Saturday, January 10, 2009

Language of the land

I was searching for examples and models of Indigenous Leadership when I came across this page <http://www.yesmagazine.org/wiki/index.php?title=Indigenous_leadership>from Yes! Magazine that links to several from the magazine. I found one article to really stand out and speak to a discussion that was going on at the bioregional animism tribe @ <http://tribes.tribe.net/bioregionalanimism/thread/b6a12498-660a-4e5a-b513-4b93f2dec45d> that addresses the topic of actually being the land.

In Jeanette Armstrong's article, "I Stand With You Against the Disorder" <http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1346> she talks about the rootlessness of our modern culture. I was particularly struck by this part,

Language of the land
The Okanagan word for “our place on the land” and “our language” is the same. We think of our language as the language of the land. The way we survived is to speak the language that the land offered us as its teachings. To know all the plants, animals, seasons, and geography is to construct language for them.

We also refer to the land and our bodies with the same root syllable. The soil, the water, the air, and all the other life forms contributed parts to be our flesh. We are our land/place. Not to know and to celebrate this is to be without language and without land. It is to be displaced.

As Okanagan, our most essential responsibility is to bond our whole individual and communal selves to the land. Many of our ceremonies have been constructed for this. We join with the larger self and with the land, and rejoice in all that we are.

The discord that we see around us, to my view from inside my Okanagan community, is at a level that is not endurable. A suicidal coldness is seeping into and permeating all levels of interaction. I am not implying that we no longer suffer for each other but rather that such suffering is felt deeply and continuously and cannot be withstood, so feeling must be shut off.

I think of the Okanagan word used by my father to describe this condition, and I understand it bet-ter. An interpretation in English might be “people without hearts.”
Okanagans say that “heart” is where community and land come into our beings and become part of us because they are as essential to our survival as our own skin.
When the phrase “people without hearts” is used, it refers to collective disharmony and alienation from land. It refers to those who are blind to self-destruction, whose emotion is narrowly focused on their individual sense of well-being without regard to the well-being of others in the collective.

The results of this dispassion are now being displayed as nation-states continuously reconfigure economic boundaries into a world economic disorder to cater to big business. This is causing a tidal flow of refugees from environmental and social disasters, compounded by disease and famine as people are displaced in the expanding worldwide chaos. War itself becomes continuous as dispossession, privatization of lands, and exploitation of resources and a cheap labor force become the mission of “peace-keeping.” The goal of finding new markets is the justification for the westernization of “undeveloped” cultures.

Indigenous people, not long removed from our cooperative self-sustaining lifestyles on our lands, do not survive well in this atmosphere of aggression and dispassion. I know that we experience it as a destructive force, because I personally experience it so. Without being whole in our community, on our land, with the protection it has as a reservation, I could not survive.
Check out the rest of the article here . . .

2 comments:

Indigenous Peoples Activist said...

Great links, thanks for sharing. I agree, the Western culture has lost its ties to the land and no longer values it for its entirety, but has broken it down into "resources" that can be used and exploited. But how to we regain our connection as a society?

t23 said...

"But how to we regain our connection as a society?"

The only way that I am aware of is one person at a time. The reason for this blog and its discussion group @ http://groups.google.com/group/southwest-animist-syndicate as well as the more general group that I am sprouting off, is to gather like minded people.

This blog here is a more focused, localized version coming from the larger group. One of the goals of this blog and discussion group is to gather like minded people here in my biorgion, so we can inspire and support each other locally.

That's all I can think of, one person at a time.

Peace,
t23