“Last night I had the joyful opportunity to interview Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is sweet as the sweetgrass, loving as a mother and attentive as a wise elder. She was delighted to hear that we, from the Center for Earth Ethics, are offering the course Plant Wisdom and Ecological Consciousness and wants to know all about it. Surely we will have opportunities to interact with her, as we actively engage in braiding together plant wisdom, science and traditional knowledge as a practice of being in the world. Certainly all of humanity needs to remember that communing with all sentient beings is the original purpose of living a human experience. The art of reminding about this purpose is something that Robin has become exquisitely passionate about. Last night, over two hundred people stood in ovation to express their deep gratitude for her overflow of wisdom, joy for life and caring for Mother Earth. Let us spread her word and make her dream –a shared dream– come true in her lifetime.”
~ Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina
Join us for a conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer as she helps us rethink, reimagine and, renarrate our relationship to the sacred and the natural world. Can the objective, data-driven approach of science be enriched by non-anthropocentric spiritual worldviews? As a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Kimmerer draws on both indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge to enrich and animate our understanding of the natural world. This expansive way of seeing and relating to creation privileges regeneration and reciprocity, and offers novel solutions for ecological restoration and climate change resilience.
About Robin Wall Kimmerer:
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. Read More.
About The Insight Project:
The Insight Project is a new multi-year program series that explores modern conceptions of theology and spirituality through a diverse array of thought-provoking lectures, screenings, performances, and on-stage conversations. Click HERE to learn more.
Does time fly? Is it a line, a circle, a spiral? Does it touch us differently in different spaces? Many of us take for granted the meaning of the clock and the calendar, without considering that they are cultural constructs—related to natural cycles but also distinct from them.
In this workshop you can explore your own notions of time and space while learning about Indigenous timekeeping and sacred sites. The workshop is led by Geraldine Patrick Encina of the Center for Earth Ethics, who has studied the ancient and traditional calendars of Mesoamerica and also worked with Mayan communities to reclaim their original ways of timekeeping, and Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, also of Center for Earth Ethics, who works for the protection of the sacred sites and biocultural heritage of Indigenous peoples.
Attendees are asked to bring a picture of a beloved home landscape and of a sacred site they are connected to. Please also bring a device that can access Google Maps.
The schedule is as follows:
Salutation to the seven directions | 11:30–11:40 AM
Birth season and birthplace, ancestors’ land(s), and a description/depiction of our beloved home landscape in every season.
Timekeeping as a method of “placekeeping” or caretaking for the land | 12:17–1:00 PM
The Mayan case. Watch a short video about the original wisdom of the Maya and their true calendar. Learn about sacred sites in Mexico and their related ritual calendar dates. By using Google Maps, try to figure out what is/are the ritual calendar date(s) for your sacred site.
Break | 1:00–1:20 PM
Developing a time-space consciousness | 1:25–2:00 PM
Keeping track of the sun, moon, and stars in our beloved home landscape.
Activating Sacred Sites | 2:02–2:20 PM
How do we activate sacred sites in our beloved home landscape? Some guidelines.
Writing a letter to our beloved home landscape | 2:22–2:30 PM
An opportunity for reconnecting in a sacred way.
About the Speakers
Geraldine Patrick Encina is the Scholar in Residence at the Original Caretakers Program at the Center for Earth Ethics. She has studied the ancient and traditional calendars of Mesoamerica and also worked with Mayan communities to reclaim their original ways of timekeeping.
Mindahi Bastida Muñoz isdirector of the Original Caretakers program at Center for Earth Ethics. His work includes acknowledgment and protection of the sacred sites and biocultural heritage of Indigenous peoples.
Attending the conference on the Doctrine of Discovery, provided an opportunity to deepen our collective understanding of these edicts, which are based on the Papal Bulls issued by the Catholic Church in the fifteenth century.
I find that I always have to start at the beginning in discussing this because knowledge of the Papal Bulls and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery are not a part of our American conversation regarding the ills of our society. They should be, as they are directly relevant to our hierarchical structure; these edicts determine who rules and who is subjugated. We are constantly thinking, talking, acting in a vacuum, not knowing how our society was formed. Those who are activists struggle with gaining a foothold into making change, without ever knowing how we got here in the first place.
My constant thoughts are why do these failing ideals of freedom continue in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Why are me and mine left out of the picture of prosperity when my ancestors’ enslavement actually built this country’s wealth? And my other ancestors were the first and only ones here before the age of discovery, but now, are dispersed, landless and drained of our language, history and culture? Why do we continue to be a part of the vulnerable masses who could lose everything and actually have nothing? Many of us do not /cannot claim who we are for fear of social retaliation. We have been told to remain separate from ourselves. That, of course, has been to our detriment.
The directive given in the first such Papal Bull, Dum Diversas, in 1452 to King Alphonse of Portugal by Pope Nicholas was to go into west Africa and: Invade, capture, subdue, and vanquish all pagans, Sarsens and enemies of Christ. They were to be put into perpetual enslavement with their lands land and possessions given to the Crown.
Thus, began the colonization of Africa, and the enslavement of Africans, forty year before Columbus, so we can see why he felt so disposed to enslaving the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean islands.These “marching orders” would leach into the mindset of European monarchs, who using the Papal bulls as a base, who moved onto non-Christian lands and claimed them for their own.
Another Bull, Inter Caetera, issued by Pope Alexander VI, written in 1493, with the influence of Columbus, was instrumental in creating Spain’s monopoly in the conquest of the “New World” and established the infamous “line of demarcation”. It further stated that any lands occupied by non-Christians were available for exploitation by Christian nations, as long as no other Christian nation had claimed it. (It is important to note that “Christian” became synonymous with white, fitting into the ideology of White Anglo Saxon supremacy.)
In our United States, Thomas Jefferson, declares in his Notes of the State of Virginia, that the “infant United States” follows the lead of Christian European nations in exercising the actions directed in the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. I find this particularly interesting that the author of our constitution, a proponent of our liberty from England, proposed that this infant nation take the example of subjugating nations to dominate sovereign peoples. This Doctrine lives throughout our laws, particularly in our claim to indigenous lands, even the claim that these lands are vacant of people- as the people are not Christian and therefore, not white.
Other foils are used to perpetuate the charge of a righteous cause. The bible is used – particularly Genesis – to emphasize our right to have dominion over the land. Exodus is used to justify taking land belonging to other people and claiming the “promised land” for one’s own. These orders have been used to severe sovereign nations from their land, giving them only the right to occupancy and not the right to ownership over resources of their ancestral lands. As far back as Johnson v. McIntosh,1823, (“that principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.”) and as recent as Ruth Bader Ginsberg v Oneida, 2004, specifically citing Genesis, everything for the Doctrine of Discovery to the creation story has been used to justify the US taking resources from other sovereign nations.
Manifest Destiny was desired by George Washington and put into action with each administration, until finally, non-white people are removed through genocide, from their land. As laws serve to govern and build this nation, attitudes serve to support the leanings of the government, in order to justify these actions. These things would not and could not take place without the consent of the governed. What would justify taking land away from people? What would justify genocide of people? You first have to believe that these are not actually people or that they are somehow less than you and not worthy as you are. The thinking and actions which created the Papal Bulls of Dum Diversas as carefully fed to the populace. They worked hard to teach the populace that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”, that this country should be blessed for “sea to shining sea.”, and if they were poor, “at least they were not Black”. They were to be a part of carrying out these edicts, these marching orders of the monarchs of Europe and the faithful of the church.
Our conversation in the conference brought about how the Doctrine is experienced in our daily lives. We are still impacted by Dum Diversas, we are still invaded, captured, subdued, vanquished. In prison, we are put into perpetual enslavement. Many of us do not belong there. We are placed in prison for petty crimes no white person would be arrested for or we are held because we could not afford bail. We are subdued into ghettos, reservations-ghettos, and held in poverty. We are continually subjugated by trauma from boarding schools where we or our relatives were abused. Our culture was taken away and the bond to our families and communities broken. We are punished for speaking our language. We are racially profiled, we are mocked and murdered, our women are kidnapped, raped and disappeared. We are held in alcohol and drug induced prisons. Often these things were brought and forced upon us and now we struggle mightily to escape them. Our lands and waters are poisoned by industry, our people succumb to cancer and die.
Today as we walk into stores to be served, we know we are not welcomed. We are demonized in our character and our culture. The country still does not find it offensive to use caricatures of us as a symbol of their football team. It is as though we are dead, just as society has orchestrated. But we are here and we are not going anywhere. It is time for a change. It is time for white Americans to realize that our way is the way to renew the earth that has been damaged through industrialization and pollution to our planet.
As we move forward and expect for Rome to rescind the Papal Bulls, we ask our allies, have you, can you reflect on the attitudes, biases you hold which emanate for these same papal bulls? It would be ludicrous to think that these ideologies which permeate every aspect of our life in this country does not affect our relationships with diverse communities. The United States is a segregated society, this makes it difficult for individuals to hear and acknowledge those outside of their usual sphere.
Micro aggressions abound. What in our conversations and /or actions dominate? What can we do to rescind our habits, turn the tide and become more respectful of others? We have to let go of our prejudices, our fears, our sometimes invasive and insulting remarks about our hair, skin, or clothing, or having to justify our right to our homes, job and /or positions, which many POC find offensive. We have to acknowledge that POC want to have conversations regarding race relations as we live the negative impacts almost daily. Whites will ask, “Why are we still talking about this? Aren’t we over this?” or say, “I am not responsible for this”, despite benefiting from it. It is not merely truth and reconciliation; we have to prime ourselves for actualizing a change in the power dynamic. If we are ever to live up to this country’s creed of liberty and justice for all, then we must begin this work. The time is now. Let us rescind the Doctrine of Christian Discovery which we have internalized. Our next step is to talk about equality, what it really looks like, what it really sounds like, then act to make it so.
This summer, Mindahi Bastida traveled by invitation to the Vatican to attend a conference organized by Cardinal Turkson titled “Saving Our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth”. The conference brought together indigenous and young activists, scientific experts, religious leaders and Vatican officials to assess the impact of Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
While there, Mindahi was able to meet Pope Francis and deliver him a letter by hand. The letter requests the following:
To announce your support for our initiative to protect and restore sacred sites in the world.
To give back to Indigenous Peoples the sacred objects and artifacts that are in possession of the Vatican and to support our demand to Nation States in this regard.
To rescind the historical Papal Bulls, affecting indigenous peoples lives and territories.
You can read the full letter below
The Spirit is love
Protection of Sacred Sites in the World
Indigenous Peoples around the World are the caretakers of Mother Earth. It is the time of the New Dawn, it is time for the acknowledgement of their Biocultural wisdom to protect life and we need to pay respect to their spiritual and material sustainable practices.
Biocultural diversity and biocultural heritage are related concepts that intertwine culture and biodiversity. In Indigenous Peoples’ thoughts and philosophies, culture and biodiversity are interrelated and seen as unity. Precisely, thinking and feeling about the web of life as an interconnection allows us to think and act in a biocultural way of being.
Given the continuous deterioration of life systems of our Mother Earth, it is urgent to restore the most affected places in the world. The Ancestral Sacred Sites play a key role in the restoration of those affected places because Ancestral Sacred Sites are energetic points that elevate the capacity of Mother Earth to restore systemic balance.
Worldwide, Ancestral Sacred Sites are interconnected. This means that they work together energetically and potentiate the capacity of a single Place to restore the balance of a nearby affected area or region.
It is through reciprocity and specifically through ancestral rituals, by offerings and payments, how we as Ancestral Spiritual Leaders can accelerate and assure the healing process.
The proposal of biocultural sacred sites for humanity (Spiritual Reserves of Humanity) before UNESCO is crucial when we understand the connection between conservation and spiritual and cultural practices of indigenous peoples. We are presenting this initiative in order to strengthen and protect our territories and sacred sites and to mitigate the effects of Climate Change worldwide with emphasis in indigenous Peoples’ Territories.
We kindly request Your Holiness and the Vatican:
To announce your support for our initiative to protect and restore sacred sites in the world.
To give back to Indigenous Peoples the sacred objects and artifacts that are in possession of the Vatican and to support our demand to Nation States in this regard.
To rescind the historical Papal Bulls, affecting indigenous peoples lives and territories.
In gratitude and deep respect,
Indigenous Peoples Representative in the Vatican City, July 4, 2018.
In a time of so much turbulence and seemingly insurmountable challenges, this project is dedicated to inspiring awakening and insight.
Contributors to the site include author Rev. John Dear, activist Bill McKibben, yoga innovator Ana Forrest, Fr. Thomas Keating, Nyikina Traditional Custodian of Western Australia, Dr. Anne Poelina, and Arun Ghandi.
CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida, also participated.
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.
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.