Primal/Indigenous Religious Environmental Groups – Why do I think I am in over my head?

primal-indigenous: 300 million

Let me start by saying that this is a real tough topic because most religions of this type make no distinction between a person and a place. Thus they could be inherently environmental BUT. There is a strain of this way of thinking that argues that Skyscrapers are just as natural an extention of Gaia as are termite colonies. So beware:

Some Basic Concepts in Primal Religion

Some Basic Concepts

  • Unity of experience: The primal world is not fragmented but remains whole as a symbolic paradigm of the sacred. There is no perceived division between the physical and the spiritual. The physical can indeed be a channel for the spiritual, as opposed to something “corrupt” that stands in opposition to it. In contrast, recall my use of the expression “the divorce of Mom and Dad” in regard to Western religious consciousness. Divine worship, therefore, would not be regarded as an activity to be separated or isolated from other activities. Life as lived is a sacred “activity” in and of itself. One worships as one breathes.
  • Place (“Not available for export”): What is the difference between “space” and “place?” Place is space with a line drawn around it. The physical location of the community is the spiritual pivot of the universe. The primal consciousness is identified with the earth in this particular place. In other words, one’s physical place is one’s spiritual base (consider the Native American crisis of relocation, e.g., the Cherokee nation). Compare this with the Western emphasis upon “history as destiny.”
  • Orality (“Tell me a story”); Where should story dwell? Where do ancestors live? In the soul or in a text? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Whoever said “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” did not know what he was talking about. Words have life and breath. Stories may change and evolve, but they are always relational events (“And then what happened?!”). Texts, on the other hand, preserve story, tradition, information, etc. as a constant. But how often do we go read them? We often seem content simply to know they are over there safe and sound (i.e., in the library).
  • Time: in relationship to the characteristics articulated above, time is better thought of as “timelessness.” In the West or in technological cultures, time is linear. This implies that time and history are “going somewhere,” i.e., in fulfillment of a destiny or purposefulness. Primal time is not linear but eternal. “Eternal” does not mean “forever,” as the idea of forever is in itself linear (i.e., going on and on). Eternity simply “is.” This “isness” or beingness is the stable, unchanging backdrop within which the gods and ancestors simply “are.” It is encountered in any number of ways, such as dreams, shamanic ecstasy, mask performance, etc. Primal people may indeed speak of “the Past,” but this should be understood not as chronological but causal: the past is not “back then” but closer to the original Source of things. This relates once again to the primacy of “place” as something eternal and central.
  • Ritual enactment: each of the above ideas is present in what one enacts. Rituals and rites of passage are rehearsals or performances of the original creative act. Creation, therefore, is not a chronological event that took place “back then,” but an ever-presentness. Ritual enactment keeps one in touch with that presentness as an eternal reality.
  • Related closely to ritual enactment is the concept of liminality. From the Latin limen, meaning “threshhold” or “entryway,” liminality refers to the ritual state of transition in a rite of passage, wherein the initiand is in a condition (or non-condition) of ambiguity or “between two worlds.” He or she is in the midst of the process of leaving something old and becoming something new. Compare this to, for example, the contemporary process of engagement and marriage. The period of time between “Will you marry me?” and “I do” can last for months, and it is often filled with confusion and chaos. The partners-to-be are not married yet, but they are not single, either. They are in a liminal state of ambiguity in which they are, in a sense, non-persons, until they re-emerge on the other side as husband and wife. This is why a bride is traditionally “carried over the threshhold” on her wedding day. A similar custom is that in which both partners jump over a pole, such as a broom handle, that is extended out in front of the couple at about ankle height.

Harvard Comes Shining through again. But then this is what you would expect from the place where Ralph Waldo Emerson taught. First the pretty picture:


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources
First Nations Environmental Network
Honor the Earth
Indian Trust Management Information
Indigenous Agricultural and Environmental Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Environmental Network
Intertribal Environmental Council
National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans
National Laws and International Agreements Affecting Indigenous and Local Knowledge (article)
National Tribal Environmental Council
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society
Native Americans and the Environment
Native Web Resources
Pluralism Project
Worlds Indigenous Womens Foundation

Alpha Institute Indigenous/Environmental Links
Acre Amazon Link
Center for Indigenous Environmental Resources
Center for World Indigenous Studies
Elders and Graduate Level Educators
Taiga Rescue Network
Pictish Nation
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)

Akwesasne (Mohawk) Task Force on the Environment
Cherokee Nation
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Comunidades Indigenas de los Altos de Chiapas
Dine CARE (Navajo environmental organization)
Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs
Muscogee Creek Nation
Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation
Oneida Indian Nation
Operation Amazonia Nativa
Organization of the Indigenous Peoples from Tarauacá and Jordão (Amazon)

Constitution of Iroquois Nation

Lakota Links Page

University of Texas: Lanic (Indigenous Peoples in Latin America) Resources
Native American Indian Resources
Resources on Aztec and Mayan Law
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Database

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