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An Indigenous Vision for Our Collective Future: Becoming Earth’s Stewards Again (


Anthropologists have called Indigenous peoples the “original ecologists.”19 Indigenous peoples were able to sustain their traditional subsistence economy for millennia because “they possessed appropriate ecological knowledge and suitable methods to exploit resources, but possessed a philosophy and environmental ethic to keep exploitive abilities in check, and established ground rules for relationships between humans and animals.”20

Native peoples’ reciprocity with the natural and spiritual realms ensures that a sacred relationship and balance are maintained—a form of cross-species interaction and dependence that is now being recognized by Western science, in the field of ecology, which studies the interactions between living things and their environments. The concept of ecology and the framing of “ecological democracy” are derived in part from the wisdom of Indigenous peoples that “everything is connected….Every part of an ecology is connected to, and has impacts on, every other part.”21 The merging of science and Indigenous worldviews is finding voice. As Indigenous author and scholar Robin Wall Kimmerer declares, “I dream of a world guided by a lens of stories rooted in the revelations of science and framed with an indigenous worldview—stories in which matter and spirit are both given voice.”22

This collective shift in consciousness is how we are going to move into the next decade and beyond. Philanthropy and government can either get on the train or fall off through irrelevance. With the collective power we still retain, let us shatter the illusions, which are a by-product of commodification, wealth, extraction, short-term thinking, hierarchy, and a culture of dominance and oppression. As described by Kimmerer:

Children, language, lands: almost everything was stripped away, stolen when you weren’t looking because you were trying to stay alive. In the face of such loss, one thing our people could not surrender was the meaning of land. In the settler mind, land was property, real estate, capital, or natural resources. But to our people, it was everything: identity, the connection to our ancestors, the home of our nonhuman kinfolk, our pharmacy, our library, the source of all that sustained us. Our lands were where our responsibility to the world was enacted, sacred ground. It belonged to itself; it was a gift, not a commodity, so it could never be bought or sold. These are the meanings people took with them when they were forced from their ancient homelands to new places. Whether it was their homeland or the new land forced upon them, land held in common gave people strength; it gave them something to fight for.59

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