Manataka American Indian Council
Cultural Preservation – Why It Matters
by Corina Roberts, Redbird
For many years Native American elders and wisdom keepers have been saying that we must care for the Earth if we expect the Earth to care for us. Now, the threat of global warming is no longer a threat…it is a reality. Today, more than ever, we need the wisdom of our indigenous elders to guide us in our actions.
Native peoples worldwide have always understood that humans do not somehow exist separately from the rest of creation – regardless of our ethnic or religious upbringing, our fates are intertwined. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. Our actions matter. They have impact not only upon ourselves, but on the generations to come.
We need to take responsibility for our actions…for our health, for our planet’s health, for our children and for our children’s children. We need to come into balance with our finite resources and protect them. We need to act in ways that create a sustainable future.
Cultures that are aware of this balance have always existed, but they have always faced and often fallen to the pressures of the more “civilized” dominant societies; societies often out of balance with themselves and their relationship to other living things. When we talk about preserving and promoting Native American culture, we are talking about something much larger than powwows, or dancing, or learning ancient songs. We are talking about keeping alive the teachings that guide us in healthy ways to relate to other beings, human and non-human, and instruct us on how to care for our Earth so that the Earth can continue to care for us.
Indigenous cultures are not immune to the effects of the dominant societies they are surrounded by. We struggle with complex issues; what is sacred, what is marketable, and where to draw the line. We carry the additional burden of understanding that, while we must live in a society which dictates success in terms of wealth, our hunger for amassing wealth must be tempered with the teachings we know in our hearts are right and good. We know a different kind of prosperity exists; one which is inseparably connected to the health and well-being of all living things, one which has very little to do with money, property and prestige.
For native peoples worldwide, cultural preservation is about survival; personal, emotional, spiritual and planetary survival. We stand on the brink of environmental catastrophe now. The wisdom of our elders and the right relationship of ourselves to all other beings is perhaps more vital now than ever. Many of us were not raised traditionally. We have had to re-learn that wisdom which keeps us in balance.
We are in the process of revitalizing our songs and ceremonies, not for public display, but for something much greater; our survival as nations, as a species and as a living ecosystem, inter-related on all levels, from the smallest microbe to the distant stars. Our elders understood this, and they knew what was coming. It is time now for us to come forward and preserve not only our diverse and vibrant cultures, but the knowledge upon which they have been built.
Corina Roberts, Founder, Redbird
P.O. Box 702, Simi Valley, CA 93062 www.RedbirdsVision.org
Jingle dancer photograph is by Bruce Hamilton
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