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10May 2019

When Settling Did Not Mean Taking Over

By |May 10th, 2019|Categories: Posts|0 Comments

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 here in the […]

19Dec 2018

“How did you get so lucky?”

By |December 19th, 2018|Categories: Posts|2 Comments

“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 […]

How My Settler-Ancestors Set Us Up for Uncontrollable Wildfires

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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.

We Can’t Move Forward Without Looking Back

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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.

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

PDF Download IconLanguage 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

PDF Download IconAdvocacy 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.

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.