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Black History Month: Ganesha Gold Buffalo

In celebration of Black History Month, we are hosting a series of profiles and stories to amplify and honor people, businesses, organizations, and events connected to the history of Seattle’s Black community.

Building Right Relationship with the Land

by Ganesha Gold Buffalo

Growing up in the Rural South as a Black/Afro-Indigenous, Fat, Disabled, Two-Spirit, Intersex Trans Girl– I found myself gravitating toward the attention and lessons offered by my natural surroundings rather than that of relatives, neighbors, friends, and peers. I was a strange kid. I really did understand everything at a very young age and that unnerved everyone around me; my relatives in particular, which made rifts throughout our connections (aside from the ones already present from anti-black racist dynamics, fatphobia, and transphobia). However, I never quite felt understood by anyone or anything other than when I was fully present with myself in the expanse of the woods behind my grandmother’s house. I felt limitless there. It was also the only place I felt safe. It was very much my personal gateway to real-life magic and Source. Family, of course, became very concerned with my social development as I had speech disabilities. The only conversations they caught me engaged in were with my ancestors, the forest elementals, trees, and flowers. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my mind was being fortified by the decolonial messages it was being fed through these natural spiritual connections. This knowledge would end up protecting my core persona, saving my life more than once, and delivering me from soul loss. It was less that I needed to be in a specific place in nature to commune in this way, but that the land itself was a powerful catalyst for communion. I could be anywhere and connect to myself and the infinite in this way. I just had to show up and continue showing up to keep their attention, as with any successful relationship.

If you’re currently seeing a counselor or therapist for any reason, then you probably understand how one’s most defining issues typically start in childhood and extend from there. Despite all the help I was getting from the inherent magic of my native land, the emotion I was most acquainted with as a tween and teen was anger. Anger from the frustrations of having to quit high school to stay alive, from having to associate profound isolation with security, from my mother’s abusive relationships, from familial abuse and routine gaslighting, and from losing all the friends I ever had to drugs, greed, rape culture, hyperfetishization, homophobia, transmisogynoir, and ableism. I began looking at my able bodied, skinny, consistently dating, straight, cis, double parented, and higher classed (socially and economically) peers with disgust and ended up taking that out rather violently on those closest to me. It took me really sitting with, understanding, and making peace with my childhood trauma before I could even begin to try and make peace with the actions I committed as a result of that trauma. All the racist implications of Black Girls who look like me aside, needless violence isn’t something I’m associated with among those who know me now, and I’m proud of that. But I own that it is a part of my past to prevent it from becoming instrumental to my future. “If you aren’t actively healing yourself, you are actively harming those around you.” This was the first thing my ancestors taught me. Although I’m still working on my own deep-seated resentment toward those who grew up with certain privileges and proximity to a societally established sense of normalcy that I didn’t have– I’m honestly grateful to have not received those privileges early on in my defining years.  The focus and discipline I cultivated in the absence of distraction and complacency kept me rooted. I mean this literally and figuratively because I see myself (as many Indigenous peoples do) as a direct extension of the land. When we say, “all my relations”, we are literally speaking to our oneness with all life – animal, insect, plant, microorganism, human, and celestial. When forest fires run rampant through the land, I have difficulty breathing even if I’m far away. I can navigate the woods at any time of day by instinct alone. I have a way of keeping all animals calm within my presence and the presence of those I’m with. I was born with a green thumb and my hands and feet in the soil. When I die, I want to be put in one of those seed pods and grow into a tree. You get the idea.

What I’m trying to say is, I grew up and began understanding how the environmental disasters around me mirrored the lives and direction of those I grew up having envy and disgust for. Understanding how the systems of oppression that plagued me and stripped me of my childhood and teen years, not only benefited these people but took just as much as they gave. This is when I began deconstructing the colonial dualities around my suffering and began to view things as they were instead of through a lens of self-limiting victimhood. A tree without roots cannot and will not bear fruit. Eventually it will rot gradually from the inside out and collapse back into the earth. Those popular folx who tore me down stitch by stitch in school and were in endless relationships? They were feeding their roots with the rot of their layered traumas because they had no examples of healing around them. Codependency, escapism, toxic positivity, and groupthink ruled their worlds on the inside, and glittered with the false light of desirability from the outside. They had no idea who they were, or a thing about the land they come from and lived on. And as far as I can tell, they still don’t. Though I suffered, I now have the ability to move through the world knowing exactly who I am and what I want from it.

As my relationship to land evolved with personal practice, so did my relationships to the medicines therein. Now when I say medicine, I like to clarify what medicine means to me, as I know our relationships to this word have been forever altered by the colonial medical industrial complex and pharmaceuticals. To many Indigenous peoples, the term “medicine” can refer to any type or family of plant life or spiritual instruments that bring the mind, soul, and body together in healing, balance, and harmony with nature. Of the plant life, I began collecting much knowledge that was amplified when I found and joined ceremonial circles such as sweat lodge and Sun Dance. After multiple visits to Mexico to visit and exchange this knowledge with elders, I began incorporating these plant medicines and the ceremonies by which they’re created into every aspect of my life. This required a lot of trust building with the plants on my part and developing of the mindset that nearly everything I wanted and needed could be supplied by the land that I was on. The truth is that this medicine only works if you freely believe in it without the presence of doubt. This also comes with the understanding that the many throes of colonialism have left irreversible changes to our genetic information and environment that force most of us to supplement with western medicine. And that is ok, too. I hope you’ll leave this article learning more about the native plant life in your area and their medicinal properties. However (and I cannot stress this enough), please continue seeing your medical providers in addition.

To complete: None of us have all the answers. But by cultivating a relationship to the land, we can better understand the world around us and our place in it. By tending to the roots of what makes us who we are, we are also ensuring that we can be more fully present, visible, and understood in life. By witnessing our place within nature, we maintain clarity of purpose and capability. By supplementing our health practices with plant medicines, we evolve in intentionality and empower our bodies to heal themselves for adaptability rather than just coping. Remember to consult local elders, adept spiritualists who walk the talk, and lineage holders for guidance. If the natural world tells us anything, it’s that no great thing can be accomplished without community. There is an abundance of wellness out there that is your birthright. Celebrating Blackness every day means understanding and embracing origin. Once you find it, claim it. Only then will you begin to be in right relationship with the land. Go, Black Girls. Go!

Ganesha Gold Buffalo (Her/She) believes in the limitless capacity of humanity to destroy and heal itself in breakable cycles. In this way, she sees all pain and imbalance as an opportunity to cultivate more balance and right relationship with one another, the land, and Spirit. As a Disabled Afroindigenous, (Black, Tsalagi, Choctaw, German) Twospirit, Intersex, Trans Woman, she understands how trauma via colonial and patriarchal violence works by locking us in those cycles, and that breaking them can be as simple as making the decision to heal.

This piece was commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained herein do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas of the City of Seattle.