Winds of Peace has had the privilege of working with the Indigenous People of Telpaneca (IPT) for a number of years now, the two entities essentially sharing with one another. WPF has provided funding and accompaniment, while IPT has been generous in its teaching, promoting and contextualizing its rich history and culture extending back in time for centuries. I have often observed that what I have learned during my WPF years with IPT has greatly enhanced the breadth of my understanding of Native American people in the United States. That has been a serious interest of mine for nearly my entire life, and the IPT experience has added enormously to my perspective, a shared gift from an unexpected source.
I was not surprised, then, to be the beneficiary from IPT once again, in the form of an announcement. Recently, archaeological finds on IPT lands in Nicaragua have yielded some amazing artifacts from early IPT life, some pieces dating back 1200 years. Nicaraguan Anthropologist Mario Rizo has written an important accounting of the finds and their significance in his article, “Archaeological Findings of the Indigenous People of Telpaneca Along the Shores of the Rio Coco.” It’s a brief but fascinating look back at another time, but a time when the ebbs and flows of daily life preoccupied its inhabitants in many of the same ways that our time preoccupies us. Birth and death with life in between. Not much has changed over the millennia, it seems.
Among the items found recently is an amazing jade necklace, discovered at the presumed gravesite of an early forebear. Among the photographs of the various antiquities, the jade necklace caught my attention for some reason. Actually, it’s less revealing than other items of the time because other pieces have cultural depictions or artistic images of chiefs or men of the tribe. But the jade necklace could be jewelry worn by people today. Jade’s popularity is perhaps as strong as it was centuries ago. And to me, it signifies something that was worn by one of these ancestors, a personal treasure which someone possessed, someone who kept this belonging close to the heart, someone who came before the rest of us, someone who paved the way, a person with as much meaning and soul and passion in their life as anyone else who has ever lived. Imagine him or her.
It turns out that we do not make this life journey alone. There are countless others who have come before us, ones who have kept their places in the evolutionary chain of human development, upon whose lives and works we all build. The jade necklace is a reminder of who we are as an extension of the many who have come before. For the current members of IPT, the necklace and its fellow artifacts are a direct connection to a heritage and a culture desperate to be sustained. The IPT work tirelessly to remind themselves and the rest of us that their heritage is rich and real and deserving of preservation. Those who would deny the history of Indigenous patrimony anywhere in the world might just as well deny their own history: truth is not a part-time reality to suit convenience.
For the rest of us, the necklace is a humbling reminder that in the end, we all leave behind some kind of legacy. It may be an impact made upon someone, a reputation forged, a fortune left behind, a career admired or despised, a family of descendants, or simply a jade necklace to be honored sometime far in the future….