The sky was black and beautiful. The stars shone above like glistening guardians of the night. Guided only by fire light, we scaled the Amazonian hillside. I yearned to take my shoes off and so I did. I wanted the soles of my feet to touch the silky, black soil that nourished the rainforest all around us. I wanted to plant myself to the land, like hundreds of different tree species do, so silently and wise. Constellations spoke stories to our skin and I felt alive with gratitude, joy and amazement.
The leaders of our pack—The Yánesha Indigenous Peoples of central Peru—guided us to a beautiful rock outcropping that they have prayed to for generations unknown. The medicine man of their community made offerings of tobacco, hoja de coca, smoke, and beautiful words. “Abuela. Abuelo. No queremos oro ni plata. Queremos la vida,” he pronounced to the night. “Grandmother, Grandfather Stone. We want neither gold nor silver. We want life.” I shuddered with joy and pride, that I could be a human among this human…a human among these humans. Then, one by one, he invited the souls who came to join him to stand before the sacred stone and share their heart’s dream. A collection of Peruvian students, professors, and local community members offered their sincere words to the rock, to the soil, to the sky, to the plants, and to the spirits that held us in a cradle of beauty.
Finally, the people of the North, the people of the Eagle, stepped forward to state their cause and plant a promise of support at the side of their Condor relatives. Dr. Greg Cajete, of Santa Clara Pueblo. Jacquelyn Cordova of the Diné nation. And myself, a mixed blood of Diné, Cheyenne and other bloodlines. We came forward to give our songs, the precious words of our language, our deepest prayers to our Yánesha relatives who took us in so graciously. The sacred pipe of the Plains People was laid on the ground before the stone and co processes that would be appropriate for the creation of our own lessons and units. We were determined to design language curricula that effectively taught the youth how to speak our dying languages.
There was a lot of emotion to this process. For 500 years, all of our nations had been told, over and over, that our cultures were inferior to the rest of the world. For many of us, we had come to believe this was true. And so even though we yearned to spend time in the communities, ceremonies, pedagogies and learning styles of our people, many of us felt as if it was not enough. We had come to believe that in order to have success we would have to play by the rules of the ruling class. For instance, many of us believed we would have to teach in secular, university settings to be real teachers and to teach real things.
Dr. Cajete and I sought to shatter this illusion. We spoke stories of our own experiments in community education. I told them about how I organized 100 Diné elders, children, parents and teenagers to create our own summer school. I talked about how we devised the curriculum ourselves in a liberated space. I showed pictures of all our classes which included lessons in weaving, traditional foods, land restoration, traditional architecture, philosophy, sacred songs, botany, yoga, moccasin making and other topics that were important to us. I showed them how we didn’t ask for any government permission to do this and did not adhere to any state education standards. I showed them how my community members, some of whom did not even graduate high school, created entire plans of learning that were implemented with incredible success.
I showed them how our education doesn’t have to be like Western education. It can be intergenerational, instead of age-stratified. I showed them it can be communal, instead of individualistic. I showed them it can occur outside, instead of in fluorescent lit rooms. I showed them we can share the work of teaching with all the students, instead of positioning ourselves as the only experts. I showed them we can learn through doing an activity instead of reading about it. I showed them we had more than enough knowledge and cultural metaphors to be effective educators in our own right.
After my presentation, I had the extreme honor and privilege of working with a group of Yánesha educators as they devised their curriculum. We followed the Zais model as explained to us by Dr. Cajete and outlined every facet of the teaching plan. They decided they would teach the Yánesha language to their people through “La Siembra,” or the traditional practice of planting seeds and growing forests. They decided that their tribal values and paradigms would guide the process and the vocabulary would arise from words needed and used while planting. About 8 of these professionals engaged in vivacious discussion about how it would all go down. I felt joyous to see that they were connected to each other and to their work. Our prayers planted just one night ago were already being answered. What a blessed time it was.
I am home now. Back in the deserts of my people in what is now known as the Southwestern United States, but what I know as Diné Bikeyah. I love the way the sun shines and the sand beams. I am a long way from the lush forests of Amazonian Peru, the land of Yánesha brothers and sisters. And yet, a piece of me still lives with them and I have carried the lessons they bestowed on me. I am deeply honored to have had this miraculous and magical opportunity to board a steel bird, fly across Turtle Island, and establish kinship and solidarity with the people of the Condor. And what a smile I get when I realize that this is just the beginning.
“We don’t practice con-sci-ence, we practice consciousness, because the former is a state of mind that slices reality into pieces,” says Tiokasin Ghosthorse.
Dear Friends, Thanks to so many who joined us for this event. Here, where we exist in a shared consciousness with the water, the fire, our ancestors and with each other. We sit in presence. We experience together. “We don’t try to explain mystery, we live in the mystery.”
The Center for Earth Ethics is honored to continue our partnership with Author, Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Founder, Host and Executive Producer of First Voices Radio) exploring perspectives which reach deep into the heart of an emerging consciousness that is both ancient and new. We are called home until we understand, “Mother Earth misses us.”
Aliou Cissé Niang, New Testament faculty at Union Theological Seminary, offered reflections beautifully weaving in indigenous perspective from his native Senegal, West Africa.
Close to three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, many Puerto Ricans are struggling for survival and fighting to remain, reclaim, and rebuild. Many of their struggles are related to a climate crisis fueled by a legacy of colonization and extraction. As the crisis continues unfolding, #OurPowerPRnyc is a community-led initiative working to build a Puerto Rico recovery designed by Puerto Ricans. Learn More.
Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions, SU 190 – KA1
Presented by The Center for Earth Ethics & Karenna Gore Friday, February 2, 1:00 – 6:00 pm; Saturday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Course Description: This class will focus on the flaws of current economic measurements such as Gross Domestic Product and the ways in which Indigenous cultures — along with voices from faith communities— are contributing to alternative ways of measuring the success and well-being of a society. Topics to be covered include the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, the impact of colonization on the bio-cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, the conflict at Standing Rock, the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and the role of religion in development policy.
I don’t believe that there is a single person on this planet who isn’t aware of the climate system’s change. I fully include so called climate deniers in this as well because even they have to go outside and wonder why they can leave their homes, on many a winter day, in nothing more that a light jacket. Most are aware that something is just not right, that the coming days will bring forth even more uncertainty in weather patterns. For a majority of the world, however, this uncertainty is something they are already living with every day-this is the reality of the most vulnerable in our society: the poor For it is the capitalist project which has brought us to this crisis, and it is through its exploitative and violent nature human suffering has increased alongside Mother Earth’s ecological degradation.
The course went by the name, Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions. Prior to attending the class, participants were sent a short reading list which included excerpts from “Laudato Si”, an article from the acclaimed scholar and activist Vandana Shiva, and a beautiful collection of articles and testimonials written from the perspective of Indigenous people advocating for their rights, as well as sharing the great Original Wisdom which still guides them today.
With around 30 participants, the class was a great mixture of students, religious leaders, professors, activists, farmers and herbalists, and lawyers. We were also blessed and honored by the presence of members from the Ramapough Lenape Nation- Chief Dwaine Perry and Owl Smith. Upon opening the class with a ritual presenting the four elements, C.E.E. Director, Karenna Gore, invited us all to introduce ourselves and ask that we share our names, a product which we depend on most, as well as, something within greater creation which we feel most connected to. It was incredibly powerful to witness the palpable feelings of joy and wonder we all associated with our non-human family.
Just as powerful, were the presentations. Karenna started the discussion by bringing forth the idea that capitalism and our globalized obsession with the gross national product index is greatly failing us all. The next presenter was economist and professor Bipasha Chatterjee who was able to pass on to us a great deal of information about how our global economic system works. For me, however, the most inspiring part of her presentation had to do with introducing us to the many alternatives uses of measuring value. My favorite definitely had to be the Gross Happiness Index used in Bhutan. Dr. Chatterjee explained that with this new system, Bhutan may be one of the poorer nations of the world monetarily, but it was also the happiest country in the world.
Ken Kitatani gave the following presentation, in which he introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasizing how the global community is coming together to create a better future. We were asked to take into consideration the people who might feel excluded by such an agenda-particularly indigenous communities who have no interest in developing within the capitalistic confines which very much inform the SDGs.
Dr. Geraldine Patrick Encina offered the final presentation of the day, bringing to the forefront Indigenous People of the Americas and the wisdom of original peoples, highlighting their cosmology, traditional way of life, and deeply rooted connection with all of creation. It was moving to hear her reflecting on the to groups of people she is connected to, the Mapuche of Chile, and the Otomi of Mexico. It was wonderful to hear about these tribes both maintaining their traditions, as well as, the challenge they have had in having to reclaim and relearn customs and practices which had been lost upon the “first contact”.
On day two, Roberto “Mukaro” Borrero was the first to present, and spoke about Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Being a member of the Taino Tribal Nation, Dr. Borrero brought forth the perspective of Indigenous people who continue to resist settler colonialism, and its predatory ways. One highlight of this presentation, I believe, was the time taken to talk about the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the struggles they endured against the Dakota Access Pipeline. That moment, Dr. Borrero argued, could serve as the perfect reason Indigenous people are so in need of their rights. What happened at Standing Rock was not only about a building a pipeline, it was about protecting the water and land which, to the Standing Rock Sioux, was sacred and worth protecting at all costs. To add, Standing Rock was a moment in which, twenty-first century Americans had to grapple with the reality of what it means to disregard and dehumanize Indigenous Peoples. Granting rights to indigenous people is not only a matter of symbolism, it is necessary in order to save lives.
Next, Catherine Flowers gave a presentation on what was happening in her community in Lowndes County, Alabama. She talked about the terrible sewage conditions so many residents are dealing with in addition to other ecological crises affecting the health of residents there. Into this conversation, Catherine also challenged the participants to think about what other factors, beyond capitalism, might have caused this reality for the people of Lowndes County. Racism was also an incredibly powerful force in this oppression which allowed politicians and public servants to ignore the demands for help by the people of Lowndes County, and other similar communities dealing with public health crises. The G.D.P. index does not help these people, and worse, it requires, and only benefits from, their continued suffering.
The last presentation was given by Adam and Shaily Gupta Barnes. Sharing reflections about their time in the Peace Corps, the two talked about the rural farming community they worked with in Niger, West Africa, and the sustainable farming being practiced despite such vicinity to the desert. Additionally, the two presented on the work they are engaged with in the Poor People’s Campaign. Led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the movement was highlighted as a moral revival for America. An opportunity to this nation to reflect upon ourselves, especially after the 2016 election, and commit ourselves to a way of being less focused on greed and power, and more focused on the Revolutionary Love Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so passionate about.
It was a jam packed two days, with so much to take away and reflect upon. For myself, the biggest take away was the realization that we must divorce ourselves from capitalism as well as the greed and over consumption that comes with it. We must be willing to recognize the rights of Indigenous people, and more importantly, we must be willing to learn their earth centered practices we have forgotten as we have attempted to perfect civilization. With scientists constantly reminding us of how dire everything is, I am very appreciative of this class for making me be self reflective on the ways in which I am complacent within this system. The urgency is very real, and I am so very grateful for the space this class opened up for us to become aware of solutions which have already been working on a small scale, and must be adopted – for the fate of all of creation.
Please enjoy the Program Description and Video below.
February 21, 2018
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Union Theological Seminary
New York City, NY 10027
The “Original Caretakers Program” of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; The Contemplative Alliance, an Initiative of the Global initiative of Women (GPIW); and the Lake Erie Institute invite you to this groundbreaking event.
Background This program grew out of a series of GPIW sponsored dialogues with Native Americans. It will be the first in a series of programs offered throughout the country intended to bridge the gap between Western anthropocentric consciousness and indigenous holomorphic (holistic) consciousness by offering non-natives an opportunity to listen in as Natives speak to each other in their own terms about how they experience the natural world. Pilot dialogues of this kind have demonstrated their power to break through anthropocentric (human centered) categories of thinking to seeing ancient perspectives that address the critical issues facing Mother Earth and humankind.
Eagle and Condor Consciousness: An Evening with Three Thinkers in the Native way.
The North Dakota Standing Rock prayer resistance in 2016 brought the world’s attention to an invaluable perspective, that Native Peoples have a bond not with the human race but the with living Earth. Over thousands of years, the dominant mode of human consciousness became the one we see today: technologically adept and increasingly self-absorbed—an anthropocentric or human centered consciousness that left behind a holistic mode of consciousness that was equally humanity’s endowment. The building of hierarchical and object-based “civilizations” with all of its glories and horrific conflicts came at the high cost of a steady loss of our holistic consciousness with its spiritual connection to nature.
The good news is that humanity’s holistic mode of consciousness is still active among Indigenous Peoples and may now be reemerging from its millennia-long obscurity. In the last year, for example, Indigenous groups have begun to form an alliance of Natives across the Earth in an effort to heal the devastation being wrought by anthropocentric “development.” For millennia, indigenous people throughout the world have lived in ways that maintained a balance between human life and the life of all other beings. Over time, as various cultures became more and more anthropocentrically (technologically, hierarchically, object-ively) oriented, they have disrupted that delicate balance. The environmental and ecological movements have emerged in reaction to the disastrous effects of that imbalance but have continued to apply an anthropocentric focus and anthropocentric solutions. They have largely ignored the holistic indigenous wisdom that maintained the balance between ourselves and the earth for tens of thousands of years.
This event will be a dialogue among three Indigenous thinkers whose lives are deeply rooted in traditional Native consciousness, but who are uniquely qualified to share that experience and express to the anthropocentric consciousness what a person experiences of the world as whole and interrelated. The audience will have a unique glimpse of this “holomorphic” consciousness. One of the three describes this dialogue as a process: “Wherever the spirit goes, that’s what it is,” and dialogue will happen after “we ask the Earth what she wants us to discuss.”
The holistic or holomorphic consciousness engaged through their traditional cultures is different in quite important ways from the holism found, for example in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Christian mysticism or many reported altered state experiences. The audience will discover their own parallels as they listen to Natives talk about THEIR holistic consciousness without immediately “translating” what they’re conveying into categories of what we know or think we know.
The dialogue will explore such subjects as ceremony; the “I” as “the we” way of thinking; awareness of balance and blessing; awareness of the consciousness of all beings including those beings that anthropocentric thinkers have defined as inanimate—such as water and stone—or have defined as lacking consciousness such as trees. In this time of environmental and psychological crisis for the “developed” world, Native voices and Native thinkers bring, in their presence and outlook, calm reflection and healing wisdom to an agitated and unbalanced world.
In the past few years, some non-Natives have begun to listen to what the Indigenous people have to say to us, their “younger brothers and sisters.” Their perspectives go to the heart of a potentially awakened and emerging consciousness that is both ancient and new. Three exceptionally qualified individuals representing different indigenous cultures join in sharing their experiences and traditional wisdom.
With Reflections by: Aliou Cissé Niang, New Testament faculty at Union Theological Seminary and native of Senegal West, Africa.
Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Lakota), Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota. Tiokasin is a survivor of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding and Church Missionary School systems designed to “kill the Indian and save the man,” and the “Reign of Terror” from 1972 to 1976 on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud Lakota Reservations. He has a long history of Indigenous activism and advocacy. He is a guest lecturer at many universities and international speaker and on Peace, Indigenous and Mother Earth perspectives, cosmology, ecology and forestry and perspectives on the relational/egalitarian vs. rational/hierarchal thinking processes of western society. Tiokasin is the founder, host, and executive producer of the 25 year-old “First Voices Radio”, a weekly one-hour live program syndicated to 70 radio stations in the US and Canada. (www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org) Tiokasin was awarded Staten Island’s Peacemaker Award in 2013 and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 by The International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. He serves on boards of several charitable organizations dedicated to bringing non-western education to Native and non-Native children. He is a master flute-player and teacher of magical, ancient and modern sounds. He has performed for audiences worldwide. A Sun dancer in the Lakota Nation tradition, he describes himself as a “perfectly flawed human being.”
Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz (Otomi) is currently the Director of the Original Caretakers Program in Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York and General Coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, a caretaker of the philosophy and traditions of the Otomi-Toltec peoples. He has been an Otomi-Toltec Ritual Ceremony Officer since 1988. Born in Tultepec, Mexico, he holds a Doctorate of Rural Development from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico. He has written extensively on the relationship between the State and Indigenous Peoples, intercultural education, collective intellectual property rights and associated traditional knowledge, among other topics. He has been coordinator of Postgraduate Academic Studies for Peace, Interculturality and Democracy, Universidad Autónoma Indígena de México (2014). He was advisor of the Provost of Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Unidad Lerma (2010-2013). Director of Sustainable Development Division, Universidad Intercultural del Estado de Mexico (2004-2010). He also has been or is consultant of the UNDP, UNESCO, UNEP, IISD and other international agencies. Mindahi is also deeply involved with the Biocultural Sacred Sites for Humanity, an Original Peoples Proposal, to be presented to UNESCO. He is working in the Process of Unification for the Latin American and the Caribbean Region that was initiated in Sierra Santa Marta by the Kogi and the spiritual authorities who participated there in 2013.
Geraldine Patrick Encina (Mapuche descent) is a third-year Scholar in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics, member of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico and an in-depth researcher of the ancestral ways of conceiving and measuring cycles in Mesoamerica. She understands why the Otomi and Maya chose 2012-2013 as the time for the closing and opening of big cycles. Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is a member of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico, and a professor of ethnoecology. Born to Chilean parents of Celtic and Mapuche origins, Geraldine received her doctorate in ethnoecology and social sciences from El Colegio Mexiquense, A. C. in 2007; she also holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. She has been a visiting professor in Honduras and Argentina, and held faculty positions at several Mexican universities. Her research focuses on archaeoastronomy and cultural astronomy, particularly on ancestral and current ways of measuring and conceiving time and natural cycles in Mesoamerica, especially among Maya, Nahua and Otomian cultures. Geraldine brings extensive knowledge about the astronomical underpinnings of religious celebrations among Mesoamerican cultures. She analyzes the implications of Catholicism in current spiritual practice in Mexico and Guatemala, explaining how and why syncretism has worked for them in the past five hundred years.
Moderator for the Dialogue John Briggs is a Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor of Aesthetics and Creative Process, author of Fire in the Crucible and Fractals, the patterns of chaos, Metaphor: The Logic of Poetry, and Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, among other books focusing on the subjects of creativity, Chaos Theory, and new scientific theories of wholeness. He holds a PhD in aesthetics and psychology from the Union Institute. John and Robert Toth of the Contemplative Alliance are currently at work on a book that explores the possibility and necessity of awakening the ancient holistic consciousness still active among many traditional peoples as a foundation for addressing the climate crisis and repairing our current cannibalistic relationship with the natural world.
Original Caretakers Program – Center for Earth Ethics participation at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum. Kuala Lumpur, 7-13 February 2018
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz participated in the Stakeholders’ Roundtable – Indigenous Peoples Session, which focused on the problems that indigenous peoples face as migrants and as citizens in the cities. Discrimination and lack of political representation are the main problematics that Indigenous Peoples are facing. Issues about land tenure, particularly for women, were also addressed. As most of the roundtable was composed of women (see picture below), their concerns for women’s rights were amply exposed. Indigenous youth were also present and they talked about the importance of including indigenous peoples’ representatives in decision making processes. Mindahi’s presentation is in Spanish. Watch it here:
My speech in the Indigenous Peoples Roundtable. Feb 11, 2018.
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz spoke at the Indigenous Peoples Round Table at the WUF9.
The following are the recommendations given by Mindahi Bastida-Munoz for an effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda resulting from the discussions, to inform the WUF9 Declaration:
To include youth, children, elders and women in the capacity building and the decision taking processes.
To impulse new curriculum around ancestral wisdom and spiritual values of Indigenous Peoples
To acknowledge Indigenous Peoples wisdom around the relationship humans-nature. Cities cannot live without nature and rural areas.
To work and pull together with local, national and international stakeholders and governments in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
Indigenous peoples need sustainable development financial support specially for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda among indigenous peoples territories and those who live or interact with the cities.
There was also a Special Session of Civil Engagement and Participation of the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum, where Mindahi Bastida-Munoz delivered a message about the importance of indigenous peoples’ participation in the public agenda of UN-Habitat. He asked the leaders of the world, in reference to the New Urban Agenda, to acknowledge indigenous peoples’ participation in the decision-making processes. Additionally, he noted that a new relationship between the urban and rural is needed. Modern cities cannot live without the rural areas, from where water, oxygen, food, materials come from. Also, rural areas are sinks for carbon dioxide and liquid and solid wastes.
Civic engagement and participation from all actors is key: governments cannot achieve the New Urban Agenda on their own. We need all, and we need that no one is left behind in this inclusive process when talking about cities.
As was stressed in the Special Session, “Civil engagement has been emphasized in the New Urban Agenda as part of the vision for cities and human settlements as the participation of urban dwellers fosters social cohesion, inclusion and safety in peaceful and pluralistic societies.”
During the forum, we distributed the Indigenous Peoples and the City Declaration in the Civic Engagement Session, the Indigenous Peoples’ Round Table and the Children and Youth Round Sessions.
The Indigenous Peoples and the City Declaration was produced last year by indigenous representatives from different peoples, including Mapuche, Kichua and Otomi, most of whom were young. We were invited to explore means to emphasize the importance of the recognition of indigenous peoples and communities in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the New Urban Agenda, adopted in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016 during the UN Forum Habitat III.
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz had previously participated in two side events on Indigenous Cities organized by UN-Habitat Youth during the regional meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development Habitat III held in the city of Toluca, Mexico, on April 19, 2016 and during the 15th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in New York City on May 13, 2016. He was the coordinator of this declaration. For more information, click here: Indigenous Peoples and the City.
Last December 15-19, I attended a Symposium on Mayan History and Religion in Malmö University, Sweden. One of the most outstanding components of the program was the offer of three-day courses, among which featured one on Paleography of Colonial Texts. It was offered by John Chuchiak, Director of both the Honors College and the Latin American, Caribbean, and Hispanic Studies Program at Missouri State University (photo above). Dr. Chuchiak has focused most of his research on the Franciscan Missions, the Inquisition and the Catholic Church in Colonial Yucatán, Mexico.
Author of The Inquisition in New Spain 1536-1820. A Documentary History, Dr. Chuchiak has translated and examined hundreds of documents of inquisitorial proceedings made against traditional Mayan priests who were trialed and sentenced to death or to jail by the inquisidores of New Spain.
Mayan priests were severely punished for performing ritual ceremonies that had been systematically executed for at least three thousand years. The highly conservative character of ceremonial protocols can be attested by comparing ceremonies depicted in Mayan codexes with those described during inquisitorial trials and those still performed by traditional Mayan priests today.
Rituals are propitiatory for the well-being of socio-ecological systems, where human beings are conscious of how their thoughts and actions facilitate or disrupt the web of life. Priests carry out ceremonies to help maintain harmony in the world at all scales of the time-space matrix. They do this because they abide by the original instructions and laws of co-evolution that were set in place by the first Father-Mother who made life spring from Mother Earth, the Green Turtle (indeed, the same term as Turtle Island for northern first nations).
The thriving landscapes that invaders first saw was the unfolding process of peoples interconnected to the web of life through year-round ceremonies under very elaborate protocols that included fasting and abstinence.
For most Mayan families and communities, the violence perpetrated to their complex living systems at the symbolic, psychological, moral, emotional and physical level is still patent. Undeniably, their spiritual and ecological integrity is under threat today as harshly as in yester days. This is because the Doctrine of Discovery and its logic are still at work: idle lands must be taken and exploited for the sake of capitalism, and dispossessed inhabitants must be forced to accept new laws, be of service, keep a low profile and remain obedient.
Idolatry has been a deeply stigmatizing accusation and a violation to the integrity of original peoples whose way of living is defined by a spirituality of the collective soul. Every ceremony has many prayers, songs, dances and spiritual foods for the continuity of life processes and death processes. The belief that many spiritual forms of the Great Spirit manifest among us because of the diverse and creative ways of expressing love to us, must be respected without prejudice. The reciprocal practices that we have consistently seen are well received by the Great Spirit, must be respected too. Such practices entail sympathetic magic and a great deal of symbolic interplay with the pantheon of spirits –both good and evil. The mastery lies in knowing how and when to acknowledge each kind of spirit, and how to make the ones that give life and love prevail. Life and love, the most potent co-creative energies in all realms of Earth and the cosmos, must be fed with thoughts and intentions of ongoing life and love. That is how good spirits and the goodness of the Great Spirit, prevail.
Accusers of idolatry must have had close encounters with evil forces, most probably because of the impurity of their minds and illness of their intentions as they set foot on Turtle Island with granted authority to vanquish, enslave and kill. Traumatizing experiences of evil is the only explanation of their phobia for ancestral traditional ceremonial practices and practitioners. To see today accusers of idolatry within Mayan towns is not surprising: wise Mayan priests persevere in their practices because, to them, connection with divine forces of creation and life is how the continuing evolution of Mother Earth’s life can be maintained.
Let us be the change we want to see in the world by living according to the teaching of the Golden Rule as stated in different religious holy books, which says “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, was the call of the organizers of an Interfaith encounter for a Culture of Peace, Harmony and Human Dignity.
The event took place on February 2nd, 2018, as part of the World Interfaith Harmony Week of United Nations. It was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia, the United Religious Initiative-Africa, U-Day Festival, the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association and World Peace Prayer Society in partnership with the Africa Union Commission Department of Civil Society and Diaspora Directorate.
Guest of honor President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia gave the opening remarks while Honorable Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, offered a message of peace. Religious and spiritual leaders also spoke words of wisdom and hope, among which featured the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the President of Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and international figures like Thai Buddhist Monk Venerable Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai as well as representatives of the Orthodox Jewish, the Bahai’ Faith and the Sikh Faith.
Indigenous spiritual leaders whose call for peace and unity has been heard beyond their local regions, were invited to share how they too remind their people of the covenants and laws of origin, that speak of how to treat Mother Earth and all her beings with kindness, respect and love.
Phil Lane Jr., Chairman of the Compassion Games, Sam Cook and Australian Indigenous representative and Mindahi Bastida, from the Otomi Peoples of Mexico and director of Original Caretakers initiative at the Center for Earth Ethics, each had the opportunity to expose their commitment to care for Earth and all beings to achieve Peace, Harmony and Dignity.
Message at the African Union – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. February, 2018.
My name is Mindahi Bastida, of the Otomi-Toltec ancestral Peoples of Mexico. I am representing the Center for Earth Ethics and its Original Caretakers Program. It is a big honor to greet Ethiopia, Land of Origins. We pay respect to the original peoples and territories and also to the African Union.
We greet the original peoples of Ethiopia and all of Africa as an important continent that can give light to the world in times of Climate Change and concerning biocultural erosion.
According to our prophecies and ancestral knowledge, 5000 years B.C. ago some human beings began to go in another direction and began to take over Nature. Others remained as caretakers of what original peoples call Mother Earth, living in harmony and balance with divine creation. But in many places harmony was broken, and this situation prevails until today, deeply affecting the material and spiritual compounds of life.
Furthermore, the invasions and colonization of the world that biocultures were affected and many species and cultures disappeared provoking imbalance of the good living. In spite of the devastating effects of global colonialism, many Original Peoples, also known as Indigenous Peoples, have successfully kept their ancestral practices, cosmologies and philosophies. An ancient basis of wisdom is known collectively as the life originating principles, through which we continue to interact with the sacred-spiritual, nature-material and with other cultures.
This original counsel, based in the original instructions, brings together our ancestral wisdom, our current perception of the endangered world and our actions.
People, who have acted as allies of ancestral cultures and wisdom for the permanence of life and of original peoples, are aware of the mounting crisis that all beings face in many levels. The world is experiencing the end result of a different kind of knowledge whose implementation has been provoking a des-harmonious, fragmented and highly destructive way of interaction and relationship with nature, cultures and celestial bodies.
More and more, it becomes evident that the recovery of harmony, peace, unity and dignity lies in our return to the sacred origins of the ancestral wisdom, where human beings are an integral part of creation and not the peak of creation.
The recovery of harmony is not just tangible but also intangible, and collective consciousness is vital to address harmony in the spiritual and material worlds. This harmony and balance must be reflected among all beings, according to time and space order.
Then, peace can be achieved not just among human beings but also with Nature and Mother Earth. It is urgent to restrict the anthropocentric thought and return to the original principles. We need to make peace with Mother Earth and her sacred elements and nature.
Peace and Dignity are intertwined principles; we as human beings can achieve dignity if we go beyond the greed and commodification of “things” and respect life through reciprocal actions. We want to strengthen families, communities, biocultures, Mother Earth and our relationship with all beings working together and pulling together. We want an integrated world based on dialogue, reciprocity and complementarity that will carry all through far more than just seven generations.
For us unity is all about the Unification Process. This process is a mandate from indigenous spiritual leaders to respond to our planetary and civilizational crisis, emphasizing that all beings, including the celestial bodies are integral components of the life systems, must be taken into account to produce balance and harmonization in the world.
In achieving Harmony, Peace, Unity and Dignity we should:
Strengthen the work of those who, in continuity with their “originating principles/law of origin”, sustain to this date the ancient wisdom and spiritual traditional practices that preserve the sacred balance of Earth.
Remind those who were given their “original instructions”, and that may have drifted from them due to their own historical processes, to revive their biocultural identity as a way back to their ancient ways, which will give them once again a sense of belonging and meaning in the sacred web of life.
Bring awareness to those who have completely lost, or never had, the understanding that they too are an integral part of the natural world and as such need to learn they are here to contribute to sustaining it for themselves and for those who are yet to come.
Practice tolerance, intercultural dialogue and mutual cooperation for the sake of biocultural diversity. These are among the strongest warranties of peace and security at local and international levels.
In sum, we, together, in a Process of Unification, need to be engaged in restoring harmony and balance of Mother Earth for the sake of human life and all beings. We need to think and act at local and global levels and think beyond intergenerational equity: we must leave a legacy of good generations for Mother Earth.
Kjamadi – May love and blessings be with us, the land of origins and your families.
In my Kamba tradition, it is said that when it rains, God is spitting onto the earth, in order to help the trees, vegetables, and grass grow for the animals to graze. This is why elders in the Kamba tribe spit on young people when giving blessings. For the most part, Ukambani, made up of three regions, Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui, is a dry region. As the Kambas were traditionally and historically traders, the nomadic lifestyle allowed many to survive on the land, as they were able to travel all the way to the coast on the East, as well as the great lake of East Africa on the West.
Unfortunately, when colonialism began in Kenya, many Kambas, as well as people from other tribes, were no longer able to practice their traditional form of trade, and so relying upon their ancestral land for year long sustenance became a practice that many had to adapt to. There is no large river in Ukambani, but there are streams which flow from the West, Eastward. For many, these streams are the main source of water which is relied upon, unless the rains are not in bounty. For the wealthy, who can afford to dig down into their land for water, the use of boar-holes is not always beneficial as the water in Ukambani is very salty. The option which has served much of Ukambani, both rich and poor, is the use of gigantic tanks which are connected to the rain gutters of homes and collects rain water. During the rainy season, from September to November, the tanks are able to be filled to capacity, and then support entire families for an entire year, just as long as God spits down sporadic blessings throughout the rest of the year.
Many years ago, maybe five, there was a terrible drought in Kenya. My uncle Tony, who takes care of the Kasinga family farm in Makueni wasn’t able to grow a single thing, and to this day, is still working to rebuild the farm to its former functionality. Drought, however inconvenient, is something all Kenyans are used to and understand — despite the great fissure of land knowledge which has occurred with the past 100 year of European influence in Africa. We have been very lucky this year: coming back to Nairobi, one only needs to see the leaves in the trees and the deep brown of the soil to know that there were great rains. And here in Kenya, just yesterday, in the beginning of January, what all of us in Kenya understand to be the driest season, it rained. For generations, the tribes of central Kenya have always known that it never rains in January. Some -particularly those who are connected to indigenous ways- understand that this anomalous weather is because of a global climate crisis. However, most (especially those who practice Christianity) see thisunseasonal rain episode as a blessing. Who’s going to be ungrateful of rain?, they claim.
When one reflects on what is going on in our neighbor country of Somalia, it would be simple to say that Kenyans do not have much of a water issue. For the most part, that would be true. Our water problem however, has to do with the same cause of problem for Ramapough Lenape in Mahwah, and the Standing Rock Sioux: late era capitalism. Despite shortages which can last up to a week, and the need to buy drinking water–or at least to heavily filter and boil all water–water in Kenya is quickly being seen as a commodity rather than a necessity. Even beyond the dozens of treated water bottle companies, who are also adding to the issue of plastic pollution, it seems as though corporations, and private investors international and domestic, are incredibly interested in the water grab, which we all know only leaves people more vulnerable than secure.
Thinking up solutions to this problem, it would be easy for me to think that the solution for Kenyans would be to educate them on the importance of our interconnectedness in nature, but it’s not that simple, and maybe not the most appropriate of approaches. For over 400 years, Africans have been understood as primitive beings, more closely related in genetics to wild animals than the dignified European living in the city. It is for this reason that we are called monkeys and baboons, and asked offensive questions about whether we live in the jungle, wear shoes, or have lions as pets. When Pier Paolo Pasolini, in the 1960s wanted to make a film out of the myths of Orestes, he sought out what he thought would be the last untouched place on earth to be his setting-Africa. In fact, many Africans throughout the continent were offended by the director’s ignorance and perpetuation of a violent narrative which Europeans have used for nearly half a millennium to subjugate and enslave Africans. I believe that it is this mindset that is in need of changing.
For the sake of surviving in these times when money is God, King and ruler,education–not natureand her wisdom–is considered to be the saving grace of most Kenyans. It is prayers to Jesus rather than stewardship of the Earth which ensure long term sustainability of a family’s prosperity. Though it’s easy to blame the Europeans for many of the problems going on in Africa–to the point that the discussion becomes unproductive–I have no trouble placing blame on the Europeans for our water–and all around nature–crisis. Living under western hegemony, Africans must be as Un-African as possible in order to have the skills necessary to live under late capitalism. As the agrarian lifestyle of communities was done away with when British colonists stole hectares of indigenous land, the agrarian lifestyle isn’t even a reality for many. The water crisis Kenyans are dealing with now, with European theology as agent, has less to do with shortages, and more to do with privatization and spiritual disconnect.
Katilau Mbindyo is a second year M. Div. Student at Union Theological Student who is doing her Field Education at the Center for Earth Ethics.
Traveling through Asia this Dec – Jan, visiting Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, traversing throughout city and mountain terrain, observing climate conditions of rain and drought through floral growth in Nature, opened dialogue with park rangers, farmers, students and Buddhist monks on the effects of Climate Change in their lives and work. Global Warming.
Thailand is a mountain forest land with lush valleys and water ways in a central basin continuing to beaches and Islands. My travels took me from Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthalon, 2,500 meters or 8,400 ft, south to the coastal region, an area named Trat, a peninsula in Thailand’s farthest land south west bordering Cambodia.
The fertile and tropical monsoon climate, ideally suited to wet rice cultivation attracted farmers to the central part of the country, for hundreds of years, where the mountains drained streams into rivers, rivers passing through wide open flat lands and valleys, emptying into the gulf of Thailand. Thailand’s rice farmers have had to adapt to climate change, and its Critical Global Warming effects.
Rice has been Thailand’s traditional food crop and its main export product. Rice is grown on 50% of its arable land and 80% is exported abroad. Mountain villages depend on a sustainable healthy abundant harvest. Many countries depend on the 10 million tons of exported rice from Thailand, including the United States. Thailand’s losses due to floods, and droughts, which come spontaneously, as well as the natural order of its seasons, now being unpredictable, has their crop losses in the billions of dollars.
I’ve had dialogue with central river rice farmers, on large farms, as well as, mountain village farmers in northern regions who are sustainable growers. They all are telling me the same thing, that Global Warming effects are getting more intense over the past few years. The government has provided Genetically Modified varieties of rice to grow in the times of excess water due to flooding and odd storms, and has programs producing drought resistant varieties. These are more expensive rice strains that would have to be purchased each season as they do not reproduce. Rural mountain farmers spoke of being unable to afford these strains of GMO rice and some have awareness to stay away from modified genetic rice strains.
The larger commercial farms are using these Genetically Modified strains of Rice as a direct result of the Global Warming Crisis.
New farming systems in the mountainous regions I observed are constructed with natural technology: using large sized bamboo poles along the rice paddies to act as emergency drainage when sudden storms or unusual monsoon type rains flood the area. Heavy rain storms come in unusual patterns and directions not associated with the normal patterns of the seasons.
New to the terrain are water catches for sudden droughts that can happen anytime; at times of the year when the rains are supposed to come, extreme drought conditions may happen usually followed by heavy rain which turns into flooding. The large corporate and government rice farms have added costly water release systems and elaborate watering systems.
Throughout the north west region I experienced a consistent four day rain storm in December, the dry part of the year. I was told by several people this was unusual weather on top of unusual weather. Thailand’s government has pledged 7 billion over the next 3 years to alleviate damages and losses. Global warming is a costly affair of life and monetary-ism.
Thailand’s other crops, such as rubber and fruit plantations in the southern region are also adversely effected by global warming climate change. Heavy rains for two years were followed by drought, with heavy losses in fruit and rubber production and rotting tree roots from excess water or dying from drought. Farmers and plantation workers from northern Thailand through to the southern peninsula have expressed that fruit trees flowering and harvesting are as much as two months off their normal growth cycle, which effects the insects`s cycle of life which effects the bird life’s cycle, not good at all. Thailand is currently the worlds largest natural rubber producer. High emissions of greenhouse gases, caused by the production of raw latex for rubber production, their factories and mills also contribute raw material waste. The loss of natural hard wood forest being cut and cleared for rubber tree plantations. In this case the emissions are much higher because of carbon loss from land conversion. Farmers and plantation workers have voiced their thoughts: the cause of Global Warming is a combination of factors. One of the main contributors towards Climate Change is the use of Fossil Fuels, along with Mass Deforestation, pollution of the air, lands and waters, the change of oxygen in our oceans and lakes due to toxic heavy metals from the worlds chemical factories, as well as electrical pollution.
Farmers, city dwellers and mountain villagers believe that to relieve the environment of toxic stress would be to stop using them and allow other technologies to be used. I spoke of the use of plastic and again was told, corporate companies “stop producing these harmful things, there has to be other ways.” I was shown various ways of using the soy bean and the wing bean, can be made into biodegradable materials such as paper, clothing, soy bean fibers are sustainable and don’t need chemicals to grow, cups and containers, baskets and much more. We must replace the Plastic industry with an eco-friendly source. Most Thai people are not too far removed from ancestral ways and have a strong belief in their way of prayer, Buddism. Temples large and small are all over the country, and in the homes. Their overstanding of mindfulness of nature and life spirit are in
their mantra, they make awareness of thee Omni presence with in nature and ancestral spirits. Thai peoples’s way of greeting and departing is with Buddha hands and a slight bow. They let me know they are smothered in the plastics, the motorized life style, bills and debts. Values need to change, people need to be allowed to change the life style from being pressed into a monetary system supporting the production of harmful things, besides the income in this system was spoke of as being insufficient for basic survival. Change to a sustainable was so we may all sustain, and that I should know this, coming form a country that is a main contributor of fossil fuel and greenhouse gases.
Awareness of source of food and from farm to table.
Food is abundantly pouring into the streets of Thailand through street vendors selling their fresh seafood, vegetables and meats, cooking on charcoal grills and carts with mini kitchens boiling delicious noodle dishes. Many markets abundant with fresh fruit, veggies, specialty foods, treats and coconuts on ice -Thai people like to eat real food. Fast food chains that are there look out of place surrounded with rows of street food and colorful fruit stands and fresh juice. I walked into a “super” market, very odd experience, a few people wandering around, everything in plastic, quietly suffocating, I looked through the glass widow and across the street, the outdoor market was thriving with fresh everything, people,color, laughter and energy. I wandered out not buying anything, the only time I was in a “regular” store while visiting Thailand. The markets are amazing arrays of tropical vegetables and fruits, some familiar foods with different variations. Food stands cooking different types of Thai food from northern, north east or west, southern style cuisine. Live turtles, fish and frogs, lobster, dried fish and snakes, bugs, grubs of all kinds. I observed their closeness to their food source, their overstanding of where their foods are coming from, how many hands has it gone through and how many miles to market. Very close relationship with their food, which can give one a direct insight on the daily impact of Global Warming.
Chaing Mai is a city in northern Thailand. Established by 1226 and was the capital of the Lanna kingdom until 1558. Population is around a million people with a inner city population of twenty thousand. For me It felt like a very large town, not bombarded with sky scrapers or huge concreted metropolitan area`s . The Thai people point out the new tall buildings and malls that have been built over the past seven years and feel Chaing Mai will change over the next ten years and become more like Bangkok. They showed I the new roads and Huge neon sighns that were not around a few years ago.The increase in cars over the past ten years has trippled or more where as the streets would have much more scooters and bicycles, adding more Fossil Fuel thats thick in the air of this valley.
Bamboo and Hemp are two of many natural fast growing plants that would be a major contributor in stopping the destruction of the worlds forests. This knowledge has been presented as an alternative to deforestation , as well as adding a thriving economic boost to countries who’s climates are suitable to growing these crops.Over the pas 30 years since I was involved with the green push to implement bamboo and hemp as sustainable building materials, Corporation controlled lobbyist of the timber industry and its building products have a strong voting and bureaucracy to not allow this change of ethics to happen. Bamboo and Hemp are a renewable crop, grows well with little or no fertilizer or water, ph balance of 7, no strain on the environment . From rooting to harvest bamboo has a much faster to mature growth to usable product than any tree species ,and can be processed into various types of building material. The trees that are being harvested in the US are very young, due to depletion of old growth forests, and do not have the tensil building strength of older mature trees. Teragren, the worlds largest bamboo building products manufacturer, has engineered a new structural joint made of moso, a strain of bamboo with the tensil strength of steel. America’s southern states would be ideal for growing bamboo and hemp. Meetings of engineer, bureaucrats, farmers an manufacturers in Greenville, Miss, gathered to discuss how land formerly cultivated for cotton might be converted to produce bamboo on a massive scale, creating a new profitable industry through out the southern states of America.
Hemp is very versatile in the many building materials it can be organically processed into. Hemp can be made into any building material, including fiberboard, roofing, flooring, paint, particle board, plaster,caulking, plywood, insulation, insulation panels or spray-on insulation, concrete, concrete pipes, bricks and biodegradable plastics. Concrete made from Hemp is referred to as Hempcrete. A product that is stronger than concrete and breathes, allowing dust particles to settle and be cleaned, as dust molecules and particles do not settle on concrete creating allergies and a static energy with blocks the natural flow of nature. Also harsh on the structure of the human body. Hemp Crete is three times more resistant than regular concrete. Fire proof, water proof and earth quake proof. to manufacture concrete places more carbon in our atmosphere. Building a home with Hempcrete can save about 20,000 lbs of carbon being released into the atmosphere per home. Hempcrete continues to harden through out its life until it completely petrifies, becoming rock like lasting thousands of years. Besides all the other products that could be made from hemp, hopefully we can re evaluate these wonderful plant gifts. The technologies are here, to eliminate fossil fuel and clean the environment must be allowed to flourish. Free Energy.
Our time is now, to become more active in creating a healthy harmonious existence while we are here, our duty do the better for the whole.
About the Author
Poppy Jones is the Herbalist in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics. He facilitates forest walks and teaches identification, properties, and preparations of herbs and food for health. Some of his favorite plants, include the Pearly Everlasting pictured below.
Dear Friends! The first perennials are breaking through their shells deep beneath the snow blanketed earth. We, too, are emerging and taking up the work we will carry for seasons ahead. There are rhythms and cycles to the natural world. It is to this intelligence we must take heed, to find the sustainable solutions for our planet.
Enjoy these updates from our team and please join us for coming events
focusing on the issues that matter most.
~ The Center for Earth Ethics Team ~
Original Caretakers Continues Weaving Indigenous Wisdom In and Out of the Classroom
The Center for Earth Ethics invites you to join us for a discussion on understanding non-verbal thinking in the anthropocentric age.Our talk will be shaped by the voices of Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Cheyenne River Lakota), founder, host, and executive producer of “First Voices Radio”, Mindahi Bastida Muñoz (Otomi) Director of the Original Caretakers Program at the Center for Earth Ethics and Geraldine Patrick Encina (Mapuche descent), Scholar in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics.
Catching Up with Original Caretakers Fellows…
Resident Herbalist, Poppy Jones, shares on the CEE Blog about his travels through Asia this winter visiting Thailand, China and Japan, ‘traversing throughout city and mountain terrain, observing climate conditions of rain and drought’. Throughout, he opened dialogue with park rangers, farmers, students and Buddhist monks on the effects of Climate Change in their lives and work. First stop: Thailand.
An INTERVIEW with Lyla June Johnston on the power of music and poetry in a life of prayer. (CHICAGO ‘N BEYOND for NO DEPRESSION)
“Music is a powerful launchpad for bringing joy, inspiration, hope, education and unification to the oppressed …we are trying to generate a new genre of Indigenous music that inspires the youth.” (Photo by Priscilla Peña)
… and Environmental Justice & Civic Engagement (EJCE)