An old friend joined us this year, JR White Hat, from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. He knows this campus well, both as a student who graduated in 2000, and through his father, Albert White Hat, who taught at Proctor for over two decades. JR spoke about relationships, interconnectedness, and the need for a broader honoring of all life. It was a message well received. Timely. It centered around the saying “mitakuye oyasin,” translated to mean “ all my relatives” or “we are all related.”
One of the stories he shared was from Albert White Hat, who one afternoon looked out over a distant field from his back porch and saw what he thought were geese, a flock of migrating geese. Looking closer he realized the field was a field filled with birds, hawks, and as unlikely a gathering as could be imagined. A rare and spiritual sighting, a medicine man explained, the gathering of a nation.
This coming together of those who are different, of those that live alone, what does it take? Tolerance? What has to be set aside? Or perhaps the better question is, what has to be embraced and understood as common ground if we are to come together. This is where Mitakuye Oyasin seems to fit, the capacity to see all as interconnected, all as related to us, all to be seen as a respected part of the greater whole: the hawk to us, the tree to us, all of nature to us and us to it.
My Eaarth Day reflections center around this. As I watched Racing Extinction Wednesday night and heard JR speak Thursday morning, it came ever clearer that the more we realize the interconnectedness of all in the world, the sooner we can break down the classical tendencies to dissect, label, and partition and see what is not of me as “other” and outside, the better our chances to find sustaining balance and life’s deeper meaning. That’s true in Proctor and true in the larger, much more complicated world outside of our small community.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School