Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Love & Appreciation for Indigenous Peoples (Circle Culture)


Supporting Indigenous Resurgence and Nationhood  

Miigwech / Thank you to all Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, Mahalo dear native Hawaiian people, for your beautiful, inspiring examples of living in harmony with the earth and all life.  I honour and appreciate you – your wisdom, intelligence, courage, resilience, passion, creativity and integrity!  I’m so sorry for your suffering and the loss (theft) of your land.  I stand with you as a friend and ally, and as a being who is tuned to Mother Earth, seeking to live in balance and harmony.

Thank you for embodying your Indigenous World View and deep circle culture wisdom - you are natural leaders in earth stewardship, environmental awareness, climate action, and long-term sustainable land-based living in community.  Thank you for demonstrating a profound way of being on Mother Earth, in harmonious relationship with all of life.  

Circle culture values have always felt natural and deeply resonant to me.  I feel they're based on:  heart, breath/spirit, the collective, a love of Mother Earth, understanding the interconnectedness of all life, seeing all beings as equal in the circle, and an intention to live in harmony & balance.   

By contrast, the 'modern culture’ is a pyramid culture, largely based on:  mental/ego focus, the individual, hierarchy, compartmentalized thinking, competition, greed, profit-seeking, materialism/consumerism, and control, domination/exploitation of the earth and peoples, with a view that technology can 'save us’ downstream after creating great imbalance.  This modern pyramid culture does not seem to behave in very accountable or balanced ways.   

As global citizens we must be willing to question and challenge this modern way of life, the unconscious ‘comfort’, and critically see the values and practices this life is based upon.  We must be willing to challenge the ongoing destruction of lands, waters, animals, and Indigenous peoples & culture, from unsustainable energy projects like Athabasca tar sands, oil and gas pipelines, logging and fishing 'industries', or other so-called 'development' projects.  We must be willing to take responsibility, to humbly listen and learn, and to stand up and use our voices!  We must also be willing to be ‘uncomfortable’, to question our work and the 'economy', to personally choose lighter footprint ways of living, to shift our values, and to create new, healthier relationships and realities for ourselves and future generations! 

By definition, Indigenous peoples are the original inhabitants of the land, and they had complex societies and systems of government.  On the land called Canada on Turtle Island for example, Indigenous nations never gave consent to ownership of territory by the Europeans, or the establishment of European sovereignty over them.  As 'settlers' to these lands, we must be willing to acknowledge this truth and begin to create 'right relations' with first peoples as autonomous, free nations.

In my heart I hold a vision that Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and around the world, will once more:
  • be strongly rooted on their lands, territories (and practically speaking, have much more land.  In Canada, Indigenous peoples have only about 0.2% of the land!), 
  • foster their deep relationship to the land, to their language and cultural traditions and medicines,
  • be free nations; be self-determining / self-governing,
  • have a nation to nation relationship with other peoples or states (eg., with Canada).  
I know this view may seem ‘disruptive’ to the status quo, but the status quo is based on colonialism, stolen land, white supremacy, genocide, dispossession/dislocation, and land rights extinguishment, continuing to the present day.  This reality must change in order to create ‘right relations’ based on mutual respect, integrity and trust. The Canadian economy is built on the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and the Earth, in non-renewable, extraction industries, and without free, prior and informed consent.  And the policies and processes today still focus on Indigenous peoples extinguishment and assimilation, albeit more ‘white-washed’ in a modern framework of ‘recognition and reconciliation’.  Essentially all policies and treaty negotiations simply seek to ensure Canada’s continued unrestricted access to lands for resource extraction or other use.

Simply put, we must be willing to expand our own awareness, to ‘decolonize’ our minds and way of life, and to change and ‘make right’ our relations, in order to live out the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  And restore the vision of the Two Row Wampum which represents free and equal, respectful, 'arm to arm' relations forever, 'as long as the grass is green, as long as the water flows, and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.'  The Two Row Wampum belt is a record of the first agreement (1613) between Europeans and Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island.  This living record reflects two purple parallel rows:  one purple row of beads represents a sailboat, and in this sailboat are the Europeans, their leaders, their government, and their religion. The other purple row of beads represents a canoe, and in the canoe are the native peoples, their leaders, their governments, and their way of life. The Two Row Wampum belt reflects an agreement to travel down the road of life, in peace and harmony with each other and with the whole circle of life, and not pass any laws governing the other.  Obviously, the 'settlers' did not respect this agreement, in the past and through to present day.  Thus as 'settlers', immigrants to these lands, we must be willing to restore this Two Row Wampum vision.

I am excited by the Indigenous Resurgence movement!  This movement can shift us towards what was originally envisioned by Turtle Island forefathers and mothers: a nation to nation relationship between free and equal sovereign peoples, based on mutual respect and sharing.  Principles of the Indigenous Resurgence movement (thank you Dr. Taiaiake Alfred) include:
  1. Reclaim - Reclaim Indigenous languages, traditions, cultural practices, sacred spaces, and the connection the ancestors had with the land.
  2. Rename - Since colonialism resulted in the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the landscape physically, as well as in the stories that are told/taught, renaming revives Indigenous reality and the ‘true story’ of these lands.
  3. Re-Occupy – Occupy and defend lands; Refusal to move in the face of industry/ government pressures, as demonstrated in the past (eg., Oka) and today (eg., the Secwepemc Nation Tiny House Warriors standing to protect their unceded lands). 
I am inspired by local Indigenous leaders/teachers/activists such as Arthur Manuel, Katsi'tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, Taiaiake Alfred, Nokomis Josephine Mandamin (Mother Earth Water Walker), Elder Jacqui Lavalley, Khelsilem Rivers, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Idle No More, Defenders of the Land, Indigenous Climate Action, Raven Trust, and more.  In Hawai’i I am also deeply inspired by many leaders and teachers, including Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim, and Dr. Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele – miigwech, mahalo nui loa to all for sharing your wisdom and inspiration! 

I’m also inspired by the movement of Indigenous peoples coming together globally, to build relationships, share, learn, and rise together!

What I have also found so inspiring in Hawai’i is:
  • the rising of Hawaiian cultural values and spoken language (eg., Hawaiian language immersion schools); 
  •  the election of Aloha ʻĀina (Love of the land) local candidates, that empower earth stewardship (Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina), restore freshwaters, etc; 
  • bridging of peoples together in the creation of sustainable land-based communities.  For example, a ‘rainbow tribe’ of younger people created an off-grid community in a more remote area on island, and they have a friendly connection with and learn from the local Hawaiian community;
  • organic farming, and island self-sufficiency initiatives that reclaim native Hawaiian knowledge and practices (eg., Mālama Ahupua`a – system of land division; Lo’i Kalo – wetland taro farming, etc);
  • use of traditional cultural tools to revive and restore ‘ohana / community, i.e., Ho’oponopono conflict resolution to make ‘pono’/right relations; mele and hula: chants, songs and story-telling dance; ocean voyaging using traditional canoes and way-finding like in Hōkūle‘a's inspiring world-wide voyage);
  • overall, living the spirit of Aloha (Aloha Spirit Law), ‘Ohana (extended family), Kuleana (responsibility), and other deep cultural values.  
The Hawaii motto reflects right relationship with the land and all life: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono”, meaning ‘The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness’ (and many add ‘in the sovereignty of the people’).  

I encourage you to humbly learn more locally, about Indigenous/native peoples in your community.  Begin to bridge into circle culture way of thinking and being, and expand your awareness of the true story on the lands you live and enjoy.  Be willing to return stolen lands.  Be willing to create change to foster true freedom and ‘right relations’ with all peoples and the Earth.  We will all benefit and grow stronger in this journey towards greater empowerment and freedom!

Below are some workshops and books that I found illuminating, relating to Indigenous peoples in Canada (i.e., the Cree, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Kanien'keha, Wendat, Dene, Secwepemc, and many other First Nations):
  • Indigenous Cultural Competency Training Workshop (with Michael Etherington) at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto www.ncct.on.ca 
  • Ka’nikonhriyohtshera: Fostering Emergence of the Good Mind Workshop with Diane Hill (Katsitsawaks) at Dodem Kanonhsa’
  • Books/Other learning (sampling): 
  • Arthur Manuel, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call
  • Charlie Angus, Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada's Lost Promise and One Girl's Dream
  • Glen Coulthard, Red Skin White Masks - Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition
  • Taiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness
  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back - Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)  
Miigwech, Thank you to all these leaders, teachers, writers (and many others) for your wisdom, insights and courage!   

I continue to humbly listen and learn.  I feel honoured to be a ‘bridge’ in this life, supporting greater awareness, harmony and balance, inside and out.  I feel part of a ‘rainbow tribe’ coming together to support living in greater harmony on the Earth.

Miigwech!  Mahalo nui loa!  
I stand with you, and support your thriving! 

In unity,
Irena


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Be an Earth Steward – Live Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina


Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina -
To love the land; To take care of (steward) the land.
It is time to simplify our lives, and to love and take care of our mother earth by choosing lighter footprint options every day.  Let every day be “Earth Day”! : )

I deeply love our mother earth and am inspired to “kiss the earth with every step”…
Please join me friends to feel this reverence for our mother, and commit to choosing lighter footprint living options every day.  We can make a difference and inspire others to do so as well!


I love the wise Hawaiian cultural values of Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina, which reflect a deep love and stewardship of the land.  I feel deeply connected and grateful to our mother earth, as she shares her sustaining abundance and great beauty with all beings, every day.  I continue to be amazed by the inspiring tapestry of natural plant and animal life, and the life-sustaining soils and waters.  I want to devote my life to living and encouraging a deeper love and stewardship of the earth.  We can return to this place of respect, reverence and gentleness with the earth, and each other. 

Our ‘modern’ industrial/post-industrial culture has wreaked havoc on the natural world and reflects what I feel is imbalanced thinking and values:  ego/mental focus, money/status seeking, hierarchy ('pyramid culture'), materialism, competition, greed, and a 'disposable', fantasy-oriented culture.  I feel this modern dis-ease is not aligned with living in loving harmony with the earth, each other, and all of life.

We can, with awareness and intention, make lighter footprint choices every day and practice loving and respecting our beautiful mother earth.  I feel the wave of earth-honouring energy rising, and I am happy to be on this wave! : )  Please join me...

Be an earth steward – Being an earth steward means increasing our awareness of daily choices and their impacts on the earth, ourselves and other beings.  It invites us to live more simply and to choose lighter footprint ways of living and creating together.

I invite you to make 5 commitments to live more lightly on earth and begin to do so, for the next 30 days, and then simply continue in the year ahead.  With practice we can begin to embody a new lighter way of being and living, and dissipate former ‘addictive consumer’ patterns.  It is really that simple – and it begins with our individual choices every day!

I wrote about simple 30 day intentions a few years ago http://irenabliss.blogspot.ca/2011/08/i-love-momma-earth-30d-challenge-little.html   and have continued to sustain and expand my personal ‘earth-friendly’ intentions, as follows: 

1.   NO plastic bottle and paper cup use (for about 10 years now : ).  I often find it heart-breaking to see all the people every day unconsciously cradling their Starbucks, McDonalds & Tim Hortons coffee cups, or plastic drink/water bottles, eg., Coca-Cola pop or water plastic bottles.  This is a huge waste stream that is being created on earth and in the ocean, out of ‘convenience’ and unconsciousness.  The wide-spread use of plastic drinking water bottles has further normalized water being commodified in an unsustainable (plastic) container, and has shifted the focus away from ensuring our own local water supply is alive, healthy and thriving!   We can change this!
An easy solution for me was to simply invest in a stainless steel double-jacketed drinking bottle to use for water or hot liquids (eg., teas) as I move about my day – and all stores/cafes will accept/fill them.  I’ve had my current reusable container for the past 8 years or so.  As a former chemical and environmental engineer, I know that even if some proportion of the plastic bottles or paper cups are recycled, it is essentially a big ‘waste stream’ requiring high energy inputs to manage and reclaim the material and with very few potential reuse options.  This is a high negative impact ‘unsustainable bad habit’ that humans can easily shift!  Please join me in committing to no more paper cups and no plastic bottle use!

Note: An estimated 60 billion paper cups in the US end up in landfills every year because they can't be recycled easily. This includes cups sold by all major coffee chains, eg., Starbucks.   A coffee cup is an environmental problem since most are made from cardboard with a thin layer of plastic tightly attached to the cup. This keeps the drink warm and prevents the cardboard from becoming soggy.  But it also makes the cup non-recyclable.  It is estimated to take about 20 years for such a cup to decompose, and it greatly increases the waste going to landfill.  Ultimately even if this cup could be made recyclable it requires a lot of energy to manage and reclaim this material with few potential reuse options.  Please join me to eliminate all paper cup and plastic bottle use!

2.   Commit to eating a diet that is 90%-100% organic.  This is my personal choice to invest in more earth-friendly and sustainable, regenerative agricultural practices.  Food that is certified organic cannot intentionally include GMOs, and organic food production practices are much friendlier/healthier for people, animals, and the environment (i.e., they don’t use hazardous chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc).  Eating food that is as close to the source as possible inspires me and simply feels and tastes good! : )  I choose organic food from local stores, or directly from local farmer’s markets when they’re available.  Choosing to buy organic and local as much as possible, has simplified my food choices, my overall diet, and aligns with a ‘slow food’ model of living (Slow Food grassroots organization:  http://www.slowfood.com/ ).

3.   Eliminate plastic bag use, minimize all packaging, and strive for “zero waste/recycle”.  I have committed to this practice for several years and find it an inspiring challenge to see how close I can be to ‘zero waste’ in my life!  : )  I am also happy to say that I haven’t used a new plastic bag for about 8 years! : )  Overall, my simple daily choices include: 
  • use of reusable cloth bags (that I’ve had for several years) for veggies and fruit and other shopping if needed.  I also don’t buy any ziploc bags or plastic wrap, etc.  I decline all plastic bags offered by all stores (clothing, food, hardware, etc).   Join me in pledging to go plastics free! : )  Help eliminate single-use plastics!  #plasticfree 
  • buy food/things with no or minimal packaging, since I know there is very little use for recyclable materials overall and they require huge energy inputs to manage and reclaim.  I also personally want to eliminate plastic use as much as possible in order to keep oil & gas in the ground and invest in lighter footprint living options.  For this and other reasons I choose to eat food ‘close to source’ (largely vegetarian ‘elemental’ foods) with little or no packaging, eg., buy a bunch of organic carrots or swiss chard with no external wrapping from the local food store or directly from local farmers markets or a local organic garden when in season.  In the winter for example, if I buy a ‘bag of organic apples’, I will reuse the bag as a waste container for a couple weeks.  I collect all organic compostable material in a compostable bag for local composting.  Overall, I am inspired to minimize all household waste, all recyclables, and run an essentially ‘paperless’ home/office.  In any given week, I often have no recycle stream, and perhaps just a small handful of ‘garbage’, which I am continually seeking to further reduce.  This can be fun and inspiring!  Please join me : )
  • buy no packaged prepared foods, no frozen foods, and essentially no snack/’health' consumer packaged food products.  As mentioned above, I choose to invest in raw, close to source, organic natural food.  This can seem austere to many, especially initially, but I am happy with these choices as they entrain me in a simpler, lighter footprint way of living which feels good!  Modern humans have commodified almost everything, including so-called ‘health foods’ or healthy packaged snacks, as well as an expanding array of ‘junk foods’ and mainstream snack foods.  If you join me in giving up packaged snack foods and most consumer products, you will be amazed at how prevalent they are (you will simply bypass most grocery aisles : ), and will also practice a ‘slow food’ lifestyle  i.e., preparing and cooking natural foods at home.  Not only will you naturally lean down eating food close to source, in a primarily vegetarian or vegan diet, you will also eliminate all of the packaging material associated with it! (this also ties into point 4 (prevalence of package litter) below).

4.   PICK UP LITTER (3 -5 pieces plus) whenever I’m outside.  PLEASE JOIN me in demonstrating this powerful earth stewardship!  I feel this practice is vital in changing a ‘modern’ pattern of mindless littering and walking past or accepting litter as ‘normal’.  It is heart-breaking for me to see the unconsciousness littering everywhere I go, in almost all green spaces and waterways around the earth.  Humans have shifted from no footprint (or very low footprint) living, demonstrated by native Hawaiian and First Nations peoples, to high negative footprint of modern ‘disposable’ consumer cultures.  We know this is an unhealthy and unsustainable way of living, and we can shift this through our own awareness and daily actions!
Most of the litter I pick up in parks, beaches and other green spaces, reflects the modern ‘disposable convenience’ thinking, eg., Tim Horton and other coffee cups and lids (found littered in a park where waste and recycling containers were close by), plastic water bottles, plastic Coca-Cola & other drink bottles, plastic bags, plastic caps, plastic consumer product/snack wrappers, paper wrappers, other plastic debris, etc.  Once you begin to pick up litter regularly (and I do everywhere I go) you will likely be shocked at the prevalence of it and the unconsciousness around it.  


Picking up litter is an easy way to demonstrate earth stewardship and respect for our mother.  And it's important to shift our thinking away from it’s someone else’s responsibility, eg., city workers, other people, to pick it up.  Our daily choices and actions show how we respect and take care of the earth.  If we all viewed litter as a ‘big deal’, it would quickly become unacceptable to leave litter anywhere!   Malcolm Gladwell’s book (The Tipping Point) illustrated how a New York City effort to clean up litter in the subway system correlated to reduced crime.  Put simply, what we disrespect invites in more disrespect.  Let us reclaim walking in harmony and beauty with the earth and eliminate all litter!  Join me in picking up litter and setting an example of loving stewardship of the earth.  Also be open to talking to people about it : )

5.   Commute primarily by bicycle, walking, blading, or public transit (for 10 years now).  I do not own a car (for many years) and am a carshare member (may also rent a vehicle on occasion if needed).  I also have a very fun, compact, folding personal electric vehicle called Revelo FLEX (similar to an electric bicycle/scooter) created by the innovative Canadian company Revelo https://www.revelo.ca/.  I am inspired to be ‘off fossil fuels’ and choose light footprint transportation options as much as possible! : )

All of these practices support me in feeling good and healthy inside and out, and are an easy ‘normal’ way of life for me! : )   I also feel much better knowing my choices reflect a lighter footprint intention on this beautiful earth.  

Please join me and create your own ‘earth-friendly intentions’ that you can live going forward!  Like all things, it’s simply setting an intention and a daily practice : )  Together we can create a more balanced, natural, and harmonious way of living together on earth!  

I’m also inspired to explore earth-friendly ideas, knowledge and ways of living, and am happy to share some recent links I found inspiring:
  • http://geodesic-greenhouse-kits.com/  Growing Spaces Geodesic Growing Domes : )
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9fv_2XIJBk  Lessons from a thousand years of island sustainability | Sam ‘Ohu Gon III, PhD | TEDxMaui
  • https://permablitzhawaii.com Hawai'i's Edible Revolution - Permablitz HI is a grassroots network hosting permablitzes on Oahu monthly/bi-monthly.  A Permablitz is a gathering where a group of people come together on a day to achieve the following:  Create or add to edible gardens and ocean friendly design elements at a home, school, or other community landscape;  Learn and share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living;  Build community networks, and more!  Good stuff! : )
  • http://ncct.on.ca/  The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto - NCCT is an Indigenous community cultural centre and offers a wide range of programs and services for native and non-native people. 
    Learn more about Indigenous peoples locally.  Support grassroots organizations like Idle No More etc., and UNDRIP, that honour Indigenous peoples culture and rights, including land rights and right to self-determination, and recognize their loving earth stewardship. 
  • www.hokulea.com  Hōkūle‘a (Star of Gladness) is a Hawaiian ‘Polynesian voyaging canoe’ that sailed many thousands of miles from Hawai'i across the earth’s oceans, to join and grow the global movement towards a more sustainable world – called the Mālama Honua Worldwide VoyageMālama Honua in Hawaiian means “to care for our Island Earth”.   Hōkūle‘a returned home to Oahu, Hawai’i on June 17, 2017 (with her sister canoe Hikianalia) after more than 3 years sailing across the oceans and visiting more than 23 countries.  The crew members re-learned their traditional ‘wayfinding’ ocean voyaging tradition (relying only on stars, winds, waves and other natural cues).  Amazing!  Here are some of the stokin’ videos from this amazing voyage:  Worldwide Voyage Overview: https://youtu.be/9yjNUbJquKI
    Worldwide Voyage | 2016 Year in Review:  https://youtu.be/MwM4iYtqdWg 
  • http://www.wholevillage.org/  Whole Village Ecovillage (Caledon, Ontario)
  • http://www.earthhaven.ca/  Earth Haven Biodynamic Farm
  • http://www.dancingrabbit.org/  Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (in north east Missouri) – I love this place! : )
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS8YeDKKBcU  Sustainable is Possible: Ma'ikwe Schaub Ludwig (from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage) | TEDxCarletonCollege 
  
Individually and together, we can create a gentler, more sustainable and regenerative way of living on our beautiful mother earth!  Please join me friends - commit to being an earth steward and living your "I love Momma" intentions every day. 

Mahalo nui loa to wise Hawaiian Kumu and culture for sharing your wisdom, knowledge, and example of living pono and aloha. 
And Thank you, Miigwech, to the Mississaugas of the Credit River First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, the Wendat, and other Indigenous peoples whose lands and waters we share and enjoy, and who so beautifully demonstrate love and stewardship of the earth, and light footprint harmonious living.


May we all walk in peace, balance and beauty… together our actions ripple out into the world and forward to future generations.  Let us demonstrate living Aloha ʻĀina, Mālama ʻĀina, love and stewardship of the earth every day, with every step, every choice, every breath.

Love and aloha,
Irena


 
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth: - Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers,
plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.
(Native American Elder)