This past May, I found myself sitting at the well of Bhržde (saint,
goddess and energy of creation) in Kildare, Ireland. I said prayers
to thank my Ancestors and Bhržde for the experience of coming to the
well that I have had dreams of and had only seen pictures of. I sit
and bless myself with the waters as the wind spirals around me and
the rain gushes in from every direction. All of the elements are present
as I make an offering and ask to release that which is holding me
back from my vision, my lifework and my creative energy. I ask for
the integration of the lines of my genealogy, the balance of the masculine
and the feminine, the healing of the old ways and Christianity, and
I ask to remember the language and the traditional prayers for my
Deep feelings overcome me as I am saddened by the dirty water,
construction on the landscape around me, and the inadequacy of not
being able to speak in my native language fluently. I ask for forgiveness
for the state of the landscape and being away for so long. I asked
my Ancestors, the Earth and Bhržde to guide me through the remembrance
process. A voice came over me and asked, Who are you?
I took a deep breath and said, I am Paula Noel. I am the
adopted daughter of Richard and Nancy Hibbard. I am the birth daughter
of Janice Johnson Odermann, great-great-great granddaughter of Samuel
Nixon of County Fermanagh.
I am the birth daughter of Dave Youtsey, son of McGuffie
of the McFie clan from Colonsay, Scotland. We are anciently known
as the MacDhuibhshith, son of the Dark Fairy. My ancestors go back
9,000 years on Colonsay and we are the children of the selkie woman
(a seal who transforms into a woman). It has taken me thirty-one
years of life and six years of research to tell you this. This is
who I am.
The voice said, You have remembered your Ancestors well.
When I began the Traditional Knowledge program in 1995 at the California
Institute of Integral Studies, I was learning as much as I could
about dreaming and tribal people. I wanted to apprentice with a
tribal Elder and I wanted to live the tribal life through the traditions
of Aborigines of Australia.It never dawned on me at the time that
I come from a tribal people.
As a woman growing up on the west coast, I did not know until I
began my research that my Ancestors migrated to Oregon from the
east coast of the United States in the 1840s and 1850s. The indigenous
people of Oregon where my great-great-great grandfather settled
- the Chinook, Kalapuyans, Molallans, Tillamooks, Northern Paints
- peoples who lived on this land for over ten thousand years, were
either removed from their ancestral land or killed by the epidemics
and diseases brought by my ancestors to the west.
I have perpetuated this cycle of my Ancestors by not knowing who
I am and where I come from, not knowing the history of how my Ancestors
came to this land, and by continuing to think, act and know solely
with a western mind. I have operated in a way that creates a lifestyle
that contributes to addiction, violence, and the death of hundreds
of species of plants and animals. I ask myself, what can I do about
I begin by understanding my connection to the native or indigenous
mind. The indigenous mind is the feminine mind; it is the mind that
has been colonized and shamed out of our framework as western people.
It is the mind of our Ancestors that knows the connection among
all living things. The indigenous mind knows the relationship between
who we are and the land we live on. I take the first step toward
the indigenous mind by learning my genealogy and understanding how
I arrived to this land from another.
The healing that has impacted my life was the catalyst for the
writing of my dissertation-Remembering Our Ancestors: Recovery
of Indigenous Mind as a Healing Process for the Decolonization of
a Western Mind. Through the process of remembering and recovering
my indigenous mind as a woman from the lands of Ireland and Scotland
I have initiated profound transformation of my life - physically,
mentally and spiritually. Through initiating the connection to my
Ancestors, I have met my birth mother and father, quit drugs/alcohol
and have maintained sobriety, healed herpes, and am balancing my
deep-rooted emotions such as anger, jealousy and lust.
At this time on the planet when global warming, AIDS, hunger and
the burning of rain forests is in full sway, there is a necessity
for presenting an Earth-based prescription for integrating and liberating
a fragmented mind. Remembering my ancestors and my roots has been
the prescription for me, remembering where I come from and who I
am. Knowing where my tree is planted gives me the connection to
home wherever I am walking on the Earth. Go raibh maith agut (thank
Paula NoŽl, Ph.D. is a recent graduate of the Integral Studies
Traditional Knowledge Degree at CIIS. She lives locally in Portland
writing articles and is translating her dissertation into a book.
She can be reached at: 503.285.7011, email: firstname.lastname@example.org