Toward a Nuclear Free World… August 9th at Delaware Park

Late in the afternoon of August 9th, the Japanese Gardens at Delaware Park were full of walkers, runners, and several wedding parties. The brides and grooms and their families and friends were busy having their pictures taken in that very idyllic setting. The Japanese Gardens are located on mirror lake behind the Buffalo History Museum (formerly known as the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Museum). For more information and some really lovely photographs of the gardens, take a look at this website. 

I brought several bear friends because they are photogenic and because… well, your bear, don’t leave home without it. In this case… them… After I became separated from the original Ginger Bear in Chicago, I began visiting garage sales in the hopes of finding new bear friends for photography and for little books to make for my small great-nieces, Claire and Adelise. 

Here are three bears. They are Sweet Susie Bear in back and, from left, Maya Bear and Ginger Bear II.

view of Japanese garden

Bears enjoy the Japanese garden.

Bear friends on an adventurous outing at Delaware Park.

At about five o’clock, it was time to go into the Buffalo History Museum for a buffet supper. I walked up the steps, past a wedding party, and into the museum for lovely food that was catered by Olivers.

 I do love food! We had bread and whipped butter, a salad, pasta, a variety of vegetables (including summer squash, zucchini, onions, and asparagus), and a choice of turkey or roast beef. For a beverage, I chose sparkling mineral water. We had our choice of cookies and brownies and other goodies for dessert. The food was fresh and tasty and nothing was overcooked. I sat with a delightful group of people. Food, friends, and fun… that’s all good.

At the same time, there were vendors in the room, selling a variety of things, much of which were handmade. I purchased two pairs of earrings made by Janet Dalimonte, who specializes in Native Crafts. 

After the food, friends, and fun experience, we all trooped into the auditorium to hear speakers talk about issues related to Native Americans and to the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. The session was started by Agnes Williams with a prayer of thanksgiving to the Great Mystery. She then gave a brief history of the Indigenous Women’s Initiative (IWI) of Buffalo and the Indigenous Women’s Network in Austin, Texas. She talked about some of the goals of IWI: water for life (protecting the water supply) and dismantling the Document of Discovery (for more information about that, take a look at this). She also mentioned the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. 

Agnes said that the motto for any discussions and decisions about indigenous issues is “Nothing about us without us.”  And about human beings: “We are perfect just the way we are because the Great Mystery put us here this way.”

Our next speaker was Rosalee Gonzalez. In 2013, Rosalee was the United Nations’ Senior Indigenous Fellow. She was the third senior indigenous fellow since the program began in 2011. The others have been: Elifuraha Isaya Ole-Laltaika (Maasai of Tanzania) in 2011 and Jesse McCormick (Anishnaabe of Canada in 2012). The Senior Indigenous Fellow for 2014 is Atina Gangmei (Naga of India).

Rosalee, whose heritage includes Kickapoo and Xicana (I mention this because a UN Senior Indigenous Fellow must actually be an indigenous person), talked about the history of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She talked about the opposition fro countries that she termed “stubborn states” to this declaration and to representation of indigenous persons in the United Nations. She said that opponents said that indigenous nations were not nations; they were “non-governmental organizations.” The declaration was approved by the United Nations in 2007. All but four countries supported the declaration. Those four countries were the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Since then, all four have had a change in heart and have signed on to supporting the declaration. She said that, as of yet, only three countries have actually put effort into creating documents to implement the declaration. These countries are Bolivia, Ecuador, and Norway.

Rosalee identified seven geocultural regions with populations of indigenous peoples. They are North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Arctic, and Russia. 

Rosalee Gonzalez and Agnes Williams
Rosalee described the work that she did at the United Nations in depth and I got the impression that, to get the United Nations to make changes and implement policy, a lot of work has to be done. Entrenched bureaucracy doesn’t change direction easily.

We heard from another speaker, who talked about nuclear waste at the West Valley site in western New York. The waste contaminates the land, and the toxic effect lasts for thousands of years. It is quite terrifying. Unfortunately, much of the information flew over my head like a hot air balloon flying high and free. So I understood very little of this presentation and, for sure, cannot report on it.

We then decorated bags for the Japanese lantern ceremony. We put messages of peace and our hopes for a nuclear free future on the bags. The bags were partially filled with sand and candles were placed inside the bags. They were set on top of a board or a piece of styrofoam or I’m not sure what but it was lightweight so that it would float in the water. In the darkness, the bags were rowed to the middle of mirror lake and were set on the lake. The bags, with their lit candle, were bright lights of hope underneath a dark sky.

Remembering those who devoted their lives to a nuclear free world and who are now part of the Cloud of Witnesses.

Lynne, Jackie, and Anne, plowshares activists who challenged us to speak out against the scourge of nuclear weapons. They let the world know that we do not need weapons that are capable of wiping out all life on the face of our beautiful earth.

Luminaria placed in the boat.

Organizing the luminaria.

Mirror Lake at night.

Singer Donte Zierway, who shared his music under the stars at the Japanese Gardens

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