Learning to live more gently on the earth does not happen spontaneously when you are born into a culture of consumerism. In my pursuit of the simple life I have had a lot of guidance.
The core of my gentle approach to living comes from my parents. And while my own culture has some excellent examples of people warning us of our luxuriously wasteful ways, they do not reflect the large society.
For me, then, the next basic source of ideas and practices for a way of life that made more sense to me is from my First Nations hosts.
I was born in Blackfoot territory. After university I moved north to the land of the Cree. After that Linda and I were hosted by the Coast Salish for 10 years. Two years ago we traversed the whole of Turtle Island and now live in the area of the people of the rising sun, the Mi'kmaq.
It is because of their generosity that I have lived my life in their lands. It is because of their stewardship over thousands of years that there was a functioning ecosystem here when my ancestors arrived from Europe looking for refuge. Look at what we have done with it since then.
We are Earth Plunderers. "The economy or the environment?" could only be asked by such a person.
Standing Rock is the most striking example of sharing the native world view with a consistent message that has been the same since settlers arrived on their shores - we and the Earth are one and the same. What you do to the Earth, you do to yourself. Therefore, treat her gently.
The Water Protectors of Standing Rock are decedents of one of the greatest and well known leaders in the area of what is now known as the USA. The wisdom of Sitting Bull, highly respected Lakota Chief and medicine man, could have helped us avoid problems like the Dakota Access Pipeline, if only we had listened.
Sitting Bull led his people during the time of colonization, and summed up the newcomers in a way that is unfortunately just as accurate today.
"Yet, hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.
They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. The nation is like a spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all that are in its path."
Sitting Bull died on the Standing Rock Reservation December 15th, 1890. He was shot by police attempting to arrest him on trumped up charges. He, like his decedents over the past 8 months of water protecting, paid a high price for resisting the plans of the Earth Plunderers.
I am in debt to the peoples that have hosted me here throughout my lifetime. Not only because they let me stay, but also because it is through their example that I have learned about living more gently and simply on this great and abundant land.
All settlers on Turtle Island have native people to thank. Today I am grateful to the people of Standing Rock and to so many other native groups around the world, many of whom converged on the reserve in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thank you for showing us the way to becoming Earth Protectors ourselves.
May what has been happening be the beginning of an ongoing collaborative movement to restore the land, and ourselves, to a more healthy and balanced state. As Sitting Bull said, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."