More than Stories, More than Myths: Animal/Human/Nature(s) in Traditional Ecological Worldviews
The sea there, it has its own wänga, its own system and patterns of behaviour. The guya (fish), the maranydjalk (stingray), and the miyapunu (turtle), have each got their own language. That’s why male and female turtles, when they meet, they know each other, they can talk […] All the different animals, they have their own groups. Seagulls, crows, they live by themselves, they have their own rules, style of talking and living with one another, their own language. The birds and animals know where to sleep, where to put their babies, where to build their nests. The same for trees, bushes. The land knows what their language is (Bawaka Country et al. 2013, para. 11.35).
If cultural diversity is honored, recognizing a common worldview can bring solidarity and support it. The fact that common features of many Indigenous nations contrast with those among diverse ‘non-Indian’ cultures is potentially useful for everyone’s decolonizing efforts (Arrows 2016, p. 3).
2. Truth and Primitivism
[The] sacred language regularly attributed by tribal peoples to their most powerful shamans is often referred to as ‘the language of the birds.’ A keen attunement to the vocal discourse of the feathered folk has been a necessary survival skill for almost every indigenous community—especially for the active hunters within the group, and for the intermediaries (the magicians or medicine persons) who tend the porous boundary between the human and more-than-human worlds (p. 196).
In most tribal traditions, no data are discarded as unimportant or irrelevant. Indians consider their own individual experiences, the accumulated wisdom of the community that has been gathered by previous generations, their dreams, visions, and prophecies, and any information received from birds, animals and plants as data that must be arranged, evaluated, and understood as a unified body of knowledge. This mixture of data from sources that the Western scientific world regards as highly unreliable and suspect produces a consistent perspective on the natural world (pp. 66–67).
What to the Athapaskan or Cree hunter is a perfectly explainable—if not quite everyday—event becomes for the biologist (or anthropologist) an anomaly. Faced with stories of this sort, those of us wedded to a Euro-American view of human-animal relations have one of two choices: we can choose to disbelieve the account, or we can shrug it off as a bizarre coincidence. Either way, we avoid any attempt at explanation (p. 36).
Just as ethnographers carefully sifted through unavoidable details obviously only recently added through acculturative contact in an attempt to discover the pure unadulterated original native culture, so practitioners of the Finnish historic-geographic method sought to work backwards through the unfortunate changes (or, in Thompson’s terms, the mistakes and errors) in order to find the pure unadulterated original ur-form. The difficulties of searching for the ur-form, too often presumed to be hopelessly hidden by the destructive, deteriorative effects of oral transmission were considerable, but not always insurmountable (in Dundes and Bronner 2007, p. 169).
Myth is felt by history to be untrue because it articulates a reality that exists outside […] more provable worlds […it] implies a shift from the authority of plants and animals, each the spirit-children of supernatural progenitors, to the authority of man (p. 34).
3. Colonization and the Rise of ‘Western Culture’
The establishment requires documented ‘proof’ that corroborates its prejudices and upholds the dominant Euro-American ruling-class perspective. Academics discredit Aboriginals’ historical perspectives as ‘myth’ or ‘advocacy,’ and thus denigrate the works of Indian and Metis historians. White historians are obviously unaware of their rampant biases and subjectivity […] Eurocentric interpretations create a false consciousness among the colonists and the colonized. Eurocentrism does not allow for alternatives and thereby deceives Aboriginal peoples into believing that their history can be acquired only through the colonizer’s institutions. Rather than critically attacking their oppressor’s dogma, indigenous elites have accepted historical distortions to an alarming extent. Many Aboriginal academics are intellectual captives and have become part of the colonizer’s regime […writing] Indian and Metis history from a strictly Eurocentric and racist interpretation (pp. 31–33).
a misguided mélange of diverse elements involving: a specious, quantitative view of ‘progress,’ a related materialist calculus of happiness, a misplaced, suicidal stress on asocial individuation as a societal ideal, a stark reduction of human roles solely to their part in the accumulation process (producer, consumer, etc.), a reductionist scientism that is also privileged as a theology that must be obeyed, a philosophical flaunt of elevating the human as ‘above’ nature, with the latter seen as no more than a manipulable, disposable tool, and a ruthless proclivity to use force, ironically, to ‘free’ us all of any vestiges of any ‘culture’ than disdains its vulgar visions (p. 268).
We’ve been living through this very, very terrible period of conquest [...] there’s a possibility now of gathering consciousness among many hundreds of millions of people about how this is not only necessary but is a very good thing, a positive thing [...] I think that when we talk about re-indigenization, we need a much larger, bigger umbrella to understand it. It is not necessarily about the Indigenous Peoples of a specific place; it’s about re-indigenizing the peoples of the planet [...] We have to reach ordinary, everyday people. Ordinary, everyday people have to have their sense of moral injustice ignited. It has to be raised a bit. They have to come to understand that they are called upon to care about what happens to the peoples and living things of this world. That’s a huge job, but that’s the called-upon spiritual call of the re-indigenization of the world (in Cajete et al. 2008, pp. 254–60).
4. Steps to Decolonization
[From] the late middle ages until now, people have thought of the best in the culture of Greece and Rome as a civilisational inheritance, passed on like a precious golden nugget, dug out of the earth by the Greeks, transferred, when the Roman empire conquered them, to Rome. Partitioned between the Flemish and Florentine courts and the Venetian Republic in the Renaissance, its fragments passed through cities such as Avignon, Paris, Amsterdam, Weimar, Edinburgh and London, and were finally reunited—pieced together like the broken shards of a Grecian urn—in the academies of Europe and the United States […] How have we managed to tell ourselves that we are rightful inheritors of Plato, Aquinas, and Kant, when the stuff of our existence is more Beyoncé and Burger King?
It is the delusion that the self is so separate and fragile that we must delineate and defend its boundaries; that it is so small and so needy that we must endlessly acquire and consume; and that as individuals, corporations, nation-states, or a species, we can be immune to what we do to other beings (pp. 149–50).
For the largest part of our species’ existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with each textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus upon. All could speak, articulating in gesture and whistle and sigh a shifting web of meanings […] And from all these relationships our collective sensibilities were nourished (p. ix).
possible to live straight on to our reality instead of hiding out from it in ten thousand different ways. To do so, first we have to see through the way our sense of the world has been framed by stories that form the bedrock of our civilization, stories that pose nature as a dubious force to be mastered and utilized, or put more bluntly, raped and pillaged for profit (p. 121).
[If] people of traditional and local cultures and societies have solved these problems, or even done a little better than modern humanity has done, we can learn from those other cultures. Indeed many other societies have managed the world a great deal less destructively […supporting] large populations over long time periods without destroying their environments (p. 15).
5. Being ‘Told’ on Your Mind
The land is a sacred entity, not property or real estate; it is the great mother of all humanity. The Dreaming is a combination of meaning (about life and all reality), and an action guide to living. The two most important kinds of relationship in life are, firstly, those between land and people and, secondly, those amongst people themselves, the second being always contingent upon the first […] all meaning comes from land (ibid, p. 106).
I more recently asked an eastern Torres Strait Islander, a man with a local reputation for philosophical insight, to give me the most inclusive term in the Miriam language for ‘life’ or ‘living things.’ He responded without hesitation, idid lu. But when I asked him for a term for non-living things, he was stumped. He remarked, ‘we have a word for things which have died […] but in our way of thinking, everything, animals, winds, stars are idid lu.’ So living things pass through some process of disintegration, but this passage is not a transition to inanimacy (p. 61).
Reflecting on how this worldview works, Graham points to collective responsibility for land and others, a communal sense of identity, and a deep appreciation of what it means to be human:To behave as if you are a discrete entity or a conscious isolate is to limit yourself to being an observer in an observed world [… the sacred] resides in the relationship between the human spirit and the natural life force. When there is a breach between the two, or rather, when the link between the two is weakened, then a human being becomes a totally individuated self […] loneliness and alienation envelops the individual […] the discrete individual then has to arm itself not just literally against other discrete individuals, but against its environment […] (ibid, pp. 105–10).
Aboriginal Law is natural law, in that if it was legislated at all, this was done not by humans, but by the spiritual ancestors of the Dreaming, so that Aboriginal Law is incapable of being added to, amended or repealed by any human agency […] this Law was/is always an attempt to understand what it is that makes us human […] Aboriginal Law could be said to be both an action guide to living and a guide to understanding reality itself, especially in relation to land as the basis for all meaning (ibid, pp. 115–16).
For Warlpiri, kuruwarri [law] is the highest reference for direction about how to live in the world. It is a strict but adaptable code that can be conceived of at multiple levels of abstraction. In its most expansive sense, kuruwarri is the period widely known as ‘the dreaming’ [...] During the dreaming, ancestral beings traveled over the landscape and, through actions such as singing, hunting, copulating, and performing ceremonies, created all the features of the physical and social world. The dreaming ancestors are simultaneously both human beings and either nonhuman species or phenomena such as weather events. The dreaming period continues in the present day in that ancestral beings are manifest throughout Warlpiri country as landforms, elements, and organisms and can interact with Warlpiri through their cultural practices. The law is based in the narratives describing the dreaming ancestors’ journeys […]
“See that tree. It is shedding its bark. No, we didn’t tell it to do that. That is just its purpose, the kuruwarri [law] for that thing [...] If a plant is edible that is its kuruwarri. But it might also be there to teach yapa [aboriginal people] something. Like the seasons; they tell you what to do…” (ibid).
The spiritual side of the natural world is absolute. Our instructions—and I’m talking about for all human beings—our instructions are to get along. Understand what these laws are. Get along with laws, and support them and work with them. We were told a long time ago that if you do that, life is endless. It just continues on and on in great cycles of regeneration (Lyons Jr. 2013, p. 9).
The idea here is to pay attention so as to be always open to the ‘tell’; to make time for whatever or whoever is delivering the message. The trouble is how to explain what is called ‘language’, and yet, is something more. Abram (2010), in trying to articulate his own more encompassing view, writes that:[There is a] shared tendency in the pragmatic tradition and the indigenous philosophical traditions of North America to have a conception of truth that is both universally applicable but also eminently revisable; for any account of truth qua function can be communicated as the best thing to believe, the best way to accomplish a task, that we know so far. But openness to the possibility that experience may show us superior ways to accomplish a task indicates that this conception of truth is always understood to be flexible and at the mercy of what is shown in experience (p. 558).
When we speak of ‘language’, we speak of an ability to communicate, a power to convey information across a thickness of space and time, a means whereby beings at some distance from one another nonetheless manage to apprise each other of their current feelings or thoughts. As humans, we rely upon a complex web of mostly discrete, spoken sounds to accomplish our communication, and so it’s natural that we associate language with such verbal intercourse. Unfortunately, this association has led many to assume that language is an exclusive attribute of our species… It is an exceedingly self-serving assumption (pp. 166–67).
on your mind. Earth got to tell you all thing. Might be say: ‘Ah, you leave me. What for you go away? You go over there you get hurt.’ You got to go only what this earth tell you to. Where you going to go, you going to go right way. That’s the way you got to follow this earth. Tell you everything right way […] That’s nobody been tell you and me to do that? This earth tell you! In your memory. Well that’s the way. You and me can’t miss. Do it properly, looking after ourselves. Do the right thing. This earth understand EVERYthing. Think on your memory now! You got that word from this earth (in Rose 2013, p. 105).
6. Learning to be Human (again)
So here are people without electron microscopes who choose, among some 80,000 Amazonian plant species, the leaves of a bush containing a hallucinogenic brain hormone, which they combine with a vine containing substances that inactivate an enzyme of the digestive tract, which would otherwise block the hallucinogenic effect […] and when one asks them how they know these things, they say their knowledge comes directly from the hallucinogenic plants (Narby 1999, p. 11).
An indigenous comportment… must perpetually attend to the fact that the manner in which what is shows itself will be multifarious and unpredictable. Any attempt to fully conceptualize how things will appear to us prior to our experience of them will place undue limits on the presencing of things (Arola 2011, p. 557).
Wolff recounts a story from time spent in Sumatra (in an aptly titled chapter called Learning to Be Human Again) about a walk he takes with a man called Ahmeed, when they came upon a snake in some bamboo (ibid, pp. 144–70). Ahmeed stops and motions, be silent—no talking, stay still, quiet. A large snake crawling along the ground crosses their path, maybe fourteen or more feet in length, uncommon in size and on the ground instead of a tree. Wolff, curious as to how Ahmeed knew the snake was there, questions him at length. All he would respond with, given the absolute lack of any signal from the snake prior to the encounter, was that he knew. He had neither seen, nor heard it, but he knew. The remainder of the chapter details how Wolff himself comes to learn how to pay attention, to find water, to hear the tell of a tiger (in Malay ‘rimau) and to recognize himself as a human in-relation to the knowledge and voices of the larger ecological unit in which he comes to recognize his connection to the whole. Once Ahmeed realizes the transformation that has taken place, he asks Wolff:For many years my work took me to many parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. I recorded and collected what I could of methods of healing and herbal medicines… It seemed that all such knowledge was being erased by our intolerance of other-ness. I was deeply saddened by what I believed was an irreparable loss. In our rush to create man-made chemicals, we rejected age-old knowledge of the riches of the earth that are freely available all around us. We invented machines, but ignored talents and abilities we must have in our very genes (p. 5).
“Do you turn off the seeing?” Yes, I told him, I had to […] “Good,” he said […] “You are alone […] It will be difficult for you to see because you do not have the village around you.” He used the word kampong, suggesting not only a settlement, but especially the extended social relationships of a village, or a Sng’oi settlement (ibid, pp. 166–67).
[The] present planetary state that we wish to heal has been achieved by denying connection. Western society’s false sense of separation has led to ethical distancing and legitimized an existence of psychological dissociation, normal […] Now when learning of Harp seal mothers who have no ice on which to give birth and garbage islands the size of states floating in the Pacific Ocean, we understand that their plight is intimately connected to the hand that tosses away the plastic bag (p. 134).
Can the timing of this recognition be mere coincidence, or is the synchronicity and indication that there are entities in the world, like forests, that are fully capable of inserting themselves into our processes of thought? And if that were so, could it not be also said that the earth has itself intervened to revise those habits of thought that are based on the Cartesian dualism that arrogates all intelligence and agency to the human while denying them to every other kind of being? (ibid, para. 14.8).
As the fresh water comes off and out of the land and sky, it meets the salt water of the sea. There is a mixing, a meeting and mingling, that brings difference together without erasing it. Gänma thus means new life and new ideas. It evokes knowledges coming together. There is power and knowledge with two waters mixing…gänma has to be actually be two ways. Western knowledges too need to learn… people are not separated from nature. The earth is not separated from the sky. Songs and stories are not separated from people and objects. All these things exist as part of one another and come into being together… [as Lalak Burarrwanga explains] …you have to start from the place—whoever, whatever clan you are you start from your own land. And then you sing what’s there in the land (Lloyd et al. 2016, n.p.).
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A number of historical accounts of traditional, indigenous, and non-European collectives have hinged on the idea of that these peoples are ‘living fossils’, or examples of how western ‘civilized’ people were in prehistory. Tropes such as the ‘noble savage’, the romanticized or exotic ‘other’, the idea of a primitive society entirely ‘cut off’ from the modern world, were the products of imperialistic 20th century anthropology. These notions were rightly rejected in the 1970s and 1980s, however, this rejection also halted any substantive cross-cultural indigenous comparison (used by indigenous scholars, but rejected by social scientists as ‘pan-indigenous’), and the related interest in identifying any somewhat unified set of precepts across worldviews which was based in a concept of common humanity. Scholarly focus subsequently became very specialized, concentrating upon indigenous livelihoods within western-dominant contexts, and post-colonial social and political movements. Whilst these foci are critically important for undoing colonial damages and establishing recognition of indigenous sovereignty and rights, any equivalencies between traditional life-ways and pre-westernized human wisdom are still only tentatively made by western scholars (see Abram 2010, p. 267). In the rush for scholars to revere ‘differences’, indigenous voices and opinions on these very issues have been muted.
Many scholars cited in this paper (including myself as author) use ‘us’, ‘our’, and ‘we’ to express a sense of collective human kinship, parallel perhaps with the planetarity of post-colonial scholar Gayatri Spivak (2003, pp. 71–102). This terminology also signals that the critical shift from an ‘I-hermeneutic’ to a ‘We-hermeneutic’—over and above the separatist identity and diversity claims that are expressed in ‘I’ language—is a necessary and core expression of indigenous sovereignty and a key foundation for expressing the cohesiveness of community, as forwarded by Jace Weaver (1998, pp. 1–25). Where there is a specially situated use of these terms ‘us’, ‘our’, or ‘we’, the appropriate context has been included.
This is critical for creating the conditions whereby non-indigenous people can move beyond the ‘charity model’ of allyship and engage a personal, conscious, educated, and emplaced sense of responsibility for socio-ecological partnership, thus, creating an effective, decolonized perspective for collective global change. This does not mean that the non-indigenous are to ‘become indigenous’ in political terms (which is a simplistic reading of the call for change), nor that the idea of ‘we are all indigenous’ be substituted for strong on-going support for, and responsibility towards, securing post-colonial indigenous rights. This shift requires the interrogation of unconscious, westernized dependencies so that all colonized people might become more consciously human, as defined through comprehension and participation in ways of being that are directed by fundamentally different values. Some of the more recent proponents of this view include John Mohawk, Gregory Cajete, Four Arrows, Robin Kimmerer, Jeannette Armstrong, Winona LaDuke, Jon Young, George Price, Bayo Akomolafe, Lisa Minno Bloom, Berkley Carnine, Rajani Kanth, Syed Hussan, Zainab Amadahy, George Sefa Dei, Dylan Miner, Chris and Jaki Daniels, Darcia Narvaez, Walter Mignolo, Paul Shepard, Derrick Jensen, Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, Paul Hawken, Daniel Christian Wahl, David Abram, and the collective Bioneers as represented as their yearly conferences, among many others. Part of the redefinition of the term indigenous, in this view, is to dislocate it from ethnic and racial afflictions by returning to its root definition of ‘people springing from/in the land as mother’, and to establish it as a foundational paradigm for living according to particular values. Peace scholar Rick Wallace (2013) has called this conception of trust-based allyship ”a mutual reworking of colonial relations of power“ (p. 172). Based on fieldwork and case-studies, Wallace identifies constructive non-indigenous ally practices as follows: material and strategic support for indigenous communities, respect for indigenous leadership and processes of decision making, and establishing trust as dependent upon shared sincerity, commitment, values and beliefs, truth-speaking, and respect for the mutual obligations of honoring the land and each other as key for rebuilding right relations (ibid, pp. 176–77).
Note that in referring to ‘Christianity’ I am not intending to present it as a monolith. There are a number of Christianities which have diverged significantly from the central structures and dogma throughout the centuries, and in various cultural contexts. What I refer to here is a core set of precepts that are generally considered as central to Christianity and have been reproduced, with relative faithfulness, in historical and modern conservative interpretations and churches. It is this specific form of Christianity that has been informative in orienting the dominant scientific leanings of secular modern westernized societies in ways that affect the biases discussed herein (see Berger 1967; Berger and Luckmann 1967; Gillespie 2008; Lindberg 1983, 1992; Panikkar and Eastham 1993).
The legal personhood of places and animals has very recently been revived following notable cases in India, the US, and New Zealand (see Coehlo 2013; Grimm 2013; Hutchison 2014; Kennedy 2012).
This position regarding the efficacy of indigenous ways of being as remedy and restoration for the pathologies of westernized cultural dominance has been suppressed, and obscured, by mechanisms that are both scholarly and social (Mander 1991). There are discussions and corrections regarding these issue in a number of recent publications by indigenous scholars, as well as clearly outlined differences between cultural appropriation and the call for westernized peoples to be led by those who possess the traditional wisdom which repairs ‘culture’ and a sense of connection with nature, i.e., to follow an indigenous ‘lead’ (Arrows 2016; Cajete 2015; Cordova 2007; Kimmerer 2013).
It is difficult to say to what degree this occurred prior to Christianity, and whether there were similar practices in ancient pan-Indian, Egyptian, or other advanced cultural complexes, precisely because it is normative to call these very ancient histories, myth. I can, however, note parallels with Egyptian regimes and shifting kingships, and find evidence (following the German Egyptologist Jan Assmann (1998, 2005)) for early monotheism and religious conquest.
There are many other examples that could be given here, extending right up to the present day. For example, in greater Europe many millions perished in the papal efforts to retain political and spiritual supremacy during the Middle Ages. This was followed by the workings of the Inquisition, progressive industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of modern scientific medicine (which eradicated all practices that were deemed to be superstitious, such as those practices labeled ‘witchcraft’). As was observed over a hundred years ago: “The noon of the papacy was the midnight of the world” (Wylie 1874, p. 18).
The Bioneers is a global organisation that is committed to increasing socio-ecological literacy through combining scientific and indigenous knowledge. Speakers at their yearly conference are recorded and the proceedings are publically available on YouTube.
Jeff Corntassel writes about this issue, quoting the words of Mohawk representatives Kanen’tokon Hemlock, Tyler Hemlock and Kahnawiio Dione: “we’re doing our best in a lot of areas, but as a community we really have to ask ourselves that question of what are we doing? When we look at our community and seeing so much land being clear-cut; so many of the swamp and marshlands being land-filled; so many dump-sites. There’s all these things within our own little community and we’re supposed to be the Indigenous examples of living healthy and sustainably with the environment” (Corntassel 2012, p. 87). Corntassel goes on to add: “Being Indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational, place-based existence by challenging the ongoing, destructive forces of colonization. Whether through ceremony or through other ways that Indigenous peoples (re)connect to the natural world, processes of resurgence are often contentious and reflect the spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political scope of the struggle” (ibid, p. 88).
To be very clear on this point, there are very obvious examples of the continuance of colonialism across the ‘post-colonial’ world that have been perpetuated by successive governments, institutions, and communities in ways which show absolutely no respect for indigenous peoples, nor aid their recovery from colonial violences. I am in no way adopting an apologist position here, rather, I am emphasizing that the unacceptable behaviors of those who continue the colonial project in contemporary times have a history that needs to be considered in terms that go beyond settler-colonial discourses.
Graham’s description of Aboriginal understandings of human motivations echo E.O. Wilson’s almost exactly. She writes: “The Aboriginal understanding posits that the tendency to possess is more deeply embedded in the human psyche than is the tendency to share […] possessiveness precedes altruism and it therefore takes a higher order of abilities to maintain ‘sharing’ behavior than it takes to demonstrate possessive behavior […] When the Aboriginal child learns to share, he or she is given food and then invited to give it back; social obligations are pointed out and possessiveness gently discouraged” (Graham 1999, p. 112).
The English word Dreaming, or Dreamtime, is rejected by some Aboriginal communities as it presumes reference to a past and another place, rather than a Creation Time that is ongoing and happening now, with people, place and the ancestors converging in a co-creative non-linear present.
Authors such as the brilliant polymath, Lyall Watson, biologist Rupert Sheldrake, Stanley Krippner and others, have been detailing what might be thought of as extraordinary animal behaviors for some years now, whilst human equivalents are generally subsumed under the headings of ‘culture’ (non-Western), ‘religion’ (specifically non-Christian) or ‘parapsychology’ (not legitimate). (See Sheldrake 1991, 2011; Watson 1973, 1986, 1987; Webb 2013).
None of these scholars are advocating for a ‘seeker’ culture in which westernized peoples descend upon indigenous communities for guidance (or appropriate ceremony etc.), and nor are they proposing that there is something ‘more intuitive’ about indigenous peoples in general. Many of the traditional ways of being discussed in this paper are endangered and have been for some time, in other instances they have been almost entirely eradicated from a people or region, as have the languages that help sustain them. It is not the responsibility of indigenous elders, scholars, or communities to ‘save’ the westernized peoples of the world; rather, pedagogical responsibility for un-learning has been occurring through networks of transmission which venerate these life ways without reduction, or through appropriations which have not been gifted. It is the responsibility of each individual within one’s own community to help one another ‘get right’ with the world, and to understand/teach how to have ‘right relations’. Gifting is nonetheless a part of what the Haudenosaunee, and others, see as part of the remedy for decolonizing the westernized. For instance, David Mowaljarlai, senior Lawman of the Ngarinyin peoples of the west Kimberley, has said: “We are really sorry for you people. We cry for you because you haven’t got meaning of culture in this country. We have a gift we want to give you. We keep getting blocked from giving you that gift […] And it’s the gift of pattern thinking. It’s the culture which is the blood of this country, of Aboriginal groups, of the ecology, of the land itself […] What we see is, all the white people that were born in this country and they are missing the things that came from us mob, and we want to try and share it. And the people were born in this country, in the law country, from all these sacred places in the earth. And they were born on top of that. And that, we call wungud—very precious. That is where their spirit come from. That’s why we can’t divide one another, we want to share our gift, that everybody is belonging, we want to share together in the future for other generations to live on. You know? That’s why it’s very important” (ABC Radio 1995).
There are a number of initiatives in this area (called nature-connection modeling) which have emerged in the last fifteen years. In addition to the long-term work of Joanna Macy (Macy 2007, 2013; Macy and Brown 1998; Macy and Johnstone 2012) it is instructive to look at the work of Jon Young (Young 2016; Young and Gardoqui 2012) as supported through his work with Native American and San communities in Botswana, and by Richard Louv (2005, 2011) and Darcia Narváez (2014, 2016a, 2016b).
This perspective is sustained by philosophy of consciousness researchers who pursue non-local ideas of consciousness, as supported by quantum physicists such as Amit Goswami (Goswami 2000, 2008, 2011; Goswami et al. 1993), David Bohm (Bohm 1994, 2002; Bohm and Edwards 1991; Bohm and Hiley 1993; Bohm and Peat 2000), F. David Peat (Briggs and Peat 1984, 1999; Buckley and Peat 1996; Peat 1994, 2000), and others. Unlike the old scientific view of consciousness as localized to individual minds, this view is consistent with the inherent principle of non-locality within indigenous and traditional cosmologies in numerous communities, throughout the world.
Whakapapa is a Māori term that is used to refer to kinship ties, as both a noun (my whakapapa, or family tree) and a verb or process (as in, I whakapapa to that river). In Aotearoa New Zealand (unlike many other countries) indigenous words and concepts are used cross-culturally, with respect, as recognition of indigenous sovereign status despite on-going Crown ownership, and as recognition of tangata whenua, which refers to Māori ancestral and contemporary traditional guardianship of the land. Furthermore, the use of Te Reo Māori is a national language, and is encouraged and taught in schools. The adoption of appropriate words, such as the use of Māori greetings, is not considered to be cultural appropriation.
This is paraphrased from a song lyric from Saltwater (1991) by Julian Lennon: “We light the deepest ocean, Send photographs of Mars, We’re so enchanted by how clever we are…” (Lennon 1991).
As many indigenous elders, scholars, activists, and communities have strongly advocated for indigenous leadership, especially regarding ecological issues, and will readily draw parallels between their own traditions and other indigenous traditions around the world, I offer this paper with due respect and support for this initiative.
“Yolŋu mathematics, like Western mathematics, is the science of patterns, groups, relationships, rhythms and space […] it has to be linked to place” (Lloyd et al. 2016, n.p.).
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Sepie, A.J. More than Stories, More than Myths: Animal/Human/Nature(s) in Traditional Ecological Worldviews. Humanities 2017, 6, 78. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040078
Sepie AJ. More than Stories, More than Myths: Animal/Human/Nature(s) in Traditional Ecological Worldviews. Humanities. 2017; 6(4):78. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040078Chicago/Turabian Style
Sepie, Amba J. 2017. "More than Stories, More than Myths: Animal/Human/Nature(s) in Traditional Ecological Worldviews" Humanities 6, no. 4: 78. https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040078