Prisoners of War
Collectively, we live in a state of disconnect – void from a meaningful relationship with Mother Earth. This collective state of disconnection stems from a calculated, destructive force termed colonization, which has devastated our nations across Turtle Island. Mohawk author and educator, Taiaiake Alfred identifies our forcible removal from the land and denial of access to our traditional cultural activities as “the fundamental injustice” and legacy of colonization.
It is nearly impossible to live in a traditional and connected way in an artificial environment such as in our urban landscapes or on our dismal reservations.
Since contact, our home and native land has changed drastically in the name of progress and development. Our culture, language, land rights were violently stripped. Generations of our people have been institutionalized, sterilized, sexualized, monetized, excised, marginalized, baptized and westernized for the purpose of economic, social, cultural and political control.
The federal government wanted our peoples out of the way so the land could be "settled" and its bounty be developed into commodities. If we survived the myriad of diseases, violence, starvation or cultural deprivation we were then shuffled into remote, lifeless reserves created by the Crown. If we weren’t physically annihilated then we were so fortunately assimilated as our cultures and traditional ways were outlawed.
Here and Now
Fast-forward 7 generations of this trauma and we see the impacts on our health and well being of our children, child bearers, warriors and elders weakened by disease, malnutrition and dehydration. Slow suicide by highly processed foods, drugs and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, and deep soul wounds inflicted from centuries of intergenerational trauma and socioeconomic strife. Depressed yet? My bad.
This isn’t a rant to perpetuate the ‘poor little indian’ rhetoric – before contact with the settler state, our peoples were strong, self-sufficient and intimately connected with the land through an intricate web of wisdom. This was nurtured between generations in the form of creation stories, language, food and ceremonies.
Cherokee professor Jeff Corntassel demands: “How will your ancestors and future generations recognize you as Indigenous?” How can we replenish our authentic nature as Indigenous peoples? Through grounding ourselves in land-based and cultural practices.
Our connection to Mother Earth is the foundation to Indigenous identity and community life. NASA scientists and natural health researchers have termed this connection to the Earth, ‘grounding’ or ‘Earthing’. Although grounding is not a new breakthrough, it is a rational way of understanding the energetic exchange between our unique vibration and the vibration of the Earth.
Experiencing benefits of grounding by simply walking barefoot, swimming in the ocean, lying in the grass, running in the wind, saying a prayer and putting tobacco down or playing a game of lacrosse – this is our medicine.
Here is a prescription for embracing Earth energy:
- Be outdoors and experience the elements
- Walk barefoot on the Earth everyday for at least 45 minutes.
- Stand, sit and walk in forests and on beaches
- Swim in lakes, rivers, oceans
- Garden and grow your own food
- Forage wild foods
Skin-to-skin and the electromagnetic connection with the Earth has a profound effect on the balance of our hormone cycles. When we connect to the natural frequencies of the earth, we are connecting with an unlimited supply of free electrons in and upon the surface of the Earth. Earth carries negative charge of ions and the Atmosphere carries a positive charge.
Grounding doesn’t necessarily fix health problems, it just brings our bodies into proper electrical balance so our bodies can work in an optimized way. Walking barefoot can help minimize the constant irritation caused by EMFs and other types of radiation on our systems from cell phones, computers and Wi-Fi.
By getting outside, barefoot, touching the earth, and allowing the excess charge in your body to discharge into the earth, you can alleviate some of these stressors.
Our ancestors and elders teach us that Mother Earth provides us with everything we need for our existence. Traditional practices instil a spiritual connection to the land through seasonal harvesting, food preservation, and the cyclical nature of our ceremonies. We enjoyed bounty and sustenance for tens of thousands of years, maybe more, with a the challenges of famine, territory battles but without the slow suicide of diabetes, obesity, depression and suffering that has become the basis of our existence of Western life. Basically, the process of gathering, gardening, foraging, fishing, and hunting cultivate cultural, emotional and spiritual wellness that a trip to Whole Foods simply cannot.
Indigenous peoples are caretakers of Mother Earth, that is the sole duty bestowed on our nations for as long as the sun shines, grass grows and rivers flow. Our nationhood relies on our own personal dedication to our spiritual connection to her. The future of our cultures, languages and spiritual health and well-being relies on this sacred bond.
This foundation provides the capacity to maintain the purity of traditional foods, herbal medicines and ecosystem of animals. Our quality of life, Indigenous or not, is dependent on this delicate purity - It is our essence as human beings. So how will we nurture this connection?
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that we shall not have the benefits of this world for much longer. The imminent and expected destruction of the life cycle of world ecology can only be prevented by a radical shift in outlook from our present naive conception of this world as a testing ground to a more mature view of the universe as a comprehensive matrix of life forms. Making this shift in viewpoint is essentially [spiritual], not economic or political” - Vine Deloria Jr.
We cannot see or experience this with our physical senses. As Mohawk elder Tom Kanatakeniate Cook states,
“The holy man of the Oglala said these things are of the Spirit, but it is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost. You cannot touch, hold, see the spiritual but you can put yourself up towards it; dress it with your songs, laughter, and relationships. It is what defines your spirit and how you relate to the many spirits around you in life”.
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