Peaceful Co-existence & Unity in Diversity

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Modern civilization has always had its rebels and resisters, but the movement toward living in balance with nature has exploded in recent years. Mother Earth herself is definitely speaking to us, and we are listening, as we seek new connections both to the land and our wildness within.  This must be the most important work of our time – to reject the toxicity of Empire – and regain our place within (not above) the Circle of all Life.  As techno-capitalism continues to attack the living world we are uncolonizing, and rejecting the western worldview that led to the crisis in the first place. Rejuvenating our bonds to Earth Community is happening through a rich complexity of paths and practices – genres such as ecopsychology, permaculture, rewilding, paganism, ecofeminism, animism, and other expressions of the ancestral arts.  And yet where does the initial impulse come from, to seek our own ancestral knowledge?  At some point in our collective history, the majority of us were separated from our root culture by imperialism and colonialism. With the trail so cold, what expressions feel authentic, as we revive spirit and culture today? One thing is for sure, we can be eternally grateful to the Indigenous Elders across Turtle Island for the wisdom they offer, and for the teachings we are being encouraged to embrace. And the primary directive arising from Indian Country right now, is that “all people need to return to their own Indigenous Knowledge.”[1]

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For those of us in the Euro-diaspora who have been separated from pastoral, small village, or Indigenous systems for many eons, it can be extremely challenging to recover the earth-emergent worldview(s) that our ancestors held. By the time the explorers and settlers arrived on the shores of Turtle Island, honoring natural law and living in balance with Earth Community had already been outdated concepts for centuries in Europe. Our ancestors were part of a social organization based on hierarchy and control, and instead of taking their cues from the Indigenous civilizations already thriving in the “new world” they went on to repeat the colonial pattern. Today, the challenge of our generation is to address the disconnect from our homelands, locate and heal old traumas and habits of colonization, and find valid ways to reclaim our bonds to place, while at the same time approaching restitution and making amends to Indigenous peoples.

Reclaiming  eco-identity, and authentic cultural or indigenist practices – either independently, with a small group, or in community – and doing the work of uncolonization allows us to fulfill the promise of respecting all Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and European Indigenous Knowledge (EIK) traditions, while lifting up the sacredness and interconnectivity of all life. As the Kogi assure us, “our unity in ancestral norms and our collective return to the Original Instructions will bring about change.”[2] When we accept the spiritual teachings from the Elders – the sacred gifts of IK – according to the laws of reciprocity we then have the opportunity to give back. These actions can vary from person to person and place to place, but they may include learning about colonization (which is everyone’s history), delving into contemporary issues affecting First Nations, and accepting our responsibilities as allies to restore Indigenous lands, sovereignty and human rights. Acknowledging our positionality within the historic colonizer/colonized dynamic is also important, as our personal origin story influences our unique lens, and how we perceive the world.

Coming together with the original Earthkeepers of Turtle Island for common causes such as environmental protection and earth remediation, and discovering shared values in our mutual love for the land, will do much to heal the colonizer/colonized divide. Against all odds, First Nations continue to remind us of our responsibilities to land and community, and to welcome us into a future that will manifest the original visions of mutuality and respectful relationship that their Ancestors held.  According to Anishnaabe epistemology, the four colours of human beings – yellow, black, red and white – all have wondrous gifts to share, each contributing their unique skills, each with an important role to play, and each having sacred truths that are integral to the whole. These attributes, principles or “four covenants”  of  humanity  are  found  in  diverse  Indigenous Knowledge  systems  and cosmologies worldwide, such as this teaching from Floyd Looks for Buffalo Hand (Lakota).

“Yellow people from the east have the covenant of looking after the water, which is the blood of our body. The whites are responsible for keeping the air, what we need to breathe. The covenant of the blacks is the fire, the energy force, the heart and electricity that keeps the world turning, and the red people have the covenant of the earth, which is our flesh.”[3]

Indigenous peoples have never forgotten that all human beings belong within the Circle of Creation, and it is our directive to return to this sacred place, renewed and empowered by our own spiritual roots and cultural traditions. Once we have rejected colonial values, the impulse to seek our own ancestral knowledge can be driven by a great yearning for authenticity or belonging, or for deeper connections to land and community. We may feel there is something missing, or we may experience deep time “knowings” from intuitions, dreams, visions, or time spent in nature.  The teachings of Turtle Island Elders can open the portal to our own Indigenous mind, and kickstart our search for ancestral ways.  And yet, looking at the current cultural landscape, pathways to recover spirit and revive communal life can miss the mark in terms of cultural appropriation or spiritual extractivism, which are forms of neo-colonialism.   Some commodities or products can be marketed with “pan-Indian” themes, and may not be authentic to any particular First Nation. Native spirituality as offered in books, workshops, or one-on-one sessions, can often be altered or fabricated versions of the original IK.  White shamans may suffer from identity confusion, and create exotic personas as they enter the New Age/Pagan/Self-Help marketplace.  Some eclectic offerings are removed from earth connection altogether, and are immersed in the high-consumption, high-carbon, high-mobility modernist lifestyle.  And lastly, in some spaces little value is placed on one’s homelands or ancestors, and generic memes of universalism (“we are all one”) can actually erode the important work of reclaiming specific traditions.  As Chief Arvol Looking Horse so eloquently states, the goal of cultural rejuvenation is our “Unity in Diversity.”[4]

At a meta-level, modern narratives of “we are all one” are fine, but the answer may not lie in homogeneity. Throughout human history (1) a respect for diversity and (2) tolerance for difference have always been the missing components.  With respect, tolerance, and the humility that arises from relinquishing our privilege, anything is possible! In terms of steering clear of neo-colonial mistakes, there are exciting paths of empowerment and healing that provide resolution. Being grounded in an ecocentric worldview that places the localized stewardship of the earth first, can lead to our re-landing and the reinhabitation of place.  As humans have always done, we can access the land as the source of our individual and collective identity, well-being, mythic narratives and spiritual life. Caring for our basic needs can be accomplished in reciprocity and harmony with all diverse species and ethnocultures in Earth Community.  And for those who wish to honor ancestors and revive their own roots, authentic IK/EIK is waiting, just beyond the monoglot memes of Empire. Our pursuit of earth-emergent values and IK/EIK cultural expressions can stem from a strong, grounded connection to a specific place and love of the land, in combination with ancestral practice.

In the larger scheme of things, colonization has stolen entire epistomologies from both Settlers and First Nations. We have all been wounded by Empire, and can inspire to support each other in the cultural recovery process. “As westerners retrieve the memory of their earliest ancestors, they begin to grieve their lost connection to the Earth as well as becoming invigorated to lead more meaningful and authentic lives. As both Indigenous and Western peoples tap into their own wellspring of losses, they also come together to grieve.”[5]  All pre-colonial cultures share the social ecology of earth-based reverence and spiritual luminosity, and the path to egalitarian co-existence means rejecting the construct of “whiteness” that continues to dominate others and oppress the land.  We have the ability to re-imagine a future where multiple post-racial and post-capitalist societies can exist side-by-side with both individual and shared values, and the stability of soul-oriented community is promoted for all.  Respect for diversity is the key principle that allows all cultures and subcultures the same rights, each according to their own unique systems of self-governance, organization and economics.  By tending our relationships with care and generosity, we can learn from one another and share cultural traditions, such as offerings to the local spirits or celebrating our seasonal cycles. The most authentic definition of “earth citizenship” must be our mutualism in earth-centered culture and earth-based democracy, and “through respect for the cultures and religions of each nation, human diversity is upheld, celebrated, sustained, and included in the future vision of the world.”[6]  To realize this remarkable vision will take a groundswell from every demographic and ethnicity,  to reinstate the most nourishing and meaningful aspects of life – the natural world, the spiritual realm, our ancient wisdom traditions, close-knit community, and our sense of belonging.

As we continue to build resilient communities and shape a future in reciprocity with Earth Community, it may be helpful to engage once again with the directive “everyone needs to return to their own IK.” Both on a personal and a collective level, the reclamation of ancestor veneration and our IK/EIK are integral to earth restoration, and ancient knowledge and earth-based cosmologies can reunite humanity in the Sacred Circle. Diane Longboat (Kahontakwas Mohawk) confirms the vital importance of this task when she says that, “Indigenous wisdom is now called forth in the world to guide all sectors of human development to restore balance in the world, so that human beings can live by Sacred Spiritual Law and the Natural Laws of Mother Earth. The hoop of humanity is a great circle of seats for every human being.”[7]

Both the practical and the mystical can be blended into the everyday knowing that life is sacred, which fills our lives with transcendent well-being and peace. “When we are filled with reverence and respect for all life, not just human life but animal and plant life, water life, and the life of the earth, then the qualities of compassion and love blossom in us, which in turn makes us more creative, imaginative, and even happy.”[8]   This is a very real contemporary movement based on the collaborative values of forgiveness and peace, and we are being offered the opportunity to learn how to live with one another, respect one another’s diversity, and create a new future grounded in reciprocity.   Presenting ourselves to the world, grounded and strong in our own cultural identity, language, oral tradition, music and spiritual expressions, will give us a place in the circle of unconditional love, with all the support, consensus and community-building that our flourishing “Unity in Diversity” will offer.

Let’s have a back-and-forth sharing, a meta-circle where we all take turns!  Starting in the East with an ancient Shinto prayer of welcome and blessing for the new day dawning, we give thanks for the sacred waters from every corner of the globe, bringing in the fresh breezes of spring, the peeping of the frogs, the crickets chirping and the flight of the majestic herons overhead.  Led by an ancient Malay poetry cycle of mystic and animist wonders, we channel South to receive more messages and mark the mighty thrust of a pod of baleen whales as they break the surface of the ocean next to the lands of the Ngāti Porou, Māori iwi in New Zealand. Then, accompanied by Sanskrit chants we spiral across Mother Africa to the flourish of Oyo-Yorùbá dundun drums in an Orisha-devoted Nigerian dance of cleansing fire, all humanity arising from the same sacred source and reunited again.  We circle in equality side-by-side in the highland heat, each one of us a spark of gratitude, radiance, creativity and joy, then holding the wisdom of Bonobo, Crocodile, Elephant, Lion, Meercat, Rhinoceros and Wildebeest gently in our hearts, we move past the blazing of an infinity of council fires.  Shifting to a Sufi prayer for spiritual healing and reciprocity we grow relationships of deep listening, and circle West to the people of the Americas, grounding ourselves in the rich embrace of earth restoration as the tupelo branches fill with honey bees, and the chittering racoons and howling of the wolves make their presence known. As the beloved creatures pass the staff to the Seminole we are offered traditional songs honoring the plant spirits for their nurturing healing power, followed by a Lakota blessing for Mother Earth and the Horse Nation, an Oji-Cree  sacred  pipe ceremony  for  the bonding  of  all  people, and  in the leaf-strewn meadow, we join a lively Métis dance and fiddle jig that celebrates the abundant harvest from orchard, field and fen.  As we read the glyphs on stone and revere the red insignas of earth ochre, we raise our voices in an honour song for the passing of the Beothuk of Newfoundland, whose ancestral spirits hover on the margins of the circle.  Then, crossing the great shell of Turtle Island we give space to the Hawaiian Earth Keepers to lead us in the Hoponopono chant, as we offer sacred blessings to our brothers and sisters, the more-than-human-world, and the entire Earth Community. “I am sorry. Please forgive me.  I thank you.  I love you.”[9]  Then, blown to the North by a hurricane force gale, we hear the beauty of Greek prayers, the strains of Romani music and Hungarian folk songs rising on the wintery wind, followed by a Basque petition to the Goddess Mari to return to Her mountain cave, and a Gaelic Blessing that calms the breeze and offers kindness, compassion, love and devotion. United again with the sacred flora and fauna found in the folktales of Old Europe, an ancient Slavic Kolo round dance moves us deosil as night falls and we complete the circle, and take the transformative expressions of Unity in Diversity back to our beloved landscapes of home. 

People of the Earth!  Sacred as the Earth is sacred, our interexistence with all beings is our greatest joy, and we form the unbreakable bonds of Earth Community.  Rooted deeply in our love for the Earth, we know that our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being is dependent on the health of the land, and our fate is bound to the fate of Gaia. Strong as the Earth is strong, we go forth as warriors for Her protection and care. Let the beacon bonfires blaze out, the sparks leaping from coast to coast and mountain to mountain, as we pass the torch from hand to hand in acceptance of this sacred trust and responsibility.  May we forever bless the Earth, and may She bless us in return. 



[1]  Pegi Eyers, “First Nations on Ancestral Connection,” (blog), Stone Circle Press, July, 2023   >link<

[2]  José Dingula Moscote & Luntana Dingula Nacogi (Kogi/Kágaba) La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, “Sacred Water Circle Gathering,” Gchi-Nbi Sacred Water Circle, Peter Gzowski College, Trent University, May 2-4, 2014

[3] Floyd Looks for Buffalo Hand (Lakota) as cited in “Selling the Sacred: Get Your Master’s in Native American Shamanism?” by Christina Rose, Indian Country Today: Media Network, November 5, 2014

[4]  Statement in solidarity with the Idle No More movement by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, NDN News – Daily Headlines in Indian Country, December 31, 2012

[5]  Herbert O’Driscott as cited in Worldview Skills: Transforming Conflict from the Inside Out, by Jessie Sutherland, Worldview Strategies, 2005

[6]  Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), “Can Indigenous Beliefs Save the Contemporary World?” Indian Country Today: Media Network, September 14, 2013

[7]  Diane Longboat (Kahontakwas (Mohawk), “Indigenous Wisdom and Prophecies Are Helping Humanity Shift to New Paradigms,” Global Indigenous Wisdom Summit, The Shift Network, November 18-20, 2014
[8]  “Nonviolence and Quality of Life: Soil, Soul and Society – A Workshop with Satish Kumar,” California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA, April 30, 2006

[9] Hoʻoponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice for reconciliation and forgiveness. With elaborate variations found throughout the island cultures of Polynesia, Hoʻoponopono beautifully and powerfully corrects, restores and maintains good relationships between the human, spiritual and natural realms, with processes of prayer, reflection and a “letting go” that can transcend time and place.  The IK of Hoʻoponopono has been adapted to modern life through practices of restorative justice, and has been communicated worldwide by healing priests (Kahunas) and others. Briefly, “I am sorry” means accepting one’s own actions and taking responsibility; “please forgive me” means asking for acceptance and engaging the other in the understanding and energy of forgiveness;  “I thank you” means acknowledging what one has gained from the situation; and “I love you” means untangling the conflict entirely and returning to love, the source of all creation.

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