What indigenous peoples can teach us

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When it comes to living in a more symbiotic way with Mother Earth the indigenous cultures of our Planet can modern man a great deal, if he would but be willing to listen.

Though, it has to be said, it is not only the indigenous people “rooted” in a particular space but also many cultures that are not so rooted but still are close to Mother Earth.

We ignore their knowledge, wisdom, and lessons at our peril regardless of whether or not climate change is caused bu human activities. The loss of species and the pollution of air, soil and water most certainly is.

How can we possibly think that our abuse of the gifts of Mother Earth, the gifts which modern conceited man refers to as “natural resources”, can go on and has no lasting impact?

How could we have believed that burying waste in holes in the ground would not come back to haunt us?

We must have been stupid!

It is not just the American Indian and the Alaska Native that can teach us a great deal, as far as living in harmony with Mother Earth is concerned. There are other groups too from which modern man would do well to take a few lessons.

Among those are the Australian Aborigines, the Kalahari Bushmen, and others.

Also included in this groups must be, though often forgotten, the Romani-Gypsy, the one that has lived in harmony with Nature until the most recent times but still do today.

The Gypsy of Britain, for instance, the Romanichal primarily, have an environmental footprint many size smaller than the general population and that despite the fact that some might commit the occasional act of fly tipping or rubbish, for instance. I am not condoning such behavior and neither other kinds of bad behavior; it is just a statement of fact.

Already the reason for the smaller footprint is the fact that most still live in caravans, in trailers and mobile homes, that do not have as much space and there is not so much the consumerism at home as amongst the rest of the population. You can't accumulate too many possessions in a trailer or even a mobile home.

Those of the Gypsy People who live still closer to Mother Earth, so to speak, and who still use Her resources as basis for making a living, be that the making of pegs, clothes- and tent- (rare nowadays), wooden flowers (rarer still), walking sticks, baskets, etc., only take as much as they need and leave the rest for another day.

Much, alas, of the Gypsy's knowledge, whether as regards to medicines and healing or to a spiritual connection with Nature is dying out with the Elders and some has gone almost irretrievably already.

Modern man, however, clear fells a wood simple because he can and because he has an outlet for the wood, for instance. The good manager of a wood will, obviously, replant but many do not, replying on natural regeneration, which often does happen only slowly or even not at all.

Indigenous People all over the world have a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth and the space where they live, hence their close attachment to the land and its features often.

If modern man wants to survive on this Planet, together with all of us, he must stop and listen to the indigenous voices and to the voices of the Planet. Many answers are there in indigenous knowledges and in Nature itself.

Man must, once again, connect with Mother Nature and listen to Her in order to find out how to live lightly on this Planet. The way that the climate is wreaking havoc all over the globe should be a warning to him that things are not as they should be and that Mother is ailing.

Many of the answers and remedies are so simple but it seems to take scientists expensive research to “discover” them, such as recently the fact that chemical fertilizers do not actually put goodness back into the soil and that for that it requires organic matter, such as manure and compost. The farmers of old, and those who live by the old ways, have known this for ages and all the scientists would have needed was ask them, such as the Amish.

They know that in order to have living soil it needs the input of organic matter in the form of manure and compost.

Soil that is alive in this way is also one the best sequesters of carbon as the manure and other organic matter put into the soil absorbs CO2 and then passes this on as food to the plants.

The old folks also know that forests are needed for a healthy world and a healthy environment; again something that seems to have taken scientists quite by surprise when they “discovered” this fact.

Time to ask the Indigenous People, and those otherwise close to Nature, a few questions and involve them to make their input into the way things are done.

© 2009