May 12th, 2015 Last Updated on: January 19th, 2022
On May 4th 2015 I attended the San Jose State University’s TEDx Conference. For those who are not familiar with “TED Talks” or the TED conferences themselves, it was a conference designed around the motto “Ideas worth sharing.” People who are asked to speak are greatly respected for their perspective and ideas that they bring to a TED talk, and to be asked to speak at one of these means that you have something significant to contribute to society. SJSU’s Tedx conference was based around a general theme, and that theme was “Diversity=?” Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer organized the event and is an Ethno-ecologist who focuses on bicultural diversity: the connections between nature and culture. I was pleased to hear that one of the speakers at SJSU’s Tedx would be indigenous.
MarTan Martinez works as the Director of Social Services at the Redwood Valley Rancheria. He is of the Pomo and Wappo Nations and has been a Volunteer Brown Card Holder for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for 14 years, where his title is “Native American Spiritual Advisor.” When he walked on stage the room was hushed. He spoke about addiction, and his views on personal accountability. He told us that we are each responsible for our own happiness, and that we are not born in the mindset of devaluing ourselves. He said that we are taught through example how to think poorly of ourselves and we need always to resist that, to see ourselves for who we are and to stand up and say “I deserve to be happy and I take ownership of my actions.” Many in the room nodded along with his speech, they were engrossed as he pulled out a fan made from the wing of a hawk and asked the audience “What is this?” Some said “A feather..” or “A wing.” and he said “I call this medicine.” He showed it to the room and waited for that sentence to seep in. “If I come up to you, and I feel you have this negative energy surrounding you, I will brush you with this, and send that negative energy away. It’s healing.” He is a teacher and follower of traditional ways, and embodies what it means to decolonize our frame of mind and our thinking.
When I asked Mr. Martinez what draws him into doing what he does for people, he had this to say..
“Part of being a Native American is to understand the Traditions/Culture of what Native People have been doing before visitors came to this Nation. To know the culture is never to use drugs, alcohol or be a part of ruining Earth's Land. We are the Keepers of this Land, and Earth needs help to keep it safe for us humans to live on it. What draws me to it is witnessing the harm this Lifestyle has brought to the People who didn't want to live this way but were stripped of their own way of Life, and now today it needs to be a strong teaching for them to survive through the future that is coming. My Acestorial Visions are still getting done through People like me today.”
When I spoke with several students before the TEDx talk, they all mentioned how much they were looking forward to hearing Mr. Martinez because of how little they knew of Native or Indigenous cultures. I was proud to listen to Mr. Martinez’s words and to be a part of this group that took a moment to celebrate the diversity of our country, specifically the traditional healings and beliefs of it’s Indigenous culture.
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