‘We Are All Indigenous to Somewhere’: Teen Talks About Cultural Reconnection
Indian Country Today
An incredibly important aspect of life that many people have neglected and even forgotten is our connection with the Earth. This loss of respect and sense of oneness with the Earth and each other is endangering our future. We are literally destroying our own life support systems by our over consumptive lifestyles that are supporting the corporate industries and fueling our climate and environmental crises.
Throughout history, the indigenous people of the world have carried a deep respect and connection for the Earth, but this connection has disappeared over time because of our changing social structures and severe oppression of the Native peoples. We used to see ourselves as a part of this natural world, a mere piece of the puzzle on this great planet, connected to the web of life. We did not conquer the Earth, but lived in balance with it, and gave back to it with ceremonies, prayers and by being guardians of our sacred lands.
Speaking as a descendant of the Aztec Mexican people of Mexico and being raised in our ceremonial ways, I have had the incredible opportunity to connect deeply with the nature and to travel to different parts of the world through my work meeting with indigenous leaders. They share stories of how they are fighting to keep their cultures alive, and pass their knowledge and wisdom to the next generation, so that their culture and their heritage will not fade away as so many others have.
In our world today, the elders’ messages often fall on deaf ears because our social system has changed and youth are not encouraged to develop a relationship with the Earth. Instead, the youth are spending hours on electronic devices, consuming drugs and alcohol and taking them further and further away from their cultures.
“Consumption in general is devastating to our culture. It is directly going against our traditional teachings of not having more than what we need,” said Gracy Horne, an organizer of the World Peace and Prayer Day runs, and daughter of Arvol Looking Horse, Indigenous spokesperson and leader. “Nobody listened to us when we were young. No one asked us how we felt about the world. I started organizing peace runs when I was 20, and people still didn’t understand why you would sacrifice for the Earth. Now, I am seeing more high school kids that are becoming active in their community and know about the effects of Fracking and know about environmentalism and are taking action.”
We are living in an age of cultural crisis where the fabric of every indigenous culture is on the brink of disappearance from the Earth forever. Our modern world and the belief systems that operate it have literally consumed our connection with each other and the Earth. Indigenous people all over the world are still being robbed and bought off of their lands, their languages, their cultures and their lives.
“There’s an Indian word, ‘Tekoa,’ which is used for ‘village’ or ‘territory.’ But a better translation is ‘way of being,’” said Levi Moises, 25, a youth leader for the Earth Guardian’s in Brazil. “For indigenous people here, the connection to the place where they live is in itself a major achievement. But modern society does not accept this, and always requires that the space be commodified, tamed, or changed to the fullest. In short, we remain pillaged. Our territory (and resources) are stolen by the state and sold to entrepreneurs.”
In my journey to Australia in December 2013, I connected with the Aboriginal peoples, who have been natives of Australia for thousands of years. I learned that their rich and unique culture, language, and tradition came to an abrupt halt in 1788 when the British invaded Australia. Since then, hundreds of thousands were massacred to make room for the white settlers and agricultural land. Half of the Aborigine population was killed because of diseases brought by the settlers. In New South Wales, more than 8,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their families and brought to institutions and foster families where they were abused and often used as slaves. They were known as the Stolen Generation, and lost a deep connection to themselves and their heritage.
Many children that were “half castes” were taken from their homes with the belief that their brown skin could be bred out of them through relations with the white people that invaded them. That oppression still lingers in the generations that are born today.
Kerrianne Cox is a well-known Aboriginal artist and leader in the rising movement of the Native peoples of the Earth.
“Many Aboriginal youth are born into violent, fragmented families. They are not given the opportunity or the voice to restore their ancient culture. I made a choice not to live like that. I allowed my songs to be my healer, and saw how my message could touch other people. Oppression of our people has come to a critical point where we have hit rock-bottom; the only way from here is up,” she said.
“I really feel that there is a beautiful opening that is happening with the healing and restoration of our old culture. I’m seeing it across our land. The country is waking up. We might have been lost, we may have been asleep, but we are united, and they cannot break us,” said Cox.
Until we realize that we are one people, we are all connected, and we all depend on each other and the Earth for the survival of humanity, we will continue down this path of separation and disconnect. We must reconnect with our indigenous roots because no matter where we are from, or who we are, we are ALL indigenous to somewhere. And despite the injustice and oppression, the Native people are claiming their rights and taking back their land and their honor. They are defending their sacred homes, and fighting for justice and equality. The movement is building and many indigenous people will no longer stand idly by.
An awakening is on the rise!