"The pollution in this lake is a symbol of the pollution that’s in us and until we are able to work through the pollution that is inside of each and every one of us, that lake will not be unpolluted…
We have to take care of what’s inside of us… so that our decisions are wise decisions, and that our steps that we take have consciousness and awareness supporting them."
The Original Instructions represent the ancient empirical wisdom of traditional ecological knowledge earned over generations and millennia by people living closely with the land and each other. They also comprise disarmingly simple counsel: be thankful, enjoy life and attend to the inner pollution that results in outer pollution. Indigenous leaders Winona LaDuke, John Trudell and Evon Peter voice these ancient instructions, which hold the keys to our survival as a species in the historic transition to a truly sustainable world.
Bioneers Series VIII - Program 12-08
Becoming Fully Human: The Covenant of the Original Instructions
00:00 Underwriting narration (00:13)
The following program was made possible in part by a grant from Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Learn more at organicvalley.com.
00:13 Welcome (00:05)
00:18 Evon Peter (00:22)
The pollution in this lake is a symbol of the pollution that’s in us and until we are able to work through the pollution that is inside of each and every one of us, that lake will not be unpolluted…
We have to take care of what’s inside of us… so that our decisions are wise decisions, and that our steps that we take have consciousness and awareness supporting them.
00:40 Macy (00:09)
00:49 Program Intro (00:40)
01:29 NARRATION 1 (01:12)
If there is one single fatal systems error in human civilization, it’s the illusion that as human beings we are somehow separate from the natural world. In reality, we are part of nature, not apart from it.
But is there also more to the story? Almost all Indigenous traditions – our old-growth cultures – describe the sacred geography of a world where everything is alive and related. They make no separation between matter and spirit. We are part of a much larger intelligence embodied in all life and in the universe.
They also remind us that ecology starts at home. Our inner states – our thoughts and feelings – are the first source of pollution and the first source of restoration.
In this program three North American Indigenous leaders, Winona LaDuke, Evon Peter, and John Trudell look to the roots of the environmental crisis, and to the ancient solutions that are not only within our grasp, but actually within our hearts and minds.
Join us for the next half hour as we explore Becoming Fully Human: the Covenant of the Original Instructions
My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.
02:19 Music fade (00:12)
02:31 Winona LaDuke wksp Cut 1 (00:32)
I’m on this process of tryin’ to become a better human. I know. How you’re all doin’ at it? But it’s a really long process and it’s really hard with the jackhammer of American industrial civilization pounding on you to try to be human. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but there’s just like it’s really pounds on you as you try to recover your relationship to things that are alive, whether they have wings or fins or feet. And I think it is kind of the life’s work of each of us.
03:03 NARRATION 2 (00:25)
Winona La Duke is an Ojibwe community organizer and author who lives and works on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota. She is the founding director of both the White Earth Land Recovery Program and Honor the Earth. Winona ran as the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in the United States presidential elections in l996 and 2000. She spoke at a recent Bioneers conference.
03:28 Winona La Duke Cut 2a (04:30)
We have teachings that talk about how we make a sustainable way of living. And I’m just gonna say some of this teaching to you as best as I can, recognizing that, you know, it comes from my own Anishinaabe culture and our teachings, but they have implications that are broader. And that where we are now in this time, they say we have these prophesies that came to our people a long time ago. These prophets came to us. And they talked about all the things that were gonna happen to us as Anishinaabe people, and they talked about how our people would disappear and how our things would disappear.
But then they talked about how these people would be born and they would go and collect those things and they would remember their songs. They would remember their songs, and they would remember who they were. And they call those people the Oshki Anishinaabeg people – the new people.
And they said those people would pick up those things, they would remember where they’d been, and then they said that those people, they would be born and they would have two paths ahead of them. They said one path was well worn, but it was scorched. And the other path was not well worn and it was green. And it was our pat-omit our choice upon which path to embark. And that’s what they said.
OMIt And that is what they say is this time, this is the time we are in…. And that’s Mino Bimaadiziiwin, our instructions omit that was given to us as Anishinaabe people and we are struggling with those instructions in our communities as we face the massive jackhammer of industrialization and consumerism. We are battling with this in our own communities.
But I tell you what, that was exactly where we are in this society. We are a society that has a choice upon which path to embark; it is a question upon which path we want to go, you know. That’s where we are.
So, in us, as we reflect on what those teachings are, I’m on to the fact that, in America, Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous teachings are largely marginalized, reviewed as folkloric, interesting things you might do at a weekend retreat, you know, but not necessarily relevant. And that is part of the deconstructing of the thinking of empire that is required in each and every one of us, is to deconstruct what is superior knowledge systems. You know, and to remember that it is possible that someone who is not from Europe may have a knowledge system that is of consequence. You know?
So, that is to say, in our teachings, we have teachings that say that natural law, or it’s Gichi Debwewin, the great law. That the Creator’s law is the highest law, higher than laws made by nation states or municipalities. And one would do well to create a society which is in accordance with those laws.
We have a teaching that says Nindawaymuganidoog, which means we are all related. We are all related, even the little creepy crawlies or the not so charismatic megafauna, the ojiins, esiban are related to us. Our wolf, and our story the muskrat is who saved our people. The muskrat, which is not a very charismatic megafauna. But it’s, you know, happened to be the one who saved us. It teaches you that, you know, that we are all related. And you all know that. You know, those people that are into white superiority, I hate to depress them with the knowledge that we’re like 99.9 percent the same. You know? So that’s not gonna pan out as a biological strategy of analysis of superiority, you know? We’re all related. We are all related.
And then we have this teaching that is one of cyclical thinking, that is to say everything that is natural is cyclical, whether it’s the moons, the seasons, the hydrological cycles, our bodies themselves. Natural systems are cyclical. Natural systems are cyclical.
And then we have a teaching that says you are thankful for what you are given by Creation, and you only take what you need and you leave the rest, because if you do not, you will have violated your covenant with the Creator. If you are greedy and you over harvest, whatever it is, and there’s no guarantee that- that disrespect will put you in a bad spot. That’s a teaching. I’m telling you that you those things because those are tenants of sustainability. That’s how you work it out over the long term, with those teachings. I will tell you that.
07:58 NARRATION 4 (00:15)
Know that we are all related. Think long term in vast cycles of continuous creation. Remember to be grateful. It may seem like common sense. But it isn’t, says Winona LaDuke.
08:13 Winona La Duke Cut 2b (02:22)
Instead of believing that the Creator’s law is the highest law, we live in a society which believes that man’s laws are the highest. So we can trade pollution credits and allocate water rights in basins and over allocate water and change the allowable levels of pollutants and your recommended daily allowance.
And that’s this perception that somehow man is so darn smart. We are so anthropocentric. We believe that we are it; that we have the right to consume the lions’ share, just this huge amount of the world’s biosphere and that what happens to those creatures as we watch the extinction of one after another has nothing to do with us. And that is pretty insane, that level of self-absorbed thinking, and that perception of reality that we are not related to them.
We have a teaching that instead of looking at the world in terms of cycles, we’re entirely linear in this society. We live in a society which is based on the idea that you can always make a new frontier and find someplace greener. That’s a linear way of thinking – there’s gonna be greener grass someplace and go West, you know, and that we can trash it and move on. That is American, you know. And so that is why the perfect examples of linear thinking are two things: you have a linear production system where the largest products that we produce are waste; 50 Trillion pounds of waste. Congratulations. And the largest growth industries in this country- two of the largest growth industries in this country are what – waste management and the social element of that, prisons. There you go. That’s a linear production system, which is totally unsustainable. It is. Prisons. Congratulations. Two point one million prisoners in this country . The largest level of incarceration of any country in the world. of the 9 million prisoners in the world, two point one million are in the US. Very impressive. . You know?Omit this you know.. its getting a bit redundant
I raised five kids. We have this conversation sometimes like, “we’ll, just throw it away”. I’m like, Where is away? You wanna let me know where away is? You know ( omit), There’s no such thing as away. I don’t know if anybody is on to this. There is not an away. You know?OMIT It’s here, you know?
10:35 NARRATION 5 (00:17)
Is the short-sighted linear thinking driving the “throwaway society” dooming us to become a disposable civilization? In nature there is no waste. By contrast, our modern instruction book is wasting both people and nature. Again, Winona La Duke.
10:57 Winona La Duke Cut 2d (00:48)
And then the idea of taking only what you need and leaving the rest. Huh omit . That would not be capitalism, now, would it? Omit You know? What would you call factory trawlers? Not that. You know, clear cutting? Not that either. So that is it, you know. We have this set of teachings that are totally unsustainable in this society, and we have a set of teachings that we know are this other way of living, you know. So as I ask you to reflect on what is sustainable, what is sustainable is deconstructing empire. That would be what is sustainable.
11:45 NARRATION 6 (00:05)
Ojibwe community organizer Winona La Duke.
11:52 Narration 7 - Lead to Mid Break (00:23)
Coming up, Native American poet and artist John Trudell tugs at the veils of reality to uncover the seat of true power, and Neetsail Gwich'in(pronunciation?) leader Evon Peter inquires within. This is Becoming Fully Human: The Covenant of the Original Instructions. I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.
12:12 MID BREAK
12:12 NARRATION 8 (01:07)
There is more from our guests at our website. Find free audio downloads on the radio pages at bioneers.org.
Oftentimes, mainstream society oscillates between dismissing Indigenous cultures as archaic -- or romanticizing them. In truth, over the course of millennia, Indigenous cultures have made predictable human mistakes, and paid the ecological price. Many have learned from their mistakes, as well as their successes, and adapted with the lessons. And the process continues. Indeed, it’s that very process that informs the basic precepts, what some call the original instructions, handed down for the survival of the people.
But the truth today is that no one has ever faced globalized ecological collapse. It’s going to take the best of all worlds – ancient and modern – to slip through this historic keyhole in the evolutionary journey of humanity - to become fully human in this time of radical change.
13:21 Evon Peter wkshp Cut 1 (00:16)
What is fundamentally unsustainable will not last. That’s kinda some good news in some ways, you know, the situation that we’re in will not last. That’s the definition of unsustainable. What does this leave us in, though?
13:37 NARRATION 9 (00:23)
Evon Peter, was the youngest chief of the Neetsail Gwich’in in his village in northeastern Alaska. He served on the executive board of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and as the co-chair to the Gwich'in Council International. He co-founded Native Movement, an Indigenous non-profit organization working to support cultural leaders in the development and implementation of programs aimed at community based peace, justice, and sustainability. Evon Peter.
14:00 Evon Peter Cut 2+3 (03:43)
What has been shared with me by the elders and the chiefs and the leaders that I sit with is that we have a serious problem. Greater than that, we have crises that are already occurring right now all over the world, most of them haven’t reached us because we’re in such a cocoon here in North America. The crises in most of our lifetimes are gonna be beyond our current comprehension. We are not prepared intellectually, emotionally, spiritually or physically to be able to handle what’s coming our way in this lifetime. To be able to have that balance through what we are gonna have to live through is something that each one of us is very responsible of working towards attaining, otherwise, when more Katrinas happen, when more 9/11s occur, when water and food becomes too scarce, it will beyond chaos. So we have a big and very serious job to do.
Evon Peter Cut 3 ()
I was recently up at Lake Onondaga, the birthplace of really modern peace and democracy, with two clan mothers, Audrey Shenandoah and Freda Jacques, and two chiefs, Chief Oren Lyons and Chief Jake Swamp, and his wife, recently last month. And we went to hold ceremony at this lake, Onondaga, that birthed such a powerful gift for humanity. And as I went towards that lake, I was told, be careful, it’s the most polluted lake in all of North America. Four hundred thousand tons of mercury in it.
So I walked up to that lake to make my offering, and I saw my skin reflected in the lake. What came to my mind was that the pollution in this lake is a symbol of the pollution that’s in us and humanity. We are as polluted as that lake is, and until we are able to work through the pollution that is inside of each and every one of us, that lake will not be unpolluted, no matter how many millions of dollars, how brilliantly our minds would like to think up of ideas to clean it up. It won’t work. We have to take care of what’s inside of us to enable us to be in a place to be able to understand what is even happening around us so that our decisions are wise decisions, and that our steps that we take have consciousness and awareness supporting them.
We are living through a time on this Earth that is a time of great spiritual reconnection and awakening. And that path for each one of our own healing is a long path. There is no quick fix and there’s no shortcuts.
This path is gonna take years. This path is gonna require us to face our fears and to be courageous in challenging ourselves to grow and learn and open up. And, in my experience, I have never worked with a North American person, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, who did not have to go through the equivalent of a nervous breakdown on this path of healing, because we need to deconstruct what it is that we believe to be our realities and our existence as human beings in order for us to actually return to being human beings, myself included.
17:43 NARRATION 10 (00:18)
Truly restoring the Earth will not be achieved with technical solutions alone, says Evon Peter. It also demands a change of heart, a fearless exploration of what it means to be a whole human being: who we are, how we are, where we belong and what we’re responsible for.
18:21 Trudell interview Cut 2 (00:31)
We seriously need to examine our perception of reality, because everything that happens and unfolds is through perception. So reality is, alright? But then reality is also as we perceive it. And so for the damage that the human beings are causing to the life entity of Earth, that’s the disease, that’s because our perception of reality is not synchronized to the reality of reality.
18:52 NARRATION 11 (00:48)
John Trudell, born of mixed tribal blood, was raised in and around the Santee Sioux reservation near Omaha, Nebraska. In 1969, he participated in the armed occupation of Alcatraz Island by Indians of many nations. In 1971, he joined the American Indian Movement and was its national chairman from 1973-1979. In February 1979, Trudell’s mother-in-law, pregnant wife and three children were killed in a fire of unknown but suspicious origin. His voice and vision as an artist, poet and film actor soon exploded on the scene with fierce originality and passion. He established an international reputation as a cultural warrior who drew on deep inner sources. He spoke with us at a recent Bioneers conference.
19:40 Trudell Cut 3 (00:32)
To resynchronize our individual collective realities, we need to recognize who we are. See? And I think that that’s not happening right now. I think that we’ve been programmed and distorted and had programmed perceptions of reality put into our imagination and our intelligence that were deliberately put there so that we would not recognize who we are, because then the chaos of our lives is much easier to perpetuate and create.
Trudell Cut 4 (01:13)
People are running out- rushing out of political urgencies and economic urgencies and desperations – rushing to create movement that in the long run is not really moving anything. Alright? Except we went through some motion but we didn’t really in the end get anywhere. And I say that because my whole life I’ve seen the activist social conscious. I’ve seen the good- we’ll call the good guys. But the bad guys are still the bad guys, and the good guys are more desperate than they ever were. See? So something’s missing. You know? And I know our intentions and our motives are good. I mean, you know, our ideals. I know all that’s good, so what exactly is it that’s missing? And I think that the missing part is that we don’t recognize ourselves and because we don’t recognize the reality of who we are, we don’t recognize power.
So I think we really need to understand who we are as human beings and the reality of what it means to be a human being, because any relationships we have to the reality of power itself, the way reality has defined it through that relationship of human being – being human.
21:25 NARRATION 12 (00:09)
Our first responsibility, Trudell says, is to free ourselves. It starts by defining reality for ourselves.
21:37 Trudell Cut 6 (02:26)
There are concepts we need to be examining. And, like the idea of freedom. I think freedom- I don’t trust it. I don’t trust it at all. You know? Because I don’t think life is about freedom. I’ve come to that conclusion. Life isn’t about freedom. Life is about being free and responsibility, and there’s a difference between being free and freedom.
You live in this illusionary conceptual freedom, but you don’t feel free. So, obviously, there is a difference. And you go to the vast majority of human beings, citizens, alright, that live in this conceptual freedom, how many of them feel free? Alright? How many of them feel free from poverty or from economic threat? How many of them feel free that, well, I’m gonna be taken care of when I get old, or if I get sick, something like, you know, that it’s gonna be okay. How many of them feel free from what would just be called crime, or how many of them feel free from being in a secure relationship because they know they found that in their relationships… so in this whole land of freedom, nobody feels free. But we’ve been programmed to rah rah the chant – freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom. And then we come back in and the most basic part of that is that, for me, to stand and say I believe in freedom, then that means that predator, that racist, that pedophile, alright, that land raper, they have the freedom, because who am I to say they don’t have the freedom.
So maybe life isn’t about freedom, maybe life is about responsibility. No maybe to it, life is about responsibility. As human beings we were given intelligence. Alright? And this is how we manifest our power. So, along with that gift, that gift was a gift of responsibility. We have a responsibility to use our intelligence clearly and coherently. And when we understand that responsibility, then we will be free. I’m not saying oppressors go- I’m talking about being free. And creating that energy, individual collective energy mass of being free, then that automatically changes everything.
24:03 Trudell Cut 7 (00:19)
See, so we really need to understand that that’s our power. Not the economic, religious, political, social system. We have- we don’t really have power in there. We’re just in there. Our power is in us.
24:22 NARRATION 13 (00:21)
How do we rediscover and cultivate our inner power? How do we re-imagine ourselves as part of the fabric of creation? How do we live responsibly in accordance with the original instructions? For Evon Peter, a daily practice of honoring the sacred is one of the first places to start working to heal the earth – and ourselves
24:53 Evon Peter Cut 4 (00:45)
It can be a practice as simple as lighting a candle each morning and staring at it for five minutes or until your eyes can’t stare at it any longer. It could be a prayer. It can be simply taking a deep breath (takes deep breath) and having that breath be a conscious breath of understanding that this air that we breathe gives life to our body, and that it connects every single piece of creation that also utilizes that air, and it connects each and every one of us to one another.
It could be that simple. But we need to begin to develop a practice for ourselves that can become the centerpiece, the foundation by which we can then begin to see what is happening around us. And from there, well, you’ll be on your way.
25:38 NARRATION 14 (00:20)(00:29)
Evon Peter, John Trudell and Winona La Duke are certainly engaged in changing the world. Yet they are equally committed to looking within to become a better human being. They know it takes all that to truly honor the circle of life. They know people can be a blessing on the land, if we choose to be. They know, we always have a choice… and ecology starts at home. Becoming Fully Human: the Convenant of the Original Instructions
25:58 Music fade (00:12)
26:10 Bioneers VIII - Program Close/Credits (1:50)
Free downloads of this program are available on the radio pages at bioneers.org. Resources related to this show and the entire Bioneers radio series can also be found at bioneers.org or by calling 877-246-6337. That’s 1-877-bioneer.
Visit bioneers.org to become a member, make a donation, learn about the annual Bioneers conference, or join our thriving online community. Choose from articles, blogs, event calendars, books, podcasts, CDs and DVDs—at bioneers.org or by calling 1-877-bioneer.
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Kenny Ausubel and Neil Harvey
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Assistance: Marita Prandoni
Distribution is by WFMT Radio Network
Original Recordings provided by Reference Media Group
Interview recording engineer: Jeff Wessman
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by
Baka Beyond and used by permission of
Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label.
Additional music was made available by Sounds True
At soundstrue.com. For more music information, please visit Bioneers.org
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in improving the environment by changing the world.
This is program number 12-08