shrub, Brian Miller’s wife Dr. Lynn Sikkink excellent moderation, Dr. Jonathan Coop’s Institute for Applied Sustainability at Western State, Peggy Utesch’s oil&gas tales, scenes from Dr. Paul Edwards’ original play, Resilience, as performed by talented student actors, Dr. Maria Struble’s refugee studies, Rick Bass’ keynote address on his environmental activism in Montana, Word Horde poetry – it was a weekend of delight, insight and interactive discussion … Headwaters founders George Silbley and Dr. Laura McCall joined me in honoring Headwaters elder Randy Russell in a Friday night memorial, as Russell passed away almost exactly a year before . Randy’s poem about the burning down of Gunnison’s legendary cowboy watering hole – that Headwater attendees repaired to every evening for its first dozen years, to continue long, passionate and dizzyingly theoretical discussions late into the night – is this week’s featured Gourd poem … Headwaters 21 was a full plate of intellectual stimulation spiced with poetry, song, theater, beer sessions and bracing walks. Quite delicious! … If you’ve never gone, you should mark your calendar next fall.

JIM STARR … Sadly the November election lost Gunnison County one of the best and brightest Dem leaders on the Western Slope. I know I’m going to miss his presence at the Colorado Counties, Inc., and as a great regional political resource.


Ode to Cattleman’s

There will be no re-inhabitation of the Cattleman’s. No
smelling of the greasy grills, hearing the quiet sports TV,

arranging the tables for the yearly expropriation of space,
sweet talking the bar maids, negotiating the smoking section,

playing musical chairs, sharing stale pretzels and goldfish,
checking out the salad bar, and trying to remember

whether you are a Bull or a Heifer when confronted by
the bathroom doors, yet again. All the mundane things

that constituted the day’s last conference room, the
mighty Headwaters catch-up, talk-back, wrap-up sessions,

the stumbling into cold dark streets worrying about blood
alcohol levels. Our tradition crafted in that ungainly,

eclectic period piece of history – firetrap it seems…
For as unlikely as it is, or that anyone would have

guessed, our tradition has outlived yours. And we are
now like startled minnows in a disturbed pond of night.

If we can’t re-inhabit you, we must now re-invent you.
Negotiate a sovereign space for ourselves for those

dark, cold November nights in Gunnison. Where the
smokers can smoke and the talkers can talk, and the

neophyte, newcomer, first-timer is embraced in our in-
formal communion, and the collective dances of our minds.

-Randy Russell


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