Thursday, September 24, 2015


Peter Yarrow 
This past August I participated in and helped organize a remarkable gathering, an event that has been likened to a March on Washington for Native Americans, other indigenous people, and their sacred sites. It was the second year of the The Black Hills Unity Concert held in South Dakota with a primary focus of supporting the Great Sioux Nation in its leaders' efforts to have the Black Hills returned to their stewardship, thereby honoring the treaty of 1868 that was violated egregiously when gold was discovered there a few years after the treaty was signed. The event itself, which included Native elders and families from many tribes, paid deliberate attention to and respected Native American ceremonial traditions. At times the presentations possessed a powerful intensity but, at its heart, it was a joyous and celebrative gathering, filled with hope and loving exchanges between speakers, performers, and the audience.
To be sure, the US Government's violation of its treaties with our First Nations is a great stain on our nation's honor and history, though exceeded by the blatant history of brutality and unabashed genocide perpetrated against Native Americans by our government. We as a country absolutely, I believe, must find ways to do what is possible in this day and age to make amends for this horrific history; the Unity Concert's objective, the return of the Black Hills is, I believe, one effort that is imperative to pursue. Doing so will do much to restore and heal the heart of this country by admitting, and coming to terms with, our past mistakes. In the context of the Unity Concert, when I was on stage, both last year and this, I apologized as one American for the cruelty and inhumanity of my country's policies against our indigenous people, our Native Americans, and pledged to do what I could, personally, to make amends. That pledge will be kept for the rest of my life with the hopes that, one day, my country will take responsibility for what we have done to these people, and help to lighten, if not relieve, the inconceivable pain and suffering we have caused and, alas, continue to cause.
It is no coincidence that I am sharing these thoughts on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, during which we seek to take responsibility for, and ask forgiveness for, the hurt and injury we have done to others. Most importantly, we commit to finding ways to heal the wounds and injury we have caused in personal, national, and global terms. I believe that making this commitment, not unlike one's Atonement on Yom Kippur, is prerequisite to our ever being able to heal the soul of our nation, which desperately needs be healed in order for us to address the great challenges of our times. There are many more such apologies I might make as "one American" but, for now, let me start, on this day, 2015, with one that refers to our earliest years as a nation, when we proceeded to wreak havoc and annihilate the people and the culture of those who were here before us.
Attached are a few photographs from the Unity Concert 2015 taken by my dear friend and superb photographer, Byron Buck.

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