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Correspondence with Joan Jack

I met Joan Jack several years ago in Banff, Alberta. Leroy Little Bear had been organizing an annual series of workshops on Native Self-Government and Native Justice. For several years running he had invited me to talk about "paradigm shifts". Joan attended one of these workshops and "out of the blue" wrote to me.

Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 06:35:07 -0400
From: Joan Jack <>
Subject: Spirits

Good morning Dr. Peat! I don't know what time it is wherever you are, but it's about 6:30 am here. Strong time for spirits.

We met in Banff a few years ago and the pull to strengthen our connection has never left me. So, I had my girlfriend find your email address (don't know how she does that!) and I am contacting you to see what happens.

In case you don't remember me, I was the native woman whom you invited to help you deliver your teaching as you said you could see that I "knew/lived" what you were talking about.

Hope you are well. Look forward to hearing from you.

Dear Joan
How nice to hear from you! It's good to think that we are still in contact.

I left Canada in 1994 and am now living in a small hill-top village in Italy. In a way, after meeting and talking with so many Native Americans I wondered what live had been like for White people when they were once close to the land.

This village is at least 1000 yrs old, and a thousand years earlier there were Etruscan people here because of hot springs.

Until the 1960s there was no running water in the village. People rode on donkeys and each family kept a pig, for meat in the winter. They were mainly peasant farmers and the population was 1500. But then economic inflation began also people exchanged cars for donkeys. Today there are only 250 people left. There are about 20 young people but they may leave the village if they can't find any work. So this could really be the last generation to live in a very traditional way.

Each person has a piece of land, they hunt for deer, wild boar and birds. They produce wine and olive oil. We have quite a few Festas - celebrations where everyone eats together in the square. Another important part of the village life is that everyone walks around the village each day exchanging gossip. Children play here quite safely, there is no traffic and if their parents are not around someone will look after them.

So I'm happy to be here and I can see that this is the way people should live. We brought my mother here and she died just after reaching 90. My daughter and our grandchild also live with us.

I'm now thinking that when people speak about Indigenous people they should also include Europeans who have lived in a traditional way for many hundreds of years and whose culture is also in danger of being swallowed up. I think all these people share something in common.

As to other things. I'll be coming to Ottawa in June of next year to a conference on Native American Philosophies. I've also been contacted by some Maori people in New Zealand who want to pass on teachings to white scientists. Also I'm in contact with some Native people from Argentina who want to make a trip around the world and explain their culture.

Anyway, please let me know what you have been doing. Maybe we can meet again when I'm in Canada.

Warm regards from Italy,

Boozhoo! Well good morning! In some ways, technology is such a gift. Such a paradox. When is "IT" enough? Just take this email/internet thing. Without it, it's highly unlikely that someone of my limited spiritual skill would ever have been able to contact you! Maybe that's part of the problem? I depend on email and depend on assuming I could never do it myself!! Whatever! It's sure good to hear from you. I have recommended your book (Lighting the Seventh Fire ...) to so many people and it's funny because I have not even read the whole book myself. I use your book spiritually and when I need to quote someone in support of what I am writing, I just go to it and open it and your words, the words that I need, are always right there!

I just finished my morning invocation - greeting and invoking the help of the Manitous at the six directions and within myself. My husband, Bryan who is Tlingit, joined me this morning. That was nice. I try my hardest to do my morning invocations every morning, but of course that is not the case!

I couldn't agree with you more that "White" people should return to their indigenous roots, in mass, and honour and recognize that the ways (beliefs) of their ancestors are relevant and necessary in 1999. If "White" people were to return to their traditions, perhaps we wouldn't all be fighting over land so much! Maybe the Canadian government would just give us back access to "our fair share" of land!! Of course, the way we relate with land is different, so they always think we want too much! Anyways, I am happy for you because you sound/feel happy with how you are living.

As for us, we continue our struggle to affirm and promote our traditional land ethic within our own community and the community at large. We started a non-profit organization in 1995 or so titled "The Nakina C.A.L.L. (Center for Aboriginal Learning & Living)" in part because so many of our teachings are delivered and explored in separation from the land from which they flow. The Nakina River is a major tributary of the Taku River which flows into the ocean near Juneau, Alaska and is the heart of my husbands' traditional territory (The Tlingit). Our first few years have been about building the infrastructure necessary to include people beyond our immediate family. We have expanded our summer home down there and have built several tent frames to accommodate visitors. It is wonderful and we now spend four months per year "isolated" without road/telephone access and plan to move downriver year round hopefully by this Spring! You can apparently gain internet access via satellite now and we are going to look into that in lieu of a satellite phone because the only other means of contact with the rest of the world is through radio phone which is extremely weather dependant. I do all the fundraising for our organization and that has been a challenge and a real learning curve!

Personally, I am still struggling with my calling as a teacher or, perhaps more accurately, as a Spirit who has something to say to the World!! I am still "planning" to publish! I write and write and write and never publish! And, I have finally put more effort into my calling to speak by participating in conferences whenever I am invited. The conference on Native American Philosophies sounds like it's going to be amazing! On that note if you feel like you would like to help me develop myself and my speaking opportunities (or publishing for that matter), I would love to receive your help.

The other thing I do is sew! In 1994, after seeing beautiful Native clothing for years at various conferences, I came home and asked my mother if we had a sewing machine. She said "Yes, there's one in the basement.". I hauled it up and had her show me how to thread and operate it and immediately began designing and sewing clothing like I'd been doing it all my life! Since then, I have had the honour of sewing many, many pieces of clothing for people who always love what has been created and many people tell me they can feel and even hear the Spirit of their clothing! It's a real blessing in my life. I have sewed for many Tlingit Elders and given away probably almost a hundred pieces and some people even pay me! For example, as soon as I'm done this email to you, I'm going upstairs to begin sewing a lap blanket for a woman who has MS. A friend of hers ordered it for her and I now feel ready to sew. I am going to give her a West Coast Moon design. The designs come when they want and I can feel the Spirits choosing the design especially for each person. When I try and sew what I think the person should have, it never works out. Either the piece is completed and then goes to someone else or I can't see to sew it at all!

Well, lastly and most absorbing is the fact that Bryan and I are raising six children between the ages of 6 and 16! Our kids and providing for their well being the best that we can takes up almost all of our energy. We love them so and see such hope in them for the future of our people.

I look forward to hearing from you again!

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