Each indigenous culture is distinct and unique. While many peoples may express similar worldviews and a common indigenous identity, their cultures are nonetheless based on different histories, environments, and creative spirits.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the inherent dignity, equality, and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. The rights of all members of indigenous populations are included in this declaration. However, Indigenous Peoples also have rights as distinct cultural groups or nations
Indigenous people are people defined in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations that are often politically dominant. The concept of indigenous people defines these groups as particularly vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and oppression by nation states that may still be formed from the colonising populations, or by politically dominant ethnic groups. As a result, a special set of political rights in accordance with international law have been set forth by international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank. The United Nations has issued aDeclaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to guide member-state national policies to collective rights of indigenous people—such as culture, identity, language, and access to employment, health, education, and natural resources. Although no definitive definition of “indigenous peoples” exists, estimates put the total population of post-colonial indigenous peoples who seek human rights and discrimination redress from 220 million to 350 million.
“In the world of the powerful there is no space for anyone but themselves and their servants. In our world everyone has a place. Only those who give up their history are consigned to oblivion. On the vacant ground of today, there will grow a flower of tomorrow.”
Mankind ‘IS’ the product of his ancestors.”
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“Mankind must be a steward of the Earth – Caretakers for all that dwells upon it.”
“Whenever we walk on the Earth, we should pay attention to what is going on. Too often our minds are somewhere else, thinking about the past or thinking about the future. When we do this, we are missing important lessons. The Earth is a constant flow of lessons and learnings which also include a constant flow of positive feelings. If we are aware as we walk, we will gather words for our lives, the lessons to help our children; we will gather feelings of interconnectedness and calmness. When we experience this, we should say or think thoughts of gratitude. When we do this, the next person to walk on the sacred path will benefit even more.”
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
“Treat this earth well: it is not a present from your parents, it is on loan to your children. The people who enrich their minds are those who keep their history on the leaves of memory. Not to be aware of the past is to be eternally a child, but for those of us who forget the past will be condemned to repeat it.”
“In this spiritual culture of the Sun, God as Father is wisdom and He lives in the throne within us between the two physical eyes known as the third eye. That is the eternal spiritual Father, who never leaves us. God as Mother is love and she lives in the Temple of the love. Our Father and Mother are one. They never separate and they never divorce, because they are conscious.”
“When will we ever begin to understand the meaning of the soil underneath our feet?
From a tiny grain of sand to the largest mountain, everything is sacred.
Our living saints are the evergreen trees. We have no buildings or steeples. The landscape and lakes are our churches and cathedrals. These are our sacred buildings.
Yesterday and tomorrow exist forever upon our mother, the earth.”
“Not to be aware of the past is to be eternally a child, but for those of us who forget the past will be condemned to repeat it.
We are more than the sum of all our knowledge, we are the products of our imagination.
“When the last red man shall have become a myth among the white men, when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, upon the highway or in the silence of pathless woods, we and our ancestors will be there standing among them. We have lived upon this land from days beyond history’s records,far past any living memory, deep into the time of legends.”
“I prefer my journeys into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty brooks, and the sweet fragrance of flowers. If this be Paganism, then I am honored to be called a Pagan.”
It is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Spread across the world from the Arctic to the South Pacific. They are the descendants – according to a common definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.
DEFINING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
There is no rigid definition of what makes a group Indigenous, but the United Nations and the International Labour Organization have outlined a few characteristics that usually define an Indigenous group:
● We are descended from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of our region.
● We maintain a close tie to our land in both our cultural and economic practices.
● We suffer from economic and political marginalization as a minority group.
● A group is considered Indigenous if it defines itself that way.
Each Indigenous group is unique. We speak thousands of different languages, and our traditions are as diverse as our lands. However, there are basic principles that all Indigenous communities share. These principles are the foundation of all Indigenous practices, and it is because of them that our economies and our societies are equitable, balanced, and sustainable.
On individual basis, an indigenous person is one who self-identifies as indigenous (group consciousness), and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group). This working definition is recognised and employed by international and rights-based non-governmental organizations, as well as among national/sub-national governments themselves. However, the degree to which indigenous peoples’ rights and issues are accepted and recognised in practical instruments such as treaties and other binding and non-binding agreements varies, sometimes considerably, from the application of the above definition.
Academics who define indigenous peoples as “living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest” have encountered criticism as they fail to consider regions and states where indigenous peoples constitute a majority as in PRC, Fiji, Bolivia, and Mexico, or where the entire population is indigenous, as in Iceland, Tonga and the Papua New-Guinea.
Legal definitions of indigenousness have changed over time to reflect the changing perceptions of the people within the framework of conceptualisation Indigenousness.
Today I will share the Seven Directions as I was taught when I was young. Though some tribes use different colors to mark the cardinal points and different herbs to cleanse A good example is the Cherokee who use blue to designate the West instead of Black. Probably because they were the only tribe I know of that owned slaves and thus see black as a danger be it skin color or what ever.
I will start in the North. I was taught that North represents both beginning and endings. It is the direction of all things material. The direction where anything found in the material. In fact Grandmother told me of a Seneca tale that in the far north is a place of power. It is a swirling field of power in which all things found on Earth come from. It is interesting that Seneca women when I was young wove baskets to sell to the tourist, which depicted this place as a cornucopia. This is where the human spirit enters the world from. The color representing North is White and it’s herb is Sweetgrass, which has a delightful odor and is used when calling for any material change in life.
In the East is the child and the future. the direction of the Sunrise. This is the direction of the Eagle or hawk who carry our prayers into the sky. It is the direction we face and the spirit we call upon when we are beginning anything new. That our actions will be best for all. Thus the burning of tobacco when beginning a council, which carries our prayers skyward. That the desired results will benefit all. anytime I am about to start something new I go to the East and seek guidance that what I am about to do will be good for all.
In the South is the adult, both men and women and all creatures who reproduce them self. It is also the place of the Wolf spirit which signifies love and respect for all. I use burning cedar to overcome negativity in any home, office or any dwelling which people congregate in. I also burn Cedar to help bring people closer and in marriage ceremonies. It was used when me and others had our coming of age ceremony.
In the west is the home of the elders, it is the home also of wisdom and strength. It’s color is black. It’s Spirit is either the bear or the Ant. It’s herb is Sage. Burnt to cleanse the spirit prior to all ceremony. It is also used in healing and before any telling of the old ways. It is also the place we call on the ancestors to intervene on our behalf.
The next direction is the below. Our mother the Earth. The direction of being connected. The place where all foods and all medicine come from. It’s spirit is the corn mother and such is used in some ceremonies including the beginning of healing for anything or any body.
The next direction is above. This is the direction of all energy and all growth for it was grandfather sun who made mother earth pregnant that we her children might have life.
The final direction is within. the place where all the other directions meet and manifest. the place of meditation and renewal of body, mind and spirit.
Our stories were us, what we knew, where we came from and where we were going. They were told to remind of us of our responsibility, to instruct, and to entertain. There were stories of the Creation, our travels, our laws. There were legends of hard-fought battles, funny anecdotes – some from the smokehouse, some from the trickster – and there were scary stories to remind us of danger, spiritual and otherwise.
The poets of the Indigenous Americahave assumed principal roles in oratory while defining present and presence; contemporarily interpreting value and condition; and performing intellectual reasoning which may very well present necessary prophesies of solution for our world. It is in these voices the culture resonates and is shared freely, and in these voices are indicators of deeper realms in actual presence within places of origin now often inhabited by representatives of nearly all peoples of the global planet. Whereas inclusions are also present of Indigenous American poets’ ventures to outside regions and continents as well.
Indigenous Peoples are the descendants of the original habitants of a region prior to colonization. These groups have maintained some or all of their linguistic, cultural and organizational characteristics and consider themselves distinct from the societies currently governing those territories. Throughout the world, Indigenous Peoples have struggled to co-exist with immigrant peoples who have established settlements in their territories. History reflects that in many instances, non-Indigenous Peoples (settler populations and their governments) have not adequately respected or supported the sovereignty or cultural values of Indigenous Peoples, which has threatened the survival of these groups.
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The Sacred Nature of Thought and
its Connection to Native Spirituality
Alita’s Journey to Truth
by Harry D.
Chapter 8 (Book Excerpt)
ALITA’S VISION OF TRUTH in the SWEAT LODGE
Alita eagerly packed and jumped into her car for the 2 hour drive to
Johnny’s neighboring community. Alita was warmly met by Johnny and
enjoyed a stimulating evening talking to him, his wife and a
schizophrenic Native lady friend by the name of Lucy. Alita went to
sleep on the couch at around midnight, desiring to capture some sleep,
because she knew Johnny insisted on beginning his sweat early. Five in
the morning rolled around, and Alita rose from the couch and proceeded
with her early morning necessities.
Around 5:30 a.m. Johnny and Alita stepped into his 4 wheel drive truck,
picked up the youthful couple and headed high into the mountains. The
ride was eventful and bumpy, with lots of mudslides, slushy roads and
finally snow as they came closer to Johnny’s farm at the peak of the
mountains. The darkness was beginning to ebb, as the four arrived at the
mountaintop. The scene was breathtaking, as several mammoth mountains,
covered with thousands of Christmas trees layered with snow, swept the
horizon. Brownish valleys were embedded between the snowcapped mountains,
providing an awe-inspiring view. Large snow flakes began to stroll down
from the sky, and the air was pleasant to the skin.
Johnny lit the fire, and it wasn’t very long before the logs raged in
flames, beginning the process of heating up the lava rocks. Bark lay
under the stones, and huge sides of bark lay on both sides of the fire.
The 4 talked lightheartedly, while cuddling next to the raging fire.
Then, in about an hour, all four changed into their shorts, with Odell
wearing a T-shirt. Johnny, with his pitchfork, started to carry the red
lava rocks from the fire into the sweat lodge pit. The sweat lodge had
comfortable carpets, and was luxurious in comparison to other lodges.
In the opening round, the heat and Johnny’s wisdom and spiritual guidance
calmed and relaxed the other three participants. In Round 2, Johnny
asked Alita to lead the round. She began to talk about how thoughts
create feelings, and as she did, her mind suddenly stilled. “The Creator
gave us a mind to function in this physical and mental world. Without
this mind, we would not be connected to the Spirit World. “
As if by magic, a Vision appeared before Alita, and she calmly began
describing it to the others. “It was springtime, with the birds singing
and all of Mother Earth awakening with promise and pleasure. The body of
Alita disappeared and her mind mystically recreated and transformed
itself into a large, empty garden. Her body re-emerged with the garden
mystically floating inside of her being. She energetically began
cultivating her garden by hoeing, fertilizing the black soil, weeding out
all the rocks and unwanted substances. As summer approached, her pace of
activity increased feverishly as she planted seeds of different weeds all
over her virgin garden. The weeds loved their fertile home. They sprang
up like a cancer, as the mixture of hot sun and evening rain provided the
ideal nourishment for the growth and spreading of the tumor. Alita’s
garden became suffocated with these unrestrained plants and yet, the soil
of the garden remained pure and healthy.
Suddenly, before her very eyes, the weeds changed into streaks of solid
thin ultra red light. They weren’t weeds now, they were her thought
waves. Surprisingly, she had planted all those weeds in her garden, not
by her labor, but via her own thinking . The Great Spirit arose before
her eyes, pronouncing “those weeds are your work Alita, not mine. You
are my child and I talk to you every second of your life. Those impure
thoughts of self-pity and doubt pollute your mind. The gift of divine
guidance and righteousness is yours to choose.” The vision transformed
again, with Alita now looking disillusioned and frail. Summer turned to
autumn, and when the freezing cold of winter arrived, many of the weeds
had died. However, Alita had become sick, and her eyes were black with
worry. This vision gently floated away, like colored mist separating
into a blue sky.
A new Vision began by showing the same original scene as the previous
vision. Spring rolled around, and again her mind was mystically
transformed into an empty garden with rich, fertile soil. Some weeds had
popped up from the previous year, but Alita joyfully hoed them out. Her
health had returned, and she was once again hopeful that this spring
would bring her a healthy crop. She now understood that the weeds were
unhealthy thoughts. Purer thoughts are needed for a successful and
healthy life. Each day that passed, Alita removed more and more of the
weeds, working with joy and happiness in her heart. She loved puttering
in her garden, and as summer approached, she planted a variety of
healing herbs and flower seeds. To her surprise, each of the seeds
reacted differently to the planting, adding to her curiosity of how to
create the perfect garden. In the beginning of summer, Alita’s mind
totally relaxed. She enjoyed her moment to moment reality to such a high
degree, that she forgot that she was thinking.
Suddenly, a new Vision integrated with her dream. Her mind arose like a
formless multi-colored gas that permeated all existence. Her mind had
somehow integrated with the Creator’s mind. They were One. The Creator
spoke, “I think, therefore, I AM. One Mind, One Thought, One
Consciousness. These are the precious gifts for all human beings to
create their perception of the NOW. What is mine is yours, and what is
yours is mine, if you possess the gift of understanding.’
‘Your personal garden that you created, via thought and consciousness,
is connected to Mother Earth, the Grandfathers and the ENERGY OF
EVERYTHING. Alita, please wake up and smell the herbs and flowers in
your garden. Share those herbs and flowers with all humans who pass by
your garden. The spirit of the herbs and flowers will lift all human’s
hearts and allow their thoughts to soar as high as the eagle flies,
turning dreams into reality — if the humans are ready to awaken.” A
new vision appeared before Alita, one in which a group of the People came
together and a loving thought was spoken. This caring thought wave
traveled on a thin highway from person to person, and as it touched each,
they smiled. Alita understood now, the herbs and flowers were symbols of
The summer came and the garden prospered, with the flowers growing into
a sea of beauty. The Creator arose once again and pronounced “those
herbs and flowers have grown because of your creativity, Alita. You are
my child and I talk to you every second of your life. The gift of the
right use of the mind is yours to choose and you have chosen wisely.”
Alita awakened from her vision, suddenly aware that she was still in the
sweat and smiled. She had caught a glimpse of Truth. She spoke, “We
function via Spirit, Thought and Consciousness. The Power of Spirit, The
Power of Thought and the Power of Consciousness are divine and neutral
forces, and are present in us at all times. They function and create our
psychological perspective moment to moment. I think, therefore, I AM.”
The remaining rounds of the sweat flowed effortlessly. Both youths
became inspired with their own thoughts about God, acknowledging the
Spirit that exists within every human being. They had never talked
before in the sweat, and, yet, now felt comfortable and confident in
expressing their wisdom and common sense. Johnny, relaxed and enjoyed
being a part of the learning, rather than always leading the sweat. The
sweat evolved into a learning institute, whereby spiritual knowledge was
openly shared by all the participants. All four expressed how light and
free they felt when the sweat was over.
Alita left later in the day, after spending a delightful afternoon
talking to Johnny, his wife and their lovely schizophrenic friend, Lucy.
The latter had been positively affected by her visit in the evening
before. Alita noticed how calm she had become. Lucy was openly joking
and talking about love, men and life. Alita saw her mental health. This
kind lady knew about happiness, and openly sought it. The two of them
laughed about Alita’s big nose, breaking into squeals of pleasure. Alita
knew that the Principles were in motion and Lucy was creating and living
a happy state of mind for herself. Alita recognized that, while this lady
still needed her pills, she was already walking towards the healing light
that she alone could find.
Alita drove home and the next day, she realized that she did not have to
always think about the Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness.
The Principles automatically function in a positive manner when she was
happy. The day she realized that her insecure fantasies were simply her
choice of thoughts, were the day she stopped indulging in them. The day
she realized that all her thoughts are spiritual, is the day she began to
feel a connection and purpose in life. From that day on, she decided to
teach the People healthier thinking.
Alita read from her favorite book by Syd Banks, The Missing Link.
Mind, Consciousness and Thought are the three principles
that enable us to acknowledge and respond to existence.
They are what I call the psychological trinity.
And so Alita, walked into her future Journey of Life, not knowing what
life had in store for her, not knowing what the next page in her life
would bring, but feeling lucky to be alive.