Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Love & Appreciation for Indigenous Peoples (Circle Culture)


Supporting Indigenous Resurgence and Nationhood  

Miigwech / Thank you to all Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, Mahalo dear native Hawaiian people, for your beautiful, inspiring examples of living in harmony with the earth and all life.  I honour and appreciate you – your wisdom, intelligence, courage, resilience, passion, creativity and integrity!  I’m so sorry for your suffering and the loss (theft) of your land.  I stand with you as a friend and ally, and as a being who is tuned to Mother Earth, seeking to live in balance and harmony.

Thank you for embodying your Indigenous World View and deep circle culture wisdom - you are natural leaders in earth stewardship, environmental awareness, climate action, and long-term sustainable land-based living in community.  Thank you for demonstrating a profound way of being on Mother Earth, in harmonious relationship with all of life.  

Circle culture values have always felt natural and deeply resonant to me.  I feel they're based on:  heart, breath/spirit, the collective, a love of Mother Earth, understanding the interconnectedness of all life, seeing all beings as equal in the circle, and an intention to live in harmony & balance.   

By contrast, the 'modern culture’ is a pyramid culture, largely based on:  mental/ego focus, the individual, hierarchy, compartmentalized thinking, competition, greed, profit-seeking, materialism/consumerism, and control, domination/exploitation of the earth and peoples, with a view that technology can 'save us’ downstream after creating great imbalance.  This modern pyramid culture does not seem to behave in very accountable or balanced ways.   

As global citizens we must be willing to question and challenge this modern way of life, the unconscious ‘comfort’, and critically see the values and practices this life is based upon.  We must be willing to challenge the ongoing destruction of lands, waters, animals, and Indigenous peoples & culture, from unsustainable energy projects like Athabasca tar sands, oil and gas pipelines, logging and fishing 'industries', or other so-called 'development' projects.  We must be willing to take responsibility, to humbly listen and learn, and to stand up and use our voices!  We must also be willing to be ‘uncomfortable’, to question our work and the 'economy', to personally choose lighter footprint ways of living, to shift our values, and to create new, healthier relationships and realities for ourselves and future generations! 

By definition, Indigenous peoples are the original inhabitants of the land, and they had complex societies and systems of government.  On the land called Canada on Turtle Island for example, Indigenous nations never gave consent to ownership of territory by the Europeans, or the establishment of European sovereignty over them.  As 'settlers' to these lands, we must be willing to acknowledge this truth and begin to create 'right relations' with first peoples as autonomous, free nations.

In my heart I hold a vision that Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and around the world, will once more:
  • be strongly rooted on their lands, territories (and practically speaking, have much more land.  In Canada, Indigenous peoples have only about 0.2% of the land!), 
  • foster their deep relationship to the land, to their language and cultural traditions and medicines,
  • be free nations; be self-determining / self-governing,
  • have a nation to nation relationship with other peoples or states (eg., with Canada).  
I know this view may seem ‘disruptive’ to the status quo, but the status quo is based on colonialism, stolen land, white supremacy, genocide, dispossession/dislocation, and land rights extinguishment, continuing to the present day.  This reality must change in order to create ‘right relations’ based on mutual respect, integrity and trust. The Canadian economy is built on the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and the Earth, in non-renewable, extraction industries, and without free, prior and informed consent.  And the policies and processes today still focus on Indigenous peoples extinguishment and assimilation, albeit more ‘white-washed’ in a modern framework of ‘recognition and reconciliation’.  Essentially all policies and treaty negotiations simply seek to ensure Canada’s continued unrestricted access to lands for resource extraction or other use.

Simply put, we must be willing to expand our own awareness, to ‘decolonize’ our minds and way of life, and to change and ‘make right’ our relations, in order to live out the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  And restore the vision of the Two Row Wampum which represents free and equal, respectful, 'arm to arm' relations forever, 'as long as the grass is green, as long as the water flows, and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.'  The Two Row Wampum belt is a record of the first agreement (1613) between Europeans and Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island.  This living record reflects two purple parallel rows:  one purple row of beads represents a sailboat, and in this sailboat are the Europeans, their leaders, their government, and their religion. The other purple row of beads represents a canoe, and in the canoe are the native peoples, their leaders, their governments, and their way of life. The Two Row Wampum belt reflects an agreement to travel down the road of life, in peace and harmony with each other and with the whole circle of life, and not pass any laws governing the other.  Obviously, the 'settlers' did not respect this agreement, in the past and through to present day.  Thus as 'settlers', immigrants to these lands, we must be willing to restore this Two Row Wampum vision.

I am excited by the Indigenous Resurgence movement!  This movement can shift us towards what was originally envisioned by Turtle Island forefathers and mothers: a nation to nation relationship between free and equal sovereign peoples, based on mutual respect and sharing.  Principles of the Indigenous Resurgence movement (thank you Dr. Taiaiake Alfred) include:
  1. Reclaim - Reclaim Indigenous languages, traditions, cultural practices, sacred spaces, and the connection the ancestors had with the land.
  2. Rename - Since colonialism resulted in the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the landscape physically, as well as in the stories that are told/taught, renaming revives Indigenous reality and the ‘true story’ of these lands.
  3. Re-Occupy – Occupy and defend lands; Refusal to move in the face of industry/ government pressures, as demonstrated in the past (eg., Oka) and today (eg., the Secwepemc Nation Tiny House Warriors standing to protect their unceded lands). 
I am inspired by local Indigenous leaders/teachers/activists such as Arthur Manuel, Katsi'tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, Taiaiake Alfred, Nokomis Josephine Mandamin (Mother Earth Water Walker), Elder Jacqui Lavalley, Khelsilem Rivers, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Idle No More, Defenders of the Land, Indigenous Climate Action, Raven Trust, and more.  In Hawai’i I am also deeply inspired by many leaders and teachers, including Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim, and Dr. Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele – miigwech, mahalo nui loa to all for sharing your wisdom and inspiration! 

I’m also inspired by the movement of Indigenous peoples coming together globally, to build relationships, share, learn, and rise together!

What I have also found so inspiring in Hawai’i is:
  • the rising of Hawaiian cultural values and spoken language (eg., Hawaiian language immersion schools); 
  •  the election of Aloha ʻĀina (Love of the land) local candidates, that empower earth stewardship (Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina), restore freshwaters, etc; 
  • bridging of peoples together in the creation of sustainable land-based communities.  For example, a ‘rainbow tribe’ of younger people created an off-grid community in a more remote area on island, and they have a friendly connection with and learn from the local Hawaiian community;
  • organic farming, and island self-sufficiency initiatives that reclaim native Hawaiian knowledge and practices (eg., Mālama Ahupua`a – system of land division; Lo’i Kalo – wetland taro farming, etc);
  • use of traditional cultural tools to revive and restore ‘ohana / community, i.e., Ho’oponopono conflict resolution to make ‘pono’/right relations; mele and hula: chants, songs and story-telling dance; ocean voyaging using traditional canoes and way-finding like in Hōkūle‘a's inspiring world-wide voyage);
  • overall, living the spirit of Aloha (Aloha Spirit Law), ‘Ohana (extended family), Kuleana (responsibility), and other deep cultural values.  
The Hawaii motto reflects right relationship with the land and all life: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono”, meaning ‘The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness’ (and many add ‘in the sovereignty of the people’).  

I encourage you to humbly learn more locally, about Indigenous/native peoples in your community.  Begin to bridge into circle culture way of thinking and being, and expand your awareness of the true story on the lands you live and enjoy.  Be willing to return stolen lands.  Be willing to create change to foster true freedom and ‘right relations’ with all peoples and the Earth.  We will all benefit and grow stronger in this journey towards greater empowerment and freedom!

Below are some workshops and books that I found illuminating, relating to Indigenous peoples in Canada (i.e., the Cree, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Kanien'keha, Wendat, Dene, Secwepemc, and many other First Nations):
  • Indigenous Cultural Competency Training Workshop (with Michael Etherington) at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto www.ncct.on.ca 
  • Ka’nikonhriyohtshera: Fostering Emergence of the Good Mind Workshop with Diane Hill (Katsitsawaks) at Dodem Kanonhsa’
  • Books/Other learning (sampling): 
  • Arthur Manuel, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call
  • Charlie Angus, Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada's Lost Promise and One Girl's Dream
  • Glen Coulthard, Red Skin White Masks - Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition
  • Taiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness
  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back - Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)  
Miigwech, Thank you to all these leaders, teachers, writers (and many others) for your wisdom, insights and courage!   

I continue to humbly listen and learn.  I feel honoured to be a ‘bridge’ in this life, supporting greater awareness, harmony and balance, inside and out.  I feel part of a ‘rainbow tribe’ coming together to support living in greater harmony on the Earth.

Miigwech!  Mahalo nui loa!  
I stand with you, and support your thriving! 

In unity,
Irena