Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

‘When the journey of finding home takes ancestral homelessness into account, we begin to understand the need for sanctuary in a new way. The hunger for home is deeply layered. When seeking a vision of being healed, multi-generational displacement motivates within some of us a desire for our indigenous lands of origin, or to create sanctuary or shared community with those of similar ancestral origin, places where we can enter life fully without fear. We need places to breathe and heal our disconnection from the earth. Our spiritual journey requires us, first of all, to understand the pain and loss of our ancestral identity and to experience the extent to which we have wandered. This loss of our homes is in our bones and begs to be acknowledged, not merely transcended.’ (Sanctuary)

I don’t have any way of knowing what the African-American experience feels like. As a white European who chose to live in California, I can feel some longing for my homeland. My ancestral home – a place I did not grow up – is, and was always, readily available to visit, and I have thought of living there one day in the future. Reading this passage encouraged me to stretch my small understanding of this feeling, to try to imagine how it deep its impact can be. This is the work that those of us in positions of privilege need to do  – to listen to those who come from a place of less privilege, without trying to gainsay their experience of being themselves (something privilege lends people to doing), and to practise feeling what the world feels like from that perspective.

2 thoughts on “Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

  1. My father suffered his whole life from being an “other”–although he found fellowship in his work for the US Immigration Service (may they rest in peace or be restored from the current ridiculous agency). His family was in Dakota Territory, and my grandfather was the illegitimate child of an unknown Indian mother, adopted into an Anglo family–and looking very like my great-grandfather. So I know I have tribal blood, but not which tribe. I didn’t know this until my son was born. When my dad met the new baby, he said “Hello, little brother.” and gave me a quick piercing glance. I was a little freaked. Now I have looked in old photos, and considered my father’s ways. No tribe but the tribe you now choose. No place but all places. I give to the Native American Rights Fund–but I do not personally pursue anything that is lost. I grieve for all the taken-away children who never knew the true land of their people, or their heritage. I try not to hold anger. Here now is my place. It once belonged to another tribe. It was taken by the Spanish. That was long ago and cannot be changed. Sometimes my heart aches for all of us. I support the good that remains wherever I can find it.


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