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The spirit economy

We have been here before, we First Nations, we Indians, we Anishinaabe.

This economic downturn is bringing the rest of America more in line with the plight of the Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native. If the numbers are correct, the unemployment rate needs to go up a little bit to match the 40 percent of unemployment that affects some reservations.

Let’s get moving. Americans fret and worry over the state of affairs when the jobs move away and the conglomerate atmosphere of industry stretches its wings to fly, but we indigenous have to breathe a sigh of relief when the gap between the “have less” and the “ have none” is closed. It is the shock of realizing that we have a lot more people on our team.

What does this mean for the future of Native people?

With despair and no money, casinos are a bad bet. The gaming market had room to expand but only when the jobs supported the stress. The stress supported the habit and the habit fed the machine. Gaming needs to change. There are bigger games to play.

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Political investment in environmental issues is a good bet. A long time ago, the Natives got to wear the “honor the earth” badge. We were the defenders of the mother. We had an endless number of wall hangings and cedar placards burned with wisdom about “not being able to eat money” and “as long as the rivers shall flow” or “belonging to the Earth.” The great advantage of this now is that the rest of the world is coming more in line with our philosophies. The idea of expansion with no room for consequence is gone. It, too, has been replaced with the fear and panic that life is slowing down.

And so, we have an opportunity to invest in something more than tangible. We have an opportunity to spend some spiritual capital into a market that is demanding that we invest. Our trading floor is the forest, the tundra, the high plains or the desert. Our currency is a proud heritage of ancestors that could find a balance between what is necessary and what is excessive.

Our marketers show themselves in the hundreds of stories of grandmothers and grandfathers dying of toxic pollutants from abominations like the Tar Sands region of Canada, or the legacy of poor health issues for the miners and families of the uranium industry or the coal industry. It is the lost veterans who wear the spent uranium and contract leukemia that talk about our investment potential. We are in a market that has been long void of our voice and our perspective but, now, the world has become ripe for persuasion.

The indigenous communities of the world have raised a little karmic capital and we can spend it on righteousness and justice. We can invest in our rights as sovereigns and independents and in doing so, we invest in our spirits.

And the spirit economy is very sustainable.

– Martin Curry

Mount Pleasant, Mich.