“Where does the land hold traumatic memories in Minnesota (personally or collectively), and do you believe healing can take place there? If so, how?”
I grew up in South Lake Tahoe, California and I recently moved to Minnesota with my partner and our adventurous cat. The idea of having the opportunity to explore and learn more about more than 11,000 lakes was medicinal. I had access to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the world from the age of four, and I will never forget the feeling of jumping in the lake, swimming alongside friends and thinking about all the Wašišiw wisdom that is omnipresent near Lake Tahoe. As I have slowly visited various bodies of water throughout Minnesota, these spaces continue to provide me with introspective respite.
Unfortunately, Northern Minnesota does not feel as welcoming to me as a woman of color, and its lack of accessibility is perpetuating environmental injustice. When I think about white flight, lynching, displacement, stolen land, and other painful moments in Minnesota state history that took place in that particular region, I feel both empowered [to make change] and disillusioned. Connecting to the outdoors is a part of many cultures [but people of color often] have to deal with micro aggressions while on a trail or simply displaying joy. It is incomprehensible and taxing.
Traumatic memories can be held personally and collectively in various places in Minnesota, such as historical sites, communities, and landscapes tied to significant events. Healing is possible through acknowledgment, education, open dialogue, and support for affected communities. Creating spaces for reflection, memorialization, and positive change can contribute to the healing process. I hope that we can begin to work collectively toward climate justice and environmental justice with an intersectional lens.
For me, two responses come to mind. First, I think of high profile tragedies such as the Duluth lynchings, Broadway riots, George Floyd Square, 63rd Avenue in Brooklyn Center (Daunte Wright), Falcon Heights (Philando Castile), Plymouth Ave (Jamar Clark), the 35W bridge collapse, 94E and Dowling Avenue (Ricky Cobb), North Mississippi Regional Park (Bartway Collins), Mall of America (Landen), or where the three young children were shot during drive by shootings in 2021; the land holds heavy traumatic memories.
Recently, while driving in North Minneapolis, I was singing and minding my own business when I noticed black tire marks near Dowling Avenue. My first thought was of Ricky Cobb and my heart sank.
Suddenly, I stopped singing and just kind of stared as I turned onto the exit ramp, now angry and quiet.
My whole demeanor shifted in that split second. That exit holds trauma for me, thanks to those black tire marks.
Second, we carry the trauma, and the land holds us. So trauma can be anywhere we go.
Do I believe healing can take place? Yes. I can only think of one verse that addresses how that can take place, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. When we seek the Creator who gifted us this land we wish to be healed, and when we take personal responsibility for our souls and repent, only then can the land be healed.
I have been through repeated trauma from men and the systems that support their violence and discrimination. But walking and driving through the bountiful waterways, parks, and open prairies of our state calmed me and reminded me that nature itself has a beauty and healing not found in [my] male-female relationships. Our progressive state government surprised me with the passage of the Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act. Women, at last, will have more protection.
Early morning, the sunrise peeks over the Midtown Exchange in south Minneapolis. I’m still struggling with my own darkness, finding solace in listening to a podcast with Joy Harjo hosted by Krista Tippet. I’m reflecting on what it means to live and die in relationship with the natural world as I drive down Lake Street, not far from George Floyd Square. High above, I notice two birds flying due west, seeming to race the sun. I struggle to identify their species while keeping myself straight on the road. I’m crying; the time in my car is precious, allowing me to connect with myself away from the worried eyes of my children. The birds answer my question by joining their talons together; I weep with joy. I have always wanted to witness bald eagles in a death spiral, and today nature gifts me this. Lately life has felt like a death spiral, with so much pain and suffering, not just within myself but all around. Yet, here is joy. Their death spiral is a courting ritual, a commitment, a promise of new life. They come together and fall apart again. Just like me, just like everyone.