The Community

7 Pillars Community Project

For thousands of years, indigenous communities lived peacefully without the need for police, jails, lawyers, or any elements of the criminal justice system as we know it today. If someone committed a crime, they were held accountable to whoever was harmed, as well as the entire community. How were they able to accomplish what is considered impossible today?

From birth, the 7 sacred teachings have been ingrained in every aspect of life, by indigenous tribes for millennia. These sacred teachings go by many names across the globe but principles remain the same. The 7 Sacred Teaching are the basis for all of our organizing, programs, and community partnerships as we work to decolonize and ultimately abolish the prison industrial complex.

For each of the 7 Pillars we are creating partnership programs with other  organizations. By joining forces with other grassroots organizers, we are building a stronger community foundation to help reduce the risk of incarceration,  support  people during incarceration, & provide support for returning citizens.  

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The Community

 The Mantra: I Understand

The Programs:  Justice Support 

The Teaching: Truth is understanding the importance of all the sacred teachings. It is said that in the beginning, when the creator gave the seven teachings, the grandmother turtle was present to make sure that the laws would never be lost or forgotten. Grandmother turtle carries the teachings on her back. The thirteen squares represent the thirteen full moons of the year. The surrounding 28 squares of the shell represent the 28 days of each lunar month. This represented one cycle of the earth, around the Sun, and the number of days of the cycle of the moon. Truth is understanding the importance of all the sacred teachings and how they are connected. Living in truth is living in harmony with yourself. Understand it, speak it, live by it. Live your truth and be a role model for others. Be true to yourself and honor your gifts. Changing yourself for others only encourages others to remain closed-minded. 

Our Application & Leadership:  The Turtle connects all of the 7 teachings. We recognize and acknowledge that everything is connected: everything that we that we are, everything that we see, and everything that we can be is  connected. Understanding this principle is the only path to abolition.

We have assigned Truth to our Justice work because the Prison Industrial Complex is our largest oppressive system.  “Law & Order” is the false platform that political leaders espouse to incite fear and gain support for unjust laws.  In truth, Indigenous communities lived peacefully without the need for police, jails, lawyers, or any elements of the criminal justice system as we know it today. If someone committed a crime, they were held accountable to whoever was harmed, as well as the entire community. 

 Justice support leadership is composed of  BIPOC TGNCI/LGBQA+ community members who are  formerly incarcerated or justice involved.  We believe that lived experiences are necessary in qualified leadership.  

The Mantra: I See 

The Programs: Community Building – Freedom House

The Teaching:The wolf lives in the pack of others where each animal has a role to play within that pack. Some may 

be hunters, others are protectors, and some are nurturers.  Each animal is no more important than the others as each must perform the role that is best for the survival and benefit of the pack. The wolf that is hunting will take the food to eat with the pack before he even takes a bite of the food. Humility is recognizing that no one knows everything, we are always learning.  Humility is the ability to see your mistakes or flaws, accept them, and learn from them. To be humble is to understand that you must first accept that all beings are easy to think of; your family, your fellow human beings, or your community before you think of yourself. 

Our Application & Leadership:  Humility displays our willingness to learn and become better. Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right.  We are not here to see how important we can become but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.

Humility requires that we become self aware enough to accept our own flaws and helps us to not make judgement of others. We have assigned Humility to Community building because in order to create a sustainable community, our leaders must be able to work with each other.  This program leadership is made up of  our  partnering community organizers. 

The Sabe (Bigfoot) :  Honesty             The Mantra: I Speak 

The Programs: Mental Health/ Trauma Recovery & Medical Support

The Teaching:. The symbol of honesty is the Sabe` (Sasquatch) because it stands closer to the heavens than humans. Sabe` reminds us that remaining true to ourselves and accepting who we are, guides us in being honest. The elders say that when you are honest and have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, your spirit is the size of the Sabe`.  Do not speak against yourself or others. Be impeccable with your words. To be truly honest is to keep promises made to others and oneself. Whenever elders agree to something they would shake their hands and say ,” It’ll be done.”  They didn’t need to write any agreement or contract on paper,  their words were enough. Think before you speak. Let your words pass through these ideas:  Is it true?   Is it helpful?   Is it important?  Is it necessary?   Is it kind?  When you say something against yourself or others, it affects your spirit, not allowing it to grow strong. To have a good spirit we must be honest with ourselves and others. 

Our Application & Leadership:  Our words are a representation of our actions and intentions. We use the power of our words to heal, create, love, and uplift. 

Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a mental disorder that occurs in individuals either currently incarcerated or recently released; symptoms are found to be most severe for those who encountered extended periods of solitary confinement and institutional abuse. The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a mixed mental disorders with four clusters of symptoms:

*Institutionalized Personality Traits        * Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

*Antisocial Personality Traits      *Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome

PICS effects nearly all of the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated community and is most severe in prisoners incarcerated for longer than one year, who have experienced multiple episodes of institutional abuse, who have had little or no access to education, vocational training, or rehabilitation, who have been subjected to 30 days or longer in solitary confinement, and who have experienced frequent and severe episodes of trauma as a result of institutional abuse. PICS  is the lived experience of all of our leadership and our clients. Treatment for this unique type of trauma is ongoing and a primary focus of our Mental Health partnership programs.We are honest about our trauma and work to heal it everyday.

The Mantra: I Love

The Programs: Disability Rights & Services

The Teaching:Love is the act of doing your best for yourself and others. This includes doing your best for YOURSELF and your health. Know your limits concerning your body and the life around you. Your best will change from day to day, but when you have done your best, there is no place for self-doubt.   You can express love to your family, friends, and community through your actions and words. Love yourself when you feel like no one cares and  remember there is always someone that does. Love the people and the creatures of the world.  We are never too busy to be kind, caring, and patient even when it’s hard to love what you do. Don’t get lost in the difficult times because there’s always something to love and feel good about. Love does not want what belongs to others and it does not break, become angry, or keep track of what others have done wrong. Love is unconditional and infinite. Love is the intangible embrace of life. 

Love Application & Leadership:  Every time we act or relate to someone, we act out of love.  We have assigned Love to our Disability Support programs  because they  were designed by and for disabled and incarcerated communities. The Love programs serve as a connection between two very isolated parts of the LGBTQIA+ community: disabled folks and incarcerated trans people.  The ways disabled folks are violently treated by the medical industrial complex are comparable to how criminalized folks are  violently treated by the prison industrial complex.  It is because of these shared experiences that we have found common ground to build a foundation of solidarity from. Incarcerated folks are also frequently disabled, as members of inter-sectional marginalized communities tend to be. Supporting the disabled incarcerated community is vital to improving the quality of life for our community and  reducing recidivism.

 The Mantra: I Do

The Programs: Sustainable Living & Housing

The Teaching: The beaver is creative, a problem-solver, and a hard worker that does not quit until the job is complete. Wise beavers do not give up on their plans, they adapt & adjust their plans to fit their needs. 

Wisdom is the use of knowledge to impact our environment and create a more sustainable world. Wisdom is gained through experience on our journey through life. Every person has earned wisdom through their lived experiences, and those experiences bring a valuable perspective to the community. The building of a community relies on gifts given to each member. If the knowledge we have is incomplete, our impact will suffer. Wisdom is accepting responsibility and accountability, listening to advice, and understanding instruction. Is what you’re about to do kind and fair?  Do you have the self-control to slow down and think about choices or rush ahead without much thought and consider the consequences later?  Do you make assumptions about people or situations without asking for more information? Making assumptions means that we are disregarding truth for ease or ego. Never make assumptions, ask questions, seek the truth, and communicate as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstanding. To have wisdom is to be open to learning new things, allowing yourself to grow, and how to apply these new adaptations to your daily life.

Wisdom Application & Leadership:  We have assigned  Wisdom to our Sustainable Living work because knowledge and understanding are the keys to growth as individuals & community members. Our sustainable living programs have helped formerly incarcerated clients attend college, gain job training, secure employment, start businesses, and even purchase homes.

In our leadership, Wisdom is applied in our studies of the laws and policies that impact our communities. We study oppressive  political systems so that when we have to  advocate on behalf of our people, we can advocate in a very wise way. We are aware that as community leaders, we can always learn more, becoming more effective advocates for those we serve.

The Mantra: I Feel

The Programs: Harm Reduction & Sex Workers Rights

The Teaching: The bear shows us how to live a balanced life where there is a time to be playful, a time to rest, and a time to be assertive and courageous. The bear is always there to offer that spirit of courage. We seek the strength and courage to face our greatest enemy, ourselves.  Whether it’s a challenge or overcoming your fears, keeping your faith in a difficult time is one of the most courageous acts you can commit to. Sometimes courage is just getting out of bed in the morning. It is doing the right thing in a difficult situation, standing up for someone who’s being bullied. Courage does not  mean that you are never fearless. It is choosing to do what needs to be done, even when you are afraid.  Being courageous is also choosing not to be reckless and facing up to difficult responsibilities.  

Courage Application & Leadership:  We have assigned Courage to Harm Reduction & Sex Workers Rights because it is courageous to demand body autonomy. Courage is a daily practice for this community. 

Our leadership believes that there are many ways to do the wrong thing, but only one way to do the right thing: INCLUSION. Other organizations often refuse to work directly with sex workers or the justice involved communities they claim to support. We cannot support harm reduction without uplifting the voices of those who are directly impacted. Our leadership is made up of those who’s lived experiences reflect the work that we do.

The Buffalo :  Respect            The Mantra: I Am

The Programs: End of Life Planning, Dignity in Passing

The Teaching: The buffalo, the land, and his resources are given absolute respect, for it is the condition of being honored. Once, there were millions of Buffalo across the prairies, living in harmony with our people. The buffalo respected the people by giving every part of its being for us to live. We show respect by giving what we can and taking only what we need. This is how we respect the earth and honor the land that we stand on, for it is where we come from and it is where we will return when we die.

Respect Application & Leadership: We have assigned Respect to our End of life planning & Dignity in Passing work because respect is a basic human right that must be given to all. Respect is essential for us to feel safe so we can express ourselves without fear of being judged and humiliated or discriminated against. Being respectful of others, being respected, and respecting ourselves increases our self-esteem, mental health, and inner peace.

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