Thursday, August 30, 2012

  Protecting the Sacred. Reclaiming the Power

International Indigenous Leadership Gathering 2012

by Doug Pyper
The message of ‘protecting the sacred’ here on mother earth was again the official mantra at the 4th Annual International Indigenous Leadership Gathering in Lillooet, BC. And with the ominous predictions of 2012 now looming on the horizon there seemed a subliminal sense of urgency in the air.

Dance and Drumming in the Arbour

The event was held June 21-24 hosted by the Sta’at’imc Chiefs Council representing 11 first nations communities in the territory. Over a thousand people from near and far attended, creating a communal village of like minded people of all origins inhabiting an open meadow near the town of Lillooet. Everyone enjoyed the presentations of world renowned speakers and performers from across Turtle Island and South America. As in the past, the event was made possible entirely through the tireless work of volunteers, including both local organizers and attendees. All food was provided free, prepared and served on site as a gift from the nation.

The flow of messages was clear and consistent. We must save mother earth now and renew our spiritual connection with each other and all living things if we are to endure. We are living in a time of irreversible and catastrophic global destruction. Seemingly our planet can no longer take the abuse that modern humankind has relentlessly inflicted upon her. The 2012 scenario offers varied predictions, the most universal being that we are at the end of a great cycle, a 500 year long spiritual winter. A massive painful transformation is coming, and those who are prepared will move onward into a spiritual spring time.

Many of the eclectic mix of speakers this year were more noticeably aligned with mainstream culture, addressing environmental concerns from a scientific and even political perspective. Issues of global warming and loss of biological diversity were paramount, but often transcended the traditional indigenous spiritual vernacular. The frequent direct reference to politics was perhaps an indication that many feel the planet is under siege from corporate controlled global governments, most notably here in Canada under Stephen Harper.

But the inherent message was we are ‘all’ indigenous, and the truth is the truth no matter how it is wrapped. This earth is not for our material gain, it is our responsibility to revere, nurture and sustain it for future generations.

Among the numerous scheduled speakers was the Honourable Stephen Point, the current and only Indigenous Lieutenant Governor in BC history. In his impassioned speech, often tempered with his characteristic humour, he implied the needed change lies within each of us, by discovering our spirituality and overcoming our self-imposed fear and ignorance.

“I believe that our world is coming around to the understanding that we need change” he said.  “In gatherings like this, where people are focused on the spiritual world is how that change begins. Each of us must learn from the many lessons offered to us daily, and apply those lessons in our lives.  This is necessary for growth and to bring about change within ourselves and our world.”

MaObong Oku, a Nigerian spiritual healer, humanitarian and performing artist currently living in Vancouver gave a gentle and inspirational talk. “Mother earth is the source of our existence. Indigenous people are the guardians of the earth. We must strive to keep our hearts clean. The creator can then work through us and guide us”. She warned “Most problems are with the mind. It is often a source of negativity and the sole cause of all our troubles in the world today. When we have good thoughts we manifest a beautiful and peaceful earth. We must be vigilant to keep our thoughts pure through daily practice.”  

Herbert Hammond, a Forest Ecologist from the Slocan Valley in southern BC was one of the non-indigenous speakers at the event. Among a myriad of other accomplishments he has worked extensively with first nations developing eco-system based conservation plans. He believes we have given up much of our power to bring about change in the modern age.
Herb Hammond
“We elect governments believing they will take care of us and solve all our problems. In reality they are often not acting in our interest at all. Similarly, we’ve become dependent on large environmental organizations to protect our biological and physical world. These organizations often have become well paid environmental bureaucracies whose goal is to create a political compromise. In both cases, we do not get the results and changes we need, since the systems are designed for proliferation of the status quo” he stated.

“We can survive 3 to 8 minutes without oxygen, without water for 8 to 14 days and without food for up to 4 weeks” he noted.  “In one year a large tree provides enough oxygen for two people and pumps several hundred gallons of water into the ecosystem. However, we ignore these benefits of healthy ecosystems in pursuit of short term monetary profit that degrade and destroy the natural integrity of our home” he said. 

He went on to explain that our current world view is based on an 'Anthropocentric' ethic. "This ethic holds that ecosystems have little value until they provide resources for monetary profit.  It teaches that the earth was created exclusively for human benefit" he said. "It promotes the necessity of a corporate consumer-based economy to prosper and relies on perpetual economic growth by creating 'artificial needs'. We are pillaging our life support system in this pursuit. Such an approach is clearly not sustainable".

A more appropriate ethic is a Kincentric approach which respects the earth and other living things. What we do to the earth we do to ourselves. "This world view sees us as related to all other life forms. With this understanding we have the responsibility to protect all life forms, while using some of them wisely for our needs." he stated.  

These words perfectly echo what the indigenous elders have taught for centuries through spiritual beliefs, making his thoughts very appropriate and meaningful for the Gathering.

Peace and Dignity Runners from Mexico.

His solution to our current global crisis and devastation our planet is ecosystem-based conservation plans that facilitate sustainable 'community-based economies' around the world. We must become involved on a grass roots community level (whether rural or urban), taking back our power in dignified yet firm ways, while educating each other. We must regress back to a simpler way of living. And we must do so with or without permission and support from our elected governments.

Our future is the responsibility of each and everyone of us. It is time to begin.