One of the most important research projects for me personally, perhaps the most important, is better understanding perceptions about “place” within many indigenous peoples’ cultures. Over and over we hear traditional indigenous peoples say they and the place wherein they dwell are part of a whole, and an assault on their land is far deeper aggression against them than simple theft.
Their view and experience is the opposite of how nearly all economists or scientists view the land (though the scientist is far wiser here than the economist). It also challenged most moderns’ views of nature. In my experience the indigenous peoples are correct, the scientists myopic, the economists disconnected from reality, and most moderns blind.
This issue has been important in the rise of modern Pagan religion, having its most recent roots in the Romantic era, particularly, and most disturbingly, encapsulated in the German word “Volk.” This term has many shades of meaning, many in keeping with indigenous perspectives of the relationship of land and people. But in its darkest, I think most perverted form, the term contributed to legitimizing the rise of Nazism. It is also used by contemporary right wing Pagans, albeit in ways indicating utter ignorance of its basic meanings.
Finally, I think rethinking this insight to harmonize the wisdom of indigenous people regarding it with modernity is vitally important if we are ever to learn how to live sustainably on this earth now that we have the power to fundamentally screw it up.
This essay is a beautiful example of how some Canadian indigenous peoples treat Place as far more than just a spot on which to live or a fund of resources to exploit.
I like a ‘new’ term for this kind of relation, developed by indigenous peoples working with NeoPagans: “People of the Earth.”
But enjoy the essay.