Category Archives: Virginia Fifield

What Will Become of Us? The Impact of Extractivism on Future Generations

November 22, 2020

By Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate

There is a spiritual bond between Indigenous people and the land. 

The Earth is our mother, and she cradles the bones of our ancestors. The land has memory, and it remembers the steps of past generations that are alive in us still. When we are on our ancestral grounds, we are home. We can feel the land welcome us home. We can lift our heads a little higher and breathe a little deeper, because we are home and at one with the land. 

An image showing the damage of extractivism on generations of a community.

How long will this be true for Indigenous cultures if extractivism continues as it has? The deforestation, pipelines, mining, overgrazing and GMOS are destroying the lands of our people.  The waters are no longer drinkable and are not safe to bathe babies in. Greed and disregard have left most Indigenous people with nothing but broken spirits and little hope. 

We are losing lands to mining, industry and deforestation. This means losing our languages, our way of life and the wisdom and knowledge of the elders because so much energy has to be put into just surviving. 

This is a tragedy that goes far beyond losing a homeland. It is a tragedy that robs a people of their culture, their connection to the past and the future. It is robbing whole populations of hope and their spirit.

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¿Qué será de nosotros? El Impacto del Extractivismo en las Generaciones Futuras

November 22, 2020

Por Virginia Fifield, Asociada de la Misericordia

Existe un vínculo espiritual entre los pueblos indígenas y la tierra. 

La Tierra es nuestra madre, y ella acuna los huesos de nuestros antepasados. La tierra tiene memoria, y recuerda los pasos de generaciones pasadas que aún están vivas en nosotros. Cuando estamos en nuestros terrenos ancestrales, estamos en casa. Podemos sentir que la tierra nos da la bienvenida a casa. Podemos levantar la cabeza un poco más y respirar un poco más profundo, porque estamos en casa y somos uno con la tierra. 

An image showing the damage of extractivism on generations of a community.

¿Cuánto tiempo será esto cierto para las culturas indígenas si el extractivismo continúa como lo ha hecho? La deforestación, los oleoductos, la minería, el sobrepastoreo y los OGM están destruyendo las tierras de nuestros pueblos.  Las aguas ya no son potables y no son seguras para bañar a los bebés. La codicia y el desprecio han dejado a la mayoría de los indígenas con nada más que espíritus rotos y poca esperanza. 

Estamos perdiendo tierras debido a la minería, la industria y la deforestación. Esto significa perder nuestros idiomas, nuestra forma de vida y la sabiduría y el conocimiento de los ancianos porque hay que poner tanta energía en sobrevivir. 

Esta es una tragedia que va mucho más allá de perder una patria. Es una tragedia que roba a un pueblo su cultura, su conexión con el pasado y el futuro. Está robando a poblaciones enteras la esperanza y su espíritu.

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Connecting to God’s Creation

November 15, 2018

By Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate

Every morning for generations, the Haudenesaune (Iroquois) people have greeted the dawn with what has become known as “The Thanksgiving Address.”

It begins by saying to the Creator “it is an honor to be a human being and to have been invited into the circle of Creation.”

We then turn our attention to that circle of creation and give thanks for everything that the Creator has given us. We begin with the grasses and the trees, move upward to the other plants, the water, the winds, the sun, the moon and the stars. We continue onward until our choicest words are given in thanks to the Creator who has given, and continues to give, us all we need.

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“Truly God is the God of All” — Mercy Associate Reflects on Indigenous Roots

August 9, 2017

By Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate

The United Nations recognizes August 9 as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year is also the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate

August 9 is a day that has been set aside to honor and recognize Indigenous people. It may be a day like any other to most, but to me, as a member of the Indigenous community, it is a different story.

Most of the lives of Indigenous people are lived in the soul-crushing reality of being an “outsider” on their own ancestral lands. We sat through history lessons that told us that in the grand scheme of things we are the losers. Even though we might be “cradle Catholics,” we never seemed to be able to measure up. But I think the most humiliating thing we had to bear was being handed pence boxes to collect money for all the pagan babies. I know that the times were different, and although we’d like to think things have changed, too often they are still the same. Our children and grandchildren still are fighting the internal battle of who they know they are and what society is telling them they are. Internalized racism has made us constantly question whether we are American enough and whether we are Catholic enough—and if we are, then are we Native enough?

Given this experience, can you imagine what was going through my mind when I was invited to discern for Mercy Association? Because of my life’s experiences I was a little bit more than reluctant. When you get burned enough times you tend to be very wary. But after my initial conversation with two wonderful women of Mercy, Jean Galafaro and Sister Barbara Stinard, I did agree to listen and learn about Catherine McAuley and Mercy Association before I made any decision.

For the first time in my Church experience I found that I was welcomed with not only open hearts but also with open minds. The people in the Circle of Mercy welcomed what was perhaps to them a different way of seeing God. They were more than willing to listen to the Indigenous concept of the Cosmic Creation. They listened to how Indigenous people see their interconnectedness with that creation as a way of living out our divine purpose within God’s plan. They tried to understand how Indigenous people believe in the divine in all people. I find that when people in Mercy have questions, for the most part they are just that—questions, not judgments. I also find that Mercy honors the separateness of Indigenous symbols and traditions that are sacred and does not try to somehow appropriate or misuse them.   Read More »

«Verdaderamente Dios es el Dios de Todos/as» – Asociada de la Misericordia Reflexiona sobre las Raíces Indígenas

August 9, 2017

Por Virginia Fifield, Asociada de la Misericordia

Las Naciones Unidas reconoce el 9 de agosto como el Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas. Este año es también el 10° aniversario de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas.

Virginia Fifield, Asociada de la Misericordia

El 9 de agosto es un día que se ha apartado para honrar y reconocer los pueblos indígenas. Puede ser un día como cualquier otro para la mayoría, pero para mí, como parte de la comunidad indígena, es distinto.

La mayoría de las vidas de personas indígenas se vive en una realidad aplastante de ser «forasteros» en sus propias tierras ancestrales. Aprendimos en las clases de historia que, en el gran plan de las cosas, salimos perdiendo. Aunque seamos católicos desde la cuna, parece que nunca somos suficiente. Pero creo que lo más humillante que tuvimos que soportar fue cuando nos daban las cajitas para recaudar dinero para los bebitos paganos. Sé que eran tiempos distintos, pero, aunque quisiéramos pensar que las cosas han cambiado, demasiadas veces son iguales. Nuestros hijos y nietos todavía están en la lucha interna de quienes son en contra de quienes dice la sociedad que son. El racismo internalizado nos ha forzado a cuestionar constantemente si somos suficientemente americanos y suficientemente católicos – y, si es que sí, ¿somos suficientemente nativos?

Dada esta experiencia, ¿pueden imaginar lo que me pasaba por la mente cuando me invitaron a discernir ser una Asociada de la Misericordia? Debido a las experiencias de mi vida, fui más que un poco reticente. Cuando te queman demasiadas veces, sueles desconfiar. Pero después de mi conversación inicial con dos mujeres maravillosas de la Misericordia, Jean Galafaro y Hermana Barbara Stinard, decidí escuchar y aprender sobre Catalina McAuley y la Asociación de la Misericordia antes de hacer una decisión.

Por primera vez en mi experiencia de Iglesia, encontré que fui recibida no sólo con corazones abiertos sino también mentes abiertas. Las personas en el Círculo de la Misericordia acogieron positivamente lo que tal vez fue una manera distinta de ver a Dios. Estaban muy dispuestas a escuchar sobre el concepto indígena de la Creación Cósmica. Escucharon sobre el concepto indígena de interconexión con la creación, y cómo eso mismo es una manera de vivir nuestro propósito divino dentro del plan de Dios. Trataron de entender que los pueblos indígenas creen que lo divino existe en cada persona. En mi experiencia con la Misericordia, cuando las personas tienen preguntas, solamente son preguntas, no juicios. También noto que la Misericordia honra la separación de símbolos y tradiciones que son sagrados y no trata de apropiarlos ni usarlos indebidamente.   Read More »

Standing Together at Standing Rock Reservation

October 28, 2016

By Virginia Fifield, Mercy Associate

In September I went to Standing Rock Reservation with a contingency from my home reservation of Akwesausne. The intent was to stand in solidarity with those Natives from the
Standing Rock Reservation who are protesting the pipeline Energy Transfer Partners are attempting to build on their land.

Energy Transfer Partners is made up of five different companies: Sunoco, Southern Union Company, Regency Energy Partners, Sussex Holding Corporation and Sussex Petroleum. The company was established in 1995 in Texas with 200 miles of pipeline. It now has 71,000 miles of pipeline all across the country. They use their pipelines for natural gas liquids, refined petroleum products and crude oil. Since the beginning of 2016 their pipelines have had 21 spills.   Read More »