By Tova Green
In late July, fifteen San Francisco Zen Center leaders and staff members from Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Green Gulch Farm, and City Center participated in a two-day training focused on fostering a deeper understanding of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Nations. The group gathered in the Green Gulch Farm yurt with trainers Megan White and Maija West from the Healing and Reconciliation Institute and Tom Little Bear Nason, Tribal Chairman of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County.
One of the questions for reflection was: How do I personally, and as part of San Francisco Zen Center, want to be a “good guest” on ancestral land of indigenous people who haven’t consented to our being there?
Participants were asked to write personal land acknowledgments as a way of recognizing the painful history of colonization and genocide related to the land that has been appropriated for our use.
Tom Little Bear Nason remembered meeting Leslie James, Tassajara’s Senior Dharma Teacher, over four decades ago, when he was 17 and she was in her 30s. He has long relationships with Greg Fain and Linda Galijan, priests who have lived at Tassajara for many years. He said he feels that those at Tassajara are “like family,” and that the relationship was nearly perfect. Little Bear has befriended Tassajara in many ways. He has helped with various aspects of construction, especially leveling building sites, and grading and/or repairing the road in years when the county did not do so.
The Esselen Tribe of Monterey County organization was founded with the goal of continuing cultural traditions and preserving the cultural heritage of the historic tribes that are located within Monterey County, along with protecting and preserving recognized and unrecognized sacred lands and archaeological sites. After many years of work and negotiations, the tribe now has land of their own—1100 acres in Big Sur.
Going forward, San Francisco Zen Center anticipates that the beneficial relationship between Tassajara and the Esselen Tribe will continue to thrive as we explore ways we can mutually benefit from the connection between us.
For more information on SFZC’s relationship with the Esselen Tribe and an interview with Chairman Nason, see the Fall 2020 Impact report.