Indigenous Wisdom and the Ground of Being in Nature

True spirituality begins where the Bible begins—with the universe, with creation, with all that exists.  Not with the human alone but within a larger context.  With cosmology therefore and how we got here and where here is and how we are to fit in and play out our modest role in the drama of the cosmos and its history.

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – Greetings to the Natural World. Video by Dan Abrahamsson

This is one reason we are meditating on creation stories at this time. Hoping to learn and deepen our understanding and implementation of creation spirituality in a time of climate emergency.

The indigenous peoples of the Americas take for granted the sacredness of all of Creation and how humanity relating to Creation is humanity facing the powers of Spirit and the Creator. Jamake Highwater writes:

The American Indian has an entirely different view of humanity and nature from that of the Greek heritage. For primal peoples, because the landscape itself is sacred it therefore embodies a divinity that it shares with everything that is part of nature, including human beings, animals, plants, rocks… everything.

L – Homeless man feeds birds; photo by Antoine K on Flickr. R – Big-game hunter James H. Sutherland poses atop the elephant he shot. Wikimedia Commons.

Do humans see ourselves as part of nature?  Or as its masters? Or plunderers?  The inherent sacredness of creation is attested to by Black Elk who says:

We regard all created beings as sacred and important, for everything has a wochangi, or influence, which can be given to us, through which we may gain a little more understanding if we are attentive.

We should understand well that all things are the work of the Great Spirit. We should know that he is within all things; the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples; and even more important, we should understand that he is also above all these things and peoples.

Notice how revelation or understanding flow to humans from all beings when humans pay attention. Humans need this relationship with creation to find true peace and the center of their existence, Black Elk insists.

The Lakota phrase “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ” (All My Relations) reflects the indigenous world view of interconnectedness with all forms of life on earth, as well as the earth and cosmos themselves. Video by Your Planet.

Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka [the Great Spirit], and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.

Given the intrinsic value and divine presence to be found in Creation, the demise of Creation’s health and beauty represents an immense spiritual plight. An Old Omaha elder remembers his youth:

When I walked abroad I could see many forms of life, beautiful living creatures which Wakanda had placed here; and these were, after their manner, walking, flying, leaping, running playing all about.

But changes have taken place.

“Temperate rainforest clearcuts. Logging road and log truck, Burnt Mountain Access road. Western Oregon, Coast Range.” Photo by Francis Eatherington on Flickr.

Now the face of all the land is changed and sad. The living creatures are gone. I see the land desolate and I suffer an unspeakable sadness. Sometimes I wake in the night and I feel as though I should suffocate from the pressure of this awful feeling of loneliness.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faith Traditions, pp. 48f.

Banner Image: 2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk: First Nations, Metis, Inuit, environmental groups, and Watershed citizens working together for the treaty rights to protection of water, land and air, and thus for all living things today and tomorrow in the Athabasca River Watershed. Photo by Laura Whitney on Wikimedia Commons.

Do you feel a growing sadness at the desolation of the Earth?  How can we convert that sadness to effective action and healing medicine?

Recommended Reading

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit


Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.

Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT

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8 thoughts on “Indigenous Wisdom and the Ground of Being in Nature”

  1. Avatar

    I bookmarked Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address on YouTube because I want to repeat my meditation from today. Today, while listening to that 10-minute video, I blessed everything I saw using a chi energy practice that I call “boosting.” This practice enhances the feeling of oneness. You breathe energy through your heart and other chakras, collect that chi, and send it to another being or to parts of yourself. (My website has details.)

  2. Avatar

    Yes, I feel great sadness about what’s happening to Mother Earth and all her children: all the two-legged ones as well as the four-legged ones, the birds of the air, the fish of the oceans and of the rivers and lakes, the plants, the trees and all things that grow from the earth.
    I feel a deep affiliation to the Native Americans and believe I was one of them in previous lives. In my healing massage work, I learned Mongolian overtoning, (actually from Rupert Sheldrake’s wife) and was always told that I sounded like a Native American woman as I chanted over an area of pain in a person’s body ( which always resulted in a healing). I still use chanting when praying for someone’s healing, on myself and others, and it still works!
    When I wake up at night, I send healing not always with the chanting, but through my hands which I used on my father as a teenager when he asked me to give him a back rub. I’d never done this before but climbed on the bed, squatted and rubbed. When I was done he turned around and said: “My! but you have good hands!!” I thought at the time: “Yes! But I’ll never be able to do this for a living!” Little did I know that some 35 years later this would become my life’s work!!
    What marvels the Lord still does through me, though in a limited fashion. I am eternally grateful!

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    What needs to be healed within the mentality of humanity is the illusion of dominion over. What needs to awaken within the heart of humanity is the reality of relationship with. Righteousness is about being and living in right relationship with, relating rightly with the all and the everything of creation. The indigenous peoples have much to offer with regards to the healing and the awakening neccessary within humanity… a hope filled thread of reconciliation which will lead all into learning how to respond righteously to the all and the everything of creation as a living being. All of creation is crying out for this great mystery to become the reality in which we live… one of sacred relationship with… rooted in a deep love and respect that values and treasures, tends to, cares for, and nurtures the blessed giveaway that each creation offers to share of itself as apart of the whole. The web of all life, our interconnections, our interdependence, our inter-reliance… one upon the other… like a beautiful finely woven tapestry is unravelling…. as the weavers weep.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You write, “What needs to be healed within the mentality of humanity is the illusion of dominion over. What needs to awaken within the heart of humanity is the reality of relationship with.” This is so true, and you share more ideas with your words that I would like to highlight, such as: “righteousness,” “right relationship with, “respond righteously,” “interconnections,” and “interdependence.” Thank you, Jeanette!

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