From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our fall and spring signature excursions are annual opportunities for Muslim men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Spring 2016: D&T Grrrl!

On April 22nd, fifteen women left for three days and two nights camped out on an island two-hours off the California coast. This blog is their story!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Clan Work

There are a lot of people kicking around the idea of a return to older, more tribal ways of relating. There's some value in the idea, which is ultimately rooted in a kind of despair over the fragmented social isolation that passes for middle-class white American society today. But too often the whole prospect is romanticized beyond recognition.

It's true that the Chumash lived lightly on the land for thousands of years, while in the 166 years since California statehood the air and water have become effectively poisonous.

I can see why folks might want to reset the clock.

But it ain't all feathers and drums. Most of the Chumash were dead by the age of 35. That's a big part of the secret.

We refuse to die. We want to be fed and housed and cared for indefinitely. And we are at the point now where we are paying for our lives with the lives of our offspring.

That's disgusting.

Once we learn how to put death back on the table as an important and desirable variable in any healthy social unit, we'll be back on the road to good times, insha Allah.

But it wasn't only that the Chumash died sensibly. They also lived and worked in small groups, and that's really the point of this post. Fifteen gear-laden women simultaneously splashing onto the shore of Santa Cruz Island is just too much. You'll scare the foxes.

We're going to have to break you up, Chumash style, into little clans. And you'll each have a job, so pay attention.

The Coyotes

She is the clan-head. In the culture of many of our indigenous peoples, the coyote was revered as a trickster, a sometimes scheming, sometimes bumbling figure whose function was essentially to loosen folks up to receive the Divine. Your Coyotes will work together to create and facilitate an amazing experience for all, insha Allah. You can think of these women as your event-coordinating coaches.

The Spoon Keepers

She's in charge of making sure everybody gets fed. She doesn't have to do the cooking, but she needs to make sure that her clan has got the food situation all sorted out. She'll be mindful of the dietary preferences and biases of her clan. She'll be the one to decide if each member of her clan is going solo with the meal planning or whether a more collaborative approach makes sense. She can discuss the possibility of inter-clan feasting with the other Spoon Keepers.

The Sage Burners

Among the early people, burning white sage was a means of ritual purification. Your Sage Burner keeps your camp clean and orderly. It's not her job to wash the dishes, but to make sure that they get done. Camp should be tidy, organized. Gear should be stowed and prayer areas left immaculate. She will coordinate with other Sage Burners to determine the optimal layout of your camp.

The Cloud Women

Each clan will have a religious authority, the Cloud Woman. She will work with the other Cloud Women to establish the qibla, or direction of ritual prayer, and she will determine the schedule thereof. She will offer direction on the numerous and unpredictable issues that are sure to challenge your urban jurisprudence.

The Tale Weavers

For the first time in the history of Dust and Tribe, I won't be there to tell the story. Your amira, Sister Lobna had the inspired idea of delegating this task to a member of each clan. The Tale Weavers will bring back the narrative of your experience on the island. They will work to capture your adventures in their writing, in their photographs, in their video and sound recordings, and in any other way that honors your time together. And I will use what you permit me to complete your story, insha Allah.

And now, the clans. I've got numbers here, but it's more fun if you come up with sweet clan names.

Clan #1

Coyote: Sister Lobna
Spoon Keeper: Sister Amira
Sage Burner: Sister Zenith
Cloud Woman: Umm Iman
Tale Weaver: Sister Tracie

Clan #2

Coyote: Sister Safia
Spoon Keeper: Sister Rayesa
Sage Burner: Sister Wanda
Cloud Woman: Sister Sarah
Tale Weaver: Sister Mariam

Clan #3

Coyote: Sister Syma
Spoon Keeper: Sister Adina
Sage Burner: Sister Anjum
Cloud Woman: Sister Farah
Tale Weaver: Sister Khadeejah

You've got your work cut out for you. Enjoy the journey, sisters.


  1. Oh no! This is what happens when you talk too much, Ahmed makes you a coyote?!

  2. oh dear, I'm with you on that sentiment bintmuslim!