The Swiss Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights
International Award for Freedom and Human Rights
Presented by Year 2000 Recipient Phil Lane, Jr.
Berne, Switzerland November 11, 2000
FREEDOM AND HUMAN RIGHTS
AN INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVE
My very respected friends and relatives of the human family, it is my hope and prayer that you and your loved ones are in the very best of health and happiness.
I want to extend a heartfelt thanksgiving to the Swiss Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights for the great honor you have bestowed not only upon myself, but also upon the many dedicated people that have guided, inspired, and supported my work over the years, on behalf of Indigenous people and the human family. Your award is deeply honored, respected, and appreciated.
I also extend my warm, respectful, and loving greetings and handshake to my brother and fellow award recipient, the very respected Akim Birdal from the great Kurdish tribes, who has given a lifetime of dedicated service and sacrifice to uplift the freedom and human rights of his tribal peoples. I pray that your dreams and hopes for the happiness, health, and prosperity of the Kurdish people will be completely fulfilled.
In fact, may all of us who are gathered here together today, join forces to help bring about a future in which all members of the human family, both individually and as different communities and spiritual traditions, fully realize the deepest meaning of freedom and human rights. A realization of freedom and human rights that will fully empower us too manifest a world whose sacred hallmark is unity in diversity.
Some years ago, a beloved tribal grandmother asked me a deep and soul searching question. A question fundamental to understanding the profound spiritual depths of freedom and human rights. “Grandson,” she asked me, “what is the most sacred, the most powerful, the most holy of all ceremonies?” With some pride, I began to recount some of the traditional tribal ceremonies that I had participated in over the years. After I was finished describing the Sun Dance, the Sweat Lodge, Vision Questing, and other ceremonies I had participated in, she said, “Grandson, those are all very sacred, holy and powerful ceremonies, but the most sacred, the most holy, the most powerful of all ceremonies is the birth of a child.” Then, she looked very deeply into my eyes and soul and said, “Then who are you?”
The spiritual understanding and awareness that every human being is a sacred, divine being with a higher spiritual purpose, is fundamental to understanding and manifesting the deepest meaning of freedom and human rights. Not only do we need to honor and respect our own sacred, divine self, but we must, also, learn to see and experience this same spiritual reality in every other human being. As one of my very beloved spiritual teachers has always taught me, “See God, the Great Spirit, in one another.”
Earlier in my spiritual journey another elder, Frank White Buffalo Man, shared with me another spiritual insight and understanding that relates, among other things, of how we must also learn to respect, honor, love, support, and understand each other as different nations, tribes, communities, peoples, religions, and cultures of the human family and the spiritual qualities needed to be victorious in manifesting freedom and human rights. He said, “You know grandson, the Great Spirit has given all people wisdom. To every living thing, he has given something special. Some people receive their knowledge and understanding through books. In your life grandson, you too must read and study books, but remember to take with you on your journey only those things that bring more unity within yourself and others, that bring goodness and understanding and help us to serve one another in better ways.”
“The Great Spirit,” he continued, “also gave our Indigenous people and all other people who live close to Mother Earth, both wisdom and knowledge through dreams, visions, fasting, and prayer, and the ability to see the lessons the Creator has put in every part of creation. Look at those trees standing over there; the alder does not tell the pine tree to move over, the pine does not tell the fir tree to move over, each tree stands together in unity, their mouths pressed toward the same Mother Earth, refreshed by the same breeze, warmed by the same sun, with their arms upraised in prayer and thanksgiving, protecting one another. If we are to have peace and true freedom in the world,” he said, “we too must learn to live like those trees. Look, grandson, at the beautiful teachings the Creator has put in the little stream. Feel the water and see how gently and lovingly it touches your hands. It travels through deserts, mountains, and many places, but it never turns its back on anyone or anything. Even though it gives life to all living things, it is very humble, for it always seeks the very lowest spot. But it has great faith, power, and patience for even if a mountain stands in it’s path, it keeps moving and moving until finally that mountain is washed into the sea and is no more. These are spiritual gifts that the Creator has given each one of us and if we are to be happy within ourselves and with one another, and find true freedom, we too must develop these sacred gifts,” he concluded.
We also know from our ancient tribal teachings that the sacred eagle of humanity has two perfectly balanced and harmonious wings—one representing woman, and one representing man. In our relationships as women and men, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, we must join together to eliminate all forms of disrespect, mistreatment, prejudice, or lack of sharing in the responsibility of raising the world’s children.
It is only through understanding, experiencing, developing and manifesting our spiritual nature and capacities as human beings, in harmony and balance with our physical nature, will we be able to fully understand the ancient spiritual truth that “the hurt of one, is the hurt of all and the honor of one, is the honor of all.”
In fact, even the scientific world is echoing this sacred truth. With work on the human genome now substantially complete, the clear result is, except for a few superficial surface features, that we, the human family are all 99.9% the same. We are all related! We are much more alike, than we are different!
Therefore, we also need to respect and honor all the different Spiritual Traditions and Sacred Teachings of the human family, that help us to become more loving, kind, forgiving, gentle, and just human beings. In fact, if we look deeply, we will find that each of our Spiritual Traditions teach us to love and respect others and their loved ones, as we would want others to love and respect ourselves and our loved ones.
It is with this spirit of love, respect, truth, and understanding that we need to respect, honor, and protect the Holy Places of all members of the human family.
When I traveled to the sacred lands of the great tribes of Israel and Palestine, I prayed at the Wailing Wall, a Holy Place of Prayer of the great tribes of Israel for so many centuries, and I felt the Spirit of God. When I prayed at those Holy Places held sacred by the great Christian tribes, I felt the Spirit of God and when I prayed at the Dome of the Rock Mosque on the Temple Mount and other Holy Places held sacred by the great tribes of Islam, I felt the Spirit of God. I equally felt the Spirit of God at the Buddhist and Hindu Holy Places that I made a spiritual pilgrimage to in both Thailand and India, just as I always feel the Spirit of God at the Holy Places held sacred by Indigenous people around the world. Even more important is the full realization that every Holy Place on Mother Earth is simply a reflection of that divine Holy Place that resides in the sacredness of every human heart and soul.
I look forward with great hope and expectation to the day when all of humanities’ Holy Places will be considered to be part of the infinite spiritual heritage and divine treasury of all members of the human family and will be governed accordingly, as Holy Places of international peace and unity, and not the source of war, hatred, revenge, or conflict.
For until we fully understand and experience that all members of the human family are intimately related and that our greatest honor, privilege, responsibility, and meaning is to love, serve, understand, and respect our own sacred divinity and the sacredness of all life, there will be no ultimate justice, freedom, and human rights.
Only when our hearts experience the divine reality that there is only one race, the human race, and that Mother Earth is the common spiritual heritage of all living beings, will we then be able to develop the economic, educational, social and political systems that are life preserving, life sustaining, and everlasting. Then and only then, will we be able to completely eliminate the growing extremes of wealth and poverty that is being supported and fueled by the spirit destroying sickness of unbridled materialism and consumerism. For a truly spiritually enlightened humanity would never tolerate a world where 80% of our beloved family members live in substandard housing, where 70% of our beloved family members are unable to read and write, where 50% of our beloved family members suffer from malnutrition and survive on less than $2.00 [U.S. dollars] a day, an unbalanced world where only 6% of humanity possesses 60% of the world’s wealth. A world where our beloved Mother Earth and her many life forms is on the verge of complete destruction in the name of economic progress and selfish consumption by a small minority of the human family.
It is with this spiritual vision and understanding that the Indigenous people that we serve and work with are beginning to rise up in fulfillment of our sacred prophesies. Sacred prophesies that foretold that after a long spiritual wintertime, a time of great suffering and spiritual testing, there would come, as sure as the sun rises, a great spiritual springtime that would unfold, slowly but steadily, with ever-increasing beauty and healing in every direction. These ancient prophesies also foretold that as our Indigenous people heal themselves and their communities, that we will have a greater and greater role to play in the positive unfolding of this dynamic change we are all experiencing. A world encompassing change that will eventually transform the spiritual understanding and consciousness of every human being, tribe, and nation on Mother Earth.
To achieve this great, promised future before us, we must learn to walk the spiritual path with practical feet and fully translate our dreams and visions into living examples and models of what this change will actually look like. By walking the path, we make the path visible.
It was for this very purpose in December 1982, on the high plains of Alberta, forty wise, respected, and dedicated elders, spiritual leaders, and community members from different tribal societies across North America came together for four days and nights of in-depth purposeful consultation. Our common purpose was to develop a model of human and community development, inspired and guided by organizing principles, values, strategies, and processes of sustainable change, healing, and development, all deeply rooted in the natural laws that are at the inmost heart and core of tribal cultures throughout Mother Earth, that would enable us to free ourselves from the hurt and oppression of the past and present.
From this humble beginning – perfectly synchronized with a full eclipse of the moon, and empowered, guided and sustained by an ever-deepening understanding of the natural laws, prophecies, spiritual values, wisdom and prayers formally shared with us over the past nineteen years by the many tribal elders, who have so patiently and faithfully assisted our humble efforts – we have steadfastly continued our healing journey into the new millennium towards the promised time of unity and prosperity for Indigenous peoples and the human family long foretold by our ancient prophesies.
In the Western Hemisphere this emerging network of unity is called the “Reunion of the Condor and Eagle”, the joining together of Indigenous tribes and nations of South, Central, and North America and the Caribbean in a comprehensive trade and social development network that is destined, according to our ancient prophesies, to eventually embrace Indigenous tribes, peoples, and nations everywhere.
At the heart of the formal process of the Reunion of the Condor and Eagle, are Sixteen Principles for Building a Sustainable World that emerged from a formal consultation process over the past eighteen years with hundreds of Indigenous elders and spiritual leaders from across North America and internationally. These Sixteen principles form the spiritual foundation for the first International Indigenous Trade and Social Development Agreements that have been signed with other Indigenous peoples in the Commonwealth of Dominica and the United States of Mexico. We are also in discussions with other Indigenous peoples of the Americas to initiate similar agreements that will further expand our Indigenous trade and social development network in greater and greater circles of unity.
Fundamental to the success of these initiatives is the healing of the oppression, abuse, hurt, and injustice of the past and present. Without question, any human being, tribe, community, or nation is as sick as it’s darkest secrets. If we do not face up to and fully resolve the abuse, oppression and injustice of the past, from all perspectives, these destructive patterns will continue to destroy our future. We need to fully understand that only abused people, abuse people, only oppressed people, oppress people and only hurt people, hurt people.
Therefore, only by healing our own abuse, oppression and hurt can we be assured that we will not continue the same abusive, oppressive and hurtful patterns of behavior that we ourselves, have suffered from.
This means we must stop blaming others for the conditions in which we find ourselves. We must also completely dedicate ourselves to developing the human and spiritual capacities to transform that which is oppressing us. For as long as we continue to blame others for our current condition, we will continue to give away our own sacred power to grow and develop, and ultimately overcome that which oppresses us. It is a sacred truth that we will only be able to overcome that which oppresses us when our spiritual values, consciousness, and strength become even greater than that of the oppressor.
To achieve this promised future the moral, spiritual, and material support of the great tribes and nations of Europe is vitally needed by the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. This support will help empower Indigenous people; this support will enable us to have the freedom, independence, support, and capacity to consult with and negotiate new social, cultural, economic, and political relationships with the larger and physically more powerful Nation States that surround us in the Western Hemisphere. As an elder once told me, “Grandson, it is very difficult to negotiate with somebody who is giving you the money to negotiate with them.”
Finally, I want to thank the government of my beloved Canada for their heartfelt support of our international work on behalf of Indigenous peoples. Although we have very critical domestic issues that we need to resolve together, like the heartbreaking legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools and the resolution of long standing Indigenous land claims, Canada is the world leader in promoting international Indigenous to Indigenous trade and social development initiatives.
I have complete faith in the guiding spiritual principles of our elders, along with the courage and dedication to utilize their wisdom that we will be completely victorious on the path to a peaceful and equitable future. When we enhance the capacity of our Indigenous brothers and sisters we will find that we have the power and ability to carefully and lovingly remove any barriers that have limited the development of our full potential as human beings and communities. The greater the difficulty in our path, the greater opportunity for our growth and ultimate victory. We can always become more than we have ever been.
Therefore, it is my deepest prayer that with every new sunrise, we can recognize more and more that the most sacred and holy of all the wonderful ceremonies and gifts that the Creator has given us is the birth of a child, and that everything we can do to provide our children and communities with the best possible future is a sacred gift, privilege, and responsibility.
Is not the moment long, long overdue, through the unfailing power and
love of our good Creator, for us to free ourselves completely from the
hurt of both the past and present, so we may truly soar with the freedom
of majestic condors and eagles to the promised greatness of our sacred
destiny and future as honored members of the human family.