Memories, and Condolences About Walt
Here's a black and white of Walt and his chum Frank Koehn, a Bayfield County Supervisor and
co founder with Walt of the Lake Superior Greens. Both these guys walked 320 miles last summer straight down the
state of Wisconsin! This photo is by Sue Erikson.
I met Walt in 1996 at a University of Wisconsin conference on
environmental resistance movements organized by Prof Bron Taylor
(Oshkosh, Religious Studies).
Sitting at the meal table on the last night, Walt said to me, "The
trouble with this conference is there's not enough SPIRITUALITY."
"We could fix that,"
He looked at me in a manner
that required no explanation. "See you upstairs shortly," he said. "I'm off to the car to get my medicine
Upstairs I arranged with
the chair, Baird Callecott, for Walt and me to make our contribution last in the panel of conference speakers.
When the time came, Walt went and shut the main doors and organized everybody
into a circle. I started drumming and my Irish colleague also from
the Centre for Human Ecology here in Scotland,
Tara O'Leary, played haunting flute music on the penny whistle.
Walt then explained that the doors being shut is how it now is in
America. "We're all inside" he said, "whether we see it or
not." "We're all native now. The doors are shut."
He then proceeded to smudge
and bless everybody, welcoming them into their spiritual responsibilities for this place.
The event would have been a controversial one for some people. They
were neither warned nor invited to participate. Walt was spirit-moved
to do what he did. Tara and I were spirit-led to assist him in this joint spontaneous Native-American
/ Celtic ceremony.
The events were recorded
by student TV and subsequently broadcast in Oshkosh.
I made my own record in a passing mention in a poetic piece I wrote
about identity in Scotland - "The GalGael Peoples of Scotland". The
mention of him is in section IV. It is published in Nature Religion Today, Edinburgh University
Press, ed. Pearson, Roberts & Samuel, and I think it's also out in the USA in Indiana University
(The Gal-Gael Peoples of
Scotland: On Tradition Re-bearing, Recovery of Place and Making Identity Anew a contribution for Nature
Religion Today, by Alastair McIntosh)
We are become again a
known or unknown touched
by rose of Scotland little white rose
that smells so sharp and sweet it breaks the heart
by eagle, deer, wild cat and long-gone bear
here in spirit where extinct in flesh
Strong totems for recovery - we need strong totems at this time
Remember ... that three years before
Culloden massacred gasp from clansfolk's tribal voice
the last wolf was shot extinct in Scotland
Nature's death precursing culture's "thickest night"
Culloden - last battle mainland British soil 1746
internal colonial conquest
blood mingling inseparably soaked through moss Drumossie moor
friend and foe and which is "us" and which is "them" now?
Where the "Gaeltachd" wither "Galltachd"
for a' that and a' that
sacrificing, sanctifying, down to an ice-age cleans'ed strata
that is both cultural and in depth, archaeological
long stinking but now compost-rendered for new growth
... both psychic and somatic
... genetic and prophetic
Remnant sprig from taproot of antiquity
awaiting spring to bud re-formed
and Blossom as is needed in our agitated times
... a cultural cultivation ...
Indeed! Let us observe that
the capacity of nature and of human nature
to be hurt
in the fullness of time
by the capacity to heal ...
And that must be joy's greatest cause for hope
So you ... our
friends to whom this statement is addressed
You, we know, will understand.
Take you, First Nation Peoples, North America
uneasy unasked hosts to our Diaspora
You, Chippewa protest leader challenging Exxon's mines, Walter
says ... "We are all native people now. The door is shut. We are all
You, Mi'Kmaq superquarry warrior chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney
says ... "Your mountain, your shorelines your rivers and your air
are just as much mine and my grandchildren's
as ours is yours."
You, great teacher huntress Winona La Duke
walking troubled by the Minnesota lakes
who rejects "genocide by arithmetic"
that allows "indigenous" belonging
to be governmentally defined by statutes staturing racial purity
Rejecting thresholds like one-sixteenth blood relationship
to be a Sioux or Cree or Cherokee
for human love will always
mingle, meld, and make of prismed light
a golden melanged mockery of all pretensions
to any presumption
of racial purity
that violates sunlight's loving magic dance
a dance insisting
as it pleases, teases
Equally to be white light, coloured light
or warm absorbing dark that holds all light
In memory of Walt Bresette, I would like to share this poem which his
presence and vision actually inspired. I wrote it while at the Protect the
Earth Gathering at Mole Lake on July 27, 1996 after Walt had joined our
campfire the night before to share his stories. We will ALL miss him
dearly, but we can always draw strength from his vision of a better world
to be. - John
Abe Lincoln Meets Walt Bresette over Exxon's Dead Ore Body
"In God We Trust"
It was early dawn and it was on the road
With that familiar and now somewhat tarnished profile
Good Ol' Abe Lincoln
Yep, there's copper in dem der North Woods
Too bad all that other "STUFF" is in the way
...water weeds, swamp lands, blanket asses...
Still - if you hold a coin close enough to your eye,
it can blot out the entire sun
Bottomline blinders for the Exxon
as it does its corporate calisthetics
I picked up the cast off penny and placed it in my pocket
Soon enough, though, I could feel it burning a hole
Sulfuric acid oozing down -
burning my leg, poisoning the water,
fouling the earth, searing my soul
Last night I saw another wellknown weathered face -
that of Walt Bresette - Anishinabe activist, Gaia guardian
His voice crescendoing in the campfire
His vision traversing seven generations
Everyone was there in solidarity:
old, young, black, white, twig, feather, fur, shell
Their strength and courage fueling the eternal flames,
climbing into the midsummer starlight, scattering to the four winds
Their home, OUR HOME, would be here long after the bloated Exxon beast
belched its last breath of putrid profit
"Exxon, what's that?"
- the great great great great great great great gandchildren
of Walt and Abe will wonder as they frolic in the North Woods
and corporate palentologists will scurry to unearth evidence of
the rumored monster -
Where are the bleached bones?
Where are the toxic tailings?
and with a little luck and a lot of hard work,
they'll find nothing but a worn copper coin
"E Pluribus Unum"