I was at a Rosemary Gladstar talk a few years back at the Herbal Symposium and she started off her talk by acknowledging that we are all indigenous humans. The idea of being a separate species from indigenous humans is an illusion and just as dangerous as, the one that we ‘Westerners’, are separate from nature. We are all here, regardless of what we believe, coexisting the same Bio-Sphere we call Earth or Home. The air we breathe, the water we drink, all recycle back into itself in a finite way. The consumption level of modern day humans, along with our population growth has lead to unprecedented amounts of biodiversity and habitat loss, contamination of ecosystems, and a huge depletion of natural resources that are left for future generations. When I was in college, I decided to look for solutions to these issues and found that while exploring indigenous areas, such as El Salvador and Southern Mexico, their ways of life and Ecosystems were much healthier.
I started off on my first farm in 2006. I bought a 22 acre woodlot with a stream and beautiful bounty of mixed trees. I cleared part of the forest to start growing vegetables and medicinal herbs. There I lived, homesteading for almost 10 years, without running water nor electricity. It was very much tied into the ways Indigenous humans around the globe live their life. The buddhist phrase “Carry water, chop wood” has been very relative since I started this way of life. I still get water from a hand dug well, local spring, rainwater catchment, or the stream. If water is life, what are we doing as good stewards to protect our sacred sources of water? Living close to the Earth in an Indigenous way has many teachings, the first being about water health and conservation. We as Western World humans have pulled so far from being ‘One’ with nature. This is why we are destroying it and taking it for granted, thinking that, it will always provide us with our basic needs.
A UN report earlier this year did a major study on the difference between the degradation of Indigenous humans land in comparison to how the Western World managed their land use. The report was undeniably in favor that Indigenous humans “…have created habitats that are much more diverse and species-rich than typical agricultural landscapes—which are often vast fields with acre upon acre of the same crop. In some cases, there are 300 or 500 species in a garden.” There are amazing benefits from these practices, which play a huge roll in promoting biodiversity, ecological restoration, and monitoring remote habitats. Consumption levels of single use plastic, fossil fuels, and toxic chemicals (bleach, glyphosate, etc.) are also at a minimum or non-existent, instead, practices like composting and reusing are implemented.
Indigenous insight to nature comes from many different points of view, that the western world can learn from. A major viewpoint is looking at the longevity of the landscape, knowing that nature and humans are an integral part of each other, instead of seeing them as separate. Managing land so future generations can more easily live in correlation with the land is in the foresight of their focus when it comes to planning. This way each generation is not starting from new and a more collective, communal viewpoint is formed. Another prominent viewpoint, that many Westerners are missing, is the connectivity to nature and the Earth, not only how different habitats can be managed to compliment each other, but also how we interact on a daily basis with nature. Having a reciprocal relationship in all aspects of life with nature, will help us better understand that we need fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, and we need to better manage our local landscapes. There are many lessons we can learn from Indigenous peoples and local communities who are already sustainably managing their lands around them.