The yellow breasted chats descended in a fat flock on my mulberry tree in Bryan.

Beautiful bird.


Notes of Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, who made the film

“Bloodland” Film, 2011

Published on Jan 23, 2013
In honour of the Idle No More movement, I have decided to make this film public. I, by no means, intend to speak on behalf of my people. The film is simply a reflection of my feelings toward the incredibly harmful process of fracking happening on my home territory.
– Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
Writer/Director/Producer: “Bloodland”

“Bloodland” is a social statement on the irreversible and detrimental impact of gas and oil exploration on our planet; and in particular on the impact that hydraulic fracturing has and will have on Kainaiwa, or Blood land. The film was shot with a completely Indigenous cast and crew. The film was also inadvertently funded by the Blood Tribe Chief and Council (2011), the gas and oil companies, and KRI Resources Inc because funds from a distribution cheque from the Blood Tribe Chief and Council were used to fund the making of this film.

Official selection of:
Vancouver International Film Festival 2011
ImagineNATIVE Film Festival 2011
American Indian Film Festival 2011
L.A. Skins Festival 2011
Tulsa International Film Festival 2011
Yellowknife International Film Festival 2011
Riddu Riđđu International Indigenous Peoples Festival 2011 (Norway)
Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival 2011
Skábmagovvat Film Festival 2012 (Finland)
Vancouver Women in Film Festival 2012

Amelia’s Uganda Diary #4 – Byana Maryhill

Many may wonder how I came to live in Uganda to begin with.

Well, it’s all thanks to my once pen-pal, now fabulous husband, Phillip, and the work his family has been carrying out in their community for over a decade.

In 1997, Phillip’s parents started a small, rural school, in hopes of alleviating the effects of civil war, HIV, poverty and inequality.

Amelia-534048_3141610093937_1223505999_n-s Over the years, it has vastly grown to 350+ children. They also added on an orphanage, and those orphans attend the school totally free. In fact, the majority of the students are enrolled for free, or their families pay drastically less than the actual tuition price. Unfortunately, one of the biggest and universal problems in Uganda (along with many, or even most, other countries), is that school is not free. Because Byana is in such a rural area (3 hour drive from the capital city), most families make very little money. The culture in the village is one of subsistence, so money is only necessary for things such as school. Otherwise, people grow their own food, and trade for different services. Because of the issue of lack of money, one of the goals of the school is to give a high quality education to these rural dwellers, so that they may have a fighting chance against their urban counterparts. True to their promise, last year’s end of term results found Byana ranked as number 157 out of the top 7,000 primary schools in the whole country. 100% of the leaving pupils had passing grades, and 12 of them were top class.

The most impressive part of this story is that the school only has one solar panel, which on a good day can provide around 4 hours of light for morning and evening “preps” (6-8am and 8-10pm). There is no running water, so it has to be fetched from a contaminated water well, there are only 5 small classrooms, and some kids share seats and desks, three small dorms with kids doubling and tripling up on one mattress, and their most recent book, Geography from 2007, lacks so much information which has changed since then, such as the redistribution of the provinces. The teachers had not been payed for three terms, and didn’t have access to television, newspapers or internet to stay up to date with the world until last month. The fact is, the kids, teachers and staff of Byana have been living in squallor, with barely even the basics, yet they have repeatedly performed better than some of the wealthiest and best facilitated schools in the nation. Can you only imagine how excellent things could be if they had all the necessities?

Fortunately, we have started to improve the conditions for the teachers, as they have now been paid installments of their past due salaries, and have received half of this term’s pay. They now have internet, their own garden with things such as tomatoes, eggplant and pumpkin (they were eating beans and cassava with every meal, everyday), and can now watch Al-Jazeera and the local news channels. The doctor, who works absolute wonders with pretty much nothing, now has refrigerator for holding specimens, a fully stocked clinic, and a certified lab technician (one of the nuns), all thanks to a $200 donation.

The children now have a few new bunk beds, though not enough, and a new and fresh variety of foods. Their once barren playing field has a see-saw and tire swings, plus new goalposts, thanks to a generous visitor from Utah.

Things are indeed improving, but when you are caring for 300+ kids with no help from their families, improvement comes in painfully small doses.

One of the plans being discussed is to put a halt to newcomers for the next two years in order to slim down the population to a manageable size. Another plan which we have already put into effect with much success, is to re-evaluate parent/guardian ability to pay. Yes, a simple and obvious solution, but the administration is in control of nuns and monks, who don’t feel the need to demand money. We are currently trying to get non-clergy, professionals to fill the admissions department, but the drawback is that those people demand salaries, which at this time cannot be managed. The sad reality is that in a capitalist society, money is necessary to get by, and when it is forced upon a communal society, it takes a while for that reality to settle in.

So now, only time can tell what will happen. We will continue to do all that we can, but we do accept volunteers and donations in either money or materials. To find out more, we have a webpage that you are welcome to check out and share. The address is: . To browse through our many volunteer opportunities and ongoing projects, please visit our profile on at the address:

Last weekend was visitor’s day for the kids’ families. We received enthusiastic support from them, and it was a great feeling to know that the parents could see visible changes, and that they were excited by them. All in all, it has been a nice start to the year. In hopes of a brighter future, we will struggle on.

– Amelia

Bare Bones Biology 122B – Human Hands

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that played on KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The original audio podcast may be downloaded at:

In the current blog, the ending paragraphs have been updated and somewhat modified in honor of Earth Day.

120822-hand-asc_0018lss Hold up your hand flat open with your palm facing me. As though you were a policeman trying to stop an onrushing disaster.
Your four fingers and your thumb are all pointing in different directions.

Now let’s think of your four fingers and your thumb as problems or “actions” that you and other socially conscious people are promoting — spending your time, energy and money, using your life to benefit your family, the community and humankind in general. Every person using his/her best skills to address one or other of the major actions, trying to relieve the problems faced by humankind today.

Let’s say your first finger represents hunger, and all the people trying to reduce world hunger. The second finger can represent global warming. The third finger can represent conflict, for example war, politics, genocide, modern economics. And the fourth finger represents religion and spirituality. Your thumb represents overpopulation.

What I notice about this hand is that all five of the digits are pointing off toward different and separate goals. If you added together the five different problems, and the people who are working to address these problems. Well, they are not working together for a common goal – they are going off in five different directions. Often they fight or argue with each other or they simply ignore each other, rather than discussing common goals. For this reason the work of one group often cancels out the gains of one or more of the other groups.

For example, one group is working for compassion in the belief that a compassionate community will not fight. Another group tries to win because they believe that will solve all our problems. The climate change group, after a few hundred years of evidence, is finally beginning to recognize its problem is real and is trying to decide whether to adapt or deal with the root cause of climate change. The hunger group can’t possibly accomplish its goal in the face of climate change and excessive population growth. And the overpopulation group believes that no positive goals can be achieved by continuing the destructive path that caused these problems in the first place.

120822-hand-asc_0026lss We imagine if all the groups accomplished their goals they would all add up to a successful community. The reality, however, looks more like a mish-mash of confusing goals and conflicting interests. Efficient and effective problem solving does not jump out into the world in five different directions at once, with the different parts of itself fighting among themselves. Modern business practice has made many serious mistakes, but at least one good concept has come out of it, and that is goal setting. Good business defines its goals, sets its guidelines, and informs all parties involved.

Our basic human goal is to live in a community that is sustainable into the future. Surely it must be, and if it’s not we should ask each other why not, because we aren’t acting as though it were. We have all these five problems, and more, dashing off in all directions at the same time. Don’t you agree that we could organize ourselves in some way that would at least have a chance of growing a positive future? I think such a future is possible. If our primary goal really is the common welfare, then we can align our four fingers to represent of our commitment to the common goal of human sustainability on this earth, in good health, at least through the lifetimes of our grandchildren. If my genuine stated goal is the same as the stated goals of people working in different disciplines – then we will cease to be all working for different outcomes.

Next, we can recognize the physical facts: (1) that nobody can accomplish anything if there is not enough food for them to eat, (2) that all our food comes from the earth, and (3) the earth now has more people than it can feed. If you personally don’t believe these are real facts, then you, as we all do, have an obligation to the hungry humans in the world to fact-check our belief system.

120829-hand-asc_0296s So we then fold our thumb under at the roots of the four fingers, to represent represent the facts: (1) that overpopulation is at the root of all of the other problems. Yes we have had these problems in the past and we did not solve them before. Blame your heritage. Now is now and now we cannot solve them if a large part of the earth’s population is desperately struggling to make a living, and ; (2) therefore, that no other compassionate goal can be accomplished when there are more people than the earth can feed; and (3) therefore, the four other goals cannot be solved in the presence of overpopulation.

Therefore, if we genuinely want to accomplish our goals. If we want our behavior to reflect our commitment to the real goal, and regardless of our personal expertise or our primary interest — hunger, global warming, conflict resolution (community) or spirituality – then it is our obligation to spend a portion of our effort, every day, to help compassionately reverse human overpopulation, first informing ourselves about why it is a problem, and then addressing that problem as it relates to our own special skills and projects. I tend to judge people’s compassion by their behavior. When I see anyone brush off this obligation with a platitude or a blank look — we all do really know how important it is. Then I wonder why they don’t really want to know. Can it be they don’t want to help carry the burden of responsibility that goes with knowledge?

120822-hand-asc_0020ls And then – we all work together to accomplish both the root goal and the individual goals by enclosing all of life on earth within the fully informed, goal-oriented, responsible, compassionate hand of human kind.

And then we ask. (Everyone does.): “But it is such a big problem, what can I do?” The answer is –

1- Discuss the issues as a community. Sometimes I think many of us are pouting: “If I can’t have what I want, then I won’t talk about it at all.” This approach won’t work. Neither will war make things better, except temporarily for the profiteers. War is not discussion; debate is not discussion; passive-aggressive conflict in which neither side is willing to listen is not discussion. Anything that involves only two sides or a “winner” is not discussion. The goal of these discussions is not to “win” anything. The goal is to be prepared for what is going to happen.

We are letting the corposystem decide these issues for us. We are even letting our government and corporations decide what opinions we should have and what are the issues of our debates. Often we waste time arguing over who is to blame, instead of fixing things.

2-Educate yourself about how the ecosystem functions to maintain its balance and therefore its welfare and its life. The earth will not bow to human preferences; it is essential that we discuss ideas that will work within the natural laws that function to maintain Life. We are entering the biggest biological crisis in human history, and we are not giving it as much rational consideration as we would the purchase of a car. It’s time to get serious and work together to soften the blow for us all.

We are in a situation like an old-fashioned clock that doesn’t work properly because one of its wheels is missing. When we fail to discuss the issues with people who disagree with us, we cannot make wise decisions because part of the necessary information is missing from the discussion.

Because they hold half of the wisdom;
And we are making half of the mistakes.

If we want to “win” at the end, we must begin by discussing these issues with people who disagree with us.

To download the original podcast of this program go to:

Earth Day in College Station with in partnership with AND a lot of other people.

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Bare Bones Biology 152 – Meditation for an Easter Sunrise

This past Easter, Bitsy and I sat at the picnic table behind Los Sueños Trailer Park in Santa Fe. She upright and watching, I slumping awake with a cup of coffee. It was a wandering meditation and I let it wander.

The solid faithfulness of Notre Dame Cathedral. I couldn’t stay for the services – all that smoke and perfume drove me away, but the building – the building that welcomes all. In the off season I came often to sit inside its truths. I remembered the time I sat behind a woman, just the two of us, widely separated, she weeping and I letting myself feel her tears and return what I could of a blessing. We never spoke, she didn’t know I was there,and I will never see her again, but she is a part of my life, sheltered within that building – not the tourists and not the ceremonies, at least not for me. The building took three generations to build, by hand, in the middle ages, and if you listen you can feel the tears, the millions of human hands, the love, the joy, and the patience. Above all the patience. The stone blocks of the stairs hollowed out by our feet. The building carries forward a truth of human community.

Notre Dame made me think of Jesus, and I wondered what it felt like to be Jesus, the man who cried out: “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” And I thought again of the building, and the tourists who file around the periphery in dumb awe of truth, ignorant of those who weep in the seats under the central dome of real life. 131328-sunrise-ASC_2832s

And that made me think of my favorite audio tapes that I carry when I travel. Stereo – with earphones. I pulled it out and plugged it in. One individual, not counting Bitsy, sitting at a picnic table, meditating and watching the sun rise while listening to The Messiah. EC gave it to me. How many individual people and other organisms have given me my life? Back in time and spread out across the living Earth? How wondrous a thing is Homo sapiens. How amazing a creation am I, arising within and nurtured by the glory of God’s Natural Laws. Sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Nurtured by a tough Texas lady. Somehow connected with an unknown, weeping French woman.
Eileen Farrell, soprano: “And he shall feed his flock.”

Jesus, representing the facts of life for humans. We are born, we live, we die so that Life itself, the whole churning brew of perfectly interacting processes, may take its rebirth in every moment. Ever changing.

Not even the most brilliant scientists can map that churning brew of Life, but the truths of it are true, no matter who interprets them, be it Jesus or the Buddha or any other saint, or Handel, or science. And what will I give back?

Our job is to sort out the truths from among our own ego trips and corposystem propaganda — greed, hatred and ignorance. Our job is to understand the power that we hold, lest it harm all the generations of our future Our job is to continue to learn about, and not to fight over, any truth of God’s Living system, because – we only understand part of it and a lot of what we do understand is wrong. Because we are not God. We are nothing more than a bit of life in the great stream of God’s system of Life.

And “We, like sheep” go often astray.

God is what it is, not what you or I have decided that it is. Our job is not to war against it or the Life that it is creating in every moment of time, but to honor it’s process and receive its blessing.


And after Easter comes Earth day. I’ll see you there on Saturday, April 20.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a weekly production of, and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, in Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at:

Hungering for justice at Guantanamo John Dear S.J. | Apr. 16, 2013

Reposting this week’s comments by Father John Dear

Keystone XL will “hardwire” increased use of carbon fuels

Why are we letting our corposystem invest money into the destruction of our climate and our civilization when we could be putting the money into positive leadership (educating people about the factual reality of our ecosystem) and dealing positively with the problem by taking actions to prevent destruction of our commons — air, soil and water — by reducing the burning of carbon-based fuels and foods of all kinds.

Compassionate Earth Walk

Walk route as of April

Check it out! A smallish group of Americans and I think Canadians and Native North Americans is walking this summer, in protest and with an educational goal, along the northern part of the route of the Tar Sands Pipeline. I’m posting the route here, but be sure to go to the web site of the Compassionate Earth Walk at:

Bitsy can’t wait!

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Bare Bones Biology 151 – May You be Happy

130408-Niko-ASC_3004LSs“May you be free from danger
May you have mental happiness
May you have physical happiness
May you have ease of well-being”

If that’s what you really want more than anything else.

That is a mantra that has been translated from Buddhist texts into our American culture, which must have been quite a shock to the Buddhist texts. At least it sounds to me like a very inadequate translation from wisdom toward trivia. But it is useful.

Driving long distances, surrounded by giant boxes moving at 75 miles per hour can be stressful, and so, on my way from northern New Mexico to southern Texas, I fell back on that mantra about one o’clock in the afternoon. By two o’clock it was getting wearisome. Because if happiness is really what you want it should be pretty easy to come by in this rich country, but it’s not really what I want, in fact I suspect it’s an Americanized sales pitch, and so I should not be repeating that mantra, hour after hour.

Happiness is a word without meaning;
In a world that has grown much more complicated.

Then I remembered Tony Hillerman’s novels that are based in the Navaho area of modern Arizona. He tells us about Navajo ideas of community – a community in which you want to be connected together, rather than everyone competing to see who can be “best.” Tony Hillerman’s character, Joe Leaphorn, says/thinks “’We have a curing ceremony to heal us when we start getting vengeful or greedy or, what to you call it, getting ahead of the Joneses.’ . . (He was) remembering how Navaho kids are conditioned to be part of the community . . . in harmony.“


On the contrary, I think many other of our American cultures are based in the belief that I can be “happy” if ever I can prove that I’m better than you are — or at least not worse. I think Leaphorn is more realistic. If we truly want community, it doesn’t make sense that we should try to prove we are better than the people around us. Why would I like you better because you can prove that you are better than I am? I think that is NOT a way to build a positive communal experience for anyone. In fact I’m sure it’s not, because I have seen how people react when they think they aren’t as good. If it continues, it’s the beginning of violence.

In harmony. I really like that concept. Harmony sounds like balance, not better or worse or winners and losers. Balanced acceptance of, and participation in, the reality of how Life functions.

Harmony, I said. Harmony is what I want. Happiness is just another homo-centric, us over them, ego-trip. But HARMONY, what I really need, what everyone needs to survive in peace, is a balance among all the parts in this physiological teeter-totter of mind and body, that I know couldn’t happen without the vibrant realities of the human and biological communities (, all of which operate by balancing the factual laws of nature.

So I decided to substitute the word Harmony in my mantra

Within less than a mile – I swear this is true, on April 6, 2013 – I saw a big green sign by the side of the highway pointing to “Harmony Road.”

Should I have followed the road? Or –

Maybe I am.

May I live in harmony in my mind.
In a viable, vibrant balance: love balancing anger; fear balancing hubris, wisdom and factual knowledge balancing foolish ignorance;

May I live in harmony with my body.
Tending tenderly to its needs;

May I live in harmony with my neighbors.
In kindness, based upon truth and honor, with everyone I meet.

May I live in harmony with the reality of my community.
No matter how badly it sometimes behaves.

May I live in harmony with the factual laws of the creation and the creator;
Sharing in the commons without greed or grasping.
Recognizing that the processes of Life are not anthropocentric,
But must be shared universally.
Or not at all.

Happiness is a word with no meaning; harmony, something I can try to achieve. Even though it’s not easy to live in harmony with toxicity, at least I have a place to go to.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a weekly production of, and KEOS radio, in Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at:

Recommended References

Tony Hillerman, The Shape Shifter – good read; easy to find on line or in the library.

Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness, the revolutionary art of kindness. Shambala Classics
(Not so revolutionary after all, is it? Originated 2500 years ago or maybe a long, long time before that, judging by similarity with the Navajo concept for only one. And is pretty much just good common sense community behavior, but – the first time I’ve seen it outlined so clearly.)

Pema Chodron, The Four Limitless Quantities. Audiobook. Omega Mediaworks.