INDIGENOUS

Having originated in, growing naturally in a particular region or environment.

In a stream of light from an opening in The Skyworld a speck could be seen fluttering like a maple seed from an opening. As the speck fell it grew larger until a woman, clutching a bundle, could be seen in the light. Below there was only darkness and water. All the creatures of the deep could see her. A flock of geese rose to break her fall and a Great Turtle allowed her to rest on his back.


The creatures realized that she would need land to survive. Duck and Loon and others had heard that there was mud at the bottom of the waters. One at a time, each dove deep into the waters to retrieve mud. Each failed. Finally, the weakest diver, Muskrat, the last creature, dove deep. He was gone a long time before his limp body rose to the surface with a handful of mud which was spread on turtles back. Muskrat had given his life for her. Skywoman, in thanks, began to sing and dance. As she did, she caressingly spread the dab of mud with her feet until the whole earth appeared.


As she was falling, she had grabbed onto The Tree of Life. In her hand she brought with her fruits and seeds of every plant. These she scattered on the Land. Light from Skyworld allowed the trees and grasses and medicines to flourish. More amazingly, Skywoman did not only bring the fruits of the world, but she also arrived pregnant. Her progeny would be honored, the earth would be respected and revered. Thus, the native peoples began their relationship with creation.1


In the indigenous story most of us know, God spoke the earth and every living thing into Creation. The first woman, who wanted to taste of its sweetness was exiled; her legacy damaged; her offspring left to battle a hostile world; the earth was left to be damaged and scarred.


National Geographic has a documentary that I became addicted to called Life Below Zero. Life of people surviving above and below the Arctic Circle in summer and in winter. I found myself becoming uncomfortable with the attitudes of those who had moved to Alaska. They need to prove to themselves that they can win the battle with Mother Nature. I was disturbed by the dumps and homestead ruins left by earlier people that the newcomers mine for spare parts, wondering what they would also leave behind to scar nature when they leave.


I enjoy the Hailstones, a happy indigenous family. Whether hunting, in the spring, for berries and quail eggs to preserve they enjoy each other and leave no trace behind. Yearly the Hailstone men prepare a fish camp by hanging a tarp between trees where the women hang strips of fish to smoke. A mom and daughter set nets in the river planning to catch 200 fish at a time that will feed their community. Both girls and boys are taught to hunt and fish taking pride in their skills as they learn. Mothers and dads take pride in teaching their kids a way of living. There is obvious joy as they work together. We are not shown the Hailstone home.


Newcomers set about cutting down trees to build houses like ones they left in the lower forty. They use fishing rods and nets to fish providing food for a meal, that they enjoy alone, and to feed themselves and their dogs in the winter. With pride settlers build themselves permanent smokers. Settlers also are good trackers and hunters. Their conversations, however, are solely about their own survival and the urgency of their preparation for winter.


I admire the creativity and strength of the settlers. My reaction to the indigenous Hailstones and others is more of awe. The indigenous peoples enjoy their work and companionship. They appear to belong to the land. The settlers like being alone and the fruits of their labor. Although both are proud of their work and survival it seems more like a comparison of living with Creation or rebelling against it, of selflessness and selfishness.


Recently I heard the Celts referred to as Indigenous Scots and Irish. I visualize them as a people of Creation living like the Hailstones in harmony with Creation. The more I learn of the spirituality of indigenous people the closer I feel I come in my relationship with the Divine. I am grateful the Celts knew the Creator before the folks from Rome came to tell them differently. I am grateful they received John’s Gospel about Divine Love before the rest of the Bible. I am grateful they left their wonderful songs and prayers and stories for us. I am grateful to see Creation through their eyes.


1. The story of Skywoman can be found in Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

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