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Remembering Our Roots
by Paula Noel, Ph.D.
Paula Noel
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 people.

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. Welcome home.”


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 it?

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 you).

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: paulanoel@yahoo.com

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