Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Who speaks for earth?

Jeanette Armstrong, Okanagan
Speaker for the Land

We would not have destroyed one ocean entirely and the rest nearly had civilization not trampled under its sweatshop boot the teachings of the indigenous. The prevailing spirituality of most indigenous, if not all, was one which held other earth dwellers in the same regard as humans. Like Jesus' utterance to "do unto others", and in the case of indigenous humans, "others" included people like bears. And deer. And water. And air.

By contrast, the predominant religion (christianity) of the civilized humans who invaded indigenous lands in the americas was one of domination of the land. A perusal of the Hebrew scriptures will quickly yield glorification of the genocides of various peoples in order for God's "chosen" to take their land. Such accounts no doubt spurred the faithful conquerors to commit the atrocities towards the people who were already living on the land in the americas. Things like rape, mutilation, and throwing babies into fire. You know, the usual genocide techniques.

I suggest that we consider the spirituality of the indigenous of this continent. Suspend the teaching of the dominant culture that land, trees, water, cattle, and even ourselves are "resources". Then, when a tract of forested land is to be logged, or a new deep sea oil well is to be drilled, let someone speak in defense of the voiceless.

Here is the Okanagan model of this process, as explained by Jeanette Armstrong:

I looked at the Okanagan decision-making process in its traditional sense…when we approach the decision-making process, one component is reserved for the land…we have people who are called “land speakers”. We have a word for it in our language. I was fortunate in that I was trained and brought up as a land speaker in my community…We have different people, trained as part of the family system, to be speakers for the children, for the mothers, for the Elders, for the medicine people, for the land, for the water - for all these different components that make up our existence. My part has been to be trained by my Elders to think about the land and to speak about the land…Each time a decision I made, even the smallest decision, my responsibility is to stand up and ask, How will it impact the land? How is it going to impact our food? How is it going to impact our water? How is it going to impact my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, what’s the land gong to look like in their time? So in that process of en’owkinwiwx, there’s a built-in principle in terms of how we interact….Someone has to ask those questions. That’s their responsibility. When we include the perspective of land and we include the perspective of human relationship, one of the things that happens is that community change. People in the community change. The realization that people and community are there to sustain you creates the most secure feeling in the world.

Excerpts from An Okanagan Worldview of Society by Jeanette Armstrong from Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a sustainable Future edited by Melissa K Nelson © 2008 Bear & Company in collaboration with Bioneers