Finding A Bridge To Indigenous Wisdom And Worldview: An Interview With Kelly Wendorf
About the Interview
The United Nation’s report on mass extinction rates warned in 2019 that technology will not save us. Our only hope, states the report, is that humans shift their consciousness from a Western, Dominator Culture Worldview to a Nature-Connected Indigenous Worldview.
For two decades, this shift in human consciousness has been the focus of Kelly Wendorf’s life work, which included the founding of Kindred as the world’s first eco-parenting magazine. Kelly’s new book, Flying Lead Change, distills two decades of personal growth, neuroscience research, and allyship for indigenous wisdom teachings. Today, Kindred serves as an urgently needed alternative media platform (no longer a parenting magazine) in support of cultural change makers and trance breakers who champion the science and thought leaders of the conscious living movement.
What does a Flying Lead Change have to do with human consciousness shifting? As she shares in the Kindred interview below, “Flying Lead Change is a high gymnastic move that happens with a horse that, when the topography changes under his feet and he’s at his fastest gate, which would be a gallop or a lope, when that topography under his feet shifts for some reason, then his entire balance has to shift as well in order to handle the mass and the strength and the levity of that kind of pace. And so, he does what’s called a Flying Lead Change. And to execute a Flying Lead Change, he has to be very present in the moment to know that the topography is changing, and then he has to spring from his whole body up in the air and change balance from one side of his body to the other side.
“Flying Lead Change is a handy metaphor for what the book is about, which is what is that shift we have to make because we can’t change the world inside the distortion that it already finds itself. If we try to change things within the distortion of disconnection, we’re just going to create more distortion and more disconnection,” explains Kelly in the interview. “So, we need a kind of quantum level shift, a complete change in the human heart that we solve our problems differently. And that we rely on a kind of physics that’s not linear, that’s not necessarily rational, but is wisdom-informed and is very powerful and does have some scientific evidence behind it. So, the Flying Lead Change, this is what the invitation is in my opinion: to make such a leap as a species.”
Why did the New York Times’ “investigative” feature on Kelly’s 20 years of allyship for Indigenous Worldview fail to mention the term Indigenous Worldview? The first forty minutes of Kindred’s interview was recorded before a New York Times’ feature on Kelly’s teaching program, Equus, appeared in the newspaper’s online edition on March 19, 2021, and then again in print on Sunday. The second half of our interview is Kelly’s response to the NYT’s bizarre lack of reference to the term Indigenous Worldview for an article purportedly “investigating” her life’s work on Indigenous Worldview.
In a Twitter statement on March 19, the NYT announced it sent a reporter to “investigate” Kelly’s work at her teaching ranch, Equus. The intention of the newspaper to investigate Equus was news to Kelly and her partner, Scott Strachan, who hosted and spoke with the NYT’s reporter and photographer for over a year. While Kelly’s work on the ranch is internationally praised by corporations, executives, and celebrities, the NYT’s “investigative” reporter failed to mention the phrase Indigenous Worldview once, despite being given a copy of Kelly’s latest book, Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living. mInstead, the article asks a veterinarian to talk about horse behavior. (For a crash course in reductionist, Western, Dominator Worldview and Indigenous Worldview, see Kindred’s Worldview Chart by Four Arrows here. For a more immersive experience, subscribe to our newsletter.)
In response to the article, Kelly states, “I think what we’ve learned the most from this piece isn’t what we’re learning from horses, but what we’re learning about humanity right now. We see this happen in journalism. We see it happen in research, a person’s bias when they go into exploring something very much shapes the outcome of what they see. This is just the way it works. In terms of neuroscience: our bias shapes our world and our worldview.
“The piece that was omitted, but we spent a lot of time talking about it with the journalist is, how we work with the traditional people of this area. Two of our team members are Pueblo people. They were there during the day of the photography shoot. We have worked very hard to work with the traditional carers of the land here to make sure that this place is in integrity their protocols and processes. That was not in the story.
“They didn’t include in the story how, through this year of COVID, we managed to keep everybody employed. Many of these people are the breadwinners of their family, the traditional people that Pueblo people are breadwinners of their family. If they lost their work with us, it would have been very devastating. These kinds of stories weren’t told. As you say, it’s kind of predictable because we are in a pervasive, rational reductionist and patriarchal worldview. And when innovators come forward with a different narrative, as we know with Kindred, then we can be susceptible to, or we can be the lightning rods, where that energy comes at us. That’s okay. That’s okay.”
While the term Indigenous Worldview isn’t in the vocabulary of the New York Times, despite the United Nation’s urgent plea for this knowledge to become a household discussion and conscious action, the phrase – and many others needed to help us tell a New Story of the Human Family – can be found in Kindred’s vocabulary and our New Story Glossary. (See our educational resources for this article in the list below.)
We hope you’ll enjoy the interview with Kelly, who shares with us her story of meeting and chronicling wisdom teachings from Uncle Bob Randall, an elder “Tjilpi” of the Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Nation, and listed traditional owner of Uluru, the great monolith in the Central Australian Desert. You’ll also meet Thunderbird Ridge’s horses, hear their personal stories, and discover for yourself how Westerners can and are shifting their worldview through indigenous wisdom teachings that hail from Indigenous Worldview.
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|Transcript Sections Below||Kindred Resources|
|Flying Lead Change: Our Evolutionary Path Forward?||Download Kelly’s story of meeting Uncle Bob in this Flying Lead Change PDF|
|Twenty Years Of Indigenous Worldview Allyship||Download Kindred’s Worldview Chart|
|The Kanyini Care Diagram: The Power Of Caring With Or Without Challenging||Read more about Indigenous Worldview and Wisdom|
|The Story of Brio and Artemis||Read Kelly’s Posts on Kindred|
|Equus: An Experience In Indigenous Wisdom And Worldview||New Story Glossary|
|About That New York Times‘ Article…||Support Kindred’s Nonprofit Work|
Flying Lead Change: Our Evolutionary Path Forward?
LISA: Welcome Kelly! One of my most beloved people on the planet is here with us today. We have so much to get through, and this interview is going to be so much fun. Let’s start with your new book, because I’d like for people to understand the title Flying L ad Change, and then we’re going to dive right into some really wonderful stories that you have to share with us.
KELLY: Thank you, Lisa. Yeah, you can already tell by the laughter that Lisa and I get into lots of trouble together. I’m delighted to be here and really looking forward to our time together. The title of the book is Flying Lead Change: 56 Million Years of Wisdom for Leading and Living. It’s a play on words, really. There’s an equestrian term called Flying Lead Change. And the book strongly follows a thread of the nature-based principles through the system of the horse herd. That’s not everything in the book, but is a real strong theme within it. Horses are a great conduit for experiential awareness on how to be in the world and how to thrive and how to be in alignment with oneself and be connected to other living things.
So, Flying Lead Change as a term, it’s a high gymnastic move that happens with a horse that, when the topography changes under his feet and he’s at his fastest gate, which would be a gallop or a lope, when that topography under his feet shifts for some reason, then his entire balance has to shift as well in order to handle the mass and the strength and the levity of that kind of pace. And so, he does what’s called a Flying Lead Change. And to execute a Flying Lead Change, he has to be very present in the moment to know that the topography is changing, and then he has to kind of spring from his whole body up in the air and then change balance from one side of his body to the other side.
And it’s this kind of physics-defying feat that happens in midair and, instantly, he goes from leaning on one side of his body to relying on another side of his body at an extraordinary pace. I thought this term was a great metaphor for what I feel is so essential for us as a civilization right now: that our topography is radically changing and we cannot just keep galloping forward in the same kind of lopsided way of being. What’s required is a kind of physics defying maneuver that requires us to bounce forward – to speak about it in evolutionary terms, but also have a fundamental shift in our balance from right to left, from up to down, from left brain to right brain, right brain to left brain.
Flying Lead Change is a really handy metaphor for what the book is really about, which is what is that shift we have to make because we can’t change the world inside the distortion that it already finds itself? If we try to change things within the distortion of disconnection – and we’ll go into that later – but we’re just going to create more distortion and more disconnection. So, we need a kind of quantum level shift, a complete change in the human heart that we solve our problems differently. And that we rely on a kind of physics that’s not linear, that’s not necessarily rational, but is wisdom-informed and is very powerful and does have some scientific evidence behind it. So, the Flying Lead Change, this is what the invitation is in my opinion: to make such a leap as a species.
Twenty Years Of Indigenous Worldview Allyship
LISA: You brought up the word wisdom and I always associate that word with you, Kelly. I met you almost 20 years ago on Mount Madonna in Santa Cruz, CA, and you were a wisdom teacher then, and just starting to publish Kindred as the first global, eco-parenting magazine out of Byron Bay, Australia. Can you tell us about the beginnings of Kindred, because that story is connected to the Kanyini Care Cycle diagram in your book.
KELLY: Byron Bay, Australia, is a counter-culture community. Lots of ex-pats from all over the world live there. It’s a groovy town. I was a single mom with two small children and needed to put food on the table. And that was really the founding of Kindred. I figured if I could stay home and solve the problem of, of parenthood via a magazine, I could serve two things at once. I could take care of my kids, well learn how to take care of my kids, and stay close to home so I could be near them. Kindred was founded on the premise, not on a mission statement, like so many organizations.
Kindred was founded on a question and the question was: How do we create a just and sustainable society? And, as you’ve learned being it’s venerable leader, to answer questions honestly one has to put aside one’s biases and the biases of the readership and the biases of the advertisers, and it’s quite a rigorous standard to uphold – that you will seek and endeavor to answer that question.
And very many times, the answers to that question contradict themselves, and that’s life. And so, in a way, just editing Kindred and publishing it was, in itself, a spiritual journey. And I imagine you experienced the same thing because it really, boy, it really put me through bootcamp in so many ways. But on that journey, I had written an editorial on Kindred about belonging and was asked by an editor if I would write and edit a book that had a compilation of stories on Belonging. And very long story short, I had a real intense personal crisis that led me to an introduction to a man named Uncle Bob Randall. Uncle is a respectful term used for, um, indigenous elders in Australia and Uncle Bob was the listed custodial elder for the big red rock in the center of Australia called Uluru.
So, I had the privilege of spending many, many, many days and hours with Uncle Bob, who very generously downloaded a lot of information. When I first called him, he didn’t know I was going to call him. I just called him on the fly and he picked up the phone and he said, “I’ve been waiting for you to call.” And that kind of blew my hair back a little bit. I was a white girl. I hadn’t had much connection with the Indigenous Australians. There’s a lot of segregation there. Uncle Bob said he felt like a lot of his people were too broken and traumatized to receive a lot of the wisdom that needed to be passed on. And so, he asked if I would be the person to whom he would say all these things and share all these things.
I would basically just put my microphone in front of him, sit on the floor and let it rip for hours. And then spend days and days after that, going through the transcription and going back over it with him and really diving deep into what the teachings meant, what he meant by the term Kanyini, which we’ll talk about in a second. What he meant by the dreaming. What is the dreaming? All these other kind of important pieces of information, which really centered on our birthright to be connected to the whole, our birthright to be a part of the natural world as brothers and sisters to the natural world, and our birthright to feel a deep sense of safety and belonging that we’re not alone in the universe, that we’re not separate, that there is a greater life force that does take care of us. And this was his big message.
So, a lot of the Flying Lead Change has stories of my time with Uncle Bob and his sharing of these different wisdom principles of our birthright and who we really are as beings. The book seeks to break the trance of separation that is so inherent to our modern culture today.
(Read and download Kelly’s story of meeting Uncle Bob in this Flying Lead Change PDF Excerpt.)
The Kanyini Care Diagram: The Power Of Caring With Or Without Challenging
LISA: On page 52 of Flying Lead Change, there’s this pull quote that says, “Care leverages the authority to challenge others. Without care, challenge is destructive, yet without challenge care is powerless.” And accompanying the quote is this unique Kanyini Care Diagram, which illustrates the balance of care and challenge.
KELLY: I’ll back up for a second. Kanyini is a word that Uncle Bob taught me and it’s an Aboriginal word that basically means unconditional love and belonging with responsibility. As he would say, there are these two wings of a bird of this unconditional love, connection and belonging to the whole. And because we belong to a whole, our responsibility to all living things is to be the best people, the best allies, the best guardians that we can be.
The horse herd is governed by seven basic principles – and a lot’s written about echoing behavioral sciences – but not a lot is written about equine culture. And I’ve been hanging out with horse herds since I was four years-old and watched them a lot. And even though what I’m about to say, isn’t really conventional knowledge, I think it’s pretty solid.
The horse herd is centered on five essential tenants: safety connection, peace, freedom and joy. The lead horse is the one who can keep those five intact. They’re not the mightiest. They’re not the meanest. They’re not the strongest. They’re usually not the stallion, which, you know, it’s just kind of a wives’ tale or a husbands’ tale. The leader is usually the horse who’s the most present and the most caring. Leadership from a 56 million year-old point of view is the one who’s the most caring and the most present. That brings questions like, well then, what is care? From a 56 million year-old point of view – that means that they’ve survived through tectonic shifts in climate spikes and pandemics and all kinds of different global challenges. And they still continue to thrive today. They’re the oldest most successful mammal on the world. One of the most successful in the world. I think the Platypus have had them beat by a hundred million years.
This kind of care is not what we’ve so often thought of as a kind of soft skill in Western culture. Care is very fierce. Care is, um, the capacity to have boundaries, throw out the badly behaving horses, ensure that the care of one does not overshadow the care of the whole, very cooperative and collaborative. And so this diagram that you’re referring to, which I call the Kanyini Care Diagram, basically goes through four quadrants. The vertical line of North to South represents that connection and disconnection.
Let’s start in the lower right-hand quadrant where you may be capable of challenging, but you’ve disconnected yourself in some way. You don’t care anymore. You know, either you’ve hardened yourself because you’ve had enough, or really, you just don’t care. We see that a lot in the corporate sector and lots of large organizations. And so that’s the quadrant where people are very unkind, very damaging, a lot of verbal abuse, angry outbursts or manipulation and that kind of thing. So that that’s in that lower right-hand quadrant.
We’re moving clockwise, then the lower left-hand quadrant where you don’t challenge and you also have disconnected. So that’s the sort of mindset that withdraws, doesn’t show up, doesn’t really contribute or participate. It’s useful to think of these in terms of mindsets instead of people. I certainly have seen myself at all four of these quadrants depending on circumstances.
And then there’s the upper left-hand quadrant, which is where you’ve got, you know, you’re riding up the care line, but you’re still not challenging. This is the rescuer, the caretaker, the enabler; you resist conflict. I have a tendency to hang out there. I don’t know about you, Lisa,
And then there’s that optimal place, that sweet spot, where there’s care with challenge, care with candor. Where the care enables a kind of a capacity to challenge others and hold other people accountable and hold yourself accountable, to challenge yourself, right? It’s also about care of yourself in a way that is more generative than destructive.
What’s interesting when you play with this diagram is I find what conditions are happening for me or to me externally, that might bump me into one of those quadrants. Sometimes it’s about a shortcoming that I might have in, in that, you know, I just have a habit to caretake, but sometimes I’m with an individual who is not ready to meet me in that care Kanyini quadrant. They’re just not. And if I try to beat my head against them in that, in that place, I might just find myself thrown into another one of those quadrants. So, it’s useful to look at both for yourself and for the relationships you’re in and for the sorts of relationships you want to create for yourself.
LISA: When you started to describe this, you said, in our culture care is thought of as some sort of sentimental or low-level skill, maybe even dangerous because you’re vulnerable if you care. But what I feel and perceive going around this circle is you’ve redefined care because you’re balancing care and challenge here, and in these quadrants, I feel the strength necessary to care and the strength necessary to challenge and care. As you said, move over into this top right quadrant. I think this illustration reorients the word care.
KELLY: It does reorient the word care. Absolutely. And in a largely patriarchal culture, so-called soft skills like care are very much dismissed. But if you look at the really, really good leaders in the world, the ones that are really changing the game, moving the needle, you’re going to find that some of them are especially powerful because they care so much. They care for their vision. They care for their people. They care for the organization as a whole. They care for themselves. That’s a big piece as well because you’re an asset in that company. You can’t just burn yourself out. And if you look at, for example, the lead mare in the herd, and it tends to be a mare, she is profoundly caring, but not in a kind of busybody sort of way. She’s not expending energy; she’s holding this grounded place of presence that other animals can resonate with. But boy, if she just so much is look sideways, she can send the horses away very quickly just by a glance of her eye. And the reason for that is because, you know, if they’re not listening, she can be very fierce. And she’s fierce, not for her own egoic reasons, but she’s fierce because the safety of the herd depends on it.
The Story of Brio and Artemis
LISA: With that said, I would love to hear the story of Brio and Artemis, because it seems like Brio had to work his way around this care diagram.
KELLY: He had to work his way around the diagram, sadly. Artemis is our alpha mare. She’s the smallest horse or the next smallest horse in the herd. She’s been in many herds in the 10 years that I’ve owned her and every time she’s in a new herd, eventually she’s delegated as leader. So, she’s kind of that in spades. Then purchased a new member of the herd. His name was Brio. He’s a 17.1 hands. That’s how you measure how tall horses are, which basically translate to: I’m five foot eight, and his back is three inches above my head. He’s enormous, okay? And he’s awesome and beautiful. And he had been raised with stallions. You know, a lot happens to animals when they’re domesticated. That is not their natural way of doing things and horses are no exception. So, he had not been raised in a herd. He had not been raised by mares. He was probably separated from his mother very, very early. And side note here: there are a lot of parallels here to human beings. You know, I can hear your mind going, huh?
LISA: Absolutely. You describe Brio in the book as being raised without a mother and by Hell’s Angels.
KELLY: Yeah. He had been raised by stallions. He had never been taught how to behave. He had never been taught cooperative behavior. He had never been taught right use of power, because who teaches that in the horse herd are the mares. The mares are the disciplinarians. And they will throw out stallions who behave badly. Badly, behaving stallions do not belong in the circle. And that’s a very dangerous place to be, to be exiled, because it means that you’re apart from the herd and then you’re vulnerable to being eaten. It’s a very strong tool that the mare has.
Brio comes in all loaded for bear. And he, as I say in the book, he took over the city like Godzilla and he was very much power over: not caring, all challenge. Right? And, boy, he just set about beating everybody up.
And you can’t interfere in this process. A 130-pound woman cannot get involved in the 1700 pounds of fierce horse body. So, I watched it and I thought, what is gonna happen here? How’s this all gonna play out? They’re confined in a paddock, so Artemis can’t run away and neither can anybody else. How’s this all gonna play out?
Brio did have the upper hand and he was, you know, air quotes “leader” for quite a few weeks. And he was leader, but he didn’t have anybody’s loyalty. He didn’t have anybody’s respect. And he was all alone. You know, if you went and looked out in the paddock, he was all alone in a corner somewhere because nobody liked being with him. They did what he said, but it came at enormous costs, not only to Brio, but to the whole herd. And the whole herd was quite kind of depressed. And I was concerned. I thought, well, is this the new, um, you know, is this the new presidency parallels at all? It was so bad.
Artemis is half his size. It wasn’t in her value system, I’ll put it that way, to beat him up or to fight him back. Right? Because remember her whole thing is around safety, connection, peace, joy, and freedom through caring presence. She’s not going to suddenly depart from those qualities in order to assume her leadership. Long story short, I go out to the paddock one day and suddenly I see Brio near the hay box and Artemis just looks at him, because she was at the hay box, too. And she looks at him, one look, just one look, and I thought: she’s done it.
It happened subtly, like water on a stone, right? Like water on a stone that Artemis just held her ground. She held her ground, maintaining her values, maintaining her consciousness. It took a long time. It wasn’t dramatic. It wasn’t like we see in the movies where Eowyn in the Lord of the rings slays the Witchking with her sword.
Artemis stayed grounded in this principle of profound presence. She was like a tuning fork. Right? And the other horses were resonating with that too, like a tuning fork. And they stayed near her. And pretty soon she just turned the tables, but it happened in a very subtle way. And I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us, that as we think about who do we want to be in the world to make change in the world? Is it through giant fell swoops, maybe, but there’s something just as powerful, if not more powerful by remaining true to your values. If you’re not a violent person, then you don’t need to smash windows and a protest, right? I mean, that’s a kind of extreme example, staying true to your values, staying grounded in the presence, trusting that you’re in alignment with all of life, which she is and letting it do its work, and it’s less exhausting.
Now, Brio has worked his way around that, the little care diagram. And he has found a beautiful spot for himself. He is a protector of a little donkey. He stands near her and he takes care of her because he’s all mighty, you know? And we have a new little horse who’s quite small and he’s buddies with her. So, Artemis has taken back leadership, even served Brio because Brio found his right place, right? I think about that all the time, because for those of us like yourself, Lisa, that feel that we have so much, we carry so much, we want to do so much for the world.
What do we do with these forces that are kind of brutish? Do we spar with them? Or do we hold a higher ground? You know? I think for me, Artemis teaches me a kind of dignity of holding a higher ground and just staying persistent with that.
Equus: An Experience In Indigenous Wisdom And Worldview
LISA: What is happening at Equus? How is the book’s indigenous wisdom relating to leadership? Because you’re training leaders in a very different way. There’s a guy on the back of the book who was a Navy seal commander. He says his training in other places has never equaled what he found at Equus, and the training was a “lesson manual for him for how to lead and live well in any century”. That’s quite an endorsement from a Navy seal commander.
KELLY: You know, there are a lot of tears from some pretty hard-edged individuals who have kind of surfed to the end of their internet in a way. And they’re looking for a different way because they’re good-hearted people that have a sense that there’s a different way. So, we do coaching and we do it online. We do classes and courses, and we do that online, of course. But, if people are so inspired, they come here to our campus where we have the herd of horses and we engage them with that very opinionated and gregarious herd. And, what happens is, again, in the in the same spirit of how Artemis sort of put Brio and in his right place, but in the nicest way, right? And she didn’t put him in his place, in that finger wagging way.
She put him in his right place. The herd puts people in their right place. And it’s very powerful. There’s a kind of transmission that happens. People are often almost speechless. They say words like, “I’ve come home for the first time,” “I finally see things I’ve never seen before,” “I always knew something like this was real and true,” meaning that there’s a larger order in things that is beautiful and benevolent and powerful. And we have lots of people being very deeply touched and moved in a way that their life does change, but with a lot of compassion and sweetness, yeah.
LISA: This has always been the challenge for what we were talking about at Kindred, which is this worldview shifting. The worldview shifting is not in our heads. We have a great worldview chart on Kindred that was put together by Four Arrows. And one side is the Dominator Culture, Western thinking and values, and the other side is our Indigenous Worldview – Indigenous to the Earth as a species as homo sapiens. And the path, or bridge, between these two worldviews is not more thinking, and Equus is remarkable in providing this experiential process for shifting. All we need to do is get on a bus and come on down (laughs).
KELLY: Thank you for saying it that way. That’s right. The path from what I call the power over mindset to the power with mindset, which is more Indigenous, just simply meaning native to our belonging here, right? This bridge is not through our thinking, but is through our body or feeling or knowing. That’s the path and you can come to Equus. Yes.
I remember in, in the Spiritual Composting article, Lisa, about this moment you had in your garden, where you, you said you felt the song of the uni-verse, the one son, and you had that one is experience with all of life, with the bees and the plants and the sun and the soil and the creatures and the whole thing. And, you know, this is available to us with our pets, with our little potted plant in our apartment with a tree in the backyard. And to just slow yourself down and go and be with your family, your tree brother, or your rock sister, or your dog, and just feel, and experience that belonging that you have with them and let that inform you. It will start to open up things for you, for people, all of us. Yeah.
About That New York Times‘ Article…
LISA: This is the second half of our interview with Kelly Windorf and the New York Times article has run. I hope you do get a chance to go over there and read it if you’re listening to us now, because there are some amazing testimonials in there from people who have come to Thunderbird Ridge and have participated in this program. But honestly, Kelly, it looked like a little bit of a hit job on indigenous wisdom and worldview. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. They are Western journalists, and their tactic is usually adversarial. What do you think about that article?
KELLY: Thank you, Lisa, and thank you for this opportunity to talk about that piece. It came out online yesterday, and it’s going to be out in print on Sunday. So, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s interesting, the title of the piece is, “Can We Learn Anything from Horses?” I think what we’ve learned the most from this piece isn’t what we’re learning from horses, but what we’re learning about humanity, right now. We see this happen in journalism. We see it happen in research, a person’s bias when they go into exploring something very much shapes the outcome of what they see. This is just the way it works, in terms of neuroscience: our bias shapes our world and our worldview.
And because they, by admission, said that they were angling to investigate us. Of course, they didn’t disclose this to us a year ago when they started this story. The New York Times’ editors did not disclose that this was an investigative piece and we were being investigated. So, investigations come with their own inherent bias, and we’re a learning and discovery organization. People who engage with us, engage with us to learn and discover and be curious. Investigative tactics aren’t always open and curious and wanting to learn. They’re more about, very often, proving the bias that they have. There has been so much said about bias in the world right now, and how that shapes our view and, and how bias shapes discussion, and how we see each other and how we hold one another and how we respect one another.
Through that bias, the piece was so interesting. There were lots and lots of omissions, strategic omissions. There were extractions. There were false parallels drawn. All kinds of things that you find typically in tabloids.
LISA: Some of the comments in Twitter were, “Why is the New York Times doing this sort of article?”
KELLY: It wasn’t true investigative journalism. If it had it been, then there would have been a lot of facts that would have come into play. And so that was hard. That was hard. And this is, you know, as Brené Brown says, when you’re in the arena of life and you’re getting your face muddy and dirty and bloodied, and you’re really in the arena of life, like the way that Kindred is in the arena, and you are, Lisa, in the arena, this is what happens.
There are a lot of people in the stadium and not many people in the arena. And so, I am flattered that the New York Times felt like we were worth their time. We are. I am up for this on behalf of my company, but also on behalf of what we stand for, which is about nature-based wisdom and indigenous wisdom that informs a new way forward. That is more inclusive, more caring, more loving, um, more worldview, more diverse, more tolerant. And that’s what we stand for. So, if I need to stand in the arena and have some cheap shots pitched at Equus and me and Scott, then so be it. I am so confident and privileged – to use that word very deliberately – to open the door for people to live differently and listen differently and love themselves and love each other differently, then I would gladly take this position of being in the arena in this way.
What was so interesting about the piece was the, the photography was stunning. Pictures tell us stories with a thousand words. So, we had many thousands of words in the New York Times, and the pictures really tell the true story, in terms of the joy and the kind of ease and connection that the horses have.
The piece that it didn’t show, and was omitted, but we spent a lot of time talking about it with the journalist is, how we work with the traditional people of this area. Two of our team members are Pueblo people. They were there during the day of the photography shoot. We have worked very hard to work with the traditional carers of the land here to make sure that this place is in integrity their protocols and processes. That was not in the story.
They didn’t include in the story how, through this year of COVID, we managed to keep everybody employed. Many of these people are the breadwinners of their family, the traditional people that Pueblo people are breadwinners of their family. If they lost their work with us, it would have been very devastating. These kinds of stories weren’t told. As you say, it’s kind of predictable because we are in a pervasive, rational reductionist and patriarchal worldview. And when innovators come forward with a different narrative, as we know with Kindred, then we can be susceptible to, or we can be the lightning rods, where that energy comes at us. That’s okay. That’s okay.
LISA: It seems like it would be more acceptable now to attack the allies because indigenous peoples are becoming more and more off limits to attack. Your entire 20 years of activism has been this allyship that you were directly granted from, for example, Uncle Bob. And that you have done this 20-year trek of work that you’ve captured in the Flying Lead Change book, and none of that is even given a nod, is interesting.
But honestly, Kelly, reading a lot of the comments that were coming through, they weren’t as vicious as I thought they would be. And I could sense this hesitancy of, I think many people know at some level, that this Dominator Culture, the Western disconnected worldview, it’s day is over now. It is not going to work for us. And, and, you know, the New York Times can continue to have its Domintator Culture champions and conducted investigations to debunk this Indigenous Worldview, but I think it will backfire because I think people know that the other one has had its day and we’re done now. We have to find another way.
KELLY: Yeah, absolutely. I think this is just a beautiful teaching moment for all of us. When I say teaching, I don’t mean finger-wagging teaching, but the kind of teaching that is a gift to receive because we’re, we are a part of a very large movement of a better world. So, the teaching for me is to really validate that this kind of attention is because we are starting to make waves and make a difference, to keep calling in people who haven’t yet seen how beautiful it can be to have a more inclusive worldview, and keep calling them in rather than calling them out, as I’ve said before, to keep standing tall and shining forward and not, really not tethering our self-esteem to the opinions of others, especially if they’re not in the arena with us, just to borrow all of that from Brene Brown.
Also, for me, it was really interesting to see, wow, so anytime I’m reading the news or a journalistic piece, I really have to be very discerning about what I’m reading, because I’m probably not getting the whole story. And there’s probably a whole lot of gaps here. And, is the story just supporting my own bias, my own worldview? How is this story shaping my brain? And so, it was just another lesson in, how I can be more resilient against polarizing forces and really – no matter how ugly it gets out there to stand in that place – as Uncle Bob would tell me – that place of true North, which is outside those extreme polarities of right, wrong, good, bad, and really stand connected to the earth. This New York Times piece. I’m so grateful for two things, how it’s calling me to stand in that place and the incredible photography and the horses to showing the world who they are, and what’s possible for all of us. And that’s what I’m really grateful about.
LISA: It’s true. It is true. And the testimonies, again, in the piece from your clients who have come out and then turned around and brought their entire companies and portions of their companies and had you come on calls over the last year during COVID to help their companies – those are powerful. And really honestly, you know, it takes my own inner critic and cynic to task because that’s really close to systemic change accomplished there, Kelly.
KELLY: And my hats off to these kinds of clients. I can tell you for them as leaders to be inside these often concretized, corporate environments and wield influence to bring their people to places that teach them different skills around leadership, through nature. I mean, they’re the gamechangers inside those organizations and often face a lot of risk to do things differently. I’m so proud of them. I know these people, and I know the work they’re trying to do. They’re trying to change the world through these enormous organizations that have in the past wielded some, maybe some sketchy results in the world, but they realize that they have a place to make a change in a company that then can wield positive influence in the world. So, I’m so proud of these people. I’m so proud of all of our clients. They’re just amazing individuals. There they are in black and white and full color (in the article).
It is our white privilege, right? Here’s these people in the photos who are white and are around horses. We have privilege as white people. Sadly, presenting us through that lens, what it ended up doing was undermining the indigenous message and the indigenous teachings and work that we honor and uphold. So, it actually turned against those with less privilege. And that saddens me. That kind of wisdom, that nature-based, ancient wisdom, is so much more powerful than what the New York Times could ever add or take away, try to add or take away from that.
LISA: It’s true. And I do still feel that many people, especially after the global pandemic, have become very aware that the old worldview, even if they don’t have the language for it, doesn’t work. And that is Kindred’s job. That is what we’re doing here, is giving people language. We even have a New Story Glossary of terms that you can go to and find language, the new language for the new story. I feel that many people are receptive to exploring what can we do differently? How is that done? I deeply appreciate your leadership in that area and your bravery. And I appreciate Artemis!
KELLY: Let’s circle back to Artemis. We’re talking about who do we want to be inside? How do we want to just be inside this moment, in face of not only something like the New York Times article, bu anytime we feel the Brio in the room who would like to push things towards a dominant paradigm. And Artemis just continues to invite us to stay the course and be that tuning fork. To being connected to all things, our heart wide open and dignified.
LISA: Yes, isn’t that a defining piece of these worldviews? The dominator is just really wanting to take your integrity and the indigenous worldview knows that’s not possible.
KELLY: Right? Yeah. Yeah. So here we are, again, doing what we all must do together and, and Lisa I’m so grateful for what you’re doing with Kindred and who you are and all the voices that you’re liberating through that medium. We’re all in this together. It’s a really, really powerful time to be alive.
There are no coincidences. The horse in this story is named “Brio.” The name of my mustang was “Brioso” who we called “Brio” for short. The first BLM mustang to make the U.S. Equestrian Olympic Team as first alternate in 1996. Three generations of my family had the chance to love him and he, skilled in “freedom riding” with no reins, taught hundreds of Indigenous children how to communicate telepathically with a horse. If you go to youtube and search “Wild Horse Hypnotist” you will see me as a young man “whispering” (and singing) to a wild horse and getting on its back. The connections between this story and Indigenous worldview, the wisdom and teaching of the horse, the trance-based understandings, and the shared name “Brio” (and the name is a larger story) have brought a group of spiritual energies together. Thank you for the book with such a wonderful title and for the interview and for putting “Indigenous worldview” on the map. To learn more about how to re-embrace it, as it belongs to all of us, just Google “Indigenous worldview Four Arrows” and you will have much material with which to work!
Thank you for sharing your story! We feature Four Arrows’ work here on Kindred and we’re honored to share his Worldview Chart here: https://kindredmedia.org/glossary/indigenous-worldview/