As my new book, Inherited Silence, moves toward publication in July 2022, I’ve been thinking about its underlying themes—the history we have not reckoned with and the urgency of doing so. The story that follows came up in a writing group as I sat on zoom in the circle of women whose energy helped birth the book. The words that came prepared me for the death of my sister shortly after, and the violence about to explode in Ukraine—the sadness and fear of what might follow.
Mayflower, Pandemic, Uprising, and Dreams of Flowing Water
A dream came weeks before we knew how serious the pandemic would be, much less the nightmare police killings and the uprising to preserve Black and Brown lives. I knew this dream was about something big but back then it was hard to know how big. In the dream, I was floating through moving water at the eastern edge of the continent, in a huge tidal river making […]
What Am I Doing Here?
By guest writer, Patricia St. Onge
What am I doing here? Yesterday, I was sitting on my mama’s lap. Her heart was beating fast… it’s been happening more and more as we’ve been on this magical adventure. Moving every day, walking on different paths, finding new foods to eat. The roots taste different, the flowers have different smells. Every night as the sun goes to bed, the sky […]
When Settling Did Not Mean Taking Over
There are contradictions as I write about the Napa land and my ancestors’ relationship with genocide. One of them is in our language—the word “settle,” the idea of settling and the settler. There may be hidden potential in that word, a way to heal.
When I started this book, the term “settler” filled me with shame. It evoked my great, great grandfather, Nathan Coombs, the one who came […]
“How did you get so lucky?”
“How did you get so lucky?” There’s awe in the voices of friendly tradespeople in small trucks, who find their way up to our place to fix the sprinkler system or check for termites—and look around in wonderment. Their work takes them to so many places tucked away in the Napa hills, but somehow this one stirs them. Maybe it’s the unpaved road winding through the huge […]
Healing Our Founding Pandemic
May 25, 2020
Published on the What I Miss? website
As virus panic mounted in the United States, I was already researching the psychic and actual sickness that came with the Mayflower four hundred years ago. Appalled to find myself descended from six of its passengers in a year when big celebrations were planned, I wanted Americans to see our history through the lens of disease. A full ninety percent of the Indigenous Wampanoag people had died from European illnesses even before the ship landed—and our founders themselves faced a deadly mortality crisis. I also knew that healing was […]
Tracking America’s Racial Karma on the Silent Screen
December 5, 2019
Published on the Eat Drink Films website
My first reaction is “No way I’m going to review a film with the name “R——.” I’ve spent too long telling relatives in the nation’s capital how their team’s name evokes bloody skins of the First People of our continent hunted for bounty. Even though this film acknowledges the R-word as a slur, even though today’s reviewers think it progressive for its time, I’m reluctant. Our history is one white person’s version of Indians after another—with Hollywood in […]
How My Settler-Ancestors Set Us Up for Uncontrollable Wildfires
Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images | Firefighters battle flames at a burning apartment complex in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California, on November 9, 2018.
November 28, 2018
Published in Yes! Magazine
I want us to go humbly to the very people our culture tried to exterminate to listen to what they can teach us.
Beyond the Mascot Debate
May 9, 2017
Published in the Napa Valley Register
These were times when Napa Valley was a fulcrum of hateful, murderous activity against the Indian population, which…set the pattern for what became an all-out genocide.
We Can’t Move Forward Without Looking Back
January 27, 2017
With Courtney Martin
Published in OnBeing
California was particularly violent, but the story holds true in different ways throughout the country, whether our white ancestors were actually there for the killing or immigrated later and moved into places that had been conquered….We’re living with the kind of shadow Jung talked about — played out in our political life, denial of climate change, and lack of true respect for darker-skinned people.
Selected Archived Articles
In the 1990s and early 2000s, I wrote frequently on issues that led to the project of Inherited Silence. Most of this work appeared in peace and justice media that have no online presence today. So here are a few selections:
Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing, New Village Press, 2007, available anywhere books are sold.
For over a decade, Undoing the Silence has been a source for writers who aspire to change the way we think and act. It offers tools honed by people in some of the world’s most elite universities as well as the environmental groups, labor unions, and local organizations that drive change from the grassroots. It tells the stories of people in all walks of life who’ve used the tools to develop critical thinking, gain comfort with their own powerful voices, change entrenched opinions, and work together across difference. Book events took place at eighty venues in fifteen states and three countries. Currently it’s being used in college and graduate courses, while helping women in South African townships and centering an international online writing workshop for street vendor organizers in Brazil, India, and more.
Click here to see the table of contents and click here to read what activists, teachers, and trainers are saying about Undoing the Silence.
Chapters in Other Books
“Language and Power,” in Breaking the Boundaries: A One-World Approach to Planning Education, ed. Bishwapriya Sanyal, Plenum Press, 1990. Following Paulo Freire’s call to decolonize the mind, this essay explores the complexities behind “critical thinking” in U.S. graduate schools for students from the Global South and the U.S. alike. How do the structures of language influence the ways we address problems and how can we decolonize our thinking and expression of ideas
“Advocacy and Neutrality,” in Writing, Teaching and learning in the Disciplines, ed. A. Herrington and C. Moran, Modern Language Association, 1992. Examines how professional communication among planners often adopts “neutral writing,” which works against critical thinking and expression of challenging ideas and influences the models for writing that students imitate.
April 13, 2020: This conversation with Louise Dunlap is part of a series, “Living into the Mystery” hosted by Alissa Fleet, about how community and spiritual leaders are responding in the time of coronavirus.
October 19, 2019, Online Sangha: Apologizing to Mother Earth and the Land Ancestors with Louise Dunlap
Louise reads from the opening chapter of her new book during an event called “Decolonizing Family Stories,” June, 2019.
Louise speaks about silencing, her book Undoing the Silence, and its role leading up to the national elections of 2008.
Louise offers a Dharma talk, “Lift Every Voice,” at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM, in 2009.
Louise speaks outside the Bechtel Corporation headquarters in San Francisco on January 20, 2013, following a peacewalk she co-organized after the Fukushima disaster.