“Indigenous people are at the front lines of some of the largest environmental battles of the current era, from tar sands in Alberta to rainforests in the Amazon. Naturally, some non-Indigenous people want to help out. The well-intentioned and progressive point of view seems often to be, “we need to understand Indigenous cultures better, and help them in their struggle.”
But before we set out to help Indigenous people, maybe we should stop hurting them in the first place? “First, cease to do evil,” said the Buddha, “then learn to do good, and then purify the mind.” The order is important. Hippocrates reiterated it 100 years later with his oath: “First, do no harm.”
The first step—”ceasing to do evil”—is understanding what one is currently doing. This is our ‘Pedagogy for the Oppressor.’ Before the non-Indigenous can act in a way that values Indigenous peoples and cultures, we need to better understand how Euro-Americans became non-Indigenous, and how we seem hell-bent on making everyone else do likewise.”
Read More at Buddhist Peace Fellowship here.
“Mature Indigenous civilizations are with us and around us now. They are not ‘weird’ or ‘exotic.’ The only reason they feel that way to us is because we see so little familiar or recognizable in their way of life. And that’s not because they are aberrant; it’s because we are.
We non-Indigenous are the weird, exotic ones.
Thanks to the external muscle of fossil fuels and our ideology of possessive individualism (in bulk you might call it ‘capitalism’), we are the first civilization not enmeshed within networks of communities and relations with the land. We are the first to try to split ourselves off. This is a “stunning innovation in human affairs, the sociological equivalent of the splitting of the atom,” according to anthropologist Wade Davis. “Ours is a new and original culture that celebrates the individual at the expense of family and community.”
There has never been a non-Indigenous civilization on planet earth before.”
Read More at Buddhist Peace Fellowship here.
“Land is something inside you”
Let me add this keen and important observation by John Amagoalik, known as the “Father of Nunavut” for his role in negotiating the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (NLCA).
Tommy Akulukjuk and David Joanasie showed me an archived video of ‘John A’ (as he’s known up north) one day when we were hangin out at the Nunavut Sivuniksavut ‘college’ in Ottawa. They emphasized how important John A’s comments were, and we all wondered why no one had transcribed them before. So that afternoon we did. Here’s an excerpt, ‘John A’ on CBC TV in 1976, explaining the difference between Inuit and Qallunaat (Euro-Canadian) views of land ‘ownership’:
John Amagoalik: “I think it’s very important for people to remember the original intent of land claims. Over the past few years people seem to think that we’re after money, that we’re after services, but the original intent was, very simply, the survival of our people as a unique race in Canada; we want to save our language, our heritage, our philosophy—our whole way of life.”
Gordon Sinclair: “Would you say John, would you say that perhaps your land isn’t for sale?”
John Amagoalik: “Yes, that’s very true. You know, you cannot really sell your heritage, you know. We don’t look at land as something to be owned, something to be given away or to be sold. It’s a heritage, it’s something inside you.”
CBC Front Page Challenge; Dec 13, 1976; http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/native-issues/the-battle-for-aboriginal-treaty-rights/deciphering-eskimo-land-claims.html
[For a Qallunaat approach to land-claiming, see the PinkyShow.org zine: “How To Get Free Land in Five Easy Steps.”]
Summer 2013: The Compassionate Earth Walk and the Tar Sands Healing Walk
I hope many folks will be able to join or help out with the Compassionate Earth Walk this summer. This is a lovely endeavour initiated by Zen priest Shodo Spring. She and hopefully many others will be walking the the (mostly unbuilt) Keystone XL route through the Great Plains, from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. They’ll walk from July to September, starting just after the 4th Annual TAR SANDS HEALING WALK, JULY 5- 6TH, 2013 – in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
As Shodo writes: “The ancient practice of pilgrimage responds to present and future environmental catastrophe, focusing on its causes in our own culture. We walk as a blessing to the earth and to those we meet, and as a prayer for all earth’s children.”